November 18, 2015

Inside Energy Reads – Week Of 11/16

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Wastewater, brine, salt water, frack water, produced water. It goes by a variety of names but, whatever it is called, a spill can be devastating, turning farmland barren for generations. Inside Energy reported extensively on wastewater spills last year and on North Dakota regulators’ misrepresentation of the extent of the problem.

Now, Mike Soraghan of E&E Publishing’s EnergyWire reveals that Texas barely tracks the problem at all and what rules they have are “vague” and “unenforceable.” The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) is the state agency in charge of regulating the oil and gas industry. While they record crude oil and condensate spills, their records omit salt or wastewater spills. Without a record or any kind of tracking of spills, state laws that require clean up are unenforceable, critics say.

Scott Anderson of the Environmental Defense Fund said Texas is “way behind the curve” compared to other states in tracking wastewater spills:

“The notion that salt water spills can be effectively regulated without even requiring spills to be reported is ludicrous,” Anderson said.

The problem may be worsening as oil and gas companies are looking at ways to increase efficiency and cut costs by re-using wastewater for new frack jobs. As Soraghan writes: “A lot more wastewater is being trucked and piped through oil field communities now. That means a lot more chances to spill wastewater.”


Paris has been on everyone’s mind this week because of the horrifying terrorist attacks, and because of the upcoming  climate talks to be held there beginning November 30. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) drew a connection between the two in a presidential debate when he declared that ” climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.”

Given the horror of the attacks – which took place just one day before the debate – Sanders’ comments came across as painfully out-of-step with worldwide reaction. Yet, as ClimateWire’s Jean Chenmick reports in a recent story, there is a connection, albeit a tenous one, that can be made between climate change and terrorism.

As Chenmick reports, the Obama administration has repeatedly called climate change a “threat multiplier” that could increase conflict over scarce resources. Most research finds little support for the idea that global warming will actually fuel terrorism. But, as Andrew Holland of the American Security Project put it, climate change is drying out “the already-existing tinder that could start the fire.”

Republicans pushed back strongly against Sanders’ linkage. Chenmick quotes Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said climate change and terrorism were “very non-related.”

Corker went further: “I just think sometimes people when they’re pursuing an issue that they care deeply about will make very strange connections to other issues that they see momentum around.”

One of the problems in discussing the relative threats of terrorism versus climate change is that the first is immediate and now, while the other is a long term growing threat against which immediate action demonstrates little concrete change. National security policy has to focus on both terrorism and on threats that are harder to quantify, like climate change, according to security expert Andrew Holland.

There is widespread agreement among terrorism experts that ISIS and other violent groups cannot be defeated without addressing the issues of poverty and insecurity in countries that breed extremism. Therefore, as Keya Chatterjee, executive director of U.S. Climate Action Network, put it: “It is complicated, and it is not direct, but the relationship is there, and if we don’t talk about it, it’s only going to get worse.”

Officials from more than 200 countries will gather in Paris at the end of the month for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The goal – which seems to many to be increasingly urgent – is to hammer out an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and keep global warming below 2 degrees centigrade. In the U.S., many conservative politicians remain skeptical about the science of climate change. They question the “misuse” of public funds to pursue an environmental agenda and have threatened to obstruct any agreement that would have to be ratified by Congress.