Notable upcoming events and other announcements

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Paid Spring 2015 Internships with FracTracker


FracTracker is offering four paid, spring 2015 internships that run mid-February through mid-August out of the following offices:

  • Camp Hill, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA (2)
  • Cleveland Heights, OH

FracTracker interns are current college or graduate students who aid in conducting research, gathering and analyzing data, writing articles, managing the website, and mapping geo-located data. Paid interns are expected to work 15 hours per week for ~26 weeks and are compensated $11/hour. This position is not eligible for health benefits.

Update: The deadline for this application was January 26, 2015. The application process has now closed. Learn more about internships with FracTracker.

Happy Holidays from all of us at FracTracker

A Toast to the Tireless

By Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance

While the year slows to a close, the FracTracker Alliance never stops. We churn out maps and analyses to enlighten America and the world about the impacts of unconventional energy extraction. Our work pays dividends: a website visitor discovers drilling nearby; a legislator learns about the industry’s rate of water consumption; data are synthesized for an organization making policy recommendations; students discover the true footprint of fracking. Day by day, we are nurturing a more positive energy future.

And our reputation as a trusted resource grows. Al Jazeera America recently featured our examination of the proximity of drilling near schools in California. Days earlier, Commissioner Martens of the NY DEC mentioned (at 57:00) FracTracker by name in a press conference announcing a ban on fracking in New York. These citations are affirming, but until the planet gets a respite from warming, communities liberated from threats to air and water, and nature conserved more than marred, we – and our many partners – have endless work to do.

These activities require time and money. We tip our hats to the funders who have made our efforts possible and welcome donations from those who believe in our mission. If you’re feeling inspired to make a year-end contribution, you can do it online. Thank you for your support!

A Bold 2015

FracTracker is thinking boldly for 2015 – exploring new topics, investigating local concerns, building more partnerships, encouraging citizen science (in part, through our mobile app), invigorating social media and communication tools, and reaching out to audiences near and far. In fact, we’ll be taking our findings on the road in 2015 – with workshops planned in Florida, North Carolina, Argentina, United Kingdom, Belgium, Poland, and Hungary – in addition to conducting outreach in the U.S. regions where we already operate. That’s just the beginning.

In anticipation of the challenges to come, and with gratitude for staff and board members, donors, researchers, brave organizations, nonstop advocates, and caring people coast to coast, a toast to you! May you all have a healthy, happy new year!

FracTracker Launches Oil and Gas Tracking App

Pittsburgh, PA – FracTracker Alliance announces the release of our free iPhone app – designed to collect and share experiences related to oil and gas drilling across the United States. As unconventional drilling or “fracking” intensifies, so too do the innovative ways in which citizens can track, monitor, and report potential issues from their smart phones.

The app allows users to submit oil and gas photos or reports. Users can also view a map of wells drilled near them and user-submitted reports. This map shows wells that have been drilled both unconventionally and conventionally.

“FracTracker’s app contributes to the collective understanding of oil and gas impacts and provides a new opportunity for public engagement,” explains Brook Lenker, Executive Director of the FracTracker Alliance. “We hope that our mobile app will revolutionize how people share oil and gas information.”

Development Partners

Several organizations and community groups helped to test and improve the app during its development. To address questions about the impacts of oil and gas development across landscapes, FracTracker joined with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) to create a crowd-sourced digital map with photos detailing the scale of oil and gas development near North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park using the app. The photo map is part of a NPCA’s campaign designed to educate citizens about the cross-landscape impacts of oil and gas development near America’s national parks. NPCA is hosting two events this week in support of this campaign work – in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

“FracTracker’s new app allows us to tell a visual story about fracking’s impacts to national parks and their local communities,” said Nick Lund, who manages the NPCA’s Landscape Conservation program. “With this week’s public events in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, we will show the dramatic impact that fracking continues to have, in just a few years, near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. These images can help inform the public and our elected officials as they finalize drilling regulations in Pennsylvania. We hope this information will lead to strong protections for our national parks, our forests, and our drinking water.”

Beta testing and reviews of the app were also conducted by Mountain Watershed Association, Responsible Drilling Alliance, Audubon PA, PA Forest Coalition, Southwest PA Environmental Health Project, and Save Our Streams PA. The app was developed in collaboration with Viable Industries, L.L.C.

Like NPCA, groups can use the FracTracker app to collect visual data and develop customized maps for their own projects. Contact FracTracker to learn more: info@fractracker.org.

Download the App

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Download the free app from the iTunes store or visit FracTracker.org to learn more: www.fractracker.org/apps. Currently the app is only available for only iPhone users, but an Android platform is due out later this year.

App Screenshots

app1

See a map of wells near you or submit a report.

app4

The legend describes the points on the map in more detail.

app2

Clicking on a dot shows the record/well

app3

Clicking the “i” shows you more information about the point

# # #

Media Contact

Samantha Malone
FracTracker Alliance
malone@fractracker.org
412-802-0273

FracTracker Alliance is a non-profit organization with offices in PA, OH, NY, WV, and CA that shares maps, data, and analyses to communicate impacts of the global oil and gas industry and inform actions that positively shape our energy future. Learn more about FracTracker at www.fractracker.org.

National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its one million members and supporters, and many partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for our children and grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.npca.org.

Train Counts - Call for Volunteers

Help Us to Track Oil Trains in Pittsburgh and Beyond

Call for Volunteers

FracTracker Alliance and the CREATE Lab at CMU are seeking volunteers to track oil trains on October 21st near Pittsburgh, PA for 2-hour segments from 7:00am – 7:00pm.

Sign up to participate (Link Deactivated, Archived Event)

Approximately 400,000 barrels of oil are transported daily from the west, following tracks from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale Play, which typically run through populated urban areas such as Pittsburgh. These trains have been known to derail and cause immense damage. The most recent of cases occurred in Québec in July of 2013, when a derailed train and the subsequent explosions resulted in the deaths of 47 people. The transportation of volatile crude oil from western states to major cities up and down the Eastern seaboard poses a major risk to any town or city through which these trains pass. FracTracker and affiliated groups want to understand the true risk that these volatile train cars pose to our region.

FracTracker and CREATE Lab will use the data collected during this project to analyze the frequency and risk of crude oil freight trains passing through the Pittsburgh area, but we need your help.

We are looking for volunteers that can commit to a two-hour shift throughout the day on October 21st. Volunteers will be equipped with a video camera, tripod, and of course coffee and snacks in order to record the passing of trains in either direction throughout a two-hour shift. The video footage will allow us to identify a plaque that is required to be displayed on cars carrying oil, as well as whether the cars are empty or full.

If you are interested in volunteering with FracTracker and this freight train project, follow the link above to sign up for a shift. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns at (412) 802-0273 or Malone@FracTracker.org. We hope to see you there!

About Us

FracTracker Alliance is a non-profit with an office in the Pittsburgh area whose mission is to share maps, data, and analyses to communicate impacts of the global oil and gas industry and to inform actions that positively shape our energy future. www.fractracker.org

The Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab (CREATE Lab) explores socially meaningful innovation and deployment of robotic technologies and is based out of Carnegie Mellon University. www.cmucreatelab.org

Unpaid Interns Sought for Fall 2014

Intern ButtonThere is always more work to do than FracTracker has staff. For the fall, we’re on the search for some unpaid interns to help out in the following offices:

  • Camp Hill, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Wheeling, WV
  • Cleveland Heights, OH
  • Oakland, CA

FracTracker interns are current college or graduate students who aid in conducting research, gathering and analyzing data, writing articles, managing the website, and mapping geo-located data. These are unpaid positions, as our paid internships run February – August each year. Because the fall internships are unpaid, however, students can choose to seek receipt of academic credits through their academic institution. These position are not eligible for health benefits.

If interested, apply online today. Deadline: July 15, 2014.

Three Cities, One Cause

FT-Fundraiser-DecorBy Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance

Tracking the impacts of oil and gas development is downright sobering. Sometimes recharge is needed for the work ahead, so as the FracTracker Alliance approaches its two-year organizational anniversary, it is due time to make time for fun and mixing with friends, partners, and supporters. On a parallel course, our strategic plan underscores the importance of diversifying the sources of income that sustain our efforts. These two needs create ideal synergy for our upcoming fundraising events, coming soon to three great American cities.

On May 16, the Beach Chalet in San Francisco refreshes with house beer, bites, and Pacific views. May 22, the Wine Spot in Cleveland indulges attendees with sumptuous wines and cheeses. Wigle Whiskey serves it by sips and slurps, June 10, in Pittsburgh’s first distillery since prohibition. More than tasty libations, these altogether fine evenings offer door prizes, silent auction items, and special exhibits of maps and art to enlighten and intrigue. FracTracker board members and staff will share in the festivities. Add you – and the occasions are sure to be picture perfect. Come out for the cuisine, the camaraderie, but most of all, for the cause!

Tickets and/or RSVP’s are required for all events. Click on your city of interest below to learn more.

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Preserving Archaeological Sites with GAPP

The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) has estimated there to be over 195,000 cultural, historic, and archaeological sites in just nine of the most active shale formations located in the U.S. to date (see SAA report). The FracTracker Alliance has also mapped data from the National Registry of Historic Places (see below), which includes approximately 70,000 listed properties—fewer than the number of archaeological sites in the State of New Mexico alone. There is, therefore, much to be gained by all stakeholders in generating a model that will help companies manage risk effectively and protect these sites with consistent, thoughtful approaches.


Digitized items on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), and shale plays and basins, where unconventional drilling operations most often occur. Please note that not all of the items on the NRHP have been digitized. To access legend, layer descriptions, and other map controls, please click the expanding arrows icon in the top-right corner of the map.

Last year, a group of representatives from the energy industry and the historic preservation community founded the Gas and Preservation Partnership (GAPP), a collaboration between the energy industry and the historic preservation community to advance energy exploration while protecting historic and cultural sites. These innovators believe strongly that collaboration – rather than contention – is key to managing these resources while also encouraging efficient exploration and development of energy reserves. GAPP’s primary goal is to work together to develop model voluntary practices that will balance business and preservation interests.

GAPP is holding its first summit on March 21, 2014, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to kick off its unique effort to the larger community: “Bridging the GAPP: Honoring our History – Fueling our Future.” GAPP’s board members, who represent multiple aspects of the shale gas and cultural resources fields, welcome participation from all those interested in finding roads to solutions. Learn more

For other opportunities to get involved or general questions, check out GAPP’s website or Facebook page or send an email to GAPP’s counsel, Marion Werkheiser, at Cultural Heritage Partners.

Researchers “drilling for data” present findings at Shale Gas Symposium

By Lisa Mikolajek Barton, Center for Environmental Research & Education, Duquesne University

Duquesne University Facing the Challenges conference attendees 2013

Facing the Challenges 2013

Two dozen researchers in a variety of disciplines presented their findings at “Facing the Challenges,” a symposium on unconventional shale gas extraction that drew more than 300 attendees to Duquesne University on Nov. 25 and 26, 2013.

The Power Center Ballroom was filled with speakers from several regional institutions as well as Cornell, Duke and Yale Universities; representatives from industry, government and non-profit agencies; and private citizens.  The event was free and open to the public.

The conference was chaired by Dr. John F. Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education and professor of biology, and coordinated by Samantha Malone, manager of science and communications for FracTracker Alliance.  They convened the conference at the request of the Heinz Endowments, which sponsored the event along with the Colcom, Claneil and George Gund Foundations.

“It is really important that this research is funded by foundations,” Stolz remarked, “because we are able to get data unencumbered by confidentiality or conflict of interest.”

Dean Reeder giving the introductory remarks for the Duquesne University Facing the Challenges conference 2013

Dean Reeder giving the introductory remarks

Most of the data presented over the two-day event suggest that the impacts of unconventional shale gas drilling extend far beyond the well pad.  In addition to the more obvious environmental concerns such as deforestation, loss of biodiversity, waste disposal and negative health effects, there are also complex economic and social implications.

Researchers in the social sciences pointed to evidence that an economic boom and impending bust are the likely result of this rapidly expanding industry, leading to increased crime and other social problems.  While non-residential owners of large acreage and the drilling companies may reap the economic rewards, residential owners of small parcels, renters and local businesses related to tourism and agriculture tend to be the “losers” in an uneven exchange of risks and benefits.

The experiences of local people and the effects on local land were on visual display throughout the conference with photographs from the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, and independent filmmaker Kirsi Jansa presented excerpts from Gas Rush Stories.

Duquesne University Facing the Challenges conference attendees 2013

Over 300 in attendance

Overall, a recurring issue raised by many of the researchers was that the rapid rate of expansion in unconventional shale gas drilling has outstripped our ability to manage the growth responsibly.  The pace of research and regulation lags far behind the race to produce profits for shareholders.  Although we are just beginning to observe the effects of the recent “gas rush” in Pennsylvania, lower natural gas prices are already driving drillers to other states, where more lucrative oil can be found.

Nevertheless, the researchers who presented at Duquesne University will continue to fill the gaps in our knowledge to inform leaders, lawmakers and the general public.  As Stolz noted, “A major goal of the Center for Environmental Research and Education is to understand the complexities of environmental issues and to bring those insights to the community at large.”


The manuscripts and reviews generated by many of the conference speakers will be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and a video recording of the event will soon be available.  For updates, visit the conference website: www.duq.edu/facing-the-challenges.

Reprinted from Duquesne University’s Spectrum newsletter.

Offshore oil and gas development in CA - Photo by Linda Krop Environmental Defense Center

Hydraulic Fracturing Offshore Wells on the California Coast

By Kyle Ferrar, CA Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Dirty Water by EDCOn October 16th, the Environmental Defense Center released a report focused on the use of hydraulic fracturing by offshore oil drilling platforms off the coast of California.1 The full report can be found on the EDC’s website. I was asked to assist in creating the report’s GIS maps, the results of which are described partially in the article below and are shown on the right.  An interactive map of this data, overlaid with additional data layers including oil spills and offshore wells is below.

Regulation of Offshore Drilling

California has 24 offshore oil rigs, with only one of them located, and therefore regulated, in state waters. In the map below, the regulated platform is labeled as “Holly.” The rest of the platforms, including platform “A” which was responsible for the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, are located in federal waters beyond the “outer continental shelf” (OCS) boundary, shown in the map with a dashed line.

Santa Barbara Channel_10.7.13

International, federal, and state laws are interrelated legal regimes that impact development of offshore oil, gas and other mineral resources in the US. Governance is bifurcated between state and federal law. States have authority in the “three-geographical-mile” area extending from their coasts. Federal regulatory regime governs minerals located under federal waters that extend out past state boundaries at least 200nautical miles from shore.  This is known as the “exclusive economic zone,” for which coastal nations have the sovereign right to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage marine resources. The basis for most federal regulations is the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which provides the system for offshore oil and gas exploration, leasing, and ultimate development. Regulations range from health, safety, resource conservation and environmental standards to requirements for production-based royalties and in some cases royalty relief and other development incentives. The moratoria on offshore leasing on many areas of the outer continental shelf were lifted in 2008 by President Bush and the 110th congress. Prior to that, several areas were made available for leasing in 2006 including the Aleutians and the Gulf. Recent changes to authorities regulating offshore development resulted after the Mineral Management Service was implicated in numerous scandals, including uncollected royalties estimated to amount to $160 million in 2006 alone.2 Offshore resource extraction is now regulated by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, both agencies of the Department of the Interior.

Investigating Hydraulic Fracturing

Point Conception Offshore Rigs_10.7.13

A recent freedom of information act request filed by the Environmental Defense Center (the group was formed in response to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill) identified 15 offshore drilling operations that used hydraulic fracturing. (Update: recent information from the FOIA shows 203 frac’ing operations from 6 different rig platforms!)4.  This number is most likely a vast underestimation, as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) estimates 12% of offshore operations in the Gulf use hydraulic fracturing. These “frac” operations were conducted without notifying the necessary regulatory agencies. The majority of this activity was conducted from the platforms Gilda and Gail, both labeled in the maps. While these offshore energy resources may be oil-rich, the fossil fuel resources pale in comparison to the biodiversity and ecological productivity of the Santa Barbara Channel and the California Channel Islands. The geography of the Channel Islands was formed by the cold-water swells of Northern California meeting with the warm-water swells of Southern California. This convergence resulted in a plethora of ecological microcosms in addition to the critical and sensitive habitats of endangered and threatened species shown in the maps.

Recently, the Department of the Interior approved four more hydraulic fracturing operations at these offshore platforms. Take note of the many ecological preserves and areas of protected/sensitive habitat in the midst of the many offshore wells and platforms. The map layer showing historic oil spills deserves special attention, with focus on the spills at platforms Gail and Gilda. Seeing this, it is alarming that the proposals were not required to conduct environmental impact assessments, and were instead granted “categorical exemptions” from the environmental analyses and public transparency actions strictly required by the National Environmental Policy Act. These actions (or lack thereof) in such an ecologically complex environment, especially considering it is the historical site of the US’s third largest oil spill, raises serious questions of compliance with other federal laws including the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Coastal Zone Management Act.3

Policy Recommendations

Additionally, the EDC report makes several policy recommendations:

  • Place a moratorium on offshore hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and other forms of well stimulation unless and until such technologies are proven safe through a public and transparent comprehensive scientific review
  • Prohibit the use of categorical exclusions to authorize offshore fracking and other forms of well stimulation
  • Formally evaluate offshore fracking and other forms of well stimulation through a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement
  • Initiate consistency reviews with the California Coastal Commission for all exploration plans, development plans, drilling or modification proposals involving fracking
  • Ensure that all fracking proposals comply with the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act
  • Review and revise the Clean Water Act permit governing offshore oil platforms to directly address chemicals in frac flowback and other wastewater, either establishing effluent limitations for those chemicals or denying discharge altogether

References

  1. Environmental Defense Center. 2013. Dirty Water: Fracking offshore California. Retrieved 10/16/13.
  2. Daniel Whitten. September 16, 2010. Oil, Gas Royalty-In-Kind Program to End, Salazar Says. Bloomberg. Retrieved 10/15/2013.
  3. Environmental Defense Center. October 16, 2013. EDC Provides Fracking Details. Retrieved 10/16/13.
  4. ALICIA CHANG and JASON DEAREN. October 19, 2013. California Offshore Fracking More Widespread than Anyone Believed. Huffington Post. Retrieved 10/22/13.

FracTracker Presenting at Duquesne Shale Gas Conference

Facing the Challenges: Research on Shale Gas Extraction Symposium

Research on Shale Gas Extraction Symposium

On November 25 and 26, 2013 the FracTracker Alliance will be taking part in a regional shale gas symposium at Duquesne University designed to share the recent research that has been conducted regarding the impacts of unconventional natural gas extraction. FracTracker’s Manager of Science and Communications, Samantha Malone, will present on the data gaps and needs that exist in this industry, especially those that hinder regulatory and corporate transparency. Full agenda >

Event Details

Facing the Challenges: Research on Shale Gas Extraction Symposium
November 25-26, 2013 — Duquesne University Power Center, Pittsburgh, PA
Agenda | Register online | Promotional poster (PDF) | Campus map
Free and open to the public!

Join us for a two-day symposium that will explore the challenges of unconventional shale gas extraction. Hear from more than two dozen academic researchers as they present their findings regarding:

  • Biological, geological and environmental investigations
  • Fugitive methane migration and climate change
  • Air and water quality
  • Human and animal health
  • Social, political and legal aspects

Sponsored by the Heinz Endowments, the Claneil Foundation, the Colcom Foundation and The George Gund Foundation. Presented by Duquesne University’s Center for Environmental Research and Education.

More information can be found on the conference website at: www.duq.edu/facing-the-challenges

Related Event

If you are planning on attending Facing the Challenges, you might also be interested in the following event being hosted by the League of Women Voters on November 23rd:

Shale Drilling and Public Health: A Day of Discovery
Presented by The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania’s Shale and Public Health Committee
November 23, 2013  |  9 am – 5 pm
Heinz History Center, Fifth Floor Mueller Education Center, Pittsburgh, PA
This event is also free and open to the public.
More information