Daniel B. Markind, Esq.
Weir and Partners, LLP
An academic study on methane goes bad. Will anyone in the press notice? Dan Markind reports and reminds environmentalists to be careful what they wish for.
Earlier today, the Journal of Geophysics Research issued a retraction notice for an article it first published online on April 20, 2017. In pertinent part, the retraction reads:
“The article, Ren, X., et al. (2017), “Methane remissions from the Marcellus Shale in southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia based on airborne measurements,” has been retracted by the authors because of an error in wind measurements used to calculate methane emissions from the southwest Marcellus Shale region. The error was discovered by the authors in October 2017…The original wind measurements led to an overestimate of methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations. A reanalysis with corrected winds…is expected to reverse a conclusion of the paper, which had asserted that leakage from oil and natural gas extraction in this region results in a climate penalty compared to the use of coal….”
Everybody makes mistakes. Kudos to the authors and the journal for admitting the error and working to correct it. This, however, is far from the first time that scientific papers have not been so scientific after all. Further, it will be interesting to see if the press picks up the story. They certainly loved the concept that natural gas production was worse than coal. Outlets like NPR and StateImpactPA have been willing to trumpet every new study that even suggests there might be environmental damage associated with fracking. They have been less willing to give the same intensity of press coverage to studies that go the other way. Let’s see what happens now.
The news was good Friday for PennEast, the pipeline project that will take gas from Northeastern Pennsylvania to Central New Jersey. By a 4-1 vote, FERC issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. There are still many state and local permits to be obtained, and a new Democratic New Jersey administration will not be as supportive as was the Christie Administration, but the project now can move forward. Of course, environmental groups were outraged and have vowed that this is just the beginning of the fight and not the end. What else is new?
In New York, following FERC’s decision not to overrule the State Department of Environmental Conservation on granting the Section 401 Clean Streams Permit for the Constitution Pipeline, the DEC went to Federal Court last week asking the Court to overrule FERC in its decision granting such a permit to the Valley Lateral Project of the Millennium Pipeline. The DEC argued that it has acted “reasonably” in refusing to rule on Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC’s application for over a year, saying it was incomplete. “If FERC’s interpretation of Section 401 were to prevail,” The DEC argued, “an appellant could submit a bare-bones application asking for a Section 401 certification, and then supplement that application materially at a much later date.”
The DEC clearly is correct, but FERC was correct when it overruled the DEC due to excessive foot dragging. As I stated before, the DEC has no credibility in these matters. It’s an instructive moment. Everything has consequences. The DEC’s tactics stretching back to the gubernatorial ban have cost it the credibility it needs in the Valley Lateral case. Certain things are easy to get back. Credibility is not one of them.
This week, the Delaware River Basin Commission begins with public hearings over its proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing within its jurisdiction. While the result is pre-ordained, it will be interesting to see how the DRBC differentiates itself from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. The SRBC allows fracking within its territory and to this point has seen no discernable effect on water quality. The DRBC move is a major power grab by a governmental agency. It is being applauded by the environmental community, but caution should be in order.
To those who want an ever-expanding role for government, the story of the Oroville Dam near Sacramento, California just gets more problematic. Last week, the City of Oroville sued the State of California Department of Water Resources over the near-disaster last February when the dam almost collapsed. The DWR built, owns and operates the dam.
The claims in the lawsuit have to be read to be believed. Oroville assets the DWR engaged in racism, sexual harassment, theft, negligence and just about everything else you can think of. For example, in 20 years only two African Americans were hired at the dam. According to the suit, in 2010 or 2011 DWR supervisors allowed a noose to be hung in a meeting room for several months.
Today, the Sacramento Bee reported that when the dam’s spillway was being built in 1966, construction workers complained to the DWR that the earth on which the spillway was being built had eroded and was crumbling. One worker refused to continue working unless he got clearance from his boss. The DWR however, limited additional excavation work proposed by the contractor, and in 2005 repeated that decision when a coalition of environmental groups urged the hillside be reinforced. The reason for DWR’s decision, of course, was money. This past year, emergency repairs to the dam cost $500,000,000.
Some months ago, I asked the environmental community to explain to me exactly what they wanted? They make it very clear what they’re against but not what they’re for. While I’ve never gotten an answer, I’ll relay a famous proverb as a warning. “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.”
Fly Eagles Fly! (sorry, couldn’t result)