Shale oil production is growing rapidly as a result of advances in recovery technologies, particularly directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. These technologies have opened up previously inaccessible reserves of oil in shale formations in North Dakota, Texas, California, Colorado, Ohio, and several other states. Goldman Sachs recently forecast that the U.S. is poised to become the world's top oil producer in the next five years - a position it last occupied in 1973. Nearly all of this increased production would come from shale oil fracking. Shale oil fracking takes place in an environment where regulation hasn't kept up with booming production. At the moment, this type of energy production is mostly regulated by the states, many of which are relatively new to oil and gas production and don't yet have strong regulatory regimes in place.

Fracking is the process of drilling for natural gas that involves the injection of millions of gallons of frack fluid at high pressure into dense rock. Frack fluid is a cocktail of water, sand and up to 600 toxic chemicals, many of which have been linked to cancer. Residents in places like Pennsylvania and Wyoming have been suffering from the ills of fracking. Children are getting sick, tap water can be set on fire, large volumes of trucks clog rural roads, industrial drill sites dot once-scenic country vistas, and people are no longer able to drink water from their own wells. Fracking is also exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and other laws designed to protect our air, soil and water. 

4/2/12 Vermont Considers a Three Year Moratorium on Fracking

The Vermont Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee is expected to vote this week on legistation that would place a three-year moratorium on fracking in Vermont. While a moratorium isn't a bad start, Food and water Watch, along with the Vermont Natural Resources Council, support an outright ban on fracking. Follow this link to ask your VT senator to support an amendment to this bill that would change the moratorium to a full-out ban on fracking. Learn more... 

3/29/12 Major Investors Warn Energy Companies of Business Risks in Flaring Gas at Shale Wells 

With escalating shale oil production putting the US on track to become the world's largest oil producer, investors are challenging an increasingly common industry practice - burning off or 'flaring' associated natural gas from shale oil wells - as environmentally damaging, economically wasteful and a threat to the industry's bottom line.

"We are concerned that excessive flaring, because of its impact on air quality and climate change, poses significant risks for the companies involved, and for the industry at large, ultimately threatening the industry's license to operate," wrote three-dozen investors in a letter sent this week to 21 of the industry's largest shale oil producers, including Continental Resources and Chesapeake Energy.

The letter notes that in North Dakota alone, which produced an average of 418,000 barrels each day last year and is now the third largest source of domestic oil production behind Texas and Alaska, annual flaring-related emissions were equivalent to more than two million tons of carbon dioxide, as much as adding 384,000 cars to the road.

"Shale oil holds the potential to transform the US oil industry, but its benefits will be drastically reduced if we don't address flaring head-on," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, the business-investor coalition that helped organize the letter. "The industry's current approach to the issue raises serious questions as to whether that will happen, and merits a red flag from an investment community that looks to companies for long-term  "Excessive flaring is not only environmentally damaging but also a waste of a valuable resource," added Karina Litvack, director, head of governance and sustainable investment at F&C Asset Management, one of the investors sending the letter. "We want to encourage companies to articulate plans for resolving this issue while shale oil production is still in its relative infancy." Read complete letter wish signatories

1/15/2012 Direct link between hyrdofracking and cattle deaths


A new study by Cornell University has found a direct link between hyrdofracking and cattle deaths and stillbirths. The Cornell university study focused on the impact that hydrofracking had on humans and livestock raised in close proximity to fracking wells. This is particularly important because many New York State gas leases are on working farms with cattle and dairy cows. Alarmingly, in the second case study, 20% percent of the cows died on a farm with hyrdrofracking wells with 21 of 60 animals who drank from a contaminated creek dying. Almost 50% percent of the cows still alive after the mass deaths experienced fertility issues and still births. With similar symptoms and occurrences in each case study it is pretty clear that fracking can have a devastating impact on livestock health and farming profitability. Farmer Ken Jaffe, has written more about the study here.