Southern California environment news and trends

California oil regulators release draft regulations for fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing

Calif. Dept. of Conservation

California posted draft regulations online Tuesday for hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Environmentalists say the practice can pollute the air and groundwater.

After decades of oil drilling, California has released draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The proposed rules were posted online Tuesday by the state's oil regulators. California currently oversees oil well construction but it has not required disclosure of fracking practices.

Under the draft regulations, operators would have to name the chemicals used in fracking and they would have to test their wells to ensure they can withstand the drilling process.

Fracking has been quietly going on in several counties including Los Angeles, Kern, Monterey and Sacramento to extract hard-to-reach oil. Other states use the technique to recover natural gas.

Environmentalists worry fracking can contaminate groundwater and pollute the air. The industry has said it has been safely used for decades.

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Radiohead and Jude Law unite in pro-Arctic Greenpeace video

Greenpeace continues to turn up the heat on their “Save The Arctic” campaign, this time with a melancholy new video featuring the music of Radiohead (fan favorite “Everything In Its Right Place”), a voiceover from Jude Law and one very sad polar bear, lost on the streets of London.

“As the Arctic sea ice melts, polar bears are being forced to go far beyond their normal habitat to find food and look after their young. This film is a powerful expression of how our fates are intertwined, because climate change is affecting all of us no matter where we live,” said Jude Law in a Greenpeace statement. “Right now a handful of oil companies are trying to carve up the Arctic for the sake of their next quarterly results but a global movement is growing to stop them. I stand with hundreds of thousands of others who think the area should be made into a sanctuary, protected from corporate greed for good.”

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Science chill after the BP spill: why lawsuits, lawmakers and journalists make researchers nervous

Courtesy of Rich Camilli, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Crew members in the Gulf periodically need to take extraordinary safety precautions from the hydrocarbon fumes in the air. Sean Sylva, Chris Reddy, Rich Camilli, and Lt. Jarrett Parker (USCG) were getting ready to deploy the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry in the Gulf of Mexico.

An op-ed written by two Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientists in the Boston Globe this week is heating up a debate about how chilly legal scrutiny can be when it comes to ocean science.

Back in 2010, marine geochemist Chris Reddy and environmental engineer Richard Camilli pinged the plume of spilt oil in Gulf Coast waters with sonar. Remote-operated vehicles thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface helped tell them where the oil was. They analyzed the makeup of that subsurface plume and calculated an average flow rate of 57,000 barrels of oil a day, for a total release of 4.9 million barrels of oil.

That last part is the sticky wicket. Spilling oil in federal waters tends to yield fines, and in this case, quite large ones. The outcome of federal and scientific calculations is worth billions of dollars, and as a result, BP has been very interested in making Reddy, Camilli and other researchers show their work.

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Survey says mileage is king for new car buyers

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

According to a new Consumer Reports survey, when it’s time to buy a new car, shoppers are placing more of a premium on higher gas mileage than on a vehicle’s overall quality.

As reported by the Huffington Post, the survey, which is the latest from Consumer Reports National Research Center of car owners, found that more than one-third (37 percent) of those polled said that fuel efficiency is the most important factor when buying a new vehicle. The second most popular choice, vehicle quality, lagged behind at only 17 percent, with safety just behind quality at third, scoring 16 percent of the vote.

Still, it’s mostly about gas mileage for new car buyers. Two-thirds of those surveyed expect their next car to have at least the same if not better fuel efficiency than their current mode of transportation. 60 percent of the respondents were willing to give up some size and vehicle capacity in exchange for that higher fuel efficiency rating.

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California oil refineries produce most greenhouse emissions in U.S.

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Getty Images

A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists reveals that California oil refineries emit 19 to 33 percent more greenhouse gasses than any other comparable region in America.

According to Inside Climate News, while California refineries have worked hard over the last 17 years to combat pollutants, dirtier and harder to clean types of crude oil (such as Canadian tar sands oil) have undone any progress by forcing the facilities to work harder to process — and create more CO2 emissions. California refineries are also known for removing sulfur earlier in the cleaning process, which contributes to the elevated emissions.

“With respect to emissions intensity, California officials have been running around claiming California’s oil refineries are so much more energy efficient, that they are just cleaner… Obviously they were wrong,” said Greg Karras, a senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment who wrote the study.

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