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FrackNation is a documentary by Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, journalists from Ireland, in response to Josh Fox’s Gasland. It recently premiered in several locations and now can be seen on Mark Cuban’s cable channel AXS. I watched it this week, and it can be seen again on AXS February 2 at 2:30 pm Eastern time. It is worth watching and has received favorable reviews.



McAleer and McElhinney have previously done documentaries on global warming (Not Evil Just Wrong) and gold mining in Romania (Mine Your Own Business) that challenge conventional wisdom on environmental topics. McAleer got the idea for this new film when he confronted Josh Fox at a press conference in Chicago about scenes in Gasland showing tap water being lit on fire. McAleer pointed out that natural gas has been in well water long before the boom in hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania.

McAleer and McElhinney got their funding from Kickstarter, where 3,305 backers donated $212,000 to back the movie. (They’re all listed in the movie credits.)

Kyle Smith of the New York Post writes that “McAleer, a whimsical Irish journalist with a pleasingly avuncular air, explains in a robustly entertaining and informative doc how Fox was wrong to imply fracking is unregulated and proves methane has been in some drinking water since long before fracking.” Kevin Begos writes in USA Today that the film “discredits some of the most extreme anti-fracking rhetoric,” but “it also sometimes goes too far in dismissing legitimate concerns.”  The New York Times writes that the film is “no tossed-off, pro-business pamphlet”, and that it is “methodically researched and assembled” and “provocative.” Grover Norquist wrote on the Huffington Post that Fracknation “eviscerates Gasland’s credibility and makes clear that its director knowingly lied again and again.”

One of the most interesting segments of the film is a discussion about the role of popular media in the debate over the safety of oil and gas drilling and its effect on the environment. Mainstream media are justly criticized, in my opinion, for failing to adequately investigate claims made by radical groups on both sides of the debate before giving them credence by including their views in their publications. Josh Fox has made a business out of his movie and has become a media celebrity. His film was nominated for an academy award, and he has appeared with Hollywood celebrities. Fox is now working on a sequel for HBO, Gasland 2. In part as a result of this media frenzy, a moratorium was imposed on hydraulic fracturing in the State of New York. It is impossible for the general public to separate fact from fiction. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him? The whole debate is in dire need of serious investigative journalism – but that costs money, and it doesn’t sell adds.


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The University of Texas’ Burear of Economic Geology has issued a draft report updating an earlier report on water use by the oil and gas industry in Texas. Among its conclusions: Movement of shale plays into oil-rich areas of the Eagle Ford and West Texas’s Permian Basin have resulted in increased use of brackish water for frac’ing, improvement in reuse technologies, and lower fresh water consumption, but also more demand on groundwater in regions of South and West Texas.

Some excerpts:

In the Eagle Ford, although the number of wells completed has increased rapidly, the intensity of water us (gallons per foot of completed interval) has decreased almost in half in four years. The report attributes this decreas in intensity to higher use of “gel” fracs that can carry proppant with much less water. Water use is significantly higher in the down-dip gas window of the play (as high as 1400 gal/ft) vs. the oil window (800 gal/ft). Here are graphs from the draft report about the Eagle Ford’s water use:

EF # of wells.jpg

EF total water use.jpg

EF HZ setion length.jpg

EF Mgal per well.jpg

EF water intensity.jpg

EF proppant loading.jpg


Here are some other interesting statistics and projections from the draft report:

Estimated percentages of recycling / reused and brackish water use in principal areas in 2011:

Table percent of water use.JPG

Estimated groundwater / surface water split (does not include recycling / reuse):

grounwater-surface water split.JPG


Summary of projected water use by mining industry in Texas:

Mining Water Use Projections.JPG


Historical water use in Texas – all categories — 2001-2010:

Historical Water Use (all categories).JPG


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News items of interest:

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center of Excllence in Environmental Toxicology has organized a group of researchers from UPa, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and the University of North Carolina to study whether the drilling in the Marcellus Shale play is hazardous to human health. 

Here is a recent presentation by one of UPa’s professors, Trevor M. Penning, on public health issues of hydraulic fracturing:

A report by the New York Health Department, leaked to the New York Times, says that hydraulic fracturing can be conducted safely.

Here is a report by StateImpact Texas on recent earthquakes in the Barnett Shale, possibly caused by injection wells: 

The City of Fort Worth has now banned new disposal wells within its city limits.

New “sand plant” in San Antonio – U.S. Silica Holdings and BNSF announced construction of a plant near San Antonio that can store and deliver 15,000 tons of sand to the Eagle Ford. The sand will come from U.S. Silica’s mine in Ottawa, Illinois.

Colorado recently adopted rules requiring operators to test groundwater before and after drilling. The rules require operators to test up to four water wells within one-half mile of a well prior to drilling, one year after drilling, and again six years after drilling.

The State of Alaska also recently issued proposed new rules regulating hydraulic fracturing:

The Federal Advisory Committee established by the U.S. Department of Commerce in December 2010, has issued a new draft report warning of the consequences of global warming. The report says that strong scientific evidence has been produced sthat human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are primarily responsible for climate change, and that climate change, if not dealt with, will increase health problems, wildfires, exreme weather conditions, and human welfare in general.

Congress renewed the wind energy industry’s tax credit for another year. Notably, the extension applies to any project commenced during 2013, instead of projects completed by year-end. Wind energy was the largest source of new capacity for electric generation in the U.S. last year.  at 3:11 pm on Christmas day, wind power supplied nearly 26% of electricity demand in the area served by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

A good article about drilling in an urban environment, in the unincorporated community of Gardendale, Texas, near Midland:

A good article about air monitoring equipment installed in the Barnett Shale by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:

Reuters calls Chesapeake’s future “murky”:


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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is scheduled to decide whether the Lesser Prairie Chicken should be listed as an endangered species. Its Texas habitat is in the Panhandle and West Texas.

Prairie Chicken Habitat.jpg

The bird’s habitat extends into Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma:

Pairie Chicken Habitat2.jpg


The listing could have an adverse impact on oil and gas exploration and wind energy projects in the habitat area. David P. Smith, an environmental lawyer with my firm and expert on oil and gas exploration in endangered habitats, was quoted in the Texas Tribune as saying that the Obama administration faces the challenge of deciding between two green priorities — endangered species and wind power.

“This is really one of the first times when they’re talking about listing a species that could have direct and significant impacts on the ability to deliver renewables,” Mr. Smith said.

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In a prior post, I wrote about a new development at the Texas Railroad Commission: granting permits for “allocation wells” – horizontal wells drilled across lease lines without pooling the leases. Since I wrote that post, our firm was retained to represent the parties protesting EOG Resources’ application for a permit for an allocation well. A hearing on the application was held at the RRC on December 3. In addition to EOG and the protestants, Devon Energy appeared at the hearing supporting EOG, and the Texas General Land Office appeared opposing allocation wells on State-owned minerals. All parties have now submitted closing statements and responses, which can be viewed below:

Klotzman Closing Statement.pdf

EOG Closing Statement.pdf

Devon Closing Statement.pdf

GLO Closing Statement.pdf

Klotzman et al Response to Closing Statements.PDF

EOG Reply Closing Statement.pdf

Devon Reply Closing Statement.pdf

Our firm was also retained by the Texas Land and Mineral Owners’ Association and several mineral owners to file a petition for rulemaking with the RRC, asking the RRC to address the issue of allocation wells by commencing a rulemaking proceeding. The RRC has not yet responded. The petition can be viewed here: Rulemaking Petition.pdf


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The Corpus Christi Caller Times recently published an excellent piece on Gregg Robertson, the geologist responsible for discovering the value of the Eagle Ford formation. Read it here. Gregg is not only an excellent geologist, but also a fine human being. He deserves the award for newsmaker of the year, and much-delayed recognition for his role in starting the biggest oil play in South Texas in many years. Congratulations to Gregg.

TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES Geologist Gregg Robertson was named Caller-Times Newsmaker of the Year for his role in the development of the Eagle Ford Shale.<br />

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The Texas Groundwater Protection Committee has a new website that provides a wealth of information and links for those interested in groundwater resources and regulation in Texas. The Committee was created by the Texas Legislature in 1989 to provide coordination among nine state agencies that deal with groundwater: the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Railroad Commission, the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the Bureau of Economic Geology, and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The TGPC’s website provides helpful links to maps of Texas aquifers, groundwater management areas and groundwater conservation districts, regulations covering drilling of water wells, groundwater conservation and contamination, injection and disposal wells, and classroom resources. Bookmark this site.

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 The Energy Information Administration continues to produce fascinating graphs. Two recent ones are below.

 Natural gas hammered coal last year. Low natural gas prices still made electricity cheap. West Texas Intermediate Crude declined, while Brent crude increased.

graph of select commodity futures price changes, as described in the article text


Electricity generated from natural gas equaled that generated from coal for the first time in April 2012:

graph of monthly U.S. electricity generation by fuel, as described in the article text

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