Canadian firm previews fracking gel
Representatives of a Canadian firm pitched their proprietary "fracking gel" in Broome County yesterday, reports Jon Campbell at the Press & Sun-Bulletin. The gel bypasses the need to mix high volumes of water with chemicals (but it's made from petroleum products). Campbell reports that using "GasFrac" could complicate the approvals process for hydrofracking currently underway in New York:
The method would not be subject to the provisions of the state's Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which is currently under review by the Department of Environmental Conservation and will only guide permitting for the type of hydrofracking being used by companies in Pennsylvania and other shale formations. But a DEC spokesman said it doesn't have enough information to determine which set of rules would apply to the GasFrac process, and it would not be able to proceed until that is sorted out. "DEC is aware of the LPG process but there have been no permit applications or other submissions, including scientific and technical studies, that would enable us to conduct an evaluation at this time," spokesman Michael Bopp said.
Jeremy Moule at Rochester's City Paper attended a conference about Great Lakes offshore wind development at RIT yesterday, and reports that wind boosters will have to find a middle ground with environmentalists:
[National Wildlife Federation analyst Frank] Szollosi's presentation was interesting, because it directly addressed some of the most frequent objections to and concerns with offshore wind in New York. The New York Power Authority is in the process of choosing an offshore wind project, or multiple projects, to support; the wind farms would be located in Lakes Ontario or Erie. Some coastal community governments have objected, citing aesthetics and potential harmful effects on fish and migrating birds. Szollosi connected many issues in his presentation, starting with the water levels in Lake Superior. That lake is warming fast, which is lowering water levels, and that leads to lower water levels in the other Great Lakes. And as the lake levels drop, so do groundwater levels. Add to that increased pressure on the lakes from water shortages in the west. The warmer water also allows some invasive species to spread. That situation is only going to get worse unless the Great Lakes states change the way they "power the economy," he said. In other words, if the states don't move toward cleaner energy sources like wind - and offshore wind - they're still making major contributions to climate change. And climate change will ultimately alter the lakes and the communities around them.
The issues at the Fukushima nuclear power plant argue for dry cask storage in the U.S., reports David Talbot at MIT's Technology Review:
If the U.S. government had followed through on its 1982 commitment to open a spent-fuel repository— and its subsequent contracts with utilities to begin removing the fuel in 1998—the pressure on U.S. spent fuel pools would have been relieved, [MIT nuclear science and engineering department head Richard] Lester says. "There were schedules that described how the DOE [Department of Energy] was going to move the fuel, and which fuel would be moved," he says. "I think we can say, on the basis of all of that, that the pools would not be nearly as full as they are now." He says it was crucial to begin establishing central sites for dry-cask storage as part of a comprehensive plan for waste storage and disposal, which he says should not rule out Yucca Mountain. "One possible use for the site is for temporary storage," Lester says.
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