Increase in quakes from fossil fuel boom prompts new USGS hazard maps


Drilling in Weld County, Colorado

Earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater are 100 times more likely now than in 2008 in regions of Colorado and seven states that are hotbeds for oil and gas drilling, federal geologists said Wednesday.

This has prompted the government to prepare new seismic-risk maps for construction, insurance and public safety.

The question of who bears the costs of possible damage and quake-resistant construction has yet to be decided. But a U.S. Geological Survey team, based in Colorado, also has started a series of meetings with engineers and designers…

“If you live in one of these areas of induced seismicity, you should educate yourself and those around you for protective actions you can take,” Mark Petersen, chief of the agency’s National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project said…

While most industry-induced quakes result from disposal of wastewater, the scientists said they’ve documented quakes caused by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process used to stimulate release of oil and gas from deep shale rock formations.

USGS scientist Bill Ellsworth said quakes linked to fracking are short-lived…

USGS researchers are investigating whether industry-triggered quakes could spur bigger earthquakes along natural geological fault lines.

There’s no evidence that industry could cause quakes up to magnitude 7, the level associated with catastrophic natural quakes. “But we cannot rule that out,” USGS scientist Justin Rubinstein said…

Insurance companies see quakes in Colorado as an emerging risk. There’s no claims history, said Carole Walker, director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Industry Association.

“We hope people will purchase insurance if there’s an increased risk. If insurance isn’t purchased, you don’t have the coverage for it and it can become a litigation issue,” Walker said. “A business or homeowner could sue for damages, and they would have to prove the causation of the risk.”

While the insurance industry statement sounds like a copout turned into a sales pitch, they have the bucks to carry forward a lawsuit against oil and gas drillers. Even if they charge penurious rates – and I have no idea what earthquake insurance in the Rocky Mountains would cost – they will be likely to attempt to recoup their expenses by suing whoever is handy.

And that establishes the baseline for future suits.

Court rules NSA mass phone surveillance illegal

A U.S. spying program that systematically collects millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, putting pressure on Congress to quickly decide whether to replace or end a controversial program aimed at fighting terrorism.

Ruling on a program revealed in 2013 by former government security contractor Edward Snowden, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to collect Americans’ calling records in bulk.

Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for a three-judge panel that Section 215, which addresses the FBI’s ability to gather business records, could not be interpreted to have permitted the NSA to collect a “staggering” amount of phone records, contrary to claims by the Bush and Obama administrations…

The appeals court did not resolve the question of whether the surveillance was unconstitutional…It also declined to halt the program, noting that parts of the Patriot Act including Section 215 expire on June 1.

Lynch said it was “prudent” to give Congress a chance to decide what surveillance is permissible, given the national security interests at stake…I think he’s stupid to think Congress is capable of anything constructive much less Constitutional.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have introduced legislation to extend Section 215 and other parts of the Patriot Act through 2020.

The existing NSA program has repeatedly been approved in secret by a national security court established under a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…

ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo welcomed the decision.

Mass surveillance does not make us any safer, and it is fundamentally incompatible with the privacy necessary in a free society,” he said.

I agree. I believe most Americans with more than the equivalent of a sixth grade level of literacy and understanding of civics would agree. That just leaves miserable, corrupt and cowardly politicians to defend the Patriot act.

We continue to have to rely on a few courts uncorrupted by appointments as sleazy as the Republican Supreme Court to defend constitutional rights – when neither the White House nor Congress is willing to act on our behalf.

Hostage uses smartphone pizza app to summon 911 help

Florida-woman-uses-Pizza-Hut-app-to-request-911-assistance

A Florida woman being held hostage with her children used a Pizza Hut ordering app to ask store employees to call 911 on her behalf.

The Pizza Hut in Avon Park received an online order about 3:40 p.m. Monday from regular customer Cheryl Treadway and Chef Alonia Hawk noticed the comments section for the order of a small hand-tossed classic pizza with pepperoni read, “Please help! Get 911 to me,” and “911 hostage help.”

Manager Candy Hamilton printed the order and contacted police…

Police said Treadway and her children were being held in their home at knife-point by the woman’s boyfriend, Ethan Earl Nickerson, 26.

A Highlands County Sheriff’s Office negotiator arrived on the scene and Treadway came out of the home with one of the children, but two others remained inside with Nickerson.

“She comes running toward us but two kids are still in the house with a person who’s on narcotics and you don’t know how their mindset with a knife, and we need to get them out,” the negotiator, Lt. Curtis Ludden, told WTSP-TV.

Nickerson was arrested without incident about 20 minutes later, police said. Treadway and her children were not injured.

Treadway told police she and Nickerson had been arguing and he had taken her phone away after threatening her with the knife. Treadway said she convinced Nickerson to let her use the phone to order pizza and he took the phone back after the order.

Quick thinking, Ms. Treadway. You deserve a reward for saving your kids. A super geek solution.

China expands ban on coal to suburbs


Click to enlarge12,000 died in the London smog of winter, 1952

China will expand its bans on coal burning to include suburban areas as well as city centers in efforts to tackle air pollution…

Detailing its clean coal action plan 2015-2020, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said it would promote centralized heating and power supply by natural gas and renewables, replacing scattered heat and power engines fueled by low quality coal.

The world’s biggest coal consumer will ban sale and burning of high-ash and high-sulphur coal in the worst affected regions including city clusters surrounding Beijing.

If you’ve been around as long as I have – and your memory still works – you recall the two-pronged solution to air pollution and smog has been this simple for decades.

After World War 2 the worst smog in the world belonged to London. Just like Beijing, the problem not only was coal-fired electricity generation; but, coal-fired home heating and cooking. It took a couple of decades; but, the last mile solution of getting natural gas to homes took care of the worst of it.

In Beijing and other polluted Chinese cities renewable energy sources are phasing out the portion of pollution coming from soft coal-fired electricity and, now, the government has dropped the other shoe and will end reliance on coal for home fires.

Under the action plan, coal-fired industrial boilers will all shift to burn natural gas or clean coal by 2020 in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei city clusters, Pearl River delta and Yangtze River delta area…

The government will offer subsidies for clean fuels

Natural gas will serve as the first level of carbon reduction as wind power and solar power continue the most dramatic expansion in the world.