Federal Water Tap, August 29: Tar Sands and Shale Gas

Few Significant Impacts
The State Department concluded its environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The department’s preferred option is to build the pipeline, with a few variations and minor route changes.

Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones, who took questions from reporters, was adamant that the State Department’s recommendation was “not the rubberstamp for this project.” A 90-day consultation period now begins. The department, with a few opportunities for public input, will discuss with other government agencies whether the project is in the national interest. President Obama will make the ultimate decision.

In an attempt to move official opinion, a group of pipeline opponents is staging daily protests until September 3 outside the White House gates. On the first day, some 70 protestors, including environmental writer Bill McKibben, were arrested.

A Little More Than a Rounding Error
The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new assessment of natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale, estimating that the rock formation underlying much of the mid-Atlantic U.S. contains 84 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of technically recoverable natural gas. That number, which does not consider the economic feasibility, is the mean value in a range of estimates. There is a 95 percent probability that the formation contains at least 43 TCF, and a 5 percent probability that it contains at least 144 TCF.

The previous assessment of the Marcellus Shale by the USGS, done in 2002, pegged technically recoverable natural gas reserves at 2 TCF. Technological improvements in the subsequent decade have led to the upward revision.

But as the New York Times points out, the estimate from the USGS is substantially lower than the Energy Information Administration’s estimate of 410 TCF, which was released earlier this year. The NYT says this calls into question the methods the EIA uses to calculate gas reserves and its use of consultants with industry ties.

‘Climategate’ Conclusion
The National Science Foundation, in its investigation into allegations of data fabrication stemming from hacked email accounts at a British university, found that there is no evidence supporting such claims against Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann, the Daily Climate reports.

‘Greening’ the Defense Department
The nation’s military surpassed its water conservation goal, but fell short in energy conservation, according to an annual report from the Defense Department.

Looking for a New Blueprint
The Environmental Protection Agency backed away from issuing new regulations for stormwater runoff from construction sites, Greenwire reports. The home-builders lobby cheered the move, saying the cost of compliance would have been too great.

Clean Water Act Violations
The EPA announced it has issued compliance orders to six concentrated animal feeding operations in the Midwest for violating the Clean Water Act. The agency is working with the CAFOs to eliminate illegal wastewater discharges.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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