WBEZ | fracking http://www.wbez.org/tags/fracking Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en With quakes spiking, oil industry is under the microscope in Oklahoma http://www.wbez.org/news/science/quakes-spiking-oil-industry-under-microscope-oklahoma-111572 <p><p>Out on Oklahoma&#39;s flat prairie, Medford, population about 900, is the kind of place where people give directions from the four-way stop in the middle of town.</p><p>It seems pretty sedate, but it&#39;s not. &quot;We are shaking all the time,&quot; says Dea Mandevill, the city manager. &quot;All the time.&quot;</p><p>The afternoon I stopped by, Mandevill says two quakes had already rumbled through Medford.</p><p>&quot;Light day,&quot; she laughs. But, she adds, &quot;the day&#39;s not over yet; we still have several more hours.&quot;</p><p>Mandevill may be laughing it off, but Austin Holland, the state seismologist, isn&#39;t.</p><p>&quot;I certainly regret starting smoking again, but there are some days when nicotine and coffee are about what get me through the day,&quot; he says. &quot;As far as we know, this has never happened before.&quot;</p><p>Holland says that Oklahoma used to have, on average, one or two perceptible earthquakes a year. Now the state is averaging two or three a day. There were more magnitude 3 or greater tremors here last year than anywhere else in the continental United States, and the unprecedented spike in earthquakes has intensified.</p><p>Holland suspects that modern oil production techniques are triggering the jump in quakes. A few years back, companies figured out how to drill sideways through layers of shale, then break, or frack, the rock, releasing a torrent of oil.</p><p>The combination of fracking and horizontal drilling sparked a massive oil boom here, but the technique produces much more water than oil &mdash; tens of billions of gallons of very salty, toxic water. The only economical way to dispose of it, Holland says, is to force it deep into the earth.</p><p>&quot;That pressure acts as a lubricant,&quot; he says. &quot;It&#39;s not actually the water itself lubricating, but the pressure, and the best way to think about that is an air hockey table,&quot; with huge slabs of rock as the pucks.</p><p>Holland says injecting water near faults can deliver just enough lubricating pressure to set them in motion. It&#39;s called &quot;induced seismicity.&quot;</p><p>The Prague earthquake hit the state four years ago. At magnitude 5.6, it was the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma.</p><p>&quot;It was coming from everywhere &mdash; I mean the walls, the roof,&quot; says Ryan Ladra, standing in his parents&#39; battered house. &quot;When it hit, it hit so violent and hard that we thought the house was coming down on top of us.&quot;</p><p>The Ladras&#39; stone chimney collapsed, striking his mom, Sandra, who is suing companies that ran nearby wastewater injection wells.</p><p>But Kim Hatfield of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association says he&#39;s not convinced there&#39;s a connection. He says oil companies have been pumping brine down wastewater injection wells for decades. More than 3,200 of the wells dot the state.</p><p>&quot;You&#39;re going to find out that all tornadoes are close to injection wells as well,&quot; he says. &quot;If a meteor strikes the state of Oklahoma, I&#39;m going to guarantee it&#39;s going to be close to an injection well.&quot;</p><p>Still, evidence linking injection wells to earthquakes is building. And though oil industry wields enormous clout in Oklahoma, the agency regulating it is ramping up.</p><p>Matt Skinner, public information manager for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, says that the agency has never denied a permit for a disposal well, but it has recently closed a few bad ones and is scrutinizing applications for new wells like never before.</p><p>&quot;When we say we&#39;re doing everything we can, what we&#39;re really saying is, we&#39;re doing everything we know, today,&quot; Skinner says. &quot;Tomorrow, we may know something more.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dea_medford-61167ff8f4cededddab27c9a2a9e68834208ce8b-s400-c85.jpg" style="float: left; height: 209px; width: 280px;" title="Dea Mandevill, city manager of Medford, Okla., says the earthquakes are worth all the benefits the oil boom has brought: a new park, police cars, construction equipment and ambulances. (Frank Morris/KCUR)" />Mandevill says she worries about an earthquake rupturing the big natural gas pipeline here &mdash; but then beams while looking out over the new park the city recently built with oil boom tax money.</p><p>&quot;We have a new swimming pool, splash pad, new sidewalks and a new basketball/tennis court,&quot; she says.</p><p>It illustrates the complex relationship between oil and earthquakes in Oklahoma.</p><p>&quot;You put up with a few things falling off your walls, a few nights being woken up in the middle of the night with the shakes,&quot; she says. &quot;Overall it&#39;s been good. I&#39;ll take the earthquakes for all the benefits that Medford&#39;s had so far.&quot;</p><p>But those benefits are starting to sag a little. With oil prices low, companies are laying off workers. On the bright side, less oil coming out of the ground means less wastewater going back down deep into it, and just possibly, fewer earthquakes.</p></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 08:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/quakes-spiking-oil-industry-under-microscope-oklahoma-111572 Morning Shift: Staying indie while being corporate http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-08/morning-shift-staying-indie-while-being-corporate <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flickr Bernt Rostad_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We discuss how local beer favorite Goose Island has transitioned into the corporate world since its acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Can smaller brands keep their indie cred while being corporate? Plus, how the possible extension of unemployment benefits could affect the long-term unemployed.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-staying-indie-while-being-corporate/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-staying-indie-while-being-corporate.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-staying-indie-while-being-corporate" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Staying indie while being corporate" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 08 Jan 2014 08:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-08/morning-shift-staying-indie-while-being-corporate Morning Shift: Songs to ring in the holidays http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-19/morning-shift-songs-ring-holidays-109408 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Cover_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WBEZ staff and listeners share their favorite holiday songs in a special holiday-themed &quot;Music Thursday&quot;. Plus, we hear from both sides of the fracking debate in Illinois.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-favorite-holiday-songs-that-invoke-m/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-favorite-holiday-songs-that-invoke-m.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-favorite-holiday-songs-that-invoke-m" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Songs to ring in the holidays" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 08:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-19/morning-shift-songs-ring-holidays-109408 Morning Shift: Urban centers face big problems with transportation growth http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-03/morning-shift-urban-centers-face-big-problems <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Cover.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An article in Salon argues that urban public transportation is doomed because politicians who could enact better policies don&#39;t use it. They drive or have drivers. How does metro Chicago&#39;s public transit fit into this theory? We discuss future train and bus expansion. (Flickr/Dan Klimke)</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-urban-centers-face-big-problems-with/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-urban-centers-face-big-problems-with.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-urban-centers-face-big-problems-with" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Urban centers face big problems with transportation growth" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 03 Dec 2013 08:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-03/morning-shift-urban-centers-face-big-problems Chicago electricity and fracking: An update http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130#janice">this story has been updated</a> with our question-asker&#39;s progress.&nbsp;</em></p><p>A few weeks back, we looked at this question from Curious Citizen Janice Thomson:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Now that Chicago has a new electricity supplier, how much of the city&rsquo;s energy would ultimately come from natural gas via fracking?</em></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s municipal electricity aggregation deal (approved by voters in 2012) <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">left Janice and other proponents of renewable energy feeling duped</a>, as the city&rsquo;s pledge to eliminate coal from its fuel mix didn&rsquo;t necessarily translate into a big push for renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. &nbsp;</p><p>When it comes to fracking (technically &ldquo;high-volume hydraulic fracturing&rdquo;), though, here are the takeaways from our first answer: &nbsp;</p><ul><li><p>Chicago&rsquo;s new energy supplier, Integrys, has a portfolio that is &ldquo;primarily&rdquo; natural gas.</p></li><li><p>In 2012, 40 percent of the nation&#39;s natural gas production came from shale formations, and that percentage is rising. A good deal of that new production is derived from fracking, which is being <a href="http://phys.org/news/2013-05-fracking-ground.html">scrutinized as a possible source of groundwater contamination</a>.</p></li><li><p>At least some of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity is generated from natural gas derived via fracking, but it&rsquo;s impossible to know exactly how much because the nation&rsquo;s gas supply is not divided by fracked and conventional sources.</p></li></ul><p>But shortly after <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">our story</a> came out, Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall announced that&nbsp;the electricity aggregation deal will <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003">double the city&rsquo;s share of wind power to 5 percent of the total</a>, and even tied that directly to two downstate wind farms. But it&rsquo;s also clear that the deal largely traded one fossil fuel for another; yes, the city would stop using coal to supply electricity and 5 percent will come from wind, but nearly all of the rest (about 95 percent) will be derived from burning natural gas.</p><p>So, what &mdash; if anything &mdash; changes when it comes to answering Janice&#39;s question?</p><p><strong>More power from PA, U.S.A &nbsp;</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Capture4.GIF" style="float: right; margin: 5px; height: 139px; width: 250px;" title="Janice Thomson's question inspired our survey on energy choices. A link on the top left of this post leads you there. You can see results there, too. " />Integrys, the city&rsquo;s new energy supplier, will need to make sure Chicago has enough non-coal electricity on hand to meet demand. To do that, the company&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003">tapped a previously underused natural gas power plant</a> in Pennsylvania. <a href="http://www.nexteraenergyresources.com/content/where/portfolio/pdf/Marcus_Hook.pdf/">The Marcus Hook power station</a>, located about 20 miles south of Philadelphia, is set to meet the 95 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity supply not coming from Illinois wind.</p><p>As Marcus Hook revs up to provide the equivalent of most of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity needs, should Janice be more or less concerned about fracking?</p><p>Unfortunately, plant owner NextEra Energy Resources would not disclose the source of its natural gas, but nationally about a third of domestically produced natural gas is obtained through fracking &mdash; a number expected to top 50 percent by 2035, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Likewise Pennsylvania&rsquo;s natural gas resources are predominantly obtained via fracking, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean Marcus Hook is necessarily buying Pennsylvania gas. The state <a href="http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=2870">accounts for almost two-thirds</a> of northeast natural gas production, however, and 80 percent of that is from fracking.</p><p>Without other definitive sources available, though, we&rsquo;re right back where we started: It&rsquo;s extremely likely that some of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity is now coming from natural gas derived from fracking, but we can&rsquo;t be precise with the amount.</p><p><strong>Are there other benefits to report?</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/janice%20thomson_2.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 160px; width: 250px;" title="Janice Thomson asked Curious City about natural gas and its relationship to Chicago's electricity aggregation contract. (Photo courtesy of Janice Thomson)" />Janice&rsquo;s question is about fracking, but she&rsquo;s also interested in sustainability in general, and judging from responses we&rsquo;ve gotten to our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077">survey on energy choices</a>, plenty of other people are interested, too.</p><p>One source on this is a <a href="http://www.perfectpowerinstitute.org/sites/default/files/Chicago%20CCA%20Preliminary%20Report.pdf">report by the Illinois Institute of Technology&rsquo;s Perfect Power Institute</a>.</p><p>PPI laid out at least three points that get into whether there&rsquo;s improvement. On the side of air quality, the report suggests Chicago&rsquo;s electricity aggregation deal, including the new provision for local wind power and natural gas, reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 98 percent. NOx, as it&rsquo;s called, is a known contributor to local ozone pollution as well as acid rain. &nbsp;</p><p>The report also suggests the city&rsquo;s electricity aggregation deal will conserve water that&rsquo;s used in the process of making electricity &mdash; the equivalent of the annual consumption of about 12,500 households. These calculations were made using data Marcus Hook reported to the federal government.</p><p><strong>The carbon question</strong></p><p>But what about climate change? The bottom line for the city&rsquo;s carbon footprint is complicated. Before Chicago ratepayers voted to let the city buy electricity in bulk on their behalf, about 40 percent of their power came from coal-fired power plants. Another one third came from nuclear &mdash; a much larger share than is typical, due to Illinois&rsquo; relatively high number of nuclear power plants. Except when Marcus Hook is down due outages, Integrys will be buying little nuclear power on Chicago&rsquo;s behalf. Essentially zero-carbon energy, nuclear power has a very small greenhouse gas footprint. By comparison, coal makes a large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions per unit of power produced.</p><p>The PPI report said that the city&rsquo;s switch from a combo of coal and nuclear to (mostly) natural gas led to a 16 percent reduction in carbon emissions. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If it [the sources the deal replaced] had been all coal,&rdquo; said the Perfect Power Institute&rsquo;s John Kelly, &ldquo;we would have been talking about easily more than a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions.&rdquo;</p><p>Kelly added that the city&rsquo;s power supply emissions report will be updated every year to reflect the Marcus Hook plant&rsquo;s performance.</p><p>The 16 percent reduction figure, though, depends on methane leakage figures that are the subject of scientific debate. Gas burns much more cleanly at the power plant than coal. But while leakage during combustion gets attention, not as much is known about greenhouse gas leakage during the delivery and processing of natural gas &mdash; activities that have ballooned in recent years as a result of the U.S. shale gas boom.</p><p>As the PPI report itself mentions, &ldquo;Methane escapes in the harvesting of natural gas from wells, during the processing that cleans it up for use, and from distributing it through the pipeline transmission networks. CO2 also leaks or is generated in gas production, processing and delivery systems.&rdquo; Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>The PPI study was actually rare among such studies in its attention to the issue of methane leakage. Nationally the boom in high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has raised the issue of methane leakage, as national energy policy proposals attempt to reconcile an increase in domestic fossil fuel production with the potentially conflicting goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.</p><p>Steven Stengel, a spokesman for the company, said the piping that supplies Marcus Hook with gas &ldquo;doesn&rsquo;t come anywhere near&rdquo; the EPA&rsquo;s reporting requirement threshold of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Perfect Power Institute&rsquo;s calculation for greenhouse gas emissions from methane leakage, therefore, came from national averages for so-called fugitive emissions.</p><p>&ldquo;EPA has really cracked down on the gas industry about letting the methane leak,&rdquo; said PPI&rsquo;s John Kelly. &ldquo;Over the last two years these numbers have come down.&rdquo;</p><p>Earlier this year<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891"> EPA revised down its estimate of methane emissions from natural gas between 1990 and 2010</a> to reflect changing industry practices. The Marcus Hook plant&rsquo;s design, for example, is more efficient than older models, which let a substantial portion of gas get through.</p><p><strong>Other options</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s worth remembering that Janice&rsquo;s original question was about the fuel mix for Chicagoans&rsquo; default electricity provider. As we mention in our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077">survey post</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">original answer</a>, though, there are alternative suppliers. The bad news is that the options are sometimes hard to compare with one another or, as is the case with our look into Integrys&rsquo; portfolio, data are limited and can&rsquo;t illuminate every question we&rsquo;d have about those choices.</p><p><strong>An update from Janice<a name="janice"></a></strong></p><p>Our intrepid question-asker Janice decided to investigate the options further. We thought folks interested in alternative energy supply would be curious to know what she found. Here&#39;s an update from Janice on August 22, 2013. &nbsp;</p><p><em>As promised, I did investigate alternative electricity suppliers that would purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) on my behalf. The only supplier I could find that purchases RECs from Illinois was Viridian Energy. Most of the others seem to purchase RECs from wind farms in other states, especially Texas. These RECs are so cheap that the electricity cost was about the same as from Integrys. So switching would be painless and might send a message to Integrys that natural gas is not ok.</em></p><p><em>I want to help green the electricity grid that serves Chicago though, and purchasing RECs from Texas wind farms wouldn&rsquo;t do that. So I signed up for Viridian Energy&rsquo;s 100% wind power (Green-E certified &ldquo;green energy&rdquo;) fixed rate plan for 12 months. At .0649/kWh, it&rsquo;s slightly more expensive than the other suppliers, but not that much (Integrys currently charges 0.05589/kWh for mostly &ldquo;brown energy&rdquo;). The RECs are mostly from Illinois wind farms. Viridian Energy will also donate some funds (I couldn&rsquo;t get an answer as to how much exactly) to a local charity of my choosing. So it seemed the best I could do right now. I&rsquo;ll reevaluate my options in a year.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>By the way, I was told some crazy things by electricity company reps. For example, a Verde customer service representative told me that they don&rsquo;t buy RECs and the electricity entering my home would literally come directly from renewable sources. Knowing this was untrue, I emailed Verde&rsquo;s corporate office to ask from where they purchased RECs. They then told me all of their electricity in Chicago was in fact &ldquo;brown&rdquo;!<br /><br />Finding a way to lobby the city to increase the percentage of renewable energy in the electricity aggregation contract is proving challenging! Most of what I found online is out of date. I e-mailed three environmental organizations about this topic, but haven&rsquo;t gotten any responses yet. &nbsp;</em></p><p>Thanks, Janice for your ace reporting and for asking a question that brought us so much new information!</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment for WBEZ. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Sun, 21 Jul 2013 23:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130 Behind the fracking boom, a sand mining rush http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-fracking-boom-sand-mining-rush-108078 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/for cover.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a name="#starved"></a><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F101336097&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F101360760&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Sand mining is a largely-overlooked side effect of the fracking boom. &ldquo;Frac sand&rdquo; refers to the fine, white silica or quartz sand that is in high demand for use in hydraulic fracturing. The fracking process involves drilling a well thousands of feet underground, cracking open the shale rock, and shooting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into the miniscule cracks to force out natural gas. The sand serves as a &ldquo;proppant&rdquo; to hold open the cracks in the rock.</p><p>Most of that sand comes from regions where fracking itself is not taking place. LaSalle County, about 80 miles southwest of Chicago, has historically been the silica mining capital of the country. Now with the fracking process coming to some of Illinois&rsquo; downstate communities, the frac sand issue is grabbing a little more attention, although, as of yet, the downstate prospecting for natural gas wells has little effect on the sand mining industry in the northern part of the state.&nbsp;<strong>Listen in on the controversy over a proposed mine adjacent to Starved Rock State Park </strong><strong><a href="##starved">(above)</a></strong>. And then read on for some key facts about mining for frac sand.</p><p>While reporting this story, WBEZ also came across a case of severe and dangerous water contamination next to a frac sand mine in LaSalle County. While&nbsp;<strong>the problems with the water in Wedron remain an unsolved mystery <a href="##starved">(listen above)</a></strong>, check below for what we do know about Wedron.</p><h2><u><strong>Key Facts About Frac Sand Mining in Illinois</strong></u></h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Frac sand is not just for fracking.</strong>&nbsp;The sand that most companies want to use as a proppant in fracking fluid is the purest possible silica, or quartz, in a round and even grain size. The silica found in the midwest, in what&rsquo;s called the St. Peter sandstone formation, is perfect for the companies&rsquo; purposes&mdash;and it&rsquo;s also the sand that forms the majestic bluffs at Illinois&rsquo; Starved Rock State Park. This same sand has long been mined for commercial and industrial uses like sandboxes and glass. It&rsquo;s particularly advantageous for mining operations to find areas where silica is close to the surface.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sand mining has been going on in Illinois since at least the 1860s.&nbsp;</strong>A mine belonging to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ussilica.com/locations/ottawa-il" target="_blank">U.S. Silica,</a>&nbsp;the largest sand mining company in the country, has been located in Ottawa, Illinois since the 1860s.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>There are five silica sand mines in Illinois,</strong>&nbsp;four of them in LaSalle County. Three new mines have been proposed and permitted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) but they are not currently operating. Over the last five years, U.S. Silica, Unimin and Fairmount Minerals, companies with long-standing mines in LaSalle County, have all increased production and opened new facilities in other states.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Illinois is historically the silica sand capital of the country.&nbsp;</strong>In 2012, the state was second behind Texas in production of silica sand. Wisconsin is a close third: the number of sand mines in Wisconsin more than&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2011/07/31/sand-mining-surges-in-wisconsin/" target="_blank">doubled from 2010-2011</a>&nbsp;and has been growing since, although in 2012&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2012/10/25/updated-map-frac-sand-rush-slowing/" target="_blank">the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported the rush to get new mining permits was slowing</a>. Many of the more than 100 Wisconsin mines have a far lower production capacity than Illinois&rsquo; well-established mines.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Demand has skyrocketed.</strong>&nbsp;The demand for silica sand suddenly shot through the roof with the growth of the fracking industry in the late 2000s. In 2011, U.S. silica consumption was over 26 million tons; in 2012, the U.S. Geological Survey reported it had nearly doubled to over 45 million tons. Prices spiked for a couple years, although now companies in Illinois and Wisconsin report the pricing has leveled out as supply begins to meet demand. The owner of Mississippi Sand, LLC says his sand will sell for $100-$150 per ton, including transportation.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Protections for workers have improved.</strong>&nbsp;Breathing in the fine particulate matter from silica mining&nbsp;<a href="https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/crystalline-factsheet.pdf" target="_blank">can cause silicosis and other lung diseases</a>. But in contrast to the first hundred years of mining for silica sand, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now requires protections for workers such as wearing face masks. Still, many mines have been found in violation of federal and state standards, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5416a2.htm" target="_blank">a federal study</a>&nbsp;reported 148 deaths from silicosis in 2002.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Air pollution from dust is a risk of silica mines.&nbsp;</strong>The federal EPA doesn&rsquo;t regulate airborne silica, but states may require air quality monitoring around mines. The proposed Mississippi Sand mine next to Starved Rock State Park will have to get an Illinois EPA air quality permit in order to start mining.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Most mines use a lot of water.</strong>&nbsp;Silica sand mining operations use water to wash sand, and they may also use water to keep down dust on windy days. In addition, many surface mining operations dig down into aquifers, which means some mines pump out water to the tune of millions of gallons per day in order to reach the desired sand.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Silica mining can contaminate waterways.</strong>&nbsp;<a href="http://stopthestarvedrocksandmine.wordpress.com/talking-points/" target="_blank">Environmentalists say water containing silica sediment may silt up streams and harm wildlife.</a>&nbsp;Water quality around sand mines is regulated by states, and in Illinois, surface mines are required to get a water discharge permit for operation. The proposed mine next to Starved Rock State Park has a permit to discharge over five million gallons of water per day into a nearby creek, and an average of 1.4 million gallons per day. The mine will be required to submit monthly water quality reports. In Wisconsin,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2013/03/03/frac-sand-dnr-violations/" target="_blank">a recent report</a>&nbsp;found many mines violated water quality standards in 2012. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Mining can lower the water table and disturb wetlands.</strong>&nbsp;Because some sand mines reach below the water table, mining operations may involve pumping water out of the ground. These operations are known to alter water levels in certain areas, including at a sand mine in Wedron, Illinois that is now&nbsp;under investigation for its connection to groundwater contamination.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sand is shipped out by train, barge and truck.</strong>&nbsp;The owner of Mississippi Sand, Tony Giordano, says about 100 trucks a day will leave the mine near Starved Rock once it is in full operation. Each truck carries about 25 tons of sand to a nearby train or barge terminal for long-distance shipping. In the case of Mississippi Sand, almost all the silica sand will be headed for fracking operations in other states.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Mining in Illinois is regulated by the state, counties and cities.</strong>&nbsp;There are no federal environmental standards related specifically to silica, so the environmental effects of silica mining are monitored at a state level. In Illinois, cities and counties with zoning laws can control permits for proposed mines, but may not have the authority to impose taxes or control environmental practices or traffic.</p><p><strong>A proposed mine next to Starved Rock State Park has been approved.&nbsp;</strong>The mine belonging to Mississippi Sand that would be adjacent to Starved Rock received a special use permit from LaSalle County in 2012, and it was also permitted by the IDNR and the Illinois EPA. Coincidentally, the IDNR also manages the state park that activists contend will be at risk. The IDNR said in a written statement to WBEZ, &ldquo;During the review process, the IDNR examined potential impacts to threatened and endangered species in the area and made recommendations to the county board based upon that analysis...Since then, the mining company has provided and satisfied all information requirements provided by law and thus, IDNR approved its permit to the company.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The mine next to Starved Rock is not yet under construction.&nbsp;</strong>In December 2012, the Sierra Club, Openlands, and the Prairie Rivers Network filed a lawsuit against the IDNR and Mississippi Sand, contending that the permit fails to comply with state law protecting wetlands and wildlife. Mississippi Sand owner Tony Giordano said in July 2013 that he can&rsquo;t say when operations will begin at the mine, but he believes the permitting process is proof that the mine is neither unique nor hazardous to the area.&nbsp;<strong><a href="##starved">Listen to the whole story.</a></strong></p><h2><u><strong>Key facts about the water contamination case in Wedron, Illinois</strong></u></h2><p dir="ltr"><strong>Wedron is home to one of the largest sand mines in the country.</strong>&nbsp;Wedron Silica, now owned by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fairmountminerals.com/Fairmount-Corporate/About-Fairmount/History.aspx" target="_blank">Fairmount Minerals</a>, was established in the area 125 years ago and has expanded to become one of the largest sand mines in the county, now employing over 200 people. Fairmount also operates mines in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Ontario.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>There is benzene in the groundwater supply.</strong>&nbsp;Benzene is commonly found in gasoline and petroleum along with toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, all of which have shown up in groundwater and well water tests in Wedron.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxguides/toxguide-3.pdf" target="_blank">Benzene is carcinogenic</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/benzene.cfm#four" target="_blank">US EPA drinking water standard</a>&nbsp;for enforcement is five parts per billion (ppb). The recommended standard is zero. Wells in Wedron have tested at up to 2400 ppb for benzene. It may also be absorbed through the air; as of July, 2013, the EPA was awaiting test results regarding benzene vapors in Wedron.&nbsp;<strong>Hear the Wedron story (</strong><strong><a href="##starved">above)</a></strong><strong>.</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Benzene is not associated with the process of mining for frac sand.&nbsp;</strong>The mining process may use a lot of water and kick up a lot of dust, but it does not routinely require chemicals like benzene. If benzene in Wedron is somehow related to the presence of the mine, it would have to do with products used to clean equipment, or for maintenance or transportation, not mining itself.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Benzene could be associated with equipment used at the mine, or with an old spill.</strong>&nbsp;Twice in the last fifty years, trains have derailed in Wedron and spilled petroleum directly into the ground. Recent investigations have also uncovered underground storage tanks from former gas stations on the land now belonging to Illinois Railway, which hauls sand in and out of Wedron. A final theory on the source of the contaminants, suggested by Bob Bowcock, an environmental investigator for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.brockovich.com/projects/wedron-illinois/" target="_blank">Erin Brockovich</a>, is that a mixture of chemicals including petroleum and solvents come from an equipment maintenance facility on the Wedron Silica property. Fairmount Minerals, the owner of Wedron Silica, denies this charge.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The groundwater flow has been altered by mining in Wedron.</strong>&nbsp;A 2013 EPA groundwater study found that the pumping up of water out of a mining pit on the west side of town has likely caused the groundwater in Wedron to flow west, away from the train tracks and across town toward the pit. If this is true, that would be an alteration to its natural path. The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/wedron/pdfs/wedron-memo-201302.pdf" target="_blank">EPA document&nbsp;</a>says &ldquo;mining operations are generally responsible for the reversal of natural groundwater flow direction and lowering the water table in Wedron.&rdquo; If the mine ceased to use the pit, the water could reverse itself and begin to flow downhill toward the river again.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>In 2007, Fairmount Minerals opened a new frac sand treatment facility called Technisand.</strong>&nbsp;Technisand produces resin-coated sand for fracking, and has facilities in Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma and Mexico. The company has declined to discuss whether benzene could be involved in the Technisand operation in Wedron, but maintains that it does not believe Wedron Silica is responsible for a petroleum spill.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>An investigator from Erin Brockovich&rsquo;s office says they intend to file suit against the sand mine.</strong>&nbsp;Bob Bowcock, an environmental investigator for the Brockovich firm, says the suit will ask for damages on behalf of 35 residents of Wedron.&nbsp;<em>(Updated July 17. A previous version of this story listed the number involved in the suit as 25.)</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Lewis Wallace is a reporter. Follow him on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/behind-fracking-boom-sand-mining-rush-108078 Power struggle: Who’s your energy provider? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Rig_wind_river_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Curious City producers and reporters are usually hard at work answering your <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/archive/all">growing list of questions</a>. But every now and then, an answer or even a listener comment stops us dead in our tracks, and we&rsquo;ll say to one another: Why don&rsquo;t we ask more people about this?</p><p>That&rsquo;s what happened after we took on this question from Janice Thomson of Chicago&rsquo;s North Center neighborhood:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Now that Chicago has a new electricity supplier, how much of the city&rsquo;s energy would ultimately come from natural gas via fracking?</em></p><p>We&rsquo;re curious how Chicagoans and others take something that Janice told us after environment reporter <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">Chris Bentley laid out an answer</a>. If you&#39;re already familiar with Janice&#39;s story and figure you&#39;re ready to weigh in, <a href="#Poll">our survey below awaits</a>. If you&#39;re still a little shaky on the details, though, we should first unpack her question just a bit. So, what is fracking (otherwise known as high-volume hydraulic fracturing)? Here&rsquo;s the skinny from Bentley:</p><blockquote><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;... drillers blast water, fine sand and chemicals to break up porous rock containing fossil fuels, and horizontal drilling, which allows a single rig to explore long, flat sedimentary rock formations thousands of feet underground without drilling straight down from the surface many times.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>As for that &ldquo;new electricity supplier&rdquo; bit? Well, Chicago switched energy providers late last year, and Integrys won the city&rsquo;s contract. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">The gist</a>:</p><ul><li>Integrys&rsquo; portfolio is &ldquo;primarily&rdquo; natural gas.</li><li>In 2012, 40 percent of the nation&#39;s natural gas production came from shale formations, and that percentage is rising. A good deal of that new production is derived from fracking.</li><li>It&rsquo;s impossible to know exactly how much of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity is generated from natural gas derived via fracking, but some of it is, since the nation&rsquo;s gas supply is not divided by fracked and conventional sources.</li></ul><p>Just last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office announced Chicago is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003">increasing its supply of wind energy</a>. A month ago, Illinois lawmakers passed the most restrictive high-volume oil and gas drilling regulations in the country.</p><p>News about fracking in Illinois is still rolling in. Yet, Curious City&rsquo;s investigation is making Thomson rethink her energy options right now.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;As a consumer, I do now plan to &ldquo;opt out&rdquo; of the default Integrys electricity supplier and sign up with a 100% renewable energy supplier. I initially wasn&rsquo;t too keen on the idea of renewable energy credits (which remind me of carbon offsets), but it sounds like that&rsquo;s the best I can do living in Chicago.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>Purchasing renewable energy credits from companies offering green energy plans is one option and perhaps the most economical one. Illinois&rsquo; Citizens Utility Board, a watchdog group that looks out for energy consumers&rsquo; interests, <a href="http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/ciElectric_cubfacts_alternativesuppliers.html">lists alternative electricity suppliers</a>. People can generate their own power, but that is often a pricey upfront investment, said David Kolata, CUB executive director. Still, conservation remains the easiest, most effective option, he said, adding that there are many steps people can take towards energy efficiency.</p><p>Below, we&#39;ve prepared a (very) short survey about whether you&#39;ve considered your own electricity supply options and whether you&#39;ve taken action about it. We invite you to give your two cents. When you&#39;re done, click the link that reads <a name="Poll"></a>&quot;See previous responses&quot; to see how others answered.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/179KmxKnNPIqDYyb8PyjeS9A0RqnvVI1QC93VhMrW5XA/viewform?embedded=true" width="620">Loading...</iframe></p><h2><strong>Selected poll responses</strong></h2><p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdEJpb2RfMXpFWnRtS01lOFRpY0ROclE&transpose=0&headers=1&range=H1%3AH66&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"series":{"0":{"hasAnnotations":true},"1":{"hasAnnotations":true}},"showRowNumber":false,"animation":{"duration":0},"width":620,"hAxis":{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Horizontal axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},"vAxes":[{"useFormatFromData":true,"title":"Left vertical axis title","minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"sortColumn":null,"title":"Chart title","booleanRole":"certainty","height":320,"page":"enable","legend":"right"},"state":{},"view":{},"isDefaultVisualization":true,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 02:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077 Morning Shift: Is forgiveness the best medicine? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-03/morning-shift-forgiveness-best-medicine-107937 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Forgive- Flickr- hang_in_there.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A recent Chicago Tribune article highlighted two parents who were able to forgive the young man who killed their daughter. Could you do the same? Also, Curious City addresses how much fracking really contributes to our energy needs.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-forgiveness-the-best-medicine.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-forgiveness-the-best-medicine" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Is forgiveness the best medicine?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Wed, 03 Jul 2013 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-03/morning-shift-forgiveness-best-medicine-107937 Reporter's Notebook: How much of our electricity comes via fracking? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/reporters-notebook-how-much-our-electricity-comes-fracking-107775 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/frackin flickr darthpedrius.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Curious Citizen Janice Thomson of Chicago&rsquo;s North Center neighborhood says she simply wants to make responsible decisions and be informed about where her electicity comes from. When searching on her own couldn&#39;t yield a straight answer to her quest to find how much of Chicago&#39;s electricity comes from natual gas produced through fracking, she turned to us.&nbsp;</p><p>And we turned to WBEZ&#39;s environment blogger,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley">Chris Bentley</a>. Below, you can track his progress as he gets answers, but if&nbsp;you have leads or a point for us to consider, please comment below, or hit us at any of the social media outlets listed above! Seriously ... your comments count!&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="750" src="http://embed.verite.co/timeline/?source=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdExHTVR6ZVFUaGJPeEJjVmVRb1pnbUE&amp;font=PT&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;hash_bookmark=true&amp;width=620&amp;height=750" width="620"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/about-curious-city-98756">Curious City</a>&nbsp;is a news-gathering experiment designed to satisfy the public&#39;s curiosity. People<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/ask">submit questions</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/ask">vote&nbsp;</a>for their favorites, and WBEZ reports out the winning questions in real time on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/curiouscityproject">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#!/WBEZCuriousCity">Twitter&nbsp;</a>and the timeline above.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 19 Jun 2013 15:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/reporters-notebook-how-much-our-electricity-comes-fracking-107775 Afternoon Shift: Fracking, parental fatigue and Bernard Sahlins http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-06-18/afternoon-shift-fracking-parental-fatigue-and-bernard-sahlins <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Fracking.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Governor Pat Quinn just signed the most restrictive legislation on fracking in the country into law. Author Jen Hatmaker gives insight on that burnout many parents get towards the school year&#39;s end. Second City CEO Andrew Alexander discusses founder Bernard Sahlin&#39;s legacy.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-fracking-parental-fatigue-and-bern.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/afternoon-shift-fracking-parental-fatigue-and-bern" target="_blank">View the story "Afternoon Shift: Fracking, parental fatigue and Bernard Sahlins" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Tue, 18 Jun 2013 12:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-06-18/afternoon-shift-fracking-parental-fatigue-and-bernard-sahlins