Highlights from 2011:
Oh, what’s a few earth tremors when it comes to sucking gas out of the earth? These anti-fracking types just need to count their blessings:
CLEVELAND (AP) – A northeast Ohio well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly caused a series of 11 minor quakes in the Youngstown area since last spring, a seismologist investigating the quakes said Monday.
Research is continuing on the now-shuttered injection well at Youngstown and seismic activity, but it might take a year for the wastewater-related rumblings in the earth to dissipate, said John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.
Brine wastewater dumped in wells comes from drilling operations, including the so-called fracking process to extract gas from underground shale that has been a source of concern among environmental groups and some property owners. Injection wells have also been suspected in quakes in Astabula in far northeast Ohio, and in Arkansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, Armbruster said.
Thousands of gallons of brine were injected daily into the Youngstown well that opened in 2010 until its owner, Northstar Disposal Services LLC, agreed Friday to stop injecting the waste into the earth as a precaution while authorities assessed any potential links to the quakes.
After the latest and largest quake Saturday at 4.0 magnitude, state officials announced their beliefs that injecting wastewater near a fault line had created enough pressure to cause seismic activity. They said four inactive wells within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown well would remain closed. But they also stressed that injection wells are different from drilling wells that employ fracking.
Armbruster said Monday he expects more quakes will occur despite the shutdown of the Youngstown well.
“The earthquakes will trickle on as a kind of a cascading process once you’ve caused them to occur,” he said. “This one year of pumping is a pulse that has been pushed into the ground, and it’s going to be spreading out for at least a year.”
The quakes began last March with the most recent on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve each occurring within 100 meters of the injection well. The Saturday quake in McDonald, outside of Youngstown, caused no serious injuries or property damage.
Youngstown Democrat Rep. Robert Hagan on Monday renewed his call for a moratorium on fracking and well injection disposal to allow a review of safety issues.
“If it’s safe, I want to do it,” he said in a telephone interview. “If it’s not, I don’t want to be part and parcel to destruction of the environment and the fake promise of jobs.”
He said a moratorium “really is what we should be doing, mostly toward the injection wells, but we should be asking questions on drilling itself.”
Remember when we floated banks all that money so they could lend to small businesses, and instead they used it to pay bonuses and shore up their profits? Ah, good times! Now Bank of America has decided to jack up small business owners by boosting their interest rates to payday-loan-type levels in order to build their “core” business:
Bank of America Corp., under pressure to raise capital and cut risks, is severing lines of credit to some small-business owners who have used them to stay afloat.
The Charlotte, N.C., bank is demanding that these customers pay off their credit line balances all at once instead of making monthly payments. If they can’t pay in full, they are being offered new repayment plans for as long as five years, but with far higher interest rates than their original credit lines had.
Business owners complain that BofA’s credit squeeze is abrupt and could strain their small companies and even put them out of business. The credit cutoff is coming at a time when the California economy can’t seem to catch a break, and bucks what the financial industry says is a new trend of easing standards on business loans.
One such customer, Babak Zahabizadeh, was told in a letter that the $96,000 debt carried by his Burbank messenger service must be repaid Jan. 25. A loan officer offered multiple alternatives over the phone that Zahabizadeh called unaffordable, including paying off the debt at 12% interest over two years. That’s about $4,500 a month, nearly 10 times his current interest-only payment.
Zahabizadeh, known as Bobby Zahabi to his customers, said he has cut the staff of his Messengers & Distribution Inc. to 80 from 200 to nurse his business through tough times.
“I was like, ‘Dude, you’re calling a guy who’s barely surviving!’ ” he said. “My final word was that I can double my payment — but not triple or quadruple it. I told them if they apply too much pressure they’re going to push me into bankruptcy.”
The capped credit lines stem from a corporate overhaul launched by Brian Moynihan, who became Bank of America’s chief executive in 2010. He promised to address losses caused by loose lending and rapid expansion by reining in risks and shedding investments deemed non-core.
BofA spokesman Jefferson George said a “very small percentage” of small-business customers have been affected by the changes. He would not provide exact numbers except to say it wasn’t in the hundreds of thousands. Some of the affected businesses had been customers of other banks that Bank of America acquired, but most were BofA customers from the start, George said.
“These changes were explained in letters to customers, and they were necessary for Bank of America to continue prudent lending to viable businesses across the U.S.,” he said.
These people are just plain crazy.
There’s nothing like running into a gaggle of Mummer wenches — young men in skirts and long-haired wigs and face paint, with beers and parasels — in broad daylight on a balmy winter day. More here.
I live in a small town in Northern Wisconsin. Our hometown J.C. Penney’s is closing. This is a bad thing for a bunch of reasons, most of which you know.
So, the vultures are circling in for the sales. Daughter got a Penney’s gift card for her birthday. We wanted to use it quickly before everything was gone, so we went this afternoon. We parked across the street in the handicapped spot at the corner. When we came out, there was somebody pulled in tight behind me, partially in the handicapped spot, but mostly in the yellow zone, where the fire hydrant is.
I was stunned. I guess I grew up on another planet or something, where people weren’t assholes, so I don’t know how to deal with these things. We were walking slowly to my car (because that is how I walk these days) and I moved over to the edge of the sidewalk because the woman who came out of Penney’s behind me was in such a hurry, and she had her little girl by the hand, and the wind was bitter cold. She ran across the street and jumped into the car that was parked behind me. I stood there and stared at her, speechless.
Is it proper etiquette to tell a complete stranger that perhaps blocking a fire hydrant so you can go to a sale at Penney’s is remarkably self-centered, and maybe they should stop and consider that Oh, you know, fire trucks might need to get in there? Or that maybe next time somebody will call the cops on them? Is there some specific wording I should use? I didn’t want to unleash my customary I-used-to-work-in-a-factory language, mostly because she had her little girl with her. Is it effective to get the license plate number and call the police?
Thanks for your help.
A Remarkably Gobsmacked Human
I wonder if the old Stones’ song “I’m Free” is on Lloyd Blankfein’s iPod? The song crossed my mind while reading about the media’s “lack of any real investigation of Wall Street crimes, and the indictments of wrongdoers.” More here.
Speaking of Thatcher’s unemployment strategy:
The Wall Street Journal has the scoop on Caterpillar, Inc. locking out union workers in Ontario, and even the conservative rag admits that the company’s behavior toward the workforce comes “despite a big recovery in earnings over the past two years.”
Caterpillar Inc. said Sunday it had locked union workers out of a train locomotive plant in London, Ontario, in a sign that the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment is prepared to get tough with workers despite a big recovery in earnings over the past two years.
Caterpillar said in a statement that workers would be barred from the Electro-Motive Canada plant until “a ratified contract is in place” for the workers, represented by the Canadian Auto Workers union. The most recent contract expired at the end of 2011, and the two sides have been unable to come to terms.
Caterpillar’s Electro-Motive Canada plant was acquired in 2010 as part of the $820 million purchase of Electro-Motive Diesel Inc., based in LaGrange, Ill.
Union officials said Caterpillar’s latest proposal would halve wages and reduce benefits. Tim Carrie, president of the union’s local branch, said the cut would mean hourly pay of $16.50 for most workers, down from $34.