Environmental Must-Reads – April 4, 2013

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U.S. Fracking Boom Threatens Mass. Clean Energy Sector

Could fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling process, come to New England? Geologists say the black shale beneath the Connecticut River Valley may hold enough of the clean-burning fossil fuel to someday make it economic to drill.

While fracking hasn’t come to the region yet, the widespread drilling technology — and the glut of low-cost natural gas – is already affecting Massachusetts’ clean energy companies.

Spain’s First Fracking Ban Coming to Richest Shale Region

Spain is set to enact its first regional ban on producing natural gas using hydraulic fracturing, yielding to objections from environmental groups that so-called fracking risks polluting drinking water.

In the northern Cantabria region, where energy companies say much of Spain’s gas exists in shale rock, the Parliament plans to vote April 8 on suspending the contested drilling technique “as long as current doubts on the technology remain,” according to the bill on the government’s website. All political parties in the region supported the law in a March 21 debate.

Barging ‘fracking’ waste is debated

The Obama administration is inching ahead with a plan that would allow wastewater from “fracking” to be shipped on barges, fueling a debate about whether it is safe or risks polluting drinking water.

The Coast Guard last month sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget a proposal to allow the barging of fracking wastewater. If the plan goes forward, it would become a proposed rule open for public comment and could be finalized soon.

DEP begins fracking radiation tests

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection this month will begin testing for radioactivity in waste products from natural gas well drilling.

In addition to analyzing wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, the study also will analyze radioactivity in drill cuttings, drilling mud, drilling equipment, treatment solids and sediments at well pads, wastewater treatment and disposal facilities and landfill leachate, among others.

“Water Sentinels” Test Water Before Fracking Begins

Volunteers in the Southern Tier are worried about our water staying safe if hydraulic fracturing comes to New York State—so now they’re testing all of it.

The program is organized by the Sierra Club. The volunteers are doing simple testing on area streams and rivers. Their idea is to get everything documented now, so they notice if something changes if fracking starts in New York.

The Sacred Headwaters: Goliath Defeated by 1,000 Davids

In 1879, John Muir traveled into far northern British Columbia to the Stikine River. He was in search of solitude and wilderness and he found both in shocking quantities. You would imagine that Muir, having spent so much time in some of the wildest country in the world, would be relatively hard to impress. But what he saw in the Stikine stunned him – a place of such natural wealth and breathtaking beauty that he described as a Yosemite Valley a hundred miles long.

This area, more broadly known as the Sacred Headwaters because it is the founding region of three of the greatest salmon and steelhead rivers in the world – the Nass, Skeena and Stikine – is today much as it was in Muir’s day. One of those places that is so hard to get to, so isolated, that going there is like traveling back in time, a place where wild caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, moose, and mountain goats roam.

News Corp. Outlets Fail to Disclose Big Oil Ties of Their Commentators

News Corp. properties Fox News and The Wall Street Journal failed to disclose the fossil fuel industry ties of commentators who used the media outlets to advocate pro-fossil fuel industry positions.

On April 3, Fox & Friends hosted Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell, who accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of delaying a decision to allow for fossil fuel extraction via hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, to keep Republican areas of the state from becoming richer and wielding more political influence.

The Price of Sand: New Documentary Exposes Dangers of Frac-Sand Mining

Filmmaker Jim Tittle previewed his new documentary film, The Price of Sand, at the historic Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, Minnesota, to a full house last week. With original interviews, coverage of recent events and local music about frac-sand mining, this visually rich 57-minute film explores the controversy surrounding frac-sand mining.

Renowned Experts Address Health and Economic Impacts at Ohio Fracking Conference April 5 – 6

On April 5 and 6, a group of scientists, doctors, attorneys, researchers, environmental advocates and policy experts will assemble in Warren, Ohio, to present and discuss the impacts of fracking. This conference is one of the first in the state to study and discuss facts, concerns and evolving science related to unconventional gas drilling in Ohio. It will be held at the Wean Foundation, 147 West Market St. in Warren, Ohio.

Federal judge dismisses claims against one of the companies in BP oil spill case

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier dismissed Wednesday all remaining claims against Houston-based Cameron International, a company that made a key safety device for the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Federal judge dismisses claims against blowout preventer manufacturer in BP oil spill trial

The federal judge overseeing the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill trial dismissed all remaining claims Wednesday against the Houston-based manufacturer of the blowout preventer, which was supposed to shut down BP’s Macondo well in an emergency.

BP Appeals Oil Spill Court Approval of Official’s Payouts

BP Plc (BP/) is appealing a trial court ruling upholding decisions by the administrator of its $8.5 billion settlement over the 2010 oil spill that the company says will force it pay billions of dollars more than expected.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier affirmed the interpretations by claims administrator Patrick Juneau in a March 5 order. BP complained he was misinterpreting the settlement agreement and overpaying.

Lawsuits Dismissed Against One Defendant in BP Oil Spill Trial

A federal judge has dismissed all remaining claims against the company that made a key safety device on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 workers and leading to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

BP to Call First Witness in Oil Spill Trial Monday

BP plans to call its first witness Monday at a trial designed to identify causes of its April 2010 well blowout and assign fault to the companies involved in the deadly disaster.

Gulf oil spill settlement dispute becomes more contentious

The run-up to a key hearing over a dispute related to last year’s multi-billion settlement between BP and victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has become more contentious as the company has objected to plaintiffs’ lawyers using private settlement communications to bolster their position.

Safety device maker cleared in Gulf oil spill trial

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed all remaining claims against the company that made a key safety device for the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 workers and leading to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

Arkansas Oil Spill Sheds Light On Aging Pipeline System

Amber Bartlett was waiting last Friday for her kids to come home from school. One of them called from the entrance to the ., to tell her the community was being evacuated because of an oil spill. Bartlett was amazed by what she saw out her front door.

“I mean just rolling oil. I mean it was like a river,” she says. “It had little waves in it.”

Exxon meets privately with oil spill victims, but makes no promises

As ExxonMobil, the EPA and state authorities work to detoxify Mayflower, Arkansas, Exxon representatives gathered privately Tuesday night with Mayflower residents affected by Friday’s pipeline burst. Speaking before 40-50 local residents in the cafeteria of Mayflower High School, energy company officials said the cleanup was proceeding, but were unable to say for certain when the affected area would be back to normal.

Exxon To Pay For Arkansas Oil Spill

Exxon Mobil officials told ABC News the company will pay for all of the cleanup costs associated with last week’s oil spill in central Arkansas. Exxon officials were in the town of Mayflower, the site of the spill, today with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to begin the investigation, McDaniel’s office told ABC News.

Maybe this oil spill will stick

Maybe you’ve seen the video by now — the YouTube clip where a man drives through a neighborhood in Arkansas and films a lawn that seems to be burping oil.

If not, you should check it out.

Beware, though: I’ve had a hard time getting the 33-second snippet out of my head. It’s not necessarily the scene, although that’s part of it. For me, it’s the smell.

‘Arkansas oil spill should be nail in the coffin for Keystone pipeline’

Despite the financial and ecological ramifications of the Mayflower oil spill Exxon might be able to avoid paying into a government oil cleanup fund, leaving American taxpayers stuck with the bill.

David Turnbull, the campaign director for Oil Change International, told RT that the idea of American taxpayers paying for the cleanup because of a legal loophole for the oil company responsible is “ludicrous.” He also warned that while the full environmental effects are yet to be known, the Arkansas spill should be a clear warning to any politician still championing the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

Top 5 Things You Should Know About Transporting Tar Sands Crude

On March 29, Exxon’s Pegasus tar sands pipeline ruptured, flooding a suburban community outside of Little Rock, Arkansas with between 150,000 and 210,000 gallons (3,500 to 5,000 barrels) of tar sands crude. According to reports, the Pegasus line was carrying Wabasca Heavy diluted bitumen – a toxic mix of heavy tar sands bitumen and volatile petrochemical diluents.

Following the incident, Rep. Ed Markey observed:

“This latest pipeline incident is a troubling reminder that oil companies still have not proven that they can safely transport Canadian tar sands oil across the United States without creating risks to our citizens and our environment.”

We have the top five reasons why that’s the case.

FAA puts no-fly zone over Arkansas oil spill with Exxon employee in charge

The FAA announced a temporary no-fly zone would be enacted indefinitely over the Arkansas oil spill. With word that an Exxon employee was controlling the airspace, though, speculation pointed to the idea the oil company was trying to keep the media away.

Keystone XL Pipeline Poll Shows Two-Thirds Of Americans Support Controversial Project

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that a majority of Americans support the Keystone XL pipeline.

According to the nonpartisan group, 66 percent of Americans favor construction of the pipeline, which would extend from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada through the Midwest, while only 23 percent oppose it.

Good news, Arkansas: Tar-sands oil isn’t oil-oil

So far, the thousands of barrels of tar-sands oil that spilled into a middle-class neighborhood in central Arkansas on Friday have driven 22 families from their homes and killed and injured a grip of local wildlife. So far, the oil hasn’t contaminated the local lake or drinking water supply, according to ExxonMobil. It’s a “major spill,” according to the EPA, and the cause is so far still under investigation.

Gas found under slabs of 2 homes near sinkhole

Contractors reported finding the presence of gas under two homes near the massive sinkhole in southeast Louisiana.

The Assumption Parish Police Jury Blog posted at 9:45 a.m. that Texas Brine verified gas is located under the slab of both the home and the shed at one location. There was another post at 10:20 a.m. stating gas had been discovered under the slab of a second home.

Explosive gas found under house slabs

Explosive concentrations of gas were found this week in soil underneath two homes and a shed built on concrete slabs in the Bayou Corne community near a large swampland sinkhole, officials said Wednesday.

Workers with Texas Brine Co. contractor Tetra Tech drilled small holes through the slabs and collected the gas Tuesday through a quarter-inch tube from the top 1 to 2 inches of soil underneath, officials said.

1,000+ Californians Protest Keystone XL at President Obama’s Fundraiser in San Francisco

One thousand people showed up at President Obama’s Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser yesterday in San Francisco to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline that will accelerate climate change and endanger the public health. CREDO and California activists sent a message to the president that if he plans to keep his inaugural promise to fight climate change—he must reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The protest was held just days after an Exxon Mobil tar sands oil pipeline burst in Mayflower, Arkansas, threatening the public health of the entire community.

Why Keystone XL Matters

I’ve had many friends, even like-minded, eco-friendly friends, ask me, “Why is Keystone a big deal? Isn’t it just another pipeline?”

Keystone is a big deal, because it is not just another pipeline. It is the make-or-break piece of the puzzle for profitably exploiting the tar sands in Canada. Without the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands will still be dug up; but with Keystone, the profits soar, making it a much more lucrative deal for the Canadian oil companies; and to maximize their profits, they will dig up as much as possible. And therein lies the problem. The sheer volume of tar sands awaiting exploitation is staggering. When asked about the impact on climate change, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, Dr. James Hansen, explained burning the tar sands would be “game over” for the climate.

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  • Check out about the huge mountains of petroleum coke being stored on the banks of the Detroit River, less than a mile from downtown Detroit. See Facebook page Petroleum Coke Awareness to see the impact and local media articles.

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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