Environmental Must-Reads – December 24, 2013

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Fracking Saves Water, Prevents Droughts, New Study Claims

Even though hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses millions of gallons of water to blast shale rock to release trapped gas, the controversial technique actually saves water, according to a recent study by the University of Texas.

The study claims that the Lone Star State is less vulnerable to drought because of its transition from coal to natural gas as the main fuel source used to generate electricity.

Fracking opponents win big in Pennsylvania

Robinson Township in western Pennsylvania is home to a couple thousand residents and about 20 fracked wells. In a resounding victory for common sense and for local governments throughout the state, residents there and in six other towns won an epic court battle last week that will give them back the right to regulate or even evict the fracking operations in their midst.

Even Dallas Hates Fracking

Dallas may be in the heart of oil country, but it appears that even those from hardcore oil money don’t want to be able to set their drinking water on fire; the city council voted last week to ban fracking within “1,500 feet of a home, school, church, or well.” Opponents promptly complained that this effectively banned fracking within the entire city. Well, yes. That was kind of the point.

Public weighs in on Illinois’ tough fracking law proposal

The public hearings have ended, but state officials said there’s still time to submit public comments on proposed rules for the high-volume oil and gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will take written comments through Jan. 3.

Middlesex County becomes first in N.J. to ban fracking

County freeholders voted last week to ban hydrofracking, the practice of drilling for natural gas that is unlikely to take place in Central New Jersey anyway.

Driller Demands Rules on N.Y. Fracking

An oil and gas driller blames its bankruptcy on New York’s foot-dragging, and wants the state ordered to complete its long-awaited rules for shale fracking.

Norse Energy Corp. USA claims 5½ years have passed and New York still has not posted regulations to govern horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – of the energy-rich Marcellus Shale formation.

Natural Gas Pipeline Proposed for Jamaica Bay Draws Range of Concerns

As two companies prepare their final environmental impact statement for a plan that, if approved, will deliver additional natural gas to South Queens, Rockaway and parts of Brooklyn, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) is pushing Williams and National Grid to commit to improve the portions of Jamaica Bay that will be affected by the controversial project.

EPA abandons Pavillion groundwater study; state takes over

Jeff Locker remembers the frustration, Jon Martin the elation.

Feelings over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to halt its study into groundwater contamination near Pavillion largely split over how one viewed the issued.

Oil Industry Pushing For Offshore Drilling In The Atlantic As White House Weighs Seismic Exploration

Southern politicians and energy industry groups are increasing the push to allow drilling off the U.S. Atlantic Coast for oil and gas deposits that could be puny or mean big cash to a part of the country where it’s now largely absent.

Although drilling, refineries and the jobs that could accompany them are at least a decade away, the Obama Administration is weighing a decision expected to be announced in the next three months on whether to take an important early step: to allow seismic testing of the sea bottom. The tests could firm up estimates of how much hydrocarbon deposits may be out there.

Cracks form in levee around Bayou Corne sinkhole

The protective levee ringing the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole in Assumption Parish has redeveloped cracks for a second time in less than two months amid an intensive wave of underground micro-tremors, parish officials said.

The cracks have formed along the southern levee, or berm, near the Bayou Corne waterway and in the same area where a previous round of cracks developed in late October, officials said. The cracking at that time, which has since been repaired, coincided with some sinking of the levee in that area.

Executives handling BP spill claims resign

Two senior executives responsible for handling claims against BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill have resigned.

David Odom, chief executive of the Deepwater Horizon Economic Claims Centre, an organisation set up to administer spill claims, and Kirk Fisher, its chief operating officer, quit last week.

Former FBI agent appointed interim CEO of BP oil spill claims office

Deepwater Horizon Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau announced Monday that he has named David Welker, a former FBI agent, as interim chief executive officer of the Deepwater Horizon Court-Supervised Settlement Program.

Welker was the special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans office until his retirement in April 2012 after 26 years with the agency. He has served as the claims program’s director of fraud, waste and abuse since June 2012, and will now oversee the entire program, which is paying out billions of dollars in private claims stemming from the 2010 BP oil spill.

BP Caused 2010 Gulf Spill to Last Longer, Victims’ Lawyers Say

BP Plc delayed efforts to cap its Macondo well in 2010 by misrepresenting how much oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, lawyers for spill victims said, urging a judge to find the company grossly negligent.

BP was unprepared for a deep-water blowout and the company misled the government on its ability to respond, plaintiffs’ lawyers said in court papers filed yesterday in the second phase of a trial over the disaster.

Audit finds lax controls in spending BP money by La. seafood board

A scathing state audit, released Monday morning, points to possible improper spending by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

The report, by Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor, said the board was lax in controlling the spending of some of the $30 million from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

In 2013, Exxon Spill Showed Dangers of Pipelines Buried Under Backyards

When a 65-year-old ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured on March 29 and spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in Mayflower, Ark., it opened the nation’s eyes to the potential dangers lurking in the thousands of miles of aging and overlooked pipelines buried beneath neighborhoods and farms.

The spill also brought fresh attention to the debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and the inherent risks of transporting Canadian tar sands across America’s heartland. Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline was carrying dilbit when it split open on Good Friday, the same type of tar sands oil that would run through the Keystone. A separate, much larger dilbit spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up more than three years later.

U.S. Pipeline Safety Agency Says No To Pipeline Safety Improvements

It was the summer of 2011 in south-central Montana when 42,000 gallons of crude oil that was supposed to end up at a ExxonMobil refinery in Billings, Montana, accidentally wound up in the Yellowstone River.

Hundreds of residents along a 20-mile stretch of the Silvertip pipeline spill were evacuated, and an estimated 70 miles of the Yellowstone’s riverbank were contaminated. Property contamination, sick livestock and wildlife, and local health problems eventually spurred those who owned land nearby to sue, claiming the spill could have been avoided. “They should have known long before this happened that this river floods every spring and produces massive erosive forces,” attorney Jory Ruggiero told the Associated Press at the time.

Despite Protests Gazprom Starts Arctic Oil Production

Gazprom says it has started producing oil from the Prirazlomnoye field, which is the first Russian project for developing the Arctic shelf and the commencement, they say, of their large-scale activities aimed at creating a large hydrocarbon production center in the region.

Northern Gateway has Ottawa scrambling to avoid lawsuits

Within three hours of the Joint Review Panel’s announcement giving conditional approval for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, the Lake Babine First Nation threatened the lawsuit it has been preparing for months.

The band has already retained one of the top aboriginal law experts in Canada, setting the stage for a court fight the federal government is working feverishly behind the scenes to stave off.

Chevron tries to reverse Ecuador pollution fine

Chevron filed a motion with a court in Ecuador Monday seeking to reverse a ruling requiring it to pay $9.5 billion for pollution in the country’s Amazon basin region.

The US oil giant, which claims it was the victim of a trial riddled with fraud, in September was ordered to cover the fine for pollution caused by its predecessor Texaco for the 26 years it was in the Ecuadoran region.

45 fossil unreported disasters of the 2013 year

With another year coming to an end it is important to think about certain things that made this year memorable. For instance, environmental issues that with every year are reminding about our nature preservation even more and more. 2013 brought up a numerous explosions, derailments and death of workers on the sites. In the US alone 20 coal miners were killed on duty. Yet it is hard to break the dependency that people have on fossil fuels nowadays. The federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that the demand on oil in the upcoming year would be even more.

Five Separate Oil Spills Pollute Trinidad and Tobago Beaches

Local press reported on Sunday that five separate oil spills along the southwest coast of Trinidad and Tobago have been threatening residents as well as marine life since December 17. Petrotrin, the state-owned fuel firm, evacuated residents from fishing communities along the coast in the affected area as crews try to contain the spills. Media reports said fumes coming from the spilled oil have caused headaches and nausea among the locals, with 25 admitted to hospital. Petrotrin has already started its investigation and stated that the nature of the problem suggests that it may be a case of sabotage. The national government has also created an advisory committee to keep track of the situation.

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

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