Environmental Must-Reads – February 28, 2013

Coast Guard Responds to Oil Spill Off Louisiana Shore

The United States Coast Guard is investigating a report of an inactive wellhead spewing oily water into marshland about 50 miles south of New Orleans.

According to the Coast Guard the accident occurred Tuesday around 8 p.m. when a 42-foot crew boat named Sea Raider came into contact with the wellhead nine miles south of Port Sulphur, La., and compromised the dormant geyser.

Boat accident off Louisiana causes small oil spill

A small boat collided with an inactive oil and gas well about 50 miles south of New Orleans on Tuesday night, causing a small oil spill, the U.S. Coast Guard and the operator of the well said on Wednesday.

Witness in Oil Spill Trial Accuses BP of Negligence

The practices of the oil giant BP came under sharp attack on Wednesday in a courtroom here by an expert witness who said its negligence caused the 2010 explosion aboard a Gulf of Mexico drilling rig that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of oil.

A full day of testimony in the third day of a trial against BP was dominated by the witness, Alan R. Huffman, a petroleum geophysicist who was testifying for the government and private plaintiffs. Mr. Huffman accused BP of submitting misleading and selective data to federal regulators while drilling the Macondo well and of playing “fast and loose” with a safety test intended to measure the offshore well’s stability.

BP investigators were never given oil well cement test results, samples by Halliburton

A BP team investigating the company’s Macondo well blowout that led to the explosion and fire that sank the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010 never received the results of tests of a light cement used to plug the well from cement contractor Halliburton, a senior BP official leading the investigation said Wednesday. Mark Bly, BP’s executive vice president for safety and operational risk, confirmed during testimony Wednesday afternoon that senior BP attorneys repeatedly demanded the test results and samples of the cement used on the rig from Halliburton, but that they were not made available to BP investigators before publication of the company’s investigative report that bears Bly’s name.

Former CEO makes cameo at BP oil spill trial

Once the object of ridicule and focus of outrage after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, former BP chief executive Tony Hayward made a cameo appearance Wednesday in a trial to decide how much blame the company must shoulder for the disaster.

Hayward did not attend in person. Instead, he showed up just briefly on a videotape in what may be his only appearance in the courtroom.

BP exec back on the stand in oil spill trial

Another BP executive was expected on the witness stand Thursday to face more questions from attorneys for the U.S. government, which is trying to prove the oil company is mostly to blame for a deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that led to a massive oil spill.

Mark Bly led the company’s internal probe of its 2010 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, but said the investigation wasn’t intended to look at the disaster through the “lens of responsibility.”

BP’s Lamar McKay testifies in Gulf oil spill trial

Lamar McKay, former president of BP America, continued his testimony Wednesday in the liability trial related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.

Barbier heard testimony from three BP Plc (NYSE: BP) executives and a well design expert.

Former BP executives offer conflicting safety accounts as Gulf oil spill trial continues

Two former high-ranking executives of BP gave conflicting accounts Wednesday of the London-based oil giant’s alleged culture of stressing costs over safety during the second day of testimony in the civil trial to determine liability for the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys played video testimony from former BP chief executive Tony Hayward and Kevin Lacy, BP’s former senior vice president for drilling operations in the Gulf.

Day #2 at Oil Spill Trial: BP Drilled Despite Earlier Problems

BP Plc took chances drilling its doomed Macondo well long before it ruptured in 2010, a well design and pressure expert said on Wednesday in the second day of testimony in the civil trial over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Alan Huffman, chief technology officer for Fusion Petroleum Technologies Inc., said BP forged ahead with the well in 2009 outside the margin deemed safe by the industry and regulators.

Expert testifies at oil spill trial, says BP withheld critical information from US government

A well design expert testifying for the federal government accused BP of withholding critical information from industry regulators before a blowout triggered a deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in 2010.

Vitter files offshore drilling bill

U.S. Sen. David Vitter filed a comprehensive bill Wednesday to increase offshore oil production revenue sharing with Louisiana and other affected states, to expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and to expedite other permitting for projects such as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Nigeria: Pipes Rupture Cause of Gwagwalada Oil Spill – Investigation Team

The team investigating the recent oil spill in Izom area in Gwagwalada Area Council of Abuja which destroyed farmland and polluted rivers in the vicinity has attributed the spill to ruptured pipes.

Mr Idris O. Musa, Director, Oil Field Assessment at the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (nosrda) told Daily Trust that preliminary finding by a combined team from NOSRDA and the PPMC showed that the spill was caused by ruptured pipes.

A.F.L.-C.I.O. Backs Keystone Oil Pipeline, if Indirectly

The A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s largest federation of unions, has issued an apparent endorsement of the Keystone XL oil pipeline — apparent because it enthusiastically called for expanding the nation’s pipeline system, without specifically mentioning Keystone.

And while some union leaders said the federation’s stance stopped short of an official endorsement, the nation’s building trades unions — eager for the thousands of jobs the pipeline would create — issued a statement saying the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s stance was a clear endorsement of the Keystone pipeline.

Aide distances White House from Keystone pipeline decision

A top aide to President Obama is putting some space between the White House and the federal decision over whether to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Heather Zichal, the top White House energy and climate aide, noted Wednesday that it’s the State Department that is in charge of reviewing and ultimately making a decision on the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline.

I’m with the Tree Huggers

The respectable center has recognized that climate change is not only real and man-made but also a genuine emergency. The scientific evidence has become too stark to indulge denial or dithering. The earth is hotter; Arctic ice is melting at a terrifying rate; staid institutions like reinsurers and the CIA are sounding dire warnings about rising seas and extreme droughts. There’s an emerging consensus that fossil fuel apologists are on the wrong side of the battle of the century.

New Document Arkansas senators support Keystone Pipeline

Arkansas’ Senate delegation has joined a coalition of senators from both parties to urge approval of the Keystone Pipeline.

Republican Sen. John Boozman and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor on Tuesday joined a group of 20 senators who want to see the pipeline get the green light.

Obama Is Desperately Trying To Find A Way To Approve The Keystone Pipeline

On Sunday, the leader of the Canadian Province that is home to “the Saudi Arabia of dirty oil,” Alberta’s tar sands, returned home to Alberta, after spending the weekend in Washington DC, meeting with more than twenty U.S. Senators, plus many state Governors, and with Administration officials.

With 2 Ships Damaged, Shell Suspends Arctic Drilling

After a series of costly and embarrassing accidents in its efforts to drill exploratory wells off the north coast of Alaska last year, Royal Dutch Shell announced on Wednesday that it would not return to the Arctic in 2013.

Pause or permafrost?

ENGINEERS generally relish a challenge—particularly those working for a big oil company: the harder the task, the more they seem to like it. But even Shell’s most ambitious technical boffins may be starting to wonder about the firm’s venture into the Arctic wastes. On February 27th the oil giant said that it would give up hunting for oil in the icy northern waters this year.

Shell abandons Arctic drilling in 2013

Royal Dutch Shell announced Wednesday that it will not drill in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska this year, declaring a cease-fire in one of the nation’s fiercest political battles over energy development and environmental protection.

Shell Oil President Marvin Odum described the decision not to conduct exploratory drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as a “pause.”

Fracking Industry Conflicts Of Interest With Regulators? Watchdogs Concerned

After facing heat from fellow residents of Red Wing, Minn., over his ties with an industry group intent on increasing frac sand mining in the state, the town’s mayor, Dennis Egan, announced this week that he would step down.

“Resigning was the appropriate thing for him to do,” said Peggy Rehder, a member of the Red Wing city council, who has argued for the need to thoroughly investigate potential environmental and health hazards before Minnesota allows more frac sand mines. Egan’s Minnesota Industrial Sand Council has reportedly opposed a comprehensive study.

Frack on Film

On Tuesday afternoon, around 40 Republican staffers and members of Congress made time for a private movie screening. The feature was FrackNation, a 77-minute search for the truth about the natural gas industry. The director and star, Phelim McAleer, was on hand to accept accolades, take questions, and offer free DVDs to possible apostles. Among them: Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the new chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who’s accused the media of a “steady pattern of bias on climate change.”

Fracking lobbyists try to ‘withdraw’ fraudulent, failed petition

After a petition urging Colorado officials to allow fracking was voted down, an ugly truth emerged: most of the signatories didn’t know their names were on the paper. The lobbyists behind the bid are now trying to remove the petition from public record.

The petition was filed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and signed by 55 local business owner in the Fort Collins area. Or at least that’s what the lobbyists claimed.

‘Best Fracking State In The Union’: North Dakotans Pitch New License Plate Slogans

North Dakota’s legislature is considering a proposal to authorize the first changes to the state’s license plate in two decades. North Dakotans are volunteering some humorous ideas for the plate’s new slogan.

Fracking fluid leak classified as well ‘blowout’

The 30-hour oil well leak on Feb. 11 and 12 east of Fort Collins was a “blowout” directly related to fracking, state documents show.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has released its inspectors’ reports from the incident at PDC Energy’s Ochsner 50-441 well, which remains under investigation.

Reporter says long-term threats from fracking largely unknown

ProPublica environmental reporter Abrahm Lustgarten began Tuesday’s Ohio University’s fifth annual Schuneman Symposium on Photojournalism and New Media by cautioning against unregulated hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas.

“(Fracking’s) harm to underground water supplies is a long-term threat,” said Lustgarten. “It should be one of our greatest concerns. We really don’t know much about what the long-term risks are.”

Colorado’s Bully Governor Says He Will Sue Fort Collins to Overturn Fracking Ban

In a precedent setting vote, last week the Fort Collins City Council voted to ban fracking in Fort Collins city limits.  The very next morning, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association—the industry trade group representing oil and gas companies—issued a statement saying they would sue Fort Collins to overturn the ban. Now seven days later in a televised interview, the Democratic Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, also says he will direct the State of Colorado to sue Fort Collins to overturn the ban.

Hickenlooper: Colorado obligated to sue Fort Collins if fracking ban passes

Gov. John Hickenlooper told KCNC CBS4 that Colorado has an obligation to sue Fort Collins for banning oil and gas development within its city limits, calling an oil drilling ban a “taking” of mineral rights.

“The governor takes no joy in suing local government,” Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown told the Coloradoan Wednesday. “As a former mayor he respects local planning and control. He also has an obligation to uphold the law. The governor wants to be honest with local communities about the state’s legal obligations. Bans like the one under consideration in Fort Collins violate state law.”

Many Scientists Now Believe Humans Are Causing Some Earthquakes

But Randy Paige, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, says Mother Nature might not be solely to blame for the Earth’s shaking.

Many scientists are concerned with fracking — the use of hydraulics to get gas and oil out of the ground — and suggest the practice might be responsible for increased seismic activity.

How radioactive is oil and gas waste? New study

A new paper published in “NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy,” discusses an analysis of radioactive waste sludge in two pit sites related to drilling and fracking of Barnett Shale wells. Both sites are in the midst of agricultural land. One site was a former pit which had been drained and leveled to the surrounding elevation and the second is a pit that, at the time of sampling, held drilling mud, water for hydraulic fracturing, processed water and/or drill cuttings.

Will Plans for Massive Tunnels to Pipe Northern California Water South Mean a Boon for Fracking?

Where will the industry get the water for fracking on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and coastal areas, including Monterey County where large Monterey Shale deposits are located?

The Hagy Story: Loopholes Shield Fracking Industry While Families Pay the Price

In 1989, Dusty and Tamera Hagy bought 81 rural acres in Jackson County, West Virginia. Twenty-one years later, the Hagys sued four natural gas drilling firms alleging the natural gas wells drilled on their property in 2008 contaminated their drinking water and caused physical harm.

Should I look for a lower-radiation cellphone?

When I was a kid, my dad had a giant briefcase with a phone inside. He could only make quick calls from the “car phone” when he was close to rare towers, shouting “I’ll be home soon!” and hanging up.

Looking back, I’m sure its high-powered transmitter and external antenna were frying us all a little on the inside. But, hey, it was the 80s. Who worried about that kind of thing?

Today you can actually look up your phone’s SAR, the specific absorption rate at which your body takes in a radio frequency electromagnetic field like the kind coming from our phones.

Report: Fukushima’s radiation damaged more souls than bodies

Two years ago, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake generated a tsunami of historic proportions that waylaid Japan’s northeast coastline, including a nuclear power plant.

As Fukushima Daiichi unraveled in global public view with fire, explosions and radioactive emissions for weeks, people living nearby were exposed to radiation and trauma

Cancer risks higher in worst hit Fukushima area: WHO

People in the area worst affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident two years ago have a higher risk of developing certain cancers, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Japan to Begin Restarting Idled Nuclear Plants, Leader Says

Japan will begin restarting its idled nuclear plants once new safety guidelines are in place later this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday, moving to ensure a stable energy supply despite public safety concerns after the Fukushima disaster.

Report: SRS radiation could skyrocket if door opened to commercial waste

Radiation levels could rise dramatically at the Savannah River Site if the federal weapons complex becomes a disposal ground for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste, a new report says.

The study, written by a former senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Energy, outlines the potential hazards of making SRS an interim storage site for nuclear waste generated at the country’s commercial atomic power plants. The material once was destined for burial inside a Nevada mountain, but that site has been abandoned.

Nuclear safety process flawed

For more than a decade, Progress Energy Florida had a serious flaw in the safety procedures at its Crystal River nuclear plant.

If a major radiation leak had occurred, nearby communities might not have found out “in a timely manner,” according to a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission report issued to the nation’s nuclear plants this week.

Petition claims San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station overworked generator

Team 10 has uncovered accusations the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station overstressed substandard equipment.

San Diego’s former city attorney is asking the California Public Utilities Commission to return ratepayer money.

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