Environmental Must-Reads – January 15, 2013

Money, politics and pollution in fracking country

IT WAS JAN. 18, 2011 – just a day before Gov. Corbett took the oath of office – when, without warning, trucks started rolling one after another into a once-abandoned industrial site in the Susquehanna River town of Sunbury, Pa.

At the end of that day, stunned and angry neighbors counted 27 large dump trucks on their small residential street, filled with the debris from gas-drilling rigs in the Marcellus Shale. Some of the trucks were leaking liquids, said the neighbors, including Cora Campbell, who recalled that “it smelled like a combination of diesel fuel and dirt.”

For months, Campbell and others in the history-rich town of 10,000, an hour north of Harrisburg, and environmental activists pressed the new owner of the site, the logistics firm Moran Industries, and regulators from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to find out what was happening at the property and how it could handle so much fracking waste without environmental permits.

Five Years Into Fracking Boom, One Pa. Town At A Turning Point

The natural gas fracking boom has sped up life in Towanda, Pa. There are positives and negatives to that fact — Towanda’s unemployment rate stayed low throughout the recession, but its crime rate jumped, too. And now that natural gas prices have slowed down drilling, Towanda is wondering whether its boom is already turning into a bust.

Energy Entrepreneurs Market Sand Alternative To Fracking Companies

FuelFix takes a look at the latest group of businesses trying to make money off of the domestic shale drilling boom: companies producing ceramic beads that can be used instead of sand in hydraulic fracturing mixes.

Sand plays an important role in the fracking process: the grains help maintain the cracks in the shale rock that the drillers create by blasting chemical-laden fluid deep underground.

Fracking’s rise has made sand much more valuable, but health administrators have also warned that rig workers are putting themselves at risk, if they come into contact with too much of it on drilling sites.

River Barge Transport of Fracking Waste on Hold

Plans to ship fracking waste on Ohio River barges is on hold while federal officials investigate whether the brine can be safely transported as river cargo without fear of being a pollution threat.

Report States Livestock Sickened, Killed by Hydraulic Fracturing Fumes

A recent report from Cornell University links fracking to the deaths of goats and cattle in some regions. The report has raised concerns among farmers and consumers.

Fracking Rules Fall Short of Protecting New Yorkers

Based on an extensive, expert-supported evaluation, a coalition of environmental groups announced today that New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) proposed fracking rules fall short of protecting New York residents and should not be finalized before the environmental and public health reviews are complete.

Gulf Oil Spill Case: Buddy Caldwell, Louisiana Attorney General, Has Already Spent Nearly $24 Million

Louisiana’s attorney general has spent nearly $24 million building the state’s legal case against BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, with much of the money paid to outside law firms that have contributed to his campaigns.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s payments to outside lawyers — $15.4 million and counting — account for about two-thirds of his total spending, according to figures requested by The Associated Press.

La. AG’s Oil Spill Tab Nears $24M

Louisiana’s attorney general has spent nearly $24 million building the state’s legal case against BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. And records show much of the money has gone to outside law firms that have contributed to his campaigns.

Exclusive: How companies nowhere near the Gulf could file BP spill oil claims

Companies throughout the Bay area could soon be seeing a payout as a result of the BP oil spill.

B.P. could pay out millions, even billions, of dollars to area companies but the catch is, those companies must know they’re eligible and then file a claim.

These companies don’t even need to sit on the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, they can be landlocked and nowhere near the water.

BP challenges official estimate of oil spilled in Gulf

Trying to reduce civil liabilities it faces under the federal Clean Water Act, BP filed a legal motion last week to establish that the number of barrels of oil spilled as a result of its 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster is lower than U.S. government estimates — about 17 percent lower.

Federal judge delays ex-BP engineer’s trial

A federal judge has agreed to postpone the trial of a former BP engineer charged with deleting text messages about the company’s response to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Kurt Mix’s trial was scheduled to start Feb. 25, but U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. moved it to June 10 after conferring with defense attorneys and prosecutors on Monday. Duval agreed to give both sides more time to prepare.

Ex-BP Engineer Criminal Trial Over Spill-Size Data Postponed

The trial of a former BP Plc (BP/) engineer charged with destroying evidence sought for a U.S. probe of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill will be postponed to June 10, a judge said.

Kurt Mix, who was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting text-message strings from his mobile phone, had been facing a Feb. 25 trial date, the same day another federal judge in New Orleans is scheduled to begin a trial over liability for the spill.

Judge gets sentence recommendation for BP

Federal probation officials have issued a revised pre-sentence investigation report and made a recommendation to a judge, who will decide whether to accept or reject British oil giant BP’s plea agreement with the U.S. government that would resolve manslaughter and other criminal charges stemming from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Court Revives Call for Oil Spill Pollutant List

A federal appeals court has revived an environmental group’s call to make BP PLC list the amount and type of every pollutant that got into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 oil spill.

But it upheld a lower court ruling that the rest of the Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit became legally irrelevant when BP capped the well.

Gulf of Mexico fisheries might benefit from NOAA inquiries into foreign catch

In an move that could help buoy the Gulf of Mexico fisheries industry, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service has reported 10 countries to Congress whose fishing vessels engaged in “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing” in 2011 or 2012, or did not effectively prevent the catch of protected species. The idea is that by working with these countries to reduce such fishing infractions it will help level the playing field for U.S. fishermen.

Kulluk’s Hull Assessed, Steps Taken to Protect Tanner Crab Fishery

Divers and remotely operated underwater vehicles have completed a review of the hull of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drill barge that ran aground two weeks ago on a remote Alaska island, as the Unified Command overseeing the incident response announced steps to mitigate its impact on the local tanner crab fishery.

Shell’s ‘Kulluk’ Rig Accident: WWF Canada Urge Better Planning

A close call for the ‘Kulluk’: better planning needed before more oil and gas traffic in Arctic waters comments WWF Canada.

Texas Brine, state agree on sinkhole imaging plan

The Louisiana Office of Conservation on Monday ordered Texas Brine Co. LLC to employ an imaging technique to assess sediments under an 8.5-acre sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish that does not require drilling two 6,000-foot-deep wells.

Letter: Sinkhole problem needs resolving

You know what? As a Bayou Corne resident, I personally am sick of seeing our “no-show” governor and our state of Louisiana just sitting back and laying all of this on Texas Brine. There is no doubt in my mind that the cause of all of this is Texas Brine’s failed cavern, but we must all not forget that our very own Louisiana Department of Natural Resources was well aware of this breached cavern back in January 2011 and did nothing about it but slide it under the rug with no monitoring or consideration of potential problems that we are now facing as a result of that lack of action on the part of LDNR under the direction Joe Ball and James Welsh.

Scientists: Backing Keystone pipeline would ‘undermine’ Obama’s climate legacy

A group of prominent climate scientists say President Obama’s legacy is on the line as he mulls whether to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

“We hope, as scientists, that you will demonstrate the seriousness of your climate convictions by refusing to permit Keystone XL; to do otherwise would be to undermine your legacy,” the 18 scientists wrote in a public letter to Obama released Tuesday.

Keystone pipeline route near bald eagle nest ruffles feathers

First an obscure Nebraska beetle, now a famous national bird.

The American bald eagle poses the latest potential complication for a proposed crude oil pipeline through the state.

After Fukushima, U.S. Seeks to Advance Small Nuclear Reactors

Two years ago, some thought that the nuclear energy had been leveled. But the industry today is picking up steam by getting construction licenses to build four new units and by getting government funding to develop smaller nuclear reactors that are less expensive and which may be less problematic when it comes to winning regulatory approval.

Okinawa center offers respite for Fukushima kids

A center set up on Kumejima Island in Okinawa is providing active recovery support for children affected by the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture. Kumi No Sato, some 100 km west of Naha, Okinawa’s capital, was set up by the nonprofit organization Okinawa Kumi No Sato after the nuclear crisis began in March 2011 as a way to help disaster-afflicted children in Fukushima stay healthy.

CROOKED CLEANUP:?Fukushima city not sticking to plan to decontaminate homes

The Fukushima municipal government is apparently not following its own proposal for decontaminating homes polluted by radioactive materials or guidelines called for by the Environment Ministry.

Water used in pressurized sprayers to clean the roofs of homes and roads has been allowed to flow into gutters.

Paying Just $11 a Day, Subcontractors Ripping Off Fukushima Nuclear Accident Decontamination Workers

The Tokyo Shimbun has discovered that workers involved with national government controlled cleanup projects resulting from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are being ripped off by subcontractors.

Troubled nuclear plant on Southern Calif. coast inching toward restart plan despite murky fate

After a year of gathering dust and negative headlines, the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant shows stirrings toward a possible restart, though big barriers remain, officials said.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission senior inspector Greg Warnick said the agency is beginning to prepare a detailed plan of what would need to be done to bring San Onofre safely back to service.

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