Environmental Must-Reads – July 10, 2013

Natural gas well leaking in Gulf

Natural gas leaked Tuesday from an old, non-producing well at an oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico about 75 miles off the Louisiana coast after a crew working to plug the well lost control of it, the Coast Guard said.

Not oil spill — gas leak from well in Gulf off the La. Coast

Natural gas leaked Tuesday from a well at a platform producing oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico about 75 miles off the Louisiana coast after a crew working to temporarily plug the well lost control of it, the Coast Guard said.

Coast Guard Lt. Lily Zepeda said the well did not blow out and there was no explosion or fire on the platform. People on the platform were evacuated, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many.

The Amish And Fracking: Communities Debate The Pros And Cons Of Gas And Oil Drilling

In parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania where horse-drawn buggies clip-clop at the pace of a bygone era, Amish communities are debating a new temptation – the large cash royalties that can come with the boom in oil and gas drilling.

In some ways, Amish attitudes toward hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are as different from the outside world as their clothes and traditions. Instead of worries about air and water pollution, they’re focusing on people’s souls.

Explosion at West Virginia fracking site seriously injures four

Federal investigators are trying to figure out what caused an explosion at a West Virginia fracking site over the weekend. The blast injured at least seven people, including four workers who were sent to a hospital with life-threatening burns.

Anti-Fracking protesters target supply maker in North Carolina

As part of an effort to prevent fracking in central North Carolina, a demonstration blocked a driveway at Momentive Specialty Chemicals in Morganton yesterday. Protesters from Croatan Earth First! temporarily prevented trucks from entering or exiting the facility. The group erected three slender tripod towers with an activist atop each (see photos here), while others lay down in the road and climbed on top of trucks. According to Croatan Earth First!, 10 people are currently in police custody.

Fracking records unsealed in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia  — Since 2005, a provision of the federal Energy Policy Act popularly labeled the “Halliburton Loophole,” allowed the giant corporations profiting from drilling in major shale formations across the U.S. to withhold information on the hundreds of potentially toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that make up fracking compounds. The law provided them protection for “trade secrets.”

EPA Pulls Its Punches When It Comes to Issuing Findings on Fracking

When the Environmental Protection Agency abandoned its multimillion-dollar investigation, which found strong evidence of fracking contamination of water resources in Wyoming in June, industry groups cheered, and environmentalists fumed.

Thousands of Americans fearing fracking chemical contamination of their wells were abandoned. “If there is any question whatsoever about the safety of fracking and its effects on drinking water supplies, the EPA should make it a top priority to investigate the matter fully,” said Wenonah Hauter, of Food and Water Watch.

EPA Abandoned Fracking Investigation, and Will Do it Again

When the Environmental Protection Agency abruptly retreated on its multimillion-dollar investigation into water contamination in a central Wyoming natural gas field last month, it shocked environmentalists and energy industry supporters alike.

Are the Finger Lakes the place to store natural gas?

It’s something few people think about, but all that natural gas,and other fossil fuels, being produced by hydrofracking has to be stored somewhere before it gets to the consumer. Often used for the job: underground salt caverns like the ones near Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes.

Now an out of state company wants to expand storage there, a plan some local residents call risky. Our story comes from David Chanatry with the New York Reporting Project at Utica College.

An Open Letter to President Obama from Gasland Director Josh Fox

I write to request a meeting with you and families directly impacted by oil and gas drilling and fracking—as documented in Gasland Part II—together with a small group of scientists and engineers who are also featured in the film. We would like to discuss health and economic impacts felt by communities located near the oil and gas fields, share our first-hand stories, and provide you with evidence on rates of well leakage, water contamination, air pollution and methane emissions.

Urgent: LNG Export Hearings July 9th and 10th; Comment and Call Now

If an empty LNG tank can kill 40 workers, as happened in Staten Island in 1978; and a train full of fracked shale oil can kill still-uncounted people (the death toll stands at 13 but 50 are unaccounted for), as happened this past weekend in Lac Megantic, Quebec — a town of 6000 — what might the death toll be if LNG export terminals are allowed in heavily populated areas like Long Island or Philadelphia?

Minnesota Communities Declare Independence from Frac-Sand Mining

Last month, I visited Wisconsin’s booming silica sand mining region and saw sandstone bluffs strip-mined for sturdy quartz sand that’s essential for the horizontal hydraulic fracturing process used to extract oil and gas from underground shale formations. I saw how residents there had little protection against silica dust exposure since Wisconsin has no regulatory standards for this relatively new mining industry.

Fracking limits sought in Loveland, Lafayette

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing have turned in petitions seeking to ban the practice in Lafayette.

The Daily Camera reports petitioners led by the group East Boulder County United turned in 2,042 signatures Tuesday in support of a measure to bar hydraulic fracturing and the disposal of associated waste products in city limits. The city clerk’s office is verifying whether at least 948 of the signatures are valid before the measure can go to voters in November.

BP Appeals Oil Spill Settlement Agreement Over Damage Claims

In 2012, oil giant BP agreed to an uncapped financial settlement to cover tens of thousands of claims from businesses and properties affected by the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. But BP has started a legal fight to change the agreement, saying that the settlement has grown to include “fictitious” claims. Judy Woodruff reports.

BP, plaintiffs’ lawyers argue before 5th Circuit on challenge over oil spill payments

An attorney for BP told an appellate court panel Monday that a court-appointed claims administrator of a multi-billion-dollar settlement with Gulf Coast businesses that lost money in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster is paying out “fictitious, exaggerated, and excessive awards.”

By the Numbers: The Oil Spill and BP’s Legal Troubles

The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010 captured the world’s attention with the scale of its destruction. It polluted the waters of the Gulf of Mexico with millions of barrels of oil; shut down businesses, fisheries and beaches; and fouled marshes and wetlands. Eleven men were killed when the Macondo Well blew out some 45 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Commissioners Court declines request to sue BP

Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday refused to approve a request from County Attorney Vince Ryan to sue BP for an estimated $1.6 million in connection with the 2010 oil spill caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana Sinkhole: Massive 22-Acre Sinkhole Opens Up and Threatens Residents to Move Out Or Sue Salt Dome Operating Company

A sinkhole along Bayou Corne in the swampy Assumption Parish community of Louisiana is forcing local residents to make a tough decision: move out, stay put or sue the company responsible for the mess caused by the collapse of a salt dome, the Daily Mail reports.

Criminal probe opened in Quebec oil train inferno

As two more bodies were found in the ashes Tuesday, Canadian police said they had begun a criminal investigation into the runaway oil train that incinerated the heart of a close-knit town near the Maine border.

Quebec rail disaster questions safety of oil transport

A runaway train that exploded and killed more than a dozen people in a Canadian town is raising safety questions about moving crude oil by rail — just as such transport is taking off in the United States.

To handle the boom in U.S. oil production, notably in North Dakota, the nation’s seven major railroads moved nearly 234,000 carloads of crude oil last year. That’s up from 66,000 carloads in 2011 and 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads which represents large railroads. Another big jump is expected this year.

Quebec police treating oil-train derailment site as crime scene; death toll reaches 15

Quebec police are pursuing a painstaking, wide-ranging criminal investigation of the inferno ignited by the derailment of a runaway oil train that killed at least 15 people and left dozens missing in the burned-out ruins of a downtown district.

North Dakota Oil Transport Risk Revealed in Quebec Blast

On a typical day in North Dakota prairie towns like Williston, Dickinson and Beulah, trains with 100 tank cars line up to be loaded with oil destined for markets to the east, west, and south.

In total, about 675,000 barrels of crude leave daily on as many as 10 trains from North Dakota, now the second largest oil-producing state after Texas. That’s due to the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has rendered accessible petroleum once too costly to procure.

Canadian rail accident bolsters safety argument for Keystone oil pipeline

The deadly derailment and explosion of rail cars carrying crude oil through Quebec last weekend highlighted the dangers of the growing trend of shipping more fuel by rail in the U.S. and Canada, and analysts say it may add to pressure on President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Are Pipelines Safer Than Railroads for Carrying Oil?

The glut of new oil in North America has been accompanied by a boom in moving that petroleum by train. Railway traffic of crude oil in tankers has more than doubled in volume since 2011—and such transport led to tragedy in the early hours of July 6. At least 13 people were killed in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when 72 runaway railcars carrying crude oil derailed, crashed and exploded.

Russian Oil Behemoth Rosneft Has Unlocked the Arctic

Last year, Russian state-controlled oil conglomerate Rosneft became the largest oil company in the world after acquiring one of its major competitors. The company has had its sights on tapping Russia’s vast, treacherous Arctic reserves, and after making a few huge deals, it looks like it now has the resources needed to do so.

Norway study smashes Arctic oil and gas dreams

The Arctic, often presented as the promised land by oil companies, is likely to play only a marginal role in providing for the planet’s future energy needs, a Norwegian study claimed on Tuesday.

Tepco urged to protect ocean as groundwater contamination rises

Japan’s atomic regulator urged Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) to speed up completion of a seawall to protect the ocean from rising levels of contamination detected in the Fukushima nuclear plant’s groundwater.

The utility known as Tepco should try to finish building the wall earlier than the planned completion date of by March 2015 and should attempt to remove contaminated water collecting in trenches at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said today in a statement.

Fukushima boss hailed as hero dies

Masao Yoshida – whose actions as manager of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant during its triple meltdown averted an even greater disaster – has died.

Yoshida, 58, took early retirement from the plant’s operator, Tepco, in late 2011 after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. He died in a Tokyo hospital on Tuesday, reports said.

Hero Fukushima ex-manager who foiled nuclear disaster dies of cancer

The former Fukushima supervisor of damage control works at the tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant has died of cancer. His decision not to follow a corporate order prevented Chernobyl-like explosions of overheated Fukushima reactors.

Tepco Finds Higher Radioactivity in Fukushima Plant Groundwater

Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501). has found levels of radioactivity in groundwater at its crippled Fukushima nuclear station at levels 244 times those considered safe for an atomic plant.

The utility known as Tepco detected cesium 137 levels of 22,000 becquerels per liter at a monitoring well in its turbine complex at the Dai-Ichi plant yesterday, it said in a statement today. Japan’s nuclear safety guidelines require cesium 137 levels for waste liquids at nuclear plants to remain below 90 becquerels per liter.

Fukushima Watch: Tritium Levels Soar on Coast at Fukushima Plant

More than two years after the devastating accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. 9501.TO -0.90% is seeing levels soar of a radioactive element called tritium.

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