Environmental Must-Reads – June 19, 2013

Major natgas pipeline explodes in Louisiana, area evacuated

A major natural gas pipeline exploded on Tuesday in Washington Parish, Louisiana, destroying a mobile home and causing an evacuation of the area but no injuries were reported, local officials said.

Gas line explosion rattles Washington Parish

A pre-dawn gas line explosion shook residents out of their beds in a rural, wooded area of Washington Parish, briefly knocking out power to thousands of people but not injuring anybody.

An 80-foot section of 30-inch pipeline on Lee Road ruptured at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday about 10 miles from Franklinton, Louisiana State Police Trooper Nicholas Manale said.

Cancer-Causing Chemicals Used in 34% of Reported Fracking Operations

Recognized carcinogens are used in 1 in 3 hydraulic fracturing operations across the nation – according to industry self-reporting. Independent analysis of the SkyTruth Fracking Chemical Database by IT professional David Darling found that 9,310 individual fracking operations conducted between January 2011 and September 2012 disclosed the use of at least one known carcinogen. While not all hydraulic fracturing operations or all chemicals used in the process are disclosed by the drilling industry, thanks to the lack of a uniform national disclosure law and exacerbated by the liberal use of “trade secret” exemptions, known cancer-causing substances such as naphthalene, benzyl chloride, and formaldehyde were used in 34% of all fracks reported by industry to FracFocus.org.

Game-Changing Fracking Wastewater Report Leaves Little Wiggle Room For Industry Deceptions

Alberta-based environmental consultant Jessica Ernst just released the first comprehensive catalog and summary compendium of facts related to the contamination of North America’s ground water sources resulting from the oil and gas industry’s controversial practice of fracking.

New Website Challenges Industry Spin on Fracking

Today, Food & Water Europe launched a new website, NGSFacts.com, to challenge the fossil fuel industry’s spin on NGSFacts.org that shale gas can be safely extracted. NGSFacts.com will redirect visitors to the Food & Water Europe website to offer a fact-based assessment of the environmental and health impacts of large-scale hydraulic fracturing. Food & Water Europe takes issue with industry’s denial of strong links between shale gas extraction and water contamination in the U.S. In addition, self-regulation and voluntary disclosure mechanisms for chemicals used in fracking fluids are insufficient to monitor a high-risk activity such as hydraulic fracturing in a densely populated continent like Europe. Food & Water Europe works in Brussels, Belgium, on a campaign to ban fracking.

Illinois’ New Fracking Regulations Might Not Be So Tough After All

Monday afternoon Illinois governor Pat Quinn signed what the Associated Press touted as the “nation’s toughest fracking regulations,” creating a framework to manage hydraulic fracturing, in which chemicals are piped into rock at high pressure to release stored-up natural gas. But the new regulatory effort, which sharply divided the state’s environmental community and inspired fervor in the southern counties where drilling is most likely to take place, looks more like a tactical concession than an environmental victory.

Illinois Bill Signed into Law, But Fracking Should Not Proceed

Governor Pat Quinn signed new oil and gas regulations into law today that will put some  initial protections in place from the known dangers associated with fracking. The Natural Resources Defense Council continues to support a fracking moratorium in the state. The new rules, however, start to address a dangerous situation in Illinois where the controversial practice was occurring legally but essentially unregulated.

A Boulder County extends oil and gas moratorium for 18 months

Boulder County’s 16-month-old moratorium on accepting new applications for oil and gas development in unincorporated areas of the county will be extended for another 18 months, county commissioners decided Tuesday afternoon.

Protest in U.S. Oil Country Spells Trouble for Fracking Abroad

Gardendale, Texas, sits on the Permian Basin, the largest oil province in the United States. That makes it an unlikely site of anti-fracking protests and an even more unlikely bellwether for shale gas drilling activity in Europe and Asia. And yet it is.

What Is the Health Impact of Fracking?

Does fracking impact health? It’s a question that some want to answer before projects begin. After all, we know pipelines have caused massive damage before. Since 1993, there have been 5,613 significant pipeline incidents that cut short 367 lives. Ten people were killed last year. In 2010, a pipeline in San Bruno, California, ruptured. The fire from that explosion destroyed 37 homes, damaged 18 others, and killed 8 people. Many more were injured.

But no one is quite sure what the overall health impact is – and it’s not getting any easier for researchers to find out.

UT trustees will consider fracking proposal

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees in October will take up a plan to lease the natural gas rights on the 8,600-acre Cumberland Forest in Morgan and Scott counties.

Va. Dept. of Energy Supports Fracking in George Washington National Forest

Virginia’s Director of Energy is supporting a push to expand fracking in the Commonwealth.

Methane Leaks Threaten the Future of Shale Gas

The development of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has enabled a boom in the production of shale gas in the US. Supporters of the fuel make boasts about its cheap and abundant nature, whilst also claiming that it is good for the environment as it is a low carbon fuel compared to other fossil fuels.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Sites Fail Safety Inspections, Highlighting Energy Risks

NRDC strongly supports the rights of local governments to protect their citizens from the risks of fracking by managing the siting and operations of oil and gas companies within their borders. Our Community Fracking Defense Project was established to help communities who want to take steps to protect their quality of life.

Ohio Remains Nation’s Radioactive Fracking Waste Sacrifice Zone

Today, grassroots leaders in Ohio called out state leaders for failing to protect Ohioans from solid radioactive waste from hydraulic fracturing (fracking). According to local citizens groups, Gov. Kasich’s budget bill will provide inadequate protection from low-level radioactive waste (LLRW), and therefore constitutes a handout to the oil and gas industry. They are asking the state to require the oil and gas industry to properly dispose of LLRW.

Surviving the Next Gulf Oil Spill

DOWN here on the Gulf of Mexico, the air is heavy with expectation as we await the arrival of billions of dollars in fines from companies involved in the BP oil-well blowout, which spewed millions of gallons of oil into the gulf over three months in 2010.

The Restore Act, signed by President Obama last year, sets aside 80 percent of the civil fines assessed under the federal Clean Water Act for use in the five gulf states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Politicians and environmentalists in each of those states have been busy concocting ways to spend the windfall — though it is unclear exactly how much it will be.

Scientists project large ‘dead zone’ in Gulf this summer

An area of low oxygen to form this summer off the coast of Louisiana could grow to the size of New Jersey if forecasts released Tuesday hold true.

That area of low oxygen, also known as the “dead zone,” could be one of the largest scientists have seen since annual monitoring began in 1985, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

BP ends cleanup of oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

BP is wrapping up cleanup operations of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The move comes with permission from the US Coast Guard, which says BP no longer needs to send out regular patrols to clean the tar from the coastline.

Springfield OKs BP settlement

Only a few cities have yet to settle their BP oil spill claim in Bay County. Springfield joined those who have agreed not to further pursue litigation during Tuesday’s meeting.

What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody’s Guess

There are no clear federal guidelines for chemical exposure at oil spills, and no studies to understand the long term dangers to human health.

With Unusual Speed Officials Slap Exxon with Oil Spill Lawsuit. Why?

The lawsuit that state and federal officials in Arkansas filed last week against ExxonMobil is unusual, pipeline experts say, because government agencies usually wait much longer—sometimes even years—before filing lawsuits against companies involved in pipeline accidents.

Keystone XL Pipe Shuns Infrared Sensors to Detect Leaks

TransCanada Corp. (TRP), which says Keystone XL will be the safest pipeline ever built, isn’t planning to use infrared sensors or fiber-optic cables to detect spills along the system’s 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) path to Texas refineries from fields in Alberta.

Keystone XL won’t use state-of-the-art spill technology

TransCanada swears that once the Keystone XL pipeline is operational, it will be totally safe. The company is apparently so confident — despite already having had to dig up and replace faulty stretches of the pipeline’s southern leg — that it doesn’t see the need to invest in state-of-the-art spill-detection technology. TransCanada is like that obnoxious seventh-grade skateboarder too confident in his sick moves to bother with a helmet.

Former Obama Campaign Staffers Protest Keystone XL Pipeline

Elijah Zarlin, who worked as a senior e-mail writer at Obama campaign headquarters in 2008, was back in Chicago yesterday—in the First Precinct jail, following a peaceful sit-in in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“It felt strange,” Zarlin said, “to be getting arrested in order to send a message to the president that he needs to make good on his commitment to fight climate change.”

TransCanada’s Keystone XL, the Safest Pipeline Ever – Says Who?

The fight in Texas against the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline continues despite its being over 75 percent complete. Pending cases against TransCanada and departments of the US government cite fraud and improper use of eminent domain. The lawsuits allege that the government is serving the best interests of a corporation rather than those of the people it is mandated to protect. Recently, mandatory inspections done with a water pressure test along a portion of the southern route revealed anomalies.

Canada raises liability for offshore oil spills to $1-billion

The federal government will raise the bar for oil companies operating off the East Coast and in the Arctic, increasing the limit on their liability for environmental and other damage from a blowout or oil spill to $1-billion.

Feds move to ensure offshore Arctic oil drillers can cover spill clean-up costs

Companies wanting to do offshore oil drilling in the Arctic must now show they have the money to pay for any environmental damage they cause.

Joe Oliver, federal natural resources minister, announced June 18 in Halifax that that federal and provincial governments have also agreed to make explicit the “polluter pays” principle in legislation.

Radioactive Strontium-90 found in groundwater near Fukushima nuclear reactor

High levels of toxic Strontium-90 have been found in groundwater at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, its operator said Wednesday.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which has been struggling to clean up the plant, said nearly 30 times the permitted level of the radioactive isotope was discovered in a well dug last month outside the turbine hall of Reactor No.2.

Highly toxic substance found in Fukushima groundwater

High levels of a toxic substance called strontium-90 have been found in groundwater at the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the utility that operates the facility says.

Fukushima 2.25 — The Humanitarian Crisis

Twenty-seven months after the reactors withstood one of the largest earthquakes in history, only to fall to the largest tsunami in history, over 50,000 people are still being held captive by fear, and their lives are slowly being destroyed by the bogeyman of radiation.

Hot Tuna? – The Fish of Fukushima

On June 4th, 2013, London-based news source the Guardian reported, “Fukushima tuna safe to eat – study.”  The day before, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Scientists to eaters: Don’t freak out over Fukushima fish.” The San Diego Union-Tribune was emphatic: “Tuna Pose No Risk after Nuke Disaster,” and online, “Fukushima seafood radiation risk nil, study says.” The BBC ran with, “Fukushima tuna pose little health risk.” And CNN declared, “Fukushima tuna study finds minuscule health risks.”

Honda robot to take Fukushima plant checks to new level

Honda Motor Co. has developed a nimble robot that can reach into nooks and crannies of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as part of the process to decommission the reactors.

LDP policy chief claims ‘no deaths’ related to Fukushima disaster while urging nuclear restarts

Japan’s ruling party is in need of carrying out damage control as much as the government is in need to clean up after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. The statement of Sanae Takaichi, the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Chief, was as damaging as Fukushima’s nuclear explosion. In her speech on Monday, Takaichi claimed that the Fukushima disaster caused “no deaths” among the residents.

LDP policy chief criticized over Fukushima death toll comment

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s policy chief came under fire on June 18 for saying the Fukushima nuclear disaster has not directly led to any deaths in her arguments for restarting idle reactors.

Sanae Takaichi, chairwoman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, made the remark on June 17 during a meeting of the party’s Hyogo prefectural chapter in Kobe.

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