Environmental Must-Reads – March 13, 2014

Wyoming High Court Remands Fracking Secrets Case

A Wyoming Supreme Court ruling Wednesday will give environmentalists another chance to argue in favor of public disclosure of the ingredients in the chemical products used in hydraulic fracturing in the state.

The high court sent their case back to a lower court on a technicality, but noted that Wyoming didn’t offer enough evidence that the state oil and gas supervisor was correct to withhold the ingredient lists in response to requests for them. The lower court will need to review each piece of information sought on a case-by-case basis, the justices ruled, rather than generally uphold the supervisor’s judgment.

Wyoming High Court Asks for Another Opinion on Fracking Chemicals

The Wyoming Supreme Court is telling a lower court to reconsider whether the public has the right to know the ingredients in the chemical products used to facilitate hydraulic fracturing.

A judge had ruled that the chemical ingredients are shielded from disclosure as corporate trade secrets, but the state Supreme Court remanded the case Wednesday on a technicality.

Environmentalists, congressman call for fracking ban in Delaware River basin

As the top executives plan to exit the agency charged with protecting the Delaware River, environmentalists and Rep. Rush Holt have called on it to seize the moment and permanently ban fracking in the river’s basin.

Since 2010, the Delaware River Basin Commission has had a temporary moratorium on fracking, the practice of natural-gas drilling, which involves injecting massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep underground, creating explosions and releasing gas.

Fracking produces 27 tons of dirty, radioactive socks per day

Today’s news that an abandoned gas station in North Dakota was found piled high with radioactive material taught us something about fracking: It produces 27 tons of dirty socks a day. Those are “filter socks,” used to collect solids from the water that gets pumped into wells.

What else? The socks contain NORMs– short for Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials.

How Chesapeake Energy, the Kings of Fracking, Double-Crossed Their Way to Riches

Thanks to a series of shady deals with former subsidiaries—and massive cuts in royalties to unsuspecting landowners—the controversial shale gas firm is now awash in cash.

Frack, Rattle and Roll: Did Hydraulic Fracturing Play a Role in Ohio Quakes?

The mystery over the possible connection between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes deepened on Mar. 10, when the Ohio government ordered a halt to operations at seven oil and gas wells near the Pennsylvania border after two quakes occurred earlier that day. While the quakes in Ohio’s Poland Township were too small to cause damage or injuries—they measured in at 2.6 and 3.0 on the Richter scale—the fact that one of the wells was undergoing fracking at the time of the quakes was enough for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to suspend drilling operations in the area. “The decision was made out of an abundance of caution after analyzing location and magnitude data provided by the U.S. Geological Services” ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce said in an emailed statement.

Tennessee lawmakers won’t take on fracking, mining limits for now

Bans on fracking and mountaintop mining in Tennessee appear dead for the year.

Three measures before state lawmakers aimed at adding those protections for Tennessee’s natural resources failed to make it out of the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

Ban fracking in national parks, says the National Trust

Fracking should be banned in national parks to protect rare wildlife and fragile habitats, the National Trust has said, warning that environmental regulations for shale gas exploration are “inadequate”.

In a blow for the Government, which is keen to encourage fracking, the organisation has cast doubt on whether the process is safe and called for the creation of “frack-free zones” across Britain – including in some of the areas believed to be richest in shale gas.

EU parliament excludes shale gas from tougher environmental code

EU politicians on Wednesday voted for tougher rules on exposing the environmental impact of oil and conventional gas exploration, while excluding shale gas.

Member states such as Britain and Poland are pushing hard for the development of shale gas, seen as one way to lessen dependence on Russian gas, as well as to lower energy costs as it has in the United States.

Expert: Sinkhole showing signs of stabilizing

A leading scientist studying the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole that emerged in an Assumption Parish swamp 18 months ago says the hole has shown signs of stabilizing.

A CB&I hydrogeologist working for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources on the sinkhole, Gary Hecox, told about 40 residents and officials at a community meeting in Napoleonville Tuesday that a variety of scientific measurements show the sinkhole is trending toward stability and tracking with past models for its ultimate size.

Texas Brine: New bubble site related to swamp gas, not giant sinkhole

There is new information being released about recent bubbling in a bayou near the massive sinkhole in south Louisiana.

Texas Brine, the company responsible for the sinkhole, reported scientists determined the new bubbling site is the result of swamp gas and is not related to the giant slough in nearby.

Arkansas Judge Removes Self from ExxonMobil Lawsuit

A new judge will be appointed to oversee the U.S. and State of Arkansas lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

In a court filing on Tuesday, Judge James Moody, Jr. recused himself from the case, citing a “previous relationship with counsel or a party.”

There’s no word yet on who the Clerk of Court will appoint to replace Judge Moody.

Exxon’s Sprucing Project Frustrating Some Mayflower Residents

Exxon Mobil is dropping some cash to spruce up homes the company now owns in Mayflower.  After the oil spill last March the company bought up more than 20 properties of homeowners wanting to get out.  But not all are happy about the timing of the project.

“My two big trees in the backyard, they took out,” said Michele Ward while showing us around her N. Starlite Road home.  Ward’s home was one most directly affected by the oil spill last March.

Albany County Orders a Halt to Growth in Oil Processing

Citing the potential impact on public health of Albany’s growing role as an oil hub, the county executive on Wednesday ordered a moratorium on the expansion of oil processing facilities at the Port of Albany.

The unexpected decision by the Albany County executive, Daniel P. McCoy, effectively freezes plans by an energy company, Global Partners, to build seven new heating units in Albany until an investigation is done. The long-term effect of the move remains unclear, but growth of oil-related facilities at the port could be slowed if county health officials decide that the oil terminals and shipping facilities have negative effects on residents nearby.

Albany Places Moratorium On Crude Oil Processing Expansion Until Health Study Is Completed

The expansion of crude oil processing at the Hudson River Port of Albany, which has become a major hub for rail shipments of volatile North Dakota crude to coastal refineries in the last two years, will be halted by a moratorium issued Wednesday by Albany County Executive Dan McCoy.

The order requires a health impact study by the county before Waltham, Mass.-based Global Partners is allowed to add facilities to heat rail cars to liquefy thick crude like that mined in western Canada’s tar sands. That plan, along with Global’s major increase in rail shipments through the city, has drawn intense criticism from port-area residents, environmental groups and local politicians.

Thruway eyed for crude oil pipeline to New Jersey

A team of longtime oil company executives, several with ties to two prominent conservative oil billionaires from Kansas, is considering the state Thruway as a possible route for a crude oil pipeline connecting the Port of Albany to a coastal refinery in New Jersey.

Arctic Sanctuary Sought Around North Pole

The European Parliament today passed a resolution calling for a protected area around the North Pole which could ban oil companies and industrial fishing fleets from the region. The text echoes the demands of an international campaign which has attracted the support of over five million people including Sir Paul McCartney and U.S. oceanographer, Sylvia Earle.

EU Votes to Save the Arctic

A pristine region of the Arctic was one step closer to becoming an international sanctuary on Wednesday following a vote in the European Parliament that passed a resolution promoting strong protections in the area.

In what the Arctic-campaigning group Greenpeace is calling a victory, European MEPs called for the establishment of a sanctuary in the high seas region around the North Pole, among other measures.

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