Environmental Must-Reads – March 19, 2014

Oil, gas regulators say next flood could be worse

The nearly 92,000 gallons of oil and polluted water that spilled from storage tanks during last fall’s catastrophic Colorado flood have washed away without a trace, but future floods could be more damaging, state regulators said Monday.

A report released by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said the commission will consider a series of new regulations designed to minimize the effects of floods and wildfires on oil and gas wells and tanks.

New York pipeline blast shakes up an industry

New York City’s fatal pipeline blast focuses new attention on the aging pipeline infrastructure, some of it more than a century old. With the natural gas industry needing at least 29,000 more miles of pipeline to meet new demand, can the system expand and become safer at the same time?

Officials Find Leak in East Harlem Gas Main Near Collapsed Building

Federal investigators found a leak in the natural gas main “adjacent” to one of two East Harlem buildings that collapsed after an explosion last week, killing eight people, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

Tracer gas was pumped into the main that runs along Park Avenue between East 116th and East 117th streets as part of a pressure test, the NTSB said. The main failed the test at what the agency said was a normal operating pressure.

Did ‘fracking’ play role in L.A. earthquake? Councilmen want to know

Three Los Angeles City Council members want city, state and federal groups to look into whether hydraulic fracturing and other forms of oil and gas “well stimulation” played any role in the earthquake that rattled the city early Monday morning.

Carson considers temporary oil drilling ban over ‘fracking’ concerns

The city of Carson is considering a temporary ban on all new oil drilling following a public outcry over a massive proposed oil project by Occidental Petroleum.

Despite repeated assurances from Oxy that “fracking” and other well stimulation techniques will not be used to extract the oil, residents say they don’t trust the company, and are concerned about possible air and groundwater contamination.

Tighter controls needed for oil and gas wells near Colorado waterways

The oil and gas industry should move operations as far from Colorado waterways as possible and do a better job of flood-proofing wells and tanks, according to a state report released Monday.

The report by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff on “lessons learned” from the September floods that ravaged the Front Range recommends new oil and gas regulations.

Johnson County Illinois Residents Have Fracking Industry Panicked

Johnson County, Illinois has oil and gas interests panicked about a local effort to stop fracking. They’re spending tens of thousands in the rural county to defeat a referendum that opposes fracking and defends local rights.

Shale could be long-term home for nuclear waste

Could shale rock spur another energy bonanza? It’s already helped create a surge in U.S. oil and natural gas production, and research today suggests it could do something else: store radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.

These rock formations are ideal for storing potentially dangerous spent fuel for millennia, because they are nearly impermeable, a U.S. geologist told a scientific meeting. One of the biggest risks of storing nuclear waste for thousands of years is water contamination.

2013 Was a Record Year For Oil-Train Accidents, and Insurers Are Wary

Spurred by the shale drilling rush that has progressed at breakneck speed, the railroad industry has moved fast to help drillers transport petroleum and its byproducts to consumers. Last year, trains hauled over 400,000 carloads of crude oil, up from just 9,500 carloads in 2008, according to railroad industry estimates.  Each carload represents roughly 30,000 gallons of flammable liquids, and some trains haul over 100 oil cars at a time.

Unusually volatile North Dakota oil on Oregon railroads: 5 key takeaways

Until last year, crude oil from North Dakota moving by rail through the country wasn’t thought to be explosive.

Then it started blowing up.

As investigators have worked to determine why three oil train accidents last year resulted in catastrophic explosions with sky-high fireballs, attention has increasingly focused on the volatility of the oil and the flammable gases that saturate it.

Lawsuit claims United Bulk violating Clean Water Act

Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a coal terminal in Plaquemines Parish, alleging the facility has violated the Clean Water Act for years by allowing coal and petroleum coke to fall into the Mississippi River.

“We want United Bulk to abide by the law that already exists,” said Marylee Orr, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. “Pursuing this suit is the only way of preventing United Bulk from polluting the Mississippi River.”

BP asks full 5th Circuit to hear causation appeal

BP asked Monday for the full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear its argument that businesses seeking compensation for oil spill losses should have to prove those losses came from the effects of the spill, and not from some other factor.

The British giant made the request for an “en banc” review Monday after a smaller panel of 5th Circuit judges ruled 2-1 against BP.

BP accused of violating court confidentiality orders through improper access

In a just released legal brief, lawyers for plaintiffs who suffered economic losses as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster have accused BP of violating court ordered confidentiality requirements as well as specific provisions of the landmark 2012 Settlement Agreement which protect the sanctity of the claims process. BP denies the allegations.

Fewer firms submit bids in offshore Gulf auction

Forty-two oil and gas companies will make plays for new Gulf of Mexico territory on Wednesday, in a closely watched, high-stakes auction of U.S. drilling rights that is viewed as a test of the industry’s appetite for offshore projects while a drilling boom unfolds mostly on land.

Coastal restoration, oyster leases, and BP oil spill are topics at State of the Coast conference beginning Tuesday

New Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Jerome Zeringue and political pundit James Carville will kick off the fifth annual State of the Coast conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Tuesday morning (March 18).

The three-day conference is aimed at presenting the latest information on a variety of issues affecting Louisiana’s coastal communities, including hurricane protection, coastal restoration and community resilience.

Deepwater, Center-Stage: Disaster Through Survivors’ Eyes

Eleven died and hundreds of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in 2010. But beneath the tragedy, there’s a complex story about people’s relationships to oil. That’s what’s explored in Spill, a new play by one of the creators of The Laramie Project.

Strikingly beautiful pictures show the horrors of the BP oil spill

Seattle-based photographer Daniel Beltrá took these images for the book Spill. They’re beautiful, perfectly crafted shots despite their horrible—and gut-wrenching to the point of nausea—subject matter: The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The incompetence of British Petroleum, Halliburton, and Transocean killed 11 people and destroyed the wildlife and the economy of the area, an impact that will be affecting everyone for decades to come despite the efforts to repair the devastation caused by this catastrophe.

Researchers model Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Dr. Jason Jolliff is an oceanographer with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). “The emphasis here,” he says, “is on developing models of the ocean environment to help the naval warfighter.” His most recent paper, published in Ocean Modeling (March 2014), shows NRL can also forecast where oil will go following a major spill.

“If you’re going to do forecasting,” he says, “you have to get the ocean circulation correct. It’s fundamental to all else.” Jolliff plugged the distribution of surface oil following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill—when it was still well offshore—into a powerful NRL forecasting tool. He accurately predicted what would happen to the oil; in particular, the processes that made inevitable its landfall on Louisiana shorelines fully four days later.

Sunoco oil pipeline leaks in Ohio nature preserve

Clean-up operations began on Tuesday after a major oil pipeline owned by Sunoco Logistics Partners LP leaked hundreds of barrels of crude oil into a nature preserve next to the Great Miami River in southwest Ohio.

Crews vacuumed oil that had leaked from the Mid-Valley pipeline into a wetland area of the Oak Glen Nature Preserve, 20 miles (32 km) north of Cincinnati, according to local officials.

Oil spill at nature preserve ‘absolutely terrible’

Crude oil discovered spilling from an underground pipeline into a stream and marshy pond in a nature preserve in Colerain Township on Monday evening will be “tricky” to clean up, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said Tuesday. They estimated the volume of the spill to be around 10,000 gallons.

Company: Up to 10K gallons of oil spilled in Colerain Twp. leak

Fire and environmental officials were trying to determine Tuesday how a crude oil pipeline ruptured, spilling about 10,000 gallons of crude oil the area of the Oak Glen Nature Preserve in Hamilton County.

By late Tuesday evening, the smell of petroleum still lingered in the air, though EPA officials said they didn’t expect it to harm the public’s health.

ExxonMobil: No “unacceptable” environmental effects from oil spill, AGFC disagrees

ExxonMobil released a report claiming that there are no environmental effects resulting from last year’s massive oil spill in Mayflower. But one local agency says the oil giant is overreaching.

Exxon has been making similar claims since the oil spill on March 29th of last year. But now the oil giant officially stands by its initial claims that there is no need for concern.

Clean up begins of fuel oil leak in Kalamazoo River

Efforts are under way to clean up a fuel oil spill in Kalamazoo County.

It’s estimated as much as 115 gallons of the fuel oil leaked from an above-ground storage tank at Klooster’s Greenhouse, in Comstock Township. Authorities believe the leak was the result of an attempt to steal fuel. They say fuel oil has seeped into the soil near the tank, and some of it made its way into a storm drain, which carried it into the Kalamazoo River.

The Great Lakes: ‘Liquid Pipeline’ for World’s Dirtiest Fuels?

One of the most precious sources of freshwater on the planet, the Great Lakes, is at risk of becoming a “liquid pipeline” for the dirtiest forms of oil and gas available, according to a report published Monday by water champion Maude Barlow.

The report, Liquid Pipeline: Extreme Energy’s Threat to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway (pdf), details how the extraction of “extreme” new forms of energy and plans to transport those fuels—as well as waste from more traditional sources—under and across the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River threaten these vital resources.

How the Exxon Valdez spill gave birth to modern oil spill prevention plans

Over the past 25 years much has been written about the failure of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. to respond to the Exxon Valdez grounding on Bligh Reef. Even more has been written about Captain Hazelwood, alcohol, crew fatigue, the third mate and the actual cleanup efforts. But little has been written about how this accident changed the way we look at oil spill prevention and response today.

60% of Pro-Keystone XL Comments Tied to Industry, Group Says

Environmentalists who spent a month analyzing public comments on the Keystone XL linked more than half the pro-pipeline comments they examined to people in the oil industry. As the U.S. State Department considers whether to approve the project, the activists want those remarks to carry less weight than those written by people without a vested interest in the outcome.

Landowners want Keystone pipeline fight to end

If the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline ever gains approval, Ronald Weber will watch from his farmhouse as workers lay the line beneath a half-mile of his cropland in northeastern Nebraska.

The 69-year-old retired farmer wishes the pipeline had missed his property, simply to avoid the difficulty of growing corn and soybeans around the construction work.But what leaves Weber exasperated are the repeated project delays.

TransCanada misleading Canadians over Energy East pipeline, environmental group says

TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Energy East project has come under fire from environmental groups who say the company is overstating its benefits to eastern Canadians and that the project is primarily aimed at exporting crude.

In a report released Tuesday, the group argued that eastern Canada would bear the risk of oil spills while its refining market is already well-supplied by North American crude from Newfoundland’s offshore and booming tight, light oil fields in the middle of the continent.

Crude Oil Train Boom Headed to California

California’s Senate Committees on Environmental Quality, and Natural Resources and Water are holding a joint hearing on Emergency Response to Rail Accidents today to talk about oil spill response in the event of a crude oil train accident.  This is important given the spate of crude oil train accidents over the past year as oil rail transport has boomed, and as California faces the prospect of new oil rail terminals and up to 25% of crude oil coming to this coastal state by rail.

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