Environmental Must-Reads – March 5, 2013

BP Macondo well drilled in fragile rock formation prone to earthquakes, geoscientist testifies

BP’s Macondo oil and gas well was drilled in an area of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico that was prone to shallow earthquakes and whose rock formations were the fragile remains of a landslide of rubble that occurred after the end of the last Ice Age, a Scottish geoscience professor testified Monday.

BP Probe Ignored Pre-Spill Call about Critical Test: Lawyer

BP’s internal investigation of the company’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 ignored a telephone call between BP supervisors about a critical pressure test that was misinterpreted with deadly consequences, a lawyer contended in aggressive questioning on Monday.

BP Executive Defends Report on Gulf Oil Spill

The BP executive who led the company’s probe of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion denied Monday that his investigators narrowly focused on rig workers’ actions to spare onshore engineers and managers from blame for the disaster.

Second week of BP oil spill trial to feature testimony from those aboard exploded rig

As the second week of the BP oil spill trial gets off to a start the court is preparing to see a different type of testimony than in the first week’s court proceedings. Deepwater_Horizon rig fire

The first week of phase one of the trial heard opening statements from the attorneys general of Louisiana and Alabama, a representative of the plaintiff’s steering committee and BP’s defense.

BP safety chief continues testimony in oil spill trial

A BP executive who led an internal investigation into the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is back on the witness stand today in the British oil company’s ongoing civil trial.

Mark Bly, BP’s executive vice president for safety and operational risk, appeared as a witness for the plaintiffs on Thursday and was scheduled for cross-examination today by BP and its co-defendants, including Transocean and Halliburton.

Transocean Turns on BP With Scorching Oil-Spill Document

BP prolonged the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by two months by concealing the rate of oil flowing from the broken Macondo well, Transocean claims in a document filed in the damages trial.

A bench trial to apportion damages is being held before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. Penalties for Clean Water Act violations alone could range from $4 billion to $17 billion.

BP fooled US on Deep Horizon oil spill

Transocean, Owner of the Deep Horizon oil rig where an explosion led to the spill, said BP blocked efforts to notify the US government and the public of the scale of the crisis by reporting lower estimates of oil, entering the gulf’s waters, than real figures.

“In short, beginning in late April and continuing throughout May 2010, BP repeatedly represented to source control decision-makers, Congress, the press and the public that 5,000 bpd was its best estimate of the flow rate,” Transocean said in a lawsuit filed at New Orleans federal court.

Oil Spill off Plaquemines Parish Under Control

The abandoned oil well off Plaquemines Parish that began leaking after being hit by a boat last week has been brought under control. Well owners Swift Energy said the flow of oil was stanched just after 3 p.m. Thursday. Wild Well Control brought the well under control after a barge carrying specialized equipment arrived. The well was shut down by Houston-based Swift Energy in 2007.

Bakken pipeline reversal completed

Pipeline company Enbridge announced it completed the reversal of flow in its Bakken oil pipeline system from North Dakota to Saskatchewan.

Enbridge Energy Partners announced its Bakken pipeline expansion project was complete and the pipeline is in service.

State Department admits Keystone environmental impact but says there’s no better way

Construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would create “numerous” and “substantial” impacts on the environment, the State Department said Friday in a draft environmental impact statement. But the project is a better bet than any of the alternatives, it said in essentially clearing the project to go ahead.

Environmental activists reeling as Keystone pipeline gains momentum

Green groups are reeling after the release of a draft State Department report that seemed to put the Keystone XL oil pipeline on track for approval.

Opponents of Keystone are furious at State’s environmental assessment of the project, which brushed aside of one of their central arguments against it: namely, that it would exacerbate clime change by expanding the use of oil sands.

Does State Department Have Head in the Tar Sands on Keystone XL’s Role in Climate Change?

Mr. Secretary, I am disappointed. I thought that we all understood that to fight climate change, we have to be able to say “no” to dirty energy projects. Our friends around the world are looking to us for climate leadership and it starts with drawing the line at tar sands expansion. It also means that we need to give health and environment a fair shake in the environmental review of a dirty energy project such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Yet the draft environmental review prepared by the State Department for Keystone XL misses what folks in industry themselves are saying: the Keystone XL project is necessary for expansion of tar sands. We know this means that Keystone XL will make climate change worse.

Sinkhole case draws Brockovich

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich and a California attorney hired by 25 Assumption Parish residents evacuated due to a giant sinkhole near Bayou Corne are heading to Pierre Part on Saturday to talk to other residents about their legal options, the attorney said Monday.

Thomas V. Girardi, a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles, said he and Brockovich will attend Saturday’s community meeting at the American Legion Hall, 3336 La. 70, Pierre Part, to answer questions about the Texas Brine sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish.

Obama’s fracking-friendly energy pick has environmentalists up in arms

President Obama this morning nominated  physicist Ernest Moniz for energy secretary, to succeed outgoing secretary Steven Chu.

Moniz, an MIT physicist, fits into President Obama’s stated “all-of-the-above” energy policy, with research focusing on ”the future of nuclear power, coal, natural gas, and solar energy in a low-carbon world,” according to the White House. That’s why he already has environmentalists nervous.

Ernest Moniz, Considered Fracking Shill By Some Environmentalists, Sparks Concern Amid Energy Department Nomination

In a Monday morning announcement that was long anticipated but not widely welcomed by environmentalists, President Barack Obama tapped Ernest Moniz, director of the Energy Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as the nominee for the next secretary of energy.

Coastal counties could get fracking waste

Forty years ago, when North Carolina banned using deep wells to permanently dump industrial waste, some thought the issue had been decided for good. Now state lawmakers who want to turn North Carolina into the nation’s next fracking hotspot are reopening the case for injecting brines and toxins deep underground.

Cuomo denies was headed to OK fracking

Gov. Andrew Cuomo denies he was close to approving limited hydrofracking for natural gas last month before talking with environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Cuomo says an Associated Press report citing state officials and an interview with Kennedy was wrong. State officials close to Cuomo and Kennedy had said Cuomo was near a decision last month to order limited drilling.

Fort Collins council to revisit proposed fracking ban

Controversy over fracking is headed back to the Fort Collins City Council.

Council members on Tuesday are scheduled to give final consideration to an ordinance that would ban oil and gas operations, including fracking, within city limits. The ordinance passed 5-2 two weeks ago, with council members Wade Troxell and Aislinn Kottwitz in opposition.

Assembly bill halts fracking until 2014

A newly proposed Assembly bill (A.05424) seeks to impose a moratorium on gas drilling inthe Marcellus and Utica Shales until May 15, 2014.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney D-Babylon, would prohibit the issuance of natural gas drilling permits in “low-permeability natural gas reservoirs” like the Marcellus and Utica shale formations while the state continues to study possible health effects of high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

More reasons for a strong BLM fracking rule; Three California drinking water sources at risk

As I’ve mentioned, we expect the BLM to soon issue a new draft rule for fracking that takes place under federal oil and gas leases. A reporter published a leaked copy of the new draft rule, and my colleagues Briana Mordick and Matt McFeeley have blogged about this leaked draft–which in several important ways is much weaker than the previous draft. This is a huge disappointment when the rule needed to be strengthened in order to help protect drinking water from fracking, not weakened.

Beware impact of fracking

New York is poised to make a decision on allowing natural gas development and production to expand — a decision that was just delayed because the state is still considering the health impacts of moving forward.

As state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah has said, “The time to ensure the impacts on public health are properly considered is before a state permits drilling.”

ALEC Sham Chemical Disclosure Model Tucked Into Illinois Fracking Bill

Illinois is the next state on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s target list for putting the oil industry’s interests ahead of the public interest.

98 percent funded by multinational corporations, ALEC is described by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” and a lobbyist-legislator dating service. It brings together corporate lobbyists and right wing politicians to vote up or down on “model bills” written by lobbyists in service to their corporate clientele behind closed doors at its annual meetings.

Dumping fracking waste into the eco-system

Environmentalists are calling for stricter regulations after the owner of an excavating company ordered his employees to dump drilling waste into a storm drain. Ben Lupo, owner of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating, admitted to the Ohio EPA he ordered the workers to dump the waste. He was arrested and charged Feb. 14 in federal court for violating the Clean Water Act.

‘They’re the birthers of fracking.’ A conversation with Josh Fox

Last week, a group of House Republicans were treated to a screening of FrackNation — a KickStarter’d documentary that aims to debunk the Oscar-nominated, fracking-skeptical GasLand. I reported a bit on the screening (which ended with free DVDs for attendees) and reviewed the movie, paying notice to how filmmaker Phelim McAleer appeared to frazzle GasLand director Josh Fox. Early in the film, McAleer shows up at a Q&A with Fox and asks him why his movie didn’t explain that methane has been in some water supplies for years, and that shocking video of water being lit on fire wasn’t as shocking as it looked. Fox asks for McAleer’s credentials and calls the question “irrelevent.” McAleer, duly inspired, makes a movie.

How would New York deal with hydrofracking wastewater?

About four million gallons of water goes into a typical Marcellus Shale well during the fracking process. As much as 20 percent of what went in comes back out right away. That’s what’s known as flowback water. Over the life of a producing well, more than a million gallons comes out, and after the initial flowback the rest is known as produced water.

In Pennsylvania, treating that water for metals and total dissolved solids and radioactive materials at public treatment plants has caused problems.

Shell to push natural gas for trains, vehicles

Moving to establish itself as the leading U.S. provider of cutting edge fuel for trucks, trains and vessels, Royal Dutch Shell will announce plans Tuesday for two new plants it says will double the nation’s supply of liquefied natural gas.

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