Environmental Must-Reads – March 5, 2014

New study of gas drilling and ground water shows gas is often in water before drilling begins

Much of the debate over fracking for natural gas has centered around the potential to pollute drinking water. What’s not explicit in much of the discussion is that – in Pennsylvania – the only thing that has polluted people’s well water as a result of drilling is natural gas itself.

Known as “methane migration” or “stray gas,” the appearance of natural gas in people’s well water is behind the image of the flaming tap made famous in the film “Gasland.”

FWS finalizes ‘landmark’ lesser prairie chicken protections from drilling

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a voluntary agreement designed to protect the lesser prairie chicken and its dwindling habitat from oil and gas drilling activity as the deadline approaches for the service to decide whether to list the colorful bird as threatened.

FWS and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) announced late Friday that they had signed the formal agreement, called the Range-wide Oil and Gas Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances.

Domestic Crude Oil Drives a Cautious Refining Revival

Since its construction in 1980, the small hard-luck refinery on the outskirts of this little cattle town has been locked shut for more years than it has been open.

Situated a hundred miles inland and with domestic crude oil production declining year after year, the refinery could not compete with the large refineries on the Gulf Coast that imported vast supplies of high-quality oil from Nigeria, Angola and North Africa. Rust built up around the refinery’s pipes and storage tanks over the decades, just as it did on dozens of other refineries that closed.

The Great Divide

Local communities tend to get rattled when big energy shows up in small places—especially when the places are as beautiful as Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front.

A community divided – how a small American town fared in the age of fracking

NESTLED between the mountains and rivers of Northern Pennsylvania lies Wellsboro, a picturesque town about the same size as Bantry in Cork.

For the past century, it relied on farming, small business and tourism. But life changed for its 3,500 residents in 2006 when exploration of a giant rock formation beneath their feet, loaded with natural gas, began.

Fracking Question Looms Over California Congressional Race

While California’s Central Valley is known for being a top producer of agricultural goods in the state, that reputation could one day be surpassed by the mass production of another valuable commodity: energy.

Whether or not that happens will hinge in part on what position the region’s elected officials take on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, a technique for extracting oil or gas under the earth that uses injections of water and chemicals under a high pressure to penetrate bedrock. Kern County sits atop the Monterey Shale Deposit, the largest known shale oil deposit known to exist, which the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated in 2011 contains half of all the recoverable oil within U.S. borders.

BP Must Live With $9.2 Billion Oil-Spill Deal, Court Says

BP Plc (BP/) was told by a federal appeals court to abide by terms of a $9.2 billion settlement with victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after failing to satisfy judges that a claims administrator is misinterpreting the deal.

BP, Europe’s second-largest oil company, must resume paying millions of dollars in business-loss claims that were temporarily halted in December while the company fought to block payments over losses not directly linked to the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans said in yesterday’s ruling.

Court rejects BP claim that Gulf oil spill settlement is unfair

A federal appeals court in New Orleans rejected the argument by British oil giant BP that it should not have to pay claims related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill if claimants cannot prove the economic losses to their businesses were directly the result of the disaster.

The 2-to-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Monday upholds a December ruling that forces BP to authorize the payments under the multibillion dollar settlement made early last year.

Plains Midstream’s 2012 Oil Spill Criticized By Alberta Regulator

The owner of a pipeline that leaked nearly half a million litres of oil into a central Alberta river has been heavily criticized by the province’s energy watchdog.

The Alberta Energy Regulator has concluded that Plains Midstream didn’t inspect its Rangeland pipeline often enough, didn’t pay enough attention to government warnings, failed to enact adequate mitigation measures once the leak occurred and communicated poorly with hundreds of people affected by the spill in June 2012.

Lake Ariel tainted by oil spill

A Lake Twp. store and a Newfoundland trucking company are being investigated after an oil spill polluted a Wayne County lake where wildlife is still recovering from an overload of water treatment chemicals, the state Department of Environmental Protection said.

The sheen on the top of Lake Ariel was first noticed Monday, Colleen Connolly, DEP spokeswoman, said.

Chevron Wins Big With ‘Appalling’ Court Ruling

A federal judge delivered a court victory to Chevron on Tuesday, ruling that a U.S. lawyer had engaged in “corrupt means” to obtain a multi-billion dollar judgment in 2011 against the oil giant for its decades of pollution in Ecuador.

Critics of the ruling say it means further injustice for the tens of thousands of Ecuadoreans who continue to live with the legacy left by Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, from its dumping toxic waste and spilling millions of gallons of crude oil between 1964 and 1992, creating what has been dubbed a Chernobyl in the Amazon which has sickened both ecosystems and communities.

It only takes otters 25 years to recover from an oil spill

Kinda hard to believe, but the Exxon Valdez oil spill was 25 years ago. “Yeah, sheesh,” says the sea otter population that has spent this entire time struggling to recover from the spill’s effects.

Back in 1989, the 10.8 million gallons of crude oil that leaked into Prince William Sound killed otters and 20 other species. Roughly 1,000 otters died from the spill right away, and lingering oil in clams (otter food) and in otters’ fur slowly killed 1,000 to 2,000 more otters later.

DEP proposes $2.3 million fine for 2008 gasoline spill from Sunoco pipeline

A 12,000-gallon gasoline spill from a ruptured pipeline in Westmoreland County in 2008 could cost Sunoco Logistics Partners more than $2.3 million in civil penalties from the state.

The Department of Environmental Protection filed a complaint Friday with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board asking it to impose a fine of at least $2.38 million against Sunoco Logistics and its subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline.

Keystone XL to be Much Worse for Climate than State Department Says: Report

The development of the Keystone XL pipeline would have far greater ramifications for the climate than was highlighted in the State Department’s recently released final environmental impact analysis, says the The Carbon Tracker Initiative in a report released Monday.

The State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS), which was released on January 31, says the pipeline “remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States,” indicating that Canadian tar sands would be extracted at the same rate whether or not the pipeline was built, due to an increase of oil-by-rail transport.

Enbridge announces plans for third pipeline

Enbridge Energy said Tuesday it plans to build yet another new oil pipeline into the Northland, on top of two expansion projects already in the works.

Enbridge said it would end service of its aged Line No. 3 from Alberta to Superior and replace it with a larger-capacity line to bring northwestern Canadian oil into the U.S.

Keystone XL pipeline will be built, TransCanada CEO predicts

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline will receive President Obama’s blessing and be built to transport crude oil from Canada to Texas, TransCanada Corp Chief Executive Russ Girling predicted on Tuesday.

Girling’s confidence helps project a sense of inevitability around the $5.4 billion project, which supporters say would create badly needed jobs, and offset a recent unfavorable Nebraska court ruling and more than five years of political wrangling in Washington.

Little Known Pipeline Draws Debate in North Texas

It snakes through North Texas, buried or in the process of being buried, drawing little attention for anyone other than the people who live and work near it.

“People should be concerned about this …,” said Rita Beving, a member of the watchdog group, Public Citizen, and an opponent of the new Seaway pipeline being placed in parts of North Texas.

Enbridge balks at claims Energy East pipeline boon for Quebec refineries

Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. is challenging a key claim by pipeline rival, TransCanada Corp., that Quebec refineries will greatly benefit from construction of the $12-billion Energy East project.

In a project description filed Tuesday with the National Energy Board, TransCanada said its 1.1-million barrel per day pipeline would allow eastern refineries to replace imported oil with cheaper domestic supplies from western Canada.

More crude oil is travelling through Toronto, without public notice

More and more oil, some of it highly flammable crude from North Dakota’s Bakken region, is trundling on rail lines through the heart of Toronto in aged tank cars widely recognized as substandard.

Oil shipments by rail have increased dramatically in Canada over the past five years, from 500 carloads in 2009 to an estimated 140,000 in 2013, as production booms in western Canada and North Dakota, where oil extracted from its Bakken region is proving more explosive than traditional crude.

Seattle City Council concerned over potential oil train explosions

In just the past year, we’ve seen deadly reminders of the dangers of oil trains.

Trains have been moving crude oil through Seattle for years but recently the traffic has picked up significantly and it’s causing major concerns.

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