Environmental Must-Reads – May 21, 2013

Fracking boom triggers water battle in North Dakota

In towns across North Dakota, the wellhead of the North American energy boom, the locals have taken to quoting the adage: “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.”

It’s not that they lack water, like Texas and California. They are swimming in it, and it is free for the taking. Yet as the state’s Bakken shale fields have grown, so has the fight over who has the right to tap into the multimillion-dollar market to supply water to the energy sector.

Obama Admin. Approves ALEC Model Bill for Fracking Chemical Fluid Disclosure on Public Lands

On May 16, the Obama Interior Department announced its long-awaited rules governing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on federal lands.

As part of its 171-page document of rules, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the U.S. Dept. of Interior (DOI), revealed it will adopt the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil for fracking chemical fluid disclosure on U.S. public lands.

Shale fracking proves $30 billion-a-year boon to waste disposal industry

The explosive expansion of drilling of natural gas and oil wells in shale deposits in the United States and Canada using a directional drilling method dubbed “fracking” may have spawned a $30 billion per year expansion of the waste disposal business, waste and investment industry executives were told Monday.

Scientists find new tools for tracing fracking impacts

Sherlock Holmes used a magnifying glass to trace a fingerprint to its source. Andrew Barron favors miniscule rust particles, millions of gallons of water and a magnet.

Researchers in the Rice University chemistry professor’s laboratory have developed nanoparticles that will flow with the fluid used to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells, slip through rocks and travel wherever the water ends up – in a holding pond at the surface, a tanker on the highway or, in a worst-case scenario, a nearby drinking water well.

Fracking ban back before Fort Collins City Council

The ability of the lone oil production company operating within Fort Collins city to drill and frack new wells is back in the hands of the Fort Collins City Council.

Council members on Tuesday are scheduled to vote on two items that would affect Prospect Energy’s activities in the northeast corner of city limits, including whether it could explore for oil and gas on land near the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

Review finds need for more water quality data in the Marcellus shale region

What to do with Marcellus shale wastewater is one of the biggest concerns in Pennsylvania, and few published studies have evaluated such wastewater effects on regional waters, according to a review co-authored by professors at the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State.

Johnson County passes fracking moratorium

The Johnson County Board of Commissioners on Monday passed a one-year moratorium on hy-draulic fracturing.

The board voted 2-1 in favor of putting the brakes on the controversial process that involves horizontal drilling combined with the injection of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to fracture deep rock formations in order to release oil and natural gas.

Aftermath of a Drilling Boom: Wyoming stuck with abandoned gas wells

The Powder River Basin coal-bed methane gas industry that drilled at a pace of 2,500 wells annually for a decade has been in sharp decline in recent years. Operators have mostly stopped drilling and are now idling thousands of wells, and perhaps thousands more have been abandoned —  “orphaned” — by operators struggling financially.

Last week, Wyoming lawmakers heard testimony that the number of orphaned wells likely exceeds 1,200 — and more will be added to the list of liabilities to the state.

Lovers of Pa.’s Loyalsock Forest Fight to Limit Drilling There

Deep in the Loyalsock State Forest, where no cell phone signal reaches, the sounds of rushing waterfalls and forest birds are suddenly interrupted by the sound of a helicopter.

Paul Zeph of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society says the noise could be related to gas drilling. Drillers will often drop seismic testing equipment into remote areas that are difficult to reach by roads. And that leads Zeph to cite one of the many worries that naturalists and outdoors lovers have with plans to expand drilling in the Loyalsock.

Marcellus Shale fracking: Is well water really clean?

No proof of groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania from hydrofracking doesn’t guarantee the water’s clean. More monitoring is needed to know for sure, experts say.

BP wants U.S. government to reduce court-ordered oil-spill payouts

BP has gone crying to mummy over the big payouts it’s having to make because of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. It wants the U.K. government to ask the U.S. government to step in and give a hand.

BP says it’s being forced to make overly large payments to companies in the Gulf Coast region that claim to have lost business because of the spill, and it says those payments are jeopardizing BP’s own financial recovery and potentially putting the company at risk of a hostile takeover. The payments are being calculated by a court using a formula to which BP agreed.

Judge tosses obstruction charge against former BP exec in spill case

A federal judge Monday threw out an obstruction of Congress charge against a former BP executive who had been accused of lying about the amount of oil that was flowing after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt handed a major victory to David Rainey of Houston by issuing the 44-page ruling on several pre-trial motions.

Oil Spill Vs. Oil Leak: Are Shipwrecks Bigger Threats Than The BP Oil Spill? [REPORT]

During World War II, thousands of ships were torpedoed or bombed and subsequently sank to the bottom of the ocean. Today, the U.S. seabed is littered with the remnants of these perished warships, in addition to the thousands of other collapsed vessels peppered just off our coasts — some of which contain barrels of oil that could threaten to leak into our waters.

New NOAA report examines national oil pollution threat from shipwrecks

NOAA presented to the U.S. Coast Guard today a new report that finds that 36 sunken vessels scattered across the U.S. seafloor could pose an oil pollution threat to the nation’s coastal marine resources. Of those, 17 were recommended for further assessment and potential removal of both fuel oil and oil cargo.

Texas Brine says insurers holding up settlement offers

Gov. Bobby Jindal told Texas Brine Co. on Monday “no more excuses, no more delays” on buyouts for Assumption Parish residents near a massive sinkhole and threatened the company’s continued operations in Louisiana if it did not stand by the promised settlements.

Jindal orders review of all Texas Brine permits

Citing what he calls an “inability to meet” its previous commitments, Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday ordered a review of all Texas Brine permits.

Jindal issued the Executive Order in regard to the company whose salt mine collapsed into a massive sinkhole last year, noting that the review would determine if Texas Brine was financially fit.

Shell feared disaster days before Alaska rig grounding –official

Days before a Shell drillship went aground in the storm-tossed Gulf of Alaska, it was clear that towing failures could spell disaster for the vessel, the crew and the marine environment, a company official told a U.S. Coast Guard panel on Monday.

Kulluk grounding: Shell Oil testimony opens Coast Guard hearing in Anchorage

A subdued Anchorage Assembly chambers turned into a federal courtroom of sorts Monday as members of the U.S. Coast Guard questioned Royal Dutch Shell officials over the grounding of one of its prized Arctic drilling vessels in stormy Gulf of Alaska winter weather.

Over a Century after Texas Strikes Oil, Marsh Restoration Completed for an Old Refinery’s Pollution

About five miles from the Texas-Louisiana border sits what was once the Gulf Oil Company’s refinery. It’s now owned by Valero, by way of Chevron. But this century-old refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, has been operating since a year after the famous discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901, which came in the form of a more than 100-foot-high, nine-day-long oil gusher.

Shell, Bayelsa community disagree over cause of oil spill

The Ikarama Community in the Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa has disagreed with the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, over the cause of the reported oil spills from nearby oil wells.

The spill has contaminated the Taylor Creek in Yenagoa and residents of Biseni/JK4 Road told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, that they disagreed that the spills were caused by oil theft.

Billionaire Climate Activist: Obama Will Loose $upport Unless Keystone Pipeline Killed

Tom Steyer, the billionaire climate activist, is threatening Barack Obama if he approves the Keystone XL pipeline. Steyer told Grist magazine that he thinks the vast majority of major fundraisers for Obama will turn their back on him if he doesn’t kill the pipeline

The Koch Brothers’ Toxic Mountain of Petroleum Coke

The New York Times is reporting about a growing, dirty side effect of refining tar sands bitumen from Canada. The evidence is on clear display as a black mountain piles up alongside the Detroit River, thanks in part to Charles and David Koch.

A Better World Lies Beyond Coal, Oil and Gas

Few of us will ever venture past the 60-mile boundary that separates Earth and outer space. If you do, though, you’re likely to experience something known as “the overview effect”—a cognitive shift in how you perceive our planet. Political boundaries disappear, and our atmosphere, which seemed like a boundless expanse of blue from the ground, is suddenly revealed to be a paper-thin shield between life and the dark void of space.

Last week, the fragility of that thin blue shield was underscored by the news that we’ve reached a daily average of 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. That’s the highest level in at least 3 million years. In less than two centuries, we’ve increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) by 42 percent—by burning fossil fuels, degrading our forests and disturbing our soils. And it’s still going up.

Alaska governor launches bid to measure oil in Arctic refuge

For decades, war has been waged over the holy grail of America’s Arctic frontier, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The wide coastal plain on the edge of the Beaufort Sea contains stunning populations of caribou, grizzly, musk oxen and other wildlife — and also an abundant pool of oil and gas.

While Congress has periodically taken steps to consider opening up oil and gas development in the refuge, President Obama and many congressional Democrats have rebuffed any drilling on what conservationists often call America’s Serengeti.

Arctic Refuge Oil Targeted by Alaska Amid U.S. Reluctance

Alaska’s government proposed investing its own cash in an assessment of oil reserves in the U.S. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, seeking to prod the federal government to consider drilling in the protected area.

With the Interior Department working on a management plan for the area, Republican Governor Sean Parnell’s administration said it wants the federal government to study hydrocarbon reserves in the refuge in northeast Alaska.

Nearly 700 crisis-hit residents outside Fukushima seek compensation from nuclear disaster

Hundreds of residents and evacuees from just outside Fukushima say they have been unfairly denied full compensation despite high radiation levels in their area caused by Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster.

Fukushima No. 1 can’t keep its head above tainted water

More than two years into the triple-meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, workers continue to wage a desperate battle to keep the stricken reactors cool while trying to contain the 400 tons of radioactive water produced by the process each day.

Nuclear power industry moves on from Fukushima meltdown: IAEA chief

More than two years since the Fukushima I meltdown in Japan, the global nuclear power industry is “beginning to put the accident behind us and is looking forward to the future,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said Monday.

“Public confidence in the safety of nuclear power was deeply shaken by the accident,” Amano told the audience at the 12th biennial general meeting of the World Association of Nuclear Operators in Moscow, “but I believe we have made good progress in winning back that confidence.”

Fishermen net fish in Fukushima waters to measure radiation levels

A fishing vessel from Fukushima Prefecture caught fish in waters south of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on May 20 to test them for levels of radiation contamination, as local fishing cooperatives hope to soon resume fishing in the area.

Feds again delay San Onofre nuclear plant restart decision

Federal regulators have indefinitely delayed a decision on the proposed restart of the offline San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California, raising new questions Monday about whether the twin reactors will produce electricity again.

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