Environmental Must-Reads – October 9, 2013

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How Fracking Is Bad for Our Bodies

Almost a year after the state health commissioner began an investigation into the safety of fracking, its future in New York remains unclear. Last month, public opposition hit a new high. But fracking proponents dangle job growth and economic gains next to unemployment numbers and anemic local revenues. On the other side, opponents point to pipeline explosions, stray gas contamination, potential spills, and improper disposal of waste.

New Yorkers Tell Hillary Clinton: No to Fracking, Yes to Renewables

Last week, Hillary Clinton gave a lecture on a range of topics at Hamilton College in Oneida County, NY. Unfortunately, she was gravely wrong to tout the fact that the U.S. is seeing record-breaking oil and gas production as good news, which is tied to the expansion of fracking. We hope that Ms. Clinton will consider the facts and reconsider her position.

Penn State project receives $4.9 million NSF grant to study Pennsylvania water

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $4.9 million grant to a team of Penn State researchers led by Distinguished Professor of Geosciences Susan L. Brantley to study the Earth’s surface, including efforts to understand the potential impact of natural gas drilling.

Gov. Brown supports fracking

If anyone had lingering doubts about where California Gov. Jerry Brown stands on fracking, the state’s top oil and gas regulator removed them on Friday.

Speaking at a panel discussion on fracking, the head of California’s Department of Conservation, Mark Nechodom, said the governor backs the controversial oil-production technique. His comment came after the moderator asked each of the panel’s participants to spend five minutes discussing his or her organization’s position on fracking.

Sustainability of Agriculture Depends on Fracking Regulations

California is the 4th largest oil and gas producing state; according to the Western States Petroleum Association, California received a combined $5.8 billion in fuel excise, corporate, and personal income taxes in 2009. The state is also home to the largest oil shale play in the nation, the Monterey Shale – containing 15 billion barrels of oil – which could be accessed through the process of hydraulic fracturing.

GW Forest ‘fracking’ foes to release report

Opponents of opening the George Washington National Forest to so-called fracking are releasing a report to support their anti-drilling cause.

The report to be released Tuesday in northern Virginia argues that fracking is a destructive drilling practice that has no place in the largest U.S. forest on the East Coast.

Some Foes of Fracking Reach Out to Drillers on Safety

The U.S. is on track this year to become the world’s largest oil and natural-gas producer, a feat it will achieve in no small part due to the proliferation of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

The oil and gas industry sees fracking as a way to foster U.S. energy independence and spur economic growth. Hard-line environmentalists, on the other hand, decry the technology as a public health hazard, citing reports of contaminated air and drinking water as a reason to ban it altogether.

Chevron abandons bid to explore for Lithuanian shale gas

U.S. oil and energy giant Chevron on Tuesday decided to withdraw its bid to explore for shale gas in Lithuania due to new regulations.

“Significant changes to the fiscal, legislative and regulatory climate in Lithuania have substantially impacted the operational and commercial basis of the investment decision,” the company said in a statement.

Petition Calls For Ban On Mining And Drilling On Public Lands While National Parks Are Closed

Cathy Frye didn’t almost die in the Texas desert as a direct result of the government shutdown — but the fact that Big Bend National Park, where she and her husband usually go for their anniversary hike, was closed led to a series of unfortunate events which almost cost Frye her life. The couple wandered unfamiliar trails for almost five days after attempting a hike outside the national park and Frye is still in the hospital after a dramatic rescue, being treated for dehydration, severe sunburn and other injuries resulting from her ordeal.

Across the nation, outdoor adventurers, casual Sunday picnickers, and every other American citizen are currently barred from so-called “public lands” as the government shutdown drags on.

Groups Send List of Requirements for Fracking Regulations to Illinois Officials 

As absentee oil and gas companies register with the state of Illinois this month, downstate citizens groups are taking the lead among statewide environmental groups and laying out scientific and legal standards for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to consider prior to drafting the controversial horizontal hydraulic fracking rules.

California Passes Fracking Law

California is the most recent state to pass a new, comprehensive statute with which to regulate the hydraulic fracturing industry.

The California statute is making headlines, and for a good reason: California contains an estimated two thirds of the nation’s shale-rock oil deposits. Further, since many details underlying the law remain unsettled, the stakes remain high – particularly in light of the fact that the statute authorizes civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation.

New York City Opens New Ultra-Violet Drinking Water Disinfection Plant – the World’s Largest

New York City added a new protective shield to its drinking water supply infrastructure today, as City Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland cut the ribbon on a $1.6 billion dollar ultra-violet disinfection plant on city-owned land in Westchester County

Large gasoline spill linked to benzene in Village of Jackson well

A July 2012 gasoline pipeline spill in the Town of Jackson is the likely source of benzene detected in a Village of Jackson municipal well in May of this year, a village consultant’s investigation determined.

This is the first contamination of a municipal well linked to the spill of 54,600 gallons of gasoline from a fuel distribution line owned by West Shore Pipe Line Co. of Illinois.

Pounds of oily material washed onto Louisiana beaches, swamps

With the passing of Tropical Storm Karen this weekend, contractors picked up 33 pounds of oily material off Elmer’s Island and about 23 pounds off Grand Isle on Monday afternoon after the stormy water helped bring mainly tar balls to beach areas of southern Louisiana.

At BP oil spill trial, Justice Department witnesses bolster larger spill number

The parade of witnesses aimed at bolstering the federal government’s argument that 4.2 million gallons of oil spilled from BP’s Macondo well in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster continued in federal court on Tuesday, amid signs that the trial portion of the case could end earlier than expected.

Phase 2 Of BP Trial Focuses On Amount Of Spilled Oil

In a New Orleans courtroom this week, BP and the federal government are arguing over how much oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico after the in 2010.

Oil flowed from the out-of-control well for nearly three months. Just how much oil spilled will be key in determining the amount BP will have to pay in federal fines and penalties.

Louisiana – TS Karen leaves tar balls, beach erosion on Grand Isle

Life is returning to normal on Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island.

Monday, a parade of boats netted loads of shrimp just off the coast of Grand Isle.

Just when you though it was safe to say Tropical Storm Karen came and went without a fuss, islanders found their beach covered in tar balls.

Deepwater Horizon Settlement Fine-Tuned By Fifth Circuit

The Fifth Circuit has taken steps to fine-tune the interpretation and implementation of the agreement BP negotiated to settle its massive liabilities arising from the April 2010 oil spill following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. Interpretation of the 1,000- plus-page settlement agreement—which the court described as one of the “largest and most novel class actions in American history”—has led to several disputes between BP and the plaintiffs’ class counsel. This recent activity should not impact the ability of businesses that employ accrual accounting systems to recover qualified business economic losses under the settlement agreement.

Recovery of deep sea life after Gulf oil spill may take decades

One of the first studies to evaluate deep sea life after the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has found far ranging impacts that may take decades to reverse. The research was published on August 7, 2013 in the journal PLoS ONE.

During the fall of 2010, scientists collected hundreds of deep-sea sediment samples from 170 sites in the Gulf of Mexico. A number of those sites (68 sites) were analyzed closely for oil contamination and the presence of bottom dwelling invertebrates.

BP Exposed Neighbors to Toxic Gases, Jury Told at Trial End

BP Plc deliberately exposed neighbors of a Texas refinery to tons of cancer-causing gases and then misled regulators and community leaders about the dangers, a lawyer told a Texas jury.

State shuffling dollars to pay for Bayou Corne sinkhole

Seventeen days into the new state budget year, the state Department of Natural Resources needed to borrow $8 million from the state treasury to meet the day-to-day expenses of Bayou Corne.

Months later, the money’s almost gone.

McDaniel asks Griffin to help reopen gov’t, benefit Mayflower

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin on Tuesday, pleading with him to work with other legislators and reopen the government. The focus of the letter was on the shutdown’s impact on the Mayflower oil spill investigation and lawsuit.

Pipeline company says new steps will minimize future spills

Enbridge Energy LLP says it learned its lesson from the disastrous 2010 oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, adopting new procedures to minimize impact from any future spills.

Energy company officials Friday shared with local officials their new procedures to shut down pipelines, boost communications and pay damages more quickly.

Quebec’s Keystone conundrum

When it comes to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, there are two Canadas.

In one camp are the die-hard Keystone supporters, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Canadian national government and the province of Alberta, which have launched aggressive lobbying campaigns to secure U.S. approval of the project.

The Latest on the Keystone XL Pipeline

In Texas, the Keystone XL pipeline, which will take heavy oil harvested from sand pits in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas, has raised questions about eminent domain and potentially leaky pipes. Despite those controversies, Texas’ portion of the pipeline is nearly completed. That section will link up with the existing Keystone pipeline to trasport oil from Canada. If the XL portion is ultimately approved, even more Canadian tar sands oil will be coming to Texas.

Oil companies, environmentalists spar in hearings over west-east pipeline to Quebec

It’s a controversial project that pits the economic interests against environmental ones.

Calgary-based energy giant Enbridge Inc. is making a case before the National Energy Board in Montreal this week to reverse the flow of oil on the Line 9 pipeline and increase its capacity.

From Caspian Sea to Arctic to Middle East, How Oil Pipelines Threaten Democracy & Planet’s Survival

We spend the hour looking at politics, money and the pursuit of oil, from the series of pipelines originating in the oil-rich Caspian Sea to the deposits in the Arctic Sea where Russia has charged 30 people with piracy for a Greenpeace protest against drilling, to the vast reserves of the Middle East that have fueled conflict for decades. Three guests join us for a roundtable discussion: Anna Galkina, a member of the London-based arts, human rights and environmental justice organization Platform; Platform founder James Marriott, author of “The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London”; and Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University professor and author of the books “Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil” and “Colonizing Egypt.”

Unplugging Bottlenecks in Oil and Gas Deliveries

THE North American shale boom has brought with it many benefits, including new jobs, cheaper electricity and the potential for energy independence.

But as producers tap ever more oil and gas, they are also exposing major shortcomings in the country’s transportation system and grappling with a problem of plenty: how to move all that product to market? “The problem is transport,” said Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston.

‘Fukushima might make 2020 Tokyo Olympics impossible’

There is no reason to believe that radiation leaks at Fukushima will be contained by 2020, so the Tokyo Olympics can become impossible, nuclear technology historian Robert Jacobs told RT.

Last August Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for the first time requested international help in its increasingly desperate fight to contain the leaks at the crippled nuclear plant. Historian of social and cultural aspects of nuclear technology and Associate Professor at Hiroshima Peace University, Robert Jacobs believes this means the problem is catastrophically large.

Japan Admitted Fukushima Is Not ‘Under Control’ Six Days After Getting 2020 Olympics

The fiasco in Fukushima has been hobbling from cover-ups to partial revelations ever since the three reactors have melted down after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The owner of the power plant, TEPCO – famous for its parsimoniousness with the truth and lackadaisical handling of the fiasco – always pretended that the situation was under control.

David Suzuki: Despite Fukushima, scientists say eating West Coast fish is safe

Following Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, fear spread about risks of leaked radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant —for the health of those living in or near Fukushima or involved in cleanup efforts, and for the planet and the potential impacts on our complex marine food web.

Japanese students call for better communication in wake of Fukushima disaster

Students in Japan say more transparency is needed from governments and corporations during disasters.

The comments follow criticism of the Japanese Government and TEPCO over the handling of the March 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster.

TEPCO paid 500 million yen to open Fukushima branch of Russian museum

Lavish payments doled out by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to gain local support for nuclear power projects included 500 million yen ($5 million) for an aborted attempt to open a branch of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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