Environmental Must-Reads – September 30, 2013

Fracking Chemicals May Be Unknown, Even To Gas Drillers, Lawsuit Documents Suggest

Critics of hydraulic fracturing, known widely as “fracking,” have been pushing hard for natural gas companies to disclose all of the chemicals in the fluids that are used in the process. But what if the companies themselves don’t even know what those chemicals are?

Oil-fracking regs tap well of resentment

After the 2010 gubernatorial election, former legislator and activist Tom Hayden touted Jerry Brown’s past willingness to stand up to “powerful interests” in the oil industry as a sure sign that California would eschew fossil-fuel dependence and embark on a green-energy revolution.

5 Things California’s Fracking Bill Will Do

Senate Bill 4, which imposes new regulation of fracking in the state of California, has come under fire from environmental groups and other opponents of the increasingly common practice of hydraulic fracturing of underground natural gas and oil deposits.

Project Underway to Identify Deep Well Injection Sites in OH, PA, & WV

Scientists at the Batelle Memorial Institute in Columbus are leading a search for sites where companies can pump fracking waste underground in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The two-year project, funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, is a response to the growing amount of polluted wastewater that bubbles out of fracked shale wells. Millions of barrels of the waste are pumped into disposal wells, many of which are in Ohio.

Shale Gas Development Linked to Traffic Accidents in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has seen the development of more than 5,000 hydraulically—fracked shale gas wells since 2004. The fracking process itself requires water and other liquids to work, not to mention rigs, other equipment, and labor, to fully develop the well. The water used in hydraulic fracturing is primarily brought to and from a well via tanker trucks, sometimes requiring more than a thousand trips per well—and much of these trips are along rural roads or through small towns.

Colorado Rivers Illustrate Realities of Extreme Weather Activated by Climate Change

The river raced. I was standing near the bridge on College Avenue over the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, CO. Due to the torrential rainstorms, the river had peaked about six hours earlier in the middle of the night, but it was still flowing about 100 times bigger than it usually does in September. A huge tree raged along in the floodwaters, smacked up against the bridge with a cracking sound, and then disappeared under the bridge. Spectators oohed and aahed–a couple dozen of us were watching, mostly because almost everyone in this town of 160,000 people had nothing else to do. The river, which encircles most of the roads leading out of town, rose up and closed down every bridge. We watched and stared and took pictures.

Polis, DeFazio Urge Hearing on Oil and Gas Leaks After Colorado Floods

Today, Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) asked the House Resources Committee to hold a hearing on oil and gas spills caused by the recent catastrophic floods in Colorado.

“Not only have my constituents been dealing with damage to their homes, schools, and roads, they are increasingly concerned about the toxic spills that have occurred from the flooding of nearly 1,900 fracking wells in Colorado,” stated Polis. “Congress must deal with this issue to ensure that natural disasters do not also become public health disasters.”

Town Board Bans Fracking By-Products and Enacts Private Road Upkeep Law

Philipstown’s Town Board Wednesday (Sept. 25) banned fracking by-products and adopted a law requiring agreements for upkeep of private roads in new subdivisions. The board also launched the process for enacting a moratorium on further wind-turbine applications until it can update the 2011 zoning law to deal with such forms of alternate energy.

Friction over fracking leads to drilling showdown

On a chilly March night, city councilmembers faced an unusual sight: citizens imploring them to increase taxes. They had packed council chambers to plead for a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within city limits. Industry and state officials, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, intimated that such a move could get Fort Collins sued for overstepping local authority. Anti-fracking proponents didn’t blink at the potential costs of a lawsuit. One told city leaders: “Feel free to raise my property taxes.”

In BP Trial, The Amount Of Oil Lost Is at Issue

With billions of dollars in penalties at stake, the civil trial of the British oil company BP begins its second phase on Monday, which will set the amount of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers and soiled hundreds of miles of beaches.

The government will argue that a total 4.2 million barrels of oil was discharged into the sea over 87 days, the equivalent of nearly one-quarter of all the oil that is consumed in the United States in a day. BP will counter that the number was closer to 2.45 million barrels. This phase of the trial will also determine if BP prepared adequately for a blowout and if it responded properly once the oil started flowing.

BP again fighting $11 billion fine from Gulf oil spill in court

BP’s lawyers will fight attempts to fine the oil giant up to $18 billion (£11.1bn) over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, when a new trial opens in New Orleans on Monday.

The latest legal battle revolves around the company’s efforts to cap its runaway well, and the amount of oil that entered the Gulf of Mexico during the 87-day spill.

BP Fights to Shrink Gulf Spill Estimate to Cap Verdict

BP Plc (BP/), seeking to reduce potential water pollution fines of as much as $18 billion, will try to convince a judge that less oil spilled in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster than the U.S. claims and that it capped the deep-sea gusher as quickly as possible.

BP oil spill trial’s second phase, starting Monday, will play key role in deciding massive fines

Dozens of lawyers return to a federal courtroom in New Orleans on Monday to begin a month-long argument over whether BP’s efforts to stem the 87-day flow of oil from its April 2010 Macondo well blowout were adequate and how much oil was released.

Oil and gas permitting to continue, but 50 percent of DOD civilian workers would be furloughed without budget deal

The federal agency that oversees oil and gas production says it will continue to process applications for new drilling permits and perform routine inspections if there’s a partial government shutdown.

According to a contingency plan for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, 302 of the 442 employees in its Gulf Region Office, most of them in New Orleans, would continue to work without a spending deal.

Realtors struggle in wake of oil leak at Mayflower

Efforts to buy and sell homes in Mayflower have been not been easy since an ExxonMobil Pegasus Pipeline ruptured in March and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in the town near Lake Conway, a local real estate broker said.

Ecosystem may long feel effects of oil spill

Biologists from Hendrix College and the University of Central Arkansas say the ecosystem within the Lake Conway Watershed is likely still in danger six months after the oil spill in Mayflower.

Exxon aims for total remediation

Aaron Stryk, communications and media advisor for ExxonMobil Corporation, said Exxon Mobil has made a lot of progress since the Pegasus pipeline burst, spilling 210,000 gallons of oil in Mayflower six months ago.

“We’ve transferred to remediation and monitoring,” he said. “We’ve removed all free standing oil as well as contaminated soil and vegetation.”

House Democrats call for hearing on oil, gas spills in Colorado floods

Two House Democrats are urging Congress to investigate oil and gas spills caused by massive flooding in Colorado – a state where the number of oil and gas wells has doubled since 2006, when horizontal drilling and fracking were introduced.

Congressmen Jared Polis, D-CO, and Peter DeFazio, D-OR, in a letter sent Friday to the House Natural Resources Committe, called for a hearing on the spills. DeFazio is the committee’s senior Democrat.

Why environmentalists oppose Keystone pipeline

Congressional Republicans are planning to make another public push for President Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built across the U.S.-Canadian border, but critics are adamant that the project won’t create thousands of jobs and will wreak havoc on the planet.

Heitkamp warns Obama on Keystone XL Pipeline approval

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a freshman Democrat from North Dakota, is ready to take on President Obama over the long-delayed approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline — and she predicts her side will prevail.

Replanting native grasses in pipeline routes

At Dobie Ranch, brushy plants common across South Texas blanket rolling hills: granjeno, tasajillo, hog-plum, mesquite, prickly pear.

But where a new pipeline route slices the property, native grasses such as slender gramma and pappusgrass sway in the breeze, knee- to waist-high and giving a glimpse of what the land once looked like.

Imperial Oil leads push to drill deep in Canadian Arctic

Major energy companies led by Imperial Oil Ltd. have applied to drill for crude in the Beaufort Sea, targeting an area that could require operations in the deepest water yet for the industry in the Canadian Arctic.

Russian court remands last of Greenpeace Arctic oil protesters

A Russian court has ordered eight remaining Greenpeace activists be held in custody for two months over a protest against Arctic offshore drilling, the environment advocacy group said on Sunday, dashing any hope some might be released quickly.

Seven more Greenpeace crew members jailed

A Russian court ordered seven more crew members of a Greenpeace ship to be detained for two months over an open sea protest against Arctic oil drilling, as part of a probe into alleged piracy.

Fukushima owner to receive $6.1b

Creditors are set to provide $6.1 billion in financing to Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), a person involved in the talks has revealed, offering a lifeline to the owner of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Decommissioning Tepco’s other Fukushima nuclear plant needs special treatment –minister

The decommissioning of Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant, which is near the wrecked Daiichi plant, cannot be dealt with in the same manner as the decommissioning of other nuclear plants, Japanese trade and industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Monday.

Tepco resumes water filtration at Fukushima nuke plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday it has resumed test operations of the new high-tech water treatment system at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, following its suspension late last week.

Plastic pad clogs Fukushima water cleaning system

A piece of plastic padding which clogged up a drain is thought to have caused the breakdown of a decontamination system at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the operator said Sunday.

TEPCO ‘finds crack’ in Fukushima’s water tank after huge sea leak

Workers from Japan’s TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi plant have located a crack in the bottom of a tank that may have leaked 300 tons of radioactive water in August, Japanese media reports. This comes as the company seeks to reopen another nuclear plant.

Operator of Fukushima nuclear plant wants to open more reactors

The operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant has asked the Japanese government for permission to reopen two reactors at a different location.

Tepco halts trial of water treatment system at Fukushima nuke plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has stopped a trial run of its much-vaunted water treatment system at the Fukushima No. 1 plant just a day after it resumed operations.

The move comes after Tepco detected technical problems with line C of the advanced liquid processing system (ALPS), which was restarted after midnight Thursday and had processed around 100 tons of toxic water before its suspension.

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