Weekend Environmental Must-Reads – February 2-3, 2013

Farmers in Ohio divided on ‘fracking’

The growing amount of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” being performed in Ohio as part of a booming oil and gas industry is causing a split in opinion among the state’s farmers.Some see the movement as an economic opportunity, while others see the practice as a threat to their livelihoods.

New York Fracking Opponents, Binghamton Mayor Escalate Efforts To Block Natural Gas Industry

Eileen Hamlin leaned in towards the computer screen for a closer look at the purple blocks peppering a digital map of New York state. The color denoted land leased to natural gas companies in anticipation of a potential lift of the state’s four-and-a-half-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“I’ve just learned that I’m surrounded on three sides by leased property,” said Hamlin, a finger pointing out her Kirkwood land on the map. She sat still for several more seconds, eyes frozen to the screen.

Fracking vs. beer: Does natural gas exploration threaten America’s breweries?

You can’t make beer without clean water, but now some breweries are afraid that fracking will threaten the very water supplies they depend upon.

“It’s all about the quality of the water,” Simon Thorpe, CEO of the Ommegang Brewery  in Cooperstown, N.Y., told NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” this week. “The technology surrounding fracking is still not fully developed. Accidents are happening. Places are getting polluted.” He says the company established its brewery in upstate New York because of the access to fresh water. “If that water supply is threatened by pollution, it makes it very difficult for us to produce world-class beer here.” He suggests waiting until the technology is safer before its use is expanded.

Link Between Low Birth Weight and Fracking

This research suggests the health of newborn babies is adversely affected in areas close to sites undertaking natural gas extraction by way of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking; the method of obtaining natural gas by blasting shale with a solution of water and chemicals conducted by Elaine L. Hill, from Cornell University.

The Fight to Save Old Logger’s Path

Pennsylvania is a central location of the fracking industry, and some environmentalists hoping to protect an area of natural beauty have found a mystery over its status. Reid Frazier reports.

Panel OKs Bill on Fracking Data

An effort to require oil and gas companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of wells through an online database at least 30 days in advance narrowly passed a House committee Friday, despite opposition from industry leaders.

Climate change: The next civil rights battle

Twentieth-century America saw hard-fought civil rights progress for organized labor, women, African Americans and gays. In the 21st century, the looming civil rights battle that will affect all Americans, all humanity, is the battle to save planet Earth from becoming uninhabitable due to climate change. And if we don’t win this one, there might not be a 22nd.

DEP plans new pollution limits for well sites, compressor stations

State regulators have finalized new air pollution limits for natural gas compressor equipment and, for the first time, proposed standards to curb air emissions from well pad activities tied to the development of the Marcellus Shale, the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday.

Pennsylvania DEP Ignores Stringent Testing for Water Contamination from Fracking

Last week, a news report by the Timesonline revealed that the Pennsylvania Department of Environment (DEP) has been avoiding using its most stringent water testing method for determining if local drinking water has been polluted by fracking. The report serves as yet one more chapter in the continuing saga regarding DEP’s water testing practices that turn a blind eye to fracking contaminants.

Legal loophole keeps fracturing mixes murky

It’s been a year since the Texas oil and gas industry had to start publicly disclosing the mix of water and chemicals it uses for hydraulic fracturing.

But thanks to a loophole in state law that allows companies to withhold trade secrets, it’s still largely unclear exactly which chemicals are being pumped thousands of feet underground across the state.

Colorado Communities Take On Fight Against Energy Land Leases

For a glimpse into the complications of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, follow a curling mountain road through the aspens and into central Colorado’s North Fork Valley, where billboards promote “gently grown” fruits and farmers sell fresh milk and raw honey from pay-what-you-can donation boxes.

Here, amid dozens of organic farms, orchards and ranches, the federal government is opening up thousands of acres of public land for oil and gas drilling, part of its largest energy lease sale in Colorado since Mr. Obama took office.

Water safety an issue as fracking begins

The safety of water supplies remains an important issue as natural gas extraction related to the Marcellus Shale begins to move into the area, local public service district officials said.

The process of extracting the gas, fracking, uses sand, water and chemicals injected at high pressures to blast open shale rock and release the trapped gas inside, is a concern for many people.

Lease sale pits drilling against new land uses

The harvest was “huge” at Stone Cottage Cellars, perched on a hill overlooking the North Fork Valley, and owner Brent Helleckson says he plans to make his first pinot grigio.

Last fall, however, as well as making wine, Helleckson filed a protest on a federal Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease sale of 20,000 acres in the valley in southwest Colorado.

A fresh review of drilling the Roan Plateau

In 2008, the Bureau of Land Management disregarded the views of many Coloradans and opened up more than 55,000 acres of the Roan Plateau on the Western Slope to drilling.

Reacting to the lease plan at the time, Gov. Bill Ritter called it a “sad day” for Colorado. “It’s a missed opportunity — one we will never get back,” he said.

As the adage goes, never say never.

Slime-Covered Seabirds Wash Ashore

A mysterious greasy substance has been found on hundreds of seabirds — some dead, others injured — that have been washing up along England’s south coast.

The birds, mostly guillemots, have been discovered along beaches from Weymouth to Torquay covered in the waxy film; many have very sore legs, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has been rescuing the slime-coated creatures.

Thousands of seabirds may be harmed by oil off UK coast

As conservationists clean up hundreds of birds coated in refined mineral oil, experts fear many more may be suffering at sea

Lawmakers call for end to animal-deafening, oil-finding offshore surveys

When oil companies are trying to figure out where to drill offshore, they drag an array of seismic air guns behind a boat as it sails around the ocean. Submerged air guns fire bursts of air downward to create sound waves that travel to the ocean floor and rebound back up to sensors.

Chevron reports record profits — and will spend some of them undermining California pollution standards

Another day, another oil company reporting massive quarterly and annual profits. Today: Chevron.

From the Associated Press:

Chevron Corp. posted a 41 percent gain in net income for the fourth quarter as the company produced more oil and gas, improved the performance of its refinery business and realized a gain from swapping assets in an Australian natural gas field.

Chevron Corp. posted net income of $7.2 billion for the quarter on revenue of $60.6 billion. That’s up from $5.1 billion on revenue of $60 billion a year ago.

It was the biggest fourth quarter profit in the company’s history.

5 Power Brokers Who’ll Determine the Fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline and Our Future

These are the people who may be holding our future in their hands.

Pressure builds for Obama to link oil sands pipelines to climate change

President Barack Obama hasn’t publicly drawn a connection between climate change and the Keystone XL pipeline, but new pressure is building on him and other officials to connect those dots.

Protests are springing up from Maine to Washington, D.C., to Oklahoma urging leaders to stop the Keystone XL and other oil sands import projects on climate change grounds. The Texas-bound Keystone XL is the biggest of many projects being proposed to connect Canada’s oil sands to U.S. refineries and export ports. Protesters claim the pipelines would commit the United States and other countries to a form of heavy oil that would worsen global warming.

Shale gas boom spurs Methanex to move Chile plant to U.S.

Vancouver-based Methanex Corp. is doubling-down on North America’s shale gas boom with plans to move a methanol plant from Chile to Louisiana to take advantage of this continent’s abundant supply and low cost of natural gas.

New Congressional report summarizes BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill actions

The Congressional Research Service has issued a new report summarizing information about the BP Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill, including the few actions taken by Congress in its response. The research arm of Congress does not publicly release its reports, but individual members of Congress often do, and this one appears on a Web site maintained by the Federation of American Scientists.

Magistrate in BP spill trial orders university to turn over ‘sensitive’ flow rate research

The federal magistrate judge in the BP oil spill litigation has ordered the University of California at Santa Barbara to turn over work that one of its researchers considers confidential and “highly sensitive” because it details research that has yet to published.

Judge Approves $4 Billion in Fines for BP in Gulf Disaster Deal

After a ruling earlier this week by a federal judge in New Orleans, BP now holds the record for the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history.  The penalty, totaling $4 billion, is strictly related to the criminal conduct of the company that led to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP plc (BP) Seeks a Potential Cut in Oil Spill Fine

BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) is seeking a reduction of the $3.4 billion fine for pollution caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. According to the company, at least 810,000 barrels of oil were collected before it spilled into the Gulf, and it should be accounted for while calculating the fine in accordance with Clean Water Act penalties. The officials at BP state that the government has overestimated the size of the spill, and therefore the fine calculated by the authorities is also overestimated. BP has submitted a court filing asking the federal government for the amendment. According to estimates, BP is expected to be imposed a fine of around $20 billion.

Shell Tallies Cost of Kulluk Grounding

Shell’s chief executives responded to questions about the January grounding of the Kulluk drill rig during the company’s annual results conference in London Thursday.

In a prepared presentation, Shell’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Voser, played down the company’s many mishaps in Alaska last year.

A Lasting Legacy of the Fukushima Rescue Mission: Part 1 Radioactive Contamination of American Sailors

he Department of Defense has decided to walk away from an unprecedented medical registry of nearly 70,000 American service members, civilian workers, and their families caught in the radioactive clouds blowing from the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan.

Photos show workers’ eye views of Fukushima disaster aftermath

The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has released a barrage of images, many taken by workers themselves, showing chaos at the site as three reactors were going into partial meltdown.

Among the 2,145 photos are images of the No. 3 reactor building littered with debris from a hydrogen explosion on March 14, 2011.

Nuclear safety chief questioned over Fukushima disaster: report

Japanese police have questioned a former head of the nuclear safety body regarding possible criminal charges over the Fukushima nuclear crisis, news reports said Sunday.

Prosecutors have interviewed Haruki Madarame, former chief of the Nuclear Safety Commission who was responsible for giving the government technical advice about the crisis, national broadcaster NHK quoted sources as saying.

Group undertakes Fukushima recovery effort

An inter-governmental group has begun trying to rebuild Fukushima, Japan, almost two years after a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant disaster.

The agency, the Fukushima Directorate General, was created to help make more comprehensive decisions about rebuilding the city and surrounding region, The Japan Times said Saturday.

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