Environmental Must-Reads – April 1, 2013


Greenwashing the Carbon Costs of Fracking and Coal Exports

Hydraulic fracturing is a way of producing natural gas that is trapped in underground shale formations. It has been accused of having a much higher carbon cost than conventional methods of gas extraction, causing earthquakes and contaminating local water tables. Opposition to fracking has grown as these claims have received high profile coverage. In fact, Promised Land, a movie about the impact of fracking on local U.S. farming communities, is coming out in the UK soon.

Yet recent media reports have sought to paint shale gas as one of the main ways in which the U.S. has, and the UK could, reduce their carbon emissions in an effort to combat climate change. The New York Times, for instance, ran with a headline of “Shale Gas to the Climate Rescue.” Likewise, a Guardian Comment Is Free blog post called fracking “the monster we greens must embrace.” It is an argument that is catching on, with Poland claiming that its desire to exploit its shale deposits is part of a climate strategy.

Gas fracked in America will help keep the British warm

America’s fracking boom is producing so much natural gas that the energy industry plans to start exporting enough of it to heat nearly 2 million British homes.

A $15 billion deal to export vast volumes of natural gas from the United States by tanker ship to the U.K. was struck between energy companies Cheniere and Centrica. It will help keep the British warm, but it adds a new layer of controversy to disputes over fracking in the U.S.

Romania PM Backs Controversial Fracking Plans

“I am in favour of shale gas exploration in Romania as this will boost domestic energy resources and reduce our reliance on fuel imports from Russia,” Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on Saturday in an interview for Antena3 TV station.

Ponta said that it may take up to five years to assess the potential volume of shale gas. “Any future exploration will be conducted in accordance with all European environmental standards,” the Prime Minister added.

Fines, spill reporting bills move through Legislature

At least two of the energy-related bills now working their way through the Colorado General Assembly might directly affect a current oil and gas issue in Garfield County.

The bills, dealing with fines against energy companies that violate state rules (HB1267) and the reporting of spills from oil & gas facilities (HB1278), are being watched closely by the industry and its critics in light of an ongoing spill event on Parachute Creek.

Disposal wells proliferating

In a dusty lot off the main highway in this South Texas town, Vern Sartin pointed to a collection of hose hookups and large storage tanks used for collecting wastewater from hydraulic fracturing jobs.

“We run about 30 to 40 trucks a day, 24-7,” Sartin said. “Depending on how the oil fracking is going out there, if they’re hustling and bustling, then we’re hustling and bustling.”

The Other Hazard of Hydraulic Fracturing — Silica in the Air

In my early career in the oilfield, when I was working on cement and frac crews, I breathed plenty of dust from cement, frac sand, and powdered guar used to make frac gel. Throw in a little xylene and hydrochloric acid, and I think my lungs have experienced plenty of challenges. This week, NPR broadcast a very interesting report about Eric Esswein, a researcher for the National Institute of Occupation Health and Safety, who has been studying health effects on workers on frac crews. Not familiar with hydraulic fracturing, he expected to find the workers exposed to toxics in drilling fluids when he want on location. What he found was very different.

New Study Exposes How Natural Gas Isn’t the Clean Fossil Fuel It’s Hyped up to Be

Last week, investigators studying methane leakage levels in Manhattan reported alarming preliminary findings. The gas industry and Con Edison estimate 2.2% leakage in its distribution systems, and at leakage above 3.2%, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, natural gas ceases to have any climate advantage over other fossil fuels. But the study found an average cumulative leakage of over 5% in natural gas production and delivery. At these levels, natural gas—93% of which is methane—has a far more potent greenhouse gas impact than burned coal or oil, the authors stated.

U.S. fracking helped kill off German solar firms: Bosch

Bosch, one of the world’s largest auto parts suppliers, blames the U.S. fracking boom in shale gas for hurting demand for energy-efficient green technologies, its chairman told a German newspaper.

The Stuttgart-based company recently decided to discontinue its photovoltaic solar energy activities at the cost of roughly 3,000 jobs – due largely, but not entirely, to a glut in capacity built up in China.

Ed Rendell Backs Fracking, Fails to Mention His Industry Ties

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell took to the New York Daily News op-ed page Wednesday with a message to local officials: stop worrying and learn to love fracking.

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo agonizes over whether to allow the controversial natural gas drilling technique, Rendell invoked his own experience as a Democratic governor who presided over a fracking boom. New York state, Rendell argued, has a major part to play in the nation’s fracking “revolution” 2014 and it can do so safely. He rejected what he called the “false choice” of “natural gas versus the environment.”

Frack Sand Dust Poses Lung Disease Risks

When workplace safety expert Eric Esswein got a chance to see fracking in action not too long ago, what he noticed was all the dust.

It was coming off big machines used to haul around huge loads of sand. The sand is a critical part of the hydraulic fracturing method of oil and gas extraction. After workers drill down into rock, they create fractures in that rock by pumping in a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. The sand keeps the cracks propped open so that oil and gas are released.

Exxon Mobil Pipeline Rupture and Train Derailment Oil Spill Exemplify Concerns of Keystone XL

On Friday, an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured spilling an estimated 84,000 gallons of heavy crude oil from the Canadian tar sands region, causing the evacuation of 22 homes in the small town of Mayflower, Ark., about 20 miles north of Little Rock.

According to Exxon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers the incident a “major spill.” The 20-inch Pegasus pipeline runs 858 miles from Patoka, Ill. to Nederland, Texas. According to a Saturday press release from Exxon, 189,000 gallons of oil and water have been recovered from the site so far, and it is prepared to clean up more than twice that amount. Exxon’s release said the company is “staging a response for over 10,000 barrels [420,000 gallons] to be conservative.”

Tar sands pipeline risks – examining the facts

In early 2011, NRDC raised concerns that an influx of tar sands on the U.S. pipeline network posed greater risks to pipeline integrity, challenges for leak detection systems and significantly increased impacts to sensitive water resources when spilled. Observing a lack of due diligence by industry as it flooded the aging U.S. pipeline system with thick, heavy diluted bitumen tar sands and proposed a major expansion of tar sands transport on new pipelines like Keystone XL, NRDC called on government regulators to identify risks associated with tar sands pipelines and develop safety regulations to address those risks. Since then, information has continued to pile up confirming many of the concerns raised by NRDC – information showing that pipelines moving tar sands are more likely to leak, that leak detection systems are unlikely to detect tar sands spills when they happen, that tar sands spills are significantly more damaging than conventional spills, and that conventional spills response measures are inadequate for containing and cleaning tar sands spills. However, despite the mounting evidence for concern, the tar sands pipeline industry continues to press ahead with their reckless expansion plans while investing in a campaign to avoid due diligence or improved safety standards for tar sands pipelines.

Two Tar Sands Oil Spills In U.S. This Week

An ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured Friday, leaking approximately 10,000 barrels of tar sands crude in an Arkansas town. As a result, 22 homes have been evacuated as officials clean up of the world’s dirtiest oil:

“Exxon shut the Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas, after the leak was discovered on Friday afternoon, the company said in a statement.”

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry almost nine times the barrels of oil as the Pegasus pipeline.

Homes evacuated after ExxonMobil oil pipeline spill in Arkansas

Crews recovered about 12,000 barrels of oil and water after a crude oil pipeline ruptured in central Arkansas, officials said Saturday.

An ExxonMobil pipeline sprung a leak Friday afternoon in Mayflower, a small city about 20 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Exxon cleans up Arkansas oil spill; Keystone plan assailed

Exxon Mobil on Sunday continued cleanup of a pipeline spill that spewed thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude in Arkansas as opponents of oil sands development latched on to the incident to attack plans to build the Keystone XL line.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said on Sunday that crews had yet to excavate the area around the pipeline breach, a needed step before the company can estimate how long repairs will take and when the line might restart.

Cause Of Exxon Oil Spill In Arkansas Under Investigation

Authorities are investigating what caused an Exxon Mobil pipeline to rupture in Mayflower, Ark., Friday. The oil spill caused 22 homes to be evacuated, according to an Exxon statement.

Local station KATV reports homeowners were told Saturday that they might not be able to return for “at least a week.” Still, KATV says, there are residents who have been satisfied with officials’ response.

News bites: Exxon spill fuels Keystone pipeline battle

A spill in Arkansas from an Exxon pipeline containing Canadian heavy crude oil is fueling the political battle over the Keystone XL pipeline.

After Shell Fiasco, Oil Companies Acknowledge Hazards of Arctic Drilling

Shell Oil announced it will suspend its Arctic Ocean drilling program until at least 2014. But it turns out that after you ground a drilling rig, leak oil into the water, and crush your emergency response equipment, you don’t get to decide when you return.

Then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently said, “Shell will not be allowed to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated plan in place that’s satisfactory to the Department of the Interior.”

Sinkhole shines light on failings in state regulations

The Assumption Parish sinkhole, which regulators say was caused by an “unprecedented” failure of a man-made cavern deep underground, has exposed gaps in state rules governing how industry uses salt domes.

Scientists suspect a Texas Brine Co. cavern collapsed because it was too close to the outer face of the Napoleonville Dome, creating the sinkhole and causing natural gas to permeate aquifers and bubble up in bayous. About 350 people have been under evacuation orders for more than seven months.

F.C.C. to Study Health Effects of Cellphone Radiation

Regulators are looking into how radio frequencies emitted by cellphones and other wireless devices affect people amid lingering concerns about the risks of cellphone radiation.

The Federal Communications Commission said on Friday that it was seeking comment from other agencies and health experts on whether it should update its standards limiting exposure to phones’ electromagnetic fields, especially as they apply to children.

One dead, three injured in Arkansas nuclear plant accident

An accident at an Arkansas nuclear power plant at 7:45 a.m. local time resulted in the death of one worker and left three injured, but did not cause radiation and it is not a public health risk, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Accident at U.S. nuclear plant kills 1, but no radiation risk

An accident at a nuclear power plant in Arkansas killed one person and injured three others but the reactors there were not affected and there is no risk of a radiation leak.

The Entergy company, which manages the Arkansas Number One plant located in Russellville, reported in a communique that the accident occurred about 7:45 a.m. Sunday morning and killed one worker.

Fukushima’s Namie sees no-go zone designation lifted

The no-go zone designation was lifted Monday for the town of Namie near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In line with the move, the Fukushima Prefecture town was realigned into three evacuation zones according to estimated annual radiation doses.

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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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