Environmental Must-Reads – April 10, 2013


Fracking Free Speech

It’s one thing for Big Oil to bust into our communities, groundwater, and economic well-being with the hydraulic fracturing natural gas boom. Now, in addition to poisoning the environment, this fracking fad is busting the free speech rights of locals who dare to speak out against it.

Welcome to Sanford, New York. It’s a pleasant place of 2,800 citizens on the New York-Pennsylvania border. Unfortunately, the pleasantness has been interrupted by a major squabble over whether or not to allow big companies to extract natural gas by fracturing the huge Marcellus Shale formation that underlies the region.

Judge blocks oil fracking on federal land in California

David Roberts recently listed 10 reasons why fracking for oil in California is a stupid idea. A federal judge has now added one more: It would be stupid to allow fracking on federal lands in the state without first adequately studying the potential environmental impacts.

That’s exactly what the Bureau of Land Management tried to do. And now the bureau has been admonished in court for its environmentally unfriendly rush to allow energy companies to pump California full of chemicals and sand as they suck out oil from the vast Monterey Shale reserve.

California’s Fracking Bonanza May Fall Short of Promise

California’s dream of billions in windfall oil revenue from the Monterey shale deposit that runs through the center of the state may fall short as its complex geology rewards industry efforts with only mixed results.

The formation is vast yet disjointed, partly because of the state’s earthquakes, and can be too unpredictable to make drilling economical, even with developments in hydraulic- fracturing techniques known as fracking, said Jason Marshall, chief deputy director of the state Conservation Department. The agency regulates the industry.

Court ruling: Obama administration overlooked fracking risks

The Obama administration has broken the law, issuing oil leases across California without examining the risks of fracking. A federal judge ruled that the administration has “completely ignored” environmental concerns upon issuing the leases.

In response to a lawsuit filed by environmentalist groups, US Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ruled that the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the law by distributing oil drilling rights before reviewing the potential risks associated with fracking.

Frackademics In UK Pushing Industry Spin

The latest fracking PR extravaganza, centred around the publication of an academic paper, Induced Seismicity and Hydraulic Fracturing for the Recovery of Hydrocarbons, highlights the extent to which universities are being hijacked by the industry PR machine. Hype around the paper, whose lead authors are from Durham University, regurgitates the usual industry spin, conflating fracking of conventional wells with the massive slickwater hydraulic fracturing used to extract shale gas and conflating hydraulic fracturing with the whole process of unconventional gas extraction. While attempts by Cuadrilla to get in on the ground floor, establishing a business partnership with Lancaster University, are being actively resisted, some universities have already been co-opted far more thoroughly.

Fracking does cause earthquakes – but you’ll hardly feel them

Fracking, the process of extracting shale gas which has been blamed for earthquakes, causes no more seismic activity than jumping off a ladder, according to new research.

New fracking research led by Durham University finds it is “not significant” in causing earthquakes

A new study of hundreds of thousands of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) operations has found that the process has only caused earth tremors that could be felt on the surface in three cases. Hydraulic fracturing is the method by which sedimentary rock is deliberately cracked to recover oil and gas, including shale gas.

Environmentalists Deal Defeat to Fracking in California

A federal judge sided with environmental groups on Monday and ruled that the Obama administration wrongfully issued oil leases in Monterey County, Calif., by not considering the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity challenged a September 2011 federal lease sale of about 2,500 acres of land to oil companies that are looking to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil and gas from the Monterey Shale.

Chesapeake Energy is trying to sell rights to more than 94,000 acres in Ohio

Chesapeake Energy Corp. is trying to sell some of its drilling leases in Stark and Portage counties where the shale 6,000 feet below the surface has been said to be rich in oil.

The Oklahoma City company has listed for sale its drilling rights to more than 94,000 acres in the two counties, including three completed wells, two of which are producing. The company has the lease rights to about 1.3 million acres in Ohio.

California court ruling gives hope to foes of fracking

A court ruling that the U.S. government must consider the environmental impact of “fracking” on federal lands leased to oil companies offers opponents of the technique a useful weapon in the fierce public debate in California and other parts of the country.

Big Switch for Water Regulation in Texas Dominates Hearing at the Capitol

Lawmakers had rocketed through more than a dozen bills before they arrived at Rep. Charlie Geren’s complex and controversial water bill, HB 1307.

Then things slowed down at the House Natural Resources Committee meeting at the Capitol today.

Ties That Bind: Ernest Moniz, Keystone XL Contractor, American Petroleum Institute and Fracked Gas Exports

Congress will review the Obama Administration’s nomination of Ernest Moniz for Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) in hearings that start today, April 9.

Moniz has come under fire for his outspoken support of nuclear power, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas and the overarching “all-of-the-above” energy policy advocated by both President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent in the last election, Mitt Romney.

In Texas, Freshwater Use For Oil And Gas Should Be Reduced Strategically

Texas is suffering from a water deficit; one that is spurring lawmakers at the Texas Capitol to discuss unprecedented, and much needed, investments in our water infrastructure.  With roughly 98 percent of the state in drought and water use restrictions in place in 70 percent of Texas counties as of April 3, 2013, it is crucial that our legislators consider every tool available to protect Texas’ water supply.  One approach is reducing freshwater use in the oil and natural gas sector, which can help alleviate competition for scarce water resources; however, this should be deployed at strategic places and times to minimize pollution risks and ensure a sustained future water supply for Texas.

Revealed: Obama’s DOE Nominee Ernest Moniz Is Super Cozy With Tar Sands, Oil and Gas Industries

Congress will review the Obama Administration’s  nomination of Ernest Moniz for Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) in hearings that start  today, April 9.

Moniz has come under fire for his outspoken support of  nuclear power,hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas and the overarching “all-of-the-above” energy policy advocated by both  President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent in the last election,  Mitt Romney.

Ed Rendell’s Fracking Ties Deeper Than Originally Thought

Recently, we wrote about former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s  connections to the natural gas industry after he published a pro-fracking op-ed in The New York Daily News.

Following our story, Rendell’s  column — which called on New York officials to lift a ban on the drilling technique — was updated to disclose that he is a paid consultant to a private equity firm with natural gas investments.

North Dakota, a Portrait of an Oil Boom

North Dakota’s oil boom has been called everything from the region’s equivalent of a gold rush, to its version of Silicon Valley. And it’s all thanks to a the Bakken formation, a 360 million year old shale tectonic plate sitting underneath much of the northwestern part of the state, which is thought to hold around 18 billion barrels of oil.

But the good times have not come without a price: The state has run up against a serious shortage of housing for the thousands who have poured in looking for work. The method of extracting the oil is controversial, too. Hydraulic Fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is the bête noire of many environmentalists nationwide. The process sees workers inject pressurized fluid into the ground in order to release natural gas from the shale.

Mexico’s president says Japanese company to build natural gas pipeline through Arizona

Mexico’s president says a Japanese company has been tapped to build a pipeline to import U.S. natural gas through Arizona.

President Enrique Pena Nieto is visiting Japan, where he made the announcement about the $460 million project Tuesday.

Gulf health questions linger after oil leak

Gone are the thick black globs of oil covering the marsh grass. Gone are the white cords of absorbent boom and blasting cannons used to scare birds away. Gone are the teams of workers — charged with cleaning the marshes without accelerating the already rapid erosion.

Almost three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded, killing 11 men and spewing about 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Bay Jimmy is quiet.

As 3rd anniversary of BP oil spill nears, wetlands’ restoration advocated

As the third anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill nears, a marshy patch along the northern edge of Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish is significantly smaller than it was just one year ago. Scientists say that while the oil spill destroyed or damaged many wetlands along the southeastern Louisiana coast, Hurricane Isaac then wiped large swaths of that vulnerable marsh away.

Three years after BP oil spill, new report rates health of Gulf of Mexico ecosystem

Charter fishing boat captain and marina owner Chad Daigle grew up maneuvering around the waters of coastal Louisiana, including the marshes that eventually lead into Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish.

“Looking at the GPS as we’re running through, you would think that we’re running across solid land — and we’re running through 2 to 3 feet of water,” Daigle noted.

Arkansas oil spill will come up at Keystone XL pipeline hearing

Legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is rolling through the House, even as opponents launch a fresh campaign against the project.

The 1,700-mile pipeline would transport more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from western Canada to Texas refineries. It requires a presidential permit because it crosses an international border.

Arkansas Oil Spill Health Complaints Emerge In Mayflower

Sherry Appleman awoke abruptly in the middle of the night less than 48 hours after a pipeline rupture last month sent thousands of barrels of heavy crude oil into the streets and swamps of Mayflower, Ark.

“I couldn’t breathe. My throat and nose and eyes were burning really bad,” recalled Appleman, who lives on Lake Conway, about a mile outside the 22-home evacuation zone — but next to a slough now full of the thick, sticky diluted bitumen. “I could smell that horrible smell. I got really scared.”

Rachel Maddow’s Mayflower Oil Spill Coverage Criticizes Exxon’s ‘Paper Towel’ Cleanup Efforts

Rachel Maddow addressed photos released by the EPA last week of the Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill that some estimates say could reach upwards of 300,000 gallons.

In the clip, Maddow attacks Exxon’s cleanup efforts, which appear to include using paper towels to try and sop up the diluted bitumen that seeped from the pipeline earlier this month into a neighborhood. The YouTube video shown in the clip is from the account of the Tar Sands Blockade, an advocacy group opposed to the Keystone pipeline.

Exxon MTBE Lawsuit: New Hampshire Jury Finds Oil Giant Liable In Groundwater Contamination

A jury in New Hampshire has ordered Exxon Mobil to pay $236 million in damages after finding the oil giant liable in a long-running lawsuit over groundwater contamination by the gasoline additive MTBE.

Jurors sat through nearly three months of testimony in the longest state trial in New Hampshire history, but deliberated for only 90 minutes on Tuesday.

Pipeline diesel still missing, though less than previously thought

Chevron still can’t account for thousands of gallons of diesel fuel three weeks after a pipeline spill at the Great Salt Lake.

The latest update from the “Unified Command” said nearly 3,000 gallons remain in the soil, wetlands and water at Willard Bay, just south of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

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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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