Environmental Must-Reads – April 11, 2014


Pollution Fears Crush Home Prices Near Fracking Wells

Whether or not fracking causes groundwater pollution, people fear the risk enough that property values have dropped for homes with drinking-water wells near shale-gas pads, according to new research.

Researchers from the Unviersity of Calgary and Duke University studied property sales from 1994 to 2012 in 36 Pennsylvania counties and seven counties in New York. They mapped sales against the locations of shale-gas wells, and they compared homes connected to public drinking-water systems to homes with private wells.

What Shah’s departure means for fracking in New York

The departure of Nirav Shah as state health commissioner means he will hand off the lengthy review that has allowed Governor Andrew Cuomo to put off making a decision on whether to allow hydrofracking in New York.

Shah’s three-year tenure as state health commissioner will come to an end in June, when he will be replaced by first deputy commissioner Howard Zucker.

California drought gives boost to anti-fracking movement

California is known for the twin threat of natural disasters from drought and earthquakes, with both phenomena certain to give many residents serious concern.

But there is one group that is starting to reap serendipitous marketing ammunition from the state’s current historic drought and the ever-present worry of ground-shaking tremors: the anti-fracking movement.

Why US fracking companies are licking their lips over Ukraine

The way to beat Vladimir Putin is to flood the European market with fracked-in-the-USA natural gas, or so the industry would have us believe. As part of escalating anti-Russian hysteria, two bills have been introduced into the US Congress – one in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6), one in the Senate (S. 2083) – that attempt to fast-track liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, all in the name of helping Europe to wean itself from Putin’s fossil fuels, and enhancing US national security.

Series of earthquakes shake Oklahoma overnight; largest temblor magnitude 4.1

No injuries or damage were reported after a series of earthquakes rattled central Oklahoma overnight, including a 4.1-magnitude temblor that woke many residents near Guthrie.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded four earthquakes near Perry late Wednesday and early Thursday, and two more earthquakes near Guthrie early Thursday.

Gas Workers Risk Silica Exposure

Breathing only a tiny amount of silica dust per day – enough, roughly, to cover Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s nose on a dime – can put a worker at risk for myriad health problems, according to Michael Breitenstein of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Fractious debate

To Joann Ginal, a simple question doesn’t always yield an easy answer. For example: If oil and gas production is near your house, can it harm your family?

For many — like those who voted for fracking bans — the answer to that question seems to be an obvious, “yes.” But for Ginal, a state representative from Fort Collins, finding the right answer is trickier than that. There’s not enough research showing whether there’s a cause and effect when it comes to fracking and public health, she says.

Republicans join the call for tax on Marcellus drillers

The Marcellus Shale gas play is vast and plentiful across Pennsylvania. Business is booming and gas is being extracted at ever-increasing levels.

But it’s an untapped resource, according to an increasing number of lawmakers, who are calling for an extraction tax on drillers.

Digging Up Old Drilling Logs to Strike Not Oil, but Water

Daniel Ortuño pulled a small piece of Texas history from a shelf in a building at the University of Texas at Austin. The yellowing piece of paper said that on Dec. 19, 1951, John L. Boyd began drilling a 1,350-foot-deep oil well through 17 layers of shale and limestone in Crockett County in southwest Texas.

Strolling amid the vast library of oil and gas drilling logs, Mr. Ortuño, the collection’s manager for 35 years, plucked another sheet, dated 1938, from a drawer. “Dry and abandoned,” the sheet said of the well.

Chevron inks $1.6B joint venture for shale in Argentina

Chevron will spend more than $1.6 billion to develop shale resources in Argentina with state-owned oil company YPF S.A., as the South American country leaps past China to become the most active foreign shale-well driller this year.

One bill restricting oil and gas ‘legacy lawsuits’ forwarded to Senate floor, second fails in committee Wednesday

A Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, the oil and gas industry and several large landowner groups aimed at limiting how state courts handle oil and gas environmental damage “legacy lawsuits,” forwarding the legislation to the Senate floor.

A second legacy lawsuit bill requiring suspension of court proceedings if one of the defendant companies makes a limited admission of liability was deferred by the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which could kill it for this session.

Four years after BP disaster, erosion quickens along Gulf shore

The boats that pulled up to a shoreline in Bay Jimmy on Thursday morning were still in water, but the GPS showed them traveling over dry land.

Not too long ago, that land actually existed, but the shoreline erosion in this area, heavily oiled from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, has made the land smaller. Although some erosion would have happened anyway, environmental groups say the oil hastened the process.

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill at a Glance

April 20 marks the fourth anniversary of an explosion on the BP-operated drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 workers about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico and set off the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster.

Barataria Bay still struggling 4 years after BP oil spill

The BP oil spill is neither gone, nor forgotten along coastal Louisiana.

Four years ago, an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Plaquemines Parish, dumped more than 200 million gallons of thick crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

Fishermen at the Myrtle Grove Marina south of New Orleans say despite a massive clean-up effort, Barataria Bay is still hurting.

Researchers studying health of Gulf oil spill cleanup workers to update findings Friday

Researchers with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are set to provide an update on findings from a years-long study looking at the impact the 2010 Gulf oil spill had on the health of those involved in the cleanup effort. The study, launched in the early days of the spill, is tracking the spill’s impact on some 33,000 cleanup workers and volunteers.

This is What the Oil Spill Looks Like on Matagorda Island

Weeks after a large oil spill in Galveston Bay, it’s still having an impact on sensitive wildlife habitats along the Texas Gulf Coast. On Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took reporters to see the impacts on Matagorda Island, an important wildlife refuge for migratory birds and several endangered species. Workers are now busy cleaning up tons of oil from the Island’s beaches.

Offshore safety problems linger despite new efforts, Coast Guard admiral says

Offline emergency generators. Inoperable fire-detection systems. Cracked rescue boats.

Despite mandatory offshore safety codes, the U.S. Coast Guard continues to find dozens of problems on deep-water drilling rigs and other vessels, even after oil companies have complied with rules for years and have anticipated inspections for months, a federal regulator said Thursday in Houston.

Houston fills with crude oil that can’t be shipped out

Houston and the rest of the U.S. Gulf Coast have more crude oil than the region can handle.

Stockpiles in the region centered on Houston and stretching to New Mexico in the west and Alabama in the east rose to 202 million barrels in the week ended April 4, the most on record, Energy Information Administration data released this week show.

Ruptured Michigan Pipeline to Restart, Now New and Double the Capacity

There will be a lot on the line in a few weeks when Enbridge Inc. hits the start button on its new 6B oil pipeline across southern Michigan.

The company is banking on the line to more than double the amount of oil it pumps from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Obama rejects call by 11 Democrats to move on Keystone pipeline

The White House on Thursday was quick to slap down a letter from 11 Senate Democrats that urged a presidential decision by May 31 on whether to build the hugely controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

But that doesn’t relieve President Obama of pressure from Democrats, such as the letter’s signers, who support building the pipeline.

What makes the letter still significant is that five of its signers are vulnerable senators who face very tough elections this fall. Republicans, who support the pipeline for reasons of jobs and energy security, need only six seats to take control of the Senate.

Crude displacing other commodities on trains, critics charge

Grain producers, manufacturers and coal shippers told federal regulators Thursday that rail service has deteriorated drastically in the nation’s midsection in recent months, leaving crops in piles on the ground and fuel stocks low at electric power plants as resources go undelivered.

Railroad representatives told the federal Surface Transportation Board that a brutal winter, combined with a record grain harvest, was to blame for the delays, but the industry’s critics charge that their shipments are taking a back seat to crude oil.

Polar politics threaten Norway’s deepest drive in Arctic

An ice chunk that can swell to the size of Russia will shape Norway’s future oil income.

The Arctic ice cap floats above vast deposits of oil and gas while sustaining along its perimeter one of the most biologically productive ecosystems on earth, supporting polar bears, walruses, commercially important fisheries and huge populations of migratory birds.

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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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