Environmental Must-Reads – April 12, 2013


California should tighten fracking regulations, report says

California needs to strengthen regulation of hydraulic fracturing, according to a UC Berkeley report that identified a number of shortcomings in state oversight of the controversial practice.

Known as fracking, the technique involves the high-pressure injection of chemical-laced fluids into the ground to crack rock formations and extract oil and gas. Although not new to California, the practice has come under increasing scrutiny recently as states such as Pennsylvania and New York experience a boom in fracking.

DEP Allows Fracking To Resume At Spill Site Before Investigation is Complete

The state Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t finished its investigation into a gas well spill that caused the evacuation of three homes in Wyoming County last month, but in the meantime the agency has allowed the drilling company to resume fracking operations.

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Fracking rule is ‘imminent’

GET READY: The Interior Department is on the cusp of releasing a controversial, heavily lobbied proposal to regulate oil-and-gas “fracking” on public lands.

Outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a House subcommittee Thursday that the draft regulations will surface soon.

Poll: Americans oppose exporting natural gas, support of fracking regulation, and accept climate change

The latest results from The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll are out (link). The findings indicate that a majority of Americans favor domestic energy production, oppose exporting domestic natural gas, and accept that climate change is occurring.

Bill de Blasio Joins Fracking Opposition

NEW YORK–Public Advocate and mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio stood alongside city and state officials at City Hall April 11 in support of a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Approved by the State Assembly in early March, advocates hope the bill may will be addressed in the Senate this session, which begins next week.

A Few Questions for Phelim McAleer

Phelim McAleer, the new darling of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and of the shale gas industry more generally, is the perfect master of spin. Specializing in personal invective delivered with such a charming Irish accent that some audiences are apparently taken in rather than being repelled by his viciousness, McAleer is on tour with his film, “Frack Nation.”  Susan Phillips of StateImpact (WHYY/NPR) reviews Frack Nation here: “Dueling Fracking Films Battle for Pennsylvanians’ Hearts and Minds.”

NYC Mayoral Hopeful Calls for Fracking Moratorium

At a rally held by New Yorkers Against Fracking today, Public Advocate and NYC mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio said, “The eyes of the nation are on New York.” De Blasio, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination, called on the State Senate to support legislation passed on March 6 in the State Assembly that would put a two-year moratorium on hydrofracking in New York.

New Study Expands Efforts to Understand Climate Implications of Methane Emissions

New supplies of natural gas are no doubt changing our energy landscape and, of all fossil fuels, natural gas appears to be a smarter choice because its carbon footprint is smaller when combusted than coal or oil. When talking about natural gas as part of a potential climate solution, though, it is important to recognize its unique position as either being a good or bad thing for global warming – depending upon the amount of uncombusted methane emissions that are released into the atmosphere.

Pennsylvania Court Deals Blow to Secrecy-Obsessed Fracking Industry: Corporations Not The Same As Persons With Privacy Rights

A Pennsylvania judge in the heart of the Keystone State’s fracking belt has issued a forceful and precedent-setting decision holding that there is no corporate right to privacy under that state’s constitution, giving citizens and journalists a powerful tool to understand the health and environmental impacts of natural gas drilling in their communities.

Princeton, Montgomery residents express concerns over pipeline project

Residents from Princeton and Montgomery Township got a first look at what the project to build a proposed 6.5-mile natural gas pipeline would look like during an open house last night.

Laid out across a large table, residents looked on at the proposal for the 42-inch pipe, which would cut through 1.2 miles in Princeton and a 5.3-mile stretch in Montgomery. The project would affect about 100 homeowners.

Ex-BP engineer responds to feds’ ‘farcical’ claims

A former BP engineer charged with deleting text messages about the company’s response to its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico claims federal prosecutors have tacked on “farcical” allegations that he also deleted dozens of voicemails to stymie a grand jury probe of the disaster.

Kurt Mix, Former BP Engineer, Hits Back At Feds Over Oil Spill Allegations

A former BP engineer charged with deleting text messages about the company’s response to its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico says federal prosecutors have tacked on “farcical” allegations that he also deleted dozens of voicemails.

Progress Report on ExxonMobil Oil Spill in Mayflower

After heavy rain and thunderstorms Wednesday night, cleanup of the Mayflower oil spill continues.

ExxonMobil representatives say a containment system in the marsh and cove adjacent to Lake Conway prevented oil from migrating. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and ExxonMobil are continuing to monitor water samples.

Insight: Mayflower, meet Exxon: When oil spilled in an Arkansas town

Warren Andrews had just finished putting up balloons for his stepdaughter’s 18th birthday party at their suburban home in Mayflower, Arkansas, when his wife came inside and said something was wrong.

After stepping out of his house, and taking one glance, he immediately dialed 911.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve got a river of oil coming down the street at me,” Andrews told the operator.

Arkansas attorney general launches investigation into Exxon oil spill

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Thursday night vowed to hold Exxon Mobil accountable after the company’s pipeline ruptured and flooded a small town.

He told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that he expected oil company, not the government, to foot the bill for cleaning up the spill. McDaniel also suggested he was investigating whether Exxon was negligent.

ExxonMobil Pipeline Rupture ‘Substantially Larger’ Than Previously Thought

An ExxonMobil pipeline that ruptured last month and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in central Arkansas has a gash in it that is 22 feet long and 2 inches wide, state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Wednesday.

“The pipeline rupture is substantially larger than many of us initially thought,” McDaniel told reporters Wednesday evening.

Keystone XL, Pegasus Pipelines Meet In East Texas, Worry Landowner

Before it ruptured last month, spilling 5,000 barrels of noxious black oil into a suburban Arkansas community, Jerry Hightower had never heard of ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline. He was also unaware that the same pipeline carried Canadian tar sands crude close to his family’s East Texas farm.

Nancy Zorn, Oklahoma Grandmother, Arrested In Keystone XL Pipeline Protest

A 79-year-old grandmother from suburban Oklahoma City was arrested Tuesday for blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

With a bike lock around her neck, Nancy Zorn attached herself to an earth-mover and temporarily halted construction of the southern leg of the controversial pipeline near Allen, Oklahoma.

Liberal Dems press White House to reject Keystone pipeline

A group of House Democrats pressed the White House to reject the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline during a closed-door meeting with President Obama’s top climate adviser.

“I think some messages were delivered. The occasion was used to deliver some concerns,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told reporters after the Thursday meeting between White House aide Heather Zichal and the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), which Connolly co-chairs.

Jury: Exxon owes $236 million for polluting groundwater in N.H.

A New Hampshire jury on Tuesday found Exxon Mobil liable for $236.4 million in a civil lawsuit that charged the oil company had polluted groundwater in the state with a gasoline additive used to reduce smog in the 1970s and 1980s.

Freaky Canadian Fish Resemble Gulf Oil Mutants

Fish living downstream of Alberta’s oil sands have lesions resembling those found on Gulf fish after the BP oil spill, warns a Canadian ecologist.

INFOGRAPHIC: 13 Oil Spills in 30 Days: The Dirty Business of Moving Oil

Moving oil is a dirty business, and never has that been more clear than this past month. In the past 30 days the global oil industry has had 13 spills on three continents. And it’s not just pipeline leaks – oil has spilled offshore and on, at train derailments and during routine maintenance. In North and South America alone, they’ve spilled more than a million gallons of oil and toxic chemicals – enough to fill two olympic-sized swimming pools.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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