Environmental Must-Reads – April 14, 2014


How Many Jobs Does Fracking Really Create?

Fracking creates jobs.

That’s the linchpin of the oil and gas industry argument for permitting the controversial drilling practice. And it’s become the industry’s trump card as the debate rages—among policymakers and scientists—over whether fracking is safe for the people and environment around it.

Getting an exact count of how many people collect paychecks as a result of fracking, however, is more art than science, and in many cases—particularly when it comes time for industry backers and politicians to tout the practice—a close look at the numbers shows that some of the largest estimates are based on the most generous economic assumptions.

Is California the next fracking frontier?

Every day, the average American uses nearly 1,500 gallons of water: 190 gallons for his home and business, 600 gallons to grow his food and fiber, and 673 gallons for the industries that make his goods and supply services, including energy.

These practices are unsustainable in the long term, but in water-short California they’re already coming to a head. Amid two years of extremely dry conditions and with summer coming, California utilities are scrambling to ensure that they will be allocated enough water to cool their power plants to produce enough electricity to meet the state’s air-conditioning needs.

Report offers grim predictions for South Texas air quality amid Eagle Ford oil boom

What might the oil- and gas-rich Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas look like in 2018?

A newly released but largely unnoticed study commissioned by the state of Texas makes some striking projections

South Texas oil brings boom — as well as pollution’s ‘toxic soup.’

While the South Texas oil boom has meant a flood of cash and people to formerly impoverished communities, there have also been serious repercussions — namely, rampant air pollution. Jim Morris of the Center for Public Integrity explains the boom’s environmental effects.

Oklahoma rattled by an uptick in earthquakes

Oklahoma, a state known more for tornadoes than seismic shifts, is becoming all too familiar with earthquakes.

In the week ending Saturday, 48 quakes larger than the magnitude of 2.5 had struck, says Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Ohio finds link between fracking and sudden burst of earthquakes

Ohio geologists have found a probable connection between fracking and a sudden burst of mild earthquakes last month in a region that had never experienced a temblor until recently, according to a state report.

The quake report, which coincided with the state’s announcement of some of the nation’s strictest limits on fracking near faults, marked the strongest link to date between nerve-rattling shakes and hydraulic fracturing — the process of firing water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to eject oil and natural gas out of ancient rock.

Group: Install Air Monitors To Study Frack Sand

A Winona environmental group is recommending that air monitors be installed around the city to measure the effect that the processing and shipping of sand used in fracking has on air quality.

The Winona Citizen’s Environmental Quality Committee recommends installing four or five air-quality monitors along truck routes in the city, the Winona Daily News reported Saturday. The committee also suggests placing monitors near places where frack sand is loaded, transported and processed.

Fracking hits home in Nevada

More than 2 miles beneath the surface of Nevada’s high desert, they’re cracking open rocks in search of oily wealth.

Fracking, it’s called. And in Nevada, it’s new.

Early speculators let drilling leases lapse as NC fracking prospects remain uncertain

Four years after North Carolina’s initial fracking boomlet, less than half of Lee County’s drilling leases remain under contract as those legal agreements expire and are not being renewed.

Initial energy speculators are losing interest in North Carolina and moving on to surer prospects in other states where fracking is already underway.

Big Oil comes up short in shale

Eons before the first wildcatters smelled oil in West Texas, massive slabs of eroded sediment had fused and folded into thick bands underground, trapping the primordial sludge in layers of earth too deep to reach until modern-day engineers discovered a way.

The technological breakthroughs of the past half-decade have made the plains near Odessa and Midland — long considered past their prime — some of the most coveted land in the nation. Pioneer Natural Resources, an Irving, Texas-based independent producer that has been active in the region for decades, estimates that two key Permian Basin plays hold 75 billion barrels of oil in stacked stone wedges.

Youngstown fracking ban on ballot for 3rd time

A citizen-initiative charter amendment to ban fracking in Youngstown is back on the ballot for the third time in a year.

City voters rejected the proposal in May and Novem- ber 2013. It lost by 13.7 percentage points the first time and by 9.7 percentage points in November.

BP oil spill choked off important pelican nesting sites on Louisiana coast

On a bright spring morning, P.J. Hahn is walking through a graveyard in the middle of Barataria Bay.

It’s a 30-yard patch of mud and sand bristling with bare, dead mangrove brush surrounded by miles of open water. Each mangrove is a tombstone marking the death of a nesting site used for decades by brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills on what was once the string of wetland pearls that made up the Cat Islands chain.

But in 2010 the oil spewing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon would send them all to an early grave.

Illnesses surface after oil spill

When a BP oil well began gushing crude into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, fisherman George Barisich used his boat to help clean up the millions of gallons that spewed in what would become the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

Like so many other Gulf Coast residents who pitched in after the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, Barisich was motivated by a desire to help and a need to make money — the oil had destroyed his livelihood.

BP oil spill may have caused depression in clean-up crew

Four years after the BP oil spill, a researcher says clean-up workers may be more likely to suffer from depression. Reporter David Hammer has more on a major health study and the seafood community’s lingering concerns.

Ship owners petition to limit liability in oil spill cases

The owners of a ship involved in a collision that spilled heavy fuel oil into Galveston Bay seeks to stop claims against the firm.

Attorneys for Sea Galaxy Marine, owners of the cargo vessel Summer Wind, filed a petition to limit its liability in the March 22 collision with a barge that spilled more than 168,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. The firm also seeks to make a court in Houston the primary court of jurisdiction in the case.

China: Water ban for millions after oil spill hits refinery town

A crude oil leak from a pipeline owned by a unit of China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) is to blame for water contamination that has affected more than 2.4 million people in the Chinese city of Lanzhou, in the the landlocked northwest part of the country, according to Chinese media reports Saturday.

Keystone XL pipeline critics carve protest message into Nebraska field

Opponents of a proposed pipeline to carry Canadian oil south to the U.S. Gulf Coast have carved a message of resistance into a Nebraska field in the project’s path.

The 32-hectare artwork, which was done last week and reads “Heartland#NoKXL,” is the latest protest environmentalists and landowners have employed against TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Canadian town says “no” to Enbridge pipeline in vote

Residents of the British Columbia town of Kitimat voted against the Northern Gateway pipeline project in a blow to Enbridge Inc’s efforts to expedite the flow of crude from Canada’s landlocked oil sands to high-paying markets in Asia.

The final tally, which came after a month of election-style campaigning in the small town where the pipeline terminal would be built, was more decisive than expected, with 58.4 percent of residents voting “no” and 41.6 percent “yes”.

Railroads Filling Void as Oil Pipeline Falls Short

In December, a new terminal in the Port of Beaumont welcomed its first customer: a train carrying 43,000 barrels of crude oil from Colorado. Workers at the terminal, the Jefferson Transload Railport, transferred the crude to a barge, which traveled down the Neches River to a nearby refinery.

West Explosion One Year Later – Official toll overlooks many injuries

One year later, the number of people hurt by the West explosion remains a mystery because a government survey of the injured has failed to account for scores of casualties.

Fifteen people, including a dozen first responders, died last April 17 when stores of ammonium nitrate at West Fertilizer Co. detonated during a fire. It’s been estimated that more than 300 people were injured.

Post-Fukushima Japan Chooses Coal Over Renewable Energy

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing Japan’s coal industry to expand sales at home and abroad, undermining hopes among environmentalists that he’d use the Fukushima nuclear accident to switch the nation to renewables.

A new energy plan approved by Japan’s cabinet on April 11 designates coal an important long-term electricity source while falling short of setting specific targets for cleaner energy from wind, solar and geothermal. The policy also gives nuclear power the same prominence as coal in Japan’s energy strategy.

In post-Fukushima policy test, Japan town rallies for nuclear re-start

On the main road leading from the Sendai nuclear plant in southern Japan, a construction crew is laying down asphalt to widen the evacuation route in the event of a future disaster.

For many here, that’s a hopeful sight. It means they are edging closer to re-starting two nuclear reactors that have been an economic engine for nearly three decades in a remote coastal town that has few other options.

Japan’s Profound Ambivalence Over Nuclear Energy

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a pro-nuclear blueprint for the country’s energy future around the three-year mark of the disaster at Fukushima, a move that most Japanese appear to disagree with, even those who returned to Fukushima to rebuild their lives

A few days after residents were first allowed to move back to the Fukushima village of Tamura, Miho Watanabe was finally able to lay on a cheery welcome. The co-manager of a government-built grocery store, she hung up flower displays and colorful banners. Inside, refrigerators hummed, pop music played and the bar code scanner beeped merrily as visitors raided the three short but well-stocked aisles.

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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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