Environmental Must-Reads – April 14, 2015


2 Earthquakes in Baldwin Hills Area Prompt Some Concerns Over Fracking; Expert Weighs in

Some residents thought two earthquakes that hit the Baldwin Hills area on Sunday were a result of fracking. However, according to Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey, the second, larger temblor hit at a depth “way below the oil fields.” Kirk Hawkins reports from Baldwin Hills for the KTLA 5 Morning News on Monday, April 13, 2015.

Was Last Night’s Earthquake Fracking’s Fault?

Fracking is good for America. Fracking is bad for America.

Fracking supporters say the technique—blasting water into previously unobtainable oil deposits to extract that black gold—is responsible for our plummeting gas prices. While there are those who would debate that, it’s clear that this new stream of fuel has put other oil-producing countries on the defensive.

In California and beyond, drilling for oil as water runs short

Manicured lawns will give way to arid, drought-tolerant landscaping. Homeowners will retrofit bathrooms with low-flow toilets. Golf courses, cemeteries, and college campuses will turn off the sprinklers.

As the Golden State braces for a historic, four-year drought to continue into the summer, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is imposing unprecedented measures to fight a water shortage affecting 38 million Californians. “We’re in a new era,” Mr. Brown said. “The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past.”

Oil Drilling, Fracking Exempt from Mandatory Water Conservation

California Gov. Jerry Brown last week ordered the first-ever mandatory water restrictions in state history. The State Water Resources Control Board is imposing an immediate 25 percent reduction in water use among the 400 local water agencies around the state.

But Patrick Sullivan with the Center for Biological Diversity says the governor failed to include oil and gas exploration in his water cutback order, despite the massive amounts of water used in fracking operations.

Texas House set to vote on bill banning local fracking bans

The Texas Legislature is poised to take a major step toward wiping out a highly-publicized local ban on hydraulic fracturing approved by a college town near Dallas – and ensuring that other communities don’t follow suit.

San Angelo Republican Rep. Drew Darby’s bill is poised for House debate and approval Tuesday.

States outpacing feds in safety regs for fracking

The Department of the Interior recently introduced a rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands to much fanfare. Stating the need to update 30-year-old regulations, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell characterized Interior’s action as taking the lead and giving the states an example to follow.

An example? Only in the logic of leading from behind. States have not been waiting for the federal government. They have long acted to strengthen their regulations and ensure that fracking is done safely while protecting the environment.

Eau de Fracking? Companies Try to Trademark Scents

Federal trademark officials in Alexandria, Va., recently received an unusual package: a hand-delivered parcel containing vials of a clear liquid that smelled of oranges.

The sender wasn’t a crank. It was a corporate trademark lawyer representing Flotek Industries Inc.,a Texas producer of hydraulic-fracturing fluids used to extract oil and gas from rocks deep in the earth.

Fracking Ban Petition to be Reviewed Tuesday

Tuesday marks another run for a fracking ban after two previous attempts.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is when companies use high pressure water and chemicals to break oil out of rocks.

It can leak those chemicals into the water supply, and Nic Clark from clean water action says that’s dangerous for Mid Michigan families.

Fracking protesters turn attention to Port Ambrose project

New York State’s successful anti-fracking movement has found a new cause: Port Ambrose.

The planned liquefied natural gas facility, to be built 19 miles off the coast of Long Island, has already generated vocal opposition from activists, residents and elected officials at rallies, hearings and in official correspondence.

Kinder Morgan ponders second pipeline in Ohio

Kinder Morgan is evaluating whether to build a second pipeline to take natural gas liquids from Ohio’s Utica Shale to Ontario.

The second pipeline, dubbed Utopia West, is in the very early stages of consideration, according to a company spokeswoman.

Northern Minnesota’s Sandpiper oil pipeline wins key approval

A Minnesota official who took five days of testimony and received 2,000 letters about the proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline recommends its construction.

Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman on Monday also recommended that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission place some conditions on its approval and said the case is complex and “this one is a lot harder than it ought to be.”

Nelson couple’s “dream business” sits near alternate pipeline route

A small slice of Bavaria can be found within Roseland right across from Wintergreen Mountain.

A bed and breakfast with German village-style architecture painted in burnt orange can be seen through the trees while driving up Beech Grove Road. Within a five-minute drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Reids Gap sits the Fenton Inn, owned by Will and Lilia Fenton.

No injuries in gas pipeline explosion near Stinnett

A gas pipeline explosion near Stinnett sent flames flying that were visible from miles away.

About 10:30 a.m. Monday, responders scrambled to the scene south of County Road K between Farm-to-Market Road 1923 and County Road 4 northwest of Stinnett after an explosion occurred and a fireball appeared on the horizon.

Disaster Plans for Oil Trains

Imagine a mile-long train transporting crude oil derailing on an elevated track in Jersey City, N.J., across the street from senior citizen housing and 2 miles from the mouth of the Holland Tunnel to Manhattan.

The oil ignites, creating an intense explosion and a 300-foot fireball. The blast kills 87 people right away, and sends 500 more to the hospital with serious injuries. More than a dozen buildings are destroyed. A plume of thick black smoke spreads north to New York’s Westchester County.

Pedestrian hit and killed by oil train near Titlow

A man was struck and killed by a train while he was walking on tracks north of the Titlow Beach area in Tacoma Sunday night.

BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said the 29-year-old trespasser was struck about 1/4-mile north of the 6th Avenue rail crossing around 9:45 p.m. Melonas said the crew on the northbound train — an oil train originating in North Dakota — sounded the whistle and applied the emergency brake, but couldn’t stop in time.

New Regulation Aims to Prevent Explosions at Offshore Rigs

The Obama administration on Monday proposed a new regulation for offshore oil and gas rigs intended to improve equipment standards and well designs and avoid a catastrophic spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Sally Jewell, the interior secretary, said that the rule would help modernize oversight of the industry, and that it balanced business interests with environmental concerns. “I believe these regulations will enable us to both grow the economy and protect our resources,” she said on a conference call with reporters.

5 years after BP oil spill, Obama administration proposes new offshore drilling regulations

A week shy of the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Obama administration proposed new regulations Monday aimed at strengthening oversight of offshore oil drilling equipment and ensuring that out-of-control wells can be sealed in an emergency.

The explosion of the Deepwater rig on April 20, 2010, dumped as many as 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

5 Years Later, This Is How The Gulf Is Still Being Destroyed By The BP Oil Spill

As catastrophic as the oil that was released during the Deepwater Horizon spill, new evidence shows that the chemicals used to help clean up the spill may have done more damage to the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem in the long-term than previously thought.

After the spill, there were concerns over the use of chemical dispersants used to help clean up the spill. One of the two most used dispersants is called Corexit. The chemical has been shown to be both harmful to human and marine life. Now, new research from Temple University shows the devastating impact these chemicals have had on marine life. They have found residue on coral populations that contains oil and dispersants. When combined, oil and dispersants become much more toxic.

Five Years After Gulf Oil Spill, Texas A&M Researchers Looking For Answers

As the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico approaches, numerous Texas A&M University scientists are involved in some of the most advanced research in the world on various projects related to the worst oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry – one that they say may take many years to understand its long-range effects.

They say their research could also help communities cope more effectively in the event of a similar incident in the future.

Vancouver oil spill: Coast guard fires back at criticism of response

The Canadian Coast Guard is continuing to defend its response to the oil spill in Vancouver’s English Bay last Wednesday, despite criticism from city and provincial officials.

Commissioner Jody Thomas said she was “enormously pleased” with the progress of the cleanup, and called the co-ordinated effort “unprecedented” while giving an update on the situation Monday morning.

State investigating Lake Oscawana oil spill

An oil spill of up to 200 gallons by Lake Oscawana in Putnam Valley has residents worried about their well water.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating a home heating oil spill at 55 Lee Ave., which is believed to have come from a hole in the fuel tank system. Some of the heating oil migrated on to the lake’s surface and it’s believed to have contaminated the ground, said Putnam Valley Supervisor Robert Tendy.

Overturned rig triggers ‘huge’ oil spill in northeast Harris County

Authorities are responding to an accident involving an overturned big rig that’s resulted in a “huge” oil spill in northeast Harris County.

The tanker overturned on De Zavalla at Market in Channelview. Details of the wreck weren’t immediately clear, but a spokesperson from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office described the spill as “huge.”

Montana lifts fish advisory downstream of oil spill

Montana wildlife officials have lifted an advisory urging people to use caution when eating fish caught downstream of an oil pipeline break along the Yellowstone River near Glendive.

The Jan. 17 spill along a line owned by Bridger Pipeline LLC released 30,000-gallons of oil into the river. Most of the crude was not recovered.

National Energy Board launches map of oil spills, pipeline incidents

The National Energy Board has launched an interactive map on its website that tracks spills and other pipeline incidents. The launch comes two years after Global News requested comprehensive incident data related to oil spills from both the provincial and federal governments, and received incomplete and unusable data from the NEB. It also comes a year and a half after CBC mapped the NEB data, after an access-to-information request that it noted contained “a number of blanks and inaccuracies.”

Tribes say no to Keystone

Native Americans are pressuring the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, warning the project could infringe on their water rights, harm sacred land and violate America’s treaty obligations.

Tribes sent more than 100 pages of letters to the Interior Department earlier this year raising concerns about the project, which would carry oil sands from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Canada needs better oil spill preparedness in the Arctic: Transport Canada

Canada needs to be better prepared for a catastrophic spill of oil in the Arctic, say members of Transport Canada’s tanker expert panel.

And the federal government should make sure the shipping industry, the Canadian Coast Guard and people who live in Canada’s Arctic region are involved in spill preparedness and response, says their review of Canada’s spill and preparedness response for the Arctic.

Shell’s Artic Fate To Be Decided Soon

The US government has begun its full review of an application by Royal Dutch Shell to resume offshore drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean off the Alaskan coast.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), an arm of the Interior Department, said April 10 that it had satisfactorily finished its initial review of Shell’s application, submitted March 31, to drill in the Chukchi Sea and now could begin its final analysis.

Japan court halts restart of two reactors in blow to nuclear sector

A Japanese court on Tuesday issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two reactors citing safety concerns, in a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to return to atomic energy four years after the Fukushima crisis.

It is the second court ruling in less than a year against reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power, the country’s most nuclear-reliant utility before Fukushima.

TEPCO abandons robot stranded inside Fukushima plant

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has given up trying to recover a robotic probe after it stopped moving inside one of the reactors.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) deployed the remote-controlled robot on Friday inside one of the damaged reactors that had suffered a meltdown following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Food from Fukushima could be hitting Britain’s shelves through legal safety loophole

Food produced around the Fukushima nuclear disaster site could be making its way on to British shelves because of loopholes in safety rules, The Independent can reveal.

Products contaminated by radiation, including tea, noodles and chocolate bars, have already been exported from Japan under the cover of false labelling by fraudsters.

Pictures captured inside Fukushima nuclear plant

A remote-controlled survey robot sent into the Fukushima nuclear power plant that went into meltdown in Japan in 2011has sent back some chilling images from inside the tsunami-hit reactor.

The “transformer” robot was sent into the plant on Friday morning to remove melted nuclear fuel from the unit’s primary containment vessel, as part of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s efforts to clean up the radioactive site, Japan Times reports.

Inside Fukushima Nuclear Reactor: Radiation Can Kill Humans in an Hour, Robot Finds [VIDEO]

The first photos of a radioactive nuclear reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant that faced meltdown in the 2011 tsunami earthquake have been taken by a robot, which also found that the radiation at the reactor’s epicentre can kill a human in under an hour.

Radiation measured at deadly 9.7 sieverts in Fukushima reactor

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday that radiation in the primary containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 power station gets as high as 9.7 sieverts per hour — enough to kill a human within an hour.

The radiation levels at six locations in the western section of the first floor of the PCV ranged from 7.0 to 9.7 sieverts per hour, the beleaguered utility said in disclosing data collected by a remote-controlled robot on Friday.

It’s hot: Chernobyl now a tourist zone

Nearly 30 years after the nuclear disaster there, the name Chernobyl still inspires dread.

When an explosion tore through Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl power plant on April 26, 1986, it was the worst nuclear accident the world had ever seen.

Feds Report Improvements at Palisades Nuclear Plant, But Say There’s Still More Work to Do

An aging nuclear power plant that once leaked into Chicago’s main source of drinking water has received an improved report card, although the plant remains a source of controversy and federal regulators said they will continue to monitor the plant closely.

Palisades Power Plant, located near South Haven, Michigan, sits on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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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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