Environmental Must-Reads – April 15, 2013


Pennsylvania Court Deals Blow to Secrecy-Obsessed Fracking Industry

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.

First UK fracking leak as Dart Energy wells fail

The Scottish Herald today reported the UK’s first fracking leak – at Coal Bed Methane (CBM) wells near Canonbie in Scotland. The wells – owned by Dart Energy – confirm anecdotal evidence from locals who have – over the last two years – periodically noticed gas in their water supply.

Stopping LNG Exports Key to Preventing the Spread of Fracking

For people concerned about the harmful effects of fracking in the U.S., they should do whatever they can to prevent natural gas companies from exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG). Deborah Rogers—a shale gas industry expert, former investment banker and founder of Energy Policy Forum—underscores the importance of anti-export campaigns. She contends that stopping LNG exports is the most important step citizens can take to prevent shale gas companies from creating even larger industrial fracking zones in their communities.

LINK-TV: “Fracking Hell — The Untold Story”

An original investigative report by Earth Focus and UK’s Ecologist Film Unit looks at the risks of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale. From toxic chemicals in drinking water to unregulated interstate dumping of potentially radioactive waste that experts fear can contaminate water supplies in major population centers including New York City, are the health consequences worth the economic gains?

Protecting Water from Fracking Risks: NEPA Environmental Review Remains Essential

The need to protect some of California’s rich agricultural land provides the latest example of how important NEPA is in safeguarding our nation’s natural resources. Last week a federal court ruled that fracking proposals there need to look at the air and water impacts of fracking more thoroughly. This is just the latest powerful reminder of why “NEPA” is so important. NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act. As we’ve blogged before, NEPA is an incredibly successful law that establishes a process to assess the environmental impacts of a proposed project through an analysis like an Environmental Impact Statement, thoroughly consider all costs and benefits, and maximize the benefits while minimizing the harms. Then it gives the public, including independent scientists, an opportunity to provide input.

Environmentalists fear weaker fracking rule

Environmentalists fear the oil and gas industry has the Obama administration’s ear as the government prepares to release a new draft rule to govern fracking on federal lands.

Though the Interior Department has yet to release an official draft, each subsequent leaked version contains less of what environmental groups want, the activists say, taking the rule further away from its potential of setting strict standards for the industry.

Centrica, Qatar buy C$1 billion of gas assets in Canada

Britain’s Centrica and Qatar Petroleum International (QPI) have bought gas and oil assets in Canada from Suncor Energy for C$1 billion, ($987 million) including some with potential for shale gas production, they said on Monday.

South African ‘fracktivist’ awarded top U.S. environmental prize

A late-blooming activist who helped secure a moratorium in South Africa against fracking has won a prominent U.S. environmental activism prize in California, where the debate over the oil and gas extraction technique is only heating up.

Anti-fracking groups dismiss drilling certification as ‘publicity stunt’

The proposed gas-drilling certification process created by a partnership of the fracking industry and regional environmental groups is getting harsh criticism from grass-roots activists throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Exxon to remove damaged part of Arkansas oil pipeline on Monday

A 52-feet section of Exxon Mobil Corp’s damaged Arkansas crude oil pipeline will be cut and removed on Monday, the company said.

The portion of the Pegasus pipeline, which ruptured on March 29 resulting in a 5,000-barrel oil spill, will be transported to an independent third-party laboratory for metallurgy testing, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

Major Oil Spill in Arkansas: Has ExxonMobil Lost Control of More than Just its Tar Sands Oil?

It took less than an hour for something like 5,000 barrels (at 42 gallons per barrel) of ExxonMobil’s tar sands oil flow into a residential neighborhood and surrounding wetlands in [1]Mayflower, Arkansas,[1] on March 29, once the company’s Pegasus pipeline had opened a two-inch hole along its top surface.  The hole was also over 22 feet long and made the pipe look like a split sausage.

Arkansas oil spill is only a fraction of annual pipeline losses

The images from Mayflower, Ark., after a March 29 oil spill were particularly repulsive: A river of black goo running through yards and down the street of a subdivision, and hundreds of workers arriving to clean up an industrial mess in a peaceful burg.

But the Exxon Mobil pipeline spill, initially estimated to have released at least 157,000 gallons of crude oil and driven more than 20 families from their homes, represents only a fraction of the regular oil losses from the huge network of pipelines stretching across the United States.

Residents Living Near Oil Spill Site Concerned for Their Health

Homeowners in Mayflower’s Northwoods subdivision were not the only ones affected by the ExxonMobil oil spill. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the neighborhood surrounded by Lake Conway and the cove adjacent to it also remains an area of concern.

Shell’s Plot to Silence Protests Against Arctic Drilling

Corporations want to work in secret. It’s what they do, and why they have lawyers. In secret, they can spill, clearcut, burn and otherwise destroy the environment and local communities while telling the world they’re doing just the opposite. Shell Oil’s legal team is currently working overtime to keep the company’s Arctic work secret from advocacy groups like Greenpeace. It’s a battle that will have implications well beyond the Far North. If Shell ultimately wins the legal battle with us this month, corporate secrecy will have the blessing of a federal court—and America’s First Amendment rights will take a devastating hit.

Chukchi Sea current would send spilled oil straight at Northwest Alaska

This year, there is new information about a huge subsurface ocean current (the Divergent Current) in the Chukchi Sea that would bring any oil spills from the drill sites straight to shore, spreading up and down both coasts of the entire North Slope.

More money needed for Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund

A universal truth in all major oil spills is that once the oil is spilled, the damage is done. In Alaska, damage from the 1989 Exxon Valdez persists today, 24 years later. In the Gulf of Mexico, serious impacts from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout are well documented, and will almost certainly persist for decades as well.

Canada Omits Marine Safety From Enbridge Pipe Conditions

Canada’s national energy regulator has omitted marine transportation from draft conditions for Enbridge Inc. (ENB)’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline through British Columbia.

The draft conditions, set out April 12 by the National Energy Board, would be applied to the oil and condensate pipelines, the loading terminal at the port of Kitimat, British Columbia and construction of the project, without taking into account tanker routes to the Pacific Ocean, documents show.

Great Lakes oil proposals threaten repeat of Kalamazoo spill, environmentalists say

Two oil projects in the works could significantly increase the amount of heavy crude oil moving on — and near — the Great Lakes, causing alarm among environmentalists because they involve the same heavy oil that was behind a $1-billion oil spill on the Kalamazoo River in 2010 that remains an ecological disaster.

Louisiana sinkhole shatters calm, prompts buyouts on the bayou

Tim Brown eases his john boat from his back yard dock into his daily therapy: The Bayou Corne that courses through this patch of southern Louisiana like a lifeline. Brown powers past the Tupelo Gum, Cypress Moss and Swamp Maple trees that drape the bayou in a frame, and steers to the spot where he reels catfish and collects thoughts.

“If I had to actually leave this place and go back to a house on dry land, I’d probably be dead in two years,” says Brown, 65 and retiring next year. “I guess you can say it’s a totally different life out here.”

Louisiana Lawmakers Seek Better Oversight of Salt Mines

Lawmakers are looking to prevent a repeat of the massive Assumption Parish sinkhole that officials say was caused by a collapsed underground salt cavern – and make sure prospective property owners know what may lie beneath the ground before they buy.

The proposed laws filed by four legislators whose districts include the sinkhole area would halt permits for new salt mining operations; limit the reuse of storage caverns after a disaster, such as the development of a sinkhole; mandate regular mapping and monitoring of sites; and impose stiffer fines for noncompliance.

Cavity near sinkhole almost filled

New tests of a failed salt dome cavern in Assumption Parish show that 97 percent of the 20-million-barrel subsurface cavity is filled with rock and other underground material, Texas Brine Co. officials said Friday.

Scientists studying the Texas Brine cavern inside the Napoleonville Dome believe that once the cavern is completely filled, a large, sometimes rumbling sinkhole near the Bayou Corne community will begin to calm down.

Greenpeace activists plant North Pole flag to fight Arctic oil drilling

Activists have planted a flag at the North Pole along with millions of signatures calling for the Arctic to be declared a global sanctuary protected from oil drilling, lobby group Greenpeace said on Monday.

Expedition members cut a hole in the ice and lowered the “flag for the future” onto the seabed along with a titanium-glass capsule containing 2.7 million signatures against the exploitation of the pristine Arctic.

Construction at ExxonMobil Chalmette Refining to cause loud whooshing sounds Saturday through Tuesday

Officials with ExxonMobil’s Chalmette Refining warn that ongoing construction at one of the refinery’s largest units will result in loud whooshing sounds Saturday through Tuesday.

“Steam at high pressure is an important part of our manufacturing process,” said news release issued by the company. “At various intervals you may hear the steam, charging the system, being relieved through valves, giving off a loud whooshing sound.

UN Nuclear Experts to Inspect Fragile Fukushima Plant

A UN nuclear watchdog team is reviewing the cleanup process at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, where leaks and power cuts have eroded public confidence in the process.

M5.2 quake jolts Fukushima, vicinity

An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 5.2 jolted Fukushima Prefecture and its vicinity Sunday evening, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Small Leak Is Discovered at Plant in Fukushima

Efforts to remove highly contaminated water from a leaking underground storage pool at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant were delayed on Sunday when the plant’s operator said it had found yet another leak, this time in the pipes that would be used to move the water to above-ground storage containers.

Tepco postpones transfer of radioactive water in Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday it has postponed the transfer of radioactive water from a leaking underground tank at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant because it needs more time to conduct safety checks and install a water pipe.

Japan Plant Forced to Move Tainted Water

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant on Wednesday said it has to move tens of thousands of tons of radioactive water out of leaky underground reservoirs—the latest in a string of problems and missteps that has spurred a rebuke from regulators and amplified fears that the heavily damaged plant isn’t fully under control.

Lawsuit seeks evacuation of Fukushima children

A Japanese appeals court is expected to rule soon on this unusual lawsuit, filed on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists in June 2011 in a district court in Fukushima city, about 60 kilometres west of the crippled nuclear plant that spewed radiation when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit it more than two years ago.

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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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