Environmental Must-Reads – April 16, 2014


Here’s What Fracking Can Do to Your Health

If you know one thing about fracking, it might be that the wells have been linked to explosive tap water. Of course, a tendency toward combustion isn’t the biggest problem with gas-infused water; it’s what could happen to you when you drink it.

Although the natural gas industry is notoriously tight-lipped about the ingredients of the chemical cocktails that get pumped down into wells, by now it’s widely known that the list often includes some pretty scary, dangerous stuff, including hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol (a.k.a. antifreeze). It’s also no secret that well sites release hazardous gases like methane and benzene (a carcinogen) into the atmosphere.

As Fracking-Quake Link Becomes Clearer, Ohio Requires Stricter Seismic Monitoring

Fracking was the “probable” cause of a series of small earthquakes that shook northeast Ohio last month, state officials announced on Friday. This is the first time gas drilling in Ohio and local quakes have been linked. Previous studies have only found connections between the underground injection of fracking wastewater and tremors.

NC fracking panel set to finish writing safety rules

The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission is set to hold its last regular meeting Wednesday before the state’s proposed safety standards for fracking are taken to public hearings in community auditoriums this summer.

Wednesday’s meeting will culminate a year-and-a-half of intense, technical review that fracking critics considered too rushed and advocates praised as meticulously thorough. By the end of the meeting, the commission will have produced about 120 safety rules, setting the stage for packed public comment sessions in August that are likely to be heated.

Anadarko joins ad blitz to thwart Colorado fracking bans

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy Inc., Colorado’s largest oil producers, are waging a media campaign to promote the benefits of hydraulic fracturing as residents push statewide measures to restrict the production technique as a threat to the environment.

Fuzzy Math on Pennsylvania Fracking Jobs

Incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania has been campaigning for re-election on a platform that touts the 200,000 jobs created through his support for natural gas fracking, but the Pennsylvania fracking boom is not all that it’s cracked up to be. A provocative article newly published in The National Journal casts some serious doubts upon Corbett’s representation of the number of jobs created by fracking, an unconventional method of extracting natural gas from shale formations.

Fracking sand mines credited for fluctuating property values

Perry Schmitt describes himself as pro-mining but blames the frac sand mine across the highway from his home for driving down the asking price by more than $25,000, to $189,000.

His neighbors made out better. Kari Curran and her husband sold 130 acres for $1.5 million to a company affiliated with Unimin Mining Corp., operator of the mine. The property was previously valued at about $225,000.

Texas Freezes Agency’s Funding Over Release of Data Linking Fracking to Ozone Pollution

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has consistently said that fracking has no significant impact on air quality, not in the Barnett Shale. Not in the Eagle Ford Shale. Not anywhere.

It was news, then, when a TCEQ-funded study, performed by the Alamo Area Council of Governments, a San Antonio-area regional planning agency, suggested a link between oil and gas drilling and a recent surge in the region’s ozone levels.

New legitimacy to concerns about fracking and health

While scientists and area residents have been sounding the alarm about the health impacts of shale gas drilling for years, recent studies, a legal decision and public health advocates are bringing greater legitimacy to concerns.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves drilling vertically, then horizontally, into shale rock to obtain methane or natural gas. Water, chemicals and sand are blasted into the drilled wells, creating cracks in the adjacent rock and releasing the gases into the well. The process requires dozens of chemicals for various purposes, including reducing heat and suspending drill cuttings to avoid clogs.

Huge Methane Leaks Add Doubt on Gas as ‘Bridge’ Fuel

Natural gas as a means to produce electricity is being hailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the fuel that can act as a “bridge” between carbon-heavy coal and zero-carbon renewables, helping to reduce humans’ impact on the climate.

The idea is that burning natural gas involves fewer greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal. The IPCC in its Working Group III report says natural gas as a bridge fuel will only be effective if few gases escape into the atmosphere during natural gas production and distribution

Radioactive Waste Is North Dakota’s New Shale Problem

At a deserted gas station in a remote North Dakotan town, local officials recently found an unintended byproduct of the shale-oil boom: hundreds of garbage bags filled with mildly radioactive waste.

Methane Emissions From Gas Wells Up To 1,000 Times Higher Than Federal Estimate: Study

The Environmental Protection Agency is significantly underestimating the amount of methane that natural gas drilling operations emit, according to a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Drilling in Pa. forests: ‘Impacts and trade-offs’

About 1,486 acres of Pennsylvania state forest land has been converted to roads, pipelines, and well pads for Marcellus Shale natural gas development, according to a state monitoring report that will be released Wednesday.

Drilling companies have upgraded or constructed 161 miles of roads in state forests, including 30 miles of new roads. They also have cut 104 miles of pipeline corridors in the forests.

4 years after Gulf oil spill, wildlife still dying

Four years after the largest oil spill in U.S. history, wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico is still struggling to recover, according to a recent National Wildlife Federation report.

The report focused on 14 species affected by the spill and used data from independent scientists and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration.

BP: Shore clean-up after Gulf oil spill ends in La

Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana’s coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its “active” efforts in the area.

Earlier Tuesday, the Coast Guard issued a directive transitioning the cleanup to a phase in which Coast Guard teams, BP cleanup crews and equipment will be pre-positioned to respond to new reports of oil as needed.

BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to be major focus of state coastal authority meeting in Baton Rouge on Wednesday

Updates on the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Louisiana’s environment and its economy as the accident’s fourth anniversary approaches will be a key focus of the monthly meeting of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on Wednesday (April 16).

CPRA Executive Director Kyle Graham is expected to give an overall update on state issues involving the spill. Coast Guard Capt. Thomas Sparks, who serves as federal on-scene coordinator for the BP response to the spill, is scheduled to provide his own update on the status of that effort.

Drilling Company Sues BP For Loss Of Business After Deepwater Horizon Disaster

An oil drilling services company filed a lawsuit against BP Monday, seeking compensation for the loss of business it says resulted from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Crescent Drilling and Production Inc., which provides engineering services for companies drilling for oil both on and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, alleges that because of the moratorium imposed on new Gulf leases after the spill, Crescent experienced a loss of revenue that it wants BP to be held accountable for. The company claims that under the Oil Pollution Act, BP is responsible for all damages that result from the oil spill, including Crescent’s lost income and business opportunity.

3 Louisiana congressmen say Obama administration too slow to release BP oil spill recovery funds

Three Louisiana Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of taking too much time to develop rules for the release of recovery funds from the 2010 BP oil spill.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge and Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, Tuesday asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to speed up the process.

New York Spill Preparation Revamped As Oil Transport On Hudson River Booms

State and federal environmental officials in New York are changing the way they prepare for oil spills.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation announced last week that it’s working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard to revise and update its plans for preventing and responding to spills.

Jimmy Carter comes out against Keystone XL pipeline

Former president Jimmy Carter has joined a group of Nobel laureates who oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, warning President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry, “You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change.”

Keystone report can’t have it both ways

For all the noise about the State Department’s final environmental review of the Keystone XL Pipeline being a “blow” to pipeline opponents, the report contains more than enough information for Secretary of State John Kerry — a respected environmental champion — to conclude that the pipeline is not in the national interest.

Although you have to dig a bit, the report recognizes the dangers associated with the tar sands fuel that the pipeline would transport.

Will Uinta pipeline hurt Utah’s drinking water?

A proposed 60,000-barrel-a-day oil pipeline would eliminate 250 truck trips between Salt Lake City and the Uinta Basin, but Utah water purveyors caution that the 135-mile project could pose “catastrophic” risks to drinking-water supplies.

“It’s not a matter of if but when a pipeline ruptures and we’ll be out of drinking water for a time,” warned Scott Paxman, assistant general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

Africa and Brazil ahead of Arctic in oil exploration

Africa and Brazil are more attractive areas for oil and gas exploration than the Arctic, where firms will need 15 to 20 years to tap reserves due to the harsh climate, the chief executive of Norway’s DNV GL said.

DNV GL is one of the world’s largest certification, inspection, testing and advisory companies for the maritime, oil and gas and renewable power industries.

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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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