Environmental Must-Reads – April 18, 2013


Environmental Groups Take Fracking Fight to Court

Environmental groups looking to put the brakes on the controversial oil and gas drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing are filing a new lawsuit on Thursday. The suit comes after the groups won a round in court earlier this month.

Fracking opponents can start gathering signatures for a 2014 ballot proposal

Supporters of a ban on fracking in Michigan can begin gathering petition signatures that could put the issue on the 2014 ballot.

The Board of State Canvassers approved the petition language this morning. The proposal would ban the practice of using horizontal hydraulic fracturing, called fracking, to get at pools of natural gas and oil deep underground across the state.

Ohio tells feds: Stay off fracking

Despite a history marked with fracking catastrophes, Ohio still wants to retain oversight of its hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal industry.

Rick Simmers, chief of the state’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources, testified Wednesday in Washington, D.C., against any federal oversight of fracking and wastewater disposal.

Fracking roundup: Gas prices up; Medical Society wants moratorium

All has been quiet in recent weeks when it comes to New York’s ongoing debate of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. But that doesn’t mean interest has waned. Here’s a roundup of the latest news…

– One aspect of the fracking debate that some believe has slowed a decision in New York is the wholesale price of natural gas, which dropped to decade-long lows as gas drilling and large-scale fracking increased outside of New York. The low prices led to less interest in dry-gas areas—such as New York’s portion of the Marcellus Shale—from gas companies and a slowdown in drilling. Now, prices are back on the rise.

Fracking trade secrets case headed to Wyoming Supreme Court

A coalition of environmental and landowner groups on Wednesday appealed a Casper judge’s decision that individual ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing can be protected under Wyoming’s trade secrets law.

New York Town Repeals Fracking Gag Order After Free Speech Lawsuit

The Town Board of Sanford, NY, has repealed the gag order it passed last summer on discussing fracking at their meetings, following a First Amendment lawsuit filed in February by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy. As a result, the groups are dropping their Freedom of Speech lawsuit today.

Illinois Fracking Debate: Silence Before the Storm in Springfield

There has been a peculiar silence out of Springfield as it relates to fracking.

And that is a problem.

As I’ve noted previously, there are virtually no laws governing hydraulic fracturing in this state. As it stands now, anyone with a hundred bucks can get a permit  and within two days, frack to their heart’s content. Obviously, the status quo is completely untenable for anyone who cares about the health, safety and economy of Illinois. Especially as a land lease tsunami has raged in portions of the state for would-be-frackers to accumulate fracking rights on other people’s property.

Greenwashing from Coast to Coast

If you live in Oregon, you are familiar with the spectacle of greenwashing at the highest levels of political theater. As Portland gears up to host the UN’s World Environment Day, the international attention almost obscures the plans for multiple freeway expansions, a Nestle water bottling plant, huge timber sales (whispers of biofuel replants), a dodgy LNG pipeline, and the terrible specter of coal exports. The ringleaders of the circus are the political elites.

Fighting Threat to Beautiful Lake Region, “Seneca Lake 12” Anti-Fracking Activists Face Jail for Civil Disobedience

Activists were protesting a company’s plans to store billions of barrels of fracking gas in salt caverns below a lake.

House Panel Misses Facts On Oil And Gas On Federal Lands

Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee will do their level best at a hearing today to perpetuate a host of myths about the pace and efficiency of oil and gas development on federal lands compared to state and private lands. And as in the past, their level best won’t be on the level.

Gulf spill judge says ruling could take months

The first phase of the civil trial over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill ended Wednesday after eight weeks of testimony.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier gave the lawyers 60 days to file written conclusions about the evidence and then another 20 days to reply to those briefs, suggesting it could be at least three months before he issues any substantive rulings apportioning blame for the disaster.

Testimony wraps up in first phase of BP oil spill trial

Testimony in the first phase of the sprawling BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill trial concluded Wednesday (April 17), almost three years to the day after the explosion and collapse of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 workers and caused one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

Testimony Ends for 1st Phase of BP Oil Spill Trial

Testimony concluded Wednesday for the first phase of a high-stakes trial over the deadly 2010 rig explosion that led to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill, but the presiding judge didn’t immediately rule in the case.

After BP PLC wrapped up its defense on the trial’s 29th day, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier announced he would give the parties more than two months to submit written briefs outlining their conclusions about the case.

Gulf Coast Advocates Call for BP to Face Full Penalty for Oil Spill

Environmentalists, residents, and community activists along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are calling for BP to face the maximum penalty for the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. MPB’s Daniel Cherry reports, Saturday marks the 3rd anniversary of what’s considered the worst environmental disaster in American history.

BP oil spill cleanup continues, three years after blowout

As the three-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout approaches, laborious efforts to remove mats of oil and tar balls are still underway along Gulf of Mexico shorelines.

The U.S. Coast Guard just wrapped up a 10-day operation along a two-mile stretch of Pensacola Beach in Florida that recovered more than 450 pounds of oil from the spill, which was triggered by the explosion of a BP oil rig on April 20, 2010.

BP oil spill panel: Congress failed

Three years after the BP oil spill ravaged the Gulf Coast, Congress has failed to take action to prevent another disaster, former members of President Barack Obama’s oil spill commission said Wednesday.

“Three years have passed since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers, and Congress has yet to pass one piece of legislation to make drilling safer,” former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, a former co-chairman of the commission, told reporters.

Oil Spill Commission grades Congress D-plus

Just prior to the three-year anniversary of the BP oil disaster, the former members of the president’s oil leak commission again criticized Congress for inaction in legislatively making offshore drilling more safe.

The Oil Spill Commission Action — formerly known as President Barack Obama’s Oil Spill Commission — gave Congress a D-plus, which is an improvement from the D grade that it was given a year ago.

ExxonMobil: 205 Animals Killed in Mayflower Oil Spill

According to ExxonMobil, a total of 205 animals have died as a result of the Mayflower oil spill so far.

An Exxon spokesperson says as of Tuesday night, 62 animals were classified as “dead on arrival,” meaning they were either found dead or died “in transport.”

Two Weeks After Oil Spill, Cleanup Is So Loud ‘I Had To Take Something To Knock Me Out’

The last time we spoke with Mayflower, Arkansas’ Misty Sobanski, she and her 16-year-old daughter were still laid up in a nearby hotel.

Now, two weeks after an Exxon-owned pipeline spilled more than 10,000 gallons of oil in the small hamlet, Sobanski says she applauds the progress Exxon has made in the clean up.

But nuisances remain.

Exxon has no estimate for restart of Pegasus oil pipeline

Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) said on Wednesday it had no estimate for the restart of a pipeline that spilled 5,000 barrels of oil in a small Arkansas town last month and sparked debate about the safety of carrying heavy crude from Canada across the United States.

Quite a Jolt: Earthquakes Heralded Opening of Sinkhole

Earthquakes signaled the opening of a giant toxic sinkhole in southeastern Louisiana last year, researchers reported here today (April 17) at the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting.

Battle over Lake Peigneur heads to court

The battle over the proposed expansion of a natural gas storage operation under Lake Peigneur is headed to court.

Save Lake Peigneur, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and lake-area resident Roger Stelly have filed a lawsuit to void a permit the state Department of Natural Resources granted last month for the project.

Keystone Pipeline Will Create Only 35 Permanent Jobs, Emit 51 Coal Plants’ Worth Of Carbon

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he wasn’t touching the Keystone pipeline decision with a ten-foot pole:

“I am staying as far away from that as I can now so that when the appropriate time comes to me, I am not getting information from any place I shouldn’t be, and I am not getting engaged in the debate at a time that I shouldn’t be,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Lighting a Spark on the High Plains

I GREW up in Nebraska. My great-grandparents homesteaded here. Generally, Nebraskans are a polite, cautious people more interested in weather than politics, and in pie than causes. That is, until recently.

In 2008 TransCanada announced plans for its Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands crude oil across the state’s fertile Sand Hills region and over the Ogallala Aquifer, a vital source of fresh water for irrigation. But it wasn’t until after the BP oil spill in 2010 that most Nebraskans became concerned. Suddenly, small groups of people gathered in living rooms, churches and cafes to discuss what might happen in the event of a spill or leak.

Opponents Rally Against Keystone XL Pipeline at State Department Hearing

Landowners, community leaders, experts and activists gathered in Grand Island, NE with a clear message to State Department on the Keystone XL pipeline: this pipeline is too risky for American families because of its threats to water, land and climate.

Shell signs agreement with Russia to seek oil in Arctic

Although Royal Dutch Shell has announced a hiatus this summer for exploring the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean off of Alaska, the energy giant isn’t slowing down.  Shell has signed an agreement with Russian energy giant Gazprom, allowing it to explore and develop petroleum prospects in Russia’s Arctic.

IAEA Team Probes Fukushima’s Radioactive Water

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency is in Japan visiting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The visit comes a week after reports emerged that large amounts of radioactive water had leaked from reservoirs where it was being stored.

Fukushima kids sue for evacuation

Their demand: The right to live free of radiation. The plaintiffs who started the legal battle: 14 children.

The Sendai High Court is expected to rule soon on this unusual lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the children by their parents and antinuclear activists in June 2011 in the district court in the city of Fukushima, about 60 km west of the crippled nuclear plant.

Penn State digitizes critical data to aid in Fukushima cleanup

When a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Japan in March 2011, its shockwaves caused a nuclear meltdown that rivaled Chernobyl: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Luckily, the Penn State Engineering Library already had a collection of documents that Japanese scientists knew would help them in their recovery efforts.

Yamagata Prefecture refuses waste soil from Fukushima

The Yamagata Prefectural Government has reportedly refused the transfer of around 150 metric tons of waste soil from Fukushima on grounds of possible radioactive contamination. The waste soil comes from ongoing reconstruction efforts in the Fukushima prefecture, but the local prefectural government has instructed the building contractor to refrain from bringing any of it into Yamagata.

Nuclear fuel leaves French port for Japan, first since Fukushima

A shipment of highly radioactive nuclear fuel to Japan left the port of Cherbourg in northern France on Wednesday for the first time since the Fukushima disaster, French energy group Areva said on Thursday.

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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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