Environmental Must-Reads – April 20, 2015


Twelve Injured in PG&E Pipeline Rupture in Fresno, Calif.

Twelve people were injured and six were being treated for critical or serious injuries at a Fresno, Calif., hospital over the weekend after a PG&E Corp.natural gas pipeline ruptured and ignited a fire.

The underground high-pressure natural-gas transmission pipeline ruptured Friday afternoon after a Fresno County employee was operating heavy earth-moving equipment near it, according to a county Sheriff’s Department spokesman and PG&E.

Another PG&E pipeline explosion: What was learned from the 2010 explosion? (+video)

A Friday afternoon pipeline explosion at the Fresno County Sheriff gun range left 11 people injured and caused a massive traffic jam on the nearby state Highway 99, according to the Associated Press.

The pipeline is owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co (PG&E) and may prompt new questions about California natural gas pipeline safety.

Land much altered before PG&E pipeline blast

The ground at the site of a natural gas pipeline explosion that injured 12 people has been altered significantly in the two years since Pacific Gas and Electric Co. last surveyed the location of the line, officials said Saturday.

Seven people remained hospitalized Saturday, including four in critical condition, said Mary Lisa Russell, a spokesperson for Community Regional Medical Center, where most victims are being treated.

Portland torn over $500m terminal: could fracking creep into a ‘green’ city?

Portland’s claim to lead US cities in combating climate change is under threat from plans to build a $500m terminal to export gas pumped from fracking in Canada.

Amid fears that Portland’s progressive, environmentally conscious image could be badly dented, the city is divided over whether exporting natural gas is part of the problem or the solution, in reducing carbon emissions.

Top oil-producing nations, companies pledge to curb flaring, a major source of CO2

Top oil-producing nations, including the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Angola, as well as Royal Dutch Shell PLC and other companies say they will stop flaring natural gas by 2030 as part of a landmark agreement with the World Bank.

The deal was unveiled this morning during the World Bank’s Spring Meetings, where leaders said the voluntary agreement will curb 40 percent of the global gas flaring that results in 300 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Colo. congressman pulls back from direct role in anti-fracking fight

Environmental activists in Colorado who fell short of putting a measure curbing hydraulic fracturing before voters last year are already back at work on a similar ballot initiative for the 2016 election.

But don’t expect Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) to lead that fight.

As Researchers Tie Fracking and Radon, Pennsylvania Moves to Keep Drilling Radioactivity Data Under Wraps

Last week, research into the connection between fracking and radon, an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas, drew international attention, making headlines in English, German and Italian.

The study, published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that buildings in Pennsylvania counties where fracking is most common had significantly higher radon readings than the levels found in counties with little shale gas drilling — a difference that emerged around 2004, when the shale rush arrived.

Fracking Wastewater Tank Explosion: Concerns Over Contaminated Water Reaching Farms

Crews worked to keep contamination out of nearby farms and irrigation ditches after tanks at a fracking wastewater facility in Weld County burst into flames on Friday afternoon.

The explosion happened about 1 p.m. at the site located near the intersection of Weld County Road 47 and Weld County Road 64, just northeast of the Greeley Airport.

Ecotricity offers anaerobic digestion of grass as answer to fracking

A plant that turns grass into gas could be Britain’s answer to fracking, according to its operators.

The anaerobic digestion system will be one of the first such plants to feed gas directly into the British grid and the first to be fed solely on grass.

The development in Gloucestershire by Ecotricity, a green energy company, would heat 6,000 homes. It will enter the planning stages within months and could be operating before 2017, should it receive approval.

Beer drinkers join the fight against fracking with claims it poses a ‘substantial threat to the quality of real ale’

Real ale enthusiasts are accustomed to taking a firm stand on the price of a pint or the plight of pubs, but a move to oppose the gas extraction technique known as fracking would take them into uncharted waters.

Members of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) will this week vote on a proposal to oppose the controversial drilling process, in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into rock at high pressure.

Feds order speed limits for oil trains

The Obama administration is requiring freight rail companies to impose a 40 mile per hour speed limit on oil trains that run near major cities that have large populations.

The announcement, from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), comes in response to a series of high-profile accidents that have raised questions about the safety of shipping large amounts of crude oil by train.

New safety rules since massive sinkhole prevent Texas Brine from expanding salt cavern operation; company files suit against Dow

A 29-year-old Dow Chemical Co. salt cavern sits so close to Texas Brine’s property that new state safety regulations — created after the 2012 Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster — now prevent the Houston company from mining any new caverns on its property, a federal lawsuit alleges.

Texas Brine Co. has sued Dow and a local land company over the Dow cavern carved from the Napoleonville salt dome in Assumption Parish.

Louisiana five years after BP oil spill: ‘It’s not going back to normal no time soon’

To hear BP tell it, the environmental disaster that struck the Gulf of Mexico five years ago is nearly over – the beaches have been cleared of oil, and the water in the Gulf is as clear as it ever was. But how do you spot a continued disaster if its main indicator is the absence of something?

On this strip of land in south-eastern Louisiana, the restaurants are still empty, FOR SALE signs are increasing in store windows, people are still moving away, and this marina on Pointe a la Hache – once packed most afternoons with oystermen bringing in their catch on their small boats, high school kids earning a few bucks unloading the sacks, and 18-wheelers backed up by the dozen to carry them away – is completely devoid of life, save one man, 69-year-old Clarence Duplessis, who cleans his boat to pass the time.

5 Years After Gulf Oil Spill, BP Spokesman Tells Public Not To Worry About Tar Balls In The Water

Five years ago, BP’s historic 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill resulted in more than 210 million barrels of oil ending up in the Gulf of Mexico. But while scientists continue to observe ongoing problems, a BP spokesman appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday suggesting the remaining oil no longer poses a risk to humans or the aquatic ecosystem.

Alisha Renfro, the Mississippi River Delta Campaign staff scientist for the National Wildlife Federation told a This Week reporter that while you no longer see oil slicked islands today: “You see tar balls that are washing up. And what it points to is the fact that oil is still in the system and, just because we can’t always see it everywhere we go, it’s still out there.”

BP oil spill: In hard-hit oyster areas, concrete mountains rise 5 years after disaster

LA 624 runs for a few miles east of Yscloskey in southeastern St. Bernard Parish, passing Bakers Ditch and the Hopedale Canal before ending nearly where a rock barrier now closes the old Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.

Camps raised on pilings – some so high that they resemble Daddy-Longlegs – share space with modest mobile homes and boats. The road divides marshes and waterways that open up to oyster country.

Trustees, BP announce $134 million in proposed early restoration projects on oil spill anniversary

Federal and state trustees and BP announced the tentative approval of 10 more natural resource early restoration projects, totaling $134 million, on Monday (Apr. 20), the 5th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon accident that killed 11 workers and resulted in the release of 3.19 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

Included are major projects aimed at getting fishers to reduce bycatch of Gulf fish species during long-line fishing and of endangered sea turtles during shrimping.

5 years after BP spill, drillers push into riskier depths

Five years after the nation’s worst offshore oil spill, the industry is working on drilling even further into the risky depths beneath the Gulf of Mexico to tap massive deposits once thought unreachable. Opening this new frontier, miles below the bottom of the Gulf, requires engineering feats far beyond those used at BP’s much shallower Macondo well.

But critics say energy companies haven’t developed the corresponding safety measures to prevent another disaster or contain one if it happens — a sign, environmentalists say, that the lessons of BP’s spill were short-lived.

Five Years After the BP Oil Disaster: A Barrier Island for Nesting Birds Devoid of Life

Cat Island, off the Gulf Coast in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, was home to a vibrant bird rookery inhabited by brown pelicans, seagulls, spoonbills, and egrets before BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Five years after the largest oil spill in American history, the barrier island has just about disappeared.

Despite ongoing efforts by former Plaquemines Parish coastal zone manager PJ Hahn to restore the island, only the needed building permits and an engineering plan have been completed.

“Cat Island was ground zero of the oil spill,” Hahn told DeSmogBlog.

Five Years after the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster, Oil Spills Are on the Rise

Offshore and onshore, oil and gas operations and transportation appear no safer than before

Five years after the BP/Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico sparked national outrage, oil spills remain a routine occurrence across the United States. Yet many receive little — if any — national attention. The enormity and unprecedented scale of the BP disaster demanded a federal emergency response and captured daily headlines for months. But oil spills and pipeline ruptures occur daily – as they have nearly every day since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010. While many are relatively small in comparison, they still pose threats to public safety, health, and the environment.

Five years after BP spill, new rules for offshore drilling aim to boost safety

There aren’t many issues on which government regulators, oil industry experts and environmentalists can all agree, but five years after the BP gulf oil spill, many say offshore drilling operations are safer — although there is debate over whether ocean drilling should be expanded.

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people in one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters. For 87 days, the country was transfixed by images of millions of barrels of oil gushing from the seafloor, coating marine life and soiling more than a thousand miles of coast from Texas to Florida.

Five years after BP oil spill, some Gulf oystermen are losing hope

Five years after the largest oil spill in U.S. history spewed millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, many Louisiana oystermen are fearful that a once-bountiful population of the mollusks may never recover.

“My kids are losing hope,” said Wilbert Collins, 77, a retired third-generation oysterman in southeastern Louisiana with four sons who followed him into the industry. The family business has endured a 60 percent drop in yields in the past five years.

On BP oil spill anniversary, ex-NOAA director urges major changes in federal spill contingency plan

Five years after the BP oil spill, the National Contingency Plan used by federal agencies to respond to major environmental threats still needs to be revamped to adjust to the lessons from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, said Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist who ran the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the spill.

The response strategy, which guides how the government and the companies responsible for a disaster must respond, was conceived after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Oil Rigs’ Biggest Risk: Human Error

In a third-floor room of an office building here, a cluster of equipment mounted with dials, wheels and screens mimics the controls of a deep-water oil rig so workers can practice reacting to dangerous situations.

BPPLC set up the drilling simulator at its campus two years ago and designed a program that not only trains workers to respond to nightmare scenarios but also tests how they perform under stress. During drills, BP says, a behavioral psychologist takes notes.

Thousands of claims languish 5 years after spill

When a well owned by oil giant BP blew out on April 20, 2010, causing the Deepwater Horizon rig to explode, killing 11 workers, Florida experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S history.

More than 130 million gallons of oil and gas spilled into the Gulf over the course of 87 days. The spill contaminated 1,100 miles of coastline and 68,000 square miles of surface water. Many feared the oil spill would damage Gulf waters, shores and wildlife for generations and that it would cripple the tourism and fishing industries in Gulf communities, force businesses to close and put people out of work.

Five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: impacts on Gulf communities and seafood

Many people were affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred five years ago today, even communities that didn’t have oil spilled directly onto their shorelines.

Hundreds of thousands of multi-generational families from Texas and Louisiana, to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, call the Gulf Coast home. Many coastal residents are commercial, recreational and subsistence fishers, and they depend on local seafood harvests to put protein on the table for their families and neighbors. It’s the basis for their regional economy.

Oil companies’ sponsorship of the arts ‘is cynical PR strategy’

Oil companies are sponsoring the arts around the world on an “epidemic” scale as a cynical PR strategy to improve their reputation, a new book argues.

Mel Evans, a campaigner who five years ago was one of two activists to gatecrash Tate Britain’s summer party and pour molasses on the floor of the gallery, has written Artwash, which explores the scale and impact of oil arts sponsorship. It is published on Monday to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

BP drilling in Great Australian Bight: Environmentalists demand answers on potential oil spill response

Environmentalists in Adelaide are pushing for oil company BP to release details about how it will deal with any possible spill in the Great Australian Bight.

The company plans to drill four deep water exploration wells there from early next year, subject to approvals.

First Nations Clash With Enbridge Over Northern Gateway

Indigenous communities in Canada are fighting Enbridge Inc.’s plans to build Northern Gateway, a 730-mile pipeline to ship Canadian oil to a West Coast port for export to Asia. The company, Ottawa and oil producers see the pipeline as key to helping the country lessen its almost total dependence on U.S. demand for oil. But the aboriginal groups say the environmental and cultural risks are too great.

Emails: How State Department Secretly Approved Expanding Piece of Enbridge’s “Keystone XL Clone”

DeSmogBlog has obtained dozens of emails that lend an inside view of how the U.S. State Department secretly handed Enbridge a permit to expand the capacity of its U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta to midwest markets.

The State Department submitted the emails into the record in the ongoing case filed against the Department by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Collectively, the emails show that upper-level State Department officials hastened the review process on behalf of Enbridge for its proposed Alberta Clipper expansion plan, now rebranded Line 67, and did not inform the public about it until it published its final approval decision in the Federal Register in August 2014.

Canada’s Own Oil Pipeline Problem

A proposed 730-mile pipeline to ship Canadian oil to a West Coast port brings with it the promise of 4,000 or more jobs along a route that would run through impoverished indigenous communities.

But Chief Justa Monk, who runs a reserve with an unemployment rate that hits 70%, wants none of them—and pledges to block the pipeline alongside the reserve’s territory.

Kerry to visit Arctic amid concern over ice melt

Secretary of State John Kerry will visit the Arctic Circle next week for key ministerial talks on climate change amid global concerns about rising seas and accelerating ice melt.

Global warming is happening twice as fast in the Arctic than elsewhere on the planet and many fear not only devastating impacts of warming but also from an influx of people and industry on the pristine environment, wildlife and Inuit culture.

Second robot captures glow inside stricken Fukushima plant

A second robotic probe sent into the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has captured images of a strange green glow.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) deployed the second remote-controlled robot last week after the first one broke down.

Tepco to Abandon Second Robot Inside Fukushima Reactor

Tokyo Electric Power Co said Monday that it has decided not to try to retrieve a second robot dispatched inside the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s No. 1 reactor, citing radiation damage to one of its cameras.

The crawler robot, sent inside the reactor’s containment vessel, has now joined a previous robot which the utility also decided to leave there earlier this month.

Fukushima container shows contaminated water

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) released still images on Friday from a video shot by a robot camera inside the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which showed contaminated water pooled at the bottom of the containment vessel.

The video was shot on Wednesday by a robot put into the containment vessel of the reactor to investigate the situation there.

Shape-shifting robot reveals secrets of Fukushima reactor

Two robots that can change their shape on command have provided the most detailed look yet inside the heart of reactor number 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan.

The reactor is one of three that suffered a core meltdown after the massive tsunami that knocked electrical systems offline at the plant in March 2011, prompting a nuclear emergency that will take decades to clean up.

R&D center for dismantling Fukushima No. 1 plant opens

In a ceremony Monday, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency marked the opening of a research center in Ibaraki Prefecture to promote the decommissioning process for the heavily damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

At the ceremony for the state-funded Collaborative Laboratories for Advanced Decommissioning Science, science minister Hakubun Shimomura described the center’s mission.

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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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