Environmental Must-Reads – April 21, 2014


Natural gas production contributing to higher ozone levels, UNT study finds

Natural gas production in the Barnett Shale is contributing to higher ozone levels in the western Metroplex, according to a new study by the University of North Texas.

In a review of air quality data from 16 ozone monitors across North Texas, researchers found that although the region’s air has improved since 2000, it has not improved as much in the areas with gas production. Since 2008, ozone levels have risen across the region, part of national trend, but they have risen more in the North Texas counties with gas production, the study found.

The fracking divide: Mexico’s oil frontier beckons U.S. drillers in wake of new law

The geological marvel known to Texas oilmen as the Eagle Ford Shale Play is buried deep underground, but at night you can see its outline from space in a twinkling arc that sweeps south of San Antonio toward the Rio Grande.

The light radiates from thousands of surface-level gas flares and drilling rigs. It is the glow of one of the most extravagant oil bonanzas in American history, the result of the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

State turned down offer to join gas drilling study

A major Pennsylvania health care system invited New York to participate in a long-term, extensive study of shale-gas drilling’s human impacts, but a partnership never materialized.

The February 2013 invitation from a Geisinger Health System administrator was among thousands of pages of documents recently released by the state Department of Health regarding its ongoing review of hydraulic fracturing.

Does fracking cause quakes? California needs to know.

Many concerns have been raised about hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking — but the one scientists know the least about is the potential for earthquakes.

Until recently, evidence linking earthquakes to fracking — the high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into rock to release the oil or gas locked within — has pointed to post-drilling operations as the culprit. In other words, the problem didn’t seem to be the original fracking but the re-injection of wastewater into wells. That suggested that if a safer disposal method could be found for the wastewater, perhaps the risk could be avoided.

In Kansas, some urge caution in linking fracking to earthquakes

Supporters of the oil and gas industry are urging a three-member, governor-appointed task force in Kansas to avoid jumping to conclusions in its study of whether fracking is causing a rise in earthquakes across the south-central region of the state.

Local officials closely watching pipeline progress

As a proposed Tennessee Gas Co. natural gas pipeline project through the Northeast begins to take shape, local officials are closely watching the potential impact.

Lenox, Richmond, Washington and several other communities are on the path of the 250-mile Northeast Pipeline Expansion Project extending from upstate New York, across western and northern Massachusetts to Dracut, a town north of Lowell near the New Hampshire border. The 36-inch pipeline project is preliminary and would require federal and state permits.

Group asks why fracking health study is done in secret

Documents obtained by a group opposed to hydrofracking show that the Cuomo Administration’s is conducting a thorough and comprehensive health study on the controversial natural gas drilling process.

The Finger Lakes based organization is wondering, why then, the review has been conducted almost entirely in secret.

Gas drilling wastewater leak found in Amwell

What has been termed a “significant” leak of drilling waste water has occurred at Range Resources’ John Day impoundment in Amwell Township, Washington County.

Lisa Kasianowitz, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, confirmed the gas-drilling company discovered the leak during an inspection and reported it to the DEP on Wednesday.

Report: Pennsylvania forests impacted by drilling

A small portion of Pennsylvania state forest land was impacted by shale gas drilling, but many questions remain about how to manage the politically sensitive issue that is opposed by many residents, according to a new report.

The 268-page Department of Conservation and Natural Resources report issued this week concluded that “shale-gas production on state forest lands is neither benign nor catastrophic” and that there are clearly impacts and trade-offs.

Range Resources Issued Violation For Leaking Impoundment

Environmental officials are investigating after drilling waste water leaked at a Range Resources impoundment site in Washington County.

The John Day impoundment site sits atop an Amwell Township hillside near I-79, but it has not been active in storing processed fracking water for more than a year.

Company fined for technique consistent with ‘fracking’ in Collier

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has fined a Texas oil company for performing a drilling technique consistent with fracking in central Collier County.

The company was fined $25,000 for its actions and is barred from using the technique further until it completes a groundwater study, according to DEP Spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller.

Wisconsin residents blame fracking for a boom in sand mining facilities

In Wisconsin, residents are having an emotional debate over the fuel-drilling technique known as “fracking,” in which a sand mixture is blasted underground to extract oil and gas from rock. Rural Wisconsin is rich in a special kind of sand used in fracking, and mining companies are lining up to get to it. But now, some residents are lining up to stop them.

EPA Gives BP ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’ on 4th Anniversary of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster

Today is the fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and dumped more than 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a three month period in 2010.

You wouldn’t think that the London-based company that spilled the oil would get an anniversary gift from the federal government. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just given BP a big one. The EPA ruled that the corporation could start bidding on lucrative new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico after having been suspended from doing any new business with the government ever since the accident.

Telltale Rainbow Sheens Reveal Thousands of Unreported Oil Spills In The Gulf

Jonathan Henderson of New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network is flying Louisiana’s coast looking for oil. As usual, he’s found some.

“I just noticed something out of the corner of my eye that looks like a sheen that had some form to it,” he says. “We’re going to go take a closer look and see if there’s a rainbow sheen.”

BP Oil spill four years later: Return to Barataria Bay and Cat Island

When a crew of journalists and environmental groups studying the effects of the BP Deepwater Macondo oil spill disembarked on Cat Island in Baratria Bay last week, there was a collective gasp.

“It looks like the Arizona desert,” said Eileen Fleming, who’s reported for WWNO spring after spring since the April 20, 2010 spill.

Four Years After The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, The Gulf Is Still Suffering

In his 34 years living in Louisiana, Ryan Lambert can’t remember ever seeing young, dead dolphins on his trips out in the Gulf. In just the last few months, however, he says he’s seen two.

Lambert, who owns a charter fishing company in Louisiana, told ThinkProgress he’s worried that the dying dolphins he’s still seeing point to lingering effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which four years ago killed 11 people and spewed 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

4 years after spill questions remain about health impacts

Ronnie Dufrene never cared much for coffee. That is, until the Lafitte native mostly lost his sense of smell after spending months working on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster response.

Now, the waft of a fresh brew is one of the few scents he can pick up.

Gulf Coast residents moving inland, more commuting to jobs

A new report confirms what anyone trying to get through Belle Chasse in the early morning or late afternoon already knows: Most people working in Plaquemines Parish don’t live there.

That kind of commuter population is true for other coastal parishes around the state as coastal erosion continues to bring the Gulf of Mexico closer to traditional communities.

The Data Center based in New Orleans released a study Sunday that in part looks at what coastal land loss has meant to a “working coast” where unemployment is routinely lower than the national average, but where more and more people don’t call those coastal parishes home.

BP oil spill film sparks new controversy over longterm impacts

Easter Sunday will mark four years since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster dumped an estimated 200 million gallons of oil into the gulf.

Now, a local filmmaker’s first screening of a new documentary is sparking more controversy. It centers around the recovery efforts and the longterm impacts on coastal communities.

Three Gulf Coast victories scored since the BP spill

You will hear a lot of gloomy reports about the state of the Gulf Coast as we approach the fourth-year commemoration of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster on April 20. And that’s fair. BP deserves little cheer in the face of widespread health problems across the Gulf, for both humans and marine animals, and the disappearance of entire fishing communities. Despite what BP is telling us, it ain’t all good. But it ain’t all bad, either.

Wanna know what’s happened to the Gulf Coast since the BP spill? Read this blog, now

On the fourth anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the big question is whether the oil spill recovery is finally over. According to BP, yes it is. Or at least BP is wrapping up “active cleanup” and headed home to get its life back, only further available if the Coast Guard calls it.

But to many of the people living along the Gulf Coast, who still have to endure the aftereffects of BP’s blunder, hell naw it ain’t over. Given the tarballs and the oil that’s still drawing a ring of eyeliner along the coast, not to mention all the devastated dolphins and oysters, it’s an insult to even suggest it.

Many Canadian aboriginals see no compromise on oil sands pipeline

Just a few miles from the spot where Enbridge Inc plans to build a massive marine terminal for its Northern Gateway oil pipeline, Gerald Amos checks crab traps and explains why no concession from the company could win his support for the project.

Amos, the former chief of the Haisla Nation on the northern coast of British Columbia and a community leader, has argued for years that the risk – no matter how small – of an oil spill in these waters outweighs any reward the controversial project might offer.

U.S. Delays Final Call on Keystone XL Pipeline

The State Department will delay its decision on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline until it has a clearer idea of how legal challenges to the pipeline’s route through Nebraska will be settled, State Department officials said Friday.

Both supporters and opponents of the pipeline criticized the delay as a political ploy aimed at punting the final call on the divisive project until after the midterm elections in November.

Bill McKibben: We Need to Win Not Delay the Keystone XL Pipeline Decision

Yesterday’s Keystone XL news from DC is both important and murky. In brief, the Obama administration announced yet another delay in their decision about the pipeline, meaning it may be past the midterm elections before a final call is made.

Pipeline delay gives boost to Obama’s political base

The latest delay to a final decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline will reinforce a White House strategy to energize President Barack Obama’s liberal-leaning base before fall elections in which Democrats risk losing control of the U.S. Senate.

Environmentalists, worried about the project’s effect on climate change, have put enormous pressure on the president to reject the pipeline from Canada’s oil sands, staging demonstrations outside the White House and protests in states where he travels.

Keystone Pipeline Fate Now in Hands of Nebraskan Jurists

The focus of the Keystone XL debate has shifted from a fierce lobbying war in Washington to Lincoln, Nebraska, where the state Supreme Court has been asked to weigh a legal challenge to the pipeline.

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline proposal

Here are some key dates in Enbridge Inc’s bid to build a 525,000-barrel-per-day pipeline from the Alberta oil sands hub of Edmonton to Kitimat, British Columbia, on Canada’s Pacific Coast.

The proposed C$7.9 billion ($7.17 billion) project has run into fierce opposition from aboriginal communities and environmental groups, and cost estimates have more than doubled since it was first announced.

Arctic Oil Rig Raided by Greenpeace Ships First Oil

Gazprom on Friday shipped the first oil from the country’s only offshore Arctic field in operation to Europe, marking the latest step in the development of the environmentally fragile and ice-cold site.

Greenpeace activists scaled the Prirazlomnaya oil rig last fall — to be arrested, initially on charges of piracy — in protest of the company messing with the pristine area and posing the risk of pollution.

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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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