Environmental Must-Reads – April 22, 2014


Gas boom may spell doom for Texas village

Teresa Cornelison stands on her porch looking west as night falls on Quintana, an island town of just a few dozen residents.

A sea of pipes, tanks and other industrial structures ­looms to her right, disrupting the deserted beach and threatening the village’s future.

Washington County crash sends fracking water in stream

Potentially dozens of gallons of fracking wastewater and diesel fuel spilled into Chartiers Creek at 3 a.m. Monday after a fuel tank truck caused a rear-end, chain-reaction collision with two wastewater tank trucks stopped at a traffic light on Henderson Avenue in Canton, Washington County.

Documents show fracking health study is ongoing, group claims

Documents obtained by a group opposed to hydrofracking show the Cuomo administration is conducting a thorough health study on the controversial natural gas drilling process. The Finger Lakes based organization is now wondering why the review has been conducted almost entirely in secret.

Fracking foes cringe as unions back drilling boom

After early complaints that out-of-state firms got the most jobs, some local construction trade workers and union members in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia say they’re now benefiting in a big way from the Marcellus and Utica Shale oil and gas boom.

That vocal support from blue-collar workers complicates efforts by environmentalists to limit the drilling process known as fracking

Marcus Hook refinery gets makeover as natural gas hub

It is out with the old and in with the new at the 500-acre waterfront facility formerly known as the Sunoco Marcus Hook Refinery, now the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex.

Workers last week ripped down aging petroleum-processing equipment, part of a labyrinth of machinery that has produced gasoline, diesel, and kerosene for more than a century. Other crews built cryogenic storage tanks more than 130 feet tall with three-foot-thick walls that will hold the future: new fuels from the prolific Marcellus Shale region.

Clearfield County residents challenge EPA on permit process

Widespread concerns about earthquakes and drinking water contamination have caused more than 50 Clearfield County residents to mount a novel challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s permitting of a deep injection well for shale gas drilling wastewater in a residential area.

Transparency, good regulation needed as Wisconsin sand mines multiply, expert says

Wisconsin can protect its place as the leading supplier of sand for the nation’s fracking boom provided it has good regulations in place and promptly addresses any nuisance concerns raised by neighbors of the state’s fast-multiplying sand-mining facilities, according to a former EPA administrator who spoke to a business convention Tuesday in Middleton.

Former EPA official: Fracking transparency vital for success

Controversies over the fracking process may be inevitable, a former administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged recently, but Wisconsin can protect its place as the leading supplier of sand for the nation’s fracking boom as long as the state has strong regulations, maintains maximum transparency and responds quickly to neighbors’ concerns.

Health Department declined to join national fracking 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, Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported over the weekend.

Halliburton sees recovery in North America’s fracking market

Dave Lesar sees better days ahead for Halliburton Co. in North America’s oversupplied fracking market.

The more than two-year glut in pressure-pumping equipment used to shoot water, sand and chemicals underground to release trapped oil and natural gas is easing “much faster” than expected, the chief executive officer said today.

PG&E Pleads Not Guilty in Fatal Pipeline Blast

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pleaded not guilty Monday to a dozen felony charges stemming from alleged safety violations in a deadly 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion that leveled a suburban neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As survivors of the blast looked on, attorneys for California’s largest utility entered the plea in federal court in San Francisco to 12 felony violations of federal pipeline safety laws.

Four years later: BP busier than ever in the Gulf of Mexico

BP’s oil empire began to shrink many decades before a massive oil spill first fouled the Gulf of Mexico and then nearly toppled its industry reign four years ago Sunday.

Forty years ago, Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich states began to siphon BP’s 1 billion barrels of Middle Eastern oil — four-fifths of its reserves in 1975 — into state-owned companies like Saudi Aramco. That tightening grip on global oil is one big reason BP, even after the worst offshore oil spill in American history, is doubling down on the Gulf of Mexico.

Final phase of BP oil spill trial scheduled for nearly two weeks in January

A federal judge has finalized the timeline for the last phase of the massive BP oil spill trial next year, which will focus on how many billions of dollars the oil giant must pay in fines for the 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The trial will begin Jan. 20 and is set to last two weeks, according to a court order issued Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan, who oversees some parts of the litigation.

Investors pursue class action in suit over BP’s pre-oil spill statements

Attorneys for BP investors told a federal judge Monday that the British oil company had misled the market for years on how safe its deep-water drilling operations were in the lead up to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

It was the attorneys’ second bid in six months to attain class certification for more than 100 institutional and individual investors to pursue a securities lawsuit against BP. Attorney Richard Mithoff led a team that explained how different investors would fare under a model used to calculate damages in the case.

Four Years After the BP Oil Disaster, A Look Back in Photographs

Just prior to the four-year anniversary of the BP oil spill, BP and the Coast Guard issued press releases. BP announced the  “active cleanup” in Louisiana is over, while the Coast Guard stated the clean up response is far from over.  “We are absolutely committed to continuing the clean-up of Deepwater Horizon oil along the Gulf – for as long as it takes,” Coast Guard Capt. Thomas Sparks wrote.

Claims, Oil and Resentments Linger Four Years After BP Oil Spill

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon spill, oil is still washing up on the long sandy beaches of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and some islanders are fed up with hearing from BP that the crisis is over.

Jules Melancon, the last remaining oyster fisherman on an island dotted with colorful houses on stilts, says he has not found a single oyster alive in his leases in the area since the leak and relies on an onshore oyster nursery to make a living.

Four years after oil spill, BP refusing funds for research

Four years since the largest offshore oil spill in American history, British Petroleum is largely discontinuing funds for determining the extent of the damage.

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, the company has paid more than $1 billion into the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a multiagency governmental research program intended to determine the extent of BP’s legal obligation.

Keystone Pipeline May Be Big, but This Is Bigger

THE Keystone XL pipeline is a great political symbol. The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels daily of carbon-heavy crude from Canada’s Alberta oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, has galvanized environmental activists, who call it a litmus test for President Obama’s commitment to fighting climate change. It is a political weapon against Mr. Obama for Republicans, who call it a symbol of job creation and energy security. It has motivated liberal donors, led by the California billionaire Tom Steyer, who has personally urged Mr. Obama to reject the pipeline.

Canada pushes whales aside to green light oil pipeline

A quiet announcement in the Canadian Gazette has removed a large, water-breaching marine obstacle from the path of a pipeline and oil super port that Canada’s government wants to build on the north coast of British Columbia.

The government has stripped the North Pacific humpback whale of its “threatened” status under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA).

U.S. railroads show untapped value from delay in building oil pipeline

U.S. railroads are obvious winners from the latest delay in the Keystone XL Pipeline approval, and some of the freight operators with the biggest growth in petroleum shipments look undervalued, according to an analysis of Thomson Reuters data.

Keystone delay about politics:Shell’s ex-president

The latest delay in the Keystone XL pipeline is all about politics, and not about the reality of pipelines, which are the less risky option when it comes to transporting oil, said John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil.

“They have really minimized the risks associated with moving what is a very difficult product to move,” Hofmeister told CNBC.

Keystone backers keep their faith in embattled pipeline plan

Six years after applying to build the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada’s frustrated oil industry appears steadfast in its support of the plan even though Washington has again delayed a decision on whether to approve the politically charged project.

Russia ships its first Arctic oil. Is a boom coming?

Gazprom sent its first shipment of oil from its controversial Russian Arctic offshore platform on April 18, a landmark event that Russian President Vladimir Putin said would contribute to economic growth. “The start of loading the oil produced at Prirazlomnaya means that the entire project will exert a most encouraging influence on Russia’s presence on the energy markets and will stimulate the Russian economy in general and its energy sector in particular,” he said. Putin was on hand to witness to first shipment of 70,000 tonnes of oil, which was loaded onto a tanker from the Prirazlomnoye platform, the same rig boarded by Greenpeace activists last fall. Despite opposition from environmentalists, Putin stated that this is merely the beginning, “this is, in fact, the beginning of our country’s enormous work on oil production in the Arctic.”

In Russia, World’s First Ice-Resistant Oil Platform Starts Production

With Russian President Vladimir Putin on hand, the Russian Arctic offshore oil platform Prirazlomnaya, the first offshore oil rig to begin commercial drilling operations above the Arctic circle, sent off its first shipment of oil on April 18.

U.S. Takes Int’l Approach to Arctic, Offshore Energy

Exploiting oil and gas resources in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico, while also avoiding disastrous spills, will require an eye that looks far beyond America’s borders.

“This is an international challenge,” Christopher Smith, the Energy Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy, said Monday at a conference organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “When we think about the opportunities and the challenges and the risks in the frontier areas, be they in the Gulf of Mexico or the Arctic, we have to realize that we are in an international game.”

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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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