Environmental Must-Reads – April 23, 2014


Breaking: $3 Million Jury Verdict in Texas Fracking Nuisance Case

A jury in Dallas, TX today awarded $2.925 million to plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr, who sued Barnett shale fracking company Aruba Petroleum Inc. for intentionally causing a nuisance on the Parr’s property which impacted their health and ruined their drinking water.

The jury returned its 5-1 verdict confirming that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” though its drilling, fracking and production activities at 21 gas wells near the Parrs’ Wise County home over a three-year period between 2008-2011.

Texas freezes agency’s funding after air pollution data released

A few casual words and the early release of some scientific data have cost the San Antonio region much-needed state funds to battle its growing air pollution problem. The misstep, which appears to have been unintentional, highlights the sensitivity of studying oil and gas pollution in business-friendly Texas.

LSU professors explain, research fracking

Community members in St. Tammany Parish have started an online petition against a proposed fracking project, and several leaders are making moves to publicly object the drilling work, but many are still curious about the process, as well as its risk and benefits.

So Eyewitness News went to LSU to see if we could find some answers.

Former Mobil Oil exec urges brakes on gas fracking

As a retired high-ranking oil company executive, one might expect Louis Allstadt to sing the praises of opening up New York to natural gas hydraulic fracturing.

But Allstadt, who worked 31 years for Mobil Oil, stood among elected officials from several upstate communities Tuesday to urge the state not to allow hydrofracking, and instead encourage development of more renewable energy.

New York municipalities call for extended fracking moratorium

Representatives from Elected Officials to Protect New York, a group of more than 800 local elected officials from across the state, spoke out Tuesday in favor of extending the state’s moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

“I think time is on our side,” said Julie Huntsman, Otsego Town councilwoman and group coordinator. “As time goes by more and more negative impacts of fracking come to light.”

Nuns take on Chevron over fracking concerns

An order of Catholic nuns and other shareholders are calling Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) and others to task for their potentially harmful use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and an alleged lack of transparency.

Dayton says no to frac sand moratorium in southeastern Minn.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he can’t personally block the frac sand industry from expanding in southeastern Minnesota, rebuffing a group of mining opponents who delivered a moratorium petition to St. Paul as part of an Earth Day rally at the Capitol.

“Trade secret” prevents drilling disclosure in Collier

The Dan A. Hughes Co. doesn’t have to say what kind of extraction procedure it performed in Collier County because of a state law allowing companies “confidential trade secrets.”

On April 8, the DEP fined the company $25,000 for performing an unauthorized “advanced extraction procedure” at its well at Hogan Island, southwest of Lake Trafford in Collier.

US top court declines Exxon’s appeal in water pollution case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a ruling against Exxon Mobil that ordered the company to pay $105 million in damages for polluting New York City’s groundwater with a toxic gasoline additive.

The decision not to hear the case leaves intact a July 2 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the judgment.

Legacy lawsuit bill breezes through state Senate

The state Senate on Tuesday voted 37-0 for a measure aimed at clarifying the responsibility of oil and gas firms for cleaning up lands they leased.

The proposal, Senate Bill 667, next faces action in the House.

BP Trial Date Set, RESTORE Amount Uncertain

Four years after the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it appears another year will pass before BP learns how much it will owe under the Clean Water Act.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan issued a seven-page schedule of hearings, conferences and deadlines, leading up to the January 20 trial date set by presiding Federal Judge Carl Barbier. The schedule also calls for the trial to end on February 5.

Are Health Issues Connected to BP Oil Spill?

On a day like this, it’s hard to believe just four years ago Alabama’s beaches were in the middle of the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Back then, Al Keahl was on the front lines of the the BP oil spill clean up in the Vessels of Opportunity program. “Set the booms, picked up the booms, packaged the soggy booms and stowed them aboard.”

Oil Spill Dissolving Wetlands

Four years after deepwater horizon a lot of the damage in this part of Louisiana comes in what you don’t see–and what you don’t see here is a lot of Cat Island.  The island was once a vibrant place full of birds according to members of the National Wildlife Federation.  Today much of it is below the surface.  Mangroves are creepy fingers sticking up out of the murky water.

Cleanup from Houston Ship Channel oil spill could end this week

Cleanup from last month’s oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel could wrap up within days as officials try to determine blame for the barge and ship collision.

The Galveston County Daily News reported Tuesday that U.S. Coast Guard officials expect cleanup efforts to end this week.

Cowboys And Indians Descend on Washington To Protest Pipeline

A coalition of ranchers, farmers and native tribes are staging protests against the Keystone XL pipeline on the National Mall this week with teepees, horses and a sacred fire that will burn for days

The National Mall in Washington, D.C., will look like a scene out of an Old Western this week, as the Cowboy and Indian Alliance holds a multi-day protest against the Keystone XL pipeline complete with teepees, horses and religious ceremonies.

Alberta Clipper expansions struggle in Keystone pipeline’s shadow

The spotlight on TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline has obscured another project that would send more Canadian oil sands petroleum to the United States, but this one too is struggling for traction.

Enbridge Inc hopes to expand its Clipper pipeline that currently sends up to 500,000 barrels of oil per day from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin, in order to further tap Western Canada’s oil sands, the world’s third-largest crude oil reserve, behind Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Four years after Macondo, offshore Arctic beckons, speakers warn

Lessons learned from the Macondo deepwater well incident and crude oil spill are in danger of being minimized in a push to develop offshore Arctic oil and gas resources, speakers warned during two separate forums around the anniversary of the offshore well’s Apr. 20, 2010, blowout and explosion that took 11 lives and destroyed the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig.

The global oil and gas industry, government regulators, and local leaders will need to work more closely than ever to avoid the same mistakes, speakers said at an Apr. 17 forum at Resources for the Future (RFF) and an Apr. 21 conference sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Council (BPC).

A place to study Arctic oil spills

The University of Manitoba is proposing a unique research centre at Churchill that would study the potentially profound environmental effects of industrializing the Arctic.

The $28-million Churchill Marine Observatory would develop ways of detecting oil in ice-covered waters, study its impact on the ecosystem and develop technologies for cleaning up Arctic waters in case of a spill.

Putin Wants Greater Russian Presence in Arctic

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia should step up its presence in the Arctic and challenge other nations in exploring the world’s largest untapped natural reserves, days after it started shipping its first oil from the region.

Russia’s ambitions in the Arctic have for some time been raising eyebrows among other states vying for a presence there, but the Kremlin’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula is likely to put its Arctic plans under greater scrutiny.

Fukushima No. 1 boss admits plant doesn’t have complete control over water problems

The manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has admitted to embarrassment that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water, eight months after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the world the matter had been resolved.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, has been fighting a daily battle against contaminated water since Fukushima No. 1 was wrecked by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Hospital Resumes Work in Fukushima Evacuation Area

After three years of closure, a hospital in Japan’s disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture resumed work on Wednesday, restoring vital infrastructure ahead of the resettlement of the region, the Jiji Press news agency reported.

Luxury shoe designer Jimmy Choo unveils new lineup featuring Fukushima materials

Before Fukushima became known around the globe for nuclear radiation, it was a hub for silk weavers. Kawamata silk is famous all over the world for being the thinnest silk there is. This silk, among other materials and techniques indigenous to the area, were used by famous luxury shoe designer Jimmy Choo to come up with his one-off shoe range to celebrate local artisans in the region.

Late report on radiation irks Tamura

Belated government estimates released Friday of radiation doses that residents would face if they returned to their homes near the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have raised concern that an evacuation order was lifted too early.

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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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