Environmental Must-Reads – April 24, 2014


Opal, Wyoming evacuated after gas pipeline explosion

A small town in southwest Wyoming has been evacuated after an explosion and fire at a natural gas pipeline hub.

Lincoln County spokesman Stephen Malik says there are no reports of injuries and the residents of Opal have been evacuated to an area about 3 miles outside the town as a precaution. Opal has about 95 residents and is about 100 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

Environmental groups file to intervene in Sunoco Pipeline case

Four environmental advocacy groups filed to intervene formally in Sunoco Pipeline L.P.’s application for public utility corporation status, which would exempt its 299-mile Mariner East pipeline to Marcus Hook from local zoning.

Vice President Joe Biden Promotes U.S. as Fracking Missionary Force On Ukraine Trip

During his two-day visit this week to Kiev, Ukraine, Vice President Joe Biden unfurled President Barack Obama’s “U.S. Crisis Support Package for Ukraine.”

A key part of the package involves promoting the deployment of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Ukraine. Dean Neu, professor of accounting at York University in Toronto, describes this phenomenon in his book “Doing Missionary Work.” And in this case, it involves the U.S. acting as a modern-day missionary to spread the gospel of fracking to further its own interests.

Bill seeks more public notification of proposed fracking in parishes where practice is new

Oil and gas companies that want to perform fracking in a parish where it has never occurred would have to advertise their intentions in newspapers and notify the parish governing body, municipalities and legislators under a bill approved Wednesday (April 23) by a House committee. The measure, a substitute bill by state Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, is a reaction to a company’s proposal to drill a hydraulic fracking well in search of oil and gas in St. Tammany Parish.

Fracking issues raised by Auburn wastewater report

An engineering firm hired by Auburn to clear the way for the city to accept wastewater from gas drilling has concluded the city’s wastewater treatment plant can’t handle it.

The firm’s study could have broad implications in New York’s debate about hydrofracking.

Fracking foes challenge Ohio earthquake assurances

A citizens group said Wednesday it isn’t taking the word of state regulators that new permitting guidelines will protect public health after earthquakes in northeast Ohio were linked to the gas drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Members of Youngstown-based Frackfree Mahoning Valley said the science behind the finding is a mystery, and new permit conditions the state is imposing in response do nothing to prevent future quakes.

Fracking ban could be on the ballot

Fracking in Colorado has been an ongoing debate for several years but after Longmont passed a ban on fracking the debate has heated up once again.

This time voters could see a proposal for a state-wide ban on the November ballot.

Brazil publishes “fracking” regulations

Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency, or ANP, published regulations Wednesday governing the use of the natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

The regulations state that the extraction of non-conventional, or shale, gas via that method must not harm the environment or human health, the ANP said in a statement.

Collier Commission asks state to revoke drilling permit

The Collier County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to ask the state to revoke the drilling permit for a Texas oil company following recent revelations of unauthorized operations.

The commissioners voted to ask the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to revoke the Dan A. Hughes Co.’s permit to drill at Hogan Island, southwest of Lake Trafford, following the public disclosure last week about the company performing an “enhanced extraction procedure” akin to fracking.

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.

Duke president says removing toxic ash would cost $10 billion and take decades which is “too much”

In a galling an arrogant presentation Duke Energy president Paul Newton told North Carolina lawmakers that “removing all of the company’s coal ash way from the state’s rivers and lakes would take decades and cost up to $10 billion,” nearly all of which would be paid for by electricity customers. Duke Energy to lawmakers: Moving toxic coal ash costs too much

Damages Phase of BP Gulf Oil Spill Trial Set for January 2015

The high-stakes penalty phase of BP’s trial over its role in the 2010 U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil spill will start next January, court officials said on Tuesday, and billions of dollars could be on the line.

Fines under the Clean Water Act could top $17 billion, an amount more than BP’s profit in 2013, which after items was $13.4 billion.

BP Balks at Oil Spill Research Costs

BP is refusing a request from the U.S. government to pay for evaluations of the damage caused after the company’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, reported the Financial Times.

Last July, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requested $148 million from BP for assessment and restoration planning, according to documents obtained by the Financial Times. The money would have included $10 million for research on the spill’s effect on whales and dolphins, $22 for oysters and $2.2 million for coastal wetlands. However, BP denied most of NOAA’s requests, claiming that the process lacked visibility and accountability.

Gulf Coast fisherman on BP oil spill: ‘The oysters are not recovering’

The 2010 BP oil spill is still wrecking havoc on some Gulf Coast fisherman, The Huffington Post reports.

Byron Encalade, a fisherman, said his business was at a “100 percent loss,” according to the report.

Students Mark Anniversary of BP Disaster With a Human Oil Spill

A human oil spill spread across Dwinelle Plaza on Monday—a silent demonstration against fracking that is the first in a series of events to kick-start Earth Week 2014.

The day after the fourth anniversary of the BP oil spill, about twenty students, clad entirely in black, circled and sprawled around a miniature wooden oil rig covered with protest signs. Protesters wanted to illustrate the environmental effects of fracking by using human bodies as symbols of the devastation.

What Happens When Oil Spills in the Arctic?

As sea ice melts and the oil industry prepares to exploit the Arctic’s vast resources, the United States faces big gaps in its preparedness for an oil spill in the region, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Research Council (NRC).

Panel Says U.S. Not Ready for Inevitable Arctic Oil Spill

As eagerness to explore the Arctic’s oil and gas resources grows, the threat of a major Arctic oil spill looms ever larger—and the United States has a lot of work to do to prepare for that inevitability, a panel convened by the National Research Council (NRC) declares in a report released today. The committee, made up of members of academia and industry, recommended beefing up forecasting systems for ocean and ice conditions, infrastructure for supply chains for people and equipment to respond, field research on the behavior of oil in the Arctic environment, and other strategies to prepare for a significant spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.

Oil-by-rail loophole keeps emergency spill plans in the dark

U.S. transportation officials don’t review how railroads would handle worst-case oil train disasters like last summer’s derailment in Quebec, which killed 47 people in a fiery explosion.

While railroads must keep “basic” emergency response plans in their own files, the Federal Railroad Administration does not monitor or review those plans.

Canada Toughens Rules for Carrying Crude Oil by Rail

Canada introduced toughened measures for shipping dangerous goods by rail, ordering railcar owners to phase out the most vulnerable tank cars immediately.

Ottawa’s actions, taken after last summer’s deadly explosion of a train carrying crude oil in Quebec, are likely to increase pressure on U.S. regulators to follow suit. The rail industry depends on common equipment standards to allow for the efficient flow of goods between railroads and across the Canada-U.S. border.

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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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