Environmental Must-Reads – April 25, 2014


Major oil, gas firm to list fracking chemicals

A major supplier to the oil and gas industry says it will begin disclosing 100% of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid, with no exemptions for trade secrets. The move by Baker Hughes of Houston is a shift for a major firm; it’s unclear if others will follow suit.

The oil and gas industry has said the fracking chemicals are disclosed at tens of thousands of wells, but environmental and health groups and government regulators say a loophole that allows companies to hide chemical “trade secrets” has been a major problem.

Texas oil company used acid in Florida wildlife sanctuary soil, denies fracking

The Texas oil company fined $25,000 for violating its state permit while drilling a well amid a wildlife sanctuary was not doing any hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” according to Dan A. Hughes Co. spokesman David Blackmon.

Instead of using water mixed with chemicals to create fractures, as is common in fracking, it was using acid, Blackmon said, adding that company officials don’t see anything wrong with what they did.

California City Becomes First To Vote To Ban Fracking

Beverly Hills is set to become California’s first municipality to ban fracking after the city council unanimously voted Tuesday night to ban the controversial practice along with acidization and other extreme well stimulation techniques.

“I do believe in local control, and we are exerting our power as a city to say fracking is not a compatible land use in Beverly Hills,” councilmember John Mirsch said in a press release from advocacy group Food and Water Watch (FWW), which noted that the law will go into effect as soon as it is voted on a second time at an upcoming formal council meeting.

North Dakota finds more radioactive oil waste

North Dakota confirmed Thursday the discovery of a new radioactive dump of waste from oil drilling, and separately a company hired to clean up waste found in February at another location said it removed double the amount of radioactive material originally estimated to be there.

The Canadian company hired to clean up the largest dump found so far, located at an abandoned gas station in Noonan, also said that it suspects the soil at the site is contaminated and that samples were being analyzed.

Drilling in the wilderness

PASSENGERS arriving on the sole daily flight to the Las Malvinas gas-processing plant by the lower Urubamba river in Peru are ushered into a waiting room and shown a video. This contains a long list of “don’ts” for the Camisea gas project’s 600 permanent workers, including bans on bringing food and having contact with the Amerindian peoples of the surrounding forest. To get on the flight, which is chartered by Pluspetrol, the Argentine firm that operates the gas concession, passengers must have a medical pass, issued only after vaccination against flu and yellow fever.

Oil companies and railroads spar over changing rail safety standards

Ever since a crude oil train disaster decimated a Quebec village’s downtown last July, Maine fire departments have been requesting training on rail safety.

“I’m booking right now straight into November,” said Richard Towle, who coordinates such training as a law enforcement liaison for the Federal Rail Administration.

More fault lines a concern for anti-fracking group

Anti-fracking activist Ray Beiersdorfer and others with Frack Free Mahoning Valley gathered in front of City Hall in Youngstown Wednesday saying the public needs to know where other faults may lie and how close local drilling operations, especially those using hydraulic fracturing, are coming to them.

“I have to do a public records request in order to get data,” said anti-fracking activist Ray Beiersdorfer. “If it is occurring in the Utica shale, in the Paleozoic rock, that opens another set of problems. That means that there are potential earthquake faults in the area where they are trying to frack to get the shale gas.”

St. Tammany Parish Councilman Jake Groby asks corps, DEQ to reject oil driller’s permit requests

Citing potential health risks, the threat to drinking water and local zoning restrictions, a St. Tammany Parish Council member is asking state and federal agencies to reject permit requests from an oil exploration company that wants to drill for oil and gas northeast of Mandeville. Councilman Jake Groby sent letters to the Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Environmental Quality asking that they deny the permits sought by Helis Oil & Gas LLC.

Bill to derail parish ‘big oil’ lawsuits stalls

A New Orleans law firm launched a new Web page Wednesday aimed at refuting arguments by supporters of legislation that could scuttle a New Orleans-based flood board’s lawsuit seeking damages from the oil and gas industry over the loss of coastal wetlands.

Court Papers: Ship In Texas Oil Spill Was Speeding

The owner of a tugboat that collided with a ship last month, dumping nearly 170,000 gallons of oil into the Houston Ship Channel, claims in court filings the ship was speeding and being operated in a reckless manner.

Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine alleges in court documents filed earlier this month that the March 22 collision, which occurred after the ship struck a barge the tugboat had been pulling, was caused by gross negligence on the part of the ship’s owner, Sea Galaxy Marine based in Liberia in West Africa. In its own court filings, Sea Galaxy says the collision was not its fault.

Bill would halt oil activity near Lake Peigneur

After years of trying, supporters say they may have found a way to temporarily stop oil and gas companies from expanding the use of salt domes around Acadiana’s Lake Peigneur.

On a 4-2 vote, the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources advanced legislation invoking a moratorium on new energy-related activities near the lake that famously drained in 1980.

Bill bans salt cavern permits passes committee

A big win for the group Save Lake Peigneur, which is trying to stop companies from storing natural gas in salt caverns. Bills that would increase regulation on salt dome permits passed today in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources.

These bills mostly stem from safety and health concerns residents have about Lake Peigneur and could affect how future permits are issued for salt domes.

Can NASA predict where sinkholes might form and spread?

Unpredictable and scary, sinkholes swallow up the ground and everything above it, but NASA scientists believe they’ve discovered a way to predict where the holes might form and spread. Using a NASA plane with unique radar technology that transmits electronic pulses, scientists can map out how the earth’s crust is shifting, reports CBS news correspondent Vicente Arenas on “CBS This Morning.”

“We’re basically a flying laboratory,” said NASA’s John McGrath who is in charge of the plane.

If oil spills in the Arctic and no one is around to clean it up, does it just stay there?

Oil and shipping companies are salivating as the climate change that they helped cause melts away the ice at the top of the world. Planning and exploration is underway for an Arctic drilling and shipping boom. But what aren’t underway are meaningful preparations for responding to the oil that will inevitably be spilled into the remote and rugged Arctic environment by these accident-prone industries.

Report: Arctic Oil Spill Readiness Virtually Nonexistent

Sea ice in the Arctic Circle is currently melting at a pace far greater than scientists had originally projected.  While this is bad news for the planet — sea ice helps reflect the sun’s rays and keeps the arctic cooler — it has created new paths for the oil industry to exploit the resources hidden deep under the icy water.

EPA: Endangered Mussel In Way Of Michigan Pipeline

Officials involved in construction of a massive water pipeline to serve parts of Michigan, including Flint, are keeping a small endangered mussel in mind as they prepare for work.

The Karegnondi Water Authority wants to cut its way through the Black River in Sanilac County as it digs the path for the Lake Huron pipeline. The federally protected northern riffleshell lives in the river bed, The Flint Journal reported.

Could this Maine pipeline become the next Keystone XL?

Environmentalists and lawmakers are gearing up to battle another potential pipeline proposal that would bring Canadian oil sands into the United States.

There are concerns that the Portland Pipe Line Corp. (PPLC) will reverse the flow of its pipeline so it will bring Canadian oil sands into the U.S. through North County, Maine.

Ky. Senate Candidate Wants Keystone Pipeline OK’d

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes called on President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, joining 11 incumbent Democrats as the party tries to keep control of the Senate this November.

Trailing Canada, U.S. Starts a Push for Safer Oil Shipping

A day after Canada issued stringent new rules for the transportation of oil by rail, federal regulators in the United States said on Thursday that they would push forward their own tank standards next week, potentially resolving a critical safety issue that has been mired in regulatory limbo for years.

The Transportation Department said its proposed rules would include “options for enhancing tank car standards,” said Kevin Thompson, a spokesman.

Oil industry cartoon targets anti-Keystone cowboys

Cowboys and Indians who rode on horseback through the nation’s capital this week to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline are fighting back against a new oil industry ad satirizing the effort.

The advertisement – a cartoon that began appearing on news sites Wednesday, including the Washington Post – depicts tourists saying “the cowboys want to give up cars and electricity,” and describing the protest as “an exhibit of 1800s America.” It is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.

Rolling Stone: Obama largely has decided to reject Keystone XL

A new Rolling Stone magazine report says President Barack Obama has all but decided to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, citing two high-level Obama administration sources.

In the story published on RollingStone.com Wednesday afternoon, reporter Jeff Goodell says Obama’s decision will be driven by his desire to lead a sea change in climate change politics. Goodell did not name the two administration officials who were his sources.

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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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