Environmental Must-Reads – April 28, 2014


Texas: When fracking comes to town

Alyse and Lance Ogletree moved to the Meadows at Hickory Creek, a subdivision of modest houses in this fast-growing city 40 miles north of Dallas, in the fall of 2011. They found the home prices attractive and thought the well-regarded school district would be a good fit for their son, Kyle, who had suffered brain damage after contracting encephalitis when he was 8 months old.

Before closing the deal, Alyse, an electrical engineer in her 20s, asked the salesperson about storage tanks she’d noticed in the field several hundred feet behind the house. The salesperson said they were water tanks, Alyse recalls. She took this to mean the tanks had something to do with the drinking-water supply.

Untangling Colorado’s Flood of Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiatives

Colorado voters who try to figure out all the proposed statewide ballot initiatives to regulate drilling and fracking are in for a real challenge. So far, 11 ballot initiatives have been proposed on the subject for the November vote, with many of them extremely similar to each other.

It’s tempting to think the oil and gas industry filed some of them as bait-and-switch measures to confuse voters and to try to pass a watered-down measure, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Concern grows over Bakken oil trains near Glacier Park, other sensitive areas

With scrutiny growing about the safety of moving crude oil by rail, western Montana residents wonder how increased shipments will be kept safe along sensitive places like the border of Glacier National Park.

The Canadian government on Wednesday ordered the removal of 5,000 oil tank cars believed unsafe for duty, along with a demand to upgrade or remove another 65,000 similar tankers. Transport Canada also imposed speed limits of 50 mph or less in developed areas and near drinking water supplies.

Flaming water: Texas homeowner takes on a gas company

Steve Lipsky, an entrepreneur and businessman, lives to the west of Fort Worth in a sprawling Mediterranean-style dream house. Since he found methane contaminating his water well, he has waged a legal battle against the gas company Range Resources.

In 2009, Range drilled and fracked two gas wells approximately 2,000 feet from Lipsky’s home. Later that year, Lipsky says he started noticing that the water from his well was slimy and fizzy. The next year he began trucking in his family’s water for about $1,000 a month. The methane levels in his well have risen to concentrations nearly three times higher than what’s considered explosive, according to recent test Lipsky helped pay for.

Exclusive: Local authorities have ‘conflict of interest’ on fracking investments

Councils that will play a key role in deciding the future of fracking in Britain have investments worth millions of pounds in companies behind the energy extraction method, The Independent can reveal. Local authorities in areas identified as potential sources of gas have holdings via their pension funds in firms seeking to drill within their boundaries. One of the most significant investments is £1.9m held by Lincolnshire County Council’s pension fund in Total, the French company that earlier this year became the first oil major to enter Britain’s dash for shale gas, with a £30m stake in two exploration projects in the county.

How much is Mexico really opening to drilling?

This satellite night image of South Texas clearly shows electrical lights and gas flares in the Eagle Ford Shale region south of San Antonio. The activity stops at the Rio Grande.

The Eagle Ford Shale extends into Mexico, a country that has one of the world’s great reserves of hydrocarbons.

Proposed gas pipeline builders to face Lancaster County public for first time; protests planned

The proposed builders of a 35-mile natural gas pipeline in Lancaster County prepared for their first face-to-face meeting with the public on Tuesday by refuting one point voiced by opponents and worried landowners.

About 350 property owners in Lancaster County could be affected by the pipeline.

Drilling plans near Ann Arbor met with opposition

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 people turned out for a meeting about plans to drill for oil or natural gas in an area west of Ann Arbor, with many expressing opposition to any drilling.

Traverse City-based West Bay Exploration Co. performed seismic testing in September and has been moving forward with drilling plans. Some residents of Washtenaw County’s Scio Township are being asked to give up mineral rights and there’s concern wells might come despite opposition.

Will Baker Hughes’ Fracking Fluid Policy Win Public’s Trust?

Baker Hughes is doing what it and every other company involved in hydraulic fracturing should have done years ago – it’s vowed to disclose all the chemicals used in its fracking process.

A Baker Hughes spokeswoman told Bloomberg News that it would take several months for the company to complete the disclosure process, which requires negotiations with suppliers and customers.

Local anti-fracking activist wins world’s largest environmental prize

The world’s largest environmental prize has been awarded to an Ithaca-based lawyer who has helped organize fracking bans in dozens of New York communities.

For winning the Goldman Prize, the lawyer, Helen Slottje, will receive $150,000 award and an unprecedented level of international attention.

Fracking comes to the world’s ‘Greenest City’

Flying into Vancouver, the city shimmers below. Skyscrapers sheathed in all-glass exteriors reflect water that surrounds the downtown core on three sides. Forested mountains serve as a backdrop that’s made it easy for politicians to brand Vancouver the world’s “Greenest City.”

How a Gulf Settlement That BP Once Hailed Became Its Target

Four years ago the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caught fire and exploded, killing 11 men, spewing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and staining, seemingly indelibly, the image of BP, the international energy giant responsible for the well.

Its reputation in free fall, the company set aside billions of dollars and saturated the airwaves with contrite pledges to make thousands of businesses and workers whole, from shrimpers to hotel owners to charter boat operators.

BP may face fines for 1,600 gallon Lake Mich. oil spill

The Coast Guard says its report on the oil spill from BP’s northwestern Indiana refinery has been sent for a review of whether the company will face any penalties.

Crews spent several days cleaning up oil along the Lake Michigan shoreline after the company says up to some 1,600 gallons of oil was discharged into the lake from a March 24 malfunction at the Whiting refinery.

Mid-Valley Oil Spill North Of Cincinnati Most Recent In a Stream Of Problems

A group of salamanders is recovering at Dayton’s Boonshoft Museum after being removed from the site of an oil spill north of Cincinnati last month. The Mid-Valley pipeline, which is operated by Sunoco Logistics, leaked at least 19,000 gallons of oil into the Oak Glen Nature Preserve. The pipeline runs from Texas to Michigan through Ohio, and WYSO found it’s one of the leakiest in the country.

Keystone XL pipeline moving forward … in Canada’s eyes

Canada remains confident Washington will ultimately approve the Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast, two prominent cabinet ministers said on Friday, adding that the latest U.S. delay is political and not based on environmental concerns.

In his first public remarks on the controversial project, the country’s new energy minister, Greg Rickford, said he hoped the Obama administration will “depoliticize” its decision on Keystone XL and give it the green light.

Boots and Moccasins March Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Once deadly enemies, cowboys and Native Americans have joined forces to do battle against a Canadian corporation that wants to build and operate a 1,179-mile long pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Nebraska.

On Saturday afternoon thousands of people joined the farmers, ranchers, and tribal leaders of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance for a ceremonial procession along the National Mall to protest the Keystone XL pipeline. The procession was the largest event of the five-day “Reject and Protect” encampment on the mall.

Keystone XL Won’t Lower Gas Prices, It Might Raise Them

There’s two things we can say about the effect of the Keystone XL pipeline on gas prices. One is that it will, if built, have no effect at all upon gas prices and the other is that it might actually raise them. Which ends up being the final effect depends upon quite what you want to believe about the way the market operates at present.

No Community is Prepared for Major Oil-By-Rail Accident, Senate Hearing Told

Just as you aren’t supposed to try to put out an oil fire in your kitchen with water, you aren’t supposed to try to put out a crude oil fire with water either. But in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that is all firefighters had for the first two days of battling the catastrophic oil-by-rail fire last July.

The fire burned until 8,000 gallons of firefighting foam finally arrived from Toronto, an eight-hour drive away. Forty-seven people were killed in the accident.

Nuclear Icebreakers Clear the Way for Arctic Oil

While the voyage of the steamship Chelyuskin was one of the first attempts to sail the length of the Northern Sea Route in 1933, French catamaran Babouchka’s trip in 2013 was probably the most reckless.

The Chelyuskin was a conventional ship, as opposed to the Babouchka, a peculiar hybrid catamaran, capable of sailing in the water and rolling over the ice, powered only by the wind and human stamina.

Greenpeace sends new protest ship as first Russian Arctic oil arrives

Greenpeace on Monday sent a protest ship to meet a Russian tanker carrying the first oil drilled offshore in the environmentally fragile Arctic.

The ship, Rainbow Warrior, is captained by Peter Willcox, who was among campaigners detained by Russian authorities last year after staging a high-profile protest against Arctic drilling.

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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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