Environmental Must-Reads – April 30, 2015


Florida fracking bill won’t pass this year

Senators on Wednesday tabled a controversial bill about the oil and natural-gas drilling process known as “fracking,” ensuring the measure will not pass this year.

Sponsor Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said the bill (HB 1205) would put “responsible regulations” in place for fracking, which he said has already occurred in Collier County. Among other things, it would have required disclosure about chemicals used in the process.

Environmental groups sound alarm over ‘self-destructive’ fracking in Colorado

Environmental groups are sounding the alarm as several states in the western US seek to ramp up oil and natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing, potentially disturbing sensitive, federally protected lands.

The Center for Biological Diversity and three other groups based in Colorado filed a protest against the Bureau of Land Management this week seeking to stop the federal agency from instituting rules that would vastly increase the amount of fracked oil and gas produced on public lands in the state. If the BLM’s rules go through, the number of fracked wells in north-west Colorado could increase from about 1,800 to 17,000 over the next two decades.

Texas Family Still Waiting for $2.9 Million Fracking Verdict

A year after a Texas jury awarded $2.9 million to a family who claims to have been sickened by gas and oil wells, the case remains in limbo because critical court documents needed for an appeal have not been prepared.

The landmark case is being anxiously watched by industry and environmentalists for the legal precedent it may set. The verdict, if upheld, would open the door to other lawsuits against industry by people living nearby oil and gas production, according to legal experts.

Michigan mayor backs off call for fracking moratorium

Despite petitions of support, Mayor George Heartwell is backing off one of the calls to action he made in his final State of the City address: Grand Rapids will not put a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

Heartwell took time during one of Grand Rapids City Commission’s Tuesday, April 28, meetings to read a prepared statement on the matter. Some colleagues said the mayor couldn’t get enough support for a moratorium on something they called a non-issue in Grand Rapids.

Frack-Happy Texas Forced to Face the Reality of Fracking-Related Earthquakes

Texas is not known for using caution when it comes to oil and gas development. Fracking has swept the state like a hurricane, despite attempts by some environmental and community activists. The city of Denton passed a ban on new fracking operations in last November’s elections, and the Texas legislature is currently considering legislation that would overturn that vote and take away the ability of cities and towns to regulate virtually any aspect of drilling within their borders.

USGS Adds Fracking-Induced Quakes to Seismic Projections

For the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), earthquake monitoring, projections and predictions are all a big part of the job. Keeping track of earthquakes and estimating where and when the next big one might hit is critical for public safety. In recent years, though, the agency has begun facing a new challenge: Fracking-induced earthquakes. The science on the subject is officially in, and the USGS has started weighing considerations about fracking in its larger earthquake predictions. It has to, because the number of earthquakes in the U.S. is skyrocketing, and while correlation is not causation, it’s notable that the increase is heavily linked with the rise of fracking in oil and gas production. That’s right: A problem caused by humans has become so pervasive that a government agency is treating it like a natural phenomenon.

Strong odor from fracking water disposal site concerns Whitewater residents

A fracking wastewater disposal site near Whitewater is causing a big stink. Neighbors in the area complain of a horrible odor from the plant, and say they have been battling with it for two years to no avail.

The smell, they say, is coming from fracking wastewater that is brought to the Deer Creek Disposal site to sit and evaporate. Neighbors complain that the smell is of chemicals and metal that they can even taste sometimes.

Dominion questioned about Atlantic Coast Pipeline, other upcoming projects

Dominion and its partners face new questions about the potential environmental impact not only of the natural gas pipeline they propose across Virginia, but also as many as three other projects that are proposed or waiting in the wings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called this week for the current federal review of the project’s environmental impact to consider the cumulative effects of other “proposed and reasonably foreseeable projects” in the state as the energy industry pushes to move low-priced natural gas from the West Virginia shale fields to big users or to market.

BP oil spill recovery: The Galveston Island State Park in Texas to get $10.7 million

The headquarters at The Galveston Island State Park was meant to be temporary.

The Galveston County Daily News reports the aging building where administrators work is little more than a shed with a leaky ceiling and failing water pipes.

But park officials consider themselves lucky. Unlike other state parks in Texas, the park will receive $10.7 million for upgrades in late 2017 from BP’s restoration fund created in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Vancouver oil spill response ’embarrassing,’ says international expert

The response to the bunker fuel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay was “very disappointing” says Anita Burke, an international expert in responding to and restoring ecosystems affected by industrial and natural disasters.

“We clearly have large gaps in our ability to respond and take care of our coast … it’s embarrassing, frankly,” said Burke, who worked with Shell and its subsidiaries on corporate responsibility and sustainable development for 17 years.

Despite settlement, ExxonMobil faces further litigation over 2013 Mayflower oil spill

Last week, federal and state authorities announced a $5.1 million settlement with two subsidiaries of ExxonMobil over the rupture of the Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, which occurred just over two years ago. Approval of the consent decree, which is still subject to a 30-day public comment period and review in U.S. district court, would mark the first resolution of a major lawsuit related to the Mayflower spill. However, a number of other suits are still winding their way forward.

Oil spills surprisingly common in Finland, but cleanup dependent on volunteers

About 2,000 oil spills a year take place in Finland, the large majority of which only leak small amounts of oil into the environment.

Even so, cleanup of Finland’s waterways and shores after oil leaks can take weeks, months or even years.

Local authorities are responsible for making sure areas are suitably prepared for oil spills. South Savo Rescue Department head Jyri Silmäri says the famous Saimaa lake and waterway region in eastern Finland has been ready to deal with oil accidents for decades.

Corroded Mobil oil pipe blamed for harbour spill

A large oil leak in the Tauranga Harbour is believed to have been caused by two very small corrosion holes in a Mobil fuel pipeline.

An unknown amount of oil leaked into Tauranga Harbour on Monday from a pipeline, with sludgy, black clumps of oil found as far away as Maungatapu

Revealed: Alberta’s ploy to break First Nations’ pipeline opposition

The Alberta government escalated its campaign to build tar sands pipelines under Premier Jim Prentice by seeking to have First Nations become full-blown proponents of the projects in return for oil revenues.

Documents obtained by the Guardian show that under a proposed agreement the province would have funded a task force of Alberta First Nations and government officials to “work jointly on removing bottlenecks and enabling the construction of pipelines to tide-water in the east and west coasts.”

Majority Of Americans Have No Idea What The Keystone XL Pipeline Is

The majority of Americans have no idea what the Keystone XL pipeline is, but among those who do, support for its construction is firmly split along partisan lines, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Poll surveyed more than 2,000 adults, and found that less than half — 42 percent — were familiar with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada’s oil sands to refineries in Texas, has proved controversial in Washington. Congressional Republicans have tried repeatedly to force approval of the pipeline through legislation, but the Obama administration has so far held off on issuing a final decision on whether to grant a permit for the pipeline.

Newalla Mother Fights Oil Pipeline

An Oklahoma mother is fighting an oil pipeline that she thinks will run dangerously close to her family’s home.

“We worried about it getting into our water,” said Jeana, who didn’t want to provide her last name.

A survey company asked for her permission to take measurements on her property, because the pipeline would go in her backyard. Jeana refused, but feels bullied by the survey company because she said she spotted their equipment on her property.

SD PUC delays hearing on Keystone XL pipeline construction

The state Public Utilities Commission has voted to postpone a key hearing on whether to allow construction of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline through South Dakota.

The commission voted 3-0 Monday to delay the hearing, which was supposed to begin next week.

South Dakota Keystone XL Opponents Win Summer-Long Delay in Permit Process

The battle to keep the Keystone XL pipeline from being constructed continues, and opponents attempting to block the route through South Dakota won a victory before the state Public Utilities Commission on April 27, with a new ruling that puts off a key hearing until the end of the summer.

At issue is whether details of the application by TransCanada, would-be builder of the pipeline that would carry up to 800,000 barrels per day of bituminous crude from the Alberta oil sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast in Texas, have changed significantly enough to warrant a complete resubmission of the paperwork.

Shell is preparing an ‘armada’ of vessels to tap the Arctic for oil

Royal Dutch Shell is pushing ahead with plans to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean near Alaska this summer despite opposition from environmental groups.

The Anglo-Dutch oil major is preparing “an armada of 25 vessels” to begin a two-year program to explore two to three wells in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska, Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry said on Thursday.

“Don’t mention Arctic oil”: How Shell’s latest bid to get young people hooked on fossil fuels seriously backfired

Shell knows it’s losing the fight against Arctic drilling, and here’s why.

A few weeks ago, we got an email from an outraged filmmaker saying that he’d been invited to enter a viral video competition sponsored by Shell. The competition was offering $50,000 for short films that “challenge preconceptions that fossil fuels, especially natural gas, have no part in our future lives.”

In other words, Shell is using cash to lure creative talent into making videos that promote fossil fuels and convince young people that renewable energy won’t work. Meanwhile, it just emerged that Shell lobbied to undermine EU renewables targets.

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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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