Environmental Must-Reads – April 7, 2014


‘Almost heaven’ or fracking hell?

John Denver sang about country roads taking him home, but there’s another element on the scene these days that doesn’t fit his description of “almost heaven.” ?Trucks of all shapes and sizes, and by the thousands, rumble over these back roads as they wind up and down mountains and perilously close to stream beds.?Dump trucks, gas tankers and tractor–trailers have pulverized the pavement, causing potholes that look like craters.

Pennsylvania to collect $224M in gas drilling fees

Pennsylvania’s new “impact fee” on the booming natural gas drilling industry is expected to generate $224.5 million from wells in 2013, up 10 percent over last year, Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration said Friday.

The projection is based on Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission data, and the money will be paid out July 1 to local governments and state agencies and programs.

Seismic tests go lacking in fracking

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is studying seismic data from wells near last month’s Poland Township earthquakes, but no such review occurred prior to drilling.

That’s because the agency responsible for regulating the state’s oil and gas industry does not require oil and gas companies to obtain or to submit seismic reflection data when applying for a permit to drill fracking wells. Fracking extracts natural gas from shale under pressure.

Series of small earthquakes rock Oklahoma in record seismic activity

Earthquakes rattled residents in Oklahoma on Saturday, the latest in a series that have put the state on track for record quake activity this year, which some seismologists say may be tied to oil and gas exploration.

One earthquake recorded at 3.8 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey rocked houses in several communities around central Oklahoma at 7:42 a.m. local time. Another about two hours earlier in the same part of the state, north of Oklahoma City, was recorded at 2.9 magnitude, USGS said.

White House hopes for European shale gas face headwinds

The White House wants Europe to frack to weaken Russia’s influence over energy supplies on the continent. Translating that desire into action, however, will take time.

Officially, the White House has said it would help the European Union develop “unconventional hydrocarbons,” a reference to shale gas, by sharing best practices with regulators, bureaucrats and whoever else is interested. But it has not used the term “hydraulic fracturing,” or “fracking,” in official communiques as the means for developing it.

Dangerous Dust: Government Pushes to Improve Workplace Safety

Workers who breathe in silica dust have twice the normal risk of lung cancer and often develop other lung-related diseases such as asthma. Yet the rules for working with this dust — generated by mining, fracking, brickwork, floor work and other types of industry — haven’t been updated since the early 1970s.

Responding to Investor Pressure, ExxonMobil Agrees to Disclose Fracking Risks

ExxonMobil, the nation’s largest oil and gas company, will begin disclosing risks associated with shale drilling and fracking to investors, in response to a long-running campaign by a coalition of shareholders.

In February, the groups of investors in a handful of major oil and gas companies including Exxon, Chevron and EOG Resources, demanded for the fifth year in a row more information from companies about the risks associated with fracking. The motion won the support of over 30 percent of Exxon shareholders — an unusually strong showing for a shareholder resolution.

Fracking and earthquakes: Scientists link rise in seismic activity in Oklahoma to increased oil and gas exploration

Between 1975 and 2008, Oklahoma recorded an average of no more than six earthquakes per year, yet now it is the second most seismically active of the contiguous United States, beaten only by California. Scientists have linked this surge in seismic activity to a parallel increase in oil and gas exploration, including fracking.

Fracking the Marcellus Shale from a Quaker perspective

What do Pennsylvania Quakers think of Marcellus Shale fracking in their midst?

Not much good.

Marshall County Pipeline Explosion Results in Fire

Multiple agencies in Marshall County spent Saturday morning on the scene of a pipeline explosion.

Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said a hillside slip caused a 12-inch line to rupture between Waymans Ridge and Middle Creek.

Water recycling companies getting a foothold in the Eagle Ford

At a freshly-cleared 11-acre site, oil-field water flows from tank to tank. It starts off opaque and yellowish, heavy with salt, iron, manganese, calcium and residual oil.

But after about a day, it’s so clear a jar of it looks like tap water — and it’s clean enough to reuse in oil-field operations.

Crews finish cleanup after BP oil spill on Lake Michigan, trace amounts of oil remain

An assessment team that formed in response to last week’s BP oil spill on Lake Michigan in Indiana has decided that no further cleanup efforts are needed.

Crews determined that trace amounts of oil remain along the rocky shoreline of BP’s refinery in Whiting following the March 24 spill. Up to 1,638 gallons of oil were discharged when a distillation unit malfunctioned, officials said.

Law firm accused of misconduct in BP claims process sued by construction company seeking $4 million

A local construction company is suing its former lawyers after they allegedly mishandled a multi-million dollar BP claim.

Howell Construction Inc. filed suit against Andry Lerner LLC, Andry Law Group LLC, Johnathan B. Andry and Christina E. Mancuso in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

Deeper and deeper: Effects of Galveston Bay oil spill linger as clean-up continues

When I retraced the tracks of my previous trip to Galveston Bay, I noticed a good sign right away. At the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, the marquee (OIL IN WATER – MUST REMAIN IN VEHICLE) had been removed. From the top of the bridge, things looked different too. Barges were back in business. They moved slowly down the canal straight stiff, like giant Gillette razor blades.

At High Island, I visited the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. A nice woman behind the merchandise table reported that there, fortunately, they’d been unaffected by the oil spill. “Songbirds don’t go in the water,” she explained. “Shorebirds are another story.”

Feds seize cargo ship involved in oil spill

A federal judge on Friday ordered the seizure of the cargo ship that was involved in a collision with a barge that caused an oil spill in Galveston Bay.

U.S. marshals were set to seize the Summer Wind, which is docked at the Port of Houston.

Was oil spill cause of dolphin deaths?

Scientists are trying to determine whether an oil spill two weeks ago contributed to a higher-than-normal number of dolphin deaths.

At least 29 dead dolphins have been found in the Galveston area since a ship and barge collided two weeks ago, spilling nearly 168,000 gallons of thick oil into Galveston Bay.

Peigneur suit waiting on judge’s decision

A years-long battle could be determined within the next three months when 16th Judicial District Judge Keith Comeaux decides on a lawsuit alleging the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Coastal Management did not do its due diligence in granting a dredging permit to Atlanta Gas Lighting last year.

The suit, filed by Save Lake Peigneur Inc. and Louisiana Environmental Action Network, followed a number of public hearings between concerned Lake Peigneur residents and legislators, and between residents and the Department of Natural Resources.

Sen. Adley best friend in Baton Rouge for oil, gas

Robert Adley rushed out of the state Senate chamber last week — past fellow politicians, past lobbyists wanting a minute of his time, past tourists visiting the State Capitol.

He’d caught a bird that found its way into the building. He strode through the lobby, the bird’s head poking out from his cupped hands.

Adley shouldered open a door and opened his hands.

“I felt sorry for the bird,” he said, as it took off.

Adley’s political foes should be so lucky.

Chevron faces criminal oil-spill charges in Rio

Brazilian judges ordered a criminal prosecution of Chevron Corp. and 11 employees over an oil spill in Nov. 2011, in a process reinstated more than a year after being thrown out following a settlement with the government.

An appeals panel made the 2-to-1 decision in October, but kept it quiet as judges reviewed Chevron’s challenges to their ruling, Brazil’s public prosecutor’s office, which oppposed the dismissal, said on Wednesday.

Looking for Answers in a Town Known for Leukemia

One night in May 2008, in a modest ranch house in central Nevada, Ryan Brune woke with a headache. He had complained about the pain earlier that week, but his doctor said it was migraines. This time, he couldn’t sleep, and so his mother, April, drove him to the hospital in Fallon, a farming town of 8,200 where the family had lived for most of Ryan’s 10 years. He was an otherwise healthy boy, with fleshy cheeks and sandy blond hair, but a CT scan revealed a chestnut-sized mass in his brain. By morning, he was flown to Palo Alto, California, and the tumor was removed. Ryan had glioblastoma multiforme, a brain cancer that rarely afflicts children. His likelihood of survival was 1 percent.

The Crude Frontier: Pipelines or rails? Both methods of crude oil transportation operate with risks

As the national debate over the safety of crude oil transportation continues to swirl, two high-profile North Dakota incidents illustrate the risks associated with moving the commodity.

More than 865,000 gallons of crude oil spewed out of an underground Tesoro pipeline near Tioga last September, causing millions of dollars in damage and requiring cleanup that may take years.

Enbridge pipeline construction in Michigan to resume in May

Construction of the final 50 miles of an Enbridge oil pipeline replacement project in Michigan resumes in May.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum tells the Times Herald of Port Huron exact timing of work will depend on weather conditions.

Safety records sought for pipeline company that serves part of Central Louisiana

U.S. Reps. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, and Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, have authored a joint letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration calling for the safety records of the American Midstream pipeline.

Midla officials announced last week they had filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to abandon the pipeline, which provides natural gas to thousands of people in eastern Louisiana and western Mississippi. Concordia Parish communities would be among those affected.

Roundtable: The Keystone Pipeline Debate (Video)

The Meet the Press Roundtable digs in to the pros and cons of the Keystone Pipeline and whether or not they think the president will approve it.

Explosive questions: Study of oil from deadly Quebec derailment points to Bakken crude’s volatility

Last July 6, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in eastern Canada was left parked on a hillside in Quebec. It rolled backward down the hill, derailing and crashing into a small town, with railcars bursting into flames, killing 47 people.

While investigators pointed early on to the train’s brakes, the violent explosions prompted Canadian officials to question the volatility of the Bakken crude.

Flawed tests play down crude oil’s explosiveness

As Canada and the United States move to strengthen the rules for transporting crude oil by rail, there is mounting evidence that regulators are relying on tests that underestimate the risk of a fiery explosion like the one that destroyed Lac-Mégantic.

The current testing regime was not designed for unrefined crude and, as a result, can play down the dangers of shipping some light crude oils, according to industry and transportation experts. A United Nations panel on hazardous materials shared similar concerns last week when it announced that it would review international standards for shipping crude oil, including how crude is tested and classified, in response to a string of recent accidents in North America.

America’s light oil, Canada’s heavy problem

Moored at Valero Energy Corp.’s dock in south Texas, the Liberian-flagged Afra Willow is unloading 300,000 barrels of imported, semi-processed crude oil to the company’s Bill Greehey refinery, where it will be further refined into gasoline, diesel and petrochemicals.

On the same dock, Valero is building a terminal to export light crude from Texas’s surging Eagle Ford field to the company’s refinery near Quebec City. Nearby, it is building two crude-processing units that will allow it to handle more light, Eagle Ford oil at the Corpus Christi plant.

Coast Guard Blames Kulluk Grounding on Shell Oil’s Complacence, Risk Taking

A US Coast Guard investigation blames Shell Oil’s complacence and risk-taking for an oil rig running aground on a remote Alaskan Island on New Year’s Eve 2012.

A single tugboat, the Aiviq, was towing an oil rig called the Kulluk to Everett, Wash., in late December when the tug’s engines failed. Despite several attempts to corral the wayward rig, the Kulluk’s 18 crew members had to be evacuated by helicopter, and the rig ran aground.

Fukushima: Three years later

The magnitude 9 earthquake that struck Japan on March 11th, 2011, not only shook the ground, it shook the Japanese people’s faith in their government and the nuclear power industry. You can see the impact of the disaster in the towns right around the plant — only you can’t get there. The earthquake did some damage, the tsunami did more. But the reason many of them are empty — and off limits today — is because of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima power plant next door. The whole area is now a radioactive wasteland and the people who lived there don’t know if they’ll ever be able to go home. Many don’t know if they’ll want to. Three years later, the events of March 11th darkened their lives so deeply that many speak of it simply as 3/11.

Fukushima Children Start School, Flee Radiation

The 12-year-old girl didn’t want to leave her younger brother, and her grandparents didn’t want her to go away. But a family living near the “no-go zone” surrounding Japan’s destroyed nuclear plant has other things to consider.

Yukie Hashimoto and her husband sent their daughter 300 kilometers (200 miles) away to the picturesque ski town of Matsumoto, where the mayor offered to take in and educate young people living in the shadow of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Federal lawsuit says Fukushima disaster poisoned U.S. sailors on relief mission

The USS Ronald Reagan maneuvered in the blue off the tense Korean Peninsula, preparing for long-planned military exercises. A nuclear-powered “supercarrier” – one of the newest and most technically sophisticated in the fleet – she required a crew of 5,500 to sustain her. The Navy boasted that she was “the most effective and versatile fighting vessel in the world.”

Fukushima: Radioactive Cancer Causing “Hot Particles” Spread all Over Japan and North America’s West Coast

I am here today to introduce professional engineer Marco Kaltofen in one of the most important videos Fairewinds Energy Education has ever produced. Three years ago, Fairewinds was one of the first organizations to talk about the “hot particles” that are scattered all over Japan and North America’s west coast. Hot particles are dangerous and difficult to detect. In this video Mr. Kaltofen discusses the hottest hot particle he has ever found, and it was discovered more than 300 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi site. If Fairewinds Energy Education was a Japanese website, the State Secrets Law would likely prevent us from issuing this video. I will provide a brief summary at the end of the video.

Japan leader takes firsthand look at Fukushima nuke plant, says he wants it entirely scrapped

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the operator of the country’s crippled nuclear power plant on Thursday to scrap all six reactors at the site instead of just four already slated for decommissioning and to concentrate on tackling pressing issues like leaks of radioactive water.

After taking a firsthand look at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, however, Abe insisted that radioactive water had been contained at the complex and said he would fend off “rumours” regarding Fukushima’s safety.

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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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