Environmental Must-Reads – April 8, 2014


Fracking with CO2 to replace water a distant goal, GE says

Carbon dioxide, used for years to force crude oil out of old wells, likely will not replace water in fracking anytime soon because of technical challenges and limited infrastructure, says General Electric Co , which is studying the issue under a $10 billion research program.

The delay means energy companies will continue to use more than 2 million gallons of water for each fracked well, equal to baths for some 40,000 people, stressing water supplies in arid American states and likely delaying fracking’s expansion to western China and other water-stressed regions.

Oklahoma Swamped by Surge in Earthquakes Near Fracking

There have been more earthquakes strong enough to be felt in Oklahoma this year than in all of 2013, overwhelming state officials who are trying to determine if the temblors are linked to oil and natural gas production.

The state on April 6 experienced its 109th earthquake of a magnitude 3 or higher, matching the total for all of 2013, according to Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey. More quakes followed, including a magnitude 4 near Langston about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City.

North Dakota official tells of $2 billion fracking windfall

There’s money in fracking — just ask North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt.

Schmidt, who was in Columbus yesterday for a State Financial Officers Foundation meeting, said North Dakota’s Legacy Fund is approaching $2 billion.

ANR Pipeline: Introducing TransCanada’s Keystone XL for Fracking

When most environmentalists and folks who follow pipeline markets think of TransCanada, they think of the proposed northern half of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Flying beneath the public radar, though, is another TransCanada-proposed pipeline with a similar function as Keystone XL. But rather than for carrying tar sands bitumen to the Gulf Coast, this pipeline would bring to market shale gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

On Fracking Front, A Push To Reduce Leaks of Methane

Loose pipe flanges. Leaky storage tanks. Condenser valves stuck open. Outdated compressors. Inefficient pneumatic systems. Corroded pipes.

Forty separate types of equipment are known to be potential sources of methane emissions during the production and processing of natural gas and oil by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of underground shale formations. As the fracking boom continues unabated across the U.S., scientists, engineers, and government experts are increasingly focusing on the complex task of identifying the sources of these methane leaks and devising methods to stop them.

Shale industry faces global reality check

As US energy costs tumble on the back of shale oil and gas, the rest of the world is gripped with envy.

Just four years ago, natural gas prices in Europe were roughly comparable with those in the US; now they are three times higher. In Japan, they are five times higher.

Understandably, countries around the world want a piece of the action.

Williams investigating pipeline fire in West Virginia

Williams Partners LP was still investigating a gathering pipeline fire which happened Saturday near one of its natural gas processing projects in West Virginia, the Tulsa-based energy transporter reported Monday.

The 12-inch pipeline, which moves unprocessed natural gas, was not operating when it caught fire in Marshall County, W.V., near the partnership’s Oak Grove processing facility under construction. No one was injured, although production from three locations was temporarily affected by the incident, Williams reported.

Oil towns lead nation in population growth

The oil and gas boom brought about by new drilling technology is drawing people to shale plays like iron filings to magnets.

New census data show a population surge as the oil boom draws workers and families to oil fields around the country. Some of the nation’s fastest-growing communities include Midland and Odessa in the Permian Basin and three cities near North Dakota’s Bakken Shale field: Williston, Dickinson and Minot. The rapid increase in drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale has spilled into San Antonio.

Oil Consultant Turned Whistleblower Exposes Fracking Crimes in Alberta

This You Tube is a compilation of segments from a 90 minute talk. Jessica Ernst worked for more than three decades as an environmental biologist doing research and independent consulting for the Alberta, Canada petroleum industry. One of her main clients was the EnCana Company, which began large-scale fracking in the region of her home community of Rosebud Alberta in the early years of the 21st century.

March oil spill just one of hundreds each year

The March oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel is just one of the hundreds of spills occurring in Galveston Bay each year.

The Houston Chronicle reports that statistics from the Houston Advanced Research Center show that Galveston Bay has averaged 285 spills a year since 1998.

Oil spill clean-up: Ten tons removed from Matagorda Island

Amid one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries in America, a place where birds almost always outnumber the few humans venturing to a remote island, workmen are now hauling away tons of beach sand contaminated by oil.

Men wearing protective suits scratch at the sand on Matagorda Island, using shovels to unearth the layer of oil lingering beneath a thin film of freshly deposited sand.

Bird body count still rising following Galveston Bay oil spill

There have been so many oil spills lately — from trains, from pipelines, from barges, from a refinery – that it’s easy to forget about the particulars of each one. Unless you’re an unlucky local resident or an emergency responder.

In Texas, where more than 100,000 gallons of heavy fuel spilled into Galveston Bay two weeks ago following a collision between a barge and a ship, the Coast Guard has recovered more than 300 oiled birds – nearly all of them dead.

Shrimp coated in oil concerns businesses, seafood lovers

Attorneys representing a shrimp boat captain are bringing attention to an entire catch of shrimp coated in oil.

Pictures released to KHOU show oil saturated on several shrimp.

According to the captain’s attorneys, the shrimp were caught a few miles out of Galveston near the place where 168,000 gallons of thick oil spilled into the ocean.

Lawsuit filed against ExxonMobil for bad gas

ExxonMobil’s snafu that resulted in dozens of motorists complaining to their mechanics is now the basis of a lawsuit filed against the energy giant.

A lawsuit filed in Baton Rouge’s U.S. District Court claims ExxonMobil negligently produced and shipped the more than 5 million gallons of defective fuel from its Baton Rouge terminal to area gas stations.

Hazmat crew responds to oil spill in Des Moines River

The Des Moines Fire Department’s hazardous materials crew responded to an oil spill in the Des Moines River near the Principal Riverwalk in Des Moines on Monday afternoon, officials said.

A passerby reported the oil spill at about 3 p.m. Monday. The fire department responded, and the hazmat crew put booms across the river to contain the oil.

Court ruling may lead to higher taxes for salt caverns

The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld an appeals court ruling on the taxation of underground salt dome caverns that could mean some cavern owners will pay hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars more in property taxes annually to local government coffers.

The ruling in the Spectra Energy Corp. lawsuit out of St. Landry Parish also could lend a boost to assessors in other parishes trying to bring unreported and untaxed salt caverns onto the tax rolls for the first time.

Robideaux/LOGA bill up for a vote Tuesday

Rep. Joel Robideaux’s House Bill 862 will rob parish governments of the ability to sue the oil and gas industry for permit violations.

The bill, which is slated to go before the House Civil Law & Procedure Committee at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, will make the state Department of Natural Resources the go-to for parish governments seeking to file suit against oil and gas companies for permit violations. The bill, essentially, is a response to lawsuits filed by three parishes against the industry for damages to the coastal marshes.

Group Says Keystone XL Would Disproportionately Harm Latinos

If President Obama gives the green light to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Hispanics will be the ones who suffer, a leading Latino political organizing group said Thursday.

The 300,000-member group, Presente.org, is calling on President Obama to reject the pipeline, which would bring Canadian tar sands oil down to refineries in nearby Texas and Louisiana cities. According to Presente executive director Arturo Carmona, the communities that surround those refineries are largely Latino, meaning any accident involving the heavy crude oil would disproportionately impact Hispanic families.

More than 100 scientists and economists call for rejection of Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Today, more than 100 scientists and economists called on President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would bring some of the world’s dirtiest fuel from under Canada’s Boreal forest to the Gulf Coast mainly for export. They write in the letter, “The world is looking to the United States to lead through strong climate action at home. This includes rejecting projects that will make climate change worse such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”

Pipeline protest leaders vow to maintain right-of-way blockade

Leaders of a small native camp in central B.C. that is blocking the right-of-way of a proposed gas pipeline say they won’t be moving any time soon, even if a court orders them to.

Freda Huson and her husband, Dini Ze Toghestiy, who are both Wet’suwet’en members, said they have been dug in so long on the Pacific Trail Pipeline Project route that they consider the camp their home now.

Rejecting Tar Sands Key Step in ‘Decarbonizing’ World’s Energy Economy

Over one hundred concerned scientists and economists urged President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline in a letter sent to the White House and State Department on Monday.

In the letter, the scientists outline the dangers of extracting what has been called the world’s dirtiest fuel within Canada’s tar sands fields—in particular, the drastic consequences of burning the carbon intensive reserves for the world’s present and future climate crisis.

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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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