Environmental Must-Reads – April 9, 2013


Judge rules administration overlooked fracking risks in California mineral leases

A federal judge has ruled the Obama administration broke the law when it issued oil leases in central California without fully weighing the environmental impact of “fracking,” a setback for companies seeking to exploit the region’s enormous energy resources.

Fracking foes in California win in court

Fracking opponents in California have won what may be their first victory in court, with a federal magistrate’s ruling that federal authorities broke the law when they leased land in Monterey and Fresno counties to oil drillers without studying the possible risks of hydraulic fracturing.

Court Victory for Opponents of Fracking in California

A federal judge has ruled that the Obama Administration violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County, Calif., without considering the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The ruling came in response to a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, challenging a September 2011 decision by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in southern Monterey County to oil companies.

More Rendell fracking connections

Recently, we wrote about former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s connections to the natural gas industry after he published a pro-fracking op-ed in The New York Daily News.

Scientists Use Crowdfunding to Pay for Fracking Research

You’ve heard of Kickstarter, the website that allows everyone from budding filmmakers to student dancers, to nail polish designers, search for individual funders over the internet. Now, there are crowdfunding websites popping up that focus on scientific research. Two Juniata College professors are turning to one of these to fund their fracking research. Micro-biology professor Regina Lamendella and ecologist Christopher Grant, want to find out how fracking for Marcellus Shale gas impacts stream life in Northcentral Pennsylvania. So they’ve put up a video and a description of their project on iamscientist.com. Lamendella and Grant, along with their students, will be collecting samples of bacteria, micro-invertabrates, macro-invertabrates, and fish from 26 headwater streams this summer. Some of those streams have already been contaminated through frack water spills. Others are near gas drilling operations, and there will be some in areas where fracking has yet to begin.

Court Victory for Opponents of Fracking in California

Today, a federal judge has ruled that the Obama Administration violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County, Calif., without considering the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The ruling came in response to a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, challenging a September 2011 decision by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in southern Monterey County to oil companies.

Groups Petition DOE to Revise Out-of-Date Policy for Approving Natural Gas Exports

Today, the Sierra Club and a list of environmental coalition partners have filed a petition with the Department of Energy (DOE) to revise the nearly 30-year-old policy guidelines for approving natural gas exports. The petition urges the DOE to establish new regulations or guidance, defining how the DOE will review and approve applications to develop liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals.

James Hansen says natural gas is worse than nuclear

If forced to decide between living in a world powered by natural gas or a world powered by nuclear energy, which would you choose?

Seems a little like trying to decide whether to chop off an arm or a leg.

BP Begins Its Defense Of 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

In New Orleans, BP has begun calling its first witnesses in a trial to determine who and what’s to blame for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP likely will spend the next two weeks presenting its defense. Then the plaintiffs will have time to respond.

BP followed industry practices in drilling Macondo well, retired LSU professor testifies

A retired Louisiana State University professor testified in the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill trial Monday that the British oil giant carried out its Macondo drilling project in line with standard industry practices, but acknowledged that he couldn’t understand how the rig crew misinterpreted a key test that preceded the well blowout.

BP trial witness says well ‘drilled safely’ in Gulf oil spill

BP called its first witness Monday in the trial over the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster. The witness, a retired petroleum engineering professor, said BP safely drilled its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico before an April 2010 blowout triggered the worst US offshore oil spill.

An explosion in oil-munching bacteria made fast work of BP oil spill, scientist says

Much of the oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010 disappeared within weeks of the capping of BPâ  s Macondo well on July 15, digested by a massive explosion in oil-eating microorganisms, said Terry Hazen, a professor of environmental biology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, during a Monday panel at the national conference of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleaned up naturally: scientists

Three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists gathered by the Gulf of Mexico are making a surprising claim: The massive spill wasn’t a long-term disaster at all.

The Gulf and its shores recovered much faster than expected thanks to an amazing “self-cleaning” ability, they have revealed: An explosion of natural, oil-eating microbes quickly destroyed most of the oil.

BP: Negligent, but not grossly?

BP (BP) launched its defense on Monday during the seventh week of a civil trial to determine who’s to blame for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is hearing the trial in Louisiana. BP’s first witness, Adam Bourgoyne, is a former dean of Louisiana State University’s engineering college and has said that based on his expertise, BP’s management all of the major problems regarding the spill was up to snuff.

Arkansas oil spill could be almost 300,000 gallons, video shows oil in wetland (UPDATES)

New estimates of the amount of oil spilled by Exxon Mobil in Mayflower, Arkansas have grown far beyond the initial figures of 84,000 gallons. Susan White at Inside Climate News tries to get a sense of the actual size of the spill

ExxonMobil faces lawsuit after Arkansas oil spill

Residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, have filed a class-action lawsuit against ExxonMobil after a pipeline rupture that allowed thousands of barrels of heavy crude oil to flow into a residential area.

They are seeking more than $5 million in damages.

Federal lawsuit filed over Arkansas oil spill

Two women who live near an ExxonMobil pipeline that ruptured last week and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in central Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit against the company on Friday.

The class-action complaint from Kimla Greene and Kathryn Jane Roachell Chunn comes a week after ExxonMobil Pipeline Co.’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock. Crews are still working to clean up oil that spewed onto lawns and roadways and almost fouled nearby Lake Conway.

Animals released into wild after Ark. oil spill

Officials have released some animals back into the wild after they were rescued and cleaned up following an oil spill in central Arkansas.

Crews on Monday brought a pair of raccoons and several turtles to the Bell Slough State Wildlife Management Area near Mayflower.

Activist claims oil spill has reached wetland

Tar Sands Blockade volunteers are in Mayflower, working with homeowners affected by the oil spill. The grass roots organization is known for using non-violent action against the Keystone Pipeline. The group has been in Arkansas for a week now.

The Keystone Pipeline will carry the same material that spilled in Mayflower, it’s called Tar Sands.

Arkansas Oil Spill Means Keystone XL Decision Should Be Delayed, Some Environmentalists Say

Environmental groups on Monday asked the Obama administration to extend the approval process of the Keystone XL pipeline, using last month’s spill of heavy Canadian crude oil in Arkansas as their latest reason to delay the project.

The Obama administration is deciding whether to approve the Canada-to-Nebraska leg of TransCanada Corp’s proposed pipeline, which would link Canada’s oil sands, the world’s third richest crude oil deposit, to refineries in Texas.

ExxonMobil wins safety award from corporate-backed group

We at Grist would like to apologize to the folks at ExxonMobil for going on and on about their dismal safety record. About the recent tar-sands oil spill in Mayflower, Ark. About the heavy-handed way the company is trying to control information about the spill. About a chemical spill at an ExxonMobil refinery last week that stunk up New Orleans. About how the company in 2011 waited 46 minutes to shut off a pipeline that was dumping oil into the Yellowstone River. About that old Exxon Valdez thing.

We apologize because last week a group controlled by executives from ExxonMobil and similarly dangerous corporations bestowed upon ExxonMobil an award recognizing its stellar emphasis on safety. Yes, the nonprofit National Safety Council — whose board of directors includes ExxonMobil Safety VP Jeffrey Woodbury and former ExxonMobil exec Michael Henderek — awarded ExxonMobil the Green Cross for Safety medal.

I guess that shows us!

Petrobras fined $5 million for oil spill off Sao Paulo coast

Volunteers clean up the beach on the island of Paqueta in Brazil on February, 18, 2000, after around 1,000 tonnes of crude oil were spilled accidently by Brazil’s state-run petroleum company, Petrobas. Petrobas has been ordered to pay a fine of $5 million over the oil spill that fouled several beaches along Sao Paulo state’s coast, authorities said Monday.

Sinkhole at 300 ft. is Superdome-sized

The Bayou Corne sinkhole is growing…faster.

The sinkhole that was a grave concern when it was the size of a football field is now the size of the Superdome in New Orleans.

The sinkhole that caused explosions and odors and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents had now expanded by 12 acres in the course of a weekend to the tune of rumblings, tremors and giant smelly gas bubbles coming from underground. The escaping gas is being burnt to avoid a massive explosion.

Why tar-sands pipelines are just too risky

ExxonMobil’s oil spill in Mayflower, Ark., was just the latest in a string of leaks from pipelines that proved physically incapable of safely carrying toxic tar-sands oil.

With the Obama administration poised to decide whether to build the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian tar-sands oil south to the Gulf Coast, you might well wonder whether that pipeline would be about as safe as a balloon filled with bleach.

Alberta mulls new emissions rules to allay Keystone XL pipeline concerns

Alberta is considering new rules that would require the oil industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions tied to oil sands production by as much as 40 percent per barrel, Graeber writes. The measure may be part of the government’s push to allay Washington’s concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline.

Chevron pipeline reopened at Willard Bay

The Chevron pipeline that spilled some 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel into Willard Bay is back up and running.

The 760 mile pipeline that runs diesel from Salt Lake to Spokane has been repaired. It was a 72 inch seam that split open which allowed the 20,000 gallons of diesel to spill into Willard Bay. That’s been fixed and the chevron pipeline is back up and running at 80%.

Keystone XL foes launch aggressive campaign against pipeline (video)

Critics of Keystone XL are ramping up their efforts against the pipeline by launching a new coalition, nationwide commercials and online ads focused on convincing influential Democratic voters and donors that the project is a bad idea.

All Risk, No Reward: New Coalition Makes Compelling Case Against Keystone XL Pipeline

A group called “All Risk, No Reward” aired ads opposing the Keystone pipeline yesterday during the Sunday news shows and will soon be targeting Democratic donors and youth.

This new ad makes the case that the oil will spill frequently as it is pumped through the U.S. on its way to be exported out of the country. This would not help American energy security and only create 35 permanent jobs

Gazprom Neft and Shell to team up to drill for Arctic oil

Gazprom Neft, the oil division of Russia’s state-run natural gas major Gazprom, and Royal Dutch Shell have signed a memorandum of intent to jointly explore and develop shale oil and Arctic offshore projects in Russia.

Fukushima nuclear plant: radioactive water ‘leak’

A fresh suspected leak of radioactive water has been detected at Japan’s tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator says.

The contaminated water may have leaked into the ground from one of the plant’s storage tanks, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said.

Tepco Says Fukushima Plant May Have Another Toxic Water Leak

A new leak of toxic radioactive water, the third in a week, may have sprung from one of the seven underground storage tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s Fukushima plant.

The leak was discovered as Tepco, as the company is known, transferred radioactive water to the No. 1 underground pool from the No. 2 tank where a separate escape of water was found last week, Masayuki Ono, a senior official at Tepco’s nuclear power and plant siting division, told reporters in Tokyo today. The transfer of contaminated water to the No. 1 tank has been suspended, he said.

Defect could affect all radioactive water storage tanks at Fukushima plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. suspects two leaks of radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant were caused by shoddy workmanship to install devices to detect such spillage.

The latest problem at the stricken plant suggests that the defect could cause leaks at the five other underground water storage tanks because they all have the same structure.

Japan Considering 21 Geothermal Plans After Fukushima, METI Says

Japan is considering at least 21 geothermal projects as it searches for alternative energy sources after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Incentives for clean energy, including above-market rates for power derived from underground sources regardless of plant size, are encouraging the projects, Shinichiro Fukushima, an official in charge of geothermal energy at the ministry, said at a briefing in Tokyo today. The 21 possible projects include seven where small-sized binary turbines may be used, he said.

Fukushima operator may run out of space for radioactive water

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has revealed that it may not have enough space to store the contaminated water that began to leak from its nuclear Fukushima plant over the weekend.

There are presently not enough sturdy, above-ground tanks that can be used take the water from the pits in which it is stored, TEPCO General Manager Masayuki Ono said at a news conference on Monday. Water has been leaking from the pits over the weekend.

Federal officials won’t rule out Fukushima nuclear disaster for beached sea lions in California

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stopped short of dismissing the theory that fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is to blame for a recent rash of beached sea lions around Southern California.

Tepco pressured to halt leaks, blackouts at Fukushima plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. came under increasing pressure from the government Monday to address recent water leaks and power outages at the meltdown-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as nine experts who investigated the crisis said the new watchdog’s oversight was still too lax.

“If these kinds of incidents continue to occur, the very process of decommissioning the reactors could be affected,” industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi told Tepco President Naomi Hirose at a meeting.

Japanese ‘Tsunami Fish’ Rescued From Boat

When a 20-foot-long boat from Japan washed ashore on the Washington coast last month, the open bait box in the back of the boat surprised biologists with a microcosm of coastal Japanese species.

Five striped beakfish, along with sea anemones, sea cucumbers, scallops, crustaceans and worms — overall, at least 30 different species of marine life — had turned the bait box into a trans-oceanic aquarium as the boat floated across the Pacific with other debris from the March 2011 tsunami.

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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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