Environmental Must-Reads – August 11, 2014


Colorado’s Frack-Free Movement Sacrificed for Democrats Facing Re-election

Backed by a wall of suited supporters, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper proudly announced Monday that it was game-over for two popular anti-fracking state ballot initiatives.

Among the supporters was Pete Maysmith, executive director of the green group Conservation Colorado. But notably absent from the Denver press conference, however, was the rest of the green scene—members of the state’s dozens of environmental grassroots groups. Many had helped collect far more than the 86,105 signatures required to get the two fracking measures on the ballot by the Aug. 4 deadline. On Monday, they waited in their homes and offices to hear the good news—that the signatures numbering more than 250,000 combined–had officially been submitted.

North Dakota Considers Requiring Treatment of Bakken Crude

North Dakota officials are considering requiring energy companies to treat the crude they pump from the Bakken Shale to make it less volatile before it is loaded onto trains.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission plans to hold a public hearing in the coming weeks on possible steps to reduce volatility at a well site before oil is stored or transported, said a spokeswoman for North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple. The commission, the state’s chief energy regulator, is considering issuing new standards for treating crude as well as monitoring requirements, she said.

DEP gets 2nd dour report on gas well oversight

The issuance last week of a second report detailing myriad shortcomings in the state Department of Environmental Protection’s oversight and enforcement of Marcellus Shale gas development might have the agency feeling like a pinata after a party.

The latest report, which Earthworks, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental organization, released Thursday, reviewed and analyzed DEP Marcellus Shale gas well drilling files and conducted its own air and water testing to detail how the DEP’s enforcement of shale gas regulations has been less than transparent or effective in controlling the exposure of Pennsylvania residents to unhealthy air and water.

As NC ponders fracking rules, will Duke duo’s research have impact?

As North Carolina readies for fracking, 2014 could be a productive year for Duke University researchers whose studies have become a regular nuisance for the oil and gas industry.

Robert Jackson, professor of earth and ocean sciences, and Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality, have continued pumping out new research in an attempt to seal the case that shale gas extraction is the culprit behind drinking water quality problems in other states.

‘Houses are bouncing;’ quakes trigger controls on Oklahoma oil industry

Inside the small U-Haul rental office in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Tami Boxley routinely deals with something that once was rare: the rattling, booming roll of the earth.

In the last week alone, residents of Guthrie, pop. 10,191, have felt five quakes rock the town a half hour’s drive from Oklahoma City.

Drilling company official says no rush on fracking

As King George County supervisors continue to discuss gas drilling, a representative from the company that has leased acreage for that very purpose has told board members there’s no rush.

“This is not something to be concerned about in the immediate future,” said Ken Snow, a land man with Shore Exploration and Production Corp. of Texas. “There is no immediate plan for drilling right away; no permits have been requested.”

Before the fear of war, fear of fracking in Ukraine

A hot July day, and the neighbors and children of a half-ruined five-story building on Bulvarnaya Avenue gathered around a bench for a long discussion of their daily fears.

Locals seemed to have consensus on who’s at war: the U.S. and Russia over control of Ukraine, they all agreed. But even now, three months past the day the first shell fell on Slovyansk, they still had trouble comprehending why their green, sleepy hometown still was trapped in this conflict.

Insurance industry changes with energy industry

As the energy industry evolves, so do the risks that insurance companies cover, said Jeremy Palmer, director and senior loss adjuster for Braemar Adjusting.

Newer areas for companies to cover include shale gas, wind turbines and transporting oil by railroads, he said at the Independent Insurance Agents of Houston Energy Symposium.

Christie vetoes bill aiming to ban fracking waste in N.J.

For the second time in two years, Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a bill that would have banned the dumping of fracking waste in New Jersey.

Environmentalists and lawmakers from both parties had championed the measure, which would have prohibited companies from treating, discharging, disposing, and storing waste from hydraulic fracturing — the controversial practice of pumping water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to harvest natural gas.

NJ lawmakers consider overriding Christie veto of ban on fracking waste

For the second time in two years, Governor Christie has vetoed a bill intended to ban the treatment and disposal of waste generated by a mining technique called hydraulic fracturing, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause.

But this time, the state legislature had passed the bill with enough votes to indicate they could possibly hold another vote on the bill and override Christie’s veto.

More pipelines the next phase of Marcellus Shale drilling boom

The Marcellus Shale is growing up, and the growing pains aren’t over.

After years of cautionary comments that the natural gas drilling boom was in its infancy, the industry is showing signs of moving to a different stage.

With more than 8,000 shale wells drilled in Pennsylvania, the conversation has shifted from leases and well pads to the need for more — and bigger — pipelines to get all that gas to where it’s going.

Mid West farming family concerned about water supply from fracking

Peggy Hodgson’s family started farming in the Mid West during the 1960s.

Over the years, she has fought long and hard to keep miners off her land, fighting to protect their supply of clean drinking water.

Now in her retirement, she is facing a similar battle.

“Our water supply, our water quality and our water quantity, all of it is under threat if anything were to go wrong with the fracking and the boring that’s going to go on out here,” she said.

Nerve-racking wait for protesters as ‘drill or drop’ day approaches

Shale gas exploration company Tamboran has until the end of next month, the time limit set by Stormont, to make a “drill or drop” decision.

If it decides to “drop” and walk away, then the protesters gathered near Belcoo, Co Fermanagh, may fold up their tents and walk away, satisfied that they have helped to thwart the ambitions of this international exploration concern. Other anti-fracking protests in Fermanagh, Leitrim and Cavan may also begin to die off.

Researchers Release Oil Into North Sea To Study Immediate Result Of An Oil Spill

In a bid to better understand the early aftermath of an accidental oil spill, a team of American and European researchers has conducted a new study in the North Sea, which is expected to provide valuable insights into how to respond in the immediate wake of such disasters.

When petroleum is spilt onto a water surface, some of the oil instantly begins to evaporate into the air while some of it dissolves into the seawater. While the dissolved toxic hydrocarbons can be harmful to marine species, the evaporated elements can be a cause of concern for rescue workers and people downwind of an accident site, the researchers said, adding that the new study is focused on understanding how the hydrocarbons behave during the initial 24 hours after an oil spill.

Northwest Florida, Gulf Counties Still Waiting On Funding Years After BP Oil Spill

Local officials in Florida’s panhandle are waiting on dollars expected years ago for restoration projects that were supposed to be part of the recovery from the BP oil spill. Lynn Hatter spoke with Escambia County Commissioner and head of the Gulf Consortium about the delay and when the dollars are supposed to start flowing.

Nearly two years after Paulsboro spill, health concerns linger

After a train crash in Paulsboro, N.J., a cloud of toxic gas sent 28 people to the hospital. Mantua Township resident Ronald Morris was among them.

Nearly, two years later, Morris says his fatigue, a rash on his back and lots of missed workdays are related to his exposure to vinyl chloride. The chemical escaped from an overturned Consolidated Rail Corporation train that Friday morning, Nov. 30.

Protesters urge hasty cleanup at abandoned chemical plant

Residents from a modest southeast Houston neighborhood pointed Sunday toward a lagoon of algae-covered water with a pungent chemical smell that filled the parking lot of an abandoned cleaning facility for chemical trucks. Only some weeds and a cyclone fence separate the facility from homes and a charter school.

CES Environmental Services Inc. at 4904 Griggs Road, a shuttered company that once generated as much as $8 million a year in revenue, filed for bankruptcy and shut its doors in 2010 after paying millions to resolve residential complaints and safety violations that caused explosions and allegedly killed a worker there, records show.

Surprise! Keystone XL will make climate change worse

Try not to faint from shock. The controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry Canadian oil through the US, will make climate change worse. It will boost global emissions of carbon dioxide by up to 110 million tonnes per year. The finding will step up the pressure on US president Barack Obama to stop the pipeline being built.

That extra CO2 is not a huge amount on a global scale. “But it is a step in the wrong direction,” says Jerry Schnoor of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, who was not involved in the new analysis. “It is an investment that will lock us into an untenable environmental situation. It’s a pipeline to nowhere, economically speaking.”

Keystone XL pipeline may create more pollution than previously calculated

A proposed pipeline from Canada to the United States may result in much higher greenhouse gas emissions than previously calculated as it could fuel greater oil consumption through higher production and lower prices, a study said Sunday.

Researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute used a mathematical model to estimate the Keystone XL pipeline’s potential for atmospheric pollution.

Nigeria: Shell Records Massive Oil Spill On Its Nembe Creek

A major oil spill has occurred at a Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, (SPDC), oil pipeline between the Santa-Barbara and Tego Rivers in Owuanga-Toru of Kula Kingdom in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The cause of the incident is yet to be ascertained as at press time but the company is pushing for investigation and mitigation exercise.

Shell’s Clean-Up Contractors Ignite Fire In Oil-Spill Site In Bayelsa

Fire suspected to have been started by oil workers engaged by Shell on Sunday gutted a spill site on a Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) oil field in Ayambele and Kalaba communities in Yenagoa Local Government of Bayelsa State.

The spill site, which was being remediated by SPDC, was polluted by an oil spill from Shell’s Okordia Manifold at Ikarama community in June.

United Refining, Enbridge to upgrade Line 10 crude oil pipeline

United Refining Co. has entered into a maintenance and upgrade agreement with Enbridge regarding Line 10, a 74,000-b/d pipeline owned by Enbridge Pipelines Inc. and Enbridge Energy LP transporting crude oil from Canada to URC’s Kiantone Pipeline in West Seneca, NY, serving its 70,000 b/d refinery in Warren, Pa. URC will fund certain integrity costs necessary to maintain Line 10 pipeline and also pay for half of the cost of the replacement of 20 miles of the pipeline in Canada.

Putin praises Exxon alliance as new Arctic drilling project starts

President Vladimir Putin lauded Russia’s “old and reliable partner” Exxon Mobil Corp. as he gave the command for the U.S. energy company and ally OAO Rosneft to begin drilling a $700 million exploratory well in the Arctic Ocean.

With Putin giving the start order by video Saturday from the summery Black Sea resort of Sochi, he welcomed the start of the country’s northernmost well with Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin and Exxon’s Russia chief Glenn Waller.  It’s the first step in a quest for new energy resources to help maintain oil production near a post-Soviet Union high of more than 10 million barrels a day.

ExxonMobil Begins Oil Drilling In Russian Arctic, Despite Sanctions On Partner Rosneft

U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil began drilling in Russia’s Arctic on Saturday, despite Western sanctions imposed on its Russian partner Rosneft, and was hailed by Russia’s president as an model of “cooperation”.

Although U.S. sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine are not designed to halt joint projects by Russian and U.S. companies, they nevertheless aim to starve Rosneft of dollar financing and ban access to modern technology.

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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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