Environmental Must-Reads – August 12, 2014


Report: Too few safeguards for drinking water near fracking wells

Federal and state governments do not do enough to safeguard drinking water around the nearly 200,000 wells where fracking wastewater is injected deep underground, according to a federal report.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that existing regulations do not adequately protect against contamination that could occur after earthquakes, which is increasingly a concern at injection wells and fracking sites in Ohio and the West.

Drilling firm challenges township waste ordinance

A gas and oil drilling company sued a Western Pennsylvania township, claiming an ordinance passed to ban the disposal of drilling byproducts like fracking fluids and briny water is illegal and trumped by state and federal law.

Officials in Grant Township, Indiana County, have yet to see the lawsuit filed late Friday by Pennsylvania General Energy Co. of Warren. But township Supervisor Fred Carlson said Monday the township’s own attorney advised the ordinance may be illegal. Supervisors of the township, some 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, are meeting today to discuss the subject.

Fracking companies begin slow shift to recycling wastewater

It’s not just oil and natural gas that comes out of the ground here. For every barrel of oil pumped to the surface, more than another barrel of water from deep within the earth comes up alongside it.

With a hue that ranges from gray to black and an odor that resembles gasoline, the water is typically pumped into disposal wells thousands of feet underground. All the while, hydraulic fracturing operations pull billions of gallons of fresh water a year from aquifers that also supply water to cities and farms.

Fracking campaigners criticise ‘censored’ report on house prices

The government has been criticised for censoring a report into the impact of shale gas drilling that examines the effect on house prices and pressure on local services.

Campaigners are calling for full publication of the study carried out by Whitehall officials, as the government continues to resist the idea of offering compensation to individual householders near proposed fracking sites.

To Resolve Feud Over Fracking, Colo. Democrats Turn To Plan C

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has announced a last-minute compromise to avert a costly political battle over oil and gas drilling. As Dan Boyce of Inside Energy reports, the deal is meant to find a solution to disputes related to fracking — but it also serves the political interests of Colorado Democrats.

California Senate Rejects Fracking Ban

The California Senate declined to pass SB 1132, a bill that would have imposed a statewide ban on energy production using hydraulic fracturing methods. The vote marked the second time in two years California’s Democratic-controlled state legislature rejected a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

Fracking company registers in NC, agrees to follow state laws for soliciting leases

Crimson Holdings has registered to solicit fracking leases in North Carolina and agreed to follow state law in response to a legal threat issued last month against the Pennsylvania company by the N.C. Attorney General.

Crimson’s representative, Frank Leighton Sides of Youngstown, Ohio, is now listed as the 34th “landman” registered on North Carolina’s landman registry. Sides has assured the AG’s office he will comply with state law and will provide landowners with a landowner rights brochure and other disclosures.

Teachout a hit among fracking opponents

Law professor Zephyr Teachout’s campaign for governor survived a court challenge yesterday. That clears the way for Teachout’s own challenge: to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in next month’s Democratic primary.

A New York judge dismissed a suit brought by Cuomo supporters who argued that Teachout didn’t meet the state’s 5-year residency requirement to run.

Roundtables Aim At Improving Oil Train Prep

The first of several Minnesota roundtables on oil train safety has focused on keeping freight lines operating safely, efficiently and with as little disruption as more oil from neighboring North Dakota crosses the state.

Gov. Mark Dayton convened state and local leaders Monday to discuss preparedness efforts and quality-of-life concerns. Dayton says a boom in oil trains has crowded out grain and coal cars, frustrating farmers and utilities.

Trains carrying highly explosive Bakken oil coming into N.J. by the dozens every week

Up to 30 trains, each carrying more than a million gallons of highly explosive crude oil in aging tanker cars, are transported into North Jersey neighborhoods from New York every week, according to documents obtained by The Record.

Although oil trains have become a common sight from Northvale to Ridgefield along the CSX River Line, the exact number of shipments had not previously been available to the public.

Shell may sell stake in Haynesville Shale

Blackstone Group LP is close to inking a billion-dollar deal for Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s half of 350,000 acres leased in north Louisiana’s Haynesville Shale, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Shell is part of a joint venture in the natural gas formation. The deal would be the latest in which a private equity firm bought oil and gas reserves. Earlier this year, Apollo Global Management LLC and Houston-based Halcón Resources Corp. formed a joint venture to develop the energy company’s 300,000-plus acres in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, an oil formation that covers Louisiana’s midsection and extents into Mississippi.

Judge tells sinkhole lawyers to settle taxpayers’ claims

The state district judge presiding over year-old lawsuits seeking reimbursement of state and parish costs from the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole urged Texas Brine Co. and its insurers Monday to turn their attention away from internal battles over coverage and focus on settling the primary legal claims seeking to recover taxpayer dollars.

Judge Guy Holdridge, of the 23rd Judicial District, told a courtroom of more than two dozen lawyers from Texas Brine Co., its insurers, and state and Assumption Parish government that he has dealt with similar cases in the past involving multiple insurers and millions of dollars in claims and that the sheriff’s and Police Jury’s claims, in particular, are worth just several hundred thousand dollars each.

Gulf oyster harvest way down since oil spill; fishermen blame BP, company cites other factors

Fisherman Randy Slavich drags a clunky metal net through an underwater oyster bed in Lake Machias, a brackish body opening into the Gulf of Mexico. For generations, this has been a bountiful lake for harvesting oysters, long before millions of gallons of oil spilled off Louisiana’s coast in 2010.

On this day, Slavich’s cage-like net pulls up dozens of empty, lifeless oyster shells.

“It’s not good,” he said, shaking his head as he pushed the shells back into the water. “We’ve never seen it like this, not out here.”

Trial set for ex-BP executive in oil disaster

A trial is expected to begin the week of March 9 for a former BP executive charged with obstructing a congressional investigation into the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The tentative trial date is part of an order U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt issued Monday after a status conference in the case of David Rainey.

Oil Eaters: How Nature Cleans Up the Deepwater Horizon Spill

Experts have found that certain parts of the ocean may be more resistant to the adverse effects of oil spills than was previously thought. That’s largely thanks to some naturally present oil eating-bacteria that inhabit certain bodies of water, such as the Gulf of Mexico. However, these organisms may be missing some key toxins, leaving humans to clean up a near-invisible mess.

Do’s and don’ts when oil spill affects your area

The Philippines is a strategic route for different kinds of vessels and tankers, as the country is surrounded by bodies of water. It, however, also makes the country prone to sea disasters.

Eight years ago on August 11, oil tanker M/T Solar 1, which was carrying 2 million liters of bunker fuel, sank off Panay Gulf. Around 200,000 liters of fuel spilled into the gulf, affecting marine sanctuaries and mangroves in Guimaras Island. The oil even covered shores in nearby provinces, such as Iloilo and Negros Occidental.

Pegasus Pipeline’s Partial Restart Concerns Some Texans

The reactivation of the southern segment of the Pegasus pipeline is stirring concerns among Texans living along its ruptured northern leg.

The 66-year-old pipeline, operated by the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, had been fully shut off since a March 2013 rupture, which sent at least 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude into neighborhood streets in Mayflower, Ark., prompting evacuations of nearly two dozen homes and leaving residents sick.

Governor admits dodging pipeline debate

Gov. John Hickenlooper last week told a roomful of Western gas and oil executives that he hasn’t taken a position on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline because he doesn’t want to “piss off” fellow Democrats and other powers in Washington, D.C., the Durango Herald reported.

“I’ve avoided taking a position because it’s just going to piss off a lot of people in Washington that I don’t need to piss off, and my opinion is not going to change anybody’s opinion there,” Hickenlooper said during a panel discussion at the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit in Denver.

Nebraska court ruling on Keystone XL pipeline not expected until 2015

The Nebraska Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in a dispute over the planned route for the Keystone XL pipeline but a court ruling on the controversial project is likely to be delayed until the new year, lawyers and activists say.

The court has scheduled oral arguments for Sept. 5 in Lincoln over the proposed path of the 1,200-mile (1,900-km) pipeline from Canada to Texas.

Protest blockade halts work on Enbridge pipeline in Toronto

A group of protesters is interrupting work at an Enbridge pipeline site in north Toronto.

The blockade at Dufferin Street and Finch Avenue West is the latest in a series of actions to protest against the company’s controversial Line 9 project.

A spokesman for the group, dubbed the Community Response Unit for Decontaminating our Environment, says the protesters are attempting to stop the project and stand in solidarity with previous demonstrations.

ExxonMobil And Russia Began Drilling For Oil In The Arctic On Saturday

ExxonMobil began drilling in the Russian Arctic on Saturday, defying both the spirit of recent U.S. sanctions and environmental opposition to oil exploration in the region.

According to Fuel Fix, the well is a joint $700 million project between ExxonMobil and Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil producer. Drilling is anticipated to take about 70 days, and will target the Universitetskaya — a geologic formation under the ocean floor that’s roughly the size of the city of Moscow. Rosneft estimates the formation could contain up to 9 billion barrels of oil, making it a major target for Russian oil exploration. Energy provides half the Russian state’s revenue, and the country has so far maintained its oil production at a post-Soviet high of over 10 million barrels per day.

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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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