Environmental Must-Reads – August 13, 2014


One man killed in Enbridge pipeline explosion in Texas: report

A man died on Tuesday in an explosion in Texas involving a gas pipeline belonging to Enbridge, news website KSLA.com said.

The pipeline in Rusk County was leaking but as of 6:35 p.m. CDT (2335 GMT) emergency officials said it had been shut.

Oil companies fracking into drinking water sources, new research shows

Energy companies are fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through underground sources of drinking water, according to research released Tuesday by Stanford University scientists.

Though researchers cautioned their study of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, employed at two Wyoming geological formations showed no direct evidence of water-supply contamination, their work is certain to roil the public health debate over the risks of the controversial oil and gas production process.

10 Years Into the Fracking Boom, Wildlife Effects Still Unknown

A decade into America’s oil and gas boom, and scientists still know very little about how hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and shale development affect wildlife, according to a recent scientific study.

The knowledge gap is particularly glaring when it comes to the ecosystem impacts of fracking fluid and wastewater spills.

A new look at what’s in ‘fracking’ fluids raises red flags

As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. The scientists presenting the work today at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) say that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there’s very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.

Poll: Most Californians Want Offshore Fracking Ban

As the California Coastal Commission meets in San Diego this week, a new poll finds that 55 percent of Californians back a ban on offshore fracking and 65 percent want oil companies prevented from dumping fracking chemicals into the ocean.

The poll also found almost half of state voters are less likely to visit beaches because of chemical discharge and offshore fracking, which has been used in hundreds of oil wells off the Southern California coast. The poll was commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Special meetings not needed to address funding for St. Tammany fracking fight, Parish Council member says

Special meetings of the Parish Council and its Finance Committee won’t be needed this week to consider additional funding for St. Tammany’s legal fight to block fracking in the parish, Councilman Steve Stefancik said Tuesday (Aug. 12). The council last week wrangled over a resolution to allocate $75,000 more to the legal effort, but it was unable to get a unanimous vote of its members to formally consider the measure, which was not on the council’s regular agenda.

Duke scientists’ fracking warnings meet deaf ears

Robert Jackson and Avner Vengosh of Duke University’s esteemed Nicholas School are viewed by some in the oil and gas industry as enemies. At Duke, they’ve done studies with compelling evidence that shale gas extraction, fracking, causes drinking water problems in other states.

The industry, which got North Carolina to lift its moratorium on fracking with drilling next year, has long made the case that drilling is absolutely safe.

Range Resources’ testing request denied

A Washington County judge denied Range Resources permission to test the air, soil and homes of three Amwell Township families who claim to suffer health problems as a result of drilling activity and an impoundment at the Yeager well site on McAdams Road

President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca denied the motion Tuesday, stating she refused to let “the individuals’ homes be invaded for some sort of fishing expedition.”

Drilling sludge to be shipped to Michigan

Two roll-off boxes holding waste with detectable levels of radiation at a Marcellus Shale impoundment in Mt. Pleasant Township will soon be trucked to Michigan for disposal.

Range Resources, which operates the Carter impoundment on Fort Cherry Road, initially detected “above-background” levels of radiation in about 20 inches of water and four inches of sludge in May. Those materials were found when a contractor cleaned out the impoundment’s weir tank, which allows solids to settle as water flows into the impoundment.

Now Arriving at Pittsburgh International: Fracking

Where 600 flights used to take off and land every day here at Pittsburgh International Airport, there are now about 300. Partway down Terminal B, the moving sidewalk that used to lead to a dozen gates now stops abruptly at a plain gray wall.

Pittsburgh’s airport is struggling financially and mired in debt, with sharply lower traffic ever since US Airways began phasing it out as a bustling hub in 2004. Long gone are the days when British Airways flew 747s to London, and TWA flew to Frankfurt.

Democrats Increasingly Backing Oil and Gas Industry

When House Republicans took up a measure to speed the government’s reviews of applications to export natural gas, a move long sought by energy companies, the unexpected happened: The bill won “yes” votes from 47 Democrats.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), anticipated some Democratic backing, but not that much. Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who leads the Democrats’ House campaign arm, was a yes, as was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Both voted in 2012 to restrict oil and gas exports.

GOP, enviro group in fracas over ads

Did Rick Scott’s campaign swing wild again in its response to an attack ad by a billionaire environmentalist?

No, says the campaign.

Yes, says a spokesman for NetGen Climate, a political organization founded by environmental advocate Tom Steyer, which is running ads against Scott.

The ad in question, “Fountain,” talks about oil drilling near the Everglades and a company that illegally used “fracking” chemicals in a well there.

Plan to drill wells near Erie homes sparks debate and protests

A plan by Encana Corp. to drill 13 wells between two affluent suburban subdivisions in Erie has renewed debate over how close oil and gas operations should be to residential areas.

The Erie Board of Trustees is slated to vote on the plan Tuesday night.

Pavillion water investigation continues at a slow drip

There were frustratingly few answers for Pavillion-area residents, and interested parties throughout the nation in the most recent report in the ongoing groundwater pollution investigation in central Wyoming. At the same time, industry officials say the report helps to affirm that there’s still no evidence to connect polluted drinking water to oil and gas activity.

The latest: There’s missing information both for domestic-water and natural-gas wells, and the investigation requires a “comprehensive geologic and hydrologic study of the Wind River Formation within the Pavillion Field,” according to the report.

State’s geologists deploying more earthquake monitors

Within the next few months the state’s top earth scientists plan to add 20 new seismic-monitoring stations to better track temblors in Oklahoma.

Austin Holland, a research seismologist with Oklahoma Geological Survey, said eight permanent and 12 temporary stations will enhance the agency’s existing network.

Oil spill: Gulf oysters vanish after 2010 spill

Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be contributing to a dramatic dive in the region’s oyster harvest. Prices are up and the harvest is down, ever since the 2010 BP oil spill, but the exact cause remains unclear.

Dramatic downturn in gulf oyster harvests since BP oil spill

Mississippi fishermen harvested nearly 400,000 sacks of oysters in the season before the BP oil spill. Since the spill in 2010, the “best” oyster season has been just 78,000 sacks. Those figures go along with a new report which finds the overall gulf oyster harvest has dropped dramatically since the oil spill.

Longtime fisherman Billy Barnett fills a dockside order for fresh shrimp. This summer’s shrimp season has been a strong one for Mississippi fishermen. “Usually they don’t last this long, this good,” said Barnett, as he sorted medium and large sized gulf shrimp.

Officials: Oil spill contained at site near Tioga

North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources officials say an oil spill at a well 15 miles south of Tioga has been contained.

The state says officials with RIM Operating, Inc. reported that all but 60 of the 270 barrels of oil released at the site had been recovered as of Tuesday afternoon. The company says it’s working to recover the additional oil.

Oil Spill Aftermath: What Happens 24 Hours Later?

A team of scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Eawag in Switzerland conducted a study to view the immediate effects of an oil spill in a marine ecosystem.

It has long been established that water does not mix with oil, and when oil reaches the surface, a significant portion of it either evaporates into the atmosphere or is absorbed by marine plants.

Water Droplets in Oil Found to Be Microhabitats

Water droplets in the oil of asphalt were shown to be microhabitats for microbes and these microhabitats could be used to clean up oil spills. The microbial microhabitats were discovered in very small droplets of water that exist in the world’s largest asphalt lake, which is Pitch Lake in Trinidad and Tobago. The researchers also showed that the microbes were degrading the oil in the asphalt.

Texas considers new oil, gas pipeline rules

Some Texas attorneys think proposed changes to state eminent domain rules for oil and gas pipeline operators don’t go far enough to protect people from the companies that take their land.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/Vkemg9 ) reported Tuesday that the Texas Railroad Commission is accepting public comments on the proposed changes until Aug. 25.

Proposed Oil Pipeline Would Cut Across Iowa

Business is booming in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale oilfields. Companies are working on pipeline proposals. One calls for a pipeline to be built from Iowa’s northwest corner to its southeast corner.

Critics of Transco pipeline project allege feds broke law in environmental assessment

In response to a federal report assessing the pipeline proposed through sections of Princeton and Montgomery, critics of the project allege the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission broke the law by not addressing all possible risks associated with its construction.

On Monday, FERC issued a 474-page environmental assessment of Williams Transcontinental’s construction plan for the 42-inch pipeline, concluding the company’s current proposal did not pose major environmental or safety threats.

Someone owes Bill McKibben an apology over the Keystone pipeline

Ever since Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org chose the Keystone XL pipeline as a rallying point for their anti-climate change movement, a few persistent critics, led by New York‘s Jonathan Chait, have questioned McKibben’s political acumen. Given the undeniable fact that EPA regulations on coal-fired power plants will have a far greater effect on overall carbon emissions than Keystone XL, aren’t McKibben and company wasting their time on a side issue?

Norway Fails to Tap New Arctic Oil and Gas

Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned company, has announced that it has failed to find commercial quantities of oil and gas in the Barents Sea this year.

The Arctic remains one of the oil industry’s most promising exploration areas. The US Geological Survey says a large part of the world’s remaining hydrocarbon resources—perhaps as much as a quarter of its reserves is thought to lie in the high northern latitudes of Russia, Norway, Greenland, the US and Canada.

Norway Oil Services See Russia Sanctions Risking Arctic Push

Aker Solutions ASA (AKSO), the offshore engineering company controlled by billionaire Kjell Inge Roekke, could miss opportunities to expand into Russia’s Arctic region if Europe and the U.S. uphold sanctions on the country.

“If the political situation continues and the sanctions are long-term, they will mean lost market opportunities,” Chairman Oeyvind Eriksen said in Oslo yesterday. While the Fornebu, Norway-based company isn’t currently involved in any large projects in Russia, it’s “ready to consider” opportunities when the restrictions are lifted, he said.

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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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