Environmental Must-Reads – August 15, 2013


Calif. Coastal Panel Takes up Offshore Fracking

California regulators on Thursday were set to take up offshore fracking after revelations that the practice had quietly occurred off the coast since the late 1990s.

The California Coastal Commission added the issue at the last minute to its agenda during its monthly meeting. A recent report by The Associated Press documented at least a dozen instances of hydraulic fracturing in the Santa Barbara Channel, site of a disastrous 1969 oil spill that spurred the modern environmental movement. Federal regulators earlier this year approved a new project that has yet to begin.

Geothermal Power Plants Face Rocky Starts

Vast reservoirs of heat are locked in the earth’s interior, untapped. The ground underneath our feet holds so much heat that tapping only 2 percent of it could satisfy current annual U.S. energy use 2,000-fold for each and every year of the foreseeable future, according to an analysis from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fracking, the same technology used to drill for natural gas, may provide an economical way to get at that geothermal energy.

Fracking Quickly Rising in Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, West Virginia

Marcellus Shale natural gas production is rising even faster this year than energy experts had predicted, and that’s having a national impact on energy.

Bentek, a Colorado company that analyzes energy trends, said that 2013 production in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is up about 50 percent compared to last year. Figures for the pipelines that take gas out of the Marcellus show that in the first six months of the year Pennsylvania produced about 1.5 trillion cubic feet of gas, with projections for a year-end total of about 3.2 trillion cubic feet.

Fracking Becoming a Serious Stressor to Water Supplies

From the contamination of drinking water to the release of powerful greenhouse gases, the list of dangers posed by fracking and natural gas production seems to grow longer by the day. It has become increasingly clear that fracking—which involves pumping water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to create cracks in shale formations and release the natural gas trapped inside—is unsafe, unhealthy, and unsustainable. And as gas companies across the country have ramped up their fracking efforts, the drilling technique has started to exacerbate another serious concern: water scarcity.

Fracking probe promises to be ‘far reaching’

The chairman of a parliamentary inquiry looking into the impacts of fracking in Western Australia says it is likely the investigation’s terms will be broadened.

Study: Distant quakes trigger temblors in oil patch

Wells filled with waste injection fluids at oil and gas fields across the United States are at risk of small earthquakes triggered by larger temblors across the globe, according to a new study published Thursday.

Lessons From the US for Countries About to be Fracked

The United States has blessed the world with many wondrous things. Atomic bombs and peanut butter. Assembly lines and CocaCola. And now there is another American invention posed to spread past our borders and into your water supply: fracking. Fracking is a technique used by the oil industry to blast apart underground shale rock layers using liquids at high pressure. The process has allowed the oil and gas industry to reach deposits of fossil fuels that were previously un-reachable, and has ignited a massive increase in drilling in the US. It has also exposed and exacerbated the problems of fossil fuel exploitation, from pollution and environmental degradation to the social ills associated with an economy based on resource extraction. Here are some lessons we in the US have learned about fracking and the companies that frack us.

How the Fracking Industry Avoids Paying Royalties to Landowners

Don Feusner ran dairy cattle on his 370-acre slice of northern Pennsylvania until he could no longer turn a profit by farming. Then, at age 60, he sold all but a few Angus and aimed for a comfortable retirement on money from drilling his land for natural gas instead.

Exploding Oil Sparks Concerns From Railway and Pipeline Companies

Crude oil really isn’t supposed to explode. But according to a Tuesday article in Bloomberg on the investigation of the July 6 train accident in Quebec that killed 47 people, that might not be true of the oil coming from North Dakota’s booming Bakken region. And three major oil companies have won the right to turn down suspect shipments.

Gulf oil spill arguments undermined by Halliburton’s expected guilty plea, BP claims

In the Gulf oil spill criminal proceedings, BP said Tuesday that Halliburton’s expected guilty plea on Sept. 19 to a misdemeanor charge of destroying evidence related to the spill undermines key claims by the U.S. government in a civil trial over the disaster.

Man tries to get BP oil spill reimbursement, arrested for fraud

A Buras, LA man was arrested Tuesday on charges of fraud. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says 66-year-old Limaeul Watson is accused of filing a fraudulent boat registration.

BP Asks Judge to Deny Investors’ Bid to Sue as Group

BP Plc (BP/) asked a federal judge to deny U.S. investors the right to pursue a class action, or group, lawsuit claiming the company misled them before and after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The investors, led by the New York and Ohio pension funds, sued BP and certain officers in 2010, alleging violations of U.S. securities laws.

Scientific Study Raises Questions over Extent of BP Oil Spill Toxicity and Status of Gulf of Mexico Fisheries

A collaborative team of independent scientists has just released a research study of various toxic compounds associated with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The evidence confirms that concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in the GOM during and after the BP oil spill reached levels higher than those considered safe for marine life and human exposure. Evidence shows that concentrations of PAHs found in seafood samples were up to 3,800 times greater than thresholds considered safe for human consumption by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The data used in the independent study is based on samples taken across several media—seafood, fauna and flora, sediment and water—collected in the GOM from the south coast of Texas to west coast of Florida between June, 2010 and November, 2010.

The Deep-sea footprint of Deepwater Horizon

The title speaks for itself, but damn, look at these figures! Last week in PLoS ONE, cool kids Montagna et al. (2013) showed some rather dramatic results from environmental monitoring focused on deep-sea mud, conducted in the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s 2010 blowout bonanza. These samples were gathered in September-October 2010, only two months after oil stopped flowing from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead.

BP, With Chutzpah, Sues the EPA

In a remarkable display of chutzpah, BP sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the EPA illegally barred the oil giant from new government contracts.

In its federal lawsuit, lead plaintiff BP Exploration & Production Co. claims the EPA suspension violated the Administrative Procedures Act.

Interior names new offshore drilling safety chief

The Interior Department has tapped Brian Salerno, a former U.S. Coast Guard official who helped lead the response to the 2010 BP oil spill, as the next director of its offshore drilling safety branch.

Update: New Mayflower Pre-Spill Reports & Data

Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02) issued the following statement in releasing new information pertaining to the March Mayflower Oil Spill

History of Oil Spills Plague Future of Keystone XL Pipeline

A growing body of evidence has been mounting during the past year concerning the negative effects the Keystone XL pipeline would have on the environment, the economy and, in essence, the very future of the U.S., if not the entire world. This evidence has been loudly refuted by the industry, which continually claims numerous benefits of the tar sands pipeline and perpetuates pro-Keystone XL propaganda.

Green war declared against Keystone XL

The Canadian government does not have the right energy agenda thanks to its steadfast support for Keystone XL, an advocacy group said.

Environmental groups say Keystone XL pipeline impacts cannot be mitigated

Decrying what they called the Harper administration’s lackluster environmental record, several Canadian environmental groups on Wednesday said there was no way the proposed Keystone XL pipeline’s carbon emissions could be mitigated and called on US President Barack Obama to reject the binational project.

Railway chief says Keystone XL pipeline would cut freight revenues

Allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward would cut into the revenue of rail freight operators that transport oil and other liquids, but there would still be plenty of growth opportunities for cost-conscious operators, BNSF Railway CEO Matthew Rose said Wednesday.

We need Keystone XL, explains Tar Sands Timmy

Cartoonist Mark Fiore created Tar Sands Timmy to help explain how great tar sands oil is and why Americans — um, North Americans, he means — should approve Keystone XL.

Quebec targets CP Railway for Lac-Mégantic cleanup costs

The Quebec government added the Canadian Pacific Railway to its list of legal targets Wednesday, casting a wider net to recover millions of dollars in cleanup costs from the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

Revealed: Carcinogens in Lac-Mégantic Waters 400,000 Times Govt Limit

Frustrated by the Canadian government’s failure to disclose the environmental impact of the July 6 train derailment and explosion in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, an independent environmental group took it upon themselves to undergo a survey of the devastation.

“Confirm[ing] the fears” of the groups, the review revealed Tuesday the presence of carcinogens in nearby surface waters were nearly 400,000 times the prescribed limit, denoting a “severe impact” on water quality and soil where roughly 5.7 million liters (about 48,000 fluid barrels) of crude oil spilled from the derailed train.

Quebec gov’t downplays concerns about Lac-Megantic pollution

The Quebec government is downplaying concerns about environmental damage from the Lac-Megantic train disaster.

The province’s environment department has released a series of charts listing the level of various pollutants in the water and air in the area.

Oil pipeline replacement continues in Michigan

A $1.3 billion project is moving forward to replace the 210-mile Michigan portion of an oil pipeline that ends at a Griffith facility and caused a 2010 spill.

Greenpeace tries to stop offshore oil exploration in Arctic waters off Russia

In the organization’s latest protest, Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise wrangled Aug. 13 with a vessel doing seismic testing in the Barents Sea north of Russia to protest Russian oil giant Rosneft’s plans to drill for oil there.

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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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