Environmental Must-Reads – August 19, 2014


A New Frontier for Fracking: Drilling Near the Arctic Circle

Among the dozens of rivers that flow unfettered through the Canadian North, the Natla and the Keele may be the most picturesque and culturally important. They are especially significant to the Dene people of the Sahtu region, which straddles the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. Both of the rivers flow crystal clear out of the Mackenzie Mountains along the Yukon/Northwest Territories border before coming together in their final course to the Mackenzie River.

Texas Judge Throws Out Family’s Lawsuit That Blames Nosebleeds, Asthma On Fracking Fumes

A Texas family claiming they were severely sickened by air pollution from two companies’ hydraulic fracturing operations near their home had their lawsuit against the companies thrown out last week, in the second high-profile decision to come down this year alleging sickness from fracking operations in the state.

In Santa Barbara County, oil firms and environmentalists square off

Seen from U.S. 101, northern Santa Barbara County looks to be mostly vineyards and cattle ranches, with majestic oak trees scattered across the dry rolling hills.

But up a narrow road, spread across the chaparral between Orcutt and Los Alamos, wells drilled deep into the shale have yielded more than 180 million barrels of oil in the 113 years since Union Oil Co. geologist William Orcutt first surveyed the area that would soon bear his name.

Fracking protesters superglue themselves to environment department

Anti-fracking protesters have superglued themselves to the doors at the main entrance of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). A related protest is also underway at the offices of iGas, the UK’s biggest shale gas company, which has seen two entrances blockaded by campaigners.

The activists from the Reclaim the Power camp at Blackpool say the protest is against 63 redactions in a government report released last week on the potential impacts of shale gas exploration on rural communities.

Report alleges Marcellus drillers lacked permits for fracking with diesel

A new report from an environmental group says that natural gas drillers, including some in Pennsylvania, are fracking wells with diesel fuel, or fuels similar to it, without required federal permits to protect against potential health hazards.

Under the “Halliburton Loophole” in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress exempted chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing from federal oversight, but still required permits for diesel.

NC fracking hearings get underway Wednesday in Raleigh

Hundreds of residents will try to sway state officials for and against 100-plus proposed safety rules in the coming weeks as North Carolina gets set to lift the state’s moratorium on fracking next year.

With four upcoming public hearings across the state, the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission enters its final phase of rule-making, a culmination of two years of research, discussion and compromise. After public comments are analyzed, the fracking rules could be modified and will advance to the state legislature in January.

Harrison County hit by positive magnitude fracking quakes in 2013

There is new evidence that small earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing or fracking rocked Ohio’s Harrison County in late 2013.

The nearly 500 micro-quakes occurred from early October to mid-December near Clendening Lake in an area with no recorded earthquakes, according to seismologist Paul A. Friberg of the New York-based Instrumental Software Technologies Inc., a private company specializing in seismology analysis and equipment, who has co-authored a scientific paper on the quakes.

Protest dismissed, but no drilling in Wayne anyway

The U.S. Department of the Interior has dismissed a protest against oil and gas drilling in the Wayne National Forrest but also has decided against allowing any such drilling.

In 2011, five parcels within the Wayne were listed in a Competitive Lease Sale Notice, drawing 34 letters of protest against the inclusion of this land in lease sales for potential drilling.

Is re-fracturing the next big trend in the oil patch?

Tens of thousands of new oil and gas wells have been drilled and hydraulically fractured in recent years — part of a shale boom that has spread across the U.S.

Could re-fracturing some of those existing wells be the next big trend in the oil patch?

Robert Drummond, president of North America for oil-field service company Schlumberger, said that continually improving fracturing techniques will make companies question whether it makes more sense to spend money drilling a new well or re-fracturing an existing well.

Natural gas execs fear they’re next for regs

Natural gas producers are keeping quiet about the controversial power plant rules from President Obama, fearing they could become the next target of federal regulators.

At least in the short term, a government-forced shift away from coal power would be a boon for the natural gas industry, which is already experiencing a renaissance thanks to advances in the drilling technique of fracking.

UK energy dependence – five hidden costs expose truth about fracking

The vision of an energy-independent Britain, free of the clear and growing problems of overseas fuel dependency, is deeply alluring. That is one of the reasons I set up a solar energy company 15 years ago. Today, Putin’s Russia, Islamic State’s Iraq, and a host of other actual and potential fossil-fuel addiction downsides mean we would be well advised to strive hard for that vision. What is becoming clearer with each passing month, however, is that the route to delivering energy independence is not the fracking of domestic gas and oil from shale. Indeed, it could be a route to derailing the vision.

Connecticut environmentalists applaud fracking waste ban at East Haven bill signing

Gov. Dannel Malloy picked the town’s Farm River State Park as the backdrop for Monday morning’s ceremonial signing of legislation that will kick-start a 3-year ban on the storage or handling of hydraulic fracturing waste on state grounds.

“This gives our DEEP (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) folks time to study the issue,” Malloy said. “It gives us the opportunity to understand the risk and rewards of fracking.”

Less shake from artificial quakes, fed study says

Man-made earthquakes, a side effect of some high-tech energy drilling, cause less shaking and in general are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude, a new federal study found.

People feeling the ground move from induced quakes — those that are not natural, but triggered by injections of wastewater deep underground— report significantly less shaking than those who experience more normal earthquakes of the same magnitude, according to a study by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough.

Wall Street Warned About $91 Billion of High-Risk Oil Megaprojects

Critics of environmentally risky oil projects proposed for deep undersea and Canada’s tar sands got new ammunition last week when a report labeled those ventures and others as the industry’s most financially questionable pursuits.

The new report, published by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), identifies a host of drawing-board oil projects that would cost a combined $91 billion over the next decade—and that would lose money if lower demand, carbon restrictions or other factors forced crude prices below $95 a barrel. Many of the projects need oil prices to settle substantially higher than $110 a barrel to break even, CTI said.

Oil spill taints Hudson River

Oil that spilled from a transfer pipe contaminated approximately 300 feet of Hudson River shoreline, State Police said.

The oil slick was spotted about 4:50 p.m. Sunday, State Police said. Troopers, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Germantown Fire Department responded to the boat launch where the oil slick was spotted, troopers said.

UPDATE: Germantown oil spill cleaned, investigation continues

An oil spill in Gernman town has been cleaned up but an investigation into its cause continues, said a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said Monday.

The impact of the oil spill in the Hudson River on Sunday in Germantown was limited to 100 yards along the shore, according to a release from state police.

Can We Clean Up the Next Oil Spill With Magnets?

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill might be the most well known oil spil of the past few years—its impact on the Gulf ecosystem is still playing out—but it’s certainly not the only one. From 2010 to 2013 there have been two major spills each year, on average. Getting that spilled oil out of the water is a huge challenge—one engineers are not particularly good at solving.

But now a physicist at Fermilab thinks he’s come up with a new way to clean up spilled oil. By scattering iron filings into oil-laden water, Arden Warner found the filings selectively join onto the oil. Then it’s just a simple matter of using a magnet to sweep the oily iron filings up up.

Oil Spill Offshore Triggered When Maintenance Ship Hits Wind Turbine Generator

A clean-energy power source got a bit dirty last week in the Irish Sea. A dive vessel crashed into a hulking offshore wind turbine, spilling as much as 10 metric tons of diesel oil in the waters that separate the islands of Ireland and Great Britain.

The dive vessel, owned by Danish firm Offshore Marine Services, was carrying out routine inspection work when an anchor cable broke and the ship slammed into one of 102 turbines installed at the Walney Offshore Wind Farm, the North-West Evening Mail reported.

Diesel spill leaks thousands of gallons of oil into Ohio River

The Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency is responding to an oil spill at a Duke Energy Plant on the Ohio River.

Mark Nemeck, Chief Warrant Officer with Coast Guard, says the spill happened around 12 a.m. at Beckjord Power Plant, located in New Richmond about 20 miles east of Cincinnati.

Refinery Breakdowns Boost Gasoline Bets as Labor Day Nears

Refinery breakdowns from Kansas to Texas are giving gasoline a boost, spurring speculators to increase bullish bets for the first time in six weeks as the Labor Day holiday approaches.

Hedge funds raised net-long positions by 13 percent in the week ended Aug. 12, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. The wagers slumped 56 percent in the previous five weeks, while gasoline futures dropped 10 percent since the Memorial Day holiday on May 26, the traditional start of the driving season.

PG&E Pleads Not Guilty to Hindering Pipeline Blast Probe

PG&E Corp. (PCG)’s utility pleaded not guilty to obstructing a federal investigation of the 2010 natural-gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in a San Francisco suburb and said it received grand jury subpoenas in what prosecutors said was a separate probe of its gas division.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. could be fined as much as $1.13 billion if convicted in the criminal case over the pipeline explosion alleging 27 counts of violations of federal pipeline safety law and obstructing an investigation of the blast by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Willie Nelson, Neil Young to play anti-Keystone XL pipeline concert in Nebraska

Willie Nelson and Neil Young will headline a concert next month in a Nebraska cornfield organized by opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Canada south to the Gulf Coast.

 Court rejects challenge to big tar sands oil pipeline

A federal judge on Monday rejected environmentalists’ challenge to a nearly 600-mile pipeline designed to carry tar sands crude oil between Illinois and Oklahoma.

In a 48-page decision, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson concluded the Flanagan South Pipeline could proceed without further federal study.

Enbridge Turns Aside Suit Over Oklahoma-Illinois Pipeline

Enbridge Inc. (ENB)’s pipeline to carry tar sands oil between Oklahoma and Illinois can proceed, a federal judge ruled, as companies expand their capacity to move petroleum in the U.S.

“Because a private company is constructing the 589-mile pipeline on mostly privately owned land that is entirely within the territorial borders of the United States, no federal statute authorizes the federal government to oversee or regulate the construction project,” U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington said today in a written ruling.

Enbridge faces new environmental challenges

In a full page story, the Edmonton Sun said on Sunday that Northern Gateway Pipeline proponents face a new challenge in its battle to get landlocked Alberta oil to overseas markets.

This is in reference to the Manitoba Municipality of Pipestone in the southwest corner of the province on the Saskatchewan border.

The Sun story says, in a little noticed deficiency report last month on an oil pipeline upgrade project, a National Energy Board inspector noted several environment violations by Calgary based Enbridge Incorporated along the construction corridor.

Rosneft to drill in Arctic with Statoil

Rosneft is about to start drilling its first oil well in Norway with the help of Norwegian state-owned Statoil despite Russia’s oil industry being subject to extensive European sanctions.

The well in the Barents Sea, inside the Arctic Circle, is in one of the four fields in which Rosneft won a 20 per cent stake in the Norwegian licensing round last year.

Crude oil crosses paths with two Philadelphia commuter train lines

Philadelphia’s commuter railroad runs alongside at least three crude oil trains every day on two of its lines, and is looking to separate the freight operations in those places to avoid delaying its passenger trains.

Jeff Knueppel, deputy general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, said that CSX operates an average of two loaded and two empty crude oil trains a day on the West Trenton Line, which the freight railroad owns but the commuter railroad dispatches.

Oregon Senators, Fire Chiefs See Gaps In Proposed Oil Train Rules

Local fire chiefs joined Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley on Monday in their push to expand proposed federal safety rules for oil trains.

For months, the senators have been arguing the federal Department of Transportation’s safety efforts shortchange emergency responders on information about what hazardous materials are moving through their community. Fire chiefs from the Eugene area shared these concerns and more at a roundtable discussion with railroads, elected officials and the deputy administrator of the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Local first responders unprepared for oil train disaster

Trains transported more than 11 million barrels of crude oil through Oregon last year – nearly 4 times as much as in 2012, according to Sen. Ron Wyden.

Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley heard from first responders in Lane County, who said they aren’t prepared for a potential disaster like the one that hit Quebec last year.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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