Environmental Must-Reads – August 2, 2013


Workers’ Silica Exposure at Fracking Sites Far Exceeds OSHA Limit, NIOSH Study Finds

The concentration of silica in the air workers breathe exceeded occupational health criteria at all 11 hydraulic fracturing sites tested by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the American Industrial Hygiene Association announced July 31.

Halliburton, Schlumberger Accused in Fracking Price Suit

Halliburton Co., Schlumberger Ltd (SLB) and Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) were sued over claims they conspired to raise prices and crush oilfield service competitors in the booming U.S. market for hydraulic fracturing services.

The fracking debate is more about power than energy

There has been a huge debate about fracking, couched largely in environmental terms, but the debate about power is massively important too

Josh Fox: “Democracy itself has become contaminated”

“We’re getting fracked.” It’s the rallying cry of Josh Fox, an outspoken leader of the grassroots movement against hydraulic fracturing. “Gasland 2? his sequel to the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Gasland,” premiered earlier this month on HBO. In it, he takes aim at the natural gas industry for spreading misinformation; He flies over the BP oil spill; He travels across the country to meet families whose land, homes and health are threatened by fracking. He gets arrested when he insists on bringing a camera into a public hearing from which recording equipment had been banned. He plays the banjo. And, as has become his signature, he sets the water coming out of hoses and faucets on fire, to dramatic effect.

New Poll Shows Californians Strongly Oppose Fracking

A majority of Californians oppose expanded fracking in the Golden State, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan research foundation. As oil companies gear up to frack massive petroleum deposits in the Monterey Shale, the poll also found that 65 percent of Californians say the state should act immediately to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Fracking Report on Santa Barbara Channel

Though he lives in New Orleans, Truthout.org reporter Mike Ludwig delivered one of the more eye-opening articles on the Santa Barbara Channel last week, when he published a special investigation on offshore hydraulic fracturing, a resource extraction technique better known by the nationally controversial term “fracking.”

Eminent Domain: Laws and Loopholes that Benefit Fracking and Pipeline Companies

The rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — a process that the oil and gas industry uses to extract natural gas and oil from shale rock formations buried deep within the Earth — has caused environmental and public health problems, and weak eminent domain laws and laws that cater to fracking and pipeline companies will only help spread these problems.

Fracking Bill Could Take the ‘Public’ Out of Public Lands

It’s about local control, say members of Congress who want the states, not the federal government, to regulate fracking on federal lands—those public lands that belong to all Americans.

During Domestic Drilling Boom, Why Are Gas Prices Still High?

The drilling processes of hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” — and horizontal drilling have made it possible to access previously unreachable deposits of fossil fuels, creating a surge in domestic oil and natural gas production. So why are prices at the gas pump still relatively high? (Last week, the average national gas price was $3.68 per gallon.)

Tsunami of Public Outrage Builds in Colorado as Fracking Invades Cities

Many people used to think serving on city council wasn’t worth a bucket of warm piss, as Roosevelt’s first vice president, John Garner, famously described his job.

Sewers, gutters, zoning, budgets, and taxation used to be the principal domain of city councils, with a little larceny thrown in now and then as reward—maybe a new driveway or remodeled bathroom from a favor-seeking contractor. In Colorado, city council members are sometimes paid a feeble $5,000 a year, but in smaller towns it may be nothing. Public service is its own reward.

Fracking uproar peer causes further derision with geography revision

A Tory peer who provoked uproar for saying that fracking should be carried out in the “desolate” north-east of England has prompted further derision after he corrected himself, saying that he meant the north-west.

Sen. John McCain criticizes Halliburton’s ‘paltry’ fine in Gulf oil spill plea deal

U.S. Sen. John McCain is lambasting the Justice Department for proposing a “paltry” $200,000 fine for oilfield giant Halliburton Energy Services, which is admitting it destroyed evidence after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Gulf Citizens Deserve Greater Role in Offshore Oil Oversight

Like other industrial disasters, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster was caused by a dangerous combination of human error, equipment failure, and complacency in industry and government. It was immediately clear that more rigorous oversight of offshore industry would be necessary. And today, industry and government assure us that they have learned their lessons, have fixed the system, and that all is now well.

Oil spill deal is being used to enrich plaintiffs’ lawyers: BP Vice President Geoff Morrell

Plaintiffs’ lawyers have attacked BP for identifying grave problems with the administration of a settlement we reached with them last year that was supposed to compensate people and businesses that suffered actual losses as a result of the Deepwater Horizon accident. We offer the following facts in response to the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ attacks so Louisianians can make an informed judgment about the settlement and whether it’s really compensating the intended beneficiaries.

Flesh-eating Bacteria Thrive in Tarballs

Dr. Cova Arias, professor of Aquatic Microbiology at Auburn University, and two of her lab members had rather disturbing results published in the journal EcoHealth last December, 2011, on their discovery of high concentrations of Vibrio vulni?cus, also known as a type of flesh-eating bacteria, in tarballs.

Feds meet with Houston oil execs about Gulf accidents

The nation’s top offshore energy regulators met with a group of Houston oil and gas executives Thursday to discuss safety issues after a recent series of accidents in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Rig Fire is Deja Vu for Fishermen Still Reeling from BP Disaster

When the Hercules Offshore Inc. gas well  blew and caught fire  last week, spewing natural gas and flames into the air 50 miles off the Gulf coast, many in the nearby fishing communities had another sickening feeling of déjà vu. It’s been a little over three years since they plugged the volcano of oil that flowed for three months out of the mile-deep BP well, but fishermen say they are still feeling its devastating impacts.

Gulf Residents Agree: Don’t Feel Bad for BP

Recently the oil giant BP placed full-page ads* in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal pitying itself as the real victim in the aftermath of the Gulf Spill. BP claims it is being targeted by “unscrupulous trial lawyers” representing “thousands of claimants that suffered no losses” that “smell big bucks and want a piece of the action.”

One year later: Bayou Corne sinkhole still a mystery

John Boudreaux smelled petroleum in the air when he arrived at work at 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 3 of last year.

More than two months into an emergency response for unexplained bayou bubbles and tremors, Boudreaux was working in Bayou Corne at a command post set up to investigate the mysterious goings-on that had baffled residents, Assumption Parish officials and state regulators.

The metallurgical report on the Mayflower pipeline break just went public

So, that forensic metallurgical report ExxonMobil ordered after its Pegasus Pipeline split. You want it. We got it.

You can read the full report, by Hurst Metallurgical Research Laboratory Inc., at this link. Unless you work for that firm, Exxon, or the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), or you happen to be a bellicose elected official in Arkansas, this is probably the first chance you’ve had to eyeball these 200-plus pages of verbal Ambien. It contains Hurst’s take on why the old pipeline burst and dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the streets and yards and waterways of Mayflower.

Decades-old defect caused Exxon’s Arkansas oil spill: regulator

A leak in Exxon Mobil Corp’s nearly 70-year-old Pegasus pipeline, which spilled thousands of barrels of crude oil in a small Arkansas town in March, appears to have been caused by an original manufacturing defect, U.S. regulators said on Thursday.

Tim Griffin: “Arkansas Deserves Answers” after Mayflower Spill

Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02) issued the following statement after speaking with officials from ExxonMobil and contacting President Obama’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

Critics slam Thai energy giant for inefficient response to oil spill in Gulf of Thailand

Critics on Thursday slammed Thailand’s state-owned oil and gas company for its allegedly inefficient response to an oil spill that polluted a popular tourist island, as cleanup operations continued for a sixth day.

Thailand concerned over effects of oil spill

Thai officials said they’re worried about the long-term ecological effects of an oil spill, though most of the visible water pollution has cleared.

PTT Global Chemical PCL reported a spill of about 300 barrels of oil from a faulty pipe Saturday. Officials at the subsidiary of Thailand’s state-owned oil and gas company said the spill was curbed by booms while 9,200 gallons of a chemical that disperses oil slicks were used.

TransCanada Plans Pipeline to East Coast

Faced with uncertainty over its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would link Canada’s oil sands with the American Gulf Coast, TransCanada said on Thursday that it would build a pipeline to eastern Canada.

TransCanada to build pipeline to Atlantic Canada that would allow for overseas oil exports

Pipeline company TransCanada said Thursday it will proceed with a $12 billion plan to pipe 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Western Canada to the country’s Atlantic coast — moving enough oil to replace all imports in Eastern Canada and still have enough left for exporting crude overseas.

Enviros target Keystone in new pipeline spill video

An environmental group is rolling out a new tactic today to fight the Keystone XL pipeline: an animated video showing every significant oil, gas and chemical pipeline spill in the U.S. since 1986.

President Obama Admits Keystone XL Will Not Be a Job Creator

In an interview with the New York Times on July 27, President Obama asserted that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would create approximately 2,000 jobs. The President’s claim is consistent with both the findings of the Cornell Global Labor Institute’s 2011 study, Pipe Dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline on the job impacts of the project and the State Department’s latest assessment (SDEIS, March 2013).

You Can Thank The Koch Brothers For The Big, Dirty Cloud Floating Over Detroit

On Tuesday, Detroit Bulk Storage confirmed that a large black cloud spotted over the Detroit River last weekend and caught on camera by residents across the border in Windsor, was indeed from the petroleum coke piles they have been storing illegally on behalf of Koch Carbon.

Watchdogs: Regulators Fail to Enforce Pipeline Safety Despite Spills and Deadly Accidents

On September 9, 2010, a poorly-constructed natural gas pipeline operated by Pacific Oil Gas and Electric ruptured in a suburban neighborhood of San Bruno, California, causing an explosion that sent flames hundreds of feet into the air, leveled dozens of homes and killed eight people. Less than two months earlier, a broken pipeline operated by the Canadian energy company Enbridge spilled more than 1.1 million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, sparking the largest and most expensive pipeline cleanup effort in United States history.

Search is over for Lac-Mégantic victims

The search for human remains has come to an end in Lac-Mégantic, Que., as investigators probing the causes of the deadly train disaster said they are focusing on the “abnormal” intensity with which the load of crude oil ignited and burned.

Nearly four weeks after the disaster, the estimated death toll stands at 47 — with 42 bodies found, and five people missing.

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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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