Environmental Must-Reads – August 20, 2013


Anti-fracking protests in Balcombe signal major shift in public awareness

The partially drilled oil well at Balcombe, which has been besieged by thousands of protesters, is not the UK’s first or largest fracking site. In fact, it is not even a fracking site at all, as Cuadrilla’s plan is to extract oil by conventional drilling if possible.

But it has caught the public imagination in a way that the recent history of fracking in the UK has not, with the scale of the last few days of protest signalling a major shift in the public consciousness of the issue, and a major headache for the government.

UK Green Party MP Among Dozens Arrested in Balcombe Anti-Fracking Protest

The UK’s only Green party MP, Caroline Lucas, was among dozens of anti-fracking protesters arrested on Monday as a “day of action” saw thousands of people take part in demonstrations at sites across England.

What is behind this fracking mania? Unbridled machismo

If you’re a local protester, they call you a nimby; if you come from outside, they call you rent-a-mob. You can’t win – and that’s the point. The protests against fracking companies are proving so effective that the technique is likely to become inviable in the UK, and the corporate press is in full cry seeking to delegitimise them.

Anti-fracking lawsuit over game reserve leases dismissed by Barry County judge

A Barry County Circuit Court judge has ruled against a nonprofit group that was seeking to have oil and gas leases set aside in Southwest Michigan state game reserves.

Are national parks next to be fracked?

The national parks system has been called America’s best idea. If that’s true, then fracking on the doorstep of those parks might possibly be its worst.

But that’s exactly what the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that controls public lands around national parks has proposed. It wants new regulations so weak they would allow oil and gas companies to frack right next to national park land. And that could be disastrous.

New Filter Recycles Water Usage at Fracking Sites

A new membrane-based filtering system is designed to reduce the amount of water and energy required for hydrofracking.

The system improves the efficiency of treating and safely reusing water used for hydraulic fracturing at drill sites, researchers say. The filter can produce up to 50 percent more water for reuse compared with other filtration systems, greatly reducing demand for fresh water.

Peak Water in the American West

It is no surprise, of course, that the western United States is dry. The entire history of the West can be told (and has been, in great books like Cadillac Desert [Reisner] and Rivers of Empire [Worster] and The Great Thirst [Hundley]) in large part through the story of the hydrology of the West, the role of the federal and state governments in developing water infrastructure, the evidence of droughts and floods on the land, and the politics of water allocations and use.

GOP lawmakers press for exemption from proposed fracking rule

Wyoming’s Republican congressional delegation asked the Interior Department on Monday to exempt states that already regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, from a proposed rule governing the practice on federal land.

Democrats will soon have a big, fat fight over fracking

Most Democratic politicians say nice things about renewable energy and less-nice things about coal and earnest things about the need for climate action. But when it comes to fracking for natural gas, Dems and enviros are increasingly at odds.

30 Texas towns at risk of running out of water

Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.

Cuomo will avoid appearing with Obama at fracking hotbeds in New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will avoid a potentially dicey political conflict by not accompanying President Barack Obama to parts of upstate New York roiled over the state’s ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Fracking operations triggered 100 quakes in a year

Protests against proposed fracking operations in southern England culminated today with the arrest of Caroline Lucas, a Green Party member of parliament. Meanwhile, new geophysical research concludes that over 100 small earthquakes were triggered in a single year of fracking-related activities in one region of Ohio.

Fracking Linked To 109 Earthquakes In Youngstown, Ohio

The people of Youngstown, Ohio say they never felt an earthquake before two-and-a-half years ago. But between January of 2011 and February of 2012, 109 tremors were recorded and the author of a new article points the finger at hydraulic fracturing – fracking.

Obama Administration Saves One National Park’s Night Sky — For Now

The Bureau of Land Management announced late last Friday that it will not be auctioning off approximately 10,700 acres of public lands near Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado to oil and gas companies come November. In July, news outlets reported that the areas would be put up for sale last week, but that turned out to not be the case. The parcels were originally scheduled to go up for auction in February but were so controversial that BLM pulled them after public outcry.

Gulf Spill Sampling Questioned

An analysis of water, sediment and seafood samples taken in 2010 during and after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has found higher contamination levels in some cases than previous studies by federal agencies did, casting doubt on some of the earlier sampling methods.

Iberia judge hears arguments in Lake Peigneur lawsuit

An Iberia Parish judge heard arguments today to determine whether mining company AGL Resources will be granted a permit to expand its operation at Lake Peigneur.

Save Lake Peigneur, a group started in the wake of the Lake Peigneur salt mining incident that drained the lake in 1980, filed the lawsuit against the Louisina Department of Natural Resources to block AGL’s permit.

Dustin McDaniel talks about Mayflower oil spill on NPR

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel was among the panelists today on the Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio for a discussion of oil spills in Michigan and Mayflower, Ark. (How’d McDaniel edge out Rep. Tim Griffin for limelight time? Griffin’s too busy runnning stuff over to the daily newspaper, I guess. Too bad. It would have been a perfect time for Griffin to wear two hats: born-again consumer activist in Arkansas and tar sands conduit defender in Nebraska.)

Warren Buffett Invests Big Time in Tar Sands

Warren Buffett – the  fourth richest man on the planet and major campaign contributor to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 – may soon get a whole lot richer.

That’s because  he just bought over half a billion bucks worth of Suncor Energy stock: $524 million in the second quarter of 2013, to be precise, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.  Suncor is a major producer and marketer of tar sands via its wholly owned subsidary Petro-Canada (formerly Sunoco) and this latest development follows a trend of Buffett enriching himself through dirty investments and deal-making.

It’s Not Just Carbon Emissions: Keystone XL Would Have ‘Permanent Impacts’ On Wildlife, Interior Department Says

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline could have serious impacts on wildlife, natural resources and visitors’ experiences in national parks, according to a letter from the Department of the Interior.

Keystone XL project could harm wildlife, Interior Department says

The Interior Department has warned that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could have long-term, damaging effects on wildlife near its route, contradicting the State Department’s March draft environmental assessment, which concluded the project would have only a temporary, indirect impact.

Keystone XL Foes Break Ground On Barn In Pipeline’s Path

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska are making good on their promise to build a barn in the project’s path.

Volunteers gathered over the weekend at the Hammond family’s farm at a groundbreaking ceremony for the solar- and wind-powered barn. The barn will sit on land directly on the pipeline’s route, about 15 miles northwest of York.

Scientists Mimic Cacti to Create Oil Spill Clean Up Method

Chinese researchers have developed a method of removing oil from polluted water using tiny barbed spikes that mimic the natural design of a cactus. Writing in Nature Communications, the Beijing-based researchers describe how arrays of tiny copper spikes, similar to the cone-shaped spikes of a type of cactus known as Opuntia microdasys, are able to collect micron-sized oil droplets that might otherwise be difficult to remove from water.

Ecuador Scraps Plan to Block Rain Forest Oil Drilling

The decision by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to abandon a plan to spare the species-rich Yasuní rain forest in eastern Ecuador from oil development has dashed hopes for what environmentalists had hailed as a historic approach to weaning industrial society from its dependence on fossil fuels.

Ecuador Says It Will Launch Controversial Drilling in Amazon Park

The president of Ecuador says that he will move ahead with controversial plans to drill for oil in a renowned national park in the Amazon Basin. President Rafael Correa announced the move last week, saying that a 3-year-old effort to raise $3.6 billion from the international community to prevent development has failed. But opponents are promising to bring the issue to a national vote.

Peru: Oil spill threatens rainforest reserve

Indigenous leaders in Peru’s northern Amazonian region of Loreto on Aug. 10 protested that a leak from Pluspetrol‘s oil operations at the exploitation bloc known as Lot 8X is causing contamination within the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, with which the bloc overlaps. Alfonso López Tejada, president of the Cocoma Association for the Development and Conservation of San Pablo de Tipishca (ACODECOSPAT) said that the reserve is “every day more unprotected against oil spills.” (RPP, Aug. 11; El Comercio, Lima, Aug. 10)

52 dead, 68 missing in Philippines ferry disaster

Manila: Fifty two people were confirmed dead while 68 others remained missing after a ferry disaster off Cebu, central Philippines on Friday night, said a disaster official.

Some floating bodies were found, raising the number of identified people who were killed when the St. Thomas Aquinas ferry collided with a cargo ship on Friday night, which resulted in the sinking of the passenger ferry that carried a total of 751 passengers and crewmen near Cebu City last Friday, said an official of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) who requested for anonymity.

Philippine Death Toll Rises in Worst Sea Tragedy in Five Years

Philippine authorities said the death toll from the collision of a passenger ferry and a cargo ship in Cebu province has increased to 52, making it the worst such tragedy for the country since June 2008. Sixty-eight people are still missing as efforts to contain an oil spill intensify.

Oil spill from sunken ferry in Philippines hurts coastline, fishermen

The ferry disaster in the southern Philippines that has so far left more than 60 people dead and dozens more missing is also turning into an environmental catastrophe for the surrounding area as spilled fuel contaminates coastlines.

Wrecked Fukushima plant springs highly radioactive water leak

Contaminated water with dangerously high levels of radiation is leaking from a storage tank at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the most serious setback to the clean up of the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Crippled Fukushima nuclear plant: 300 tons of radioactive water spilled

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said an ongoing leak had spilled some 300 tons of radioactive water into the ground – the latest in a series of embarrassing revelations involving the tsunami-struck power station.

Can an Ice Wall Stop Radioactive Water Leaks from Fukushima?

As contaminated groundwater continues to flow from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant into the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese government has come up with a last-ditch solution that sounds like something out of the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones: An underground wall of ice that would stop the radioactive leakage.

Toxic puddles at Fukushima nuclear plant: report

Puddles with extremely high radiation levels have been found near water storage tanks at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan’s atomic regulator and operator said Monday, according to a report.

Worse than Chernobyl: The inner threat of Fukushima crisis

I recently pointed out, this operation has to go on forever – a long sickness, but at least not a sudden death. However, this week begins a new development in the potential sudden death department.

There is a curious and bizarre reversal of the natural at Fukushima: a looking-glass world inversion. Unlike the standard marine catastrophe, for example the Titanic, where the need is to manically pump water out of the ship to stop it sinking, at Fukushima the game is to madly pump water in, in order to stop it melting down and exploding.

Radiation levels in Fukushima bay highest since measurements began – reports

Readings of tritium in seawater taken from the bay near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has shown 4700 becquerels per liter, a TEPCO report stated, according to Nikkei newspaper. It marks the highest tritium level in the measurement history.

Fukushima’s Now Surrounded by Extremely Radioactive Puddles

A water tank at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan apparently sprung a leak recently. The latest reports from the northern prefecture say that puddles have collected all around the plant, and the implication is clear. Fukushima has a whole new radioactive water problem.

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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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