Environmental Must-Reads – August 23, 2013


As Obama Visits Upstate New York, the Fracking Debate Takes Center Stage

President Obama is planning to tout his education plan when he visits upstate New York this week, beginning with an appearance in Buffalo today—but much of his audience is likely to be interested in only one subject: fracking. Obama has, for the most part, been in favor of using fracking—more properly known as hydraulic fracturing—to exploit the country’s huge resources of shale natural gas.

Obama To Visit Scranton for Higher Ed Talk With Fracking In The Background

President Barack Obama is heading to Scranton tomorrow to talk about higher education, but the elephant in the gymnasium at Lackawanna College will be fracking.

As Obama touts his new plan to make college more affordable for the middle class, environmental activists already have plans of their own – to line up on the street outside the college to call for a ban on fracking.

Protect Public Lands From Reckless Fracking? Yes We Can!

One of the worst consequences of President Obama’s reckless “all of the above” energy policy is the blight of oil and gas rigs that has spread across our public lands — often right next to national parks and wilderness areas. Based on my own family’s camping trip this summer, I can testify that the sight of natural gas flares in the night sky adds nothing to the wilderness experience.

Actress Daryl Hannah Protests Fracking in Lafayette Square

Actress Daryl Hannah is back in D.C. to join Americans Against Fracking in a protest at Lafayette Square Thursday afternoon.

The group, which is a coalition of more than 200 national and regional organizations, will be at Lafayette Square from noon to 1 p.m., calling for President Barack Obama to ban fracking on federal lands.

Offshore Fracking Uproar Grows in California In Wake of Truthout Report

In the three weeks since a Truthout investigation revealed that federal regulators have approved at least two hydraulic fracturing operations in federal waters of the Santa Barbara Channel since 2009, a state commission has launched an investigation into the practice, California lawmakers have demanded a federal investigation, and environmental groups discovered that fracking also has occurred in state waters.

Colorado congressman embroiled in fracking dispute

A Colorado congressman who complained about a fracking rig next to his vacation property says he got no preferential treatment from state regulators who fined the drilling company.

In fact, Democratic Rep. Jared Polis says the $26,000 fine for improper drilling near his northern Colorado land wasn’t steep enough.

Video: The Little Town That Took on Fracking and Big Oil

In a continuation of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s Aug. 17 show, which highlighted the process of hydraulic fracturing, a panel of experts gathers to discuss the specific case of rural Dryden, NY, which banned fracking within city limits.

The Next Chapter in Colorado’s Water Supply Crisis

A proposed Colorado State Water Plan has been put forward by water developers on the East Slope of Colorado who claim to represent the growing Denver area metropolis from Pueblo to Colorado Springs to Denver to Loveland and Greeley. The developers created a draft document, Filling The East Slope Municipal Water Supply Gap, that lays out a stunning array of dam, pipeline and reservoir schemes that would basically re-route endangered rivers across Colorado, pointing all of their last free-flowing water to the Denver area.

Stephen Colbert on fracking: “America enjoying a new golden age of flammability”

On The Colbert Report Thursday night, Stephen Colbert put the spotlight on Range Resources for imposing a gag order on a Pennsylvania family whose water was contaminated by the company’s nearby fracking operations. As part of a $750,000 settlement to assist with the family’s relocation expenses, the gag order prohibits the family from ever speaking about how fracking has affected them during their lifetimes, which includes the family’s underage children. Prohibiting a child’s freedom of speech before they are of voting age is more than enough to raise Colbert’s furrowed brow.

Marcellus Shale waste trips more radioactivity alarms than other products left at landfills

Last year, nearly 1,000 trucks hauling 15,769 tons of Marcellus Shale waste were stopped at Pennsylvania landfill gates after tripping radioactivity alarms.

The trucks were pulled to the side, wanded with hand-held detectors and some of the material was sent to laboratories for further evaluation. In the end, 622 tons were shipped to three out-of-state landfills specifically designed to dispose of hazardous and radioactive materials.

Proposed Rules For Fracking On Public Lands Lack Scientific Merit

Later this week, the Bureau of Land Management will be closing the opportunity for public comment on its proposed rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The final rule will determine what safeguards against hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) are—or are not—in place on nearly 700 million acres of federally managed mineral rights nationwide. This includes national forests, national wildlife refuges, Tribal lands, private property, and drinking water sources for millions of people.

As Oklahoma’s Oilfield Booms, State Tax Breaks Follow

The energy industry fuels Oklahoma’s economy, and the state is flush with active rigs and plentiful oil and natural gas production.

Oklahoma’s oilfields are booming, as are state tax credits for drilling, which is leading some to question whether it’s sound fiscal policy to incentivize a thriving industry.

Nearly 650,000 Comments Call on Obama Administration to Ban Fracking on Public Lands

oday, a coalition of 276 environmental and consumer organizations including Americans Against Fracking, 350.org, Berks Gas Truth, Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO Action, Democracy for America, Environmental Action, Daily Kos, Food & Water Watch, MoveOn, Progressive Democrats of America, The Post Carbon Institute and United For Action delivered to President Obama and the Bureau of Land Management nearly 650,000 public comments asking the federal government to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on public lands. This development amplifies the message sent by the 7,800 people who called the White House yesterday, urging President Obama to protect communities and their resources from the negative effects of fracking. The deadline for submitting public comments to the federal government regarding drilling and fracking on federal lands is August 23.

The BLM: a Wholly-Owned Sudsidiary of ExxonMobil

The massive Permian Basin in west Texas and eastern New Mexico, at more than 75,000 square miles, is among the world’s largest deposits of sedimentary rock from the Permian geologic period. It is also a major oil and gas field that has produced nearly 30 billion barrels of oil and 75 trillion cubic feet of gas since 1921.

Gulf oil spill trial’s 2nd phase to last 16 days, judge says

A federal judge says he expects the second phase of a trial over BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to last 16 days.

An order issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said the second phase will be tried in two parts.

Australia Exposes Health Catastrophe of BP Oil Spill

Australia’s 60 Minutes television program aired a two-part exposé called “Crude Solution” this month, detailing the health effects that BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill had on residents of the United States’ Gulf Coast, and how the same dispersants used by BP are still being used in Australia. Specifically, “Crude Solution” focuses on the devastating effects of the chemical dispersants Corexit 9500A and 9527A.

No Truth in Advertising: BP Avoiding Gulf Restoration

Have you seen the BP commercials about the company taking responsibility for the worst oil disaster in U.S. history? I for one usually see at least one every week. That’s because for the past three years, the company has spent hundreds of millions on advertising trying to clean up their image. But unfortunately, BP has yet to spend a dime actually cleaning up the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster they claim to be taking responsibility for.

3 prosecutors ask out of ex-BP engineer’s case

Three Justice Department prosecutors have asked to withdraw from the case against a former BP engineer charged with deleting text messages about the company’s response to its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

What is Happening to the Gulf’s Blue Crabs?

Blue crabs are one of nature’s survivors. This tough little creature—whose scientific name Callinectes sapidus translates to “savory beautiful swimmer”—is a critical part of the Gulf’s food chain, eaten by a wide variety of species from the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle to the whooping crane to many, many different kinds of fish.

Assumption sinkhole video makes big Internet splash

Remarkable cellphone video of the Assumption Parish sinkhole swallowing a stand of 75- to 100-foot-tall cypress trees in less than a minute Wednesday evening has gone viral over the Internet as social media and news organizations picked up the story.

Louisiana Sinkhole: Entire Trees Sucked Into Ground

Officials have been watching for more than a year as a sinkhole expands and engulfs land, swamp, and threatens homes. On Wednesday, the massive sinkhole expanded in a dramatic way, swallowing trees and causing turmoil in the local community.

Mining Madness: 750-Foot-Deep Sinkhole Swallows Louisiana Town

It began with bubbles. Bubbles of gas throughout the bayou. Nothing to get hysterical about. But it kept getting worse.

So residents of Bayou Corne, Louisiana, turned to state regulators, who in the summer of 2012 determined that it wasn’t naturally occurring swamp gas, according to Mother Jones. And the U.S. Geological Survey also found that there was increased seismic activity.

U.S. proposes offshore safety overhaul

A U.S. offshore energy regulator said it was proposing new rules to address oil and natural gas operations with technological advancements in mind.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement deposited a proposal Thursday in the Federal Register for regulating production from the Outer Continental Shelf.

Canada’s oil pipelines will not build a nation – they are a great swindle

The defeat has been barely noticed by the media. Amidst the rolling hills of Quebec’s lush farm and wine region, the small town of Dunham has beaten the oil giants.

It’s here that Enbridge and Portland-Montreal Pipe Line – owned by Imperial Oil, Suncor and Shell – have been trying to construct a pumping station to pipe heavy crude over a nearby mountain range. The infrastructure is integral to Enbridge’s plans to ship Alberta tar sands, via Quebec, to the eastern coast of the United States.

Enbridge leans toward new oil pipeline route across Minnesota

Enbridge Energy is finalizing plans to build a 600-mile pipeline to transport North Dakota crude oil to Superior, Wis., and soon will begin contacting Minnesota property owners along two proposed paths across the state.

Catastrophic Pipeline Ruptures Still Too Big a Risk for Enbridge, Report Warns

Pipeline regulators in Canada and the United States are being cautioned that claims by Enbridge Inc. that it improved its safety procedures and adopted sophisticated inspection practices are exaggerated and that pipeline ruptures as catastrophic as the company’s 2010 accident in Marshall, Mich. are still possible.

China could be the future of Arctic oil

The Arctic may contain 10-15 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves, with most of that oil located in the seabed of the Arctic Ocean. And China, thanks to its financial rather than military strength, could take the lion’s share.

The US Geological Survey estimates there are 90 billion barrels of conventional oil north of the Arctic Circle, enough to fuel the entire world for three years at current consumption rates.

Why the Fukushima radioactive leak is worse than we thought

Japanese authorities are racing to contain the worst leak of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant since its reactors were destroyed and melted down in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Fishing off Fukushima suspended for indefinite period

A fisheries co-op in Soma Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, said Thursday it will end its trial catch at the end of this month, signaling an indefinite halt to all local fishing operations off the prefecture because of the constant flow of highly radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the Pacific.

Fukushima Clouds Abe’s Bid to Start Nukes for Recovery: Economy

Radiation spreading from Japan’s crippled Fukushima plant threatens to derail Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to revive nuclear power and deliver the lower energy prices needed to power his economic reforms.

Fukushima leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe’

Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments.

He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.

Fukushima may use cosmic rays to assess nuclear reactor damage

Back in 2011, a nuclear reactor in Fukushima melted down due to the after effects of a tsunami. When a nuclear reactor melts down, that leaves quite a bit of radiation floating around as well as hazards — like pools contaminated with spent fuel rods — which make it difficult to assess the full extent of the damage. In turn, that also makes it difficult to figure out exactly how to handle the cleaning process. A team from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is now working with Fukushima officials to use cosmic rays to see into the reactor to provide a clear picture of the damage.

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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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