Environmental Must-Reads – August 25, 2015


Targa reports oil spill due to pipeline failure in North Dakota on August 20

Targa resources reports 100 barrels of crude oil spill due to pipeline failure in Watford City, North Dakota on August 20

The line was valved off and allowed to de-pressurize immediately upon discovery

Oakville Fire Department confirms 25,000-35,000 litre oil spill

The Oakville Fire Department has confirmed that a large cooling oil spill occurred after a pipe burst at the Vac Aero International Inc. facility at 1371 Speers Rd. Sunday afternoon.

An estimated 25,000-35,000 litres of cooling oil is believed to have escaped the breach, which happened at around 2:30 p.m., said Oakville Deputy Fire Chief Brian Durdin.

Mackinac oil pipeline inspection data ‘too complex’ for state, says Enbridge

Michigan officials received safety inspection data sought during a yearlong inquiry on the controversial Mackinac straits Line 5 pipeline, but the raw form information was “too complex” for the state’s task force to understand, say executives with the Canadian energy giant Enbridge Inc.

“They said there were information gaps because raw data isn’t good enough, and we agree — we need to do a better job of summarizing that for them,” said Cynthia Hansen, senior vice president with Enbridge Inc., which operates a pair of twin oil pipelines under the straits just west of the Mackinac Bridge.

Enbridge settled all but a handful of oil spill lawsuits

Damage from the 2010 Enbridge oil spill is worth $6 million to owners of a Battle Creek trailer park, a lawyer will argue in an October trial.

“We are alleging that the oil contamination realized by Baker Estates has substantially or totally devalued the property and gutted the business and the future of the business,” Eugene Boyle Jr., an attorney from Grosse Pointe Park, told the Enquirer recently. “We have contaminated property and we have a business that has been basically disabled. At trial we will be asking for a figure in the neighborhood of $6 million.”

The lawsuit against Enbridge Inc. stemming from the June 25, 2010 break in a 30-inch oil pipe along Talmadge Creek near Marshall is one of the last remaining court cases.

Summerland Beach Opens After Suspected Oil Spill

The Public Health Department has re-opened Summerland Beach to the public. The beach was closed on Friday, August 21, due to the volume of oil on the beach and sand along with the petroleum odors on the beach which posed possible adverse health effects. Oil and odors have decreased due to tide activity and natural processes, thus immediate health concerns have diminished. Warnings remain in effect as the situation with oil and odors can change rapidly. It is recommended that people and animals avoid exposure to crude oil compounds and strong odors.

Russia ordered to pay compensation for seizure of Greenpeace ship, activists, including Australian

Russia has been ordered to compensate the Netherlands over the seizure of a Greenpeace ship in 2013 when it detained 30 activists including Australian Colin Russell.

Russian commandos stormed the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise in September 2013 after a protest at an offshore oil rig owned by Russian state oil giant Gazprom.

‘Both sides are unhappy’: Obama’s Arctic drilling green light heightens tensions

A senior official at the State Department has admitted there is an “obvious tension” between the US’s commitment to combat climate change and its approval of Shell’s oil drilling in the Arctic.

Shell was given the final green light by the Obama administration to drill off the coast of Alaska on Monday. Following the arrival of a key safety vessel, the Fennica, to the Chukchi sea, Shell was allowed to commence its drilling program.

Gov. Jerry Brown takes aim at oil companies over ‘highly destructive’ product

Gov. Jerry Brown, who is in the middle of a political battle over climate-change legislation, took aim at oil companies Monday, saying they sell a “highly destructive” product.

“The oil industry is in deep trouble,” the governor told reporters Monday at a news conference on the shores of Lake Tahoe, where he was attending an annual meeting about the area’s environment.

TransCanada’s 54 year old time bomb explodes

The Transportation Safety Board has released its report on the rupture and explosion of TransCanada’s pipeline in Otterburne, Manitoba in January of 2014.  The report can be read here.

The pipeline was found to have ruptured due to a faulty weld created when it was built in 1960. The fatally flawed weld was not detected by any of TransCanada’s inspections over the last 54 years. It finally revealed its presence in a massive explosion that sent flames hundreds of metres into the winter skies over Otterburne.

Stephen Gordon: Yes, some oil will have to stay in the ground

On the face of it, the recent remarks made by Toronto Centre NDP candidate Linda McQuaig should have been uncontroversial. Banal, even. When McQuaig said on CBC television that a “lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground if we’re going to meet our climate change targets,” she was repeating what anyone familiar with the economics of the oilsands already knew. More precisely, the first part of that sentence was unobjectionable: most oilsands oil will stay in the ground. It’s the second part that requires some unpacking.

Railroads balk at making oil disaster plans public

Some 300,000 Minnesotans live within a half mile of railroad tracks that carry crude oil. But almost none of them have been able to see emergency plans the railroads were required to submit by July 1.

So far, only authorized local emergency officials have been allowed to review the plans that five railroads submitted to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Even legislators who passed the requirement can’t get access due to data privacy objections raised by the railroads. Some say that makes it impossible to judge the adequacy of the plans.

Communities ramp up equipment, training for rail oil accidents

Eight trailers with special floating booms to absorb spills from a train are positioned in towns along the Mississippi River, from Red Wing to the Quad Cities of Illinois

Three more will be added soon.

They’re a symbol of the preparations being taken in case of a spill from the millions of gallons of crude oil that’s been moving on rails through southeastern Minnesota, especially along the Mississippi River from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota.

Protesters claim to disrupt Essex Keystone XL Pipeline contractor

Opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline interrupted one of the project’s contractors Monday at a construction site in Essex.

According to the group, more than a dozen people entered a site on Route 289 in Essex, halting construction of the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Pipeline project.

Welcome to Quakelahoma

First, there was a little rumble. A bit later came the roar.

At the Cripple Creek Stoneyard in Crescent, Oklahoma, clocks fell off the walls, and the office bounced on its slab. At Hometown Foods, the shelves swayed from side to side, tossing cans onto the floor.

“It shook stock off every aisle,” Hometown co-owner Brian Johnston told VICE News. “It was getting bigger and shaking harder. I was like, ‘Crap, this is it.’ ”

State Sen. Darren Soto and Dwight Bullard file anti-fracking bill

The battle against hydraulic fracturing in Florida’s 2016 Legislative session started early Monday, with Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, and Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay refiling a bill to ban the practice, also known as fracking, in the state.

Fracking is the “process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside,” according to the BBC. “Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.”

Lawmakers review fracking study as activists demand ban

Natural resources committees in the Senate and Assembly today will hear from experts on a new scientific review of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The study, conducted by the California Council on Science and Technology, was released in parts in January and July. It examined how fracking, in which a cocktail of water and chemicals is blasted underground to extract oil and natural gas, could affect earthquakes, water quality, human health and other environmental areas in California. The review included recommendations for further research.

Youngstown council puts anti-fracking amendment on November ballot

City council voted today to put an anti-fracking charter amendment proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot, and the Mahoning County Board of Elections could do the same as early as Wednesday.

Council approved the proposal as part of the agenda at today’s special meeting without any comments about the bill that has been rejected four previous times by city voters.

160,000 Californians call for statewide ban on fracking

On Tuesday, August 25th, as the California legislature holds a joint oversight hearing on a new report by the California Council on Science and Technology on the risks and dangers posed by fracking, State Sen. Ben Allen and State Asm. Das Williams will join with anti-fracking activists in a press conference on the steps of the Capitol calling for a statewide ban on fracking.

At the press conference, members of the California-based Courage Campaign joined by members of California Against Fracking, Rootskeeper and local Sacramento activists will deliver a petition signed by nearly 160,000 Californians backing a permanent ban on oil and natural gas fracking in the State.

Mountain Valley Pipeline may use controversial surveying law, judge rules

Foes of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project suffered a setback Monday when a circuit court judge found that a controversial state law that allows natural gas companies to survey private property without an owner’s permission is not unconstitutional.

Judge Robert Turk’s ruling focused on a Giles County case brought against Mountain Valley Pipeline by eight owners of property in the county who had denied access to route surveyors working for the pipeline company, which wants to build a 300-mile natural gas transmission pipeline from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County.

Nuclear Waste Taints St. Louis Suburb

Radioactive contamination has been discovered at three residential properties in the St. Louis area, adding fuel to a long-running controversy about how much damage was done to the environment and possibly people’s health by nuclear-weapons work performed there decades ago.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which disclosed the finding last week, said it was the first time it found such contamination on residential properties while cleaning up waste related to weapons programs in the St. Louis area.

Nuclear Accident: Cesium contamination persists in ocean floor near Fukushima Daiichi site

A fraction of the radioactive cesium released during Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in 2011 was deposited on the nearby seafloor and will likely persist for decades, says a study by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts.

Less than 1% of the cesium released ended up on the ocean floor, but it accounts for the majority of marine radioactive contamination near the plant site, the study showed (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b02635). This is the likely source of high levels of cesium found in the area’s bottom-feeding fish.

Companies gauging interest in gas pipeline

Kingfisher County residents may have a gas pipeline constructed in the area if industry interest increases.

NextEra US Gas Assets LLC partnered with Southern Star Central Corp. to announce an open season for the Sooner Trails Pipeline project. The project would begin in Kingfisher County and run through Canadian, Grady, Stephens, Garvin, Carter and Bryan counties in Oklahoma. The pipeline would end in Lamar County, Texas.

New PennEast pipeline route would cross Bethlehem water line a second time

A revised route for the PennEast natural gas pipeline would cross Bethlehem’s water transmission lines in the Pocono Mountains a second time.

The transmission line, which has the capacity to pump 33 million gallons of water a day from the Wild Creek Reservoir, would first come within feet of the pipeline in Wire Ridge in Towamensing Township and – under the new route — near Blue Mountain.

The city does not have a duplicate transmission line in that section of the system.

San Elizario residents have renewed concerns over pipeline path

San Elizario residents are asking the county for help getting greater oversight of two international pipelines that could be running through their community.

Residents first thought only one of the Roadrunner and Comanche Trails pipelines would go through San Elizairo, but Mayor Maya Sanchez said now both pipelines will pass right through their town

Particles From The Edge Of Space Shine A Light On Fukushima

It’s one of the greatest, and most disturbing, questions of the Fukushima disaster: What happened to the nuclear fuel inside the plant? Now physicists are trying to shed some light on the problem using particles from the edge of space.

The Fukushima accident was broadcast around the world. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami struck the plant, knocking out cooling in three working reactors. The uranium fuel inside melted down.

Fishermen OK Tepco’s plan to dump Fukushima plant water into sea

Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture on Tuesday approved a plan by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to take contaminated groundwater continuously flowing into the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and dump it into the ocean after removing almost all radioactive materials from it.

The plan is one of Tepco’s key measures aimed at curbing the amount of toxic water buildup at the complex. Local fishermen had long opposed the plan amid concern it would pollute the ocean and contaminate marine life.

1st algae-based oil producing facility in Fukushima set up in devastated region

An experimental facility to produce oil from algae was constructed on former farmland that was abandoned after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the region.

“The new plant embodies local efforts toward a local energy production and consumption policy in areas hit by the tsunami,” Minami-Soma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said recently. “I expect operations at the facility will lead to more job opportunities in the region.”

Algae concerns continue on Ohio River

Water service for customers of the Wheeling Water Company returned to normal on Sunday, but the threat to the system isn’t gone.

“The conservation order was lifted and water is being accepted from the Ohio River and being used in the water system,” said Howard Gamble, Administrator with the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department. “That water is continuously being tested, but there are still issues with the Ohio River. Algae does not go away overnight.”

A Giant Glob of Deadly Algae Is Floating off the West Coast

From the air, the Pacific algal bloom doesn’t look like much of a threat: a wispy, brownish stream, snaking up along the West Coast. But it’s causing amnesia in birds, deadly seizures in sea lions, and a crippling decline in the West Coast shellfish industry. Here’s what you need to know about it, from what this bloom has to do with the drought to why these toxins could be a real threat to the homeless.

The Big Melt: Why 2015 could be another low-ice year in the Arctic

Based on observations from satellites, 2015 is on track to be another low year for ice cover in Arctic summer seas, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

This finding was underscored by an image of sea ice and melt water swirling off the coast of Greenland, captured from the space agency’s Aqua satellite, and made public on Monday.

Great Barrier Reef species more at risk from climate change, says study

Species native to the Great Barrier Reef are more likely to face extinction through climate change than marine life elsewhere that can adapt by “invading” new regions, according to new research.

The largest study to date on the impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity found that many species would cope by finding new waters.

Heatwaves are on the rise in Algeria due to climate change, says specialist

While there has been a gradual drop in temperatures, this summer Algerians experienced a heatwave over 40 days. Is this normal?

It’s unusual if you live in the northern, coastal Algerian cities, where maximum temperatures never drop below 36C; that’s our average body temperature, so it’s all related. However, 40C would be a more ‘normal’ temperature if you live in central Algeria or in the south.

Washington’s biggest fire in history could burn until it snows this fall

The Okanogan Complex wildfire in Washington State has become the largest wildfire in state history, burning more than 400 square miles and counting, beating another fire that earned the dubious title just last year. As of Monday morning, the fire was only 10% contained, and officials warn that it could continue burning until snow arrives in the fall.

The fire, which has now surpassed last year’s Carlton Complex blazes, is one of at least a half-dozen large blazes burning across Washington, where a federal disaster declaration has been issued and firefighting assistance has arrived from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, in addition to state and federal assets on the ground and in the air.

Baikal on fire – ‘it feels like doomsday’

These unnerving images show the scale of destruction from wildfires close to Lake Baikal, the jewel of Siberia. The sky is aglow over the Republic of Buryatia from the uncontrolled burning, the latest outbreaks of fires that have been destroying forests around the world’s oldest and deepest lake for a number of weeks.

Locals and tourists could only gaze from beaches beside the lake at the impressive but disturbing images from the flames and smoke.

The US Congress is finally poised to rethink its outdated chemical laws

Kids dread back-to-school shopping because it means an end to summer fun. Parents have reason to fear it too, particularly those who read the Back-to-School Guide published annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Dangers lurk everywhere, according to the EWG. Avoid plastic covers on binders, the group advises. Don’t buy dry-erase or permanent markers, which contain solvents. Avoid lunch boxes made with lead paint, PVC, BPA and antimicrobial chemicals. Look for plain wooden pencils, no paint or glossy coating. Choose clothing that doesn’t carry Gore-Tex or Teflon tags, and avoid fabrics labeled stain resistant or water repellent.

Okinawans decry noise, chemical pollution at US bases across island

Near the small rural community of Takae stands a weather-beaten protest tent site clinging to a roadside covered with ferns. Low clouds blow overhead, and only the shrill cry of cicadas or the hum of an occasional passing car breaks the quiet of the tropical Yanbaru Forest in northern Okinawa.

An hour’s drive north of a hotly contested yet-to-be-built military base at Cape Henoko on Oura Bay, protesters at this simple encampment keep a mostly low-profile vigil demonstrating their opposition to the large military presence in this otherwise wild place.

Honeywell agrees to $13 million in improvements and $300,000 penalty in Hopewell spills

Virginia environmental officials and Honeywell have reached an agreement calling for the company to make more than $13 million in improvements at its Hopewell chemical plant and pay a $300,000 penalty following several spills there.

The state Department of Environmental Quality announced the deal, a proposed consent order, Monday.

Contaminated groundwater not reaching private wells, Duke Energy says

Contaminated groundwater at power plants in Gaston and Rowan counties is not flowing toward private wells, Duke Energy said Monday.

Duke, in groundwater analyses that will be reviewed by the state environmental agency, said no imminent health or environmental hazards exist near its Allen and Buck power plants.

Neighbors of the plants have been hardest hit by the results of statewide tests of private wells near Duke’s plants.

New Documents Raise More Questions About Colorado Mine Spill

Documents released by U.S. officials have revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency knew of the potential for a blowout of toxic wastewater from a Colorado mine more than a year before a government cleanup team accidentally triggered such a release earlier this month.

About 3 million gallons of water from the mine flowed into Colorado’s Animas River and the San Juan River in New Mexico before reaching Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border. Public drinking water systems were temporarily shut down and farmers from the Navajo Nation stopped using river water for irrigation.

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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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