Environmental Must-Reads – August 4, 2014


Up to 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled near Hennessey

It looks to be some time before the book will be closed on a hydrochloric acid spill in an alfalfa field in Kingfisher County.

Between 350 and 500 barrels — up to 20,000 gallons — of acid spilled Monday about four miles south and two miles west of the intersection of U.S. 81 and Oklahoma 51 in Hennessey.

Acid spill sends 20,000 gallons into Kingfisher Co. soil near creek

A fracking job goes terribly wrong northwest of the Metro.

An entire tank of acid spilled on Sunday, contaminating about 35,000 yards of dirt on an alfalfa hay farmer’s land north of Kingfisher. Friday is the first day clean-up crews have been able to fully access the site because of this week’s rain.

Drillers did not report half of spills that led to fines

Half the spills at Marcellus Shale well sites that resulted in fines weren’t spotted by gas companies, which are required by state law to look for and report spills of drilling-related fluids.

That is one of the main conclusions of a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review of hundreds of thousands of state and company documents for every incident at a Marcellus well site that led to a fine against a driller through the end of 2012.

Fracking’s untold health threat: How toxic contamination is destroying lives

If we’re going to talk about fracking, we can’t just talk about energy independence, or the economy, or the potential for natural gas to act as a “bridge fuel” to help solve the global warming crisis. We also need to talk about the effect that hydraulic fracturing is having on the communities where it’s taking place, and to ask whether that cost — to people’s health and property — is too high.

Fracking without fresh water

In 1913, a Toronto lawyer named David Fasken bought 220,000 acres of ranchland in west Texas, sight unseen. He intended to subdivide the land, on the arid Llano Estacado, into farm plots. But he abandoned that idea once he saw how little water there was. Things worked out, however: The family went into the oil business, and now, 101 years later, Fasken Oil and Ranch is one of the oldest privately owned oil companies in the Permian Basin, a fossil fuel-rich field that underlies west Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Fracking – US companies and regulators must disclose environmental data

Among the risks of fracking are fragmentation of wildlife habitats, groundwater depletion, surface water pollution. The risks are compounded by a failure among companies and regulators to record or disclose essential information – from the chemicals used, to the time and place of toxic spills.

DEP sympathetic to gas drillers, but bill leaves few exemption options

On Jan. 20, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced his proposal for legislation to increase regulation of above-ground chemical storage tanks across West Virginia. It was less than two weeks after the Freedom Industries’ leak that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents in Charleston and surrounding counties.

Despite public outrage over the water crisis, Tomblin took a cautious approach that aides said was aimed at not “overregulating” industry. The governor’s proposal, crafted in part in behind-the-scenes talks with corporate lobbyists, included a long list of exemptions for whole classes of chemical storage tanks and entire industries.

High Levels Of Chloride Investigated At Cecil Twp. Marcellus Shale Site

Environmental officials say they are looking into high levels of chloride found at a Marcellus Shale site in Cecil Township. A letter, dated July 31, went out to people living along Swihart Road from the Cecil Township manager asking them to be vigilant about any changes in their water.

Early last month, Range Resources was testing a single ground-water monitoring well at Cecil Impoundment 23 and found elevated levels of chloride.

Oklahoma Grapples With Earthquake Spike—And Evidence of Industry’s Role

Customers who stop by Mike Kahn’s insurance agency in Oklahoma City are increasingly looking to buy a policy that was unheard of a decade ago: earthquake insurance. Kahn, who opened the Lynnae Insurance Group in 2002, said he sold earthquake coverage to two homeowners during the first decade he was in business. During the past six months, he sold more than 125 policies.

“We used to get to that part of the policy, and I’d tell customers, ‘You don’t need that. This is Oklahoma,'” Kahn said, referring to the days when earthquake coverage was an add-on to a homeowner policy. “We used to laugh about it.”

Colorado Gearing Up for Fracking Ballot Measures

Coloradans are poised to vote on multiple ballot measures related to fracking and other forms of energy development this fall, setting up a bitter and expensive election fight.

With a deadline looming Monday to qualify measures for Colorado’s November ballot, three initiatives already have enough signatures to appear before voters, backers say.

Sand mine Gov. Scott Walker touted settles state pollution case

Two weeks after Gov. Scott Walker visited a frac sand company in western Wisconsin to celebrate an expansion, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen entered a settlement withthe company for violating state environmental laws.

But unlike three other cases where sand mining companies paid fines for violating state regulations, the Justice Department didn’t issue a news release detailing the agreement with Hi-Crush Proppants LLC, which agreed to pay $52,500 in forfeitures on June 5, according to records filed in Eau Claire County Circuit Court.

German Beer Industry Takes On Fracking

Shortly before opening time at Foersters Feine Biere in Berlin, the owner, Sven Foerster, is busy checking the pressure on the pumps and the temperature of the refrigerated cabinets where liquid gold is stored. Foerster is a qualified beer sommelier, a man devoted to the preservation of humankind’s favourite alcoholic brew, proud in the knowledge that he’s a small part of a vast German brewing industry. Yet something is clouding that security. He and thousands of others are concerned the country’s energy needs and the introduction of fracking will collide with the business of producing some of the best beers in the world.

Gas pipelines coming to county

For the past few years now, counties across north central Ohio have been waiting to see how the energy boom in the Marcellus and Utica shale gas plays to our east would impact this region.

Although the actual horizontal drilling, or fracking, has so far largely been limited to areas east of the Interstate 77 corridor, several pipelines slated to carry that natural gas to market are in the planning stages — and they will cross this area to get there.

2-year anniversary of the Bayou Corne sinkhole

The anniversary of the Bayou Corne sinkhole is here two years later. On August 3, 2012, the sinkhole opened up in Assumption Parish, triggered when a salt dome, operated by Texas Brine, failed.

Approximately 150 homes were evacuated, and most of these residents never have returned to the area. The sinkhole continued to grow, and the incident gained interest from environmental activist Erin Brockovich and the national media. Scientists pointed to a nearby abandoned salt cavern run by the Texas Brine Company. Now, the massive slurry seems to have stabilized, but monitoring of the sinkhole still continues. Recently, some seismic activity has been detected a few times within the past month in the area.

BP asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear settlement appeal

BP PLC has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out part of its settlement of claims for damage from its enormous oil spill in 2010 — a section saying businesses don’t have to prove that the spill directly harmed them to be eligible for payment, only that they lost money afterward and recovered in 2011.
Claims administrator Patrick Juneau has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses whose losses “were not fairly traceable to the spill” in the Gulf of Mexico, including $76 million to businesses whose entire losses had absolutely nothing to do with it, the company’s lawyers wrote in a request filed late Friday.

BP appeals Gulf oil spill settlement to Supreme Court

BP filed a formal petition to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that lower courts in New Orleans erroneously approved a multibillion-dollar settlement that is paying claimants that were not hurt by the company’s 2010 oil spill.

The petition, filed last Friday, had been expected since May, when the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected BP’s attempts to undo the massive damage settlement it agreed to and helped craft in 2012. BP already asked the high court to keep in place a stay on business claims payments that it is challenging. The Supreme Court denied that application in June.

Study: ‘Footprint’ of 2010 Gulf Oil Spill may be worse than thought

Biologists have discovered that the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill is making a deeper impact on marine life than they had predicted.

As NewsHour’s Murrey Jacobson reported last year, the oil spill captured the world’s attention for polluting the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, shutting down area businesses — including fisheries and beaches — and fouling marshes and wetlands. Three companies were involved: oil giant BP; TransOcean, which operated the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig; and Halliburton.

BP Oil Spill: Deepwater Horizon Toxins Consumed By Ocean Bacteria

Since the BP (NYSE:BP) Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig spilled 201 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, BP has spent more than $14 billion cleaning up the mess. But the whole time, a few microscopic ocean residents have been playing their part, too. Florida State University researchers have found that a certain kind of bacteria has been consuming some of the chemicals released when the oil flowed out into the ocean for 87 days.

“Microcosm experiments established that Colwellia species were capable of degrading hydrocarbons originating from the oil spill,” their paper says.

Four Years After BP Spill, Beach Monitors Still on the Job

Four years after the massive 2010 BP oil spill, monitors from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection continue to find thousands of tar balls on beaches in the western Panhandle.

The Pensacola News Journal reports that the two remaining oil spill monitors have discovered more than 46,000 thousand tar balls and 3,190 pounds of submerged tar mats in the last year. The state of Florida plans to keep the monitors in the region indefinitely.

Companies at work on blowout preventers for deeper depths

As oil industry aims to drill in ever-deeper undersea reservoirs, it needs equipment that can face higher pressures than before.

FuelFix reporter Collin Eaton looks at the effort by GE Oil & Gas and others to build new blowout preventers that are up to the task of standing guard against potential disaster on the ocean floor.

Nigeria, Shell not cleaning oil pollution, report charges

Little action has been taken to clean up pollution caused by oil production in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, either by the government or Shell Oil, Amnesty International and other groups charged Monday.

Oil production has contaminated the drinking water of at least 10 communities in the Ogoniland area but neither the Nigerian government nor Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigeria subsidiary have taken effective measures to restore the fouled environment, said the new report by Amnesty International, Friends of The Earth Europe, Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development, Environmental Rights Action, and Platform.

EPA Showdown: Who in Texas Wants Tighter Refinery Regulation?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will set up its microphones for an all day hearing Tuesday in Galena Park, a community on Houston’s east side in the heart of the enormous Houston Ship Channel refinery complex. It’s the second of two such hearings with the first held last month in a similar community in Los Angeles.

At issue: new EPA rules that would make oil refineries invest in better equipment to reduce pollution emissions from storage tanks and to improve the efficiency of flares that burn emissions during plant “upsets”. Refineries would also have to increase fence-line monitoring to track exactly what pollution is blowing into adjacent communities.

Proposed pipeline in Iowa faces regulatory hurdles

A Texas company seeking to run an underground oil pipeline through Iowa has a laborious approval process to get through before it can start digging.

Energy Transfer Partners LP is behind the proposed project, which would carry crude oil 1,100 miles from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois, traveling diagonally through roughly 17 Iowa counties along the way. The pipeline would use a 30-inch-diameter pipe to carry at least 320,000 barrels a day.

Uproar over Keystone XL put eminent domain issue in state spotlight

Texans take pride in their private property. More than 95 percent of land in the Lone Star State is privately owned. And sometimes pipeline companies want to use parts of that land for their projects.

Typically, a pipeline company will reach an agreement with a landowner on compensation, but in the event an agreement isn’t reached, pipeline companies can use eminent domain to “condemn” the land needed.

Enbridge TV commercial sparks controversy on the Kalamazoo River

The latest commercial from Enbridge has brought out polarized views from residents.

The commercial played on the four year anniversary of the Kalamazoo River Enbridge oil spill, and according to Enbridge, the Kalamazoo River is “restored.” Many residents beg to differ. They told FOX 17 that the river is anything but that, and that wildlife is sparse.

Enbridge Plans U.S. Rail Loading Facility for Crude

Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. is planning to build a new $150 million rail loading facility in the U.S. Midwest to help move some of its heavy crude product down the U.S. Gulf Coast, a company executive said during a conference call Friday.

Guy Jervis, Enbridge president of liquids pipelines, said the company is looking to build a rail loading facility adjacent at the south point of its Flanagan South pipeline near Oklahoma.

More Oil Companies Abandoning Arctic Plans, Letting Leases Expire

After years of mishaps and false starts, some oil companies are giving up on drilling in the Arctic.

Many companies have allowed their leases on offshore Arctic acreage to expire, according to an analysis by Oceana that was reviewed by Fuel Fix. Since 2003, the oil industry has allowed the rights to an estimated 584,000 acres in the Beaufort Sea to lapse.

Russia releases Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise ship after ten months in captivity

Environmental organisation Greenpeace has announced the release of its Arctic Sunrise ship after being held for nearly a year by the Russian authorities.

The ship, dubbed Arctic 30, has left Murmansk port in Russia for its home port in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where it will be assessed and repaired further.

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This