Environmental Must-Reads – August 8, 2014


Offshore Fracking In Gulf Of Mexico Is On The Rise As Companies Seek Out Deep-Sea Riches

Global oil and gas firms are increasingly turning to offshore fracking to extract more fossil-fuel riches from the bottom of the ocean.

The Gulf of Mexico in particular could see fracking activity grow by more than 10 percent over this year and next, according to Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE:BHI), which operates about a third of the world’s offshore fracking fleet, Bloomberg News reported  Thursday.

Report Faults Chevron in Deadly Gas Well Fire

Environmental investigators faulted Chevron Inc. site managers in a report released Wednesday on a natural gas well fire in western Pennsylvania that killed one worker.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report said that a contract worker with no oil field experience worked on the well, contrary to company policy, and that the February fire “may have been caused by human error” when a lock screw was ejected from the well, allowing high-pressure methane gas to escape.

Draft Wyoming report finds no Pavillion well leaks

A draft state report released Wednesday on a possible explanation why well water in a central Wyoming gas field smells foul and tastes bad points away from leaky gas wells as a source of the problem.

Testing showed no evidence gas wells in the Pavillion area are leaking produced gas into the ground or providing a route for deep gas to seep into aquifers tapped for household water, according to the draft report by the agency that regulates oil and gas development in Wyoming.

Wyoming report: Pavillion gas wells properly drilled; more study needed

Natural gas wells in the Pavillion Gas Field were properly drilled and maintained, but more study is needed to prove if energy operations contaminated drinking water in the region, according to a draft report released by Wyoming regulators Wednesday.

Those findings were among the conclusions of a preliminary study released by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The report is one of three investigations Wyoming is conducting into polluted drinking water near the town of Pavillion. The state is also reviewing disposal pits and testing water quality in the area. All three investigations will be combined in a final report.

APNewsBreak: Tribe wants fee on wasted natural gas

Tribal leaders on an American Indian reservation in the heart of North Dakota’s booming oil patch are proposing fees for companies that burn and waste natural gas.

The Three Affiliated Tribes outlined its plan to impose fees in a six-page document sent to oil companies. In it, the tribe said companies would be required to pay royalties for “flaring” natural gas to compensate for lost revenue when the gas isn’t brought to market and sold.

Report Faults Chevron in Deadly Gas Well Fire

Environmental investigators faulted Chevron Inc. site managers in a report released Wednesday on a natural gas well fire in western Pennsylvania that killed one worker.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report said that a contract worker with no oil field experience worked on the well, contrary to company policy, and that the February fire “may have been caused by human error” when a lock screw was ejected from the well, allowing high-pressure methane gas to escape.

Judge overturns Fort Collins fracking moratorium

A Larimer County judge overturned Fort Collins’ five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing Thursday, offering yet another blow to voter-led guidance of Colorado’s oil and gas development concerns.

It has been a week of dashed hopes for grassroots groups and lawmakers pushing for voter-approved changes on both sides of the oil and gas debate. On Monday, a last-minute deal by Gov. John Hickenlooper resulted in four potential measures being withdrawn from consideration for a statewide vote in November in exchange for the state backing off from a lawsuit over Longmont’s ban on fracking.

Watch: Will this be the first Texas city to ban fracking?

It was almost dinnertime when an ice cream truck lazily made its way through the North Texas subdivision. A few kids came running. Maile Bush’s children weren’t among them, because she won’t let them go outside.

The family moved to Denton for their slice of heaven. That was, she said, before the fracking industry came knocking.

Gas industry official tries to challenge fracking ban

The trustee for a defunct oil-and-gas company is attempting a last-ditch effort to revive a lawsuit challenging hydraulic fracturing bans by local governments in New York.

The state Court of Appeals in June ruled in favor of the towns of Dryden, Tompkins County, and Middlefield, Otsego County, which saw their local natural-gas-drilling bans challenged by pro-fracking interests. The ruling set a precedent allowing New York’s local governments to use zoning ordinances to ban fracking and gas drilling within their borders.

Stakes are high in fracking debate on Indian reservations

For Native Americans, the debate over fracking on reservations is not much different from the arguments elsewhere. But the stakes are vastly higher.

For many tribes in the United States, allowing hydraulic fracturing to drill for fossil fuels offers an economic boost in areas that have few options. But concerns about the damage it may do to the environment are compounded by centuries-old ties to the land.

Drilling disturbs Penn Township peace

Interest by drillers who want to set up shop in Penn Township has caused concern not only among residents but officials who want to protect the community’s “quality of life.”

And, with the recent court rulings placing control over drilling into the hands of the municipalities rather than the state, Penn Township is having to do something that it has never had to do before.

Transparency about fracking chemicals remains elusive

The website FracFocus.org was built to give the public answers to a burning question about the shale boom: what exactly were companies pumping down tens of thousands of wells to release oil and gas?

Today, FracFocus has records for more than 77,000 wells. Pennsylvania is one of 14 states requiring operators to use the website as part of their chemical disclosure laws, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

However, transparency about those chemicals remains elusive.

State relies on oil train operators to self-report

The state does not independently monitor how much crude oil train operators transport through New York each day, instead allowing them to self-report the total, officials at three state agencies said.

CSX and Canadian Pacific transport the crude through western New York and down from the North Country on a daily basis.

Safety worries rise as Twin Cities oil train traffic jumps

Tons of corn spilled into Locke Lake on a summer morning three years ago after a freight train derailed near Mary Jo Czaplewski’s Fridley home. It turned the lake yellow.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she said, recalling the twisted mess of 17 railcars off the tracks and corn everywhere.

The recovery wasn’t pleasant, but Czaplewski and others who live near the north metro tracks know it could have been much worse had the cargo dumped in the lake that day been oil, not corn.

Coal shortage? Blame oil trains.

Shipping crude oil by rail has led to a coal shortage across the US. Rail companies have more than doubled the amount of petroleum products being shipped each week, which has caused delays in shipping coal, corn, and grain.

Door open for new Enbridge Energy pipeline route in northern Minnesota

Minnesota regulators opened the door Thursday to considering an all-new route for Enbridge Energy’s proposed Sandpiper crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

Over the objections of the Calgary-based pipeline company, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously agreed to study a southern route proposed by a state agency to avoid the headwaters of the Mississippi River and a large swath of lakes, wetlands and wild rice areas.

Sierra: Enbridge seeks to make Wisconsin a superhighway for toxic oil transport

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Aug. 5 announced the permitting process for two proposed pipelines by Enbridge Energies.

Both pipelines enter Wisconsin from Minnesota and go to a refinery in Superior.

Marathon Petroleum, EnLink Midstream to invest in pipeline project along Mississippi River

EnLink Midstream, a Dallas-based oil and gas pipeline company, said on Wednesday (Aug. 6) it will partner with Marathon Petroleum Corp. to build a new 30-mile natural gas liquids pipeline extension in south Louisiana.

The project will connect EnLink’s existing natural gas processing complex, located just off the Mississippi River in Plaquemine, with Marathon’s Garyville refinery downriver.

McClendon’s American Energy, Regency to build $500M Utica pipeline

A $500 million pipeline planned for next year could carry natural gas from Aubrey McClendon’s growing web of gas wells in Ohio to the Gulf Coast and several mid-western and southern states.

The midstream arm of American Energy, the new oil and gas venture of former Chesapeake Energy CEO McClendon, said Thursday it is teaming up with Dallas pipeline operator Regency Energy Partners to build a pipeline starting in Ohio’s Utica Shale that could push more than 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day across 52 miles to major pipeline systems that service Texas, Colorado and states along the nation’s southeastern rim.

Pipeline to move oil from from shale area to Houston Ship Channel

An Oklahoma City company is planning a pipeline to carry crude from the ancient meeting place of shale and sandstone formations in East Texas to Houston’s oil refining hub.

The pipeline will run 160 miles from north of Houston in Madison County to a terminal on the Houston Ship Channel, pipeline operator Blueknight Energy Partners said Wednesday. The pipeline initially will have a capacity to carry 100,000 barrels of oil per day out of the Eaglebine, the northeastern tip of the Eagle Ford Shale.

Statoil fails to find oil in Arctic’s Hoop program

Statoil ASA has wrapped up its 2014 exploration program in the Hoop area of the Norwegian Barents Sea, northeast of Johan Castberg, without making any commercial discoveries.

Three exploration wells—the Atlantis and Apollo in PL615 and Mercury in PL614—were drilled during the summer, with Atlantis and Mercury resulting in two small gas discoveries.

Norway’s Statoil comes up dry at Arctic wells

Norway’s Statoil ASA has found no commercial quantities of oil and gas at the northernmost wells it has ever drilled in the Arctic, the government-controlled company said Thursday.

Statoil drilled three exploration wells this summer in the Hoop area of the Barents Sea.

Putin to launch Arctic oil well drilling on August 9

Russian President Vladimir Putin will launch exploration drilling at the West Alfa rig in the Arctic Kara Sea on August 9 via a TV link-up, the Kremlin’s press office said on Friday.

Putin will take part in the launch ceremony from Sochi. The launch ceremony at the Kara Sea rig will be attended by Russia’s Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and ExxonMobil Russia head Glen Waller.

Rosneft maintains Arctic exploration momentum with new science initiative

Member of the Rosneft board of directors and the Russian president’s special envoy for international cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic, Artur Chilingarov, took part in a meeting of the Arctic Council in the city of Naryan-Mar to discuss relevant problems of sustainable development and the organisation of safety on polar territories

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

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