Environmental Must-Reads – December 10, 2012


New York Fracking Rules: Regulators Taking Public Comments On Revised Gas Drilling Regulations

New York regulators will begin taking public comments on revised gas-drilling rules this week, though an extensive environmental review outlining the basis for those rules remains incomplete, and neither drillers nor environmentalists are happy lately with the state’s work on the issue.

Environmental activists rally for fracking conference

Environmental activists met Saturday at the University of Baltimore to organize a push for a legislative ban on the natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — casting the issue as a fight pitting the little guys versus the lobbyists.

Fracking surveys find support in unexpected places

Many people in New York and Pennsylvania have voiced concerns about the safety of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or fracking. But two new surveys found that many people who live in New York City and the suburbs approve of drilling in parts of that state, and that Pennsylvania residents who live in an area of heavy drilling feel the benefits outweigh the risks.

Fracking for Foreigners? New Report From Feds Backs More Natural Gas Exports

How times have changed. Ten years ago the United States was looking at importing natural gas via massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, yet to be built. Now the country appears to be getting ready to significantly increase exports of LNG.

Fracking Boom Byproduct: Air Quality Decline

With the fracking boom in places like Colorado’s Weld County and across the nation, there’s another byproduct: bad air. A study to be published in the Journal of Geophysics Research finds that fumes from oil and gas development are a big reason the Front Range has unhealthy levels of ozone, especially in the summertime.

Texas Regulators Prepare Major Drilling Rule Changes

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial process of shooting water, sand and chemicals underground to access oil or natural gas trapped in shale rock, has made plenty of headlines in recent years. But the drilling process involves many other steps beyond breaking up rock, and several opportunities for things to go wrong.

Drilling spills reaching Colorado groundwater; state mulls test rules

Oil and gas have contaminated groundwater in 17 percent of the 2,078 spills and slow releases that companies reported to state regulators over the past five years, state data show.

Fissures appear in scientists’ assurances about safety of fracking

When the research team from the University of Texas at Austin took the stage at the Vancouver Convention Centre early this year, they knew they had a big audience.

Journalists from around the world were attending the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting and many of them had come to the press conference, where a new study on the environmental impacts of fracking was to be released.

Environment: Traces of Deepwater Horizon oil causes deformities, swimming deficencies in Gulf fish

FRISCO — In yet another sign that BP’s spilled Deepwater Horizon may have long-lasting impacts on Gulf ecosystems, a team of researchers said last week that even low-level, short-term exposure to traces of oil remnants causes deformities and impairs the swimming ability of fish.

Lawmakers seek inquiry on sheen near spill site

Two Democratic lawmakers are asking the Coast Guard to investigate a sheen that appeared last week on the Gulf of Mexico surface near the site of the BP well that blew out and caused the 2010 oil spill.

U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, both of whom led investigations of BP after the disaster off the Louisiana coast, sent a letter to the Coast Guard asking it to find out more about the source of the sheen. They contended that BP has refused to provide information.

Report urges oil investors to hold companies to account over responsibility

Oil investors could be exposed to “serious financial risk” if they fail to challenge multinational firms over their responsibility, a report by the University of Essex has said.

BP in hot seat for Gulf of Mexico sheen

U.S. lawmakers said they were turning to the U.S. Coast Guard to get information about sheen from the Deepwater Horizon.

Arctic Shipping is a Disaster Waiting to Happen

When the Malaysian freighter Selendang Ayu grounded in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands eight years ago this week, it was a tragic reminder of the growing risks of northern shipping.  While in-route from Seattle to China, in a fierce Bering Sea winter storm with 70-knot winds and 25-foot seas, the ship’s engine failed.  As it drifted toward shore, there were no adequate ocean tugs available to take it in-tow, and it grounded off Unalaska Island on December 8, 2004.  Six crewmen were lost, the vessel broke in half, and its entire cargo and over 335,000 gallons of heavy fuel spilled oil into waters of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge).  Like other large marine spills, this spill was not contained, and it killed thousands of seabirds and other marine wildlife, closed fisheries, and contaminated many miles of shoreline.

Shipping risks already threaten Aleutians; let’s act now

It’s axiomatic in the cleanup business that the best plan for dealing with an oil spill is to prevent one. But Alaska has thousands of vessels regularly passing by our shores that do not meet U.S. oil spill planning requirements.

Alberta Pipeline Safety Review Too Industry-Influenced: Greenpeace

A review of pipeline safety commissioned by the Alberta government after a series of high-profile accidents was heavily influenced by industry and designed more to quiet public concern than improve the system, say Greenpeace campaigners.

‘Fossil Free’ Campaign By 350.org’s Bill McKibben Aims To Convince Colleges Not To Invest In Oil

Among environmental scribes, Bill McKibben is a legend. That’s not only because he had a knack, in such books as The End of Nature (1989), The Age of Missing Information (1992) and his most recent Eaarth (2011), of telling an important story before anybody else, but also because he is a mensch, and so darned helpful reviewing and blurbing books for other writers. Including at least one of mine.

That’s why it got attention when McKibben largely stopped writing and became a climate activist, best known as the founder of 350.org. The reasons for that are in an article he wrote for Rolling Stone last summer. “The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius,” he wrote. “It’s become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees.” And we’re already three quarters of the way to overshooting that target.

Oil spill panel makes recommendations to Mont. Gov

A council appointed to come up with pipeline safety improvements in Montana following last year’s Yellowstone River crude spill has offered its recommendations to the governor’s office.

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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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