Environmental Must-Reads – December 11, 2012


Top 3 Catastrophes Linked to Natural Gas Fracking

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as fracking, there’s a ton of natural gas available on the market right now. Those in the industry hail the practice as a blessing, allowing gas companies to access deposits locked in previously impenetrable rock. Although many have trumpeted the resulting decline in gas prices as proof that fracking needs to continue, they’ve kept details of its undesirable consequences closer to the chest.

Look Close at Fracking and You’ll Say “No Way”

The more you learn about fracking, the less you’re going to like it.

Fracking comment period to open Wednesday

Supporters and opponents of hydraulic fracturing are gearing up for what could be the public’s last chance to be heard on the state’s review of shale-gas drilling.

U.K. Dash for Shale Gas a Test for Global Fracking

The starting gun has sounded for the United Kingdom’s “dash for gas,” as the media here have dubbed it.

As early as this week, a moratorium on shale gas production is expected to be lifted. And plans to streamline and speed the regulatory process through a new Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil were unveiled last week in the annual autumn budget statement by the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne.

Father of fracking Mitchell urges regulators get tough on drillers

George Mitchell, the de facto “father” of fossil fuel fracking, has some unlikely policy stances when it comes to drilling regulation.

Couple caught up in fracking debate

A rural Williamson County couple was surprised to learn that the rights they own for oil and gas on their property may not protect them from the possibility of fracking on their land.

Westchester lawmakers unanimously ban fracking fluid

The Westchester County the Board of Legislators voted unanimously on Monday to ban fracking fluids from the county.

America wants to unleash its gas on other countries

Guys, thanks to fracking, we have so much natural gas. So much. Like, if you filled up party balloons with the natural gas America produces in a year, you’d have enough to fill your whole house, I assume.* Also: Do not smoke near that.

Rural America: Poorer, less populous, less powerful — but now with fracking!

It is the best of times and the worst of times for rural America. On the one hand, they’re the only ones among us who’ve been getting richer lately. Thanks, fracking!

Imagine There’s No Fracking … Give Clean Energy a Chance

Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon placed a full-page ad in the Dec. 10 New York Times, calling on Governor Cuomo to “Imagine There’s No Fracking … give clean energy a chance.” The ad illustrates and describes how cement in wells at such great depths leaks, poisoning drinking water with gases and toxic chemicals.

Interview with Ecologist and Anti-Fracking Activist Sandra Steingraber

Sandra Steingraber’s gentle voice belies her fierce outrage at the destruction of Earth and human life, a rage that has driven her to devote herself to combating the chemical contaminants that endanger our well-being. An ecologist, cancer survivor, poet, and mother, Steingraber has authored three critically acclaimed books that explore the environmental toxins that permeate our land, air, water and food.

Colorado Water Struggles Highlight Impact of Fracking on Farming

Fracking—known more formally as hydraulic fracturing—produces roughly 25 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply. This increasingly common practice uses pressurized fluid to release trapped oil or natural gas from a well, and has been praised for lowering energy prices. But concerns about fracking’s impacts on human health and the environment have caused many to question its expansion. And now, according to a recent article by Jack Healy of the New York Times, the debate has become even more contentious in the state of Colorado.

Fracking corporation turns Louisiana bayou country into toxic sinkhole

For residents in Assumption Parish, the boiling, gas-belching bayou, with its expanding toxic sinkhole and quaking earth is no longer a mystery; but there is little comfort in knowing the source of the little-known event that has forced them out of their homes.

The Climate Post: Scientific Papers Share Lessons Learned From the BP Oil Spill

A collection of papers now out in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) looks at the response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2011, examining whether it was successful and how it could be improved. The release of the reports comes just days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspended BP from obtaining new U.S. contracts due to its “lack of business integrity” following the Deepwater Horizon accident that killed 11 workers. After the explosion, the rig’s Macondo well began gushing crude oil, a leak that would continue for nearly three months. Uncertainty surrounding the flow rate of the leaking oil was a key problem during the disaster, prompting these U.S. government scientists to recommend that future drilling permits require mechanisms to assess the flow rate.

The Cover Up: E-mails Show BP Lied to Authorities on The Deepwater Horizon Spill

BP has always claimed that it shared all information with the public and with the federal government about the extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the rate of flow of the leaking oil. BP has stated that it never knew of the true quantity of oil escaping the well until a few months after the blowout, however emails that are soon to be released seem to suggest otherwise.

Emails: BP Lied About Extent of Oil Spill

Emerging evidence may support accusations that BP initially lied about the extent of its devastating 2010 oil spill, reports the Huffington Post. Former BP engineer Kurt Mix, charged with destroying spill-related text messages, plans to defend himself by releasing emails that show BP knew about the true extent of the leak almost immediately. Mix’s lawyers say he warned a supervisor that the fatal rig explosion could leak up to 146,000 barrels per day—but just two days later, BP executives were estimating the leak at 1,000 barrels per day.

UL researchers studying Deepwater Horizon oil spill impact

Researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are studying the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. One team of scientists will examine how razor clams and ghost shrimp affect the way oil is distributed and ultimately broken down by bacteria along the coast. The other will try to to uncover the possible impact of the spill on blue crabs by looking at their genes.

Chronic oil a greater risk than tanker spill, Nature Canada tells pipeline panel

Chronic, ship-source discharges of oily effluent pose a larger problem than large-scale catastrophic oil spills, lawyers for Nature Canada told the panel weighing the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Brazil Chevron case makes offshore oil workers hard to find

Oil companies are having trouble hiring foreign workers crucial to Brazil’s booming offshore oil industry because of criminal and civil cases against Chevron Corp. and Transocean Ltd. employees, the head of an industry association said on Monday.

Citizen science more than a century later: Ordinary people go online to track Gulf oil spill

In the summer of 1854 a doctor named John Snow tracked London’s deadly outbreak of cholera to contaminated water coming from a public well — the now famous Broad Street pump. But Snow’s observations had to wend their way through the annals of science and took years to make an impact on the public health. Now, more than a century later, ordinary people can go online and report observations about public health problems and disasters in real time. In a just-published study a researcher at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) reports on this new form of “citizen science,” concluding that it can help modern-day public health officials assess health and environmental threats, such as those posed by the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. The researcher studied reports to an online Oil Spill Map and discovered that citizen science can red-flag potential hazards quickly and offers very specific local information that often fails to make it into official scientific reports.

Half of World’s Oil Spills Happens in Russia – Greenpeace

More than 20,000 oil spills, or half the world’s annual total, take place in Russia, a senior official of the country’s branch of Greenpeace said.

Black Elk Energy issues incident update

There is no ongoing spill from the site of a mid-November explosion on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico and sheen reported was minor, Black Elk Energy said.

Enbridge announces $2.5B pipeline expansion from North Dakota to Superior

Enbridge Energy has notified stockholders that it will proceed with a $2.5 billion pipeline expansion running 600 miles from the booming North Dakota Bakken oil fields to its Superior facility.

We got a copy of the subpoena Chevron sent a rebellious shareholder

Chevron has a lot of money. Which is a good thing, because lawyers are expensive, and Chevron has developed quite an affinity for lawyers. And if you’re a Chevron shareholder who dares speak out, expect to hear from them.

Keystone Review Meaningless Without Climate Assessment

The U.S. environmental assessment of a new Keystone XL pipeline route from Canada will be meaningless unless it considers the effect mining of oil sands has on climate change, opponents of the project said.

Black Elk launches probe of fatal platform fire

Black Elk Energy is conducting an internal investigation into what caused an explosion on one of its Gulf of Mexico oil platforms last month, killing three workers and inuring others.

Japanese nuclear plant ‘sitting on active fault line’

The operator of Japan’s Tsuruga nuclear power plant may be ordered to decommission the facility after seismologists confirmed that it sits directly atop an active fault line.

UPDATE: Tsuruga nuclear plant may have to be decommissioned as active fault found

Japan Atomic Power Co. may have to decommission one of its reactors after seismologists concluded the plant is sitting over an active fault line, potentially the first permanent shutdown of a nuclear unit in Japan since the Fukushima disaster last year.

AP Interview: Japan utility head admits murky hiring, says workforce key to nuke plant cleanup

The head of the utility behind Japan’s nuclear crisis acknowledged Monday that hundreds of workers at the contaminated Fukushima Dai-ichi plant were mobilized through a murky hiring system.

Book reveals human drama in Fukushima No. 1 crisis

Experts and journalists have written a number of reports, some even running several hundred pages, about the cause of the triple meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and the chain of events that followed.

But little has come to light about the human drama of how the plant workers who came to be dubbed the “Fukushima 50,” fought against incredible odds to avert catastrophic reactor explosions that would have led to the contamination of all eastern Japan.

Hitachi robot to tackle Fukushima rubble

A new robot is set to join the Fukushima Daiichi cleanup effort. Hitachi’s newly unveiled ASTACO-SoRa compact heavy-duty robot will start work removing rubble at the site from 2013.

Ministerial conference on nuclear safety to be held in Fukushima

The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, hosted jointly by the Japanese government and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will begin December 15 in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. During the three-day conference running until December 17, speeches by representatives from IAEA member states and meetings of experts will be held with the objective of strengthening future nuclear safety. The conference will be attended by ministers and other officials from about 120 countries and organizations.

Japanese government reclassifies Fukushima evacuation zone

The Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters of the Japanese government has, as of December 10, lifted the evacuation order for Okuma Town, where the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants are located. According to the JAIF Atoms in Japan news service, the government has reclassified the town into three new areas: one in which evacuation orders will eventually be lifted, one that is still restricted to residents, and one where residents will find it difficult to return home for a long time.

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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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