Environmental Must-Reads – December 11, 2013


Fort Worth Shows Why So Many Towns Are Banning Fracking

Several cities and counties in the U.S. have instituted bans or moratoria on the oil and gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in recent years and Fort Worth’s experience with urban fracking shows why.

“Fort Worth has been fracked to capacity,” resident Don Young told DeSmog Blog. “There is no turning back. Some days the air is so bad you can’t see downtown.”

Scientists: Lack of Data Means Fracking Impacts Unknown

A group of scientists and other academics investigating the environmental, climate change and social impacts of oil and gas development, particularly hydraulic fracturing, are calling for both state and federal governments and the oil and gas industry to be more transparent and provide more data about the energy drilling and production processes.

New Concerns Over Shale Drilling, Radioactivity Waste

Peters Creek has come a long way back from sewage-laden waterway to trout stream in large part from the efforts of the local watershed association.

“Ultimately the goal is to keep this as a resource for the community, to keep it fishable,” Tim Schumann of the Peters Creek Watershed Association said.

Harvard Study Blows Apart Obama’s Case for Natural Gas

Democrats like to label the GOP the “anti-science party” – but, well, you know what they say about people who live in glass houses. In his last two State of the Union addresses, President Obama gave natural gas his full throated endorsement, and his party has followed suit. Now, a new study from researchers at Harvard has found that methane concentrations in the atmosphere are higher than thought. Obama’s embrace of natural gas, it now appears, is actually an anti-science position that the president must reverse if he is serious about tackling the climate crisis. The president’s “all of the above” energy strategy has been revealed for what it is: A naked attempt to please everyone (except the physics and chemistry of the planet) and a failed attempt to create a shield against the GOP’s claims that Obama is against the exploitation of fossil fuels.

Allamakee County activists call hydraulic fracturing “hot spot for silicosis”

Advocates from Allamakee County came to Iowa City to discuss the process of hydraulic fracturing, calling it “a hot spot for silicosis.” The group said these new mining sites could potentially cause health risks to individuals working and living in the area.

Allamakee County Protectors — a group of Iowans fighting against fracking sand mining — have traveled throughout Iowa, speaking about the large number of life changes community members in Wisconsin have experienced since 2010, when the state saw an explosion of fracking sites.

Center City Protest Targets a Pennsylvania Oil Pipeline Operator

About 40 activists braved snow and cold during the noon hour today outside a center city office tower, to protest a fracking-related project at the headquarters of the firm behind it.

“No fracking exports!”

That was just one of the complaints of those protesting the Mariner East pipeline, by Sunoco Logistics.   Other concerns include health, safety, property rights, and climate change.

A Petaled Rose Of Hell: Refineries, Fire Risk, And The New Geography Of Oil In Philadelphia’s Tidewater

Alf Larsen promised Mary just one more trip at sea before he could take on the cushy job of night watchman at Cramp’s Shipyard. Often the Norwegian paramour of Christopher Morley’s poem “Penn Treaty Park” would idle around the park with his love, Mary “of Wildey St.” planning for an amorous future. On his long absences, she would console herself by visiting their pecking bench, believing the inscription below the Founder, “Unbroken Faith” to be a testament to their bond. Just one more trip, and all their plans would be set in motion.

It was not to be. Wrote Morley in 1920 of the scene at the Atlantic Refining Company’s wharfs

Gas Pipeline Boom Fragmenting Pennsylvania’s Forests

Jerry Skinner stands in his garden, looking into the distance at the edge of a forested mountain. Amid the lush shades of green, a muddy brown strip of earth stands out. It’s the telltale sign of a buried pipeline.

“The pipelines are all around this property,” Skinner said. “When I came here, the county had an allure that it doesn’t have anymore. I’m not sure I want to live here anymore.”

Protests Stop Chevron Fracking Operations in Romania

U.S. oil company Chevron were forced to halt exploratory drilling for shale gas at their drill site in eastern Romania for the second time in as many months, following mass anti-fracking protests.

Around 300 local people turned out for the protest—while an equal number of riot police were called in to restrain activists.

  Ex-BP supervisors win dismissal of some manslaughter charges

Two former BP Plc supervisors won the dismissal on Tuesday of some of the manslaughter charges facing them over the Gulf of Mexico drilling rig explosion that killed 11 people in 2010.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval in New Orleans dismissed 11 counts of seaman’s manslaughter facing Deepwater Horizon rig well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine.

Judge rejects mistrial motion in case of ex-BP engineer charged with obstruction of justice

A federal judge has refused to declare a mistrial in the case of former BP drilling engineer charged with obstruction of justice following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a filing Tuesday, defense lawyers for Kurt Mix said prosecution questioning of witness Wilson Arabie on Monday improperly raised issues of whether Mix ordered copies made of spill-related documents in order to eliminate possibly incriminating hand-written notes made in some of the margins.

Oil washes onto local beach

Cleanup is underway after tons of oily material was found along Fourchon Beach.

About 29 tons of oily material was found after Tropical Storm Karen in October, the Coast Guard said. After that, workers scoured other areas of the beach and found more.

Tracking the next oil spill to curb the damage

The spill pours 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf and it begins a relentless rush to the shore, where scientists follow it as it disrupts ecosystems, wildlife habitats and the beaches that sustain coastal economies.

Luckily this event is only a model and meant to mitigate the devastation caused by large oil spills, should one happen again.

Podesta and the Pipeline

Shortly after the 2012 election, John Podesta was invited to speak at a board meeting of the American Petroleum Institute. Podesta is an outspoken environmentalist who served as Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff and then founded the Center for American Progress, an influential liberal think tank. A.P.I. represents the interests of the oil-and-gas industry.

At the meeting, Podesta was paired with Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and the two men discussed the November election results. “He was despondent and I was very cheery,” Podesta told me in August. Taking advantage of the unique opportunity to address his political opponents, Podesta told the oilmen that Republicans had made a “horrible error” in how they handled the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama’s New Special Adviser Is Outspoken Foe of Keystone XL and Tar Sands

By asking John Podesta to come to the White House as a special counselor at a time of turmoil and tough choices, President Obama has created an unusually close tie to an outspoken critic of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Canadian tar sands it would carry.

Podesta is a Washington policy insider who was Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and whose Center for American Progress, or CAP, is an influential voice of liberalism. He has kept climate change high on his agenda for years and will continue to do so in the White House, reported The New York Times, which broke the news of his new assignment.

TransCanada Begins Injecting Oil Into Keystone XL Southern Half; Exact Start Date A Mystery

Keystone XL’s southern half is one step closer to opening for business. TransCanada announced that “on Saturday, December 7, 2013, the company began to inject oil into the Gulf Coast Project pipeline as it moves closer to the start of commercial service.”

The Sierra Club’s legal challenge to stop the pipeline was recently denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, so the southern half, battled over for years between the industry and environmentalists, will soon become a reality.

With help from Shell, Gazprom could start drilling in the Arctic any day now

Any day now, with the help of Shell, a company called Gazprom will extract the first drops of oil from below the Russian Arctic.

Shell is hoping to follow in the footsteps of its Russian partner by doing the same thing off the coast of Alaska this summer. This is the moment. If we don’t stop these oil companies now, the floodgates will open to Arctic oil and one of the last remaining unspoiled places on earth will be changed forever.

Nigeria to shut refineries, seaport to demand clean-up

Nigerians in the oil-rich delta region are threatening to shut down two oil refineries and a seaport in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, to protest what they describe as government’s failure to clean up of their community following years of oil spills.

“We gave the Nigerian government 90 days ultimatum during the commemoration of the 2nd anniversary of UNEP report and that has expired,” National Coordinator of the Ogoni Solidarity Forum (NSF) Celestine AkpoBarie told Anadolu Agency on Monday.

Canada plans claim to resource-rich Arctic, including North Pole

Canada plans to make a claim to the North Pole in an effort to assert its sovereignty in the resource-rich Arctic, the country’s foreign affairs minister said Monday.

John Baird said the government has asked scientists to work on a future submission to the United Nations claiming that the outer limits of the country’s continental shelf include the pole, which so far has been claimed by no one.

Battle for the Arctic: Canada, Russia Spar in Northern Land Grab

One day after Canada laid claim to the North Pole in a bid to out-maneuver other nations in the land grab for the resource-rich Arctic, Russian president Vladimir Putin issued orders Tuesday to beef up Russia’s military presence in the region.

Ahead of plans to make an official submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday that the country had enlisted scientists to prove that “the full extent of the continental shelf in the Arctic includes Canada’s claim to the North Pole,” as well as territory in both the Atlantic and Arctic seabeds beyond the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, CBC reports.

17 oil firms team up to map seabed in Norwegian Arctic

Seventeen oil companies, including most of the majors, are teaming up to map the seabed in an Arctic offshore zone once disputed by Russia and Norway, showing their eagerness to explore for oil in the remote region.

Despite recent setbacks such as the grounding of Royal Dutch Shell’s drillship off Alaska, energy firms remain keen to explore for crude in the area, which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates to hold 90 billion barrels of oil.

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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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