Environmental Must-Reads – December 11, 2014


Congressman Widens Inquiry Into Fracking Waste in Northeast and Midwest

A Congressional investigation into the way states regulate the disposal of the often toxic waste generated during the fracking of oil and gas has expanded.

Rep. Matthew Cartwright, a Democrat from eastern Pennsylvania, launched the investigation in October by singling out his home state for the inquiry.

Thermal wells point to ‘worst case’ leaks from the deep

The water burbles out of the earth carrying evidence of its underground voyage.

It’s come from depths of up to five kilometres, bringing plenty of heat, gas and chemicals with it. Bright green and orange mats of micro-organisms grow on rocks where the water tumbles from the thermal springs in the mountains adjacent to areas of active hydraulic fracturing in northeastern B.C. and the southern Yukon.

The water is not from the fracking operations, but the springs show fluids can – and do – naturally make the trip to great depths.

Energy wells can ‘communicate’ and ‘sterilize’ the landscape

The sun was beginning to set on the farm near Innisfail, a two-hour drive south of Edmonton, when a wellhead suddenly started spewing oil and fracking fluids 20 metres into the air, coating the snowy field and trees in oily mist.

A nearby fracking operation had been pumping fluids deep underground to blast open a web of cracks to release oil. But 1,850 metres down the fracking fluids, propelled by immense pressure, shot through into the neighbouring well sending 75,000 litres of oily fracking fluids up the well and onto the snowy field in January 2012.

Alberta’s energy regulator later described it as “communication” between the two wells — one of more than 40 such “frack hits” reported in Alberta and British Columbia since 2009.

North Dakota Regulators Tell Producers to Filter Crude Oil of Flammable Liquids

North Dakota regulators on Tuesday ordered producers pumping oil from the Bakken shale field to begin removing flammable natural gas liquids from their product before shipment in an effort to prevent deadly explosions involving trains.

The Bakken field has played a major part in the spurt of oil drilling that has raised domestic production by more than 70 percent over the last six years. But a series of explosive accidents involving trains carrying Bakken crude, including one last year in Quebec that took 47 lives, has raised fears in many cities where oil trains regularly transit.

Fracking and Lima climate talks slammed at Nature Rights Tribunal

It’s difficult to know what was more moving or arresting. There was the Ponca lady, Casey Camp-Horinek, starting to cry as she spoke about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, on her people in what she called “occupied” Oklahoma in the US, and saying “We’re having a funeral a week… We’re this close to being fracked to death.”

Then there was Kandi Mossett, from North Dakota, a fracking “victim who wasn’t able to come”. She appeared on the projector and broke down too, telling how “these radioactive frack socks [that are] off the charts on the Geiger counters” are being dumped and found by children who say things like, “Hey, we’re catching bugs with our nets.”

Activists protest Nevada public land auctions for fracking

A coalition of activists on Tuesday protested outside the office of the federal Bureau of Land Management in Reno to decry an auction of huge tracts of public land for private oil and gas exploration that they claim damages the environment and guzzles water in a time of drought.

Wearing blue and carrying empty jugs to signify the loss of water, protesters said that auctioning leases on 189,000 acres of public lands in the state’s eastern reaches had angered Nevadans of all social stripes and politics to speak out against fracking, which they say threatens public health, wildlife and quality of life.

Venezuela: U.S. flooding market with fracking-produced oil

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blasted the United States Wednesday for its large-scale use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, saying it is flooding the market with oil produced with environmentally destructive methods.

The United States, one of the world’s biggest practitioners of fracking, a controversial technique that involves pumping a pressurized fluid – usually composed of water, sand and chemicals – into a shale formation to create a fracture in the rock layer and release trapped petroleum or natural gas – has used that technology to double oil output to 8.5 million barrels per day in six years.

Guar beans prove to be vital to United States fracking, food industries

In the supply chain of the modern frack job, the fluid used to expel gas from underground shale has been a flash point.

Fracking fluid contains water, sand and a cocktail of chemicals but its success in shattering shale has often hinged on a bean that also is used as a preservative in baked goods and to thicken beverages.

The guar bean, grown mainly in India, is turned into a gum to thicken frack fluid. Guar gum, produced from the seeds of the bean pod, is used in fracking fluid to help hold open cracks in the rock formation for gas to be released.

A BP spill’s worth of methane is leaking from the ocean off of Washington every year

You know how ocean temperatures have been on the rise lately? Well, it might mean a more comfortable day at the beach, but if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, I have some bad news for you: According to a new study, because of the temperature rise, we could see a huge release of deep-sea methane off the coast of Washington state.

One of the researchers compared the amount of methane currently being released to the amount of oil that gushed from the BP oil spill. “We calculate that methane equivalent in volume to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is released every year off the Washington coast,” said Evan Solomon, a coauthor of the study, which was published in Geophysical Research Letters. And if the water in the region warms by 2.4 degrees C by 2100, the size of that annual methane release could quadruple.

BP Hit With Another Loss After U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Oil Spill Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court refused oil giant BP’s challenge to a settlement deal to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses damaged by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP argued that the losses claimed by the businesses after the disaster “were not fairly traceable to the spill,” and sought to have the settlement reviewed by the U.S. high court.

However, the nine justices, after a closed door hearing, issued a decision rejecting BP’s request.

Clean-up of Israeli desert oil spill could take years: experts

Ecologists said on Wednesday it could take years to clean up a massive oil spill that flooded an Israeli nature reserve with up to five million liters of crude and threatened to spread to the Red Sea shore and neighboring Jordan.

A breached pipeline started spewing oil into Evrona desert reserve — famed for its rare deer and douma palms — a week ago, causing what experts called the worst spill in Israel’s 66-year history.

Bangladesh oil spill ‘threatens rare dolphins’

An oil spill from a crashed tanker is threatening endangered dolphins and other wildlife in the Sundarbans mangrove region.

Bangladesh officials have called the leak an ecological “catastrophe”.

The tanker, carrying an estimated 350,000 litres (75,000 gallons), of oil collided on Tuesday with another vessel and partly sank in the Sundarbans’ Shela river, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins.

400-barrel oil spill contained at well site near Williston

A 400-barrel oil spill at a well site near Williston has been contained and recovered, according to the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division.

Statoil Oil & Gas LP reported a failed valve at the M. Macklin 15-22 1H oil well about 1 mile north of the city, causing the oil to spill on Monday.

Railroad to pay $625,000 in 2008 derailment that caused oil spill in Mississippi River

A railroad has agreed to pay $625,000 to settle allegations that it failed to adequately clean up a 2008 oil spill that damaged the shoreline and aquatic life in the Mississippi River between Iowa and Wisconsin.

The Dakota Minnesota and Eastern Railroad, a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific, would make the payment without admitting wrongdoing to resolve a civil complaint filed Tuesday by the state of Iowa and the U.S. government. The settlement, known as a consent decree, would cover the cost of assessing damage and pay for restoration activities. It’s expected to go into effect after a 30-day public comment period.

Pipeline blowout reminds residents about oil-field waste danger

A skull and crossbones sign protesting an oil field waste disposal site is covered in oil.

A natural gas pipeline blowout near Nordheim on Tuesday night spewed 21 barrels of condensate – or a natural gas liquid – onto the sign and a patch of land the size of a football field. No fire or injuries were reported, said Richard Wheatley, a spokesman for Kinder Morgan Inc., the pipeline operator.

Pipeline raises water concerns; Dominion says it will protect waterways

Among many residents’ concerns surrounding the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would run through Nelson County, one deals with the most basic of human needs — water.

Taylor Smack, owner of Blue Mountain Brewery and Blue Mountain Barrel House in Nelson County, is a member of The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Brewers for Clean Water. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness among other craft brewers about clean water issues and how the resource contributes to making great beer, Smack said.

Northampton protesters to hold ’emergency rally’ against Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Protesters in Northampton plan an “emergency rally” on Saturday to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

The activists are calling upon President Obama to reject the proposed tar sands pipeline and veto any Congressional effort to build it, according to a press release. Organizers say the pipeline will be a “huge source of carbon pollution,” thereby failing President Obama’s own pledge to fight climate change.

Keystone pipeline permit debate kicks off in Pierre

The showdown over whether TransCanada can construct its controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline across western South Dakota formally got underway on Tuesday with both sides of the debate getting down to the details of permitting issues.

And nothing will come easily for the company, or for those who oppose the pipeline over environmental concerns.

South Dakota regulators limit disclosure in Keystone XL pipeline case, but opponents appeased

South Dakota regulators agreed Tuesday to limit the scope of information opponents could receive in a case about the Keystone XL oil pipeline from the company trying to build it, but not as strictly as TransCanada Corp. requested.

The state Public Utilities Commission also decided Tuesday to hear final arguments in early May as part of its decision on whether to re-approve the portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that would run through South Dakota. The commission partially approved TransCanada’s request to limit the discovery — or information disclosure — process in the case, but the decision is broad enough to appease opponents who are seeking as much evidence as possible. The discovery process will inform the commission’s decision on the pipeline.

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