Environmental Must-Reads – December 12, 2013


Fracking Could Dispose of Nuclear Waste, Scientist Says

Nuclear waste could one day be disposed of by injecting it into fracking boreholes in the Earth, at least if one scientist’s idea takes hold.

The method, presented here Monday (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, would mix nuclear waste with other heavy materials, and inject it a few miles below the Earth’s surface into drilled holes. The key is that, unlike fluids used in most hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the nuclear slurry would be heavier than the rock in which it is injected.

Taxpayers to pay for fracking pollution if companies go bust

Taxpayers will pay to clean up any pollution caused by fracking if the companies go bankrupt, after a proposal to make UK operators take out insurance against such damage was ruled out by the government.

Energy companies including Centrica-backed Cuadrilla are poised to drill shale gas wells around the country after the Treasury published draft legislation on Tuesday for tax breaks for the industry. Hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – is the controversial technique that involves pumping sand, chemicals and water underground to extract shale gas trapped in rocks.

Lawsuit Threatened Over New York’s Fracking Approval Delay, Impact Statement

The trustee for a bankrupt energy company is preparing to sue New York state to compel it to issue a long-awaited environmental impact statement on the natural gas drilling practice known as fracking.

Attorneys for the trustee for Norse Energy Corp. USA sent a letter to the environmental conservation commissioner Dec. 2, asking him to respond within two weeks or face a lawsuit to compel finalization of the statement.

Two more cases of drinking water contamination linked to fracking

Michael and Nancy Leighton of Granville Summit, Pennsylvania, report that tests of their drinking water found clean and safe water in May, 2011, before fracking occurred near their home, but that water testing conducted in May, 2012–after nearby fracking–found substantial increases in the levels of methane, ethane, propane, iron and manganese in their groundwater. They report that their water “drastically changed in clarity and color, had a foul odor, contained noticeable levels of natural gas,” and had “become flammable.” In addition, they report that the creek on their property began bubbling at the surface.

Health Dept. Concerned About Benzene Emissions Near Local Gas Drilling Sites

A substance believed to cause cancer in those exposed to it over an extended period of time is in the air near Marcellus Shale fracking sites, according to Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble.

“The levels of benzene really pop out. The amounts they were seeing were at levels of concern,” said Gamble in describing the results of testing his department recently performed at well sites throughout Ohio County.

Dallas Council Passes Gas Drilling Ordinance With Restrictions

The long and winding road of gas drilling in Dallas has reached its end.  The city council voted on a new ordinance on gas drilling Wednesday.

One section had been a bone of contention since the initial proposal — how far away from populated areas and other wells is safe to drill?  The council decided that answer is 1500 feet.

Jared Polis Challenged To Energy Debate By Colorado Oil And Gas Association President

The president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association invited Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis to a series of energy debates in response to a letter Polis sent the organization asking them to “stop suing our communities” over fracking bans.

Last week, the Congressman posted YouTube videos and addressed a letter to Tisha Schuller, the president of the COGA, asking her to withdraw lawsuits against communities he represents that passed voter-approved fracking bans. On Friday, Schuller responded that “legal action is an unfortunate last resort, but we were left with no choice,” and invited Polis to a debate.

CO Congressman Polis to Oil & Gas Industry: Please Stop Suing Our Towns

Last week, in a letter to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (a trade association composed of Colorado companies working in or with the oil and gas industry, also known as “COGA”), U.S. Congressman Jared Polis had a simple message: “Please stop suing the communities I represent.”

New online database charts water quality regulations related to oil and gas development

A searchable, comparative law database outlining water quality regulations for Colorado and other states experiencing shale oil and gas development is now available on LawAtlas.org.

The Oil & Gas – Water Quality database project is led by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Intermountain Oil and Gas Best Management Practices (BMP) Project in partnership with Temple University’s Public Health Law Research program and its LawAtlas.org website.

4,500 Montanans Say “No” to Beartooth Fracking

More than 4,500 Montanans are riled up over plans for fracking in the Beartooth Mountains and Bighorn Basin. They’ve signed a petition to the Energy Corporation of America, asking the company to pull its proposals for development.

Deb Muth, who chairs the Carbon County Resource Council, wrote the petition and will speak at a rally today. She didn’t have any problems getting people to sign the petition, she said, because of awareness of how the Bakken development has led to problems with crime, water quality, road damage and overcrowded schools.

Budget Deal Would Open New Areas Of The Gulf Of Mexico For Drilling

The bipartisan budget deal unveiled Tuesday night includes a provision that would open up new parts of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling.

The proposal includes passage of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement, which would allow development of oil and gas reserves that cross the international maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico. There has been a moratorium in place on drilling in the Western Gap portion of the Gulf since 2000, but it is set to expire at the end of 2013. The agreement included in the budget deal sets standards for both countries to undertake development in this area, and has already won approval from both the Obama administration and Mexico.

Gulf Oil Spill Play From ‘Laramie Project’ Writer Examines Human Impacts

Families. Fishermen. Town officials. Cleanup workers. These are just a few of the people and communities devastated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. Their stories will be dramatized next year in a new play called “Spill,” written by Leigh Fondakowski in collaboration with visual artist Reeva Wortel. The production aims to answer the question, “What is the true human and environmental cost of oil?”

Terrebonne says it was never informed of Enbridge oil spill in 2011

Terrebonne wants to know why it was never told of a 4,000-litre oil spill that happened in 2011 at an Enbridge oil facility in the city.

The city only learned of the spill last month, even though it was reported to provincial and federal authorities.

“We are of the opinion that a 4,000-litre oil spill, even if it was contained within your facilities, is not an insignificant event,” Terrebonne’s director general, Denis Lévesque, wrote in a letter sent to Enbridge last week.

Senators Want Check Of Oil Pipeline Beneath Lakes

Three U.S. senators have asked a federal agency to check on the safety of an oil pipeline that runs beneath Great Lakes waters.

Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan made the request Wednesday in a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Keystone pipeline bigger for producers than TransCanada

U.S. President Barack Obama’s ruling on Keystone XL is becoming more critical for oil-sands producers such as Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. than pipeline builder TransCanada Corp.

Calgary-based TransCanada has about C$33 billion ($31 billion) of projects on its books, even without the $5.4 billion pipeline the company had targeted for completion in 2012. For producers, Keystone is the earliest export line scheduled to ease bottlenecks which have helped push Canadian heavy crude $27 a barrel below the U.S. benchmark and are costing the industry about C$18 billion a year, according to Chevron Corp.

Oil pipeline faces conflict with potential copper mine

Enbridge’s proposed oil pipeline across Northern Minnesota has hit another bump in the road to construction. This time it involves a mining exploration company.

Kennecott Exploration Company has filed a petition to intervene with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

New Obama Adviser Will Not Work on Keystone XL

A new senior adviser to President Barack Obama will not be involved in deliberations on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the White House said Wednesday.

John Podesta, a former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, has spoken out against the pipeline, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas. Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that opposes the pipeline.

White House defends Podesta stance on Keystone XL

The White House said judicial disqualification of John Podesta, slated to serve as a presidential adviser, on the Keystone XL decision is a misnomer.

The New Yorker reported Tuesday incoming special adviser to the president, Podesta, asked to be kept out of discussions on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Putin orders Russian military to boost Arctic presence

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his military leadership they should build up their forces in the Arctic as a priority.

Commending the recent restoration of an airfield in the region, he said Russia needed to use every means to protect its national interests in the region.

Arctic claim will include North Pole, Baird pledges as Canada delays full seabed bid

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister said his government intends to lay claim to the North Pole, but is delaying a full international bid for seabed rights in the resource-rich Arctic until scientists can gather sufficient data to back up this territorial expansion.

John Baird held a news conference Monday to explain why Canada has filed only a partial submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf by last’s week’s deadline.

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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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