Environmental Must-Reads – December 15, 2014


Oil and Gas Industry Faces Its Methane Problem

Seen with the naked eye, a natural gas facility’s storage tanks and pipes appear fairly innocuous—boring, in fact. Switch to an infrared camera, and it looks like a five-alarm fire. Clouds of gas billow upward, spewing methane gas into the atmosphere.

This month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will decide on new rules aimed at the oil and gas industry’s emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that often comes from leaky or inefficient equipment. But as the industry awaits possible rules, it is also taking some steps of its own to reduce emissions.

Proposal would let ND landfills accept more radioactivity in oilfield waste

Oilfield waste with elevated levels of radioactivity could be dumped in North Dakota’s landfills instead of having to be trucked out of state, under proposed rules being announced today by the state Department of Health.

The rules strive to set a reasonable standard, based on science, in response to growing concerns about hauling and disposal of radioactive waste generated by oil and gas drilling.

Court Denies Fort Collins’ Request To Halt Fracking While City Appeals Ruling

The city of Fort Collins has once again been rebuffed in its efforts to keep hydraulic fracturing out of city limits.

On Friday, Dec. 12, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled the city cannot prevent fracking while it appeals an earlier court decision striking down its moratorium on the practice.

Fracking: Florida uilities want you to pay

The drilling process known as fracking holds promise in helping the United States achieve energy independence, but it has also drawn concern for its potential to cause widespread pollution of underground water supplies.

Now, two of Florida’s top utility companies — Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light — are adding fuel to the fires of debate over fracking with proposals to shift the high cost of exploration from their stockholders to their customers.

Fracking report card on WPX, others say public not adequately informed

Most major oil and gas producers, including those in Oklahoma, are doing a poor job of informing the public about the safety of their hydraulic fracturing activities, according to a new report released by environment-focused investment groups Thursday.

Tulsa-based WPX Energy Inc. ranked 25th on a scoreboard of 30 companies. Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. fared better in the new report, while Continental Resources tied for last place.

EPA methane rules won’t hit gas utilities, industry predicts

Natural gas utilities aren’t expecting to be affected very much by potential methane leak regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Leaders from the American Gas Association (AGA) said that utilities, also known as the downstream part of the supply chain, account for less than a quarter of a percent of all methane leaks in the country.

Energy company plans diesel, natural gas plants in North Dakota, Montana

A Williston-based energy company has plans to roll out at least four plants in the Bakken region that would refine crude into diesel and strip natural gas liquids from oil.

Quantum Energy calls the plants 21st Century Energy Center(s) and has optioned big tracts of land in Stanley and Berthold, about 30 miles apart on Highway 2 west of Minot, and in Montana at Baker and Fairview.

Burns bans hydrofracking

It’s official: Fracking has been banned in Burns.

The Burns Town Board passed a local land use law which banned the extraction of natural gas and petroleum by a 3-2 vote during a monthly meeting that went nearly three hours in length Thursday night in Canaseraga Village Hall.

Oil, Natural Gas Drillers Lag in Disclosing Risks

While a handful of shale drillers including BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) are providing better information to investors on the risks posed by fracking, industry wide efforts still fall short.

Oil and natural gas producers that use hydraulic fracturing offered incomplete information on their operations, according to a report today by a coalition of investment firms and advocacy groups. Using public data from August 2013 through September 2014, the report rates disclosures from 30 drillers on toxic chemicals, water and waste management, emissions and community impacts.

Report criticizes expanded drilling on public land

A report out today from the environmental advocacy group, PennEnvironment, outlines the threats posed to public parks and forests by expanding natural gas development.

“Sadly, politicians from both sides of the aisle—Democrats and Republicans alike– have used their positions of power to press for opening up these public lands,” says Lina Blount, a field associate with PennEnvironment.

Michigan Senate rejects local drilling limits bills

Personal property rights took center stage Thursday in the Michigan Senate as the Republican-controlled body rejected two bills that would have empowered local governments to put limits on oil and natural gas drilling in their back yards.

The two bills, backed mostly by Metro Detroit senators, were designed to give communities the ability to rebuff energy and exploration companies looking to set up wells near residential populations. The debate came several months after one oil well set up shop less than 500 feet from a residential neighborhood in Shelby Township.

Industry Creates A Forum To Improve Fracking’s Environmental Footprint

Companies within the hydraulic fracturing industry have joined forces with the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) to create a forum aimed at making oil and gas extraction processes more efficient and reducing their environmental footprint.

The new group, GCI’s Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable, will provide a means for member companies to collaboratively prioritize chemical and engineering research needs to improve fracking methods and help manage current and long-term environmental impacts from this extraction method. A key goal is to glean the most economic benefit from the technology.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers for oil spill victims say BP should pay punitive damages

The committee of lawyers representing BP oil spill victims has largely praised a September ruling that found the British oil giant acted with gross negligence and bears most of the blame for causing the 2010 disaster. So why did the group file a challenge to the ruling?

According to the filing Thursday (Dec. 11) with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, plaintiffs’ lawyers say the ruling does not go far enough to ensure BP pays the right price for its role in the spill.

Federal council faces tough choices on Gulf oil spill ecosystem restoration projects

A great blue heron flies past the large window of a conference room in the 5 Rivers Delta Center in Spanish Fort, flapping its wings majestically and probably emitting a loud squawk at some perceived threat as it finds its next perch along the Blakeley River.

If the bird is squawking, though, the group gathered around the conference room table can’t hear it. The members of the team from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources — led by state lands director Patti Powell, along with Hank Burch, the Delta Center manager and biologist Carl Ferraro– have other things on their minds.

BP & The Real State of the Gulf – Pollution Report for Friday, December 12, 2014

The following is a summary of the 12/12/14 daily beach oiling report issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). I will endeavor to publish this summary each day the FDEP issues such a report. While the media and public believe that the effects of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Blowout and Oil Spill have been largely eradicated, this data suggests otherwise.

Oil spill lawsuit

Texas City residents Vernon and Mikki Fox sued the Valero Energy Star Corporation and NuStar Logistics claiming Vernon Fox was injured and suffered mental anguish when he was exposed to toxic compounds when about 265 barrels of crude oil was released at the Texas City Tank Farm in January 2011.

Vernon Fox sought $5 million in the suit, which was tried in 212th District Court with Judge Bret Griffin presiding.

Dep. Min. Akunis: We ‘Have Control’ Over Oil Spill Mess

Environmental rescue workers and officials of the Parks and Nature Authority have turned the tide in the battle against the oil spill in the Arava last week, said Ofir Akunis, Deputy Minister for the Environment. “We are now in control of the situation and there is no danger that the pollution will reach Eilat.”

Crews have been working day and night to contain the 5 million liter spill of crude oil that has been threatening nature reserves in the southern Arava. According to experts, the spill did extensive damage to the Evrona nature reserve, which is located near the point where a pipe transporting oil exploded, spewing its contents for several kilometers in all directions.

Devastating Oil Spill Threatens Rare Dolphins and Bengal Tigers

Villagers in the coastal Sundarbans mangroves of Bangladesh are using spoons, sponges, and shovels to try to mop up a major oil spill in an area that is home to two rare dolphin species, Bengal tigers, and a diverse array of birds and fish.

The spill began Tuesday, when a tanker carrying about 77,000 gallons of fuel oil collided with a cargo ship. By Friday, according to reports, the oil had spread across 50 miles of rivers and canals.

Bangladesh launches campaign to clean up Sunderbans oil spill

Bangladesh launched an intensified manual campaign to clean up seepage following a huge oil spill in 34,000 hectares at the Sunderbans that threatened the world’s largest mangrove forest.

The manual cleanup campaign came as authorities on India’s eastern coast are on alert with Additional Director of Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Pradeep Vyas saying “We are taking all precautionary measures”.

U.S. Oil Rigs Drop Most in Two Years, Baker Hughes Says

U.S. oil drillers idled the most rigs in almost two years as they face oil trading below $60 a barrel and escalating competition from suppliers abroad.

Rigs targeting oil dropped by 29 this week to 1,546, the lowest level since June and the biggest decline since December 2012, Houston-based field services company Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) said on its website yesterday.

TransCanada confident pipeline approval is coming

TransCanada remains confident the Nebraska Supreme Court will uphold a law that gives the company authority to proceed with its Keystone XL project in the state, a spokesman for the pipeline builder said Friday.

The company is optimistic a decision on the 2012 state law that gave Gov. Dave Heineman final approval of the pipeline’s route through Nebraska will come by the end of this year, according to Andrew Craig, TransCanada’s Omaha-based land manager, who conducted a media blitz last week that followed the release of a letter saying eminent domain could be used to acquire land rights for the project that haven’t been secured through voluntary right-of-way agreements.

Republican lawmakers oppose pipeline as their party leaders lobby for it: The Auditor

On its face, there’s nothing remarkable about the 16th District state legislative delegation coming out against a pipeline that will carry fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania right through part of their district.

“Running a pipeline through numerous parcels of preserved land in some of the most beautiful places in the state poses far too many environmental risks,” state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset) said in a press release in which he was joined in opposition by Assembly members Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerset) and Donna Simon (R-Hunterdon).

Christie mum on N.J. pipeline opposed by state GOP as he pitches XL pipeline with eye on 2016

Gov. Chris Christie can’t say enough good things about the Keystone XL pipeline lately, making passionate and public pitches for it to be built as quickly as possible while on recent trade missions to Canada and Mexico.

But the governor won’t disclose how he feels about the planned $1 billion Pilgrim Pipeline that would stretch through seven counties in New Jersey — and is facing growing opposition from local and state officials, including the Legislature’s top Republicans.

Man files appeal in legal battle against Enbridge

John Bolenbaugh tells Newschannel 3 that he plans to file an appeal after a Calhoun County judge dismissed his lawsuit against Enbridge.

Bolenbaugh was hired to clean up after 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River in July of 2010.

Big Oil Shatters Unicorns of the Sea

“The Unicorns of the Sea” — the spiral-toothed male Arctic Narwhal whales — are in big trouble.

The Canadian government just granted oil corporations the rights to search for drilling sites in the Davis Strait between Baffin Island and Greenland.

That means millions of sea creatures will be killed by incessant sonic booms as Big Oil scavenges for more heat-trapping gases.

Debbie Miller expands her focus on Alaska’s wilderness in ‘On Arctic Ground’

Debbie Miller’s book “On Arctic Ground: Tracking Time Through Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve” has been out for a couple of years. But the Alaska teacher, author, explorer and conservationist continues making the rounds to public events and schools promoting the project. It’s not necessarily the book itself that she’s hoping will get a response, but the message of a healthy, natural world within of one of the most environmentally rich places on earth.

The book is a 143-page glimpse into the reserve through stunning images and thought-provoking essays covering a four-year span when Miller and a team of writers, photographers and scientists trekked and paddled through Arctic wilderness within the reserve.

U.S. taxpayers funding oil-laden freight trains despite safety concerns

For the past 18 months, Americans from Albany to Oregon have voiced growing alarm over the rising number of oil-laden freight trains coursing through their cities, a trend they fear is endangering public safety.

In at least a handful of places, the public is also helping fund it.

States and the federal government have handed out tens of millions in public dollars to rail companies and government agencies to expand crude oil rail transportation across the country, a Reuters analysis has found.

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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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