Environmental Must-Reads – December 16, 2014


Houston company loses control of gas well in Ohio

Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. says that it lost control of a natural gas well in Ohio over the weekend.

The well located in Monroe County had been temporarily plugged while work was being done elsewhere onsite. But when workers tried to resume production operations Saturday afternoon, the well began to flow uncontrollably.

Congress’s hostile takeover of endangered species efforts

Last week, Congress attached a rider to the omnibus spending bill that blocks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from issuing new protections for both greater and Gunnison sage-grouse over the next year, dealing a blow to efforts to reverse these birds’ continued decline toward extinction.

The rider is an attack on these iconic birds and the vast, wide-open spaces they share with scores of other wildlife species, from mule deer to pronghorn antelope to pygmy rabbits. It is also an assault on accountability and the rule of law, two cornerstones of our democracy.

The Texas Energy Revolt

Cathy McMullen taps the brakes of her white Toyota Prius after driving through a neighborhood of mostly one-story homes in Denton, Tex., about an hour northwest of Dallas. “There,” she says, nodding towards a limestone wall shielding from view a pad of gas wells. McMullen, a 56-year-old ­­­­home health nurse, cruised past a stretch of yellowed grass and weeds. “They could have put that pad site on that far corner right there,” she says, pointing ahead. “The land’s all vacant.”

Instead, the wells sit on the corner of Bonnie Brea and Scripture Street. Across the way: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Across another street: the basketball court, picnic tables and purple playground of McKenna Park. That was where Range Resources, a company based in Fort Worth wanted to drill and frack three wells in 2009.

Oil company proposing drilling and fracking just south of Lake Hefner

Pedestal Oil plans to present a proposal at a public meeting Thursday that will make oil drilling and fracking just south of Lake Hefner possible.

Some are already voicing their concerns, but as of right now, nothing is for sure yet.

The trails and lake here at Lake Hefner could soon have a new backdrop on the horizon.

Industry Backed Bill Could Force Mineral Owners to Sell

As lawmakers return to town this week for their final interim session of 2014, they’ll learn more about a practice in the natural gas industry companies want them to approve through legislation: forced pooling.

Kevin Ellis, president of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, explained to lawmakers during a November meeting, when companies prepare to drill a well they create a giant rectangle of land parcels and then negotiate with each mineral owner within that rectangle for their gas rights.

WA gas explorer creates death trap for native animals

A rotting dingo found in a poisonous plastic-lined pond operated by a West Australian gas explorer has prompted concern from the Greens.

Buru Energy’s Yulleroo operation in the Kimberley has seen the creation of numerous plastic-lined ponds which trap water.

But Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple said when the ponds are dry they become death traps for animals.

Doctors, scientists, engineers calling for fracking moratorium

Health professionals and scientists are raising awareness about the possible negative effects of allowing hydraulic fracturing in New York, and are calling on the governor to extend the moratorium an additional three-to-five years.

The call follows the release of a new study in an environmental health journal, which looked at evidence showing the negative effects of fracking operations on reproductive and developmental health.

One Pennsylvania ecosystem enters the court fray over fracking waste

In a sparsely populated township in western Pennsylvania, one ecosystem is attempting to enter a court battle in its own name.

In Grant Township, Pennsylvania General Energy wants to convert one of its fracking wells into a waste disposal well. It received a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency in March.

Cuomo promises more clarity on fracking

Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated Monday that his administration will take a clearer position on hydraulic fracturing by the end of the year.

Cuomo reiterated that a long-awaited health study on the effects of fracking will be completed by year’s end, during an interview Monday morning on “The Capitol Pressroom.”

Is fracking polluting the air?

Toxic air pollution from fracking causes a wide spectrum of health problems for Americans across the country, an environmental group charged in a report released Tuesday.

“The health risks from fracking are not limited to what’s in our drinking water -— oil and gas operations are also poisoning the air we breathe,” said senior scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which produced the report.

Protests, plunging prices fuel drilling lull

After a tumultuous summer, Michigan has experienced a lull in clashes between homeowners and oil and gas exploration companies.

The slowdown has resulted from plummeting fuel prices and several Metro Detroit governments enacting moratoriums on drilling projects. For some companies, the environment has proven inhospitable enough that pulling up stakes is the best move.

Soto Files Bill to Prohibit Fracking in Florida

State Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, whose district includes a portion of Polk County, and Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, have filed a bill in the Legis­lature to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial method of obtaining oil or gas.

Soto said the situation is particularly detrimental to Florida because of the high water table and the potential for chemicals used in fracturing the ground to get at oil or gas to contaminate the Floridan aquifer.

Keystone, Mexico’s major shakeup on agenda for meeting of continent’s energy ministers

The falling price of oil and what to do about it, the Keystone XL pipeline, and Mexico’s major oil and gas shakeup will be on the table as North American energy ministers meet Monday.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford is set to meet with his counterparts Ernest Moniz and Pedro Joaquin Coldwell from the U.S. and Mexico respectively in Washington, D.C.

On this pipeline, Christie has no comment

Governor Christie has voiced strong support for the Keystone XL pipeline extension that would cross the middle of the United States, but he has been decidedly quiet on a proposed oil pipeline that could cut across a large portion of New Jersey.

Christie’s stance on the 178-mile Pilgrim Pipeline, which could run between Linden in Union County and Albany, N.Y., is crucial because state governments, rather than Washington, would have to approve it, energy experts and federal officials say.

Waters reopen for fishing nearly 5 years after BP oil spill

53-year-old Ricky Lee Sr. with Ruthann & Rob’s Seafood has been selling seafood at the Westwego Seafood Market for 38 years. He says he’s dedicated his entire life to the Gulf.

“My mother and father had five kids, four boys and one girl, and we all learned how to walk on the shrimp boat,” says Lee.

For a man dependent on Mother Nature Lee says it was life changing watching the BP oil spill take over his livelihood. Nearly five years ago the Westwego Seafood Market was a ghost town, and Ricky was in the Gulf cleaning oil that he says consumed everything.

State reopens Gulf waters affected by oil spill

Commercial fishermen are once again harvesting Gulf seafood off the coasts of Elmer’s and Grand Terre islands, an area that’s been closed due to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reopened state waters surrounding the islands, some of the areas most significantly oiled, near Grand Isle Dec. 10.

BP regroups, rebuilds even as world oil market takes a dive

After the 2010 oil spill that killed 11 workers and sent more than 4 million barrels of crude gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, BP had to pare its portfolio around the globe and sell off $43 billion in assets, including refineries, pipelines and producing wells.

In the process, the London-based firm became a leaner company, with a slimmed-down portfolio that makes it better prepared to weather a bear oil market than some competitors just beginning similar cost-cutting.

Exxon having trouble selling oil spill homes

More than 15 homes are still for sale in a Mayflower subdivision where an oil spill occurred last year, according to an Exxon Mobil spokesman.

The oil giant’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured in March 2013, spilling thousands of gallons of oil in the Northwoods subdivision. The company has blamed the rupture on manufacturing defects.

High court settles dispute over California’s undersea border

The U.S. Supreme Court waded into the Pacific Ocean to settle a long-running dispute Monday over where California ends and federal offshore lands begin.

The court’s decree Monday will help settle federal and state disputes and prevent future litigation over oil, gas and other mineral leases.

Both sides have been trying to reach agreement since the mid-50s after Congress passed the Submerged Lands Act.

Bangladesh’s response to Sundarbans oil spill slammed

The Bangladeshi authorities say a huge clean-up is underway in the Sundarbans delta. On Tuesday, December 9, a tanker sank and dumped hundreds of liters of furnace oil into the country’s protected delta after a collision with another vessel. The oil has spread over 350-square-kilometer area straddling Bangladesh and India. Officials in New Delhi say they are on high alert to deal with the likely flow of oil into their waters.

According to Abul Kalam Azad, a Bangladeshi forestry official, the tanker had been retrieved from the Shela River and towed to a nearby river island. The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said the fishermen had been deployed for the next three days to remove the oil.

Plans on the table for La. 70 emergency bypass around Bayou Corne sinkhole

State highway designers have settled on a preferred route for an emergency detour of La. 70 around the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole in Assumption Parish and will seek the public’s input on the proposal Wednesday evening.

The 1.09-mile route would cost $10.2 million and link La. 70 with La. 69 through a route parallel to La. 70 and about 1,000 feet north of it, a new state analysis says.

Keystone XL pipeline may no longer make economic sense, experts say

Amid the shouting on Capitol Hill, the wads of campaign cash and the activist careers shaped around the Keystone XL pipeline, the project at the flashpoint of America’s energy debate now confronts a problem bigger than politics.

It may no longer pencil out.

As Congress’ six-year obsession with Keystone nears a climax, plunging oil prices have industry analysts questioning whether the plan to link Canadian tar sands with Gulf Coast refineries still makes economic sense.

Enbridge lays off some Houston-area workers

Enbridge Energy Partners said Friday it has laid off some workers in the Houston area, becoming the latest in a string of energy companies to announce cutbacks.

The Houston-based pipeline company last week cut fewer than 100 positions in its under-performing domestic gas pipelines and processing business unit, including jobs in the office and field locations, spokesman Michael Barnes said in an interview with Fuel Fix. Barnes did not specify the number of workers affected.

Minnesota oil pipeline plan draws environmental lawsuit

Two Minnesota environmental groups have filed suit in state district court asking for a broader environmental review for the proposed Enbridge Energy Sandpiper oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Friends of the Headwaters jointly filed the suit in Ramsey County asking for a full-fledged Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline.

Don’t drill in the Arctic

I have never been to the Arctic. I was born, raised, and still live in New Orleans.  I grew up swimming in the Gulf along the beaches of Florida’s panhandle, fishing in the bayous of south Louisiana, and visiting family in coastal Mississippi.  And I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that comes with offshore drilling.

Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010, I’ve taken countless trips by land, air and sea documenting the impacts that the oil and gas industry has had on the Gulf region.  So though I’ve never been to the Arctic, I am uniquely qualified to deliver a message of warning about Arctic drilling on behalf of impacted communities all across the Gulf region.

Denmark Just Claimed The North Pole

Competition in the Arctic is heating up as Denmark has laid claim to the North Pole.

Copenhagen is citing scientific data showing that Greenland, which is an autonomous country within Denmark, sits atop a continental shelf connected to a ridge beneath the Arctic Circle. The Associated Press reports that Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said this new information provides the country with a claim to the region and, more critically, the energy resources thought to be in the Arctic,

Inspectors find 100 defects on crude oil trains, tracks

A broken rail, defective train car wheels and missing bolts on the tracks were among some of the problems state and federal teams found during its most recent round of statewide inspections of oil trains and the rail lines they use.

They identified 100 defects, including eight safety defects that require immediate action, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said in a release.

Unsafe and Unnecessary Oil Trains Threaten 25 Million Americans

Back in 1991 the National Transportation Safety Board first identified oil trains as unsafe — the tank cars, specifically ones called DOT-111s, were too thin and punctured too easily, making transport of flammable liquids like oil unreasonably dangerous. As bad as this might sound, at the very least there was not a lot of oil being carried on the rails in 1991.

Now, in the midst of a North American oil boom, oil companies are using fracking and tar sands mining to produce crude in remote areas of the U.S. and Canada. To get the crude to refineries on the coasts the oil industry is ramping up transport by oil trains. In 2008, 9,500 crude oil tank cars moved on US rails. In 2013 the number was more than 400,000! With this rapid growth comes a looming threat to public safety and the environment. No one — not federal regulators or local firefighters — are prepared for oil train derailments, spills and explosions.

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