Environmental Must-Reads – December 18, 2013


Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in water at fracking sites

Water samples collected at Colorado sites where hydraulic fracturing was used to extract natural gas show the presence of chemicals that have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer, scientists reported Monday.

The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, also found elevated levels of the hormone-disrupting chemicals in the Colorado River, where wastewater released during accidental spills at nearby wells could wind up.

Fracking protesters park bus across Salford IGas drilling site

Anti-fracking protesters trying to stop an oil drilling operations in Salford have parked a bus across the site.

The campaigning group Platform said that there were five people locked to the bus, which is reportedly blocking the entrance at the Barton Moss site run by IGas.

Britain opens half of country to fracking

More than half of Britain and two-thirds of England will be open to fracking despite persistent opposition from environmental groups, the government said.

The injection of high-pressure mixtures of water, sand and chemicals to extract natural gas is an “exciting prospect” that could bring “growth, jobs and energy security” to Britain, Energy Minister Michael Fallon said Tuesday.

Study: methane in 15 percent of upstate NY wells

Some upstate New York state water wells naturally have explosive levels of methane gas, even in areas that aren’t near oil or gas drilling, according to a new federal study released Tuesday.

The U.S. Geological Survey study found that 15 percent of groundwater samples from 66 household wells across south-central New York contained naturally occurring methane at levels high enough to warrant monitoring or remediation, even though none of the water wells was within a mile of existing or abandoned natural gas wells. Methane is an odorless, colorless gas which can be explosive in high concentration.

USGS study: methane common in groundwater of New York’s Southern Tier

Naturally-occurring methane is common in groundwater supplies throughout south-central New York, according to a study published today by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Samples were collected from 66 water wells in five southern New York counties along the Pennsylvania border in the summer of 2012.

Rancher: Oil and gas boom is requiring more water than we have. Period.

In the heart of South Texas, where the muted grayish green of live oak and the slender leaves of the thorny mesquite dominate a landscape burdened by drought, hydraulic fracturing used more than 14 billion gallons of water last year.

The number far outpaces estimates of what water use in the Eagle Ford Shale might have peaked at some time in the next decade, and represents one more way in which the meteoric development of the oil field has blown past expectations.

Delays on long-awaited reports for Pavilion-area groundwater angers landowners

State officials said Tuesday two reports in the Pavillion area groundwater investigation would be delayed until early 2014, further angering landowners who have for years complained nearby natural gas operations contaminated their water wells. A third report will likely be delayed until after September, the initial deadline set for that study by the state, they said.

Don’t Mess With Dallas: City Passes One of the Strictest Gas Drilling Ordinances in Texas

With a 9-6 vote last week to pass a local law requiring  a minimum of 1,500 feet between gas wells and homes, the Dallas City Council has made clear who controls the fracking fate of Texas’ third largest city:  the City of Dallas itself.

Another reason to hate fracking: It could screw up your sexual health

Nasty chemicals capable of wreaking havoc with our hormonal systems have been discovered lurking in the Colorado River, which is a source of drinking water for 30 million people. And scientists suspect that the fracking industry is the culprit.

Frackers are allowed to keep a lot of the chemicals that they pump into the earth a secret, but scientists figure they use more than 750 chemicals and components — including upwards of 100 known or suspected endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system is the network of organs that produce and regulate levels of hormones, such as estrogen in women and androgen in men. Disruption of an endocrine system can lead to cancer, infertility, and birth defects.

What A Year: 45 Fossil Fuel Disasters The Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About

While coal, oil, and gas are an integral part of everyday life around the world, 2013 brought a stark reminder of the inherent risk that comes with a fossil-fuel dependent world, with numerous pipeline spills, explosions, derailments, landslides, and the death of 20 coal miners in the U.S. alone.

Despite all this, our addiction to fossil fuels will be a tough habit to break. The federal Energy Information Administration in July projected that fossil fuel use will soar across the world in the come decades. Coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon emissions — is projected to increase by 2.3 percent in coming years. And in December, the EIA said that global demand for oil would be even higher than it had projected, for both this year and next.

The Sinkhole That’s Eating Louisiana

“They goin’ down,” John Boudreaux recalls telling a colleague as he recorded the watery cataclysm unfolding before him with an iPhone camera. “They” were a grove of cypress trees; “down” was into a sinkhole in rural Louisiana that had steadily grown to a depth of several hundred feet of fetid water – and was in the throes of a violent growth spurt. Boudreaux’s video, posted on YouTube in late August, went viral in the way that recordings of disaster tend to, leading to alarmist headlines: e.g., “Mining Madness: 750-Foot-Deep Sinkhole Swallows Louisiana Town.”

BP Accuses Texas Lawyer of ‘Brazen Fraud’ in Workers’ Claims Over Gulf Oil Spill

BP on Tuesday accused a Texas lawyer of fraudulently driving up its settlement costs in the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill by claiming to represent tens of thousands of clients who turned out to be “phantoms.”

In a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in New Orleans, the oil giant, which has been fighting the administration of a settlement with plaintiffs in the courtroom and in the news media, claimed that it relied on the client count supplied by the lawyer, Mikal C. Watts, in 2010 when it put $2.3 billion into a special compensation program for the seafood industry. The company, citing “brazen fraud,” is asking the court to allow it to stop payments and reclaim some of the unspent money.

BP sues Texas lawyer over oil spill claims

BP PLC has sued Texas lawyer Mikal Watts, charging he fraudulently claimed to represent 40,000 deckhands who lost money because of the 2010 oil spill.

The lawsuit claims his filings inflated the estimate for a settlement fund to $2.3 billion.

Study: Dolphins Suffering From Lung Disease Due to Gulf Oil Spill

Dolphins in an area hard hit by the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill are suffering from lung diseases and other abnormalities that are “consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity,” according to a new federal-backed scientific study released Wednesday.

The peer-reviewed paper, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, makes the strongest connection to date between the spill and dolphin deaths, which spiked in the Gulf of Mexico after the spill.

BP makes ‘significant’ oil discovery in Gulf of Mexico

BP said it had made a significant deepwater oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Gila discovery is a further sign that momentum is returning to BP’s drilling operations and well execution in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Richard Morrison, Regional President of BP’s Gulf of Mexico business.

BP files fraud suit to cut oil spill seafood fund payout

BP Plc filed a fraud lawsuit in U.S. court on Tuesday to halt some of the $2.3 billion it set aside to compensate commercial fishermen for losses claimed after the British oil company’s 2010 offshore oil spill, the biggest in U.S. history.

The latest court action by BP seeking to reduce payments from the spill alleges that part of a group of fishermen hurt by the spill, clients of lawyer Mikal C. Watts, did not exist.

Jury “At a Standstill” in Ex-BP Engineer’s Trial

A deadlocked jury will return for a third day of deliberations in the case against a former BP engineer charged with deleting text messages to obstruct a probe of the company’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jurors deliberated for more than eight hours over two days before telling U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. late Tuesday that they were “at a standstill” and having trouble reaching a verdict in the case against 52-year-old Kurt Mix, of Katy, Texas.

Keystone XL pipeline prepares for start-up of southern section

About 3 million barrels of crude are being loaded into the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline as operators prepare to start operations next month, even as environmental critics continue to assail the safety of the project and lament legal setbacks that allowed the project to move forward.

TransCanada, the Alberta-based pipeline company, announced Tuesday that it would begin shipping oil on Jan. 22 on its Gulf Coast project, a 485-mile pipeline that forms the southern section of the XL from Cushing, Okla., to Texas.

Canada regulator to issue pipeline report Thursday

A panel reviewing a proposed pipeline to the Pacific Coast that would allow Canada’s oil to be shipped to Asia will on Thursday deliver its recommendation on whether Canadian government should approve the project.

Canada’s National Energy Board said Tuesday the environmental report by the three-person review panel will be released Thursday in Calgary, Alberta. The final decision on whether Enbridge’s controversial pipeline can go ahead, however, rests with Canada’s Conservative government.

Coming soon: The Keystone XL … bike path?

The proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline has caused investigations, it has inspired protests, and it has led to plenty of finger-pointing and angry accusations.

According to one architecture firm however, there is a way to make it all OK: Put a bike path on top of it.

Granted, SWA Group’s much-talked-about proposal to install a massive bike path along the route of the pipeline seems to be as much about exploring ideas and grabbing headlines (it has certainly done the latter) as it is a serious effort to get this thing built. Here’s how the company describes its thinking

Where the Oil Goes, What It Does, How It Moves (ie: Dangerously)

Rail traffic is set to restart Wednesday in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, five months after the derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude oil killed 47 people, spilled six million liters of oil and destroyed the downtown. The restart comes amidst ongoing, disturbing revelations: Investigators say more, more explosive, and mislabelled oil spilled than was originally thought,  clean-up crews say much of the oil is still not under control, and critics note that oil companies in both Canada and the U.S. are increasingly using rail to move their dangerous freight. North Dakota, one of the country’s biggest oil producers, expects to move up to 90% of its crude by rail this year; it currently produces almost a million barrels a day, more than the projected capacity of Keystone. An in-depth report on the Lac-Mégantic clean-up in The Toronto Star, meanwhile, tracks the ever-widening repercussions of the spill, a “toxic villain that, even now, is on the move.” Think Progress likewise documents the 45 fossil fuel disasters of the year you may or may not know about. Their sensible conclusion: This is insane.

Inside Japan’s battle to prove fish is safe after Fukushima nuclear disaster

Every morning, hundreds of pounds of fresh fish, hauled in from ports across eastern Japan, is rushed to this sleepy town hours away from the capital.

This fish isn’t destined for a fancy restaurant or a supermarket, and it won’t likely ever land on anyone’s dinner plate. Instead, the seafood samples will be checked for radiation — part of Japan’s fight to restore confidence in its food supply after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Fukushima residents to vacate last evacuation center by year-end

The occupants of the last evacuation center housing people displaced by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis will leave it by the end of this year, the mayor of an evacuated town in Fukushima Prefecture said Wednesday.

“We will step forward to rebuild their lives,” Shiro Izawa, mayor of Futaba, which hosts the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, told reporters after a town assembly meeting.

Evacuation-related deaths now more than quake/tsunami toll in Fukushima Prefecture

The number of deaths related to the prolonged evacuation of residents in Fukushima has already exceeded the total of those directly caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011 in the prefecture. As of November 30, there are already 1,605 deaths associated with the evacuation, two more than the 1,603 on record for the 2011 natural disasters.

TEPCO to decommission Fukushima reactors that survived 2011 tsunami

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will decommission the two reactors at the troubled site that escaped major physical damage from the 2011 tsunami.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said its management board decided permanently to shut down reactors 5 and 6 at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Children living near Fukushima nuclear plant hit by obesity

Children living near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant are the most obese in all of Japan, according to the ministry of education.

Ministry officials blame the increase in the number of overweight children on the fact that they no longer play outdoors as much as they did before the March 2011 disaster, and the impact on their lives of being evacuated to other parts of the prefecture.

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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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