Environmental Must-Reads – December 18, 2014


New York Bans Fracking

The administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the controversial drilling technique known as fracking will be banned in the state, citing concerns over risk of contamination to the state’s air and water.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. The announcement comes after years of debate over the practice, during which New York has had a defacto fracking ban in place, the New York Times reports.

Dryden lawsuit weighed on New York fracking ban

Dryden’s landmark court victory on hydraulic fracturing weighed heavy as New York officials announced Wednesday that the state won’t allow fracking.

In June New York’s highest court issued a decision in Norse Energy v. Town of Dryden. The court decided that local governments have the right to ban fracking.

N.Y. issues fracking ban after health department report

New York state officials announced on Wednesday a ban on fracking, the controversial method of mining for gas and oil, after releasing the results of a year-long study.

The 173-page report, issued by the state Department of Health, found that previous studies on the topic have raised too many questions about the possible effect fracking could have on New York’s groundwater, climate and air quality.

Drilling waste, diesel spilled at Conoco field on Alaska’s North Slope

Drilling mud, brine and diesel fuel spilled Monday onto a gravel pad and into a pit no longer used at the Kuparuk oil field operated by ConocoPhillips on Alaska’s North Slope, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The spill happened when a gasket on a steel pipe — what the industry calls a “hard line” — failed. Water-based drilling fluids were being sent through the pipe from a processing facility to a disposal well, according to ConocoPhillips.

Regulators Pan Study on Methane Gas in Wells

Texas regulators say they put little stock in recent research suggesting that poorly drilled gas wells are allowing methane to seep into a North Texas aquifer, and will not re-examine the high-profile contamination case.

“There are no plans to reopen the investigation,” Ramona Nye, spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, said Friday.

As pipelines proliferate, Pennsylvania sees next phase of gas boom

The surge in drilling has meant trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are being pumped out of Pennsylvania every year. And now billions of dollars are flooding into the state for new pipeline projects to move that gas to market.

It’s the next phase of the fracking boom: energy companies are building their own sort of interstate highway system—a network of pipelines.

Leaking city gas pipes pose climate hazard

Philadelphia has some of the leakiest natural gas distribution pipes in the nation.

This comes with an environmental cost, because natural gas is primarily made up of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Methane emissions are getting more attention from climate scientists, environmentalists and policy makers because they actually have a much more immediate impact on global warming than the greenhouse gas that gets the most ink, carbon dioxide.

Elected officials say 6-year delay on fracking decision not long enough

A temporary ban on the controversial gas extraction method hydrofracking has dragged on for years. Even as the governor says a long-awaited study is nearing completion, a large group of local officials want the ban to continue.

Elected Officials to Protect New York, made up of more than 850 local-level elected officials, says Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration still has not properly studied fracking enough.

U.S. to unveil plan to curb oil and gas sector methane soon: sources

The Obama administration as soon as Wednesday will announce its plans for curbing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, which the United States must do to meet its 2020 target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, people familiar with the issue said Tuesday.

The government reaffirmed that goal last week at U.N. climate talks in Lima.

Report Finds Local Votes on Fracking Resulted in Apparent Conflicts of Interest

A reform group studied votes taken by local governments across the state on whether to allow hydro fracking, and found numerous potential conflicts of interest that they say could have tainted the outcome of the votes.

The New York Public Interest Research Group studied 59 municipalities that have voted to permit hydro fracking in the past few years, if New York State eventually approves the process.  They found numerous questionable activities, including local elected officials holding gas leases and town attorneys who also represented oil and gas companies.

Obama bans drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, citing risk to salmon fishery

President Obama on Tuesday declared a large swath of southwest Alaska’s coast off-limits to oil and gas drilling, saying energy development in the region could endanger an environmentally sensitive waterway and imperil vital fisheries.

Obama announced the drilling ban for Alaska’s Bristol Bay in a video statement recorded in the Oval Office, calling the nearly pristine, 250-mile-long stretch of coastline “one of America’s greatest natural resources.”

Owners of Chemical Firm Charged in Elk River Spill in West Virginia

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted four owners and operators of the company whose toxic chemical spill tainted a West Virginia river in January, forcing a prolonged cutoff of drinking water to nearly 300,000 residents in and around Charleston.

Each was charged with three counts of violating the Clean Water Act, which bars discharges of pollutants without a permit. Their company, Freedom Industries, and its owners and managers did not meet a reasonable standard of care to prevent spills, the indictment stated.

Alabama recovery council to reveal selection process for oil spill restoration projects at meeting Tuesday

The Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council is expected to release a draft outline of the process it will use to select projects as a part of its multi-year implementation plan.

The body of local officials from Mobile and Baldwin counties, charged with steering millions of dollars to restoration causes, will hold a public meeting Wednesday at Five Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.

State Designing Bypass Around Louisiana’s Bayou Corne Sinkhole

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

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

Oil spill in Israel’s Evrona Nature Reserve is disastrous news for a precious resource

Crews swaddled in white biohazard suits have been dunking nozzles into streams of oil, racing to soak up the ooze seeping into the desert valley floor here, two weeks after a major spill threatened one of Israel’s most precious habitats.

Officials are calling it the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history — a literal blot on a landscape that harbors some of the hardiest known plants and animals, which live in an impossibly difficult environment.

Ship Collision Results in Argentina Oil Spill

A collision between a tanker and a bulker has resulted in an oil spill in the Parana River, Argentina.

The Italian-flagged products carrier Ghetty Bottiglieri and the 2011-built, Hong Kong-flagged Octbreeze Island were involved in a pretty significant smash on Saturday near San Pedro during a storm.

Lessons learned from former pipeline projects in Southern Virginia

Pipeline projects in Southern Virginia from a decade ago are getting the same reaction as the pipeline projects on our area are getting today.

One was never built in Henry County.

Ellen Fulcher was against another in Patrick County from the beginning.

Keystone XL oil pipeline up first in GOP Senate

Incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the first order of business in the next Congress will be to approve a controversial oil pipeline.

“We’ll be starting next year with a job-creating bill that enjoys significant bipartisan support,” McConnell told reporters, “First item up in the new Senate will be the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Oil surplus dulls appeal of Keystone pipeline

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 flash point 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 reports spill at Regina pumping station

Enbridge Inc. says there has been a spill of an estimated 1,350 barrels of oil from its Line 4 pipeline at the Regina Terminal in Saskatchewan.

Enbridge says the pipeline and pumping station were safely shut down after the spill, which occurred Tuesday night.

Dane County residents concerned about proposed Enbridge oil pipeline expansion

A Dane County committee will hear a proposal next month on whether to allow a tar sands pipeline to triple its capacity — exceeding the size of the controversial Keystone pipeline.

The pipeline in question, owned by Enbridge, is called line 61. It cuts through the northeast corner of Dane County near Waterloo and currently has a capacity to move 400,000 barrels of tar sand oil a day.

Shell contractor fined for environmental and maritime offences during 2012 Arctic drilling campaign

Noble Drilling has been charged with environmental and maritime crimes for operating the drill ship Noble Discoverer and the drilling unit Kulluk in violation of federal law in Alaska in 2012, the US Department of Justice announced on December 8. Noble was contracted by Shell to operate the vessels as part of the oil major’s 2012 Arctic drilling campaign.

Chevron Cancels Canadian Arctic Drilling As Oil Prices Slide

Chevron Corp is putting a plan to drill for oil in the Beaufort Sea in Canada’s Arctic on hold indefinitely because of what it called “economic uncertainty in the industry” as oil prices fall.

In a letter to Canada’s National Energy Board on Wednesday, the company withdrew from a hearing on Arctic drilling rules because it has walked away from plans to drill in the EL 481 block, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.

Oil giants ‘not equipped’ for Arctic spills

Greenpeace have suggested that oil giants like Shell are not prepared for dealing with spills in the Arctic.

Ben Ayliffe, Head of Campaigns for Greenpeace Arctic Programme, made the claim at an Environmental Audit Committee hearing discussing protecting the polar region. Mr Ayliffe told the committee he felt there was a large gap between policy and technical capability when dealing with spills.

Denmark Eyes North Pole, but How Much Oil and Gas Await?

Just days before Christmas, Denmark has laid claim to an energy-rich but difficult-to-develop part of the world that’s a fount of holiday lore: the North Pole.

The Arctic’s fate will take years to decide, but it’s attracted increasing interest. Russia plans next year to renew its claim to a huge swath of this bitterly cold area as a way to secure the rights to billions of tons of oil and natural gas.

Scientists create ‘virtual Arctic’ to monitor impact of humans on frozen environment

A hi-tech virtual Arctic is being created by Siberian scientists to predict climate change and monitor the impact of mining and oil production on the roof of the world.

The frozen northern region is thought to be rich with natural resources, particularly oil and gas, and a number of countries including Russia plan exploiting untapped reserves.

However, environmentalists have expressed concerns about the possible knock-on effect of industrialisation and pollution.

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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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