Environmental Must-Reads – December 19, 2013


Fracking report changed to include ‘more negative effects’ following lobbying from green groups

A government-commissioned study into the effects of fracking was revised to increase estimates of the negative impacts on the environment, in response to lobbying from green campaigners.

Green groups were invited to influence the scope of the report at the request of Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, while no shale gas industry companies or groups were consulted.

Norse Energy Trustee Sues New York State to End Fracking Delays

Norse Energy USA, an oil-and-gas company, has sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo and two of his top commissioners, arguing that New York State’s ongoing review of hydraulic fracturing violates laws that guide the process.

The energy company, through its bankruptcy trustee, filed the lawsuit in Albany late Tuesday with papers being served on the state today, the company’s lawyer, The West Firm, PLLC stated in a release.

New Study Shows How Gas Production From “Fracked” Wells Slows Over Time

America’s oil and gas boom was brought on by hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking” and horizontal drilling. These methods of drilling, developed in Texas, unleashed historic amounts of fossil fuels in previously inaccessible shale formations across the country.

But recent research from the University of Texas suggests that many wells using these techniques will see a sharp drop in production after some years of use.

Endocrine-disrupting activity linked to birth defects, infertility near fracking sites

A controversial oil and natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses many chemicals that can disrupt the body’s hormones, according to new research accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are substances that can interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system. EDCs can be found in manufactured products as well as certain foods, air, water and soil. Research has linked EDC exposure to infertility, cancer and birth defects.

Democrats want hearing on whether earthquakes are linked to fracking

Two House Democrats called Wednesday for a hearing on whether earthquakes in Oklahoma and other states are being caused by activities related to hydraulic fracturing.

Reps. Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, and Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the two panels should hold a joint hearing to study the increase of seismic activity in areas that had previously been inactive and “the potential regulatory gaps in current law that put people and property at risk from man-made earthquakes.”

Community benefits no ‘game-changer’ for fracking, says IGas boss

Payments of almost £1bn to people living near shale gas wells will not be sufficient to win public backing for fracking on their own, according to the boss of one of the UK’s nascent shale gas companies.

Andrew Austin, the chief executive officer of IGas, whose Salford oil drilling site has been subject to several weeks of action by anti-fracking protesters, told the Guardian that the community benefits in themselves would not be a “game-changer” for swinging public support for the controversial technology.

Nothing to warn about? UK may legalize fracking under homes without prior warning

Hydraulic fracturing may soon take place under thousands of homes across the United Kingdom without their owners’ knowledge. Based on a proposed law change the burden of notifying homeowners will be lifted from energy companies, the Guardian reports.

Planning Minister Nick Boles said a change in UK law will allow gas companies to put in drilling applications without notifying those in the area whose property could be affected, the Guardian reported. Companies will instead have to post notices in local newspapers and erect site displays in local parishes.

BP oil spill engineer obstructed justice by deleting text messages

An engineer charged with obstructing justice in connection with the 2010 BP well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico has been found guilty of obstructing justice by deleting text messages from his mobile phone.

Kurt Mix, a 52-year-old former BP employee, had faced two counts of obstruction for deleting hundreds of messages he exchanged with his supervisor and a contractor in the weeks after the spill.

More massive tar mats from BP oil spill discovered on Louisiana beaches

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster was just a month old and BP’s crude oil was still gushing from the Gulf floor when state officials began to grasp the true scope of the insult to Louisiana’s coast: Beaches, estuaries and wetlands would be under assault for decades.

“I’ve been told by the ocean experts this stuff could hang out there on the bottom of the Gulf for more than 100 years. And as long as it’s out there, it can come ashore,” said Robert Barham, Secretary of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, in 2010.

“We might not see big black waves, but we may be seeing a smaller, but serious problem, for years and years to come.”

BP reports first major Gulf of Mexico discovery since oil spill

BP PLC said Wednesday (Dec. 18) that it has hit oil at a key exploration well in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, its first major oil discovery since the 2010 oil spill and a capstone on what it called its “most successful year for new field exploration” in this decade.

The discovery, known as Gila, is located in the Keathley Canyon field of the Gulf about 300 miles southwest of New Orleans. The well, which BP co-owns with ConocoPhillips, is the company’s third oil find in the last seven years targeting a Paleogene-era layer of sand more than 25,000 feet under the ocean floor.

Scientists find evidence that BP oil spill killed dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico

US government scientists have for the first time connected the BP oil disaster to dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, in a study finding direct evidence of toxic exposure.

The study, led by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found lung disease, hormonal abnormalities and other health effects among dolphins in an area heavily oiled during the BP spill.

Harold Hamm Says U.S. Oil Industry No Longer Needs Keystone XL Pipeline

Harold Hamm, CEO of major Oklahoma-based petroleum producer Continental Resources, used to be against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Then he was for it.

Now he says the pipeline isn’t really needed anymore. At least, he’s not counting on it, as northeast Texas public radio station KETR’s Mark Haslett reports

U.S. Senate Candidate Slams Keystone Pipeline

The soon to be vacated seat of Montana U.S. Senator, Max Baucus, is becoming hotly contested. Democratic candidate, Dirk Adams spoke at a press conference at the Crowne Plaza overlooking the Phillips 66 oil refinery. Adams outlined his reasons for opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Adams has been somewhat of a dark horse in the U.S. Senate race. During Wednesday’s press conference, he specifically called out TransCanada, the builders of the pipeline, as well as oil companies.

Enbridge Oil Pipeline’s Environmental Report Set To Be Released

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.

Auction OK’d for railroad in Quebec derailment

As the first trains rolled into a Quebec town devastated by a derailment and fire that killed 47 people, a federal bankruptcy judge approved bidding procedures Wednesday for the auction of the Maine-based railroad that owned the train.

The action in a courtroom in Bangor came on the same day the first Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railways trains rolled into Lac Megantic, Quebec, since the July 6 disaster.

Officials say rise of oil trains is fueling concerns about preparedness in small towns, cities

It’s tough to miss the trains hauling crude oil out of the Northern Plains. They are growing more frequent by the day, mile-long processions of black tank cars that rumble through wheat fields and towns, along rivers and national parks.

As common as they have become across the U.S. and Canada, officials in dozens of towns and cities where the oil trains travel say they are concerned with the possibility of a major derailment, spill or explosion, while their level of preparation varies widely.

Greenpeace vows incarceration will not stop Arctic oil campaign

Greenpeace will step up its campaign to confront oil companies working in the Arctic, but has not decided whether to attempt to board Russian oil platforms, again, its UK director said .

Speaking after it was announced that an amnesty approved by the Russian parliament would cover the Arctic 30 protesters, John Sauven said that the arrests had backfired spectacularly on the Russian authorities by creating an “iconic” campaign that had gained global attention.

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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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