Environmental Must-Reads – December 2, 2013


Will Massachusetts become the second state to ban fracking?

Legislation that would impose a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is making its way through the Massachusetts state legislature. On Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture passed the bill, which would also prohibit the dumping of fracking wastewater in the state.

Barge Shipments of Fracking Waste Water Opposed

Dozens of comments have been submitted urging the U.S. Coast Guard not to go forward with a proposed policy letter that would allow barge owners to receive a Certificate of Inspection endorsement and transport shale gas extraction waste water by barge from northern Appalachia via inland waterways to storage or reprocessing centers and final disposal sites in Ohio, Texas, and Louisiana. The Coast Guard proposed the letter Oct. 30 and asked for comments by Nov. 29; more than 200 were submitted, almost all of them asking that barge shipments not be allowed.

Potentially landmark Ohio gas drilling case pits local sovereignty against state regulations

A closely watched lawsuit in Ohio is asking a question that’s burning in cities and towns throughout shale country: Can regulations in states eager for the jobs and tax revenues that come with gas and oil drilling trump local restrictions that communities say protect them from haphazard development?

The case was brought by Munroe Falls, an Akron suburb of 5,000. It involves a well that Beck Energy Corp. began to drill — with the state’s permission — on private property in the city in 2011. In the process, the company sidestepped 11 local laws on road use, permitting and drilling, the city contends.

Earthquakes shake Texas town on Thanksgiving, and fracking might be to blame

Residents of a rural northern Texas area were awoken early on Thanksgiving by not one but two earthquakes. Such quakes have become alarmingly normal during the past month, and fracking practices could be to blame.

The Extraction Backlash — How Fossil Fuel Companies Are Aiding Their Own Demise

In the early 1920s, the Long-Bell Lumber Company planned the city that would become Longview, Wash., plotting individual streets on a map that gave life to the community before the first house was raised. Long-Bell built the town for families of employees at two nearby sawmills, and the timber industry is still a major employer for the community of 36,000.

Longview, which sits on the bank of the Columbia River, retains some of its original industrial feel. It might not be the first place you’d look for a thriving center of climate activism, but that’s just what it has become in recent years.

Can frack water trespass? Texas Supreme Court takes up disposal wells

Every day throughout Texas, drilling companies inject thousands of gallons of frack water and produced water into deep injection wells up to a mile below ground.

But what happens if that water seeps into a neighbor’s property? Should that be considered subsurface trespassing?

Study: Fracking toxins linked to heart defects

Last year I blogged about a new study: the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that exposure to “air pollutants–in some cases for a single day–increases the chance” of heart attack.

A newly released study focused on industrial pollutants found that congenital heart defects are strongly associated with mixtures of toxic air pollutants. The list of toxins are the same toxins people are being exposed to in shale oil and gas areas.

Sedalia explosion: Gas pipeline ruptures in Missouri

A 30-inch natural gas pipeline has ruptured in a rural area in western Missouri causing an explosion and fire that could be seen for several miles. No injuries were reported, authorities said Friday.

The Pettis County Sheriff’s Department said the pipeline, owned by Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co., ruptured shortly before midnight Thursday outside Hughesville, about 75 miles east of Kansas City. The rupture and explosion set fire to several hog barns, farm outbuildings, equipment and hay bales, Pettis County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Egbert said.

Snowy Standoff in New Brunswick as Anti-Fracking Protesters Fight for ‘Next Seven Generations’

A snowy standoff took place in New Brunswick between Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and anti-fracking protesters on Sunday as Elsipogtog community members and their allies continue the fight to protect their land from shale gas exploration.

Twitter users captured a lineup of “protectors” facing police along Highway 11 where energy company SWN Resources has trucks conducting seismic testing for shale gas.

Defendants in BP oil spill say Justice Department scapegoating them

Kurt Mix did not cause the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. He cannot be blamed for the explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon, the corporate recklessness that created it, or the 11 lives lost and 4.2 million barrels of oil poured into the sea.

But on Monday morning, he will become the first man tried in connection with the worst environmental disaster in American history.

Jury to hear case against ex-BP engineer who deleted texts, voicemails after Gulf oil spill

Nearly a year after energy giant BP cut a deal to a resolve a criminal investigation of its role in the nation’s worst offshore oil spill, a jury is set to hear the Justice Department’s case against a former company employee accused of trying to stymie the federal investigation.

Ex-BP Engineer Begins First Criminal Trial From Oil Spill

A former BP Plc (BP/) engineer accused of destroying evidence sought by the U.S. for a probe of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill is set to begin trial in the first criminal case arising from the disaster to go before a jury.

U.S. prosecutors charged Kurt Mix with two counts of obstruction of justice last year, alleging he deleted from his mobile phone text messages and voice mails related to the company’s effort to estimate the size of the spill. Mix has pleaded not guilty. His trial in federal court in New Orleans is scheduled to start today with jury selection.

BP expects surge in Deepwater payments

BP is expecting a surge in compensation payments over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, after a slowdown that has lasted almost two months.

The company revealed in a court filing just before the Thanksgiving holiday last week that it had been told payments for businesses’ economic losses, which had been held up since an appeal court ruling at the beginning of October, were about to restart.

Arkansas Oil Spill Lawsuits And Alleged Safety Violations Pile Up After Pipeline Rupture

Lawsuits and alleged safety violations are mounting against Exxon Mobil Corp. following the rupture eight months ago of a pipeline that spilled thousands of barrels of oil in central Arkansas.

Since Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured March 29 and spilled the oil in the Mayflower community about 30 miles northwest of Little Rock, there have been at least 17 lawsuits against Exxon or its subsidiaries in state or federal courts.

Nigeria: Oil Spill From Agip’s Brass Terminal Pollutes Atlantic Ocean

An oil spill from the Brass Oil Export Terminal, operated by the Agip off Bayelsa Coastline, has discharged a yet to be ascertained volume of crude into the Atlantic ocean.

Mr Henshaw Oguwike, Chief Information Officer at National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), confirmed the development to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday.

Apache Canada’s Zama City Spill Leaks Waste Water; Second Reported

Alberta’s energy regulator is investigating another pipeline leak of waste water.

Apache Canada Ltd. reported one of its operator’s discovered the leak on Oct. 25 at its Shekilie field northwest of Zama City and the line was immediately shut in.

Obama OKs pipeline that will help Canada’s tar-sands industry

The week before Thanksgiving, the Obama administration quietly approved a pipeline project that will cross the U.S.-Canada border and benefit the tar-sands industry. But not that pipeline.

This 1,900-mile pipeline will carry condensate, or ultra-light oil, from an Illinois terminal northwest to Alberta, where it will be used to thin tar-sands oil so it can travel through pipelines. Without this kind of diluent, tar-sands oil is too thick and sludgy to transport. “Increased demand for diluent among Alberta’s tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers,” reports DeSmogBlog.

Billionaire to raise pressure on Keystone

Billionaire Tom Steyer plans to renew his fight against Keystone XL in Washington on Monday.

NextGen Climate Action, founded by Steyer, will host a summit where participants will argue the Keystone XL pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. cannot pass President Obama’s climate test.

How a flawed pipeline on wheels brought disaster to Lac-Mégantic

Long before disaster struck, the 5,900 residents of Lac-Mégantic had grown accustomed to the sight of large oil tankers rolling through their small, tightly knit community in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

A shortage of oil pipelines in North America had created a new kind of railway industry traversing the continent. In just a few years, tankers carrying crude oil from the resource-rich West had grown from a mere 8,000 in 2009 to nearly 400,000, and Lac-Mégantic is located along one of the main routes to refineries in the East.

150 gallons of fuel, oil removed from grounded vessel

Coast Guard crews oversaw the removal of 150 gallons of fuel and engine oil from the fishing vessel Little D on the south tip of Jekyll Island, Ga., Sunday, effectively mitigating the potential for pollution.

The fishing vessel Little D lost engine power and ran aground early Saturday morning on the south tip of Jekyll Island.

Oil Refinery Terminal Would Open Up California To North Dakota Crude Trains

For years, California has gotten much of its crude oil via pipeline from its own oil patches, or via tankers from Alaska or abroad. But with local sources in decline and an abundant supply of crude coming out of Texas, Colorado and North Dakota, this may all soon change.

Phillips 66 (formerly ConocoPhillips), which operates refineries across California, recently submitted a draft Environmental Impact Statement for a rail terminal to be built at its Santa Maria Refinery in San Luis Obispo County.

The Real Impact of Environmental Disasters {an Infographic}

It’s no secret that the biggest environmental disasters stem from our insatiable need for progress. Whether it’s an oil spill, a nuclear rmeltdown or damage from the ill-fated Keystone XL pipeline, it’s always bad news. The negative impacts are felt immediately, by animals and people; and later, as we see now with starfish deaths and radiation fall out across the world after Fukushima.

Enbridge to keep seeking public approval for Northern Gateway pipeline

Enbridge Inc. will keep trying to win public approval for its Northern Gateway oil pipeline to the Pacific coast from Alberta even with the clock winding down to a crucial regulatory decision for the contentious project in the coming weeks, its chief executive officer said on Friday.

Calgary-based Enbridge has sought for years to convince British Columbians, including numerous First Nations communities along the proposed route, that the $6.5-billion project will be as safe as today’s technology allows, and CEO Al Monaco conceded it has not been completely successful.

Environment group sues China oil giant for nearly $10m

A Chinese government-backed environmental group said Friday it has launched legal action against state-owned oil giant PetroChina for almost $10 million over pollution.

The All China Environment Federation said on its website it had submitted a lawsuit accusing PetroChina of “illegal emissions of pollutants”.

Fukushima Power Plant 2 years Later: Typhoons Contribute To The Spread Of Radioactive Material

The typhoons that hit Japan each year are spreading radioactive material from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station into the country’s waterways, according to a new study.

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the power plant was the site of one of the worst   disasters since Chernobyl. France’s Climate and Environmental Science laboratory (LSCE) and Tsukuba University in Japan showed that contaminated soil gets washed away by high winds and rain and subsequently gets into streams and rivers.

Fukushima fallout being spread by typhoons

Typhoons that hit Japan each year are helping spread radioactive material from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the country’s waterways, researchers say.

A joint study by France’s Climate and Environmental Science laboratory (LSCE) and Tsukuba University in Japan found contaminated soil is being washed away by the high winds and rain and deposited in streams and rivers.

Operator of Japan’s Fukushima plant wins rare praise, hurdles remain

The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant won rare praise from monitors on Monday for its efforts to decommission the site, but the specialists also said the company still faced steep challenges, particularly in managing contaminated water.

A huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 triggered three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, and exposed a lack of preparation by Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco.

TEPCO Downplays Huge Risks Involved in Removing Fukushima Fuel Rods

Arnie Gunderson: Agencies overseeing cleanup like the IAEA are biased towards defending and promoting nuclear power.

Coal-fired power plants to be built in Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced its intention to build two advanced coal-fired power plants in Fukushima. Company officials claim that the new power plants will help the region recover after the nuclear disaster.

Cell Phone Radiation Exposure Increases When Using Wired Hands-Free Headsets

A new study published in Clinical Neurophysiology suggests it doesn’t take years or even months of exposure for cell phone radiation to negatively alter our brains—it only takes minutes.

Marin Voice: Talking about cellphone radiation

EVERYWHERE you look, from schoolyards to the halls of government, people are glued to their cellphones. An estimated 4.6 billion people worldwide use cellphones – 300 million of them in the U.S.

The average American spends more than 14 hours a month on a cellphone, far more than the residents of any other nation. With the emergence of smart phones and apps for everything from making dinner reservations to locating public restrooms, many people can’t imagine modern life without them.

Govt Urged to Fund Research Into Health Impacts of Wifi

The latest research out of Sweden on the use of cellphones has found that people who use a wireless phone for more than a year are 70 per cent more likely to get brain cancer than those who used the devices for less than a year.

The research, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal International Journal of Oncology, is the third paper in a series on the use of wireless phones, including cellphones and cordless phones, and the risk of malignant and non-malignant brain tumours, carried out by Dr Lennart Hardell and his colleagues.

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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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