Environmental Must-Reads – December 29, 2014


In North Dakota, a Tale of Oil, Corruption and Death

Tex G. Hall, the three-term tribal chairman on this remote, once impoverished reservation, was the very picture of confidence as he strode to the lectern at his third Annual Bakken Oil and Gas Expo and gazed out over a stuffed, backlit mountain lion.

Tall and imposing beneath his black cowboy hat, he faced an audience of political and industry leaders lured from far and wide to the “Texpo,” as some here called it. It was late April at the 4 Bears Casino, and the outsiders endorsed his strong advocacy for oil development and the way he framed it as mutually beneficial for the industry and the reservation: “sovereignty by the barrel.”

U.S. Forest Service set to allow oil, gas drilling in — not on — Pawnee National Grassland in Weld County

The U.S. Forest Service’s recent “no surface occupancy” stipulation for developing oil and gas leases on more than 100,000 acres within Pawnee National Grassland is receiving a lukewarm reception from energy industry officials and environmental groups, especially as a policy precedent for drilling other federal lands.

This requirement “will work for the majority of leases in the grasslands” because most of the Pawnee Grassland is accessible by horizontal drilling from adjacent private lands, said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for Western Energy Alliance, which supports the oil and gas industry.

Rural gas gathering pipelines kindle concerns about safety laws

An estimated 230,000 miles of natural gas pipelines across the United States — some of them among the largest and highest-pressure pipes in use — are not covered by state and federal pipeline safety laws, a Tribune-Review investigation found.

Known as gathering lines, they usually take natural gas from rural well pads to processing plants, where other byproducts such as butane are removed and the rotten egg smell that warns you of a gas leak is added.

Moab’s red rock country is under pressure from fracking

A different kind of spire is jutting into the iconic red rock vistas of Moab.

It is the scaffolding of drilling rigs, and it heralds a new chapter in Moab’s long history of energy extraction. Moab may have been comfortable with the uranium industry that put it on the map in another century. But having an oil patch in the midst of this area’s popular national parks and renowned recreational backcountry is jarring to some residents.

NC set to lift fracking moratorium, but prospects for drilling remain iffy

After four years of heated debate, North Carolina stands on the cusp of lifting its fracking moratorium and opening the state’s woodlands and meadows to shale gas exploration.

The state legislature, which convenes next month, is expected to let energy developers start pulling drilling permits as early as April, and no later than autumn.

BP appeals judge refuses to remove claims administrator

BP PLC is asking the federal appeals court in New Orleans to kick out the administrator of damage settlement claims from its 2010 oil spill.

A 75-page brief submitted last week to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals contends, among other things, that Patrick Juneau had secretly drafted court papers filed against BP before he was appointed claims administrator. It asks the court to overturn U.S. District Judge Patrick Barbier’s November decision rejecting the oil giant’s arguments.

A frightening tool to fight oil spills?

A rash of recent oil spills around the globe — Bangladesh, Israel, Peru and New Zealand — serve as reminders of the damage such spills can cause and of the important role responders can play in limiting such damage.

Spill responders have several tools at their disposal, including chemical dispersants. However, the legacy of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico includes a public backlash against dispersants that stands to exacerbate environmental damage from future spills.

Government approves plan for public to pay oil spill cleanup bill

Environmental Protection Ministry plan earmarks NIS 17 million and additional manpower to rehabilitate the Evrona Nature Reserve, where 5 million liters of crude oil spilled; while the oil pipeline company will pay immediate expenses, the public will foot many other costs.

Study: Sundarbans food chain broken by oil spill

The presence of primary food producers like phytoplankton and zooplankton had decreased sharply in the contaminated water

The food chain of aquatic species living in the world’s single largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, has been severely disrupted by the Sela River oil spill, a study report says.

Will Lebanon make Israel abide by UN resolution on ‘oil spill?’

For the ninth time in a row, the United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution asking Israel to pay Lebanon $856.4 million in compensation for oil spill damages inflicted on the Lebanese coast as a result of Israel’s deliberate bombardment of fuel tanks adjacent to the Jiyeh electrical power plant on the third day of the July 2006 aggression. The attack led to the spillage of 15,000 cubic meters of fuel into the sea, affecting almost 150 kilometers of the Lebanese coast extending to the Syrian coastline.

How Canadian Oilmen Pinkwash the Keystone Pipeline

What do you get when you cross an oil company with gay rights?

Mostly, an epic fail. But also a peek inside a vast (or not so vast) right-wing conspiracy seeking to develop the Canadian tar sands and build the Keystone pipeline.

Case in point: opechatesgays.com, a website and social media presence to remind us that OPEC countries treat gays badly, but Canada treats them well. Therefore, we should—you guessed it—develop the Canadian tar sands and build the Keystone pipeline. For the gays’ sake.

Sounds ‘like explosions’ from overnight oil trains stress Linden neighborhoods

Terezia Plutova’s house shook so much one night that her bathroom window shattered.

Sharon Scaldino says the noises that wake her up in the middle of the night sound like explosions.

Ann Marie Vasquez has kept a chart, marking the nights when the rumbling booms of trains coupling and uncoupling behind her house have woken her up.

Race to Build on River Could Block Pacific Oil Route

Environmental passions, which run hot in the Northwest over everything from salmon to recycling, generally get couched in the negative: Don’t fish too much, don’t put those chemicals up the smokestack, don’t build in that sensitive area.

But here in southern Washington, some environmental groups are quietly pushing a builder to move even faster with a $1.3 billion real estate project along the Columbia River that includes office buildings, shops and towers with 3,300 apartments.

The reason is oil.

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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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