Environmental Must-Reads – December 20, 2012


Battle expected over disclosure of ‘fracking’ chemicals

Under pressure from state lawmakers and environmentalists, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration released draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the controversial drilling process driving the nation’s oil and gas boom.

Fracking fight fraught with uncertainty

With a moratorium and calls for a voter-backed ban on new oil and gas development, Fort Collins is wading into a chaotic regulatory landscape.

Former Colorado governor advises state’s fracking commission

North Carolina’s fracking commissioners picked up some pointers on public safety and public relations from a former governor of Colorado who five years ago oversaw that state’s overhaul of its fracking rules.

Fracking regulations in Calif. still up to a year away

Proposed regulations announced Tuesday to monitor hydraulic fracturing in California may still be a year or more from implementation.

Under pressure from environmental groups and legislators in recent months, the Brown Administration has issued proposed guidelines to oversee fracking by oil companies.

California to Require Disclosure 10 Days Before Fracking

California regulators will require oil and natural gas companies to disclose plans to use hydraulic fracturing 10 days in advance, under draft regulations released today.

If the regulations are adopted, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources will post well locations three days before fracturing begins, according to a statement posted on the agency’s website today. The state doesn’t currently require companies to reveal fracking plans.

Prehistoric Flowback Adds Fresh Trouble To Fracking Woes

A group of researchers from Penn State University has uncovered a new issue for fracking, the natural gas drilling method that involves pumping a pressurized mix of water, chemicals, and other substances thousands of feet underground. Until now, one major focus of concern has been fracking water contamination from chemicals in the original fluid. The new twist, according to the research team, is that the spent fluid comes back laden with a brine containing elements that have been locked beneath the earth for hundreds of millions of years dating back to the Paleozoic era. With elements like barium and radium in the mix, the end result could be costly new regulations for the transportation and disposal of fracking brine, and new headaches for the fracking industry.

Gas well flowback matches Paleo brines

Brine water that flows back from gas wells in the Marcellus Shale region after fracking is many times saltier than seawater, with high contents of various elements, including radium and barium.

Fracking Wastewater Injection Wells Linked to Earthquakes

Scientists presented evidence tying the disposal of wastewater from shale gas hydrofracking to an increased occurrence of earthquakes.

The scientists presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting. Some US states, like Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado have experienced a significant rise in seismic activity in the last few years, coinciding with a recent boom in fracking, a process that forces gas from harder to reach underground deposits by injecting water and chemicals into shale rock.

Local Government Takes Steps to Ban Use of Fracking Waste

On December 10, the Westchester County Board of Legislators unanimously approved legislation that bans the sale, application and disposal in the county of waste from natural gas drilling operations. Penalties for violations, which are unclassified misdemeanors, will include fines upwards to $25,000 and/or imprisonment up to 30 days.

Alberta to post hydraulic fracturing information on FracFocus.ca

Public disclosure of what chemicals have been used in hydraulic fracturing of wells in Alberta will soon be available on a public website.

The regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board, announced Wednesday it has decided to follow British Columbia’s lead and will post reports required under Directive 59 on the fracfocus.ca website.

Group Sues Obama Administration Over Offshore Oil And Gas Leasing Program

A lawsuit has been filed against the Obama administration over the economic claims that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) made in their 5-year plan to open up new areas around the United States to offshore oil and gas leasing.  The suit, filed by the Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), says that the administration not only grossly exaggerated the economic benefits of increased energy exploration, but also that they failed to take all costs into account.

Gulf Oil Sheen Near BP’s Deepwater Horizon Rig Remains A Mystery

The source of an oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico near BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig wreckage remains a mystery after a study by the company and the Coast Guard was inconclusive.

Officials stated on Tuesday that the sheen is persistent and located near the Deepwater Horizon rig, but that inspections by both sides have confirmed the company’s Macondo well isn’t leaking, reports The Huffington Post.

Mystery leak from gulf oil rig wreckage

The U.S. Coast says an “unidentified substance inconsistent with oil” is leaking from some areas of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig wreckage in the Gulf of Mexico.

Source of persistent Gulf sheen remains a mystery

Underwater inspections at the site of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig disaster have failed to identify the source of a persistent sheen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, officials said Tuesday.

Gulf Shores gearing up for BP grants as 2012 oil cleanup tops 1.7 million pounds

More than 1.7 million pounds of oil material have been collected along the north Gulf Coast this year, with 21 percent of that found on Alabama beaches.

LSU AgCenter researchers testing oil cleanup chemical toxicity

LSU AgCenter scientists are working with researchers at Columbia University and Iowa State University on an environmentally friendly substance that could be used to clean up oil spills.

Transocean seeks dismissal of spill-related punitive damage claims

Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig destroyed in the deadly blowout that led to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has asked a judge to dismiss certain private and government claims arising from the disaster.

Brazil’s Rio State Plans to Fine Chevron for Oil Spill –Official

Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state will seek damages from U.S. oil company Chevron Corp. ( CVX ) in addition to the $149 million the company has offered to settle two civil lawsuits brought by federal prosecutors, the state’s environment secretary said Wednesday at a press conference.

Top 20 Major Oil Spills Since 1967

Maritime accidents have chronicled the existence of shipping operations throughout ages alongside the innumerable successes of the domain. Though technological advancements in the construction of vessels have made ships safer, several other factors have resulted in crippling negative effects on the marine environment and ecosystem.

Michael Bishop Faces TransCanada In Texas Keystone Pipeline Challenge

A Texas landowner and TransCanada Corp. are taking their argument over whether tar sands are crude oil before a judge.

Nacogdoches County Court-at-Law Judge Jack Sinz will hear arguments Wednesday. Landowner Michael Bishop wants all pipeline work on his 20-acre property to stop until the judge rules on whether the product TransCanada plans to carry through it is crude oil.

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline faces a wide ranging sea of opposition

The State Department has indicated that it will soon release a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. My colleague Anthony Swift blogged last week about the key pieces that this environmental review should contain – including proper consideration of the climate impacts of developing the tar sands, the pipeline company’s poor environmental record, and the fact that the pipeline will be detrimental to communities and to U.S. energy security. Over the last two and half years, opposition to the pipeline has stemmed from a variety of issues and concerns, but environmental and climate impacts are a major worry.

Keystone blockaders outmaneuvered but not defeated

Following news that TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline construction crew had outflanked the tree-sit blockaders, protesters say they’re more resolved to fight on – and not just in the trees.

Louisiana Levies More Fines Against Texas Brine over Sinkhole

The Louisiana Office of Conservation has levied an additional $160,000 fine against Texas Brine Co. LLC. over a massive sinkhole.

Council opposes cavern expansion   

The Iberia Parish Council voted unanimously Wednesday to oppose any further expansion of the salt dome gas storage caverns under Lake Peigneur.

Parish council Chairman Bernard Broussard said concern has grown about plans to expand salt cavern storage capacity at the lake ever since a sinkhole formed in Ascension Parish that authorities have linked to a salt cavern storage facility.

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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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