Environmental Must-Reads – December 23, 2014


Fracking Fumes: Where There’s a Well, All is Not Well

Emissions from oil-and-gas production pose a significant threat to human health, and immediate steps must be taken to reduce exposure to the toxic pollution, according to an analysis of scientific studies by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

After reviewing the findings of 24 studies conducted by both government agencies and academic organizations, the evidence shows that people living both close to and far from oil-and-gas drilling are exposed to fracking-related air pollution that can cause at least five major types of health problems, according to the NRDC’s report, Fracking Fumes.

Natural Gas Glut Isn’t Deterring Southwestern Energy

Across the giant Fayetteville shale gas field here, country roads that were clogged by truck traffic just a few years ago are empty again. Once aglow at night from the bright lights twinkling on drilling rigs, the roads are now dark under the starry Arkansas sky.

Virtually all of the few remaining rig and frack crews belong to one survivor: Southwestern Energy, a stubborn believer in the future profitability of natural gas.

Evacuated families in Monroe County await answers on fracking-well gas leak

This hollow used to be peaceful.

Not long ago, Randy Heater and his daughters would roam the Monroe County hills to hunt, setting up deer stands on quiet fall days when the air was still.

On Dec. 13, that stillness shattered.

Crews lost control of a fracked well on a hilltop near Heater’s house. Natural gas surged into the air.

NY farmers lament lost opportunity for gas riches

While environmental groups are doing a victory dance over New York’s decision to ban fracking, farmers such as apple grower David Johnson are grieving for dashed hopes and dreams.

“I’m devastated,” Johnson said after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health and environmental commissioners announced Wednesday that they were recommending a fracking ban. “I have concerns about how to continue this farm that’s been in the family for 150 years.”

NY fracking ban delights environmentalists but upstate, it’s a different story

Hydraulic fracturing is now a no-no in New York state.

And that has 64-year-old Marchie Diffendorf, a lifelong resident of the rural town of Kirkwood, New York, really ticked off.

“It’s angered and upset me,” Diffendorf told Watchdog.org. “I think it was purely political.”

State sides with oil companies in lawsuit by landowner over saltwater spills

As North Dakota’s government faces criticism for its alleged failure to regulate the oil and gas industry, state officials have sided with three oil companies in an ongoing lawsuit.

The case, which has been in the works for several years, involves Daryl Peterson, a landowner from Bottineau County, who has complained that numerous saltwater spills on his property have not been properly cleaned up.

Coal Ash and Fracking Fluid: Two More Victories for Environmental Protection

While America recently elected a new and possibly anti-environmental Congress, we are still ending 2014 on a high note with two environmental victories. Both originated in the executive branch of government–one in our national government and the other in the New York state government. Over the past week: 1) EPA took a small but significant step to begin regulating coal ash, the stuff that remains after coal is burned; and 2) New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to continue New York’s ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Ohio’s natural gas boom brings flurry of pipeline construction

A huge supply of natural gas in the shale of northern Appalachia is igniting a mega-boom in gas pipeline construction in Ohio, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 1940s.

“You have interstate, intrastate, local utility service lines upgrades, collection lines for oil and gas utilities, and lines for gas-fired electric utilities. Altogether, there will be 38,000 miles of pipeline development in Ohio over the next decade,” said Dale Arnold, director of energy services for the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation.

Firm moves to seize land for pipeline

Constitution Pipeline, seeking to build a 124-mile natural gas pipeline, has initiated legal condemnation proceedings against dozens of properties in Delaware, Schoharie and Chenango counties, the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities said Monday.

The complaints, 55 in all, have been filed in federal court, and the pipeline company has apparently begun the process of serving landowners in person, said Robert Nied, a member of the center’s board of directors.

UGI plans $150 million natural gas pipeline

UGI Energy Services announced today it plans to construct a new 35-mile, 20-inch gas pipeline through north-central Pennsylvania. The so-called Sunbury Pipeline would begin in Lycoming County and end at a proposed natural gas-fired power plant near Shamokin Dam, in Synder County.

This announcement comes amid a flurry of other pipeline projects in Pennsylvania, as energy companies work to move the abundant Marcellus Shale gas to new markets.

Tennesse Gas Pipeline Co. to pay $800,000 following numerous sediment violations

A natural gas pipeline company on Monday agreed to pay an $800,000 settlement for numerous sediment-control violations while constructing a pipeline across Pennsylvania’s northern counties.

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. violated Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law while building the 300 Line project, a 127-mile pipe from Potter County to the New Jersey border, in 2011 and 2012, the state Department of Environmental Protection said in a news release.

Landowners complain congressional staffer pressured them about pipeline

Lancaster Newpapers (LNP) reports a staffer for Congressman Joe Pitts (R- Lancaster Co.) is defending himself over emails and phone calls he made to residents who live along the route of a proposed interstate gas transmission line.

According to LNP, after Pitts was re-elected to a 10th term in November his aide Tom Tillet contacted at least five opponents of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline and told them they should allow the pipeline company, Williams, to survey their property.

BP seeks lower penalty for Gulf of Mexico oil spill

BP should face a lower penalty for its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico than the $16bn-$18bn sought by the US government because of the slump in the price of crude since the summer, the company has argued.

In a court filing, the British oil group said imposing the maximum possible penalty, as the US government has requested, would have a “very significant negative economic impact” on BPXP, its exploration and production subsidiary, which has legal responsibility for the spill.

BP Says Deepwater Horizon Spill Civil Penalty Should Be Lowered Along With Oil Prices

Benny Miller of the New Orleans-based Louisiana Seafood Exchange isn’t happy with BP’s recent decision to fight penalties for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster that crippled the region’s economically vital seafood industry.

“They’re crazy if they think they can get away without paying just because oil prices are down,” said the general manager of the seafood wholesaler, which is involved in litigation against the oil giant.

Enbridge rations space for Ozark, Spearhead pipelines

Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc said on Monday it was rationing space on its Ozark crude oil pipeline for January, and its Spearhead pipeline for January and February.

The Spearhead pipeline, which carries oil from Flanagan, Illinois, to the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub, was apportioned at 89.3 percent for January and 90.0 percent for February, it said.

White House hires former Keystone XL lobbyist as Senate liaison

The Obama administration’s new point person on White House-Senate relations previously worked as a lobbyist to promote the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Marty Paone, formerly a lobbyist with Prime Policy Group, was hired by the White House last week to be the deputy assistant for legislative affairs where he will be responsible for working with the Senate on White House legislative priorities, but he will be excluded from issues related to the pipeline.

Reality Bites: Chevron indefinitely shelves its deep water offshore Arctic oil project

Chevron recently announced that it would indefinitely put on hold plans to pursue regulatory approval of deep water drilling for oil in Canada’s Beaufort Sea. The move is significant as this proposal was one of two projects (the other by Exxon-owned Imperial Oil) seeking to open up deep Arctic waters to oil drilling. Just prior to this announcement, Chevron was on the verge of submitting proposed well safety documentation to Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) in an attempt to evade longstanding safety rules that for decades were designed to minimize the impact of an Arctic well blowout.

Shell collaborating with regulators over Arctic drilling

Newly released documents suggest federal regulators are collaborating closely with Shell as the company pursues a new round of Arctic drilling next summer, even though an underlying sale of the region’s oil leases is still in legal limbo.

According to meeting records and correspondence that Greenpeace obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Shell met with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management about its 2015 drilling aspirations at least three times in March and May, months before it formally submitted an exploration plan detailing its planned operations.

Russia may scrap arctic oil ambitions

Russian oil company Rosneft said Monday it may have to postpone its drilling program in the arctic temporarily, but doesn’t rule out future operations.

Nikolai Malyshev, Rosneft’s deputy director for operations on the Russian continental shelf, said the company was rethinking its current programs because of a lack of viable partners.

Statoil makes small North Sea oil discovery

Statoil Petroleum said Monday it discovered oil at one of its wildcat wells in the North Sea, with the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate estimating the size of the discovery between 6.3 million and 19 million barrels.

The Norway-based oil and gas conglomerate drilled the well just north of another well where a discovery was made in 2011. The new well is about 15 miles southwest of the Osberg South field, and is the eighth exploration well in this production license.

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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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