Environmental Must-Reads – December 27, 2013


EPA holds oil and gas company accountable for violating Clean Water Act

My previous blog post expressed outrage that the EPA chose to step away from enforcing the law when drinking water was unsafe in Texas, even when nearby natural gas operations were identified as the most probably cause.

Our concerns haven’t changed but, in a different case, we applaud EPA for taking action to hold an oil and gas company responsible for damaging 27 streams and wetlands in West Virginia (including 16 fracking sites). Under a settlement agreement, Chesapeake Energy’s subsidiary will spend an estimated $6.5 million to restore these 27 sites and to implement a comprehensive plan to comply with federal and state water protection laws at the company’s natural gas extraction sites in West Virginia. In addition, the company will pay a fine of $3.2 million, half of which will go to the State of West Virginia.

Happy Holidays From Cancer Alley: Christmas Lights Overshadowed By Shell’s Flaring

The streets of Norco, Louisiana are filled with Christmas lights like lots of U.S. towns this season. But on December 19th, the sky above Norco was illuminated by massive flaring at Shell Chemical’s refinery in town. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that he could see the flares from the Twin Span Bridge, over 50 miles from Norco, so I went to check it out.

Most Ontario incidents involve natural gas lines

Oil and diesel fuel pipeline ruptures, like one that happened in Sarnia in September, are rare, according to the province’s pipeline regulator.

Statistics from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) show 2008 was the last time a diesel pipeline incident was reported.

Strikes and ruptures of natural gas lines make up the majority of incidents reported in recent years, and most of those involve lines that where hit during excavations, said TSSA spokesperson Wilson Lee.

Did Enbridge Use Toxic Chemicals to Clean Up Their Oil Spill in Kalamazoo?

It’s been three and a half years since Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline ruptured in Marshall, Michigan, leaking more than 843,000 gallons of diluted tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest on-land oil spill in the history of the USA, and remains, so far, as the largest spill of tar sands oil ever. Yet despite Enbridge’s immense, ongoing clean-up operation, which has spanned more than three years, cost over a billion dollars, and removed significantly more oil from the river than the company will admit it spilled, those living in Enbridge’s sacrifice zone have more questions than answers—even as most areas of the river have been re-opened for public use. High on the list of concerns is a chilling refrain: What are these chemicals that work crews have been dumping into the river in massive quantities, and are they dangerous?

U.S. court rejects BP bid to require proof of gulf oil spill losses

BP has failed to convince a federal judge that businesses seeking to recover monetary damages from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill should provide proof that their losses were caused by the disaster.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans said the British oil company would have to live with its earlier interpretation of a settlement agreement over the spill, in which certain businesses could be presumed to have suffered harm if their losses reflected certain patterns.

BP reserves right to appeal ruling allowing business claims without proof of oil spill losses

BP filed a notice Thursday reserving the right to appeal a federal judge’s decision rejecting the company’s attempt to ban payments to some businesses claiming damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The notice was filed “in an abundance of caution” with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who on Tuesday ruled that some businesses don’t need to prove their losses were directly caused by the spill in order to get paid under a settlement agreement between BP and private plaintiffs.

Obama may be able to avoid environmental debate, Keystone pipeline decision

After five years of delays, it has become increasingly clear that President Obama doesn’t want to make a decision on the massive Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

It turns out he may not have to.

House Democrats and other critics of the proposed project — which has put traditional White House allies such as labor unions and environmental activists on opposite sides of a heated debate — are hinting that the State Department may have to restart its environmental review of Keystone from scratch. Such a move, which would be motivated by suspected conflicts of interest surrounding a company hired by the State Department to work on the analysis, could push a decision on the pipeline down the road for another few years, possibly until Mr. Obama leaves office in 2017.

Pipeline giants seek high-tech solutions to leaks

In a large green container in a climate-controlled warehouse in Canada, pipeline owners TransCanada and Enbridge are researching new ways to detect oil leaks.

The companies are using the $3 million container, fitted with real pipe and filled with soil, to learn how oil spreads in different environments and how quickly the newest leak-detection devices sound alarms. The companies plan to fill the container with different soils during the tests, Ray Philipenko, senior manager of leak detection for Enbridge, said.

Eminent domain emerges as front in Bluegrass Pipeline battle

The battle over whether the Bluegrass Pipeline is built in Kentucky may hinge on a legal, not an environmental, question: Can the project’s developers condemn land if they can’t come to terms with property owners?

Pipeline officials say Kentucky law clearly gives them the power of eminent domain, but opponents disagree. For its part, a review by the state Energy and Environment Cabinet concluded that the project can’t use condemnation.

Canada’s Largest Refiner’s Records Seized in Investigation

On 6 July a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train carrying 72 tank cars filled with oil exploded after its brakes apparently failed, sending it rolling into Lac-Mégantic, where it derailed and subsequently exploded, igniting a conflagration that leveled the center of town and killed 47 people. In Canada’s fourth worst railway accident, more than 30 buildings in Lac-Mégantic’s center, roughly half of the downtown area, were destroyed. The investigation into causes of the disaster have now focused on whether Irving Oil, which purchased the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train’s crude oil cargo for refining, knowingly filed misleading documents contravening the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

Stick it to ‘em: Scientists call for labeling tar-sands oil

For the past four years, European Union officials have been mulling a labeling system that would require fuel companies to tell their customers how much carbon pollution is produced by each of the products they sell.

The idea is deeply unpopular with oil companies, which don’t want their customers thinking about such things every time they fill up their tanks. It’s also deeply unpopular with Canada. That’s because the country’s tar-sands oil is particularly dreadful for the climate, something the government would rather not have advertised. The oil companies and Canadian government have called the labeling idea unscientific.

Arctic 30 protester: ‘Russia owes me a medal’

The first environmental activist to leave Russia after more than two months of detention said that Russia owed him a medal rather than a pardon for his work to protect the environment.

Dima Litvinov, a Greenpeace campaigner, was the first member of the Arctic 30 to be allowed to leave. His fellow activists are expected to leave Russia in the coming days.

Fukushima decon deadline delayed until ’17

The Environment Ministry said Thursday it now aims to finish cleaning up areas outside the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex most seriously tainted by radiation by the end of March 2017.

The ministry wanted to finish the work at 11 cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture by the end of next March, or about three years after the nuclear crisis began. But that has been delayed by the difficulty of finding enough places to temporarily store the tainted soil and other waste.

Fukushima salmon industry in peril with hatcheries stuck in evacuation zone

Hideo Matsumoto stares at the surface of the Kidogawa river here, a quiet, tree-lined waterway where salmon have been caught for centuries. A forlorn expression forms on his face.

“I want fishing to make a full comeback soon,” says Matsumoto, the 65-year-old head of the Kidogawa river fishermen’s cooperative. “If we don’t resume fishing, the river won’t have many salmon coming up it.”

Scientists Link Spike in Thyroid Disease to Fukushima Disaster

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet about Japan’s electric company, TEPCO, dumping radioactive water in the Pacific Ocean after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. So we here at The Real News wanted to know if there are real dangers to this activity, especially in light of the fact that highly radioactive water from the site has been seeping into the groundwater and the harbor off the plant.

With us to discuss whether this should be of real concern is our guest, Joseph Mangano. He is a health researcher and an expert on hazards of nuclear weapons and reactors. He is also the lead author in a recently published article in the peer-reviewed journal Open Journal of Pediatrics. It’s titled “Fukushima Fallout: Damage to the Thyroids of California Babies”.

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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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