Environmental Must-Reads – December 3, 2013


Fracking industry wants to move its waste down Ohio River on barges, but faces opposition

“Our water comes from the Ohio River.”

That’s the voice of Kaleel Skeirik, a music professor at Xavier University. The university is in Cincinnati and Skeirik lives in a suburb. Both places are in southwest Ohio, far from the eastern Ohio hills and fields where the oil industry is extracting oil and gas from shale deep underground.

Jerry Brown keeps getting heckled by anti-fracking protesters

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is finding the fracking issue to be increasingly irritating. Or more to the point, he’s finding anti-fracking activists to be increasingly irritating.

Brown is a long-time environmental champion with a strong record of advancing clean energy and climate action, but he doesn’t mind the fracking that’s going on in his state. In fact, he kinda likes it.

Jerry Brown followed to events, heckled by California environmentalists over fracking

Gov. Jerry Brown, who championed environmental causes when he was governor before and made global warming a focus of his current administration, has been targeted in recent weeks by an increasingly vocal group of activists whose animosity would once have appeared improbable.

Why Massachusetts Might Ban Fracking Even Though There’s No Fracking In Massachusetts

Last week, a committee in Massachusetts moved closer to banning hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) in the Bay State. This is a day after Texas, the epicenter of fracking in the United States, suffered a 3.6 magnitude earthquake. While Massachusetts may not be rich in fossil fuels, some in the state do not want to risk the the drinking water, the climate, or tectonic stability to tap what little shale gas might be hiding under the Berkshires.

Broomfield begins fracking recount amid criticism

A recount of Broomfield’s vote on whether to ban hydraulic fracturing began Monday amid criticism from Secretary of State Scott Gessler about how the city handled the state’s new voter registration rules.

The first full count — including military and overseas ballots — showed the five-year ban passing by 17 votes, close enough to trigger a recount.

Capps Calls for Federal Moratorium on Offshore Fracking Activities Pending Environmental Review

Today, Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy calling for a moratorium on offshore fracking activities in federal waters off the coast of California until a comprehensive study is conducted to determine the impacts of fracking activities on the marine environment and public health.

Park Service withdraws comments on fracking rule

The National Park Service has withdrawn “inappropriate” comments about a proposed rule regulating hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands.

Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis says no one in management reviewed the staff comments, which he said were submitted erroneously to the federal Bureau of Land Management. Both agencies are part of the Interior Department.

IDNR Hosts Public Hearing On Proposed Fracking Administrative Rules (VIDEO)

Proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing in Illinois fell under harsh scrutiny Tuesday night, as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) hosted its first public hearing on draft regulations before the controversial horizontal oil and gas drilling technology comes to the state.

In Fracking, Sand Is the New Gold

The race to drill for oil in the U.S. is creating another boom—in sand, a key ingredient in fracking.

Energy companies are expected to use 56.3 billion pounds of sand this year, blasting it down oil and natural gas wells to help crack rocks and allow fuel to flow out. Sand use has increased 25% since 2011, according to the consulting firm PacWest, which expects a further 20% rise over the next two years.

‘Don’t Frack L.A.’s Future’ Billboard Targets Oil Industry Air Pollution

A striking new billboard on Westwood Boulevard warns Los Angeles residents that fracking, acidization and other dirty forms of oil production pollute the air and endanger the health of children and other vulnerable people. The billboard, sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity, reads “Don’t Frack L.A.’s Future” and directs readers to FrackingPollutesCalifornia.org.

Nature Conservancy poll: voters value natural areas over gas development

A new poll out today from the Nature Conservancy shows when given a choice, a majority (54 percent) of voters in the Appalachian shale region say they would prioritize conserving natural areas over gas development, even if it meant paying higher energy costs.

The survey included 1,250 telephone interviews assessing attitudes toward environmental issues, including forest health and natural gas development.

Dixie family finds their tap water is flammable

A Dixie family made a startling discovery recently when they lit a flame next to the water coming out of their household faucet and it burst into flames.  They don’t live far from a natural gas drilling site, but experts say that may have nothing to do with it.

The Parker family has two houses on property that shares a private well. They explained they’ve been having issues with their water for about a year, but didn’t know how serious it was until now.

Council of Canadians Meets with Elsipogtog Chief to Express Solidarity

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, Vice-Chairperson Leo Broderick, and Atlantic Regional Organizer Angela Giles traveled to New Brunswick yesterday to express solidarity with the ongoing Elsipogtog protests against seismic testing for fracking by Texas-based SWN Resources.

Worker deaths in oil and gas industry at all time high

According to a new report out from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, fatalities in the oil and gas industry are the highest they have been since the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics began keeping track in 1992.

Court Calls for Broader Review of BP Spill Funds

A federal-appeals-court ruling late Monday might spare BP PLC from making hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation payments stemming from its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower-court judge in New Orleans must address whether companies seeking payouts from a 2012 settlement actually suffered damage that directly stemmed from the oil spill. That judge, Carl Barbier, had argued he only needed to ensure the court-appointed administrator overseeing the settlement was using proper accounting methods, not whether the firms’ losses were caused by the spill.

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 went on 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. Jury selection started today for his trial in federal court in New Orleans.

5th Circuit orders temporary halt to business loss payments without proof of BP oil spill damage

Just 10 days after a federal judge in New Orleans lambasted BP for demanding that businesses must prove their losses were caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill before being paid under the terms of a private settlement, an appeals court ordered the judge not to allow such payments without proof that losses resulted from the spill.

Aerial Video of Alabama Oil Spill Exposes Inadequate Cleanup

Efforts to clean up an Alabama oil spill are under scrutiny after a train carrying 2.7 million gallons of North Dakota Bakken crude oil exploded last month, spilling into wetlands just outside the town of Aliceville. Photojournalist John Wathen captured video of cleanup efforts one week after the Nov. 7 derailment, and the footage prompts questions about the efficacy of methods being used.

North Dakota Oil Spill Website Set To Launch; Will Notify Public About All Hazardous Leaks

It took nearly two weeks for North Dakota officials to tell the public about an autumn pipeline rupture that caused more than 20,000 barrels of crude to ooze across a northwestern wheat field.

In response to extensive media coverage and criticism from environmental groups, the North Dakota Health Department will launch a website sometime this week that will enable the public to monitor reported oil spills and other hazardous leaks.

Oil spill coats river, sea near ENI Nigeria facility

A large oil spill near Nigeria’s Brass facility, run by ENI, has spread through the sea and swamps of the oil producing Niger Delta region, local residents and the company said on Monday.

ENI said it was not yet possible to determine the cause of the spill.

Nigeria: Shell accused of misreporting oil spills in the Niger Delta

A new report from Amnesty International accuses oil companies, in particular Royal Dutch Shell, of failing to report the true nature of oil spills in the resource-rich Niger Delta.

Scramble to evacuate residents after oil spill

Local government authorities in a fishing village in northern Panay island in central Philippines are scrambling to evacuate thousands of residents after toxic fumes from a bunker fuel leak caused levels of benzene in the air to rocket.

“We identified 1,042 families living along the contaminated coastline who needed to be relocated and began evacuating on November 23. To date, we have relocated only 544 families. We are still looking for a place to put the rest,” said Judith Tanate-Barredo, camp co-ordination cluster head for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

California billionaire on crusade against Keystone pipeline

Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund executive and environmental activist from San Francisco, chose his venue carefully.

“It is here President Obama drew his own personal line in the sand,” Steyer said as he convened a conference on the Keystone XL pipeline Monday at Georgetown University.

Keystone XL fails Obama’s climate test, billionaire activist says

Keystone XL doesn’t satisfy U.S. President Barack Obama’s environmental demands and should be rejected, billionaire activist Tom Steyer told a Washington summit he sponsored Monday on the controversial pipeline.

“Keystone XL fails his climate test and certainly is not in the interests of the United States,” Mr. Steyer, wearing his trademark red plaid tie, told about 100 audience members.

Enbridge Could Be Forced to Boost Pipeline Safety in Mich. After Water Violations

Michigan environmental officials are drafting a settlement with Canadian pipeline operator Enbrridge, Inc. over a series of violations of the state’s water laws that occurred earlier this year.

The settlement would keep Enbridge out of court while requiring the company to beef up its environmental practices when testing the new pipeline it is building to replace Line 6B, which ruptured in 2010.

EPA denies Enbridge’s request to extend dredging deadline

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has denied Enbridge Inc.’s request for a 10-month extension of its deadline to dredge portions of the Kalamazoo River.

In a letter to Rich Adams, the company’s vice president of operations, Jeffrey Kimble of the EPA said the agency “believes that had Enbridge taken appropriate steps earlier as requested, it would not require an extension now.”

Why the California Coast May Soon Be Getting 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.

Empty crude oil cars derail in North Dakota-operator

Several empty crude oil train cars derailed in North Dakota on Sunday, rail company BNSF Railway said on Monday, the latest in a string of ‘crude-by-rail’ accidents that have prompted calls for stricter safety regulations in North America.

Nine cars of the train, traveling westwards, derailed near a town called Selz in central North Dakota after a truck crashed into it, BNSF said, adding that no injuries were reported.

Recent train wrecks not enough to shake Edmonton expert’s faith in Canadian rail safety

Few modes of transportation have as Canadian an identity as the train.

But following a series of recent derailments, the safety of Canadian railways has been put into question.

And this isn’t the first time.

Rail chiefs at odds with watchdog after Quebec oil train crash

Two of North America’s most senior rail executives have exposed big differences with regulators over the response to July’s multiple-fatality Quebec oil train crash by questioning the need for tightened safety rules.

Inside the oil-shipping free-for-all that 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.

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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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