Environmental Must-Reads – December 3, 2014


How a ruby-red Texas town turned against fracking

The fracking ban that comes into effect on Tuesday in the heart of Texas might never have happened at all, if industry had not insisted on fracking beside a local hospital, a children’s playground, and the 100-year-old farmhouse that was Cathy McMullen’s retirement dream.

That brought fracking a step too far. McMullen believes such overreach – typical under the Texas regulatory framework – helped turn a ruby-red Republican town against fracking.

Fracking a “Nuisance,” Denton Tells Court

One day before its first-in-Texas ban on hydraulic fracturing is set to take effect, Denton called the oil and gas extraction technique a “public nuisance” that the North Texas town has the right to regulate.

“Those activities have caused conditions that are subversive of public order and constitute an obstruction of public rights of the community as a whole,” Denton’s attorneys wrote in a legal brief filed Monday. “Such conditions include, but are not limited to, noise, increased heavy truck traffic, liquid spills, vibrations and other offensive results.”

Local activist group: Fracking ban unlikely in Texoma

Nearly a month ago during the general election, voters in Denton, Texas passed a ban on hydraulic fracturing in city limits. With fracking happening in the Texoma area, too, a local activist group hopes residents will take similar action.

Fracking is the process of injecting a chemical-water mixture into the earth in order to extract natural gas.

Duke Energy considers charging customers to explore fracking

If you thought Duke Energy had run out of ideas to extract more money from its ratepayers, get this:

The utility is pondering the high-risk natural gas exploration business, and it wants customers to pay for it.

State Senators File Anti-Fracking Bill

A pair of Florida senators want the state to just say no to fracking.

Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, have filed legislation to ban fracking in the state to protect the water supply, environment and robust tourism economy.

Clinton’s noncommittal stance on environment creates political dilemma

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s environmental problem was on full display in back-to-back events here Monday evening.

First, Clinton appeared at a private fundraiser for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), an embattled incumbent who favors construction of the massive Keystone XL oil pipeline opposed by environmentalists.

Dominion fine worries opponents of future pipeline

In light of the consent order, opponents of Dominion’s planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline are already voicing their concerns about the company’s ability to protect the environment as the multi-state pipeline crosses steep mountain ridges, streams and public lands as it makes its way through West Virginia.

The G-150 pipeline, which Dominion recently sold, extends from northern Brooke County through Ohio County and into Marshall County,where it terminates at Dominion’s new natural gas processing complex being built at Natrium.

Why America’s Fracking Revolution Won’t Be Hurt (Much) By Low Oil Prices

The conventional wisdom has it that many U.S. oil producers can’t make money with oil prices below $85 a barrel. Here’s why the experts may be wrong

For U.S. consumers, there’s plenty to like about plummeting oil prices. After all, the cost of gasoline and home heating oil is falling dramatically as well. Since June, the price of WTI crude has dropped from about $101 a barrel to a recent price of $65, or roughly a 35% decline. And the average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. has plunged to $2.76 from $3.27 a year ago, according to AAA.

Fracking debate in Colorado drills on

Gas and oil supporters on Tuesday continued their push to demonstrate the benefits of hydraulic fracturing with a new television ad featuring Colorado farming.

The ad comes ahead of a report expected this week from environmental interests that point to hazards with the industrial practice that employs sand, chemicals and water to stimulate gas-and-oil production.

NCDOT seeks pact from fracking companies to repair damaged roads

North Carolina could require energy exploration companies to pay to repair state roads after a fracking operation is completed, state transportation officials told lawmakers Tuesday.

Drilling is heavily dependent on dump trucks, tanker trucks and 18-wheel rigs that chew up the kinds of two-lane country roads that criss-cross North Carolina’s rural counties where shale gas exploration is expected to get underway.

Feds approve Constitution Pipeline

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted Tuesday to approve the $683 million Constitution Pipeline — a 124-mile subterranean natural gas transmission system that would stretch from northeastern Pennsylvania through hundreds of parcels in Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie counties.

Also unanimously approved by FERC was the so-called Wright Interconnect Project — an expanded compressor station in the town of Wright, located in the northeastern corner of Schoharie County. The Constitution would terminate at that facility, operated by Iroquois Gas, with its gas going into two existing pipelines also connecting at the Wright station.

Pilgrim Pipeline, PSE&G: We’re still in talks on needed land

Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings and PSE&G say they’re still in talks over the controversial plan to run an oil pipeline through much of northern and central New Jersey.

“It is early in the process and we continue to have discussions with PSE&G,” George Bochis, vice president of development for Pilgrim, said in a statement. “We continue to move forward to prepare our applications to the appropriate state agencies.”

Putin’s Surprise Call to Scrap South Stream Gas Pipeline Leaves Europe Reeling

Energy executives across Europe were scrambling on Tuesday to understand the implications of President Vladimir V. Putin’s surprise announcement that Russia would scrap the long-planned South Stream project that was to pipe natural gas to Europe.

The pipeline, which had a projected $22 billion cost and was a geopolitical sore point in recent months, had never been a certainty. But Western partners on the project, including the Italian energy giant Eni, appear to have been surprised by Mr. Putin. They said they learned of his decision, announced late Monday during a visit to Ankara, Turkey, only through the news media.

Companies announce first oil from deep-water Gulf fields

Oil and gas production has begun at the Jack/St. Malo project in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, companies involved in the project announced.

Chevron Corp. and Statoil said the fields are located about 25 miles apart in 7,000 feet of water 280 south of New Orleans.

Oil From Deepwater Horizon Spill Is Still Trapped In Alabama Beaches, Study Finds

A new study says oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster is still trapped in Alabama’s beaches four years later.

The report was released recently by Auburn University researchers who’ve been studying the BP oil spill since shortly after it occurred.

LSU researchers get $24 million to study impacts of BP oil spill

To study the myriad and lasting effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the BP-funded Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative recently granted $140 million to 12 research projects designed to address the impact of the spill on human health and coastal communities.

Louisiana State University researchers are on two projects chosen to receive a total of more than $24 million, according to an LSU news release.

Alabama submits $54 million in projects to oil spill Restoration Council for funding

The state of Alabama has submitted five proposed restoration projects with a total estimated cost of $54.2 million to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, a federally-created body charged with administering a large portion of Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This week, the Council published 55 project proposals submitted by various state and federal agencies for funding.

Each Council member — Gulf states Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and six federal agencies — was allowed to submit up to five projects for consideration by the full Council.

Enbridge to hold open houses along Line 3 route

Enbridge Energy Partners opens a series of open houses across northern Minnesota on Wednesday along the route of its proposed Line 3 Replacement Project.

The first meeting is in the northwestern Minnesota community of Clearbrook. Others are planned for Thief River Falls, Hallock, Park Rapids, Pine River, McGregor and Carlton through Dec. 11.

Liability insurance increase “just not on top of mind” for Enbridge, company president says

In a recent phone call for its Q3 earnings, Enbridge president Mark Maki said the company doesn’t have plans to significantly increase its current liability insurance, despite the $1.2 billion cleanup cost of its oil spill near Marshall, Michigan in 2010. The rupture along its Line 6B pipeline, which poured around 843,000 gallons of bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands into the Kalamazoo River over 17 hours, is the largest onland oil spill in U.S. history.

Is The Arctic Dream Dead?

The Arctic offshore will be drilled; it’s only a matter of time. However, the dream to have commercially viable production in the immediate future may very well be dead. Continually slumping oil prices are the primary suspect, but they don’t tell the whole story of what is a complex demise.

The Arctic is awash in hydrocarbons. It is estimated to hold 90 billion barrels (bbl), or 13 percent, of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil – 30 bbl are thought to reside in Alaska’s Arctic region. The figure is even higher for the world’s undiscovered conventional natural gas at 30 percent, the majority of which lies in Russia’s West Siberian and East Barents Basins. In all, 84 percent of the Arctic’s undiscovered oil and gas is believed to occur offshore.

An Open Arctic and its Impact on Oil Drilling

William Cho, Head of MatthewsDaniel Weather, a division of the Bureau Veritas Group, explains why improvements in drilling technologies and weather monitoring systems have made offshore shelf drilling operations in the Arctic Circle increasingly attractive to upstream oil and gas companies and their investors.

White House: U.S. Has ‘Moral Obligation’ To Help Communities In Warming Arctic

In just a few months, America will have the unique position of leading the Arctic Council, an international panel tasked with addressing the most important issues facing the Arctic region. On Tuesday, the Obama administration released some preparation material for that position: a blog post discussing the moral imperative to help citizens living within the Arctic Circle, especially those who are being forced to relocate due to rapidly warming temperatures and sea level rise.

New Data Sharpen Focus on Crude Oil “Bomb Train” Routes

The oil boom underway in North Dakota has delivered jobs to local economies and helped bring the United States to the brink of being a net energy exporter for the first time in generations.

But moving that oil to the few refineries with the capacity to process it is presenting a new danger to towns and cities nationwide — a danger many appear only dimly aware of and are ill equipped to handle.

Green groups sue DOT over oil-by-rail regulations

Environmental groups on Tuesday sued the Department of Transportation in a bid to keep crude oil out of older railroad tank cars.

The lawsuit, filed in the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by Earthustice on behalf of the Sierra Club and ForestEthics, challenges the Transportation Department’s oversight of the surge in crude carried on the nation’s railroads.

Two Groups Call For Additional Federal Rule On Oil Trains

An environmental group from the Hudson Valley and a national conservation group have petitioned the Obama administration to impose additional rules concerning crude oil transport by rail.

Amid the rise in crude oil transport via rail, two non-profit groups say the public and the environment need to be better protected from potential derailments and accidents. As such, Riverkeeper and the Center for Biological Diversity have filed a petition to reduce the length and weight of trains hauling oil and other hazardous liquids. Sean Dixon is a staff attorney with Ossining-based Riverkeeper.

Senator calls on Jerry Brown to halt crude oil trains in ‘treacherous’ California mountain passes

Sen. Jerry Hill on Tuesday called on Gov. Jerry Brown to halt the transport of crude oil on trains and other hazardous materials “through our most treacherous passes.”

The request by Hill, D-San Mateo, comes in reaction to a corn train derailment last week in the Feather River Canyon that sent train cars and corn spilling down an embankment into the river. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

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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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