Environmental Must-Reads – December 31, 2012


Fracking in Alaska: Commission proposes state regulations

With hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — likely in Alaska’s future, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) has introduced proposals for new state regulations on the process, Petroleum News reports (via the Anchorage Daily News).

Jackson Quitting EPA Hands Successor Fracking Fight

Lisa Jackson’s exit as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency leaves her successor to combat global warming and set rules for hydraulic fracturing over the objections of businesses and Republican lawmakers.

Jackson yesterday said she will step down as EPA chief as soon as President Barack Obama begins his second term. During her four years, the 50-year-old chemical engineer issued multibillion dollar rules to cut emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants from power plants, industrial boilers and cement factories. The rules earned praise from health groups, which said Jackson moved to tackle pollution left unaddressed for too long, and criticism from manufacturers and Republicans that they endangered the economic recovery.

Vitter suggests Lisa Jackson resignation related to investigation of phony email account

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Friday suggested that EPA Administration Lisa Jackson is resigning because of a controversy over her use of an email account with a fictitious name.

Digging into the practice of fracking

Natural gas can be cheap and plentiful, and could supply us with energy for decades to come. But to get AT all that natural gas, you have to delve far beneath the surface of the earth. That’s where FRACKING comes in. David Pogue of The New York Times reports our Cover Story

Oil drilling in Hermosa Beach?

E&B Natural Resources of Bakersfield filed its application last month to drill for oil and gas, continuing the nearly 20-year saga of whether or not an oil company will be allowed to dig wells at the city maintenance yard.

EPA nominee would face uncertain path

Senate Republicans are in no mood to allow easy confirmation of any replacement for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, who announced Thursday that she’ll leave the agency’s top job early in 2013.

EPA faces legal battles, might take easy confirmation road

Regardless of who takes the reins, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will likely face continued legal battles in President Barack Obama’s second term as it tries to finalize pollution rules for power plants, analysts said.

2012 and Beyond: Moratorium on Fracking in NY Survives Another Year

The debate on hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking, 2013 will open up much like 2012—with yet another public comment period.

New Yorkers have until Jan. 11, 2013, to voice their position on fracking, the method of obtaining natural gas by blasting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground.

Measuring The Cost Of Energy, Drop By Drop

As far as interrelated water and energy challenges go, the case of the natural gas drilling method known as fracking is a doozy. Natural gas has been touted as a relatively cheap, less-polluting replacement for coal and petroleum, and that’s fine as far as global warming management goes. But on a local level, here in the U.S., evidence is steadily mounting that the vast quantities of chemical-laced water used in fracking can contaminate local water resources, put public health at risk, and disrupt communities that are already under economic distress.

Ohio set goal to triple the number of oil and gas inspectors: Whatever happened to . . .?

Whatever happened to the state’s plan to triple the number of oil and gas inspectors as fracking intensifies in Ohio?

The state has not met the goal it set in May.

Kidnappings, Pirates, Halliburton, Fracking, And Me.

The London-based Control Risks holds itself out as “an independent global risk consultancy specializing in helping organizations manage political, integrity, and security risks in complex and hostile environments.” Or, in practical terms, it provides anti-piracy services, handles kidnappings and other crises, and writes white papers analyzing terrorism risks in various countries.

“Promised Land” powerfully highlights what’s at stake for communities in fracking’s path

I was fortunate to have the chance last week to attend an early screening of “Promised Land,” the compelling new fracking movie starring Matt Damon, Frances MacDormand and John Krasinski and directed by Gus Van Sant. The film, which opens in selected cities today and nationwide on January 4th, effectively highlights the very real costs that communities confront when fracking comes to town – costs to their essential character and quality of life.

Government accuses BP of being evasive on Gulf spill flow rate

The Justice Department is accusing BP anew of being evasive on information about the amount of oil that spewed from its undersea well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico nearly three years ago.

Funds to litigate oil leak damages running low

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office is running out of funds to pay ongoing expenses in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster litigation, officials said.

“We have been able to patch things together to get this far … After the first of the year, we will be asking for additional spending authority,” First Assistant Attorney General Trey Phillips said.

Important BP Claims Deadline for Commercial Fishermen

Since the BP Economic and Property Damages Settlement was approved last week, Commercial Fishermen need to be aware of a significant and upcoming deadline to file claims under the Settlement. January 20 is the deadline for submitting claims to the Settlement Program. Note that this deadline does not apply to all claimants, simply those that are submitting their claim under the “Seafood Compensation Program.”

Coast Guard releases recordings of Macondo Well site

The U.S. Coast Guard has released a series of videos showing that a plug in the well at the center of the 2010 Gulf oil disaster is holding.

Court Grants Final Approval to BP Settlement

Last week a significant development for BP Claimants occurred when Judge Carl Barbier issued final approval of the Economic and Property Damages Settlement. This has been a long-awaited step in ensuring recovery for the thousands of Gulf Coast Residents who suffered losses in the wake of the 2010 oil spill.

Northern Gateway a watershed battle for oil-tanker port in B.C

In the middle of an interview, Gerald Amos stoops to pick up his three-year-old granddaughter. Continuing, he hands her blueberries on demand.

Visible in the distance is the port of Kitimat and the would-be terminus of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry oilsands bitumen from Bruderheim to tankers anchored here.

The scene is a simple example of why the Haisla elder and former chief doesn’t need words to explain his opposition to the project. It is his duty, he said, to protect this land for his granddaughter and for those who will come after her.

“Some people are very poor. All they have is money,” said Amos.

Keystone XL Will Not Use Advanced Leak Detection

Even after causing more than a dozen spills in 2011 from its newest tar sands pipeline — including a six story “geyser” of crude — Canadian energy developer TransCanada claimed its planned Keystone XL pipeline would “exceed” safety standards.

But according to a new investigation of TransCanada’s development plans, the company does not plan to use advanced spill prevention technologies on a section of pipeline that would cross an underground reservoir providing nearly 30 percent of America’s irrigation water.

Shell Oil’s Arctic Drilling Rig’s Tug in Gulf of Alaska Emergency – Shell Considering Evacuating Kulluk Crew

On Thursday, Shell Oil Alaska announced its unpowered drilling rig Kulluk, being towed south from Dutch Harbor to Puget Sound, was in distress, due to complete engine failures on its towing vessel, the MV Aiviq

Report from Alaska: International Bird Rescue mobilized as a precaution in stalled drill ship incident

International Bird Rescue’s senior wildlife response team has been activated as a contingency measure after a tow pulling the drilling vessel Kullak stalled Thursday in stormy seas near Alaska’s Kodiak Island, prompting an evacuation of its 18-person crew.

5 Important U.S. Energy Stories of 2012

Although climate change took a backseat during the campaign, energy played a surprisingly prominent role.

Shell’s jinxed Arctic drilling farce

In May 2012 I contacted a senior lawyer at Royal Dutch Shell Plc seeking confirmation that the oil giant had been unable to insure the risks involved in its Arctic drilling plans and for this reason, had self-insured. There was no response. The same month we published an article about Shell’s related plan to use oil spill sniffer dogs. Lets hope they have also been trained to swim.

Alaska Shell Drill Ship Crew To Evacuate

The Coast Guard prepared Saturday to evacuate an 18-member crew of a Shell drill ship that was stalled in rough Gulf of Alaska waters, south of Kodiak Island.

Surge in U.S. oil trains brings worries of a spill

Mile-long trains carrying oil out of North Dakota and Montana and across the country has experts and regulators concerned about the danger of a major spill.

Trains carrying more oil across the US as pipeline projects stall; experts fear major spill

Energy companies behind the oil boom on the Northern Plains are increasingly turning to an industrial-age workhorse — the locomotive — to move their crude to refineries across the U.S., as plans for new pipelines stall and existing lines can’t keep up with demand.

Even With Bipartisan Push, Is Keystone XL Still A Pipe Dream?

Yes, elections do have consequences, and those associated with a likely continuation of disastrous Obama administration energy policies will be huge. Now in this coming new year, with his hold on the Oval Office secure for a final term, the question remains whether the president will be less compelled to acquiesce to demands of ideologically-driven anti-fossil environmental lobbies, and more willing to address reality-based opportunities and imperatives. A clear test will be his decision to approve or continue to block permitting of the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline…a development that can deliver more than 830,000 barrels of crude from Canada’s oil sands to American refineries daily.

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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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