Environmental Must-Reads – December 4, 2012


First Study of Its Kind Detects 44 Hazardous Air Pollutants at Gas Drilling Sites

With gas wells in some states being drilled near schools and homes, scientists see a need for better chemical disclosure laws and follow-up research.

South African Company to Build U.S. Plant to Convert Gas to Liquid Fuels

In an ambitious bet that the glut of cheap natural gas in the United States will last for many years, a South African energy company announced on Monday that it would build America’s first commercial plant to convert natural gas to diesel and other liquid fuels.

Yakama Nation: Gas pipeline damages historic site

The Yakama Nation has asked the federal government to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline across southwest Washington’s White Salmon River, saying the project will impair an archaeological site that is culturally significant to the tribe.

Homeowners suing over Wis. gas pipeline spill

Homeowners sued Monday over a massive gasoline spill in southeastern Wisconsin this summer that has contaminated many of their wells, their attorneys said.

Construction near gas pipeline has neighbors fearing the worst

A proposal to build a 59-unit residential complex off the Palisades cliffs in North Bergen — only 20 feet from a natural gas pipeline — has set off a protracted dispute between neighbors and the developer that’s lingered for seven years.

State Rep.: Fracking Loophole “Big Enough To Drive A Mack Truck Through”

A new study says Texas oil and natural gas companies are claiming trade-secret exemptions to keep from revealing the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.

Drillers use trade-secret exemption to avoid disclosure of fracking chemicals

A subsidiary of Nabors Industries pumped a mixture of chemicals identified only as EXP- F0173-11 into a half-dozen oil wells in rural Karnes County in Southeast Texas in July.

But few people outside Nabors, the largest onshore drilling contractor by revenue, know exactly what’s in that blend, despite a year-old Texas law that requires drillers to disclose chemicals they pump underground during hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Hazardous Air Pollutants Detected Near Fracking Sites

For years, the controversy over natural gas drilling has focused on the water and air quality problems linked to hydraulic fracturing, the process where chemicals are blasted deep underground to release tightly bound natural gas deposits.

But a new study reports that a set of chemicals called non-methane hydrocarbons, or NMHCs, is found in the air near drilling sites even when fracking isn’t in progress.

Review of fracking health risks sought

Opponents of hydrofracking said Monday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put the regulatory cart before the horse, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation offering rules to control hydrofracking while a newly launched review of its health impacts remains incomplete.

Fracking industry refusing to report which chemicals they’re using

Colorado officials question link of fracking-waste disposal to quakes

The increasingly common practice of disposing of oil and gas drilling wastewater by injecting it underground can trigger earthquakes, according to federal scientists who studied quakes since 1970 in Colorado and neighboring states.

DNA analysis of microbes in a fracking site yields surprises

Researchers have made a genetic analysis of the microbes living deep inside a deposit of Marcellus Shale at a hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” site, and uncovered some surprises.

How the North Dakota fracking boom shook a family

The Jorgenson family loved living on the prairie in North Dakota – until the shale gas boom started

Wanna know what’s in that fracking fluid? Tough

As of last year, Texas has a law that requires fracking companies to reveal the chemicals used in their fracking fluids. Unless that fracking fluid is considered a “trade secret” by the fracking company, which, surprise surprise, companies have claimed 19,000 times in the first eight months of this year.

Fracking Infrastructure = Paradise Lost

It’s a story of paradise lost for some Pennsylvania residents who are confronted with a natural gas transmission compressor station that has altered life in their rural towns. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network video highlights another one of the problems caused by the pipelines and the infrastructure used to transport shale gas. The Delaware River Basin Commission holds a public hearing tomorrow on the group’s petition that the agency begin regulating pipelines in the Delaware River watershed.

Despite state laws requiring disclosure, fracking companies keep tens of thousands of chemicals secret

The evidence keeps piling up regarding the inadequacy of state fracking disclosure laws when it comes to ensuring transparency.  A recent article from Bloomberg News finds that in many states with regulations requiring disclosure of fracking chemicals, companies can evade the requirement for transparency by unilaterally declaring that a chemical is a proprietary “trade secret.”

Fracking Our Food Supply: new reports of livestock illnesses

I’ve blogged before about farmers and ranchers reporting serious illnesses in their livestock that they believe were caused by nearby oil and gas operations. They report that their veterinarians have ruled out all other potential causes. These reports have come from Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and North Dakota.

Well Pad Suffers New Slip

Because of another soil slip at the Ray Baker well pad in southern Marshall County, Chesapeake Energy is still trying to meet West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection requirements to resume operations.

Chesapeake fined $600,000 in W.Va. waterfall case

A federal judge fined Chesapeake Appalachia $600,000 for destroying a Wetzel County waterfall while constructing a well pad.

Breaking: Cargo Ship Spills Hundreds Of Gallons Of Oil

Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin described the oil spill, during a press conference at the port department this evening, as a tier one spill, which she said represents the least threatening type of spill on a scale of 1-3.

Bahamas: Crews working to contain oil spill from cargo ship with breached hull

Government officials say a cargo ship is slowly leaking oil off the northernmost island of the Bahamas.

Transport Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin said Monday that the ship’s hull was somehow breached off Grand Bahama island and it is unclear how much oil has spilled into the ocean so far

BP Oil Highly Toxic When Mixed with Dispersants

The two million gallons of the chemical used to break up BP’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 may have made the oil more toxic to marine life than it already was. In a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, the chemical dispersant called Corexit was mixed with oil taken from the BP spill. The chemical cocktail killed and reduced reproduction in rotifers, a tiny creature that forms part of the base of the Gulf food chain.

Future oil permits should require flow-rate gauge-BP spill study

One lesson learned from the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill is the need to gauge how much oil is leaking from a blown-out well, prompting U.S. government scientists to recommend all future drilling permits require mechanisms to assess the flow rate.

New Report On BP Oil Spill Says Size of Spills Can Be Determined by “Sniffing” the Air

Today the final three reports in an overview of the scientific community’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is being released. One of the authors is University of South Florida biologist Steve Murawski, who was the chief scientist for the National Marine Fisheries Service during the disaster.

BP argues for access to Transocean spill insurance

BP should have access to $750 million in Transocean’s insurance to pay costs from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a lawyer for the British company told an appeals court.

19 Months Later, Here’s What We’ve Learned From The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20, 2010 and lasted 87 days, releasing about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a mile deep well.

In response to the largest oil spill in US history more than 1 million gallons of oil dispersant was added to the sea surface and over 770 thousand gallons to the sub sea.

Research To Show How Oil Spills Harm Ocean Fish

Latest hatchery technology and ‘treadmill’ help to reveal physiological impacts on fish in Deep Water Horizon spill. UM Scientists in partnership with scientists from NOAA, Stanford and Univ. of N. Texas Present Findings on Post-Oil Spill Fish Toxicology; Studies Show Potential for Impact on Several Important Fish Species in the Region

Oil spills on the home front

Last year, the average Canadian household spent $1,400 on expenses at Christmas. Keith and Susanne Phillips can only dream of a holiday season so cheap.

The Saanich couple was left with a $48,000 cleanup bill when their home heating tank failed mere days before Christmas 2011, pouring upwards of 1,000 litres of oil into the soil on their property.

Shell Chemical equipment failure causes flame and flares in St. Charles

For more than 30 hours, Shell Chemical, located on the Motiva Enterprises campus in Norco, has been experiencing elevated flares, shooting flames and leaking thick black smoke into the air above St. Charles Parish. According to a report submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center, the plant is releasing unknown amounts of hydrogen sulfide, butadiene and benzene, a known carcinogen.

Health of workers hospitalized after Black Elk oil platform fire improves

The three Filipino oil workers who were seriously injured in a Nov. 16 explosion and fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico are in improving health, according to the Philippines embassy. Wilberto Ilagan, a 50-year-old welder in good condition, has been able to walk unaided, while 52-year-old pipefitter Renato “Rey” Dominguez, as well as a worker is not being identified out of respect for his family’s wishes, are conscious and can move certain parts of their bodies, officials announced in a statement Sunday.

Three Arrested in Pipeline Barricade Action to Halt Keystone XL Construction

Today three people where arrested outside Tyler, Texas after they barricaded themselves in a mile long segment of Keystone XL pipe and successfully shut down construction at the worksite for most of the day.

Keystone XL protesters blockade themselves inside pipeline

On Monday two activists protesting the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline blockaded themselves inside the pipeline itself in an unprecedented protest move. The Tar Sands Blockade group has staged a number of high-profile blockades in East Texas, where the southern leg of the pipeline is being constructed, but this was the very first blockade to enter the pipeline and involved extreme risk to the participants.

Landowner Fights Keystone XL Pipeline By Suing the State

Mike Bishop is fired up. He’s standing with about a dozen protestors and half that many reporters in front of a state office building, waving a lawsuit in his hands.

Report: La. refinery accidents down

Refineries in Louisiana had fewer accidents in 2011 than the previous year, but those accidents resulted in more pollution being released, according to a Louisiana Bucket Brigade report.

Louisiana refinery accidents decline, but accident emissions rise, Louisiana Bucket Brigade reports

Louisiana’s 17 petroleum refineries reported a slight decline in the number of accidents in 2011, but registered an increase in the chemicals released to the land, air and water during those accidents, according to a report released by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the United Steelworkers union Monday morning.

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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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