Environmental Must-Reads – December 5, 2014


Feds sued over Santa Barbara fracking permits

An environmental group sued the federal government on Wednesday for approving the use of hydraulic fracturing — fracking — on oil platforms off the Southern California coast.

The federal lawsuit by the Environmental Defense Center alleges the U.S. Department of the Interior and two of its subsidiary agencies approved 51 permits to drill from oil and gas platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel without properly conducting environmental studies or permitting public comment.

Feds approve Marcellus gas pipeline to N.Y.

Federal energy regulators have approved a $700 million pipeline project designed to bring cheap Marcellus Shale natural gas from Pennsylvania into high-priced markets in New England and New York.

The project’s backers said Wednesday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval means the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline could be built and operational by next winter, if it gets the remaining regulatory approvals from Pennsylvania, New York and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a timely fashion.

‘Not One Well’ gas campaign launched

A coalition of groups opposed to the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing have launched the “Not One Well” campaign.

The effort is designed to head off the possibility Gov. Andrew Cuomo might approve a limited pilot program to allow fracked wells in Southern Tier communities with the approval of local elected officials.

Unlikely allies join to fight pipeline project

If politics creates strange allies, so do pipelines: Think farmers and landowners shoulder to shoulder with left-leaning university students, environmentalists and ministers.

“There are issues that transcend political parties and transcend the left-right continuum … and this is one of them,” said Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, one of the groups concerned about a 1,100-mile pipeline a Texas company has proposed building across Iowa.

Ohio bill’s fracking provisions could clash with federal law

The Ohio Senate began hearings this week on a bill that could let oil and gas companies skirt current laws dealing with disclosure of chemical hazards to local communities and water withdrawals from the Lake Erie watershed.

The Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 490 in November, and the Ohio Senate could vote on the bill as early as next week. If passed in its current form, the bill could face challenges under federal law.

Forks Township compressor foes get tips on how to press fight

About 50 Forks Township residents were given a ray of hope Wednesday evening by representatives of environmental watchdog groups that oppose increased capacity at a compressor station used to move natural gas through pipelines.

Speaking at the township municipal building on Sullivan Trail, Alex Lotorto of Energy Justice Network and Sam Koplinka-Loehr of the Clean Air Council encouraged residents to mobilize and put pressure on Columbia Gas Co., a subsidiary of NiSource, to force it to abandon plans to rev up capacity at the Easton Compressor Station on Klein Road in Forks.

Queensland Indigenous group appeals to UN over mining on traditional land

The Mithaka people of south-west Queensland have appealed to the United Nations to investigate the state government for opening up their traditional land to mining.

They accuse the Newman government of violating international law by failing to consult them over the removal of “wild rivers” protection laws in favour of shale oil exploration.

The Nightmare of Ann Craft: Fracked, then Poisoned

Ann Craft is a self-described strong willed and caring Irish woman who has been selling real estate in Central Alberta for 19 years.

But now she is getting rather upset.

“I’m more than pissed off. I’m appalled.”

Appalled, she says, by the two-year fracking horror story she has lived through. And the consistent failure, she charges, of Alberta’s regulatory bodies including Alberta Environment, Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Energy Regulator to do their respective jobs.

Lawsuit filed in deadly offshore explosion

Two victims of an explosion at a Gulf of Mexico oil platform last month sued Houston-based companies associated with the facility on Thursday, alleging their injuries resulted from negligence by the firms.

The two injured workers, 21-year-old Colte Cahanin and 19-year-old Seth Cormier, were cleaning a heater treater designed to separate oil from other liquids at Fieldwood Energy’s platform about 12 miles from the Louisiana coast when it exploded on Nov. 20. The foreman on the job, Jerrel Hancock,  was killed in the blast.

Bayou Corne evacuation order eased two years after huge sinkhole developed

After more than two years, the mandatory evacuation order for some people living near the Bayou Corne sinkhole has eased. The Assumption Parish Police Jury on Thursday changed the designation of an area east of Grand Bayou along Louisiana Highway 70 from mandatory evacuation to voluntary, WBRZ television reported.

Evacuation order lifted in small area affected by sinkhole; mandatory evacuation still in place for Bayou Corne

Assumption Parish officials on Thursday lifted the more than 2-year-old mandatory evacuation order in a part of the Grand Bayou area near the Bayou Corne sinkhole but left the order intact in the nearby, larger Bayou Corne community.

The Grand Bayou community, which lies east of Grand Bayou and was part of the original mandatory evacuation order, has been redesignated as a voluntary evacuation area, parish officials said Thursday.

PHOTOS: Israel Hit With Massive 600,000 Gallon Oil Spill

A nature reserve has been flooded with oil and more than 80 people have been hospitalized from exposure to toxic fumes after approximately 600,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pipeline in southern Israel on Wednesday, according to media reports there.

The massive spill, which resulted from a breach in the 153-mile Trans-Israel pipeline, has been described as “one of the gravest pollution events in the country’s history.” That’s according to Israel Environmental Protection Ministry official Guy Samet, who also said the spill could take months, maybe years, to fully clean up.

BLM considers New Mexico oil pipeline proposal

As the national debate over increased oil and gas development wears on, an area in the Four Corners region long known for its natural gas deposits stands to be the next flashpoint as a Colorado company moves forward with plans to build a 140-mile pipeline across northwestern New Mexico that would be capable of moving 50,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

The Bureau of Land Management is considering whether to permit the project by Saddle Butte Pipeline LLC. A public meeting was set for Thursday evening in Lybrook, but it could be early next year before the agency makes a final decision.

Texas-to-Kern oil pipeline proposal resurfaces

Houston-based Kinder Morgan is rekindling discussions aimed at opening a 200,000-barrel-per-day oil pipeline from Texas’s Permian Basin to southwestern Kern County.

A company executive brought up the proposal, dubbed the Freedom Pipeline, at an industry conference Thursday in Los Angeles. His statements marked the first public discussion of the project since the company tabled it last year, citing a lack of interest by West Coast refiners.

Texas energy regulators adopt rule to beef up pipeline-permit requirements

Texas regulators this week adopted a rule that will boost requirements for pipeline developers seeking to obtain a coveted classification for their pipelines that would allow them to seek authority to condemn surface land under the doctrine of eminent domain.

Industry groups largely accepted the regulation as not being too onerous, but several groups representing surface landowners say it does not go far enough to protect their property rights against the power of the pipelines.

In Canada, Chris Christie Says Keystone Pipeline Delay ‘No Way to Treat a Friend’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, on a visit to Canada, said Thursday the federal government’s delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline is “no way to treat a friend.”

“This is not about sending your oil across our land. It’s about maximizing the benefits of North America’s natural resources for everybody, about allowing markets to function, and about contributing to the prosperity of citizens both in the United States and in Canada,” Christie said in Calgary. “Our leaders’ comments on this topic should not be marked by parochialism, but by principles. And the principles should be enhancing the economic competitiveness of North America, treating allies and friends with respect and fair consideration, and creating jobs, growth and opportunity for everyone on both sides of the border.”

Enbridge gets ready for ‘massive’ oil patch re-plumbing, restructures legacy assets

Behind all the opposition to new pipeline projects, there is a massive reshaping going on of North America’s energy infrastructure backbone, and Enbridge Inc. took a big leap Thursday to position itself for the coming growth.

The Calgary-based pipeline company announced it’s moving some of its legacy assets – such as its big Canadian oil pipeline system – into an affiliated income fund that enjoys a higher valuation. The move will allow it to increase its dividend by 33 per cent, starting on March 1 and grow it further by 14 to 16 per cent through 2018, while reducing the cost of funding of its $44 billion growth program and at the same time financing new investment opportunities.

Enbridge works to repair tribal turbulence

Enbridge Energy and many Native American communities have had a turbulent relationship recently due to controversial environmental issues.

Enbridge Energy is in the process of working on multiple pipeline projects. Their most expensive pipeline project would replace and expand the aging Line Three oil pipeline at a cost of $7.5 billion.

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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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