Environmental Must-Reads – December 7, 2012


Fracking-Study Conflicts Prompt Head of Institute to Quit

University of Texas research that determined hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is safe was tainted by a conflict of interest involving the study’s lead investigator, an independent panel has concluded.

Panel criticizes fracking study, UT ethics rules

SAN ANTONIO – A review panel that examined conflict-of-interest charges against the leader of a University of Texas at Austin study on hydraulic fracturing has called for the university to adopt “rigorous” policies governing ethics rules for research for university personnel.

Damning Review of Gas Study Prompts a Shakeup at the University of Texas

The University of Texas said today that it has accepted the findings of a damning independent review of the preparation of a report on potential impacts of shale gas drilling by the school’s Energy Institute. The school said it will undertake six recommended actions, the most significant being the withdrawal of papers from the Energy Institute’s Web site related to the report until they are submitted for fresh expert review.

Fracking Makes Livestock Sick, Says Recent Study Of Natural Gas Drilling On Animal And Human Health

Reduced milk production. Gastrointestinal, neurological and urological issues. Sudden death. These are just a few of the symptoms experienced by livestock living near natural gas fracking sites and catalogued in a recent paper studying the impact of natural gas drilling on human and animal health.

‘Promised Land’ putting fracking in focus

The natural gas industry is getting ready — very ready — for its close-up.

With the Gus Van Sant film featuring fracking, “Promised Land,” scheduled to hit select theaters at the end of this month, energy firms worried about a misleading Hollywood treatment are adjusting the focus with websites and campaigns against what they see as the movie’s motives and message.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.:  You Need to See This Movie

A December 2012 Siena College poll shows that upstate New Yorkers oppose fracking by an astounding margin of 45-39. Those numbers surprise New York politicians who can generally count on the support of upstaters for virtually any industrial or commercial enterprise that promises even the faintest chance of economic development for New York’s impoverished rural communities.

Fracking Blamed For Cracks In Woman’s House In Ohio

A homeowner says cracking walls and crumbling mortar are being caused by a nearby well.

Beckie Dean blames the “enormous” damage to her 11-year-old house on the drilling operation just across the street, about 1,000 feet away.

Longmont council will report on anti-fracking amendment executive sessions

The Longmont City Council will release summaries of its closed-door sessions on Article 16, the city’s anti-fracking charter amendment.

National anti-fracking group launched

A new group called Americans Against Fracking, which claims more than 100 members including environmental, civic and religious groups, said it seeks a national ban on hydraulic fracturing “and drilling associated with fracking.” The group in a news release says that efforts to regulate the industry have been unsuccessful and only an outright ban will suffice, along with restrictions on related oil and gas production activities. “Americans Against Fracking supports federal, state and local efforts to ban fracking and to stop practices that facilitate fracking like natural gas exports, frac sand mining and pipeline construction.” It calls for a move away from fossil fuels toward renewables. The group’s website is here.

Federal Scientists Link Oil and Gas Fracking to Earthquakes in U.S.

A new federal study has found the drilling practice known as fracking can trigger earthquakes. The U.S. Geological Survey found that oil and gas operations caused the majority, if not all, earthquakes in certain areas of New Mexico and Colorado between 2001 and 2011. The report’s co-author, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Justin Rubinstein, called fracking “a societal risk [we] need to be considering.”

Hydrofracking may lead to oil discovery in Nevada but comes with environmental concerns

Buried beneath Nevada’s desert are rich reserves of gold, copper and other natural resources. But when it comes to oil, the state is a lightweight.

Activity continues at site of gas pipeline leak

There were dozens of vehicles, numerous dump trucks and dirt moving equipment in a cornfield southeast of Fairmont Thursday morning – at the site of an earlier leak from a gas pipeline.

UPDATE: Pipeline Explosion Investigation

Goldsmith, TX – The scene from the explosion site caused many drivers to stop and even take pictures.

The Texas Railroad Commission is heading the investigation a spokesperson says they are looking into what caused the pipeline to rupture.

Report endorses liquefied natural gas exports

A federal report endorsing exports of liquefied natural gas gives developers of the proposed multibillion-dollar facilities the “green light” to move forward, an LSU energy expert said Thursday.

Natural gas is eating coal’s lunch in the Southeast

The natural gas revolution will not be televised, because it’s not fun to watch. But it might provide the power for your television, if that counts — and if you live in the Southeast, the odds that it does are climbing.

How fracking affects a bean grown in India

Many people may not know what guar gum is, but chances are they’ve put it in their mouths or on their hair. Guar gum is made out of the seed and it’s used to thicken things like ice cream, shampoo and paper. It’s also a key ingredient in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial oil drilling process.

Americans Against Fracking Calls for a Ban on Fracking in the U.S.

A group of more than 100 public health, consumer, environmental and faith-based organizations announced today the launch of Americans Against Fracking, a national coalition dedicated to banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and drilling associated with fracking for oil and natural gas in the U.S. Including organizations such as 350.org, Berks Gas Truth, Breast Cancer Action, CREDO Action, Catskill Mountain Keeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Democracy for America, Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, Frack-Free Stark County, Illinois People’s Action and National Nurses United, Americans Against Fracking supports federal state and local efforts to ban fracking and to stop practices that facilitate fracking like natural gas exports, frac-sand mining and pipeline construction.

Community College Faculty Says No to Fracking, Yes to Clean Energy

In a standing-room-only meeting on Dec. 4, the governing body of the Community College of Philadelphia’s (CPP) faculty and staff union denounced the College’s ties to the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC). MSC is the primary fracking industry lobbying group in Pennsylvania.

Fracking Boom in North Dakota Has Heavy Impact on Native Americans

In just five years North Dakota has gone from a quiet agricultural state to a rapidly industrializing energy powerhouse. By the middle of 2012 North Dakota was producing about 660,000 barrels of oil a day, more than twice as much as just two years before. That number makes North Dakota the second largest oil producing state in the U.S., after Texas.

Dangerous gas discovered at sinkhole Thursday

Hydrogen sulfide gas was detected Thursday morning in equipment that is part of an operation designed to burn off methane from a cavern beneath Texas Brine’s salt dome site in Assumption Parish, officials said.

Flaring removes 2.7M cubic feet of gas so far from aquifer in Assumption Parish

Officials say vent wells burning off gas trapped in an aquifer in Assumption Parish have removed slightly more than 2.7 million cubic feet of gas since flaring began.

Ex-BP executive seeks trial delay in spill case

A former BP executive is asking a federal judge to postpone his trial on charges he concealed information from Congress about the amount of oil that was spewing from the company’s blown-out well in 2010.

BP Oil Spill: Supervisors’ Case Gets New Judge After Halliburton Connection Revealed

A new judge was assigned Wednesday to the case against two BP supervisors charged in the deaths of 11 workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in 2010, after the previous judge disclosed his wife owns stock in one of the contractors.

Scientific Papers Share Lessons Learned from the BP Oil Spill

A collection of papers now out in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) looks at the response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, examining whether it was successful and how it could be improved. The release of the reports comes just days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspended BP from obtaining new U.S. contracts due to its “lack of business integrity” following the Deepwater Horizon accident that killed 11 workers. After the explosion, the rig’s Macondo well began gushing crude oil, a leak that would continue for nearly three months. Uncertainty surrounding the flow rate of the leaking oil was a key problem during the disaster, prompting these U.S. government scientists to recommend that future drilling permits require mechanisms to assess the flow rate.

Government agency has yet to conduct audit of safety systems for offshore oil operators

It’s been more than a year since offshore oil and gas operators had to have new safety systems in place; more than a year since a revamped federal agency got the power to audit them.

Bahamas: Cargo ship spilled 3,000 gallons of oil

Roughly 3,000 gallons (11,355 liters) of oil have spilled into the ocean from a cargo ship accident earlier this week in the northern Bahamas, government officials said Thursday.

At a news conference, Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett said crews were able to recover a portion of the oily water off Grand Bahama island but he did not provide any specifics of how much. He said chemical dispersants that break up oil were not used out of concern for its effect on marine life.

Mobil intensifies clean up of spill contaminated coastline in Ibeno

Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) has intensified the clean-up of the Atlantic shoreline in Akwa Ibom contaminated by the Nov. 9, oil spill emanating from its operations.

NU researcher puts new spin on pipeline path

It was just a coincidence, said Roy Spalding, a water chemist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

His scientific paper on using center-pivot irrigation to clean up water contaminated by a potential future oil spill just happened to come out on the same day as a hearing on the proposed route of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline through the Ogallala Aquifer.

US authorities to interview injured Filipinos in oil rig blast

The Philippine embassy in Washington on Friday said that federal authorities were expected to interview three Filipino oil rig workers who sustained burn injuries in the November 16 oil platform fire in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cornhuskers pack Keystone XL hearing

A Dec. 5 public hearing on the proposed re-route of the Keystone XL Pipeline at the Boone County Fairgrounds in the central Nebraska town of Albion was unexpectedly packed with nearly 1,000 people who showed up to sound off on the project. The lone hearing was hosted by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality—the only opportunity for impacted residents to sound off on the DEQ’s findings on TransCanada’s revised plan for an oil pipeline through the state on its way to Gulf Coast refineries. Oglala Lakota Nation vice president Tom Poor Bear was among those who expressed concerns about groundwater contamination from the project. TransCanada says it has altered the pipeline’s path through Nebraska to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills and some town water wells.

BP building what it calls the world’s largest supercomputer complex in Houston

BP said Thursday that it has started construction in Houston on a new facility that will house what’s being billed as the world’s largest complex of supercomputers for commercial research, which the British oil giant will use for processing and managing massive amounts of geological and seismic data.

Strong quake hits off Japan near Fukushima disaster zone

A strong quake centred off northeastern Japan shook buildings as far away as Tokyo on Friday and triggered a one-metre tsunami in an area devastated by last year’s Fukushima disaster, but there were no reports of deaths or serious damage.

As it happened: No problems detected in N-plants after earthquake

The UN atomic agency said it had been informed by Japanese authorities that no problems had been detected at nuclear power plants in the region nearest to the epicentre of Friday’s earthquake.

IAEA, Fukushima Prefecture to set up joint decontamination program

VIENNA–The International Atomic Energy Agency said it will set up a joint program on decontamination next year with the Fukushima prefectural government as efforts continue at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Fukushima safety scientists paid by nuclear operators

Influential Japanese scientists who help set national radiation exposure limits have for years had trips paid for by the country’s nuclear plant operators to attend overseas meetings of the world’s top academic group on radiation safety.

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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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