Environmental Must-Reads – February 1, 2013


Poll: New Yorkers split on fracking

As their governor weighs whether to allow fracking, New Yorkers are evenly split on whether the controversial drilling practice should be allowed in their state.

A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday shows that 43 percent support “drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale,” which underlies parts of upstate New York. That fuel is accessible only by fracking — the use of water, sand and chemicals to crack underground rock and release huge quantities of gas.

Can a Small Community Throw a Monkey Wrench Into the Global Fracking Machine?

Woodstock, the iconic counter-culture capital of the world, has become the first municipality to call for legislation to make fracking a Class C felony.

DEP Proposes More Stringent Air Quality Rules for Nat Gas Operations

The Department of Environmental Protection released new air quality permit rules for natural gas production sites. DEP says the new emission limits are “75 to 90 percent stricter than current limits for the largest, most common types of engines used at compressor stations.” Compressor stations help transport the gas along pipelines and in the process emit air pollutants.

Energy Demands Draining World’s Precious Water Supply

According to a recent piece by National Geographic, if international leaders continue to ignore the growing demand for new, renewable energy sources by maintaining their current fossil-fuel dependent energy policies, the amount of fresh water needed to produce the world’s energy will double in the next 25 years.

New Anti-Fracking Network Launches in NY

As a key February deadline closes in, residents from each of the five Southern Tier counties previously targeted as a “sacrifice zone” for fracking launched a new anti-fracking network, Save the Southern Tier. The network launched with a stern message and demand to Governor Cuomo, who the network believes has fallen prey to manipulation and misinformation about the potential for fracking in the Southern Tier.

The Flaming Faucet That Ignited the Mothers Project: A Conversation With Angela Monti Fox

Angela Monti Fox is a psychotherapist and social worker by vocation, but she’s also an activist by what you might call an accident of birth — she’s the mother of filmmaker Josh Fox. Fox’s 2010 Emmy award-winning documentary Gasland exposed the perils of hydraulic fracturing — aka “fracking” — and gave us that unforgettable image of flaming tap water that helped spark the nascent anti-fracking movement.

Fracking provides boundless energy, jobs, and earthquakes?

The United States has been called the Saudi Arabia of natural gas — by President Barack Obama no less —  and in some of the economically hardest hit areas in this country there are signs of recovery. Across America natural gas exploration has opened the job market with tens of thousands of good paying jobs with benefits and 401Ks. To get all that gas, however, the industry uses a method known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” and some worry if it’s safe.

Mystery ‘oil sheen’ grows near site of BP Gulf disaster, says researcher

A persistent, mysterious “oil sheen” in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster grew to more than seven-miles long and one-mile wide during a recent stretch of calm seas, based on aerial observations made by a former NASA physicist turned environmental activist.

“We had maybe three or four days (of calm weather) and that’s all it took for the stuff to build up considerably,” Bonny Schumaker, the physicist who now runs the non-profit On Wings of Care, which makes regular flights over regions of the Gulf affected by the 2010 oil spill.

Unknown substance leaking from Deepwater Horizon site

More than a month after BP and the Coast Guard finished a subsea operation to inspect the Deepwater Horizon site for oil leaks, no source has been found. Also, BP and the Coast Guard have not publicly identified a mystery white, milky substance observed seeping from the wreckage. But they say it’s not oil and it’s not harmful.

Gulf oil spill damage payments can be spread over multiple years, federal judge rules

Individuals and businesses reaching economic damage settlements with global oil giant BP will be able to stretch payments over two or more years with the money invested in an annuity, based on a ruling issued by a federal judge Thursday. The change could allow those receiving large financial settlements to limit their tax bills by receiving smaller payments over several years.

Standard Oil-Spill Tests Might Miss Important Class Of Chemicals

For decades, scientists studying oil spills have relied on the same methods to detect oil compounds. Unfortunately, these techniques miss an entire class of chemicals that have yet to be identified and that could account for about half of the total oil in some samples, according to research presented in January at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference, in New Orleans.

Studying these overlooked chemicals may improve scientists’ understanding of oil toxicity and could explain the fate of some of the oil released in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, the researchers say.

Restricted vessel traffic permitted on Miss. River, oil cleanup continues at leaking barge

The Coast Guard is permitting restricted commercial vessel traffic on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi, as crews work to remove oil from a leaking barge, a Guard spokesman said Thursday.

How Drought on Mississippi River Impacts You

The drought-plagued Mississippi is holding up barge traffic, sending global ripples.

Enbridge Resisting Final Clean-Up of Its Michigan Oil Spill

Two and a half years after the costliest oil pipeline spill in U.S. history, the company responsible for the disaster is balking at digging up oil that still remains in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

The cleanup has been long and difficult because the ruptured pipeline was carrying bitumen, a heavy oil from Canada’s tar sands region. Bitumen is so thick that it can’t flow through pipelines until it’s mixed with liquid chemicals to form diluted bitumen, or dilbit. When more than one million gallons of dilbit poured out of the broken pipeline in July 2010, the chemicals evaporated and the bitumen began sinking to the riverbed.

California levies record $1 million fine against Chevron for refinery fire

Nearly six months after a Chevron refinery erupted in flames in Richmond, Cailf., there’s a tiny bit of charred justice for residents of the San Francisco East Bay area.

In an announcement Wednesday, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) said it would be fining Chevron $963,200 for the fire — the biggest fine ever levied by the agency, and the biggest fine Cal/OSHA was even legally able to levy.

Environmentalists, landowners and Valero await decision on the Keystone XL pipeline

The town of Wells is easy to overlook, just a few blocks of homes and a school stretching along a busy state highway. Paths that shoot north from the main drag plunge you deep into a forest of towering East Texas pines. In November, construction crews here navigated bulldozers, feller bunchers, and excavators through rows of trees, laying the groundwork for a fight with global implications: the battle over a 1,700-mile pipeline connecting Texas oil refineries to Canada’s vast deposits of tar sands.

Three Senators Say No to John Kerry and Yes to Keystone XL

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the nomination of Sen. John Kerry as the new Secretary of State, by a vote of 94-3. The three “no” votes were cast by infamous climate denier James Inhofe (R-OK), and two anti-environment Texas Republicans, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Nebraska Responds to Lawsuit Opposing Pipeline Law

Nebraska says a law that establishes a review process for a proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline is constitutional.

The state responded Monday to a lawsuit filed by three opponents of the pipeline that will carry Canadian tar sands oil across several U.S. states to Gulf coast refineries.

In Canada, oil companies to face greater liability for offshore drilling spills

The Canadian government is set to bring in a new law to make resource companies pay more if they have a spill during offshore drilling. Environment Minister Peter Kent told reporters this week his government is about to bring in “significant” changes to liability for polluters.

Shell continues spilling oil in North Sea despite efforts to improve

Anglo-Dutch group has been responsible for over 20 pollution accidents in British waters over a six month period

Massive Oil spill at Mombasa Beach, Kenya

MOMBASA, KENYA: A massive oil spill at a popular beach on Mombasa Island has caused panic among conservation experts and marine officials. Although the origin of the spill is yet to be established, it is suspected it may have been as a result of a leakage from a ship or illegal siphoning from one of the vessels anchored at sea. By Thursday afternoon, there was no official confirmation of the extent of the spillage, although fishermen said the layer of oil stretched for close to 200 meters along the beach and into sea.

The Legacy Of Fukushima: Two Years On

It has been nearly two years since the world watched in horror as the Fukushima Daiichi reactor buildings exploded, one by one. Although the death and destruction that were caused by the tsunami were far worse, the nuclear crisis provided a harrowing global spectacle, with heroes like the 50 or so workers who stayed onsite, and villains like the increasingly beleaguered operating company, TEPCO. There were also victims like the 160,000 or so people who were forced to evacuate from the area and then, the wider population too as fears of radioactive contamination of food and water spread.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Weekly Review

The last week saw Japan’s new prime minister promise to reconsider plans to abandon nuclear power, and new statistics indicate travelers visited the country last year at levels near those before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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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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