Environmental Must-Reads – February 13, 2013


NRDC President: Congress Should Enact Public Health and Environment Safeguards Before Any Further Expansion of Natural Gas Fracking Occurs

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told a Senate Committee panel today that Congress should enact public health and environmental safeguards before any further expansion of natural gas fracking occurs because it is exposing Americans to growing risks from air pollution, water pollution and toxic chemicals.

Testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Beinecke said that many Americans are alarmed by the practice of natural gas fracturing, and states are not capable of providing needed protections; only the federal government can.

New York Fracking Gag Order Violates Freedom of Speech

The Town of Sanford, New York, is violating its residents’ First Amendment right to free speech by placing a gag order on discussion of proposed fracking in the state at town board meetings, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.

Town Sued After Barring Debate on Gas Extraction at Meetings

On Tuesday two environmental groups filed suit against the town of Sanford, N.Y., alleging that it was violating residents’ free speech rights.

I drank fracking fluid, says Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper went to unusually great lengths to learn firsthand the strides the oil and gas industry has made to minimize environmental harm from fracking.

The first-term Democrat and former Denver mayor told a Senate committee on Tuesday that he actually drank a glass of fracking fluid produced by oilfield services giant Halliburton.

Doubts voiced on fracking oversight at California hearing

State lawmakers voiced doubts Tuesday that the Brown administration’s proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing is tough enough to protect public health and safety — and questioned whether the state’s oil regulators could be trusted to enforce it.

State senators convened a joint legislative hearing to review the draft regulations, which represent California’s first attempt to govern the controversial drilling process known as “fracking.”

New York Governor Puts Off Decision on Drilling

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is awaiting a review of the potential health effects of hydraulic fracturing, and will thus miss a February deadline to issue a new environmental impact statement.

Frack Tracks: New York Regulations Delayed, Fracking Could Still Begin Soon

Natural gas suporters expressed further frustrations and anti-fracking activists shared a cautious sigh of relief on Tuesday, as news broke that regulations for shale gas drilling in New York state will be further delayed.

Officials conducting a controversial health impact study have asked for more time to fully address potential health impacts.

N.Y. town sued for cutting off fracking debate

The First Amendment has been dragged into New York’s intense debate over fracking.

The small town of Sanford, N.Y., was sued Tuesday by two leading environmental groups following a resolution passed by city officials last year that prohibited residents from talking about fracking at town council meetings.

Fort Collins-area fracking fluid leak stopped after spewing for 30 hours

Oil-laden fracking fluid gushed from an oil well near Fort Collins for nearly 30 hours before it was stopped Tuesday afternoon.

A hydraulic failure around 9:30 a.m. Monday caused a piece of equipment to fall onto a valve and break it at the drilling site 4 miles east of Fort Collins. A horizontal stream of green-tinted fluid flowed from the valve for nearly a day and half before crews gained control of it.

Conesus narrowly renews fracking moratorium

The Conesus Town Board adopted a renewal of its fracking moratorium in a 3-2 vote following a Feb. 5 public hearing that lasted nearly 2 hours.

Advocating the renewal were Supervisor Brenda Donohue and councilmen Tim Beardslee and Rick Bell. Voting against the renewal were councilmen Don Wester and Ron Steenblok.

The renewal was significant in that it may set a trend for other townships as their annual moratoriums come due for extension or renewal throughout 2013.

NY Fracking Decision Delayed, DOH Announces Need for More Time to Complete Health Review

Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah sent a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner (DEC) Joe Martens today that says the Department of Health will need more time to complete its review of the health impact assessment of hydrofracking contained in DEC’s mammoth environmental impact statement.

Fracking California: Advocates Make Case for Ban at Senate Hearing

Today, as the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committees conduct a hearing on the regulation of fracking at the State Capitol, representatives from several environmental, health and consumer advocacy organizations call on Governor Jerry Brown and the California Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to place a ban on fracking–the dangerous process of blasting water, chemicals and sand at extreme pressures into deep underground rock to release oil and gas. Combined, the organizations have collected more than 75,000 petition signatures urging Governor Brown to ban fracking in California.

Is BLM Bowing to Industry Pressure on New Fracking Rules?

Last year the BLM issued a draft rule for well stimulation (including hydraulic fracturing) under federal leases. The original proposal included limited new rules for chemical disclosure, mechanical integrity, and waste water handling.

After it received extensive public comment, the BLM announced it would be going back to the drawing board and developing a new draft for public comment. This new draft was recently leaked to the press. If it’s legitimate, it appears that the BLM has further weakened what was an already weak rule.

Anti-Fracking Activists Applaud as NY Further Delays a Decision on Whether to Allow Fracking

There is a collective sigh of relief from anti-fracking activists across New York today after news that the decision on whether to lift the state’s moratorium on fracking had been further delayed.

Signaling delay in regulations, NY health official says more time needed to review fracking

Environmental groups praised state regulators for delaying a decision on shale gas development until a more in-depth health study is finished, but landowners eager to reap profits from their mineral resources were frustrated at another delay in a rulemaking process that has kept drilling on hold for 4 1/2 years.

“We’re glad to hear that they’re not putting an artificial deadline on completion of the regulations, and giving the scientists time to do the science,” said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney for Earthjustice.

Ad in The New York Times Calls for a ‘Time Out’ on LNG Exports

In a half-page ad today in The New York Times, more than 40 groups and high-profile individuals calll on President Obama to take a “time out” in the headlong run to export more than 40 percent of America’s natural gas for use by other nations.

Why New Yorkers Don’t Trust Governor Cuomo on Fracking

In October 2011 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo frankly admitted that he had yet to earn his constituents’ trust on fracking.

Why is there still no trust for Cuomo, sixteen months later, on the verge of his big decision whether to give fracking the go-ahead?

N.Y. town sued after banning gas-drilling comments during public meetings

Two environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against an upstate New York town, claiming it violated residents’ right to free speech by banning discussion of natural gas drilling at town board meetings.

U.S. Senator Asks DOJ to Wait on Civil Settlement of BP Oil Spill Charges

Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) is asking the U.S. Justice Department to hold off on a civil settlement with BP Plc (BP, BP.LN) over the Deepwater Horizon accident until the company comes to terms with Gulf Coast states on other environmental penalties.

In a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Mr. Vitter said he is concerned that a settlement over Clean Water Act violations–which is widely expected to reach into the billions of dollars–might lead states to spend those funds on environmental-restoration projects that are supposed to be covered by another process, the Natural Resources Damages Assessment, or NRDA. BP declined to comment.

U.S. lawmaker urges DOJ not to rush BP clean water decision

A Republican lawmaker has urged U.S. authorities not rush to settle with BP Plc under the U.S. Clean Water Act in a court case starting this month related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

BP touts improved U.S. offshore drilling oversight since spill

BP Plc has seven contracted rigs drilling wells in the Gulf of Mexico nearly three years after its disastrous Macondo oil spill – and more eyes and ears on each well than ever before, the company says.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill concealed

The U.S. Department of Justice announced a civil suit was filed against ATP Oil and Gas Corp. for an oil release in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement against ATP Oil and Gas Corp. and ATP Infrastructure, LP.

When Setting Fire to an Oil Spill in a Flooded Louisiana Swamp is a Good Thing

This is a post by Kyle Jellison, NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator.

The longer I work in the Gulf of Mexico, the more I come to understand why oil spill responders claim that “every spill is a unique situation.” Really? Yes, really.

Shell may cancel second summer of Arctic drilling due to rig damages

Royal Dutch Shell plans to send its two offshore drilling rigs to Asia for extensive repairs will likely mean the cancellation of its second summer of drilling in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, unless it can find replacements fit to do the work — something that may prove to be a challenge.

Shell Sending Arctic Vessels To Asia For Repairs, Casting Doubt Over 2013 Drilling

As the question of whether to move forward with high-risk Arctic offshore drilling in 2013 looms large, there’s a chance Shell Oil may take that decision out of the Obama administration’s hands. In another costly setback to its long and problem-filled quest to drill for oil off Alaska’s shores, Shell said yesterday that the company will be towing its two Arctic drilling rigs to Asia for major repairs, instead of Seattle as was originally planned.

Assumption sinkhole gets bigger Tuesday

The sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish got a little larger on Tuesday.

Parish officials reported roughly 5,000 square feet of land sloughed off into the sinkhole Tuesday morning and that by Tuesday afternoon, the land-loss had grown to an estimated 7,500 square feet, said John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security.

5,000 sq. ft. of land falls into sinkhole

More land has fallen into the massive sinkhole plaguing south Louisiana.

Officials report about 5,000 square feet fell in on the southwest side of the sinkhole this week.

Jeremy Grantham to join Keystone pipeline protest

Jeremy Grantham, 74-year-old chief investment strategist of the $106 billion Boston-based investment-management firm GMO LLC, says he will participate in a surprise show of civil disobedience planned by the Sierra Club in Washington Wednesday morning protesting the completion of TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP) controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.

Nebraska Keystone XL pipeline foes headed to D.C.

Nebraska groups disappointed by the governor’s decision to approve a new route for the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline will take their case to Washington, D.C.

A delegation of activists and concerned citizens are scheduled to meet with a U.S. State Department official Friday afternoon, said Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska. They will present information to support their argument that Nebraska’s environmental analysis of the proposed pipeline route failed to adequately address threats to water resources.

Westwego lifts moratorium on chemical storage facility’s expansion

Less than a month after the Westwego City Council instituted a surprising new ban on the construction of chemical storage tanks, council members have reversed course but not without some dissent.

‘Chip’ Marketed as Protection from Cell Phone Radiation

There may be no proof that non-ionizing radiation from cell phones is harmful. And the “Bodywell Chip” marketed by EZ Technologies for $29.99 that supposedly protects against the radiation has not been independently tested, nor any of the science behind it published in a peer-reviewed journal.

But tacking the chip, a postage-stamp size sticker, on a cell phone or other mobile Relevant Products/Services device to counter the radiation is erring on the side of caution, the team behind the Bodywell Chip insisted at a Monday “Breakthrough Scientific Symposium” event in New York.

How to protect yourself from your mobile phone

Mostly, people think about protecting mobile devices from kids, dirt, dust, water, hard work and fun play. But there is good reason to think about protecting users from their mobile phones and tablets.

Not that anyone expects that our mobile best buddies are going to turn on us. However it is an unavoidable fact that the benefits of mobile telephony and internet everywhere come with some risks, and one is the risk of electromagnetic radiation, or EMR.

A Lasting Legacy of the Fukushima Rescue Mission: The Navy Life — Into the Abyss

To the U.S. government, Operation Tomodachi was just another big humanitarian aid and rescue mission in which the nearest Navy fleet and many land-based personnel rushed to the aid of an ally in need. In this case, the northeast coast of Japan had been flattened by a massive earthquake and tsunami which destroyed infrastructure and killed some 20,000 citizens.

Operation Tomodachi — named after the Japanese word for Friend — began as a large logistical exercise. It seemed that way to the American sailors, both land based and in the USS Ronald Reagan Aircraft Carrier Strike Group. The view from Washington was that Operation Tomodachi would enhance the long ties between allies.

Then everything changed.

Fukushima brewers band together to promote safe sake

Twenty-five breweries from the Fukushima Prefectural sake cooperative are banding together to promote their latest beverage offerings and assure the public that they are safe from any radioactive fallout from the 2011 nuclear disaster in the region.

TEPCO president blames one official for misleading Fukushima investigative panel

Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., denied an organization-wide effort to interfere with a Diet investigation into the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, saying one official was responsible for spreading misleading information.

The barber who returned to earthquake-devastated Fukushima

The Japanese town destroyed by the Fukushima earthquake was utterly deserted – until one brave couple moved back home and set up business.

Fukushima documents to be digitized

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority will digitize about 900,000 pages of government documents on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, an authority official said.

Some of the documentation includes radioactivity monitoring levels, how people were irradiated and government evacuation plans, material not yet released, authority officials said.

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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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