Environmental Must-Reads – February 14, 2014


Gas Pipeline Blast In Kentucky Burns Houses, Leaves Huge Crater

A gas pipeline explosion in Kentucky shook the ground and catapulted rocks high into the air early Thursday, officials said.

The blast and ensuing fire in Adair County destroyed three houses, two barns and several cars, Kentucky Emergency Management director Greg Thomas said.

Blast rocks Kentucky natural gas pipeline amid storm

An explosion on a major natural gas pipeline in southern Kentucky led to a forced evacuation of residents and injured at least one person early on Thursday.

The explosion and fire in Knifley, Kentucky, about 90 miles south of Louisville, could be seen “just as plain as day” from Columbia, about 12 miles from the blaze, a local police officer said.

Gas Drilling Explosion Highlights Problems of Proximity to Homes and Schools

On Feb. 11, the town of Dunkard, PA was rocked by an explosion at a Chevron Appalachia natural gas drilling site. Yesterday the fire was still burning. One worker was reported injured and another as missing.

According to press reports, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Chris Abruzzo said it was “fortunate” that the nearest house was about a half mile away from the exploding drilling site.

California Drought Emergency Sparks Call To Ban Fracking And Protect Water

The ongoing California drought emergency has prompted state lawmaker Rep. Marc Levine (D) to push for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to limit the drilling process’ drain on natural resources. “We have to decide what our most precious commodity is — water or oil?,” Levine told Reuters. “This is the year to make the case that it’s water,”

Levels of global-warming gas methane exceed government estimates, new study contends

The amount of the heat-trapping gas methane in the atmosphere is considerably great­er than government estimates, a problem significantly fueled by leaks from the U.S. natural gas system, according to a study released Thursday.

The leak rate probably is large enough to negate the value of converting buses and trucks from diesel to natural gas, as governments and private companies have done to help slow the warming of the planet, the scientists concluded.

Methane Emissions Far Worse Than U.S. Estimates, But Study Concludes Natural Gas Still Better Than Coal

Emissions of the potent heat-trapping gas, methane, the main component of natural gas, are likely 50 percent higher than U.S. government has estimated in its official greenhouse gas inventory, says a new study that is the most comprehensive effort yet to assess the problem.

Chevron Marcellus Shale well still burning in Pa.

State environmental officials and expert firefighters brought in by Chevron monitored a burning Marcellus Shale natural gas well on Wednesday.

The well, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh in Dunkard Township, erupted into flames on Tuesday morning, injuring one worker and leaving one still unaccounted for. State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Jon Poister said Wednesday night that the fire had partly extinguished itself due to moisture from inside the well. It will take time for multiple investigations to determine the cause.

Worker remains missing as Chevron well continues to burn

State environmental officials and expert firefighters brought in by Chevron have been continuing to monitor a burning Marcellus Shale natural gas well in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The well about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh in Dunkard Township erupted into flames shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday, injuring one worker and leaving one still unaccounted for early Wednesday.

Corbett says despite explosion at Greene County gas well the industry is ‘safe’

Gov. Tom Corbett said in an interview today that as horrifying, and possibly deadly, as the well fire in Greene County is, he still believes drilling in the Marcellus Shale is safe.

“I believe it’s safe. It’s been safe across the country,” he said after an unrelated press conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown.

Fire Marshal: W.Va. Firefighters Not Required to Train on Well Site Fires

News broke Tuesday of a gas well explosion and fire in Greene County, Pennsylvania, injuring one worker while a second is still missing.

The well was just miles from the West Virginia border, close to the first Senatorial District from which Senator Jack Yost hails, a district that’s full of well sites of its own.

EPA’s diesel fracking rules are credibility test for companies and regulators

The recommendations U.S. EPA issued yesterday for hydraulic fracturing with diesel ingredients aren’t likely to slow drilling or even increase paperwork.

For one thing, in most states they’re just that — recommendations

Mitigation banks see green in Marcellus drillers’ permit crunch

Conor Gillespie moves streams.

These days, he has plenty of work in southwest Pennsylvania, returning creeks to their floodplains and recreating wetlands along their banks.

Scanning a denuded winter landscape of hilly farms, he pointed to a stream that had years ago been channelized and pushed to the edge of a field so it would run straight along the road. Without natural twists and turns to slow the water, the stream had cut a deep gash.

Feds approve more fracking off California coast

Federal regulators have approved three new fracking jobs off the California coast, more than previously known.

The revelation Wednesday came as the California Coastal Commission attempts to exercise greater oversight over practice known as hydraulic fracturing.

Shale gas pioneer plans world’s first offshore wells in Irish Sea

The founder of shale gas firm Cuadrilla is planning a venture to frack in the Irish Sea, the BBC has learned.

Dr Chris Cornelius believes there are large volumes of offshore shale gas that could be extracted.

Hydraulic fracking bans advance at Hawaii legislature

Companion bills that would ban fracking in Hawaii are getting the approvals needed to eventually become law, but not without some debate.

House Bill 2359, introduced by Puna State Representative Faye Hanohano, and Senate Bill 2940, spearheaded by Puna Senator Russell Ruderman, both prohibit hydraulic fracturing and the “collection, storage, treatment, or discharge of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing.” The measures also provide for penalties and enforcement.

Train Carrying Crude Oil Derails in Pennsylvania

A 120-car Norfolk Southern train carrying heavy Canadian crude oil derailed and spilled in western Pennsylvania on Thursday, adding to a string of recent accidents that have prompted calls for stronger safety standards.

There were no reports of injury or fire after 21 tank cars came off the track and crashed into a nearby industrial building at a bend by the Kiskiminetas River in the town of Vandergrift. Nineteen of the derailed cars were carrying oil, four of which spilled between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons of oil, Norfolk Southern said. The leaks have since been plugged. Two other derailed tank cars held liquefied petroleum gas.

Train Derails In Pennsylvania, Spilling Up To 4,000 Gallons Of Oil

A train carrying crude oil from Canada derailed in Pennsylvania on Thursday, spilling an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of oil.

Twenty-one cars of the 118-car train derailed at around 8:30 Thursday morning, 19 of which were carrying oil and two of which were carrying liquefied petroleum gas, according to Norfolk Southern Corp., the train’s owner. Three of those cars spilled oil, but the leaks were plugged and the company did not say the how much oil spilled. The train was headed for Morrisville, Pennsylvania and derailed in the town of Vandergrift in western Pennsylvania.

Stanford, NOAA scientists discover mechanism of crude oil heart toxicity

While studying the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on tuna, a research team led by Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences, discovered that crude oil interrupts a cellular pathway that allows fish heart cells to beat effectively. The components of the pathway are present in the hearts of many animals, including humans.

BP Deepwater Horizon spill oil causes heart damage that can kill tuna, new study finds

Crude oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill contains a chemical that interferes with fish heart cells, slowing heart rates, reducing the ability of the heart to contract and causing irregular heartbeats that can lead to heart attacks or death, according to new research released Thursday by researchers at Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Study Finds Proximity to Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling Rigs Threaten Humpback Whales

When you are 50 feet long and weigh more than 40 tons—the maximum allowed weight on most U.S. highways—you need a lot of space to move around.

Humpback whales, still recovering from whaling that wiped out as much as 90 percent of their global population, are confronted with new challenges caused by hydrocarbon extraction, shipping routes and ocean-based pollutants, according to a study co-authored by Sara Maxwell, a biology postdoctoral scholar affiliated with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Scientist Takes a Closer Look at the Deep-Sea Impacts of BP Gulf Oil Spill

Most images related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster are of oil floating on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico or washing up on its shores, but what has happened in the deep-sea environment? Dr. Paul Montagna of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi explores that question. In a recent publication in PLOS ONE, he estimated the size of the deep-sea “footprint” left behind by the BP Deepwater Horizon Macondo well blowout. He has documented severe impacts to bottom-dwelling animals over a nine-square-mile area (equivalent to 4,356 football fields) and moderate impacts within another 57 square miles, an area twice the size of Manhattan.

BP oil spill medical settlement moves forward after appeals dismissed

It has been more than a year since the federal judge overseeing the sprawling BP oil spill litigation approved a settlement allowing for payments and treatment for hundreds of thousands of coastal residents and cleanup workers who said they were made ill or were injured as a result of exposure to oil and dispersants. BP can now start paying medical claims under its $9.2 billion spill settlement after an appeals court in New Orleans dismissed the final claim opposing the agreement this week.

Way Cleared for Medical Claims in 2010 BP Spill

A federal appeals court has cleared the way for thousands of workers to be compensated for medical treatment for exposure to crude oil or chemical dispersants during the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ action Tuesday involves a settlement approved by a federal judge in January 2013 between BP, workers and some coastal residents from specified beachfront and wetlands areas who said they were injured or sickened during the spill cleanup.

BP must face shareholder suit over 2006 Alaska oil spill

A U.S. appeals court on Thursday revived a shareholder lawsuit against BP PLC over statements the company made in the wake of a 2006 oil spill in Alaska.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco allows shareholders to proceed with some securities fraud claims against BP after a lower judge had dismissed them.

Take steps to protect La.’s Chicot Aquifer

Save Lake Peigneur Inc. has been asking for support from Louisiana legislators for eight years. Our request has been in reference to protecting the drinking water, which supplies 15 parishes, or an estimated 1,126,173 Louisiana citizens, as well as protection for the schools, 4,000 residents, town and environment surrounding Lake Peigneur.

Trains That Go Boom

For most of the 14 years that Tinamarie Hatlee has lived in Ravena, N.Y., a small town south of Albany, she didn’t mind the trains that passed 50 feet from the back door of her house. They came only a few times a day and moved slowly, so the noise was bearable. But starting last summer, Hatlee says, the trains have been rumbling by every few hours, from early morning until well past midnight. And they go much quicker, as fast as 50 miles an hour, she estimates. Many are oil trains—hundreds of black tank cars filled with tens of thousands of barrels of crude, mainly from oil fields in North Dakota, on their way to refineries on the East Coast. “It’s terrifying to think of all that oil flying by so close to my house,” Hatlee says. “I don’t understand why they have to go so fast.”

Federal authorities investigate coal ash spill

Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into a massive coal ash spill into a North Carolina river, demanding that Duke Energy and state regulators hand over reams of documents related to the accident that left a waterway polluted with tons of toxic sludge.

Highly Contaminated Water Still Pouring Into Public Drinking Source on Dan River

Waterkeeper Alliance and Yadkin Riverkeeper have obtained the results from a second round of water sampling on the Dan River in the wake of the third largest coal ash spill in recent U.S. history. Their results confirm that highly-contaminated coal ash seepage is still pouring out of the same Duke Energy ash impoundment where an estimated tens of thousands of tons of raw ash erupted into the river last week. The newly-confirmed leak is located about a third of a mile upstream of the pipe where last week’s major spill occurred.

Communities Demand Environmental Review of Plans to Increase Transport of Tar Sands Oil by Rail and Barge

Citizens, local community leaders and environmental groups, representing thousands of area residents, mobilized to call on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to immediately order a full public safety and environmental review of the proposed expansion of an oil terminal in the Port of Albany today at the agency’s first information forum to allow the public to ask questions and express concerns about the plan.

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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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