Environmental Must-Reads – February 15, 2013


Fracking undermines California’s future

A campaign by the oil and gas industry aims to persuade Californians that fracking – blasting water, toxic chemicals and sand into deep underground rock to extract oil and gas – will solve our state’s fiscal and energy challenges. However you don’t need to dig very deep to find that fracking will not secure our energy needs or grow our economy, but it will pollute our resources, worsen climate change and undermine efforts to build a clean energy economy.

Lawmakers want tougher rules for fracking

State lawmakers are voicing doubts that the Brown administration’s proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing is tough enough to protect public health and safety — and they’re questioning whether the state’s oil regulators can be trusted to enforce it.

As detailed in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times, state senators convened a joint legislative hearing to review draft regulations, which represent California’s first attempt to govern the controversial drilling process known as fracking.

Impact of fracking spill to be assessed

The gushing fracking water leak has stopped, but questions remain about its impact.

It took at least 20 people to wrest control of the oil and gas well that spewed a horizontal geyser of green-tinted fracking water for more than 30 hours Monday and Tuesday north of Windsor in unincorporated Weld County.

MarkWest Processing Gas in Wetzel County; Fined $306K For Spoiled Stream

Before investing $1.9 billion for new natural gas processing infrastructure in Ohio’s Utica Shale, MarkWest Energy will pay a $306,000 fine for polluting a stream across the Ohio River near its Mobley plant in Wetzel County.

Reported waste dumping results in federal charges against fracking company owner

The owner of an oil and natural gas drilling company accused of dumping more than 20,000 gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River last month was charged Thursday with violating the federal Clean Water Act.

Company owner charged with dumping ‘fracking’ wastes in a stream

The owner of a company that that takes “fracking” wastes from drilling companies was charged in federal court today with deliberately dumping thousands of gallons of the toxic mixture into a Youngstown stream.

Ben Lupo, 62, owner of Hardrock Excavating, appeared in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio where he was charged with violating the Clean Water Act

Fracking in New York? Not for another year, if ever

The fracking debate in New York state is hitting new heights as regulators delay a final decision on the controversial natural gas production method, but it looks increasingly clear that it will be a year – if ever – before drilling begins again.

Fracking, Health and Our Chemical History

In 1929, the Monsanto company introduced a new class of chemicals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), substances that would revolutionize electronics. Seven years later, several workers at the Halowax Corporation in New York who worked with PCBs fell ill, and three died of severe liver failure. By the mid-1930’s, officials Monsanto and General Electric (GE), which was one of the leading licensees of the technology, knew about the potential health effects of PCBs. Soon more studies linked PCB exposures to cancer, developmental problems, and damage to the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.

Now in Poland, Fracking vs. the Environment

Poland’s path to energy independence through shale gas is being delayed by skylarks, red kites, and local farmers hesitant to grant access to their land. The nation has enough of the fuel to last at least 50 years and free it from dependence on Russia, the Polish Geological Institute reports. Exploiting the deposits will require the government to allay concerns of environmentalists and the tourism industry that hydraulic fracturing will pollute their water. “People in the region have emotional ties to their land, which they’ve owned for generations,” says Malgorzata Klawiter, the official who deals with shale gas issues for the region of Pomerania. “For them, the value of an old home with a shack and surrounding land is much higher than any market estimate.”

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House hearing looks at fracking, regulations

House Republicans will launch new broadsides against federal environmental regulations.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will discuss state efforts “in protecting the environment under current law.”

Subcommittee Democrats Stress Environmental Protection and Economic Vitality

Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment held its first hearing of the 113th Congress.  The purpose of the hearing was to assess broad environmental trends and indicators, including an examination of factors such as air and water quality, chemical exposure, environmental and human health, and climate change. Much of the discussion centered around the impact of environmental regulations. Democratic Members presented a broad range of questions but also took this opportunity to highlight the inconsistent rhetoric that has become all too familiar from the past Congress.

Local residents turn out to protest Colorado BLM’s controversial ‘lease first, plan later’ approach

Wednesday, South Park and the North Fork Valley residents and business owners turned out to protest BLM’s controversial ‘lease first, plan later’ approach to oil and gas drilling at the Colorado BLM Resource Advisory Council (RAC) meetings. The public’s testimony focused on the need for BLM to finish critical planning and studies before they lease lands, in order to protect water supplies, local economies and wildlife.

Colorado Wildlife Federation Executive Director, Suzanne O’Neil, called on Colorado BLM to create a Master Leasing Plan (MLP) before any lease permitting moves forward in South Park.

Activists Send Valentine to Corbett; Denounce Act 13 and Fracking

Activists oppose “Dark Ages” Act 13, call for an end to Governor Corbett’s special relationship with the fracking industry

Judge: BLM must disclose oil, gas firms’ names

A federal judge is reversing a 1995 policy and ordering the Bureau of Land Management to disclose who nominates parcels for the federal government to be leased for oil and gas development.

Is Fracking Wastewater Being Dumped into Coal Mines in Western Pennsylvania?

In the January cold, Ken Dufalla’s hands, chapped and raw, shake as he grips a five-foot metal pole with a small, stained plastic container attached and dunks it into the icy, orange-colored water rushing into Ten Mile Creek.

Workers evacuated from offshore well after incident

Non-essential personnel have been evacuated from a shallow-water well Apache Corp. has been drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, amid concerns about an underground flow of natural gas at the site.

Gas has not been detected at the seafloor and there is no sign of pollution at the location, but federal regulators confirmed Thursday that Apache reported the underground gas movement after an emergency more than a week ago.

BP oil spill settlement offers surpass $2 billion mark

More than $2 billion in settlement payments have been offered to businesses and individuals who suffered losses as a result of BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to a federal court filing by the Lafayette lawyer in charge of the claims process.

Transocean fined for BP Deepwater oil spill

A U.S. judge approved Thursday a $400 million settlement in criminal penalties against the rig operator involved in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst environmental disaster in American history.

The punishment was part of a plea bargain agreement reached last month by rig owner Transocean and the U.S. Justice Department.

Judge Accepts Transocean Guilty Plea in Gulf Oil Spill

A federal judge in New Orleans approved Transocean’s guilty plea and $400 million in penalties for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout.

Drilling company enters guilty plea in Gulf oil spill

Transocean Deepwater Inc., an oil drilling company, formally pleaded guilty on Thursday to a misdemeanor charge and will pay $400 million in criminal penalties, the latest action in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in New Orleans accepted the guilty plea to violating the Clean Water Act plea and imposed sentence, the Justice Department announced Thursday. Transocean agreed last month to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge and to pay $1 billion in civil penalties along with the criminal penalty. Another judge will decide whether to accept the civil penalty portion.

Transocean Fined $400 Million for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Transocean Deepwater Inc. pleaded guilty today to a violation of the Clean Water Act for its illegal conduct leading to the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Swiss-based offshore contract drilling services corporation was sentenced to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced.

Activists arrested at White House protesting Keystone pipeline

When President Obama spoke about climate change in the State of the Union address Tuesday night, he failed to mention the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which aims to transport heavy crude oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast and which needs his approval for a construction permit.

But that controversial project — which ranks as one of the top climate decisions the president will have to make this year — took center stage Wednesday as 48 activists engaged in civil disobedience at the gates of the White House.

Watch RFK, Jr.’s Pre-Arrest Speech Calling People to Attend the Biggest Climate Rally in U.S. History

Waterkeeper Alliance President, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., joined a climate protest yesterday outside the White House calling on the Obama Administration to protect our oceans and waterways by rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline. He was arrested yesterday with his son Conor and 46 others protesting the oil industry and sending a message to Washington that President Obama should stand up against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Keystone Protests Resume, But None Against Oil Imports from Nigeria?

I’ve got nothing against the passions of those — including friends of mine — pushing hard to persuade President Obama not to let the Keystone XL pipeline move forward and carry bitumen from Canadian deposits to United States Gulf Coast refineries. More were arrested this week.

But that effort misses the reality that as long as oil demand is high in the United States and elsewhere, there will be environmental risks and often terrible social costs in farflung and loosely governed places.

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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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