Environmental Must-Reads – February 17, 2014


Oil well in North Dakota out of control, leaking

A Whiting Petroleum Corp oil well in North Dakota was leaking drilling fluids after a blowout late on Thursday, company and state officials said on Friday.

The well lost control after a blowout preventer failed and was leaking between 50 and 70 barrels per day of fracking fluid that contains chemicals, water and sand, a company spokesman said.

Fracking brings oil boom to south Texas town, for a price

Just a few years ago this was a sleepy town of 5,600, and people eked out a living from the land. They farmed, worked ranches and leased their property to hunters to make a few dollars.

Now, an oil and gas boom is transforming the economy of south Texas, turning Carrizo Springs into a busy city of at least 40,000.

Fracking’s water use sets up fight with cities and farmers

It’s no secret that hydraulic fracturing in the production of oil and natural gas uses enormous amounts of water.

A single well requires between 2 and 10 million gallons of water — mixed with sand and chemicals — to crack rocks deep underground and release oil or natural gas. As a rule of thumb, it takes 1,000 truck trips to complete one hydraulically fractured well.

Pro-Fracking Group Sues New York Gov. Cuomo

A group of pro-gas drilling landowners from upstate New York filed a lawsuit Friday against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seeking to compel the state to complete its review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

A de facto moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been in effect since the state Department of Environmental Conservation began a review of the practice in 2008. And the state Department of Health has been conducting its own health review of fracking since the fall of 2012. Whether the state will grant fracking permits depends on the outcome of both reviews.

Wide-ranging review sees much higher methane leakage from natural gas operations

Natural gas operations are leaking more of a potent greenhouse gas than previously assumed, but even so, the fossil fuel is better than coal for the climate, according to a comprehensive new study.

The study found that U.S. EPA’s greenhouse gas inventory is underestimating the amount of methane emitted in the United States by about 50 percent. Some of that excess is from the natural gas sector.

EPA seen as underreporting emissions: what that means for natural gas use

For years, natural gas has enjoyed a reputation as the cleanest fossil fuel because it releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when it is burned than coal or oil.

With technology that allows companies to extract gas from reservoirs trapped in underground shale deposits in the US, domestic gas has become plentiful and cheap. As a result, it is increasingly replacing coal in power generation, and is substituting for gasoline and diesel fuel in fleets of retrofitted vehicles.

State made plan to promote fracking while regulating it

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the agency assigned to regulate oil-and-gas drilling in Ohio, developed a wide-ranging public-relations campaign in August 2012 to sell Ohioans on fracking in some state parks and forests. It was never officially implemented.

The 10-page memo recognized that the public-relations initiative “could blur public perception of ODNR’s regulatory role in oil and gas,” which would require “precise messaging and coordination” to counteract.

Lawsuit tries to force fracking decision

A coalition representing thousands of upstate landowners sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday in an attempt to force a decision on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

The lawsuit from the Binghamton-based Joint Landowners Coalition of New York accuses Cuomo of intentionally obstructing the state’s 5 1/2-year review of hydrofracking for political purposes, and challenges whether it was legal for the state to refer the review to New York’s health commissioner in 2012.

New rules issued on using diesel, kerosene for fracking

Guidelines published this week by the Environmental Protection Agency require oil companies to get an additional permit to use diesel and kerosene in hydraulic fracturing.

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources is working to get the word out to companies operating in the state, but the industry had already begun moving away from using those chemicals, Director Lynn Helms said Friday.

Oil Companies Eye Fracking in Florida Panther Habitat Refuge

Wildlife stewards are already busy defending Florida panther habitat against condo developments, off-road vehicles and other hazards. Yet another threat has surfaced, and its scope and breadth are only now becoming clear.

Study Sees Path to Cutting Substantial American Natural Gas Leaks

A policy analysis published in Science today examines 20 years of research on leakage from natural gas production and distribution systems in North America, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and finds big opportunities to cut the worst leaks and a substantial climate benefit from a coal-to-gas switch, even accounting for higher leak rates.

Front Range groundwater likely contains hormone-disrupting chemicals due to oil and gas activity

A recent study shows evidence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in water near hydraulic fracturing sites in western Colorado, bringing into question the safety of water in Boulder’s heavily drilled backyard of Weld County.

At certain doses, so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals can interfere with the human hormone system, causing cancer, a number of developmental disorders and birth defects. In a press release, Susan Nagel, an associate professor at the

BP fights US government for release of gulf spill ‘evidence’

BP is trying to force the US government to release evidence that the company says shows its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has done much less damage than many people feared.

In a filing to the US court in New Orleans hearing the trial over the spill, the company said the Department of Justice “seeks to prevent [BP] from discovering data, analyses and information that the US has amassed regarding the environmental impact of the spill and the subsequent recovery”.

Dolphins ‘suffering miscarriage, lung disease, losing teeth after BP oil spill’ researchers claim

Bottlenose dolphins with deformities including missing teeth and lung disease have been found in the Gulf of Mexico a year after the BP oil spill, according to US researchers.

The mammals were also suffering from hormonal imbalances, Pneumonia and liver disease, while a pregnant female was found carrying a dead foetus.

The State of the Gulf’s Beaches: BP Oil Spill Weekly Pollution Summary, 2/09/14-2/15/14

Contrary to BP’s assertions that the Gulf is making a strong recovery and that any lasting effects from the company’s Deepwater Horizon Blowout are minimal, I offer this weekly summary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) daily beach monitoring surveys.

Since the end of BP’s active cleanup efforts in June 2013, government agencies (not BP) have documented and removed over 32,874 Surface Residue Balls (SRBs), better known as tar balls, and more than 476 pounds of Deepwater Horizon oil from Florida’s beaches alone (not including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Texas). On an average survey day, the FDEP team covers no more than 1,000 yards of beach, less than 1% of Florida’s shoreline that was impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

5,000 gallons of fuel oil spill in Buncombe County

Authorities say 5,000 gallons of fuel oil have spilled from a tank in Buncombe County, polluting a nearby creek and river.

State officials said the spill at Harrison Construction Co. in Candler was first noticed around 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Work continues on cleanup of Candler oil spill

Environmental officials and contractors continued working Sunday to abate the effects of nearly 5,000 gallons of fuel oil that leaked into Hominy Creek and the French Broad River area Friday afternoon.

Coordinators with the Environmental Protection Agency, private contractors hired by the tank owner and local environmental groups were still on the scene Sunday, working to extract the oil and evaluate damage to the affected water and soil.

Freedom Industries cleanup advances

Cleanup crews at Freedom Industries are still several weeks away from emptying all of the site’s chemical storage tanks, and still don’t have a clear idea of how much of which materials could have contaminated soil at the site.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is overseeing the cleanup, which is being carried out by Freedom Industries and contractors for the chemical company.

Richland Superfund site part of $63M payout to EPA

Decades after it dumped toxic waste in Upper Bucks, a leading chemical company has finally paid for the damage.

This month, W.R. Grace & Co. paid more than $63 million to the government to resolve claims for environmental cleanups at 39 sites across 21 states.

Crude oil rail shipments raise safety, environmental concerns in NY

Opponents of a proposal to build boilers to liquefy heavy crude passing through Albany by rail are drawing attention to the capital’s emergence as a major hub for the transport of oil that’s widely considered risky from an environmental and safety standpoint.

Keystone XL Pipeline: 4 Animals and 3 Habitats in Its Path

Climate change has been the focus of much of the opposition to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. But many conservationists are also concerned about more immediate environmental consequences.

They’re worried about the pipeline construction’s impact on wildlife and ecosystems, and of possible spills of the heavy crude oil that will flow through the pipeline at the rate of 830,000 barrels a day.

Native Americans vow a last stand to block Keystone XL pipeline

Faith Spotted Eagle figures that building a crude oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast would bring little to Indian Country besides more crime and dirty water, but she doubts that Native Americans will ever get the U.S. government to block the $7 billion project.

“There is no way for Native people to say no – there never has been,” said Spotted Eagle, 65, a Yankton Sioux tribal elder from Lake Andes, S.D. “Our history has caused us not to be optimistic. . . . When you have capitalism, you have to have an underclass – and we’re the underclass.”

Next up in the hunt for Gulf oil riches: Newfoundland

As Quebec moves to open a new oil play on an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland’s regulator is set to issue a report that will help determine the pace of development in its waters in the Gulf.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board has concluded its environmental assessment of oil exploration in the Gulf. The report, which is expected in the coming weeks, will set the stage for Corridor Resources Inc.’s effort to get a drilling licence for its Old Harry prospect in the Gulf.

Quebec’s Anticosti oil-exploration plan is risky: critics

A plan launched by the Quebec government to help fund oil exploration on a remote Gulf of St. Lawrence island is raising concerns the province is taking too big a risk with taxpayer cash.

Premier Pauline Marois announced Thursday her government would finance up to $115 million in joint ventures with several oil companies to drill on Anticosti Island, an endeavour she says could bring $45 billion in benefits to Quebecers over the next 30 years.

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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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