Environmental Must-Reads – February 19, 2014


Alberta natural gas pipeline ruptures

A natural gas pipeline owned by TransCanada Corp ruptured 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, on Tuesday morning. No injuries were reported and the pipeline regulator said there were no human health concerns.

TransCanada, the country’s No. 2 pipeline company, said the rupture on its Ferrier North Lateral pipeline, part of the company’s regional Nova system, occurred at 5 a.m. local time (1200 GMT). The line has been shut down and local landowners and regulators have been notified.

Texas’ toxic air: Major investigation reveals how unregulated pollution from fracking is making people sick

The Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas is the 400-mile-long site of one of the country’s biggest energy booms and, as a result of the thousands of oil and gas wells operating there, of dangerous air pollution. How dangerous? Residents complain of asthma, splitting headaches and other health concerns, all attributed to the air quality described by one family as “so bad that their lungs feel as if they will burst.”

Nobody Knows How Much Fracking is Happening Off California’s Coast

The modern environmental movement was born when a drilling platform blew out and some 100,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969, polluting California’s famous coastline. Yet as the race to exploit the vast amount of oil in the Monterey Shale heats up, environmentalists are warning that the state of California’s lax oversight of the controversial oil production practice known as fracking, especially when it occurs on offshore oil drilling platforms, could lead to another major disaster.

Trading Water for Fuel is Fracking Crazy

It would be difficult to live without oil and gas. But it would be impossible to live without water. Yet, in our mad rush to extract and sell every drop of gas and oil as quickly as possible, we’re trading precious water for fossil fuels.

A recent report, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress, shows the severity of the problem. Alberta and B.C. are among eight North American regions examined in the study by Ceres, a U.S.-based nonprofit advocating for sustainability leadership

Texas Town Seeks Fracking Ban

The Denton Drilling Awareness Group (Denton DAG) today announced they are collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing within city limits. If approved by voters, Denton would become the first major Texas city to ban fracking, and the first city in the country to ban fracking after permits had been previously granted.

After fracking blast, Chevron offers pizza

A Chevron well in the preparation stages for hydraulic fracturing exploded last Tuesday 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, Penn., causing a fire that lasted for four days and left one Chevron contractor unaccounted for and another one injured.

The fire is now out, but Chevron’s damage control efforts may be far from over.

Halliburton fined $1.8 million over disposal

In one of the largest penalties leveled against an oil and gas service company in Pennsylvania’s history, the Department of Environmental Protection fined Halliburton Energy Services $1.8 million for transporting, processing and disposing of hydrochloric acid without classifying it as a hazardous substance.

As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater

With hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas continuing to proliferate across the U.S., scientists and environmental activists are raising questions about whether millions of gallons of contaminated drilling fluids could be threatening water supplies and human health.

Saturated with oil money, Texas legislature saved industry from pollution rule

In January 2011, with air quality worsening in Texas’ booming oil and gas fields and the federal government beginning to take notice, state environmental regulators adopted rules to reduce harmful emissions.

The industry rebelled. So did the state legislature.

Oklahoma Wonders Why The Earth Is Shaking

No strangers to nature’s fury, Oklahomans grow up accustomed scorching heat, blizzards, wrecking-ball thunderstorms and tornadoes. What they don’t see a lot of are earthquakes, which have been rattling the Sooner State with rare frequency of late — at least 115 earthquakes of varying intensities in the last week.

Kasich reverses on fracking in state parks

Less than three years after signing legislation opening up Ohio state parks and forests to fracking, Gov. John Kasich now opposes the controversial horizontal drilling for oil and gas on public lands.

“At this point, the governor doesn’t support fracking in state parks,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told The Dispatch. “We reserve the right to revisit that, but it’s not what he wants to do right now, and that’s been his position for the past year and a half.”

Ohio Agency Tasked With Limiting Fracking On Public Lands Was Actually Planning To Promote It

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources developed a plan to promote fracking and drilling in state parks and forests while regulating the practice at the same time, according to a document leaked by the governor’s administration.

The memo, which was drafted in 2012 but was never implemented by the state government, outlines a plan to convince Ohio residents of the benefits of opening up public lands to resource extraction. It also makes note of probable sources of opposition to the drilling, including environmental activists, which the memo refers to as “skilled propagandists” who will put up “zealous resistance.”

The huge downside to fracking that everyone is ignoring

The oil and natural gas boom brought on by innovations in fracking is the biggest development in U.S. energy in years. Politicians across the ideological spectrum have hailed a drilling technology that could put the U.S. on a course to energy independence, with President Obama using his State of the Union speech in January to praise natural gas as a “bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”

Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil & Bad Air on the Texas Prairie – MULTIMEDIA

Award-winning reporters reveal the dangers of releasing a toxic soup of chemicals into the air from oil and gas drilling and expose how little the Texas government knows about such pollution in its own state. They also show that the Texas legislature is intent on keeping it that way.

The project blends traditional and multimedia reporting—including this original video documentary, plus photographs, a slideshow and print and interactive graphics.

Bluegrass Pipeline bill goes before Ky. House panel today

A bill that would give state oversight to the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline heads before a House committee today.

Oil and gas pipelines would need approval from the Kentucky Public Service Commission before condemning land under House Bill 31, which also requires pipeline projects to use eminent domain only after a detailed environmental review and public input.

Toxins leaking from 2nd pipe at coal ash dump

North Carolina officials said Tuesday that groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic apparently leaching from a Duke Energy coal ash dump is still pouring into the Dan River, which is already contaminated from a massive Feb. 2 spill.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke to stop the flow of contaminated water coming out a pipe that runs under a huge coal ash dump at its Eden power plant. A nearby pipe at the same dump collapsed without warning two weeks ago, coating the bottom of the Dan River with toxic ash as far as 70 miles downstream.

North Carolina riverbed coated by toxic coal ash, officials say

Federal officials said Tuesday that toxic coal ash has coated the bottom of a North Carolina river as many as 70 miles downstream of a Duke Energy dump where a massive spill occurred two weeks ago.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service advised that a massive pile of coal ash about 75ft long and as much as 5ft deep has been detected on the bottom of the Dan river near the site of the February 2 spill. Deposits varying from 5in deep to less than 1in coated the river bottom across the state line into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir.

What’s Next for Pegasus Pipeline after Mayflower Oil Spill?

Central Arkansas Water (CAW) has had another conversation with ExxonMobil representatives about its future plans for the pipeline involved in the Mayflower oil spill.

Next month (March 29) marks one-year since the rupture that spilled more than 200-thousand gallons of heavy crude oil into the Northwoods subdivision neighborhood, drainage ditches and a Lake Conway cove.

Administering BP claims settlement is tough work but worth it, lawyer says

Patrick Juneau was leaving church in Lafayette recently when a woman approached him.

“She told me that she was saying the rosary for me,” said Juneau, who oversees BP’s multibillion-dollar settlement to resolve hundreds of thousands of claims for losses tied to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“I said, ‘Say three more.’ ”

Companies operating at Napoleonville Dome to pay millions in taxes under protest

Seven companies operating on the Napoleonville Dome in Assumption Parish must pay a combined $15.6 million in property taxes and penalties under protest by early next week while they fight tax bills in court, a state district judge ruled Tuesday.

The ruling is an early skirmish in a bigger legal fight over whether unreported salt dome caverns in Assumption Parish should be assessed as land or commercial improvements but halts a bid by the salt dome companies to delay upfront payment of the sizeable tax bills for nearly 10 months.

Horizon oil spill inspires hydrocarbon sensor development

Within a decade, it may be possible to detect toxic petrochemical levels in the world’s oceans on a daily basis, via a network of remote sensors.

Scientists at CSIRO and UWA have been working to develop a tool to detect aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, p-xyleneand naphthalene) at very low concentrations in aqueous solutions.

U.S. Governors Want States to Take Lead on Drilling Regulations

A dozen U.S. governors are pushing for states, not the federal government, to lead regulation of oil and gas drilling. They argue they know their territories best, even as environmentalists question whether they’re doing enough — or doing the industry’s bidding.

With federal rules on hydraulic fracturing pending, the bipartisan group created the States First initiative to promote states as the “primary and appropriate regulators.” They’ve started a website to publicize their efforts and programs to share expertise such as a regulatory exchange and certification for inspectors.

Westmoreland derailment puts spotlight on increase in crude-oil spills

The recent derailment of railcars in Westmoreland County that caused a spill of thousands of gallons of crude oil is the largest crude oil spill in the state since 2000, according to federal records.

It is also the second incident involving the transportation of crude oil by rail in the state in less than a month.

The tar sands horror story you weren’t supposed to hear

The oil industry was willing to pay big money to keep this one quiet. Instead, ThinkProgress has the heartbreaking story of a family forced out of Alberta by the exploitation of Canada’s oil sands (the ones Keystone XL, if built, would tap).

“You’ve gotta understand, I’ve worked for oil sands, I was a contractor,” Alain Labrecques told ThinkProgress. “I’ve never been negative toward oil.” Then this happened

Keystone pipeline politics ‘nuts’: Ex-oil chief

Approving the long-stalled northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. is a “no-brainer in terms of the overall economic health” of the nation, John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, said Tuesday on CNBC, in a strongly worded rebuke of the Obama administration.

“I think it’s nuts in the way this political process is playing out. I get very irritated at the nonsense,” said Hofmeister, founder and now CEO of the advocacy group Citizens for Affordable Energy. “We could be employing people, we could be building the infrastructure of the country and taking care of our energy security needs in decades ahead.”

Billionaire to share polling data about oil pipeline with Senate Democrats

Climate activist and billionaire Tom Steyer, who hopes to funnel as much as $100 million into the 2014 elections, will tell Senate Democrats on Wednesday night that they can use opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline to bring voters over to their side this fall, according to one of his advisers.

Steyer is hosting a “Blue Green Council Dinner” fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at his San Francisco home Wednesday.

Keystone Pipeline: Group Says Senior Government Officials Skewed Data To Benefit Keystone XL Pipeline

Senior government officials inaccurately portrayed the habitat range of an endangered beetle living along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline path and retaliated against colleagues who objected, according to claims in a report released this month by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

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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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