Environmental Must-Reads – February 20, 2013


New Fracking Reports: Gas Bubble About to Bust

Two new fracking reports came out earlier this week, and they reveal some serious new cracks in the booming natural gas industry. Fracking, the drilling method that involves pumping a chemical brine underground, has been already been linked to the risk of water contamination, significant methane gas leakage and even earthquakes. The two reports add another angle of risk, making the case that the gas boom hides a financial bubble that is headed for a bust of epic proportions.

Geologist’s provocative study challenges popular assumptions about ‘fracking’

With debate over hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” running at a fever pitch, it seems the only thing everyone can agree on is that, for better or worse, there is plenty of natural gas down there for the taking.

Now a provocative analysis of unconventional fuel reserves in the United States aims to slap a big question mark over that assumption. In a comprehensive look at all the major shale gas plays currently being tapped across the U.S., the study focuses on the rapid decline of individual gas wells, along with entire fields, and concludes that optimistic projections for a long-running boom that will unleash cheap gas for decades to come are unwarranted.

BREAKING: Ohioans Shut Down Fracking Wastewater Storage Facility

Ohioans and environmental groups including Earth First! have disrupted operations at Greenhunter Water’s hydraulic fracturing or fracking wastewater storage site along the Ohio River in Washington County, Ohio. Nate Ebert, a 33-year-old Athens County resident and member of Appalachia Resist!, ascended a 30 foot pole anchored to a brine truck in the process of unloading frack wastewater, preventing all trucks carrying frack wastewater from entering the site.

Fracking protest at Ohio River storage site

Protesters shut down a business this morning that wants to use Ohio River barges to take “fracking” wastes from Pennsylvania.

Members of a group called Appalachia Resist descended on GreenHunter Water’s storage facility and terminal in New Matamoras this morning. The Grapevine, Texas-based company is taking truckload deliveries of the liquid wastes, which bubble out of shale wells along with oil and gas, while it awaits a Coast Guard decision that could allow it to uses barges.

Groundbreaking Reports Show Fracking is a Risky Short-Term Bubble

Energy Policy Forum and Post Carbon Institute have released two groundbreaking reports that belie energy industry claims of U.S. energy independence as a result of newly accessible shale gas and shale (tight) oil.

The report findings are based on an unprecedented analysis of more than 60,000 U.S. shale oil and gas wells and an investigation of the role of Wall Street investment banks in the explosive growth of fracking for natural gas.

Fort Collins council backs ban on fracking

In the face of a flood of public support, the Fort Collins City Council on Tuesday took a step toward banning fracking within city limits.

The council voted 5-2 to give initial approval to an ordinance that would prohibit all gas and oil exploration activity in the city including hydraulic fracturing, a commonly used technique to increase oil and gas production from wells.

Industry, environmentalists mull ‘fracking’ rules

Leases have been signed on tens of thousands of acres in southern Illinois. Studies have hinted at the potential economic payoff of drilling for oil and gas deposits deep underground. But so far, oil and gas companies have held off on high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Illinois because the state lacks ground rules for the industry.

Investigating fracking becomes business of its own

The nation’s fracking boom is fueling more than just economies.

The practice and its potential effects on public health are quickly becoming one of the most widely researched topics in America, as leading academics, well-respected health care companies, state and local governments, and many others are examining whether the drilling method can lead — or, some believe, has led — to serious health problems.

BP agreement could cut oil spill fines

BP has won an agreement from the Justice Department that there will be no penalties on the barrels of crude oil the company was able to recapture during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, effectively cutting the company’s potential Clean Water Act fines by as much as $900 million, or even up to $3.5 billion.

Feds, BP agree that 34 million gallons of captured oil not part of civil penalties

BP and the federal government have agreed that 34 million gallons of oil captured during the massive 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico can’t count toward civil penalties the oil giant faces.

Battle Lines Drawn for BP’s Day in Court

A collection of cases on the Deepwater Horizon spill are headed for federal court, where they are expected to have a broad effect on environmental law.

BP ready for trial

The Deepwater Horizon civil trial for BP is just five days away and the legal counsel for the oil and gas giant is saying the corporation is ready for court and was “not grossly negligent.”

Unless a settlement between the federal government and BP can be reached, a lengthy trial in New Orleans would determine whether BP is penalized anywhere from $5 billion to more than $20 billion in Clean Water Act fines.

Federal judge approves $1 billion civil settlement of environmental charges against Transocean

A federal judge in New Orleans on Tuesday approved a $1 billion partial civil settlement with Transocean Ltd. and its subsidiaries, which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded off the coast of Louisiana in April 2010 while drilling BP’s Macondo well, resulting in 11 deaths and the worst oil spill in United States history.

Judge OKs Transocean agreement on civil penalties

Transocean Deepwater Inc. will pay $1 billion in civil penalties for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, after a federal judge in New Orleans signed off Tuesday on the company’s deal with the Justice Department.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is a formality: the Justice Department and Transocean reached the deal last month.

Auditor challenges state’s handling of BP funds

State officials were allowed to control — without legislative oversight — about $60 million in funds BP provided for tourism and seafood promotion, a situation legislators should correct, said the state legislative auditor and the state treasurer.

State auditor says lawmakers should have had say over how BP tourism and seafood money was spent

An agreement in the months after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in which BP paid $60 million to non-profits for tourism and seafood promotion took power out of the hands of lawmakers and could set a dangerous precedent, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office. At issue is whether state agencies can accept donations on behalf of non-profits and direct how it is spent without getting approval from the Legislature, according to a report the office issued this week.

Bayou Corne residents push for home buyout

On the 200th day of their mandatory evacuation, Assumption Parish residents asked legislators for help Tuesday in persuading Texas Brine Co. LLC to buy homes affected by an 8.6-acre sinkhole.

Bayou Corne homeowner Candy Blanchard said she will never again feel safe in the house she built six years ago.

Residents near sinkhole say hearing was a lot of talk and a lot less action

Three legislative committees gathered at the State Capitol to hear from affected parties regarding the giant Louisiana sinkhole in Assumption Parish Tuesday.

Representative Karen St. Germain, whose district includes the sinkhole, read four letters into the record from residents who have been displaced since August of last year.

Assumption Parish residents turn to lawmakers, seeking buyouts of property near sinkhole

Frustrated Assumption Parish residents displaced by a massive sinkhole that has swallowed 9 acres of land near their homes asked lawmakers Tuesday to assist them in getting buyouts of their property.

Activists Find Gaping Holes in Keystone XL Pipeline, Literally

In early December, 20-year-old Isabel Brooks and two of her friends locked themselves inside a segment of the Keystone XL pipeline located in Winona, Texas. The trio barricaded themselves inside to halt construction (see pictures here) and to draw attention to the dubious tactics by which TransCanada gained rights to the land.

When the morning sun rose, Brooks and her fellow activists were shocked to find sunlight piercing their eyelids. Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that sunlight had illuminated gaping holes in the pipe left behind by faulty welding.

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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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