Environmental Must-Reads – February 21, 2013


Now for the downside of fracking

Local people are unhappy with the risks they feel are associated with the gas rush in rural Pennsylvania

Firm accused of bullying fracking foes

When a Texas landowner took his fear that a gas driller had poisoned his well to federal regulators, the company, Range Resources Corp., turned around and sued him for conspiring “to harm Range.”

Critics say the Fort Worth-based company, which pioneered the use of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, has taken a hard line with residents, local officials, and activists. In Pennsylvania it stopped participating in town hearings to review its own applications to drill because local officials were asking too many questions and taking too long.

You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects

José Lara just wanted a job.

A company working in the natural gas fields needed a man to power wash wastewater tanks. Clean off the debris. Make them shining again.

And so José Lara became a power washer for the Rain for Rent Co.

“The chemicals, the smell was so bad. Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk,” Lara said in his deposition, translated from Spanish.

Why the fracking boom may actually be an economic bubble

Fracking proponents like to use an evocative economic metaphor in talking about their industry: boom. The natural gas boom. Drilling is exploding in North Dakota and Texas and Pennsylvania. Only figuratively so far, but who knows what the future holds.

The Post Carbon Institute, however, suggests in a new report [PDF] that another metaphor would be more apt: a bubble, like the bubbles of methane that seep into water wells and then burst.

Fracking Goes South: Oil and Gas Industry (and NFL Owner) Lick Their Chops Over Chattanooga Shale

Hydraulic fracturing is expanding in the South. The gas drilling companies are licking their chops over an area known as the Chattanooga Shale which spans across Alabama, Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Kentucky. As of February 2013, there are fracking wells in Anderson, Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Scott and Union counties in Tennessee.

Obama Settles on EPA, Energy Department Nominees

President Barack Obama intends to nominate air quality expert Gina McCarthy to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy as early as this week, according to a source familiar with the process.

Fort Collins Bans Fracking as Democracy Comes Alive in Colorado

Almost exactly nine months ago on May 22, 2012, I wrote an editorial in the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, Fort Colllins Should Ban Fracking. And yesterday, on Feb. 19, a sharply divided Fort Collins City Council voted 5-2 to ban fracking in the City of Fort Collins.

Nine months ago the conversation around fracking was relatively new in Colorado and few people and environmental groups were directly addressing it. Now, nine months later, very much has changed—fracking is in the news constantly, many environmental groups are engaged in the fight to stop fracking and the issue is escalating wildly throughout the public across the state.

While protestors surrounded the White House, Obama was golfing with oil executives

When some 35,000 protestors descended on Washington, D.C., on Sunday, they hoped to send a message to President Obama: Kill the Keystone XL pipeline. Show real leadership on the climate. From the Mall up to the White House they marched, hoping that Obama would see the crowd and read the signs and be moved.

BP civil settlement elusive as trial nears

The U.S. Justice Department and the five Gulf coast states affected by a massive oil disaster nearly three years ago have indicated they would like to settle their environmental and economic claims with BP PLC ahead of a trial scheduled to start next week.

The problem is that they haven’t been able to agree on the possible terms of such an agreement. Months of negotiations have failed to resolve lingering differences — not just with the London-based oil giant, but among themselves.

Accord on BP oil spill claims eludes 5 states

The U.S. Justice Department and the five Gulf Coast states affected by a massive oil spill nearly three years ago have indicated they would like to settle their environmental and economic claims with BP PLC ahead of a trial scheduled to start next week.

The problem is that they haven’t been able to agree on the possible terms of such an agreement. Months of negotiations have failed to resolve lingering differences — not just with the London-based oil giant, but among themselves.

Shell’s Olympus platform readies for Gulf of Mexico journey

It’s all coming together in a big way.

Houston-based Lone-star Energy Fabrication has loaded a 10-million-pound drilling structure onto a barge in Baytown, and the unit is about to begin a trip down the coast to Ingleside. There it will be mated with Royal Dutch Shell’s Olympus platform, which is under construction at Kiewit Corp.’s fabrication yard for work in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lonestar recently completed construction on the rig at its Cedar Port crossing dock and moved it to the 300-foot-long barge Maximus on Cedar Bayou.

Chevron, Transocean say Brazil drops criminal oil spill charges

A Brazilian judge dropped criminal charges against Chevron Corp (CVX.N), Transocean Ltd (RIG.N) and 17 of their employees related to a November 2011 offshore oil spill, the companies said on Wednesday.

The criminal case, and a civil suit seeking as much as 40 billion reais ($20.4 billion) in damages, have cast a chill over Brazil’s oil industry.

Dismissal of Frade Oil Spill Charges ‘Welcomed News’

Drilling contractor Transocean Ltd. welcomed news that a Brazilian court has dismissed charges against the company and employees over the 2011 Frade oil spill offshore Brazil.

Transocean’s crew members did exactly what they were trained to do, “acting responsibly, appropriately and quickly while always maintaining safety as their top priority,” Transocean spokesperson Guy Cantwell told Rigzone.

Nigeria: Lamo Oil Spill – Nigeria Loses Billions – Lives, Crops Threatened

Nigeria is losing billions of Naira as from an oil spillage site in Lamo village of Gwagwalada area council, Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The Kilometer 407.5 NNPC crude oil pipeline right of way at Suma, between Gwagwalada and Kwali area councils has been spilling out crude oil for over seven days.

Any oil to spare? Throw it in the Nile, no one will notice or care

A five-kilometer-long oil spill was discovered near Edfu, a town north of Aswan, in October. Aside from the usual environmental damage from oil spills — destroyed ecosystems and destruction of wildlife — the oil continued to drift north, reaching crucial water purification facilities and destroying farmland, robbing thousands of access to drinkable water.

But despite strident calls for the Environment Ministry and Aswan Governor Mohamed Mostafa to look into the spill, residents and environmental activists say no real investigation took place.

Some Acadiana residents fear potential for sinkhole ‘disaster’

Opponents of expanding the underground natural gas storage facility under Lake Peigneur asked state regulators on Wednesday to carefully review what they argue has the potential to become another disaster on the scale of the growing sinkhole in Assumption Parish.

Two Tugs Expected to Tow Kulluk Collide in Kiliuda Bay

The Coast Guard says two of the three tugboats expected to tow the damaged Shell drilling rig Kulluk to Dutch Harbor after its New Year’s Eve grounding collided last week.

According to Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley, the Foss Maritime tug Corbin Foss and the Crowley Maritime Corp. tug Ocean Wave were “maneuvering in close proximity” in Kiliuda Bay off Kodiak Island Friday, when the Corbin Foss struck the Ocean Wave at about 5:30 p.m.

The Keystone XL pipeline could create as many as 20 long-term jobs

Last week year, Bloomberg did a little digging into the oft-mentioned “thousands of jobs” that would result if the Keystone XL pipeline were built. What they found, as they say, might surprise you, if you are surprised when fatuous political arguments turn out to be erroneous.

Most Louisiana members get low grades from environmental advocacy group

Few states face the difficult environmental challenges that Louisiana does. Yet, according to a survey of congressional votes in 2012 by the League of Conservation Voters, most Louisiana members took the “environmental position” less than 10 percent of the time.

Canadian crude rolling into Gulf Coast refineries

Canadian oil sands crude is now streaming into refineries on the Texas coast at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day, even as environmentalists are attempting to block its southward flow through the Keystone XL pipeline now under construction.

Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge recently increased its shipping of the heavy hydrocarbon after a set of expansions allowed it to start transporting oil from a hub in Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast last year.

A Strategy to Prevent the Next Fukushima

Among the most striking elements of the catastrophe at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan were the hydrogen explosions that destroyed the upper parts of some of the reactor buildings. The hydrogen was released by a metal called zirconium in the overheated core.

Bluefin Tuna From The Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown Still Have Traces Of Radiation

Last May I wrote a piece about Bluefin tuna caught off the coast of southern California that carried radiation from the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear plant that was damaged in the March 2011. The fish were caught in August 2011 as they migrated east 6,000 miles from their spawning grounds in Japan in search of prey.

Fukushima health-survey chief to quit post

After two turbulent years on the job, the head of Fukushima prefecture’s massive survey to understand the health effects of the 2011 Japanese nuclear accident is stepping down. Shunichi Yamashita, a radiation health expert from Nagasaki University, told Nature by e-mail that he will leave his post at the end of March.

Group wants Fukushima plant preserved for Chernobyl-style tourism

Seven young intellectuals are seeking support for their proposal to preserve the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as a tourist site carrying a cautionary message for future generations.

Wife of Fukushima farmer who committed suicide to sue Tepco for damages

Vanessa, a Filipino national and wife of Shigekiyo Kanno, a dairy farmer who killed himself after the Fukushima disaster in 2011, is set to file a law suit against TEPCO at the Tokyo District Court sometime this March in order to demand 110 million yen (approx. $1.18 million) in damages. Vanessa believes that her husband committed suicide because he could no longer run the family’s farm as a result of the nuclear disaster. “I will fight for my children’s future,” she told reporters at a press conference where her two sons aged 8 and 6 were also present.

High radiation bars decommissioning of Fukushima plant

Preparations for the mammoth task of decommissioning crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are being stymied by continued high levels of radiation from the triple meltdowns there two years ago.


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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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