Environmental Must-Reads – February 22, 2013


Illinois ‘fracking’ proposal sees rare cooperation

Illinois would have the strictest regulations for high-volume oil and gas drilling in the nation under a proposal introduced Thursday and drafted with help from industry and environmentalists — an unusual collaboration when it comes to a practice intensely scrutinized over claims it can cause pollution and health problems.

The Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act would require oil and gas companies to test water before, during and after drilling, and hold them liable if contamination was found after drilling began. It also would require companies to disclose the chemicals used in the process and control air pollution, as well as provide for public hearings and allow residents to sue if they believed they had been harmed.

Fracking Emissions Get Review After EPA Watchdog Report

Federal environmental regulators said they will more closely study air emissions from hydraulic fracturing after the agency’s auditor concluded current information is insufficient to make policy decisions.

The Environmental Protection Agency has already begun an inter-agency study of methane, air toxic and other pollutants released when oil and gas are tapped using the process, called fracking, Gina McCarthy, the head of the agency’s air office, said in a letter to the Inspector General’s office, which was released today.

Fracking has a Lesson to Learn from the Sinking City

Fracking is moving closer and closer to urban areas, but before it actually enters towns and cities the fracking industry should take a look at Long Beach, California, and follow the lessons that have been learnt there.

Groups flock to White House to talk ‘fracking’ rules

Environmental advocates and representatives from the oil-and-gas industry are flocking to the White House following the submission of a draft rule that would govern the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing on public lands.

City plans fracking ban

Fort Collins city council members this week gave initial approval to barring oil and gas exploration, including hydraulic fracturing, in city limits.

The voting was 5-2 to move ahead with the proposal.

Drilling for answers: Ecologist says he has questions despite fracking’s benefits

A Montana State University research professor tried to shed light on the environmental affects of hydraulic fracturing during a presentation in Great Falls on Thursday, but admittedly said there are more questions than answers at this point.

Obama’s Possible Frack-Friendly Energy Plan a ‘Nail in the Coffin’ for Climate

Reports that President Obama is poised to nominate MIT professor Ernest Moniz to be the next head of the Department of Energy is raising serious concerns for those worried that the administration will betray its promise to take on the threat of the climate crisis by making a major domestic push for natural gas drilling using the controversial practice known as fracking.

Report: Unreliable data could hinder EPA efforts to control pollution from natural gas boom

Limited data and unreliable estimates on air pollution from oil and natural gas production is hindering the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to police the drilling boom, the agency’s internal watchdog said in a report released Thursday.

Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. said the EPA has failed to directly measure emissions from some pieces of equipment and processes, and some estimates it does have are of “questionable quality.”

Fracking in Illinois: Starting with Standards

Illinois has the potential to be the next state washed over in the fracking wave moving across the country. That could be a big problem as companies are buying up mineral rights in many counties, even though the state has virtually no rules on the books to protect communities and the environment from this controversial extraction process. Since everyone recognizes this lack of standards is a huge problem, efforts have been underway to get protections in place—elected officials, enviros, industry and community groups have been negotiating rules for many months now. And today, we have the results, with the introduction of a proposed fracking bill.

Fracking Our Farms: A Tale of Five Farming Families

Their names are Carol, Steve and Jackie, Susan, Marilyn and Robert, and Christine. They share a bond. Two bonds, actually: They all own, or owned, farms. And those farms, along with their own health and the health of their farm animals, have all been ruined by fracking.

Ed Rendell Intervened for Fracking Giant Range Resources to Stop Texas EPA Water Contamination Case

A breaking investigation by EnergyWire appears to connect the dots between shadowy lobbying efforts by shale gas fracking company Range Resources, and the Obama EPA’s decision to shut down its high-profile lawsuit against Range for allegedly contaminating groundwater in Weatherford, Texas.

At the center of the scandal sits former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the National Governors’ Association.

Science Over Politics: Cuomo’s Delay on Lifting Fracking Moratorium is Applauded

Yesterday, Anthony Ingraffea, president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE), and Seth B. Shonkoff, executive director of PSE, sent a letter applauding Gov. Cuomo’s decision to delay lifting the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until the science is complete.

BP, federal prosecutors ready for battle in New Orleans

The trial of the century will open Monday in a New Orleans courtroom, when BP faces billions of dollars in civil claims resulting from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Talks are ongoing between BP and the U.S. Department of Justice to reach a last-minute settlement that would avert a trial. But officials close to the negotiations said they’re not optimistic.

Barring Last Minute Deal, Gulf Oil Spill Trial to Get Underway Monday

Nearly three years after a deepwater well rupture killed 11 men, sank a rig and spewed 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP and the other companies involved are scheduled to face their judge in court.

The trial over the worst U.S. offshore oil spill is set to start Monday in New Orleans before a federal judge and without a jury. Few expect the case, seen lasting several months, will be decided by the judge.

BP should pay $25bn on top of likely fines for Gulf spill, activists say

BP should be on the hook for an additional $25bn to restore environmental damage from the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, even if the company is hit with a record-breaking $17.6bn in fines at a civil trial next week, campaign groups said on Thursday.

BP will face the largest environmental fines in US history in a civil trial in New Orleans next week. The proceedings, which are expected to last until the fall, will apportion blame for the 2010 disaster between the oil company and its partners on the blown-out well, and assess fines based on how much crude oil actually flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP witness may help Halliburton in Deepwater Horizon trial: report

Halliburton Co. HAL -0.25% may avoid billions of dollars in damages and legal wrangling for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill thanks to a witness for BP PLC BP BP -0.49% , Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

Halliburton did the cement job on the ill-fated Macondo well and has been accused of defective work.

Who will blink first as Gulf Coast oil spillers face their day in court?

Nearly three years after a deep-water well rupture killed 11 men, sank a rig and spewed four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP and the other companies involved are scheduled to face their judge in court.

The trial over the worst U.S. offshore oil spill is set to start Monday in New Orleans before a federal judge and without a jury. Few expect the case, seen lasting several months, will be decided by the judge.

BP to Government: $21 Billion Fine is ‘Excessive’

BP has announced that it will square off against the federal government in court next week to fight “excessive” claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

In a combative statement, the oil giant said it had been open to a settlement in the civil trial, set to start on Monday in a federal court in New Orleans. But it had failed to reach a deal with federal government lawyers.

After Three Years, BP Is Finally Headed to Court

By now, BP (BP) and the U.S. government should have hashed out a final, all-in price tag for the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. This sort of big-dollar case, the conventional wisdom dictates, settles out of court. Going to trial raises risks for the combatants that cautious lawyers try to avoid.

On Monday, unless the Justice Department and the London-based energy giant reach a last-minute truce, they will defy expectations and go to trial in federal court in New Orleans, where BP faces claims totaling billions of dollars.

Epicenter of Gulf Oil Spill Says BP Hasn’t Paid It 1 Cent

Plaquemines Parish, the “epicenter” of the BP oil spill, sued the company in Federal Court, claiming BP has not paid a single one of its claims for damages arising from the worst oil spill in history.
Plaquemines Parish “was the epicenter of the damage and clean-up operations following the blowout, explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon,” the parish says in its complaint. A parish is Louisiana’s equivalent of other states’ counties.
Plaquemines Parish is the long tongue of land and water that extends into the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans.

Environmental groups, businesses send Gov. Bobby Jindal letter about oil spill fine spending

More than 120 Gulf of Mexico environmental groups and business owners, many from Louisiana, signed letters sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal and the four other Gulf state governors this week emphasizing how 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill fine dollars could drive private sector job growth. The letters urged the governors to support the use of RESTORE Act funds for large-scale environmental restoration that would create jobs and asked for state investment in worker training initiatives tailored to such jobs.

Federal judge rules some parts of BP criminal guilty plea, indictments of BP workers, can’t be used in civil trial

Four days before a civil trial over BP’s liability for the Macondo oil spill and the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, a federal judge has partially granted BP’s request to exclude from the trial some information submitted to another judge supporting its guilty plea and $4 billion fine relating to violation environmental laws resulting from the accident and spill. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier also agreed to prohibit the use of criminal indictments filed last year against three BP employees involving their roles in the accident.

Brazil Oil Spill: Chevron Criminal Charges Dropped After Incident Off Rio De Janeiro Coast

A Brazilian federal court has dismissed criminal charges filed last year against Chevron Corp., driller Transocean Ltd. and several of their executives in connection with a 2011 oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

The two companies and 17 of their executives had been charged with “crimes against the environment” and faced up to 31 years in prison if convicted.

EU drafts plans for offshore oil spills

The European Union said it was taking a lessons-learned approach from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spilt in drafting its own offshore safety rules.

The European Union proposed legislation that would require oil and natural gas companies to submit emergency response plans and potential hazard reports before being given a license to drill offshore.

State Officials Investigate Bubbling Lake Peigneur

The state is taking a closer look at what residents say are bubbles in Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish.

The departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality took samples from Lake Peignuer today to find out what is causing the bubbles.

Last night, public officials, residents and other groups spoke out against AGL Resources, which wants to expand natural gas storage below salt caverns under the lake. Residents fear it could be another disaster waiting to happen–like the current sinkhole in Assumption Parish.

The Keystone Pipeline: Which Side Are You On?

On Sunday, February 17, 40,000 Americans gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest against approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Thousands more demonstrated in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and other U.S. cities. Nonetheless, there is momentum for pipeline construction; a recent Harris Poll found 69 percent of respondents supported it. However, Environmentalists believe pipeline approval would be the tipping point in the fight against global climate change.

What the Keystone Pipeline Protest Looks Like in Texas

On Sunday, as more than 30,000 people rallied in Washington, D.C., 300 gathered in Austin, Texas. Their goal: to send President Obama a message to stop construction of the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline and to not approve the northern segment.

Chris Wilson, an organizer with Stop Tar Sands Oil Pipeline (STOP), pointed out, “Many don’t realize it but The Keystone 1 pipeline has been built. It runs from Canada to Oklahoma and is already transporting tar sands into America.” In 2012, President Obama signed off on the southern portion, insuring that tar sands have a path to the Gulf — regardless of his decision on the northern segment, which would create a shorter route from Canada to Oklahoma.

Perils of the Keystone XL Pipeline Confront Obama

Bill McKibben, a prolific writer and organizer on global warming and climate change, has had a busy year teaching environmentalists not to despair and will soon be learning some lessons himself. In August 2011, he organized an unprecedented demonstration in front of the White House urging President Obama to deny a permit for the giant Keystone XL pipeline that would haul very dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada down to Texas refineries, largely to be exported. More than 1200 people were arrested over the course of the month to protest the construction of the pipeline. This could be the largest mass arrest before the White House in decades. Kudos to Bill and his associates.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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