Environmental Must-Reads – February 24, 2014


California’s fracking opponents introduce new moratorium bill

California lawmakers have unveiled a new bill that would halt fracking and other controversial oil extraction practices in the state until a comprehensive review of their impact is complete, reigniting a legislative debate that fracking opponents lost last year.

The bill, introduced Thursday by state senators Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Mark Leno of San Francisco, would put the brakes on fracking until the completion of a multi-agency review of the economic, environmental and public health impacts.

Exxon CEO Profits Huge As America’s Largest Natural Gas Producer-But Frack In His Own Backyard And He Sues!

Sometimes, the hypocrisy expressed in real life is so sublimely rich that one could never hope to construct a similar scenario out of pure imagination.

Meet Rex Tillerson, the CEO of oil and gas superstar ExxonMobil Corporation—the largest natural gas producer in these United States of America—and a newly emerging giant in the world of exquisite hypocrisy.

Colorado First State to Clamp Down on Fracking Methane Pollution

Colorado regulators approved groundbreaking controls on emissions from oil and natural gas operations after an unusual coalition of energy companies and environmentalists agreed on measures to counter worsening smog.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC), Noble Energy Inc. (NBL) and Encana Corp. (ECA), among the state’s largest oil and gas producers, worked with the Environmental Defense Fund to craft regulations approved yesterday by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission that would fix persistent leaks from tanks and pipes.

Anti-fracking group challenges motion to dismiss injection well appeal

A local anti-fracking group is objecting to a motion to dismiss its appeal of a decision to allow the drilling of a new drilling waste injection well in eastern Athens County.

Earlier this month, eight protesters were arrested for trespassing during a demonstration against a waste injection well already in operation, as well as the proposed well, in an event organized by Appalachia Resist and the Athens County Fracking Action Network.

Pa. Supreme Court won’t revisit ruling KOing natural gas drilling law

Pennsylvania’s highest court said Friday it would not revisit its decision striking down a state law that took zoning decisions about natural gas drilling out of the hands of local governments.

The state Supreme Court denied a request by Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration to vacate its decision and send it back to a lower court for a new round of briefs and fact-finding process.

Act 13 ruling buoys residents near Trax Farm gas well

On Dec. 19, the Baumgardner family began to hope again. It was a rare good day among four months of bad days for a family living 500 feet from a Marcellus Shale well pad.

On that day, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared unconstitutional parts of Act 13, which limited local zoning control in favor of a statewide standard guiding where natural gas wells could be drilled.

Chevron halted drilling on all of its Pennsylvania gas wells following explosion

Chevron has shut down gas wells in Pennsylvania that it was still drilling or working to put into production following the deadly explosion and fire on a well pad last week in Greene County, a state environmental official said today.

Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection deputy secretary, said work on seven well pads with wells that have been fracked and are awaiting production, or have not yet been fracked, has been suspended since the Feb. 11 blast in Dunkard.

DEP lists deficiencies in Waveco site proposal

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued a list of deficiencies in a permit application for a frack-fluid recycling center in Lake Township.

In a five-page letter addressed to United Sanitation Network Inc., a hauling company based in Duryea and owned by Pilar Glodzik, DEP points out shortcomings in the permit application that first must be addressed before the application can move forward.

‘Close your doors and go away:’ readers react to fracking investigation

Reader reaction to “Big Oil, Bad Air,” a project jointly unveiled this week by the Center for Public Integrity’s Jim Morris, InsideClimate News and The Weather Channel about the South Texas oil boom and the chemicals released into the air, continues to pour in. Most of it has been positive

DEP puts gas drillers under watchful eye

In early August, state environmental regulators ended the long-standing practice of allowing Marcellus shale gas drillers to operate without a plan as to how they would control air pollution at well sites.

But rather than just issue rules for how to limit pollution, the state Department of Environmental Protection gave drillers a choice — submit an air-quality plan for approval, or use pollution control systems that keep emissions below standards set by the federal government.

Oil spill closes part of Mississippi River in La.

The U.S. Coast Guard says a 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River is closed between Baton Rouge and New Orleans until further notice while crews clean up oil from a barge that struck a towboat.

The collision happened Saturday afternoon near Vacherie.

65 Miles Of Mississippi River Closed After Oil Spill; Incident Also Forces Closure Of Port Of New Orleans

A 65-mile stretch of the Mississippi River and the Port of New Orleans were closed to maritime traffic until further notice Sunday after a barge carrying light-crude oil collided with a towboat, spilling oil into the river.

According to reports, the U.S. Coast Guard said that the barge and the towboat collided between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The collision happened on Saturday afternoon near Vacherie, La., 47 miles west of New Orleans.

Salt dome companies must pay $15.6M in disputed taxes in Assumption Parish

Seven companies operating on the Napoleonville Dome in Assumption Parish salt complex must pay a combined $15.6 million in property taxes and penalties under protest by this coming week while they fight tax bills in court.

BP gets slick in trying to undermine gulf oil spill settlement

It would be perfectly proper for BP, the giant British oil company, to feel a sense of corporate remorse.

After all, the firm was responsible for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and well blowout that took 11 lives and created “immense environmental damage” in and around the gulf. (Those words were uttered by a Department of Justice official just over a year ago, when BP pleaded guilty to a dozen felony charges and agreed to pay $4 billion in penalties and fines.)

“Buyer’s remorse,” however? That’s a different story.

Dispute Over Law Firm’s Oil Spill Claims Continues

BP is pressing a federal court to disallow a $7.9 million Gulf oil spill claim awarded to a Louisiana law firm.

Friday’s filing in New Orleans is the latest development in disputes involving the Andry Law Firm, BP and former FBI director Louis Freeh.

First Hearing in Mayflower Oil Spill Lawsuit Set For Monday

Lawyers for Exxon Mobil and a landowner in Mayflower are expected in a courtroom Monday morning.

It’s the first hearing in Faulkner County for a lawsuit stemming from last year’s oil spill.

Study Confirms Tar Sands Contamination First Nations Warned of for Years

A new study puts the spotlight on tar sands’ threat to one of the planet’s precious and increasingly scarce resources—water.

The study by Environment Canada shows that tailings ponds, open ‘lakes’ that hold toxic bi-products from tar sands mining, are leaching into groundwater and contaminating Alberta’s Athabasa River.

Foreign Company Tries To Seize U.S. Land For Keystone Pipeline

TransCanada , a foreign company based in Alberta, Canada decided to use an amendment to the United States Constitution to seize private American citizens’ property to avoid regulators and build the controversial Keystone Pipeline (USNews).

This should scare you. It certainly scares me.

But it didn’t work. This time.

Keystone is pipeline to future of dirty fuel

Over the weekend on his trip to Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry implored the global community to take action on climate change, calling it “the greatest challenge of our generation.” Speaking to students, he underscored what we all know to be true: that climate change is an undeniable fact and a danger that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Keystone XL “at a Standstill” After Nebraska Ruling

The Keystone XL pipeline project suffered a major setback this week with a Nebraska court ruling that will likely delay any final decision on the pipeline for at least another six months.

The District Court judge ruled in favor of three landowners—Randy Thompson, Susan Luebbe, and Susan Dunavan—who challenged a Nebraska law granting Gov. Dave Heineman and state environmental regulators special authority to approve pipeline projects. The governor used this new authority to approve Keystone XL’s passage through the state, despite opposition from landowner and environmental groups.

Railroads confront crude safety

Railroads that haul volatile crude shipments have reached an agreement with U.S. transportation officials to adopt wide-ranging, voluntary safety measures after a string of explosive and deadly accidents.

A copy of the agreement between the U.S. Transportation Department and the Association of American Railroads was obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Arctic Oil Still Seen Decades Off as Producers Balk at Costs

Lundin Petroleum AB (LUPE), the Swedish explorer focused on Norway, said there won’t be any new oil output in the ice-filled waters of the Arctic for at least 15 years because of technical and logistical challenges.

“I don’t think we’ll see any oil production in the Arctic any time soon — probably not this decade and not the next,” Chairman Ian Lundin said in a Feb. 20 interview in Stockholm. “The commercial challenges are too big.”

Another Day, Another Spill of Radioactive Water From Fukushima

The Fukushima nuclear plant is a relentless disaster. Another plume of radioactive water — the biggest in the last six months — has escaped from the plant, its operator Tepco announced Thursday. The 100-ton spill was traced to two valves left open by mistake, Tepco said.

2,000 Fukushima plant workers to be checked for thyroid cancer

A health ministry team is studying whether around 2,000 workers who helped contain the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant that started in March 2011 are at risk of thyroid cancer, one of the team members said Sunday.

The research team of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry aims to determine how radiation exposure as a result of the nuclear crisis has affected the plant workers, who were exposed to greater levels of radiation than local residents, who in large part evacuated.

Some residents to ‘come home’ to Fukushima nuclear disaster zone

Japan’s government is to allow some residents around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to return to their homes to live for the first time since the March, 2011 disaster.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and a 20-kilometer (12-mile) exclusion zone declared around the plant after a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered a reactor meltdown — the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 — causing high levels of radioactive contamination.

Government to lift Fukushima evacuation order for 1st time

For the first time since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant three years ago, the government is lifting an evacuation order in a restricted area, allowing residents to return to their homes.

Residents of an eastern strip of the Miyakoji district of Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, are being allowed to return as of April 1, the first day of the 2014 fiscal year, government officials said at a meeting Feb. 23. The area lies within 20 kilometers west of where the accident occurred.


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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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