Environmental Must-Reads – February 26, 2013


Residents angry as Assumption sinkhole continues collapsing

The Assumption Parish sinkhole is a lot like a living, breathing thing. More than 200 days after it mysteriously started swallowing up the swamp, hundreds of residents are still under a mandatory evacuation order.

Geophysicists say the cavern that caused the sinkhole at the surface is still collapsing, leaving Bayou Corne residents wondering if there will ever be an end in sight.

As Oil Spill Trial Opens, Push for a Deal Continues

BP finally faced off in court Monday against an army of federal and state prosecutors, lawyers and even its contract partners over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill three years ago, contending that it alone should not shoulder blame for the rig explosion that killed 11 workers and soiled beaches and marshes from Louisiana to Florida.

BP’s share of responsibility is not only the crux of the trial that opened Monday, but it also is at the heart of a last-minute settlement proposal offered by the Justice Department and the five affected gulf states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — that are demanding that BP pay $16 billion in spill-related fines and penalties.

Witnesses To Take The Stand In BP Trial

A federal judge will hear testimony Tuesday in a civil suit over who is to blame and who should be financially liable for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On Monday, the court in New Orleans heard more than eight hours of opening statements from lawyers for the government and several defendants.

Gulf Coast oil spill trial begins with fingers pointing at BP

The trial for the worst oil spill in American history began on Monday in New Orleans, with a slew of lawyers representing the government, businesses, contractors and individuals mostly trying to place the blame on BP for the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Federal prosecutors and plaintiffs’ lawyers argued the oil giant is guilty of gross negligence that caused the 2010 disaster that killed 11 rig workers and poured 4 million barrels worth of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Greed caused BP’s gulf oil spill, lawyers argue

Energy giant BP, behind schedule and $50 million over budget drilling a deep-water well, emphasized cost-cutting over safety, causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, lawyers said Monday as the company’s high-stakes civil trial began.

Lawyers used PowerPoint presentations to provide a dramatic recounting of the April 20, 2010, explosion and fire in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 crew members. Workers were preparing to temporarily cap the Macondo well 4,100 feet underwater when it blew up. The 30-story drilling vessel about 50 miles offshore burned for two days before crumpling into the gulf.

US court begins BP trial over Gulf oil spill

Nearly three years after a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a multi-billion dollar civil case against British Petroleum and the other companies involved is set to open in court.

As the case opens on Monday, US prosecutors are determined to prove that gross negligence caused the April 2010 blast that killed 11 workers and sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig, sending millions of barrels of oil gushing into the sea.

Environmental leaders weigh in on the start of BP oil spill trial

Here’s what leaders of national environmental groups say about the BP oil spill trial that begins Monday

Oil spill trial begins for BP, Transocean, other companies: Blame game marks the first day

Opening day at the long-awaited civil trial against BP and its partners in the ill-fated Macondo oil well at times sounded like a group of youngsters blaming everyone but themselves for a bad deed. That’s not an unexpected beginning in the first phase of a federal trial aimed at determining each of the companies’ financial liability for the accident.

High-Stakes Trial Begins Over 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

BP put profits ahead of safety and bears most of the blame for the disastrous 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a U.S. Justice Department attorney charged Monday at the opening of a trial that could result in the oil company and its partners being forced to pay tens of billions of dollars more in damages.

The London-based oil giant acknowledged it made “errors in judgment” before the deadly blowout, but it also cast blame on the owner of the drilling rig and the contractor involved in cementing the well. It denied it was grossly negligent, as the government contended.

Civil Trial Against BP Seeks To Place Blame For Gulf Oil Spill

The long-awaited BP trial opened Monday in New Orleans. The oil giant is in court to determine how much it should pay because of the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Audie Cornish talks to Jeff Brady.

‘Greed devastated the gulf,’ prosecution says as BP trial opens

With the drilling of its deepwater Macondo well running behind schedule and $50 million over budget, energy giant BP was under intense financial pressure to save money, setting in motion a reckless disregard for safety that led to the largest oil spill in American history, the prosecution said Monday as the company’s long-awaited civil trial got underway.

Lawyers for the prosecution gave a dramatic recounting of the April 20, 2010, blowout 50 miles offshore of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion and fire killed 11 crew members, and the resulting spill severely damaged the waters and economies of five states.

A Guide to the Complex Gulf Oil Spill Case

Monday marked the start of a potentially monthslong trial to determine the cause of a well blowout that triggered a massive oil spill and killed 11 oil workers in the Gulf of Mexico nearly three years ago. The trial also will assign blame for the spill.

A glance at the history of the spill, the players involved, and what’s at stake in the trial

1st witness to testify in Gulf oil spill trial

A University of California-Berkeley engineer who played a prominent role in investigating levee breeches in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is scheduled to be the first witness Tuesday at a trial involving another Gulf Coast catastrophe: the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Timeline of Gulf Oil Spill and Ensuing Legal Cases

Timeline of the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, government response and ensuing legal cases

Southern section of Keystone XL pipeline is already halfway done

President Obama and the State Department haven’t approved the northern leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would cart tar-sands oil down from Canada, but the southern leg, which Obama blessed last year, is trucking right along. TransCanada says construction on the southern section, from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast, is about halfway complete.

Canadians are feeling cocky about Keystone approval

A week after climate activists rallied in Washington, D.C., against plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada’s tar-sands salespeople arrived in the nation’s capital with the opposite pitch.

And the fossil-fuel hawkers from up north seem to think it’s their message that will win over America’s decision makers.

Germany Agrees on Regulation to Permit Fracking for Shale Gas

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government agreed on draft regulation to allow the tapping of shale gas via fracking, a practice the opposition says may harm the environment.

The legislation would outlaw hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in water protection areas and near drinking water wells and would make environmental impact studies mandatory for new projects, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said in a joint letter obtained by Bloomberg News. The measures would permit the technique in non- restricted areas and provide “a unified legal situation,” the ministers wrote.

Minnesota Mayor and Fracking Industry Lobbyist Resigns

Usually “revolving door” connotes a transition from a stint as a public official into one as a corporate lobbyist or vice versa.

In the case of Red Wing, MN – a southeastern Minnesota town of 16,459 located along the Mississippi River – its Mayor Dennis Egan actually obtained a gig as head lobbyist for the frac sand industry trade group Minnesota Industrial Sand Council while serving as the city’s Mayor. The controversy that unfolded after this was exposed has motivated Egan to resign as Red Wing’s Mayor, effective April 1.

Oil association retracts anti-fracking ban petition

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association says it wants to withdraw an error-filled petition it submitted to the Fort Collins City Council opposing a ban on fracking within the city.

Twenty-two of 55 businesses on the petition said last week that they were inaccurately represented as part of a coalition of Northern Colorado businesses fighting the fracking ban. COGA included them in the coalition based on signatures on its petition.

Exxon, BP, Halliburton take ‘fracking’ case to White House

The White House review of delayed federal rules for oil-and-gas “fracking” is drawing plenty of interest from energy companies and green groups.

The latest sign: Representatives from a who’s who of the biggest oil-and-gas companies — including Exxon, Shell and BP — met Feb. 21 with aides from the White House Office of Management and Budget to discuss the rules.

Dreams of Gas Riches Fading for NY Landowners

When word spread about the potential natural gas riches of the Marcellus Shale, Kimberly More saw it as the hope for saving her horse farm.

She figured that leasing her 170 acres to a drilling company could bring an upfront bonus of nearly half a million dollars, plus a monthly royalty when gas starts to flow, enough to pay for a new house, a new barn and her own riding business.

More than six percent of U.S. already leased for oil and gas: new NRDC analysis

According to a new NRDC analysis, at the end of 2011, seventy of the largest oil and gas companies operating in the United States held leases covering at least 141 million net acres of American land—an area greater than California and Florida combined.

Land Grab Cheats North Dakota Tribes Out of $1 Billion, Suits Allege

Native Americans on an oil-rich North Dakota reservation have been cheated out of more than $1 billion by schemes to buy drilling rights for lowball prices, a flurry of recent lawsuits assert. And, the suits claim, the federal government facilitated the alleged swindle by failing in its legal obligation to ensure the tribes got a fair deal.

Yet Another University Entangled with the Fracking Industry

Recently, the public got wind of the University of Tennessee’s intentions to open up more than 8,000 acres of publicly owned land in the university’s Cumberland Research Forest, for a fracking research project. On Jan. 31, the University requested a 30-day extension to the state panel responsible for approving the research proposal after concerned local residents demanded more information, time and transparency.

WV DEP Promises to Deliver Drilling/Fracking Reports to the WV Legislature Soon

Presentations of the status of two studies on horizontal drilling the Legislature expected from the WV Department of Environmental Protection about two months ago were made on February 21st and offered little substance while promising to deliver much, soon

Radioactive tuna from Fukushima? Scientists eat it up

Radiation from the nuclear disaster offers biologists an opportunity to study migrations of fish, turtles and birds across the Pacific. The research could benefit conservation efforts.

Arlington Educator Selected to Visit Fukushima, Japan

For Amy Yamashiro, the thought of viewing human perseverance in Fukushima, Japan, is inspiring.

Fukushima is home to a nuclear plant that experienced three meltdowns in 2011 after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area. Its severity has since been likened to Chernobyl.

Yamashiro is heading to Fukushima in March. She’ll be there for the second anniversary of the meltdown.

IAEA Director General says global team should help Japan dismantle Fukushima reactors

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Thursday, February 21, that decommissioning the tsunami-hit Fukushima power plant’s ruined nuclear reactors should not be done by Japan alone. He said that the country “should draw on the wisdom and the most advanced technologies from around the world.” Hence, IAEA is planning to propose a multinational mission for this purpose.

Time to overhaul radiation safety criteria

The government should make a sweeping review of safety standards for radioactivity. The recent change of administration offers a golden opportunity to do this.

The Consumer Affairs Agency will reinforce efforts to deal with damage caused by radiation rumors since the crisis began at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Masako Mori, state minister for consumer affairs, said, “The Democratic Party of Japan-led administration increased consumers’ anxieties.” She has issued an order to study concrete measures to alleviate these fears.

Chernobyl copes with nuclear fallout a quarter-century on

Traversing old potholed roads past long-abandoned villages surrounding the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, you wouldn’t guess there’s a bustling construction site nearby.

The so-called exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was once home to some 120,000 people, who were evacuated following the reactor meltdown at in 1986. Trees that sprouted in living rooms are now pushing through rooftops inside this highly contaminated, sealed off area, while wild horses and wolves roam the woods.

However, there are also some 7,000 people working here, including almost 3,000 at the plant itself.

Small Molecules in the Blood Might Gauge Radiation Effects After Exposure

Ohio State University cancer researchers have identified molecules in the bloodstream that might accurately gauge the likelihood of radiation illness after exposure to ionizing radiation.

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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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