Environmental Must-Reads – February 27, 2013


Oil Spill Trial: BP Executive to Resume Testimony

The first BP executive to testify at a federal trial over the nation’s worst oil spill was to take the stand for a second day Wednesday before a judge tasked with deciding whether the London-based oil giant and other companies acted with gross negligence for the 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP executive Lamar McKay testified Tuesday, the second day of the non-jury trial in New Orleans, that BP and its contractors share responsibility for preventing blowouts like the Macondo well blowout and rig explosion off Louisiana that killed 11 workers on April 20, 2010, spawning the massive spill.

Testimony begins in BP oil spill trial

BP Plc fostered a culture that put cost-cutting over safety before the deadly 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a noted forensic engineer said in the first day of testimony in the federal civil trial centred on the disaster.

“There is ample evidence of intense pressure within the system to save time and money,” Bob Bea, co-founder of the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at the University of California, Berkeley, said on Tuesday.

BP accepts role in spill at trial, aims to spread blame

After hearing claims that BP Plc put profits above safety in the first day of court testimony over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, a senior executive for the oil company insisted the blame should be shared.

BP Executive Testifies That a Rig Explosion in the Gulf Was a Known Risk

On the first day of testimony in the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill trial, BP’s top executive for North American operations at the time of the disaster acknowledged on Tuesday that a well explosion had been identified as a risk before it happened.

BP: Gulf of Mexico oil spill ‘shared responsibility’

A senior BP executive has told a US court that the oil giant was not solely responsible for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Rig operator Transocean and contractor Halliburton must also bear portions of the blame for the explosion and resulting spill, Lamar McKay said.

BP trial: Expert says oil company’s obsession with profit led to Deepwater catastrophe

BP lawyer Mike Brock challenged testimony from an expert witness that BP did not place a priority on safety, arguing that the company implemented a robust safety program across its global operations.

Brock said BP’s extensive training programs were “not reflective of a company that is cutting corners.”

Deepwater oil spill a ‘classic failure’ of BP management, court hears

A culture of “every dollar counts” at BP led to the fatal Deepwater Horizon disaster and the US’s worst ever oil spill, a court heard on Tuesday.

Bob Bea, an expert in catastrophic engineering failures and a former BP consultant, said the disaster was a “classic failure of leadership and management in BP”.

Witness in Gulf oil spill trial charges BP had flawed safety record

The BP oil spill trial’s second day featured testimony from retired University of California-Berkeley civil and petroleum engineering professor Robert Bea, who was called by the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee to discuss how BP’s safety record compares with industry standards.

Two Expert Witnesses Take the Stand in BP Oil Spill Trial

The civil trial against BP following the 2010 oil spill is underway in a federal courtroom. Tuesday, two expert witnesses took the stand, a current BP executive and a former BP consultant and engineering professor.

That consultant, Robert Bea, sued the company after he said their cost cutting measures led to the disaster. He said quote: It is “tragic” and “egregious” that BP didn’t apply its own safety program.

Revenue restored for Alaska-based oil spill research institute

Christmas came early for the Cordova-based Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) when a provision to increase OSRI’s funding base was signed into law last December. It took more than six years of persistent work but the payoff will benefit oil spill research for decades to come.

Texas Stretch of Keystone XL Pipeline Progressing

The 485-mile Oklahoma-to-Texas leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is about half done, a TransCanada official told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday.

Nearly all the land along the route has been cleared, and the pipeline should be in service at the end of this year or in early 2014, according to Corey Goulet, vice president of Keystone Pipeline projects for TransCanada, the Canadian company building the pipeline. The $2.3 billion pipeline will bring crude oil from a major storage depot in Cushing, Okla., to refineries in the Nederland area of Southeast Texas. (A spur will take oil on from Nederland to Houston.)

Will trains derail the Keystone XL pipeline?

The Keystone XL pipeline could fall by the wayside given the increased interest in the transportation of crude oil via rail, Graeber writes. With more crude travelling on trains, will rail overtake Keystone XL and other pipelines as the preferred method of oil transport?

PART I: One Man’s Stand Against the Keystone XL Pipeline

My name is Michael Bishop and I am a landowner in Douglass, Texas in Nacogdoches County. I am the victim of eminent domain by a foreign, private corporation. I received a letter from TransCanada in 2008 informing me that my property had been selected as a potential route for their “crude oil” pipeline. At that time, the line was to go on the eastern border of my property and would cross my creek. It was also going to adversely affect my neighbors as well.

Sinkhole activities halt work nearby

Response operations at the 8.6-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish were halted Tuesday after seismic monitors noted an increase in underground tremors that have been linked with “burps” and edge collapses in the yawning slurry hole, state regulators and parish officials said.

NY fracking rules to miss deadline; review lingers

As another deadline for enacting New York fracking regulations comes and goes with no action, environmental groups and other organizations are renewing their call for public participation in a health impact review.

NC Senate advances bill for fracking permits

The North Carolina Senate has given preliminary approval to legislation to prepare issuing permits for underground natural gas exploration.

The bill approved 38-10 Tuesday authorizes regulators to issue horizontal drilling and fracking permits starting in March 2015. That’s five months after a regulatory commission is expected to finalize rules governing the drilling. The General Assembly authorized fracking in 2012 but said permits couldn’t be issued without the express consent of legislators.

Time to Strengthen Fracking Standards, Not “Streamline” Them

President Obama has repeatedly stressed his commitment to clean energy and climate action in the past few weeks.  “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he said in the Inaugural Address. He echoed those words in the State of the Union Address and offered specific proposals to boost renewable power and energy efficiency.

Hickenlooper Threatens To Sue Any Town, City That Bans Fracking –

Gov. John Hickenlooper says he won’t tolerate cities and towns that ban oil and gas drilling within their borders and he promises to take them to court.

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd sat down with the governor, who was blunt. He told Boyd the state will sue any local government that bans hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the drilling technique that uses high-pressure water and chemicals to extract natural gas.

Oklahoma Geological Survey researches possible connection between earthquakes and fracking

Since Oklahoma began monitoring earthquakes in 1978 the Oklahoma Geological Survey said there were about fifty a year.

But in 2010, OGS recorded more than 1,000 earthquakes. While that number has stayed steady until today the agency has started researching any possible link between quakes and fracking–the process of pumping water and sand into a well to release oil and natural gas.

Fracking Health Campaign

Activists who want to keep the state’s moratorium on fracking are pressuring the governor to open the state’s health review of the drilling practice open to the public.

They also came armed with maps showing current toxic sites and locations of uncapped wells in New York State to argue the d-e-c hasn’t been able to properly regulate conventional drilling. State DEC commissioner Joe Martens said his department won’t set forth fracking regulations before the health review is finished.

Brunswick council passes resolution addressing fracking

In spite of local business and Chamber of Commerce opposition, city council passed a resolution Feb. 25 addressing the Ohio General Assembly’s regulatory control over the oil and natural gas exploration industry.

The non-binding resolution states the city opposes the state’s “abrogating all local control over well permitting, which jeopardizes the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Ohio and requesting the General Assembly repeal any laws that pre-empt any local control over oil and natural gas extraction.”

Senate Bill Introduced to Stop Fracking in New Mexico

In the wake of a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that identified ConocoPhillips’ San Juan Basin operations in Northwest New Mexico as the second-most prolific greenhouse-gas polluter in the nation among onshore oil and gas systems, Senator William Soules (D-37 Dona Ana) has introduced a bill to prohibit horizontal hydraulic fracturing in New Mexico. Senate Bill 547 would amend the Oil and Gas Act to prohibit the controversial practice best known as fracking.

Fracking bill passes N.C. Senate

A bill to allow a new method of oil drilling passed a procedural vote in the North Carolina Senate on Tuesday afternoon and awaits a third and final vote, according to the General Assembly’s website.

The legislation would allow horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing as soon as March of 2015. Known commonly as “fracking,” the process has been credited with driving natural gas prices to their lowest levels in years and with easing the nation’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Millions of Acres of Land—Larger Than California and Florida Combined—Already Leased to Oil and Gas Industry

Given the sordid environmental history of oil and gas development that has already occurred across the U.S., NRDC is extremely concerned about the additional harmful environmental, health and safety impacts that oil and gas development of this magnitude will bring in the future. Since it has been reported that more than ninety percent of oil and gas wells are fracked, there is a lot of new fracking slated for our future—tens of millions of acres of new fracking. Clean air, clean water, healthy communities, wildlands and wildlife habitat are all threatened.

Groups Find Flaws in Fracked Gas Export Plan

Yesterday, the Sierra Club—including its Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming Chapters—Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Air Council, Columbia Riverkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Riverkeeper and Upper Green River Alliance, submitted technical comments to the Department of Energy (DOE) responding to a flawed economic study of exporting natural gas conducted by NERA Consulting.

Post-Fukushima, Arguments for Nuclear Safety Bog Down

Alarms sounded and lights flashed as control panel dials at a nuclear power plant in upstate New York warned that the power for safety equipment was failing. The room went dark until the emergency lights kicked in. But there was no reason to worry on this frozen winter morning.

This was a simulation by Constellation Energy, the owner of the Nine Mile Point plant on Lake Ontario, for the benefit of two of the five members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It was part of an intense lobbying campaign against a proposed rule that would require utilities to spend millions of dollars on safety equipment that could reduce the effects of an accident like the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in Japan two years ago.

After Fukushima, Tasks Remain for the American Nuclear Industry

In response to the nuclear accident at Fukushima, the N.R.C. ordered installation of “reliable hardened vents” on older G.E.-designed boiling water reactors.

Of 31 reactors, 23 already have “hardened vents” and eight have no vents at all; even reactors with vents will need work on the valves to assure they are operable without electricity, which was a problem at Fukushima.

Japan tsunami and nuclear disaster movies seek to tell untold stories of forgotten victims

The unnerving clicks of dosimeters are constant as people wearing white protective gear quickly visit the radiated no-go zones of decayed farms and empty storefronts. Evacuees huddle on blankets on gymnasium floors, waiting futilely for word of compensation and relocation.

Such scenes fill the flurry of independent films inspired by Japan’s March 2011 catastrophe that tell stories of regular people who became overnight victims — stories the creators feel are being ignored by mainstream media and often silenced by the authorities.

Indian Nuclear Power Plant Sparks International Fears

If the 1984 Soviet Chernobyl disaster and, more recently, the destruction of Japan’s 11 March 2011 six reactor Fukushima Daiichi Tokyo Energy Power Co. installation, proved anything to the global community, aside from frantic assertions by the authorities that the public threat was minimal, it was that radioactive pollution is a trans-national issue.

Nuclear agency updates disaster mitigation rules

The Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday revised its disaster mitigation guidelines compiled in light of the Fukushima crisis by adding criteria for evacuation and other protective actions against radiation exposure.

According to the revised guidelines, people living within a 5-km radius of a nuclear power plant will be given iodine tablets, which help prevent thyroid cancer, ahead of time so they can promptly take the pills in the event of a fallout crisis.

U.N. panel: Thyroid radiation doses in Fukushima infants within safe limits

Thyroid gland doses of internal radiation in year-old infants living within 30 kilometers of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are well within safety limits, according to a United Nations committee.

‘Ask operators to prove cellphone towers are safe’

Asking the Supreme Court (SC) to direct the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) to prove “beyond reasonable doubt the hypotheses that there are no health hazards due to electromagnetic (EMF) radiation from cellphone tower antenna and mobile phone”, some citizen groups in the city have made a submission to the ongoing case in the SC.

Wireless Refugees: ‘Cell Phones, WiFi Making Us Sick’

When cell phones first hit the U.S. market in the mid-eighties, there were only a few thousand subscribers.  Today, there’s more cell phones in this country than there are people: 322 million subscribers. On top of that, 20-million Americans now use wireless-enabled laptops, tablets, and modems, and that number has jumped 50% in just two years, according to The Wireless Association.

Now People Are Freaking Out That Google Glasses Will Cause Cancer

Google’s first attempt at face-based computing, Project Glass, isn’t very useful unless it’s connected to a wireless network.

Without a connection to the internet, it can’t deliver search results, provide turn-by-turn directions, instantly share pictures with friends, or accomplish any of the other feats promised in Google’s video demonstration of Glass.

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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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