Environmental Must-Reads – February 27, 2014


Acadia Parish gas well blowout forces evacuations

A natural gas well that blew out Tuesday in Acadia Parish and forced the evacuation of about 40 people was still leaking Wednesday evening.

State authorities and a Texas company that specializes in capping oil and gas leaks were preparing the area so the leak can be capped safely, State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons said.

Gas Drilling Boom Accelerates With Little Study of Public Health Effects

A new study has underscored just how little is known about the health consequences of the natural gas boom that began a decade ago, when advances in high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and directional drilling allowed companies to tap shale deposits across the United States.

“Despite broad public concern, no comprehensive population-based studies of the public health effects of [unconventional natural gas] operations exist,” concluded the report published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Fracking Waste is Being Dumped Into the Ocean Off California’s Coast

ReWire has reported previously on a form of oil well enhancement in California that doesn’t get much attention from the press, namely, offshore fracking. At least 12 rigs off the coast of California inject proprietary mixes of potentially dangerous chemicals into undersea rock formations at high pressure. They do this in order to break those rocks up which makes it easier to pump out the crude.

Legal Petition Urges EPA to Ban Dumping of Offshore Fracking Chemicals Into California’s Ocean

The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a legal petition urging the Environmental Protection Agency to stop oil and gas companies from dumping toxic chemicals from fracking directly into ocean waters off California.

High court to decide: Is fracking subject to local rules?

The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday over whether local governments have authority to regulate and approve the location of oil and gas wells.

The city of Munroe Falls in northeastern Ohio’s Summit County is asking the justices to reverse an appellate-court ruling that it had no authority to impose zoning restrictions on fracking and scant authority to regulate drilling.

Colorado communities push back as state leaders laud air rules

While Gov. John Hickenlooper, industry leaders and environment advocates praised Colorado’s new statewide air-pollution rules for oil and gas operations, local elected officials and community activists are launching campaigns to buttress local control.

The elected officials, 50 from around the state, have sent a letter urging Hickenlooper and state lawmakers to reinforce local land-use power over oil and gas development.

Another anti-fracking measure could be headed to November ballot

More anti-fracking fervor could be headed to the ballot this year, as a new coalition this week announced plans to collect signatures as part of an effort to get a measure in front of voters in November that would give cities and towns more control over oil and gas drilling inside their borders.

The group, called Local Control Colorado, consists partially of anti-fracking organizations that have formed in Boulder and Broomfield counties over the last year or so. They include Our Broomfield, Our Longmont and Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights.

Join James Taylor in Standing Up to Reckless Fracking in North Carolina

This week independent researchers from Wake Forest University confirmed that 35 million gallons of toxic coal ash had spilled into the Dan River from the Duke Energy coal ash dump in Eden, North Carolina.  That makes it the third largest spill of coal ash ever in the United States.  Across our state there are another 13 of these giant coal ash dumps that have been leaking contamination into our water.

La. 70 near Bayou Corne sinking faster

A team of Texas Brine Co. LLC surveyors toiled by La. 70 last week just minutes from Bayou Corne’s sparkling water and towering cypresses — and the 26-acre sinkhole that is plaguing the area.

Texas Brine still owns the sinkhole that 18 months ago prompted an evacuation order that remains in effect, although many residents have returned for financial reasons. The surveyors were gathering data to determine whether La. 70 in Assumption Parish is sinking, according to John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Judge denies BP’s request to delay seafood claims payments

A federal judge Wednesday refused a request by BP to postpone oil spill compensation payments to seafood workers after the oil giant argued that the program should be put on hold because of fraud claims against a Texas lawyer.

BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to delay a second phase of payments under the $2.3 billion Seafood Compensation Fund in light of a lawsuit the company has brought against one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers who helped craft the settlement deal.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: BP Fails to Halt Compensation Payments to Fishermen

British oil major BP failed in its attempt to halt payments from a commercial fishermen’s compensation fund, after alleging some of those named as suffering losses since the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill do not exist.

A US Federal court denied BP’s request to stop payments from the $2.3bn (€1.7bn, £1.4bn) fund, as the company alleged that some individuals who supposedly suffered commercial loss from the spill did not exist. BP argued that the $2.3bn amount was inflated, as more than half of the 40,000 victims represented by attorney Mikal Watts are not real.

Former BP executive gets delay in oil spill trial

A federal judge has indefinitely delayed the trial of a former BP executive accused of lying to Congress in 2010 about the amount of oil spewing from the company’s blown-out well.

Trial had been scheduled for March 10 for David Rainey, who was BP’s vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico when the well blew wild in April 2010, killing 11 workers and causing 200 million gallons of oil to spill over a couple months.

USF study: Diseased fish show dissolved oil from BP spill as far south as Sanibel

Dissolved oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill off Louisiana wafted underwater all the way down to Florida’s Sanibel Island, sickening fish along the way, according to a new study from University of South Florida scientists.

An upwelling of cold water from deep in the Gulf of Mexico swept the oil up onto the continental shelf about 80 miles offshore, spreading it far from where it was spewing out of a damaged rig, the study found.

Alaskan rocks shielding still-fresh oil from 1989 Valdez Exxon spill

Twenty-three years after the Exxon Valdez spill, hidden pockets of surprisingly unchanged oil are found on Alaska beaches far from the incident, scientists say.

The rocky coastlines in the Shelikof Strait, hundreds of miles southwest of the 1989 spill, contain small remnants of oil which appear to be protected by a stable boulder and cobble “armor,” Gail Irvine of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center said.

Exxon Valdez Oil Is Still Polluting the Prince William Sound 25 Years Later

Gail Irvine regularly finds oil polluting Alaska’s Prince William Sound. But the oil isn’t fresh—it’s left over from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and it’s still harming marine life a quarter century later.

Irvine, of the United States Geological Survey, has been monitoring the sound and the coastline of the Shelikof Strait, southwest of the spill, for 20 years, and has just recently discovered these pockets of oil that have persisted behind large boulders along the coastline. What’s more, the oil appears to have broken down very little and has the chemical makeup of oil that is just 11 days old, meaning it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

No Conflict of Interest Found in Favorable Review of Keystone Pipeline

A State Department contractor who prepared an environmental analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline did not violate conflict-of-interest rules, even though the contractor had previously done work for TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, a State Department inspector general’s investigation concluded on Wednesday.

Keystone XL pipeline: State Dept. didn’t violate rules, report says

The State Department did not violate conflict-of-interest rules when it chose an outside contractor to conduct an environmental impact study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the department’s inspector general concluded in a report issued Wednesday.

The conclusion came as a blow to environmental groups seeking to stop the pipeline’s construction. They had urged an investigation of recent business ties between TransCanada, which plans to build it, and Environmental Resources Management, which conducted the environmental assessment.

Keystone pipeline may be headed for further delay

A debate of more than five years could stretch even longer with Wednesday’s call for a health study on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

Two Democratic senators — Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — urged Secretary of State John Kerry to examine higher rates of cancer and other illness reported in places impacted by the “tar sands” oil from northern Alberta.

Senators Call for ‘Robust Health-Impact Study’ on Keystone XL Pipeline

The head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee called on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to conduct a “very robust health-impact study” of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday.

A State Department review of the pipeline – which would carry crude oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries in the United States – “was woefully inadequate,” ignoring or “underestimating” the “health miseries that follow the tar sands,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the committee’s chairwoman, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said in a press conference and subsequent letter to Obama and Kerry.

Canadian crude now moving through Keystone XL’s southern leg

The Keystone XL southern leg has delivered its first barrels of Canadian oil to the Texas coast, even though the project still lacks its planned northern leg into Canada, TransCanada CEO Russell Girling said in an interview Wednesday.

The crude moved through TransCanada’s existing pipelines, including the original Keystone pipeline that began operation in 2010.

Obama’s Pipeline

WHEN I was elected to Congress in 2002, George W. Bush was president and big business wrote environmental policy. We all remember Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force — a who’s who of mining and oil interests — and the administration’s constant questioning of climate science.

President Obama won the White House by running as an agent of change: change from Mr. Bush’s way of doing business with business, and change from Washington’s habitual corporate favoritism.

Corporation Exploiting Major Loophole To Quickly Build 600-Mile Tar Sands Pipeline

In the five years since TransCanada submitted its first application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, protesters have held marches and vigils, chained themselves to pipeline trucks, interrupted a presidential speech and gotten themselves purposefully arrested, all in the name of stopping the pipeline.

For Debra Michaud, one of the founders of Tar Sands Free Midwest, getting these activists to just take notice of the pipeline her group has been working to stop since early last year would be a victory.

Report: ‘Perfect storm’ of oil risks in U.S. arctic waters

With Shell uncertain about its future in U.S. arctic waters, a consortium of environmental advocacy groups said the region presents a “perfect storm of risks.”

Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said in January a series of mishaps in its drilling campaign off the Alaskan coast meant his company lacked a “clear path forward” in the arctic.

The race for Arctic oil: Russia vs. U.S.

The United States and Russia are at odds over a host of issues, from Ukraine to Syria to Edward Snowden, prompting talks of a new Cold War. Their next confrontation could take place on the coldest place on earth.

Last week, a Russian military official told Russian media that the Kremlin was forming a new strategic military command to protect its interests in the Arctic. It’s part of a broader push from Moscow to establish military superiority at the top of the world.

Radiation Levels Fall after Nuclear Waste Leak in New Mexico

Radiation levels within and around the United States’ only deep-underground nuclear waste facility continue to drop, nearly two weeks after a mysterious leak triggered alarms and shut down the facility, according to data released this week by the US Department of Energy and an independent air-monitoring group.

Tests show workers at New Mexico nuclear waste site exposed to radiation

Thirteen workers were exposed to radiation during a recent leak at the nation’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico, according to the results of preliminary tests announced Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Project said in a joint news release that they have notified the workers of the positive results and will do further testing. They declined to comment further until a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Nuclear Waste Repository Set to Reopen After Leak

Almost two weeks after an unexplained puff of radioactive materials forced the closing of a salt mine in New Mexico that is used to bury nuclear bomb wastes, managers of the mine are planning to send workers back in and are telling nearby residents that their health is safe.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, 28 miles east of Carlsbad, has been in operation for 15 years, burying wastes in an ancient salt bed deep beneath the desert, mostly without incident, and some experts have said that the site should be considered for additional kinds of nuclear waste.

Documents Say Navy Knew Fukushima Dangerously Contaminated the USS Reagan

A stunning new report indicates the U.S. Navy knew that sailors from the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan took major radiation hits from the Fukushima atomic power plant after its meltdowns and explosions nearly three years ago.

If true, the revelations cast new light on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by the sailors against Tokyo Electric Power. Many of the sailors are already suffering devastating health impacts, but are being stonewalled by Tepco and the Navy.

Fukushima radiation on B.C. coast measured by crowdfunding

People along B.C.’s coast are being asked to step in where governments in Canada and the U.S. have not — to measure radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in B.C.’s ocean waters.

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Maine, are calling on the public to collect data from B.C.’s oceans for a crowd-funded research project.

Fukushima radiation provides valuable info on ocean currents

Radiation leaking into the ocean from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is giving scientists valuable new evidence on how ocean currents move.

John Smith, chemical oceanographer for the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, said the British Columbia coast is being bathed in low levels radioactive seawater from Japan’s Fukushima disaster — but the levels and the timing of the radiation reaching Canada are not what computer models predicted.

Outside Fukushima exclusion zone, residents getting minor radiation dose

While the damaged facilities at Fukushima have dumped a lot of radioactivity into the environment, most of it has ended up either in the ocean, or in the groundwater at the site itself. Outside the 20km exclusion zone, most of the radiation came from a single plume released in the first few days of the crisis. The plume drifted to the northwest, leading to the evacuation of some communities outside of the exclusion areas.

Documentary Spotlight: The Horses of Fukushima

One of my favorite events of the year is almost here—the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) from March 19 to March 30 at Tower City Cinemas.

There are eight eco-films this year, in CIFF’s It’s Easy Being Green sidebar sponsored by Great Lakes Brewing Company, bringing awareness and support to the environmental movement working to save our planet.

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This