Environmental Must-Reads – February 28, 2014


Natural gas boom advances with little study of public health effects, report finds

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.

Report: Fracking likely to exacerbate water shortages

Water is the lifeblood of Colorado’s Weld and Garfield counties, and lately it’s been in short supply. Both of these counties face extremely high stress in terms of water scarcity, and both have seen an intense concentration of the water-intensive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process.

It’s a bad combination, according to a recent report issued by Ceres, a nonprofit devoted to promoting corporate responsibility and sustainability leadership.

High court hears potentially earth-shaking fracking case

A case that promises to have major repercussions on the shale-drilling industry in Ohio was heard by the Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday. The case, which pits the city of Munroe Falls against the Beck Energy Corporation, has drawn in a number of Athens County businesses and one county village as “friends of the court” on the side of Munroe Falls.

The case addresses the following issue, according to a preview on the Ohio Supreme Court’s website: “Are local zoning and drilling ordinances in conflict with the state oil-and-gas drilling law?”

Findlay residents near airport raise concerns about proximity of gas well drilling to their homes

Neighbors of Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay say they want to protect their homes from the impact of a $500 million, 20-year natural gas drilling project set to start in the spring.

Consol Energy Inc., in a deal with Allegheny County, plans to drill 45 Marcellus Shale wells on about 8,800 acres of airport property, primarily in Findlay.

Wisconsin senator backs off on sand mine changes

A Republican state senator has stepped back from his plans to curtail local sand mine regulations, introducing a bill Wednesday that would shield existing mines from new restrictions but allow municipalities to impose regulations on new operations.

Oil and gas development: Where are we now?

Marcellus shale activity in the area has held steady over the past two years, recent data shows.

According to information from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, last year in Beaver County, there were 41 permits for unconventional wells granted, while 10 wells were drilled.

Activists urge L.A. City Council to ban fracking and acidizing

In the morning while walking to her car, Michelle Kennedy sometimes detects a smell like cat urine. The asthma her 6-year-old suffers seems to have worsened.

Kennedy blames the oil and gas wells pumping in and near her South Los Angeles neighborhood. She was especially troubled to hear that acid was being injected in some shafts roughly a mile from her home.

Fracking waste concern sparks Kent meeting

A group in Kent is mustering forces to address three bills before the state Legislature regarding the importing and storing of fracking wastewater in the state.

A “Fracking Waste in Connecticut?” meeting was called by the concerned group, Housatonic Valley 350.org, for Friday at 6 p.m. in Kent Town Hall.

Judge upholds Broomfield fracking ban vote

A judge on Thursday upheld the results of a bitterly disputed election in the city and county of Broomfield that narrowly approved a five-year ban on fracking.

The judge ruled the November election had problems but was not illegal, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.

Fracking and the Moral Arc of the Universe

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “The moral arc of the universe bends towards justice.”

To the hundreds of families on the list of those harmed in Pennsylvania fracking country, these words do not ring true. With a legislative and executive branch virtually owned by the gas companies, the moral arc seemed to be on a path toward injustice.

Big Oil and Bad Air: Report Exposes Link Between Fracking and Toxic Air Emissions in Texas

Residents who live near areas of oil and natural gas fracking have long complained that the industry has poisoned their water with toxic chemicals. Now a new investigation is shedding light on another concern: air quality. The new report, “Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil & Bad Air on the Texas Prairie,” is the result of an eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News, the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel. We speak to David Hasemyer and Lisa Song, two of the reporters who worked on the investigation.

Fracking Illinois: As State Falters, County Vote to Ban Fracking Gains Support — And Media Blackout

As the national media puts the spotlight on the “FrackGate” public relations scandal in Ohio, where state officials worked to “marginalize opponents of fracking by teaming up with corporations–including Halliburton–business groups and media outlets,” Illinois residents behind a groundbreaking ballot initiative to ban fracking in rural Johnson County are facing a similar campaign of misinformation and local news blackout.

Scientists: New Bubbles at Louisiana Sinkhole Site Could Signal Blast Risk

Authorities say state and parish agencies are testing to see whether newly discovered gas bubbles northeast of the Bayou Corne, La.-area sinkhole are tied to the swampland hole.

The Advocate reports the state Office of Conservation and contractor CB&I have taken samples of the gas bubbles to determine their source, though officials acknowledge the bubbles likely are connected to the sinkhole.

Residents who remain near Bayou Corne sinkhole say they’re losing faith

The people of Bayou Corne can’t seem to catch a break. Just when they thought activity around the 27 acre sinkhole had gone quiet, bubbles started popping up closer to their homes.

People who live there say they are losing faith.

“There’s probably less than 20 percent who are here,” John Boudreaux, Director for the Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, said. “Most of the residents have moved out.”

Battle shaping up over ‘Big Oil’ lawsuit bill

Supporters of a south Louisiana flood control board’s lawsuit against scores of oil and gas companies over erosion of coastal wetlands announced plans Thursday to fight legislation they say could undermine not only the lawsuit but the political independence of the board.

Sen. Robert Adley’s bill, filed for this year’s legislative session, would give Gov. Bobby Jindal power to reject an independent committee’s nominations for membership on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

Suit: Company has history of mishandling chemicals

A contractor suing over the fatal June 13 Williams Olefins explosion at its Geismar plant raises recent federal workplace safety violations brought against the Tulsa, Okla., company and alleges Williams has a history of problems handling chemicals.

Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, the new suit brought by Abraham J. Bosley of Iberville Parish is the ninth in state or federal court over the explosion and the third brought this month.

U.S. Moves Toward Atlantic Oil Exploration, Stirring Debate Over Sea Life

The Interior Department opened the door on Thursday to the first searches in decades for oil and gas off the Atlantic coast, recommending that undersea seismic surveys proceed, though with a host of safeguards to shield marine life from much of their impact.

The recommendation is likely to be adopted after a period of public comment and over objections by environmental activists who say it will be ruinous for the climate and sea life alike.

U.S. Moves One Step Closer To Offshore Drilling Along East Coast

The oil and gas industry is one step closer toward drilling off the East Coast of the United States after a decades-long moratorium.

On Thursday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released its final environmental impact review on the effects of geological and geophysical activities to explore energy resources along the Atlantic seaboard, including controversial seismic airgun testing. Energy companies could receive permits to hunt for oil and gas deposits off the East Coast — specifically from the coast of Delaware down to central Florida — “perhaps in the coming months,” according to a report from Breaking Energy.

Ark. tells Exxon to clean spill’s pathways better

Arkansas’ environmental agency has told Exxon Mobil that it must do more to correct oil-related contamination in a Lake Conway cove and three drainage ditches leading to it.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1hsc0Te) that the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has given Exxon Mobil until March 11 to revise its recommendations for cleaning up the areas in Mayflower where the company’s Pegasus pipeline cracked open last March.

Pockets of Oil from Exxon Valdez Spill Persist Along Alaskan Coast

Small pockets of oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill still persist in pockets along Alaska’s coasts, hidden by rocks that have kept the elements from breaking down the crude oil, scientists reported yesterday (Feb. 27).

The Exxon Valdez spill was the largest oil spill in U.S. history until 2010’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, with nearly 11 million gallons (40 million liters) of oil pouring into Prince William Sound. (For comparison, the Deepwater Horizon spill spewed more than 200 million gallons, or 750 million liters, of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.)

Long Island Woman Fights Huge Legal Bills After Neighbor’s Oil Tank Spilled

A Lido Beach, Long Island family’s nightmare has gone to court.

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Lynn Eskanazi and her family are battling for damages after a neighbor’s oil tank leaked, and sent a toxic plume next door. Staggering legal bills are now the issue.

The Keystone XL Pipeline: Who Benefits?

Forty-one years ago, when I used to get up at 5 a.m. to get on gas station lines with my parents, I started hearing about “energy independence” — a secure source of supply for our energy needs. Today, energy independence soon will be a reality.

For China. Thanks to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Oil-sands cargos face tougher US rail-shipping rules

Train shipments of crude are under review across North America after a U.S. emergency order requiring new safety measures to prevent accidents. Oil-sands shippers may be scrutinizing the rules most closely.

Oil producers, refiners and logistics companies are comparing their procedures with new rules issued Feb. 25 by the U.S. Transportation Department that require testing all crude before transporting it by rail to ensure the proper containers are used and safety steps are taken. Some crude must be reclassified under a higher risk level, triggering requirements such as stronger rail cars that will be less likely to leak or break open in an accident.

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