Environmental Must-Reads – February 3, 2014


Gas continues to escape from rig off La. coast

Crews worked Friday to stop natural gas from escaping an underwater well where a rig was drilling off the Louisiana coast. The Coast Guard said workers had cut the flow in half since losing control of the well a day earlier.

Fracking in George Washington National Forest could threaten D.C. area drinking water

The future cleanliness of the Washington region’s drinking water has unexpectedly become a central concern in the national debate over the controversial natural-gas drilling method known as “fracking.”

The gas industry is pushing to allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest, despite fears that it could threaten the cleanliness of the Potomac River. It’s the sole source of drinking water for more than 4 million people in our area.

How Fracking Fuels Prostitution and Organized Crime in Bakken Shale Region

From a fiery oil train crash in December, crude oil spill in September and growing concerns of flared natural gas, North Dakota continues to make headlines.

Yesterday, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition report, Booming Oil Fields May Be Giving Sex Trafficking a Boost, shows how drinking, drugs, prostitution and organized crime are major concerns in the Bakken Shale region of North Dakota.

The new threat from shale

The nighttime satellite photos are a handy reference guide to man’s creeping takeover of the planet. Densely packed southern England is a blanket of white light. Ditto the stretch between Washington, D.C., and Boston—in effect, one big city. As you move west in the United States, black becomes the dominant colour, interspersed with small islands of white. Wait, has a new megacity popped up in North Dakota?

Quakes can’t shake railroad commissioner candidates’ stances on fracking

Republican candidates for a post on Texas’ oil and gas regulation board are reluctant to pin earthquakes rocking parts of North Texas on industry practices related to “fracking.”

Residents who have felt dozens of quakes where they used to be rare have raised concerns and criticized the Railroad Commission for responding slowly and sharing little information.

MEIC sues attorney general over access to documents

The Montana Environmental Information Center has sued Attorney General Tim Fox to gain access to certain documents related to the public position he took on hydraulic fracturing.

In the lawsuit, filed late this week in state District Court in Helena, MEIC said it wrote Fox Aug. 30, 2013, expressing concern over his position in joining some other attorneys general in a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell opposing federal efforts to further regulate hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

NC fracking panel sets safe drilling distances from homes, streams

The state commission created in 2012 to create safe fracking standards has wrestled with one controversy after another and always found a way to agree unanimously – until Friday.

After 2-1/2 hours of debate, the N.C Mining and Energy Commission voted 10-1 on safe drilling distances from homes, streams and other sensitive landmarks.

Pure Waters awaits documents related to fracking’s health impacts

The state Department of Health has two months to produce documents used in its study on how hydrofracking impacts public health.

Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, which sued the state Department of Health in September 2013, agreed to the timetable Jan. 22.

Don’t turn N.Y. into transit route for fracked natural gas

The Algonquin Incremental Market project is a plan by Spectra Energy to convey an additional 300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day through Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties to “various Algonquin … delivery points in Connecticut and Massachusetts.”

New York will serve as a corridor to convey this gas to New England states that need it for heating and electrical purposes. The additional capacity will be supplied by fracked natural gas from Texas and Pennsylvania’s radon-laden Marcellus Shale.

Fracking support falls after protests in Balcombe in Sussex

Public support for fracking has fallen since protests in Sussex last summer, a survey has found.

This is despite promises of financial payments to communities who allow shale gas development.

West Sussex landowners launch ‘legal blockade’ against fracking

A group of landowners in a national park are denying permission for a company to drill under their properties, in the latest moves to oppose controversial “fracking”.

Residents near the village of Fernhurst, West Sussex, in the South Downs National Park, are launching a “legal blockade” against drilling under their land.

Elk County well to take fracking wastewater

Seneca Resources Corp. has received federal approval to operate a new drilling wastewater injection well in Elk County, and more of those deep injection wells for the disposal of Marcellus and Utica shale gas drilling wastewater are on tap for Pennsylvania.

French minister supports allowing ‘clean’ shale gas fracking

A split over France’s ban on shale gas development has emerged within the government, with one minister supporting an experimental type of “clean fracking.”

French Minister for Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg, a member of President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, is calling on the president to reconsider his opposition to hydraulic fracturing due to what he calls the emergence of environmentally safer methods to extract natural gas trapped in shale rock.

BP digs in as last leg of Gulf oil spill trial approaches

The legal clash over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill is entering a key chapter that could give BP an idea of just how large a hole the disaster will burn in its wallet.

It appears unlikely that BP and the U.S. government will settle the multibillion-dollar dispute before a federal judge hands down several rulings in a civil case that will determine how much BP owes in Clean Water Act penalties.

BP oil spill update: Dolphins with missing teeth and lung disease found in Gulf of Mexico

Bottlenose dolphins with missing teeth, lung disease, and abnormal hormone levels were found swimming in the Gulf of Mexico a year after the BP oil spill, US researchers say.

Pneumonia, liver disease and a pregnant female carrying a dead fetus were also reported in the first major study of dolphin health after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Letter: Texas Brine’s spin hides truth

Had Texas Brine not been so greedy 32 years ago, and had they listened to the advice of their own consultants who informed them that they were in danger of penetrating the side wall of the Napoleonville Salt Dome by mining below 5000 feet in that particular location, this entire human and environmental catastrophe could have been avoided … Yet, as alleged in Federal Court documents in a complaint against Texas Brine as reported in The Advocate this past November, the company submitted a permit application to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources requesting mining all the way to 6040 feet. In 2010 they made it all the way to 5654 feet before the solution mining operation blew out the salt into the surrounding strata. This fact was then hidden from the residents of Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou.

Train carrying fuel oil derails, spills in Mississippi

A Canadian National Railway train carrying fuel oil and other hazardous materials derailed and was leaking in southeast Mississippi on Friday, forcing the evacuation of nearby residents, officials said.

No one was injured in the incident which involved the derailment of 21 railcars, eight of which have spilled their contents, a Canadian National Railway spokesman said.

7 Facts That Weren’t In The New State Department Report On Keystone XL

The State Department released its final supplemental environmental impact statement on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Critics and supporters of the pipeline alike have awaited the report, ever since President Obama last year singled out carbon pollution as a parameter in Keystone’s national interest calculation.

The newly-released report admits to the obvious: that “the total direct and indirect emissions” of the project “would contribute to cumulative global GHG emissions.” But in its final analysis, it says the proposed pipeline is “unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas,” and does not look at the overall greenhouse gas emissions of the tar sands oil that would flow through it.

Oil Spills Are Keystone XL’s Greatest Threat To Environment, Limited US State Department Report Concludes

The US State Department environmental assessment has identified an oil spill as the most likely threat the Keystone XL Pipeline presents to the environment. The report relies upon a Canadian Government study for its analysis of environmental impacts North of the border. The US segment of the pipeline is expected to have CO2 emissions – from “fuel use in construction vehicles and equipment, as well as, land clearing activities including open burning, and indirectly from electricity usage” – that will be the equivalent of 300,000 cars. “Climate changes are anticipated to occur regardless of any potential effects from the proposed Project,” the report states, but it also showed there is a substantial risk of a major oil spill. There were 1,692 pipeline “incidents” in the US during the six month period they studied. (1,027 of these were from the equipment used on pipelines and 321 were directly connected to pipelines.) There have been mixed reactions to this report.

Three oil spills into Delaware River in two weeks caused ‘minimal damage’

Three oil spills into the Delaware River in the past two weeks in our region sent more than 1,100 gallons of the substance into the waterway.

On Jan. 14 a flange failure triggered an accidental release of 150 gallons of heating fuel into the river from Blue Knight Energy Partners in Gloucester City. The Sunoco Logistics Terminal Facility in Fort Mifflin spilled approximately 50 gallons of crude oil into the river on Jan. 24 and 1,000 gallons were spilled into the river on Monday from Monroe Energy LLC, located about one mile south of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Philadelphia

Oil spill risks would rise from three major projects: U.S. study

A U.S. study that takes a wider examination than Canadian research into oil spill risks in the Salish Sea shows the greatest potential increase in spills is off the San Juan and Gulf Islands.

The potential for oil spills in the Haro Strait-Boundary Pass passage increases by 4.75 times as a result of the anticipated increase of 1,250 large ships annually from three planned projects in the waters shared by British Columbia and Washington state, according to the draft findings of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded study.

Keystone Pipeline Will Impact Climate Change, State Department Reports

How much can one oil pipeline affect global climate change? That’s one of the fundamental questions probed by a new, final environmental impact assessment released January 31 by the U.S. State Department. At issue is the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry 730,000 barrels a day of oil from western Canada, mostly from Alberta’s tar sands, but also 100,000 barrels per day of oil fracked from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. Much of that oil is already being produced and is being transported by other means, such as railroads.

Without Keystone, oil trains may cause six deaths per year: U.S. State Department report

Replacing the Keystone XL pipeline with oil-laden freight trains from Canada may result in an average of six additional rail-related deaths per year, according to a U.S. State Department report that is adding to pressure for President Barack Obama to approve the line.

Foes vow civil disobedience if Obama OKs Keystone pipeline

With yet another obstacle removed for the Keystone XL pipeline, opponents were pressing forward with a lawsuit to challenge the project, public protests and an effort to inject the issue into the November elections.

Supporters and opponents both were quick to claim victories with the U.S. State Department report released Friday, which raised no major objections to the pipeline. The oil industry, some union groups and congressional Republicans called on the Obama administration to move forward with the project, while a coalition of landowners and environmentalists say there is still cause for denying a federal permit. The project would ship 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

As State Department releases report on Keystone pipeline, pressure builds over final decision

As the proposed Keystone oil pipeline extension cleared a major hurdle today, it set off alarms in some quarters and lifted hopes in the world of energy and business.

Jeffrey Brown has more on today’s developments.

Arctic city hopes to cash in as melting ice opens new sea route to China

The city of Nadym, in the extreme north of Siberia, is one of the Earth’s least hospitable places, shrouded in darkness for half of the year, with temperatures plunging below -30C and the nearby Kara Sea semi-permanently frozen.

But things are looking up for this Arctic conurbation halfway between Europe and China. Over the next 30 years climate change is likely to open up a polar shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, cutting travel time to Asia by 40% and allowing Russia’s vast oil and gas resources to be exported to China, Japan and south Asia much faster.

50 Reasons We Should Fear the Worst from Fukushima

Fukushima’s missing melted cores and radioactive gushers continue to fester in secret.

Japan’s harsh dictatorial censorship has been matched by a global corporate media blackout aimed—successfully—at keeping Fukushima out of the public eye.

But that doesn’t keep the actual radiation out of our ecosystem, our markets … or our bodies.

UK nuclear experts to help decommision Fukushima

British nuclear experts are being lined up to help decommission the damaged Fukushima power plant in a move that could reboot Japan’s atomic power capabilities.

Lady Judge, the British-American nuclear expert and adviser at Fukushima, is organising for engineers from Sellafield in Cumbria to travel to Japan to advise on decontaminating and shutting down the stricken site.

Internet Postings Stoke Bay Area Fears Of Nuclear Radiation Fallout From Japan Fukushima Disaster

From across the Pacific Ocean to your Facebook feed, fear spreading from Fukushima has officially reached the West Coast.

Concerns about radioactive water now stretch from the activism hotbed of Berkeley to the peaceful sands of Monterey Bay. The town of Fairfax has even appealed to the United Nations for guidance on the matter.

JFE Engineering Begins Construction of Fukushima Solar Station

JFE Holdings Inc. (5411)’s engineering unit began construction of a 26.2-megawatt solar power station in the prefecture of Fukushima, north of Tokyo, on behalf of a health foods company.

The plant at a former golf club is expected to be completed in March 2015, JFE Engineering Corp. said in a statement today. The station will be run by Nagano prefecture-based Sunny Health Co., according to the statement.

U.K. nuclear employees ordered to stay home amid increased radiation levels

The United Kingdom’s largest nuclear plant ordered thousands of workers to stay at home Friday after recording increased levels of radioactivity, its operator said.

The Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site, in Cumbria, north-west England, told all non-essential employees not to come to work after the elevated levels were picked up by a monitor at the north end of the site.

British nuclear plant says radiation alert caused by natural radon gas

Sellafield, the largest nuclear site in Europe, declared an alert on Friday after discovering higher than usual levels of radioactivity, but later called it off, saying naturally occurring radon gas had triggered the alarm.

Protesters Resist an ‘Indian Fukushima’

Activists opposed to India’s plans to massively increase civilian nuclear power production are aghast that a plan for an Indo-Japanese nuclear cooperation deal is gaining pace even while Japan is struggling to cope with the fallout of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was guest of honour at India’s 64th Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26, announced in a press statement before leaving that talks for a nuclear cooperation agreement were continuing “with the view for an early conclusion.”

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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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