Environmental Must-Reads – February 5, 2013


A Clash in Pennsylvania Over Fracking and Water Tests

A war of words has broken out between environmentalists and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over the cancellation of a meeting on the state’s testing of water from water wells near natural-gas drilling sites.

Joe Martens, New York Environment Commissioner, Says Fracking Decision Has No ‘Timetable’

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation has no projected date for finishing shale gas drilling rules, with completion dependent on recommendations from a health impact review, Commissioner Joe Martens said at a legislative budget hearing Monday.

“We do not have a timetable,” Martens said when Sen. Tony Avella asked him when the 4 ½-year-old environmental impact review and related regulations will be completed. He said he expects to get a report from Health Commissioner Nirav Shah in “a few weeks.”

Fracking for Yellowcake: The Next Frontier?

It works for oil and natural gas, so why not frack for uranium too? After all, America relies on foreign uranium just like it depends on foreign oil.

In the U.S. these days, it seems like you can sell almost anything if you spin it as part of the pursuit of energy independence. Enter Uranium Energy Corp. A junior mining company with Canadian roots, UEC is developing the newest uranium mine in the U.S. And it’s counting on fracking to do it.

Fracking waste: Is it safe to ship by barge?

Should a Texas company be allowed to ship fracking wastewater by barge up the Ohio River prior to disposal? The company says yes. Environmental groups say no. The U.S. Coast Guard, which has final authority over river cargo, says it is investigating.

Frack Tracks: Safer Fracking Fluids, Water Crisis Worries And Drilling In The Desert

With anti-fracking activists widely hoisting jugs of dirty water in protest of what they say is a toxic industry, natural gas companies are naturally looking for ways to ease public concerns. Their latest effort: nontoxic fracking fluids. As AP reported yesterday, energy giant Halliburton has developed a concoction that uses only food-industry ingredients.

Can Towns Ban Fracking? This One Case Could Decide Them All

A very important question is at the center of a court case that commenced this morning in Livingston County Court: Do individual towns have the right to ban natural gas fracking? An energy company is suing the town of Avon, hoping to set a precedent that would block towns from making their own decisions on fracking.

Dozens of towns are considering or have already enacted bans — more than half the towns in Livingston County passed one-year moratoriums on fracking, for example — and this is the one case that could decide them all.

Extra Onions, Please…But Hold the Fracking Fluid

By now the horrific stories of cows mysteriously losing tails, birthing stillborn calves, and even dropping dead have made their rounds. I’ve blogged about the dangers that fracking poses to our food supply before, as has my colleague Amy Mall.

Late last year, Elizabeth Royte also wrote an excellent piece for The Nation, titled “Fracking Our Food Supply”, that explored the potential for drilling operations to contaminate our food.  Supported by dozens of anecdotes of sick livestock from Pennsylvania to North Dakota, it made a strong case that we should indeed be worried. And just last week, the issue came up again when Royte published a version of her Nation story in The Ecologist and highlighted what new fracking in New York State would mean for our growing regional food system.

Pennsylvania warns NY: Fracking cost too high

Several farmers and landowners from Pennsylvania traveled across the border to talk about the cattle deaths, water contamination, family illnesses and loss of property value due to pollutants of hydrofracking fluid in their state.

The New Yorkers Against Hydrofracking Coalition held a press conference last Wednesday in the Legislative Office Building in Albany to launch an advertising campaign highlighting the problems that Pennsylvania citizens faced from hydrofracking.

Attorneys want $22.3 million in expenses reimbursed for work on economic and property damage settlement with BP

Attorneys who helped negotiate a $8.7 billion settlement of economic and property claims with BP have asked a federal judge in New Orleans to reimburse them for $22.3 million in expenses they’ve recorded through the end of 2012. The motion requesting repayment was filed Sunday by James Parkerson Roy and Stephen Herman, who were appointed in 2010 by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to lead the attorneys representing plaintiffs in the ongoing lawsuits against BP.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill reverberates among Florida coral

“Baby” corals are vulnerable to damage from the April 22, 2010, Deepwater Horizon oil spill and are especially likely to die when exposed to dispersants used during a spill, according to a lab-based study by Mote Marine Laboratory scientists.

Plan for oil spill money under way

A plan to spend billions of dollars in environmental fines from the 2010 Gulf oil spill will be released July 6.

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, established to manage a majority of the spill fines granted to the Gulf Coast by the Restore Act, announced its path forward to spend that money on restoration and protection last week.

Mississippi River Reopens After Oil Spill

The U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday reopened the Mississippi River near Vicksburg to north and southbound towboat traffic following the completion of oil removal operations. The reopening comes nearly a week after the initial tanker accident that caused the spill.

Scientist reports above-normal seismic activity at sinkhole

Experts are looking into the cause of recent rumbling in the ground near the massive sinkhole in Assumption Parish.

A scientist with the Center for Earthquake Research and Information reported there has been above-normal seismic activity around the site for several days.

Hearing set on permit for salt cavern dredging work

The long-delayed permitting process for a proposed expansion of the natural gas storage facility in salt domes beneath Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish is once again moving forward.

A public hearing on one of the three remaining state permits needed for the controversial project is set for Feb. 20 in New Iberia.

Genesis Energy spending $125 million on infrastructure, pipeline to ExxonMobile Baton Rouge

Genesis Energy LP announced Monday it will invest $125 million to enhance infrastructure and build a pipeline connecting its Port Hudson facility to ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery. The Houston-based company also will build a new crude oil unit train facility in Baton Rouge. In Port Hudson, it will construct additional storage capacity barrels and improve its barge dock and truck station.

Protest Postpones Work On Keystone Pipeline Project In Okfuskee County

An early morning protest on Monday shut down work on the Keystone XL Pipeline in Okfuskee County after a group entered a worksite before crews arrived. One woman’s actions landed her behind bars at the Okfuskee County Jail.

Construction crews showed up to work on the Keystone Pipeline Gulf Coast Project only to find a group of men, women and children standing in their way. Elizabeth Leja actually chained herself to an excavator.

Why the Southern Leg of Keystone XL Must Be Stopped

With President Obama’s blessing, TransCanada has been laying pipe for the 485-mile southern (OK-TX) leg of Keystone XL in the face of persistent nonviolent direct action by determined landowners and Tar Sands Blockade.

Look at the map below. If the southern leg of TransCanada’s pipeline is allowed to be completed, the fuse to the tar sands “carbon bomb” will be lit.

Who Takes the Blame for Oil Pollution in the Niger Delta?

Incessant oil spills in the Niger Delta is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Chika Amanze-Nwachuku and Ejiofor Alike write that effective collaboration between oil companies and their communities remain the surest way to address the long running problem

In Nigeria, oil spills have become a recurring decimal. It is estimated that between 10 million and 15 million barrels of oil Nigeria’s crude oil have been spewed into the environment since oil production started in Oloibiri, Niger Delta in 1958.

Inside Fukushima: TEPCO releases pics from inside nuclear plant after tsunami (PHOTOS)

Heaps of debris, power lines downed, smoke rising from demolished roof of what used to be the Fukushima reactor before the devastating tsunami hit the plant in March 2011 – TEPCO offers photos taken in the weeks after the disaster.

­Fukushima operator, Tokyo Electric Power, released 2,145 pictures it took between March 15 and April 11. Some of them were taken by the workers. TEPCO also took them from other sources after asking employees and subcontractors to submit any photos they took.

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