Environmental Must-Reads – February 7, 2013


Maryland Delegate to Introduce Fracking Moratorium Bill

Fracking opponents plan to be in Annapolis for the introduction of a bill calling for a state moratorium on the natural gas drilling technique until studies are completed on its impact.

Delegate Heather Mizeur plans to introduce the bill on Thursday. Opponents of the drilling technique, also known as hydraulic fracturing, plan to join her at a news conference.

Fracking Seen by EPA as No. 2 Emitter of Greenhouse Gases

Natural gas and oil production is the second-biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gases, the government said, emboldening environmentalists who say tighter measures are needed to curb the emissions from hydraulic fracturing.

In its second-annual accounting of emissions that cause global warming from stationary sources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time included oil and natural- gas production. Emissions from drilling, including fracking, and leaks from transmission pipes totaled 225 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents during 2011, second only to power plants, which emitted about 10 times that amount.

Fracking study geologist draws critics

A University at Buffalo geologist picked by the state to study the links between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes is now coming under scrutiny for his ties to the oil and gas industry.

Youngstown residents react to fracking wastewater

Youngstown-area residents are not just angry over the dumping of an estimated 20,000 gallons of suspected fracking wastewater into a storm sewer that empties into the Mahoning River.

They’re furious that it took five days for anyone to find out.

Gov. Ed Rendell Intervenes For Oil Company in EPA Contamination Case

A breaking investigation by EnergyWire appears to connect the dots between shadowy lobbying efforts by shale gas fracking company Range Resources, and the Obama EPA’s decision to shut down its high-profile lawsuit against Range for allegedly contaminating groundwater in Weatherford, TX.

At the center of the scandal sits former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the National Governors’ Association.

Fracking ‘Boom Towns’ Rife with Workplace Accidents

Workers, many of whom lack health insurance, face dangerous conditions, freezing weather, emotional isolation, poor nutrition, drug use, heavy drinking and epidemics of STDs.

Dumping of Toxic Fracking Wastewater Reaffirms Natural Gas Industry Free-for-All in Ohio

A week after the dumping of at least 20,000 gallons of toxic and potentially radioactive fracking waste into a storm drain that empties into a tributary of the Mahoning River in Youngstown, Ohio, by Hard Rock Excavating, state regulators have yet to disclose information about the quantity of waste and the chemicals involved. Environmental advocates are urging the state to act quickly to prosecute the perpetrator and look beyond the one incident to take more aggressive steps to protect the state’s public health and environment from future threats.

First-Time Reports from Oil and Gas Industry Reveal Massive Methane Emissions

U.S. EPA’s addition of oil, gas and coal methane emissions to its online greenhouse gas tracking tool revealed an 82.6-million-metric-ton increase in carbon dioxide equivalents over numbers from the previous year, when those figures were not available.

EPA published data yesterday for 2011, adding 12 new sources from the reporting program since last year’s 2010 figures. Although carbon dioxide is a much more abundant greenhouse gas than methane, the latter makes a far bigger impact on climate change with more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon.

Time to Drink Fracking “Produced Water”?

A terrifying new article from the Environmental News Network details plans by MIT Engineers to have us drinking the “produced water” from Natural Gas fracking wells.

Black Water and Broken Promises: Elderly PA Resident Speaks Out

In this important video by Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Max Chilson of Asylum, Pennsylvania (near Towanda, in Bradford County) describes a few aspects of the nightmare his life has become since his water turned black after Chief Oil and Gas fracked nearby.  Max describes a trail of broken promises that’s led him to conclude, “I wouldn’t trade water for gas nohow.”

Investors Press Oil and Gas Companies to Reduce and Report Risks from Fracking

Citing concerns over water management, toxic chemical disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions and other community impacts, investors have called upon nine leading oil and gas companies to disclose critical information about the ways they are managing and measuring the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations and shale gas transmission.

Faith Leaders Speak Out on Fracking New York

A new documentary film entitled On Faith & Fracking was released today in which seven leaders of various faiths from across New York State call on individuals, congregations and their peers to follow the teachings of their religious traditions and take up the fight against fracking in New York. The film was produced by the nonprofit Grassroots Environmental Education.

Justice Department recommends approval of $1 billion Clean Water Act fine for Transocean in BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday asked a federal judge to approve a $1 billion fine against Transocean, the owner of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, for violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The request comes only a few days before Transocean is due to appear before a second federal judge to plead guilty to criminal charges in the case, which will result in another $400 million in penalties.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council announces public hearings in Louisiana

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, set up by the RESTORE Act to oversee the spending of the Clean Water Act fine from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will hold a series of public meetings in Louisiana in mid-February. The meetings will allow the public to suggest ideas for in a Comprehensive Plan for Gulf Coast Restoration, required under the act.

BP To Contest $34 Billion Gulf Suits From State, Local Governments

BP PLC (BP.LN) plans to “vigorously contest” legal claims for tens of billions of dollars in damages stemming from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, describing the lawsuits as “seriously flawed.”

BP says ‘substantially overstated’ claims could push cost for Gulf spill over $90 billion

The Gulf of Mexico disaster might cost BP more than expected as new claims more than double the $42.2 billion set aside to deal with the matter. BP says the additional claims are “substantially overstated”.

The new claims amount to $34bn, and could prove to be another hard blow to BP’s profits which were reduced by nearly half in 2012 after the company had to pay fines for the disaster by selling assets.

Thomson Reuters: State Claims Wild Card in BP Civil Deal on Macondo Spill

It is a question that has lawyers and many others on the U.S. Gulf coast buzzing: Will BP strike a massive deal to settle the remaining claims over the Gulf of Mexico well blowout?

BP could be nearing a settlement of federal claims with the U.S. Department of Justice, but people tracking the case closely say the company and coastal states, especially Louisiana, might still be far apart.

Gulf of Mexico seafood industry leader is remembered following sudden death

Mike Voisin, a leader in the Gulf of Mexico seafood industry and one of the strongest national advocates for Louisiana seafood, died Saturday of sudden cardiac death at Terrebonne General Hospital in his hometown of Houma. He was 59.

Big Oil Profits from High Gasoline Prices

Time magazine reported in December that “2012 will go down as most expensive year ever for gas.” The Energy Information Administration determined that gasoline averaged $3.63 per gallon—a dime per gallon more than the previous record set in 2011. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that high gasoline prices were due to high crude oil prices—“with crude oil accounting for 66 percent of the retail cost of gasoline.”

Meeting gets contentious

Assumption Parish Police Jury President Martin “Marty” Triche exchanged sharp words Wednesday night during a community meeting on the parish’s 8.6-acre sinkhole with a resident who asked whether Triche had any personal financial interests in dirt-hauling related to the response effort.

The episode, which led to the resident’s removal by a sheriff’s deputy at Triche’s direction but Triche’s later apology for the outburst, occurred about 11 minutes into the meeting before about 150 people. The session also revealed several new details on the sinkhole and the multi-level response to its effects.

A Look at the Role of Policy in America’s Shale Oil and Gas Era

You probably already read about California being added to the list of states facing the economic opportunities and environmental issues that come with abundant shale oil or gas (oil in California’s case, because of the Monterey Shale). And if you’ve been reading here for awhile, you’re aware of the reality, for better and worse, of “oil’s long goodbye” and “the gas age.”

Oil spill cleanup on Mississippi River complete

The Coast Guard has completed cleanup of the oil spill near Vicksburg, Miss., that closed the major shipping channel for days in both directions.

After extensive shoreline assessments and cleanup actions, the Coast Guard says it and the Departments of Environmental Quality in Louisiana and Mississippi deemed the cleanup complete Wednesday.

Eastern Utah oil rig fire capped, investigators probe cause

Investigators have begun inspection at the scene of a now-extinguished eastern Utah oil rig fire to determine what caused the site to erupt in flame last month, forcing evacuation of parts of Roosevelt.

Chip Minty, spokesman for the Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, said Wednesday that Houston-based Wild Well Control, internationally renowned oil- and gas-well firefighting experts, successful capped the well and extinguished the fire on Monday night.

Does diluted bitumen float? Experts, activists at pipeline hearing can’t agree

The diluted bitumen that will flow from the Alberta oil sands to a B.C. tanker port would not sink in the event of a marine oil spill, contrary to claims made by opponents, say experts behind the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

As such, the marine oil-spill response plan – which the company points out it has taken on voluntarily, above and beyond Canadian regulations – does not need and does not include measures to remove oil from the ocean floor, a regulatory review panel heard Wednesday.

Canadian environmental disaster preparedness not enough

An audit report by federal environment commissioner Scott Vaughan criticizes the federal government for not being adequately prepared for an environmental disaster, including oil spills on the West Coast.

The Fall 2012 Environment Report examined environmental financial guarantees and absolute liabilities related to four sectors; mining in the north, tanker oil spills, off shore gas drilling and nuclear power and found inadequate protection in the mining and nuclear sectors.

A $500-million fund to deal with environmental accidents in the north is insufficient, the report noted.

Nurses union joins Keystone XL pipeline fray

The pressure on President Obama and newly minted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to reject the Keystone XL pipeline grows stronger each day, and this week saw the nation’s leading nurses union jump into the debate.

National Nurses United cited “serious adverse health concerns” as its chief reason for coming out against the massive project, which continues to be held up by the Obama administration.

Bill McKibben: Ahead of Keystone XL Rally, Fossil Fuel Divestment Expands Across U.S. Campuses

Sterling College in Vermont announced on Tuesday it will soon become the third college in the United States to divest its endowment from 200 fossil fuel companies identified by the environmental group 350.org. Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts were the first two schools to divest. Divestment campaigns are ongoing on more than 200 other campuses. “I think it’s no surprise, really, that young people are starting to say, ’We’ve got to spend another 60, 70 years on this planet. We better do something fast,’” says Bill McKibben of 350.org. “And that something means standing up to the fossil fuel industry that’s been in the way of rational change for a quarter-century now.” McKibben is helping organize a Presidents’ Day rally against the Keystone XL pipeline later this month, one he predicts will be the “biggest climate rally probably ever” in the United States

Man walking route of Keystone XL

Ken Ilgunas will reach the end of a very long walk Thursday that took him from the source of the Keystone XL pipeline in Hardesty, Alberta, a province in western Canada, to its terminus in Port Arthur near the Valero Energy Corp. refinery.

In all, he will have covered more than 1,700 linear miles on his two feet — throw in another couple of hundred miles to include getting lost or trying to pick his way across rivers he couldn’t easily cross where the pipeline route did.

TEPCO misled Diet panel, averted quake-damage inspection at Fukushima plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. misled a Diet investigation panel and cited “dreadfully high” radiation levels to effectively block an inspection for possible quake damage at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

“(TEPCO’s explanation) was absolutely false and seriously obstructed the investigation,” Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former member of the now-disbanded Diet commission, said in a statement submitted to the chiefs of the two Diet chambers on Feb. 7.

No surprise: TEPCO suspected of lying to government’s Fukushima investigation panel

Accusations have been filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) stating that the utility intentionally blocked a parliamentary probe from investigating a site at the disaster-struck Fukushima nuclear plant. The power company stated last year that it wasn’t safe to enter the No. 1 reactor building due to it being “in complete darkness,” however evidence has been found indicating that was a lie.

Fukushima slams ashore, bringing wave of fear

Separated by over 7,000 kilometres, Fukushima is a household name in Kudankulam. For mothers, young seamen and schoolgoing children, the Japanese prefecture has come to embody the fears swirling around the nuclear power plant in the coastal sliver in southern Tamil Nadu.

Fukushima suffered the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl when, two years ago, an earthquake-triggered tsunami slammed ashore.

The Round Table Initiative to classify cell phone radiation

The World Health Organization (WHO), in its advice for the governments around the world, relies on the evaluation of the scientific evidence performed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

In the case of cancer, it also depends on the reviews prepared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

‘No Mobile Phone Days’ campaign starts Wednesday

“Forget about you cell phones for a couple of days” – this is the motto of the global campaign which started on Tuesday. The goal of this flash mob is to remind people how it feels like when you are not always online. Leaving a cell phone at home does not mean being cut off from the world on the contrary this is a way to get back to the real world, the activists stress.

Podcast: The Good, The Bad, The Radiation

This week on the podcast I talk with Robert Gale and Eric Lax, the authors of the new book “Radiation: What it is, what you need to know.”

Most people associate radiation with it’s harmful effects and the mistakes made by people entrusted to manage it.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, Gale went to Japan to treat patients who had received high doses of radiation (although no one there died from radiation poisoning). Gale’s first experience like this was with victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Nuclear accident could cost France $580bn, study shows

A study shows that a possible nuclear accident in France would cost the country about 430 billion euros ($580 billion), which is equivalent to 20 percent of its economic output.

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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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