Environmental Must-Reads – January 10, 2013


California conservation chief faces grilling over fracking

Mark Nechodom, Gov. Jerry Brown’s nominee for state conservation chief, won the support of a key Senate committee on Wednesday after a grilling from lawmakers over hydraulic fracturing — and demands for more safeguards on the controversial drilling process before the upper house considers his final approval next week.

Fracking opponents, backers rally at NY capitol

More than a thousand protesters chanting “Ban Fracking Now!” are lining downtown Albany’s Empire State Plaza concourse where lawmakers pass on their way to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech.

New York Fracking Regulations: State Assemblymen Seek More Comment Time

Three state Assembly committee chairmen asked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday to suspend the comment period on new gas drilling regulations until a health review is completed.

Activists push for fracking moratorium with water test outside Md. State House

The drinking started early at the Maryland legislative session Wednesday morning. Anti-fracking activists from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network set up a “water taste test” outside the State House, inviting legislators to choose between cloudy brown water from a house spigot in a “heavily fracked” area of southwestern Pennsylvania, a sample of “seemingly clear but at-risk” water from an area potentially affected by fracking, and tap water from a fountain inside the State House.

Pa. proposes use of mine drainage for fracking

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has finalized a process to encourage the use of acid mine drainage for hydraulic fracturing, part of an effort to reduce the use of freshwater in extracting oil and gas from shale.

‘Frackademia’: how Big Gas bought research on hydraulic fracturing

Thanks to fossil fuel industry sponsorship, we know all about the benefits of natural gas – but we don’t have the data on its risks

Colorado: State to study drilling emissions

Colorado officials took another small step to address growing public concerns about the impacts of the state’s energy boom by announcing a $1.3 million study of emissions from oil and gas drilling operations.

According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, the study will help provide information about how oil and gas emissions behave, how they travel and their characteristics in areas along the northern Front Range.

BLM assesses human health impacts from oil and gas development in Alaska

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for oil and gas driling in the Western Arctic Reserve, formally known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. “National Petroleum Reserve” sounds like a made-to-order energy sacrifice zone, but my colleague Chuck Clusen explains that, in the legislation that set this public land aside, Congress explicitly recognized the many natural values present in the Reserve that must be protected, including recreational, fish, wildlife, historical, and scenic values. Indeed, this land provides some of the wildest, most insanely beautiful and sacred wildlife habitat on earth for wolves, caribou, grizzly and polar bears, shorebirds, waterfowl and seabirds.

1,500+ New Yorkers Rally Against Fracking at Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State Address

More than 1,500 New Yorkers from every corner of the state descended on Albany today to rally against fracking outside of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address. The group delivered a clear message calling for the governor to reject fracking, implement a statewide ban, and be a leader in clean, renewable energy for New York and the nation.

Payments from BP’s oil spill settlement with Gulf Coast residents, businesses exceed $1B mark

Businesses and individuals who claim BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost them money have been paid more than $1 billion through the company’s class-action settlement with a team of private plaintiffs’ attorneys, court-supervised claims administrator Patrick Juneau said.

Settlement payments for BP oil spill claims reach $1 billion

Settlement payments to those who suffered losses as a result of BP’s tragic oil spill  have surpassed the $1 billion mark, according to the Lafayette lawyer in charge of the economic and property claims process. Patrick Juneau, the court-appointed claims supervisor, said in a year-end report released Wednesday that settlement offers have been accepted by about 95 percent of businesses and individuals who filed a claim.

Federal appeals court in New Orleans hands rare win to environmental group in BP oil spill case

BP and its partners in the Macondo well that released an estimated 4.9 million gallons of oil over three months beginning in April 2010 should be required to inform state officials — and the public — of the toxic materials included in the spill, and the potential health effects of those materials, a three-judge appellate panel ruled in New Orleans on Wednesday. In winning the unanimous decision, the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group scored a rare partial victory before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in its attempts to pry more compliance with federal environmental laws out of BP in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Mote Study: BP Oil Spill Cleaning Chemical Kills Coral

A new report from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota released Wednesday reports that cleanup efforts from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster could be causing a real threat to fragile coral reefs.

Gulf of Mexico shrimpers hail court’s decision to re-examine Chinese import tariffs

Gulf of Mexico shrimpers on Wednesday hailed a federal trade court’s decision to re-examine Chinese shrimp imports from 2009 and 2010. The Department of Commerce had asked the U.S. Court of International Trade to allow it to reopen its review of those Chinese shrimp imports to the United States.

Transferred: Texas marine-based entities’ BP oil spill suits

Recently, four Southeast Texas marine-based entities had their suits against BP, which allege the April 20, 2010, oil spill has hurt their business, transferred to federal court.

Judge sets Feb. 14 hearing for Transocean’s oil spill plea agreement

Transocean Ltd. made an initial court appearance Wednesday for its plea agreement with the Justice Department over the company’s role in the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Transocean Appears in Court After $1.4 Billion Spill Pact

Transocean Ltd. (RIG) appeared in federal court in New Orleans after reaching a $1.4 billion settlement with the U.S. over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Transocean didn’t enter a plea today in its first court appearance following announcement of the settlement. It will enter a guilty plea at a later hearing Feb. 14. U.S. prosecutor Derek Cohen read the charge against the Vernier, Switzerland- based company at the hearing.

Kulluk Incident Sparks Concern from Interior Secretary, Greenpeace, Kodiak Residents

In the midst of Shell Oil’s controversial drill rig mishap and recovery, different groups have expressed concern for the future of offshore drilling, including the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

“It’s troubling that there was such a series of mishaps,” Salazar said.  “There is a troubling sense I have that so many things went wrong.”

Interior pledges ‘high-level review’ of Shell’s Arctic farce

“Unified Command confirms Kulluk is safely anchored,” trumpets the most recent update from the Shell-led team responsible for towing the company’s errant drilling rig back to safe harbor. One can imagine the movie scene running through the mind of the Shell VP in charge on-scene: He steps up to a cluster of microphones in a hushed room packed with cameras; a pause for effect; “The Kulluk is safe”; pandemonium. A ticker tape parade? Sure, why not. In reality, of course, Shell deserves all of the praise one would afford to a child who just finished mopping up a puddle of his own pee. Nice work, kid. You’re a real star.

Fire alarm disrupts Kodiak meeting about Kulluk grounding

A community meeting in Kodiak on Wednesday evening about the grounding of Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drilling rig, the Kulluk, was disrupted when a fire alarm went off and the Kodiak High School Commons was evacuated.

Sitkalidak Island cleans up after Kulluk

As the US Interior department launches a review of Shell’s Arctic drilling programme after the grounding of drilling rig Kulluk off Alaska, assessments are continuing to evaluate the damage to both the vessel and the surrounding environment.

Salvage & Diving Company Hired For Kulluk Explains Possible Salvage

Shell Oil confirmed Wednesday that it is moving forward with an assessment of damage to the the drilling rig Kulluk, which arrived in Kiliuda Bay off Kodiak Island Monday after spending nearly a week grounded on Sitkalidak Island.

Shell ‘very sorry’ for Kulluk incident

It’s too early to determine what effects the grounding of drill ship Kulluk will have on an Alaskan exploration campaign, a Shell official said.

The Kulluk is anchored safely in Kiliuda Bay, Alaska, after getting a tow from the site of last week’s grounding. It broke free while being towed to Seattle in late December and settled near Sitkalidak Island off the southwestern coast of Alaska. No oil release was associated with the incident and there were no reports of injuries.

No Fix in Sight for Louisiana Sinkhole

A massive sinkhole developed in a small community south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana five months ago, leaving 300 residents with nowhere to go.

Keystone XL Pipeline: Another Looming Cliff of Grave Consequence

The wake up call that Hurricane Sandy gave us was but one of many just in the last year. We can see that climate change is happening all around the country after the wildfires, droughts, floods and violent storms of 2012. So when President Obama said it was time to deal with global warming in his victory speech, that made perfect sense.

‘Smoking Gun’ Research Reveals Tar Sands Cancer Legacy

Chief Theresa Spence is entering what is hopefully her last week of a hunger strike.

The Canadian indigenous leader, and public face for many of the Idle No More movement, has said she will finish her fast on Friday when she meets Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Study provides damning evidence that tar sands development causing carcinogenic pollution in Alberta

A study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) provides damning evidence that tar sands development has been causing carcinogenic pollution in Alberta – not just in the immediate development region but even as far as 50 miles away. Today’s print edition of the New York Times features an article on the study entitled Oil Sands Industry in Canada Tied to Higher Carcinogen Level.

Mobile phone industry must have stringent radiation norms

Following the WHO report classifying radiation emitted from mobile phones as possibly carcinogenic, a new global report has reaffirmed the risks involved with using such technology. BioInitiative 2012, a collaborative effort by 29 authors from 10 countries, has listed brain tumour and loss of fertility in men as possible health hazards associated with exposure to radio frequency radiation emitted by mobile phone handsets and signal towers

Cell Phone Towers Cause Health Hazard: Survey

If cell phones are considered as trouble makers causing severe health problems, then a recent report just adds to the trouble heap. As per a recent global report on health risks from exposure to wireless technology radiation, India’s allowed limit for radiation levels from mobile phone towers is 900 times higher than the safe limit of 0.5 milliwatts per square metre, reported Reetika Subramaniam for Hindustan Times.

The report is prepared by 29 independent scientists and health experts from 10 nations which include India, Italy, Sweden, U.S. and Russia. The first edition of the report was released and first published in 2007.

U.S. Nuclear Regulators Divided on Costly Fukushima Rule

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission appeared divided Wednesday over whether to mandate safety improvements at U.S. nuclear power plants that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

NRC staff recommends costly filtered vents at some U.S. reactors

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff on Wednesday will brief the commission on its recommendation to require nuclear operators to spend tens of millions of dollars to install filtered vents at more than two dozen reactors.

Government to deal with Fukushima clean-up firms for sloppy job

Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue said during his visit in the Fukushima area in Wednesday that the government will clamp down on private contractors hired to do decontamination work around the heavily damaged nuclear power plant. This is after the government has confirmed on Monday that there were at least two cases in which protocol was not followed and contaminated water was allowed to escape into the rivers.

Japan to clamp down on Fukushima clean-up firms

Japan’s government will clamp down on contractors cleaning up radioactive material around the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant, officials said Wednesday, following disclosures of sloppy decontamination work.

The Environment Ministry hired the nation’s leading contractors to cleanse towns and villages near the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi power plant, starting with four relatively uncontaminated areas

Second cover assembly underway at Fukushima

The installation of steel columns next to Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 marks the start of construction of a cover that will aid in the removal of fuel. This is the second cover to get underway at the site.

As radiation fears dwindle, so do checkups

When Dr. Masaharu Tsubokura began checking the internal radiation exposure levels of Minamisoma residents four months after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant experienced three reactor core meltdowns, many were living in fear, not knowing what kind of dangers they were being exposed to by living in Fukushima Prefecture.

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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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