Environmental Must-Reads – January 12, 2015


New York Fracking Ban Seen As Having Little Impact On Supply

New York’s recent decision to ban fracking is hardly seen as a big loss for the nation’s production of natural gas.

That’s because scientists say New York’s available reserves of natural gas in the sprawling Marcellus Shale are minuscule compared to what can be extracted in other states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

North Dakota fracking town’s economy collapses as oil prices plummet

Just over a decade ago, this sleepy farming community on the fringe of North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation hosted the state’s first horizontal oil well to be hydraulically fractured, or fracked, helping set in motion an economic revolution that shook the world.

Today, Divide County may be another vanguard for the state, this time ominous, as the first to feel the full effect of a collapse in prices that has lopped more than 50 percent off the price of oil since the summer.

Fracking Data Sought by Environmental Groups in EPA Lawsuit

A coalition of advocacy groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking access to information on toxic chemicals released by the energy industry through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other forms of oil and gas drilling.

Fracking involves the injection of water, chemicals and sand below ground to extract oil and gas from shale formations. The process has been criticized as environmentally dangerous, even as its use has driven U.S. natural gas production to new highs amid litigation across the country.

North Dakota oil output forecast tabulated using internal model

A stark breakdown from North Dakota projecting how falling oil prices could affect production was formulated using proprietary corporate data and a state official’s personal model.

Late last Thursday, the Department of Mineral Resources caused a stir in world oil markets by releasing slides from a presentation to the state legislature that included a range of output forecasts based on different oil price scenarios, including one showing production would begin to decline by the middle of this year if crude prices remained at current levels.

Abbott targets local bans on plastic bags, fracking

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott took aim Thursday at the growing list of local regulatory ordinances in Texas that do such things as restrict the use of plastic shopping bags, ban fracking for oil and gas, and limit what homeowners can do with trees on their property.

Texas, he contended, is being “California-ized.”

Brighton revising oil and gas development regulations after 7 years

Brighton is working to update its oil and gas regulations to prepare for fracking developments that the city has avoided so far but now sees as inevitable.

“The city believes that oil and gas development will be coming to Brighton,” said city attorney Margaret Brubaker. “Brighton is currently surrounded on all sides by new oil and gas drilling permits.”

Idea for gas terminal off East Coast rankles fracking foes

All that would peek above the ocean waves off New York and New Jersey would be two small buoys tethered to underwater pipes. But they’re already casting a large shadow, with potential effects on the economy of the New York metropolitan area, the marine environment, and even America’s future as a net importer or exporter of energy.

Liberty Natural Gas wants to build a deep-water port in federal waters 19 miles off Jones Beach, N.Y., and 29 miles off Long Branch, N.J. Its stated purpose is to bring additional natural gas into the New York area during times of peak demand, thereby lowering home-heating prices.

Fracking: New Study Says It Not Only Pollutes Groundwater, But Poisons Air As Well

A new study says that the mining technique known as fracking, (aka frack sand mining or hydraulic fracturing) isn’t only a threat to drinkable groundwater supplies, but also might just make the air we breathe toxic.

Last December, New York State decided to ban fracking within its borders based on a public health review that pointed out fracking’s many health risks. These include “air impacts that could affect respiratory health due to increased levels of particulate matter, diesel exhaust, or volatile organic chemicals.”

Florida State Representative: Ban Fracking, Significant Risk To Public Health & To Water Supply

It looks as though opposition to the practice of fracking has finally started to coalesce even in the political world, based on recent statements and positions taken in places not known for their environmental boldness and leadership.

In particular, recent statements from one of Florida’s state representative stand out (to my mind) due to how blunt they are — calling for the banning of fracking (via a bill he introduced) in the state, owing to the great public health risks posed by the practice, and the risk to the state’s water supply.

New York fracking ban leads to questions about the practice in North Dakota.

A recent ban on fracking in New York has many wondering about the practice widely used in North Dakota.

Environmental groups are concerned that the extraction technique could cause harmful chemicals to get into our water sources.

Appeals court won’t rehear a BP oil spill liability argument

A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider its 2014 ruling that BP cannot avoid federal penalties for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill by blaming another company’s failed equipment.

The vote released Friday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans was 7-6 against a rehearing.

BP, Anadarko Lose Appeal Over Gulf Oil Spill Fines

BP Plc and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. narrowly failed to persuade a U.S appeals court to reconsider its 2014 ruling that they could face civil fines under federal pollution laws over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

By a 7-6 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let stand a three-judge panel’s decision to uphold a 2012 ruling from U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, in which he said the companies could face Clean Water Act penalties.

Gov. Bobby Jindal asks state Supreme Court to uphold law banning wetlands damage suit against oil companies

Gov. Bobby Jindal has asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of a law passed to block the east bank levee authority’s wetlands damages lawsuit against more than 80 oil, gas and pipeline companies.

Attorney Jimmy Faircloth, who lobbied the 2014 Legislature on behalf of Act 544 for the governor’s office, filed paperwork with the Supreme Court Tuesday. The filing challenges a Dec. 3 judgement by 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark that declared the law unconstitutional.

Residents reluctantly let go of cherished way of life on Bayou Corne

After 2½ years stuck in sinkhole limbo, life is busy and headed toward change for Nick and Brenda Romero.

On a still, chilly morning in his Bayou Corne neighborhood, Nick Romero, 66, was in the garage attic gingerly lowering a trunk attached to a homemade pulley system to his grandson Chase Baldwin.

Once the scruffy, old-timey trunk was laid flat on the garage’s cold cement floor, Baldwin, 17, asked the question begging to be answered.

One Year Later, West Virginia’s Historic Chemical Spill Is Still Hurting Small Businesses

Four days after the January 9, 2014 chemical spill, Bluegrass Kitchen was one of the only open businesses in Charleston, West Virginia. The restaurant had been given special clearance to serve food by the Department of Health, and waitstaff were hustling to feed a hungry crowd. At the counter, locals buzzed behind cans of soda served with clear plastic cups and sandwiches served in red plastic baskets. The dishwasher was off limits.

“We don’t [usually] keep bottled water here at the restaurant, because of the wastefulness of it,” Bluegrass Kitchen’s owner, Keeley Steele, told ThinkProgress at the time. “But I see us probably keeping bottled water on hand for customers for quite a long time.”

Nebraska Supreme Court rules on Keystone XL pipeline

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday removed a serious hurdle to construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling that then-Gov. Dave Heineman had the authority to approve the project’s route without review by a state agency.

A 2012 law allowed Heineman to bypass the state Public Service Commission and give the $5.3-billion project the go-ahead. In February, a lower court declared that law unconstitutional and left the troubled pipeline with no approved route through Nebraska.

Obama Facing Rising Pressure on Keystone Oil Pipeline

President Obama came under new pressure on Friday to make a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline as the Nebraska Supreme Court cleared the way for its construction through the state and the House passed a bill to approve the project.

The House vote of 266 to 153 in favor of the pipeline sends the measure to the Senate, which is likely to pass the bill in the coming weeks.

Keystone Pipeline’s Nebraska Path Cleared; Congress Votes

TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL pipeline faces one less hurdle after Nebraska’s highest court cleared its path through the state, sending the matter back to Washington.

The pipeline would funnel crude from Alberta’s oil sands to a network junction in southeast Nebraska, for transport to Gulf Coast refineries. While the ruling is a victory for energy independence proponents, the project’s fate remains uncertain.

House Votes To Approve Keystone XL Pipeline — For The 10th Time

The House of Representatives has voted 266-153 to pass legislation approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, marking the 10th time the lower house has OK’d construction of the controversial project.

Friday’s vote precedes an upcoming Senate vote which will also likely approve the controversial pipeline, eventually sending the bill to President Obama’s desk. The White House has already stated that Obama would veto the legislation.

Hoeven says Senate still needs four votes to pass veto-proof Keystone legislation

The Senate still needs four votes to pass veto-proof legislation to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, Sen. John Hoeven, who sponsored the legislation, said Sunday.

Hoeven, R-N.D., told “Fox News Sunday” the GOP-controlled Senate remains shy of the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto.

All of the chamber’s 54 Republicans and nine Democrats are expected to support the legislation, which needs a two-thirds majority to override a veto.

Enbridge pipeline expansion, larger than Keystone, drawing some Dane County skeptics

A major expansion of Enbridge Energy oil pipeline capacity would quietly send more tar sands crude through Wisconsin than the higher profile Keystone XL line is designed to carry on its route a few hundred miles west.

Enbridge, already the top importer of heavy crude being extracted from western Canada, plans to send about half of that flow through its Line 61, a 42-inch pipe that runs from Superior to the Illinois border along a route that includes Portage, Dane and Rock counties.

Enbridge oil pipeline document trove

Enbridge Volunteers Install Surrey Skating Rink

Putting their oil industry know-how to use creating an outdoor space for the Surrey community.

Enbridge employees and Surrey High School shop students gathered Friday to install a community ice rink and warming house.

Arctic oil rigs could be home-based in Seattle

Environmentally conscious Seattle could become home base for Arctic oil rigs.

Foss Maritime proposes leasing a mothballed container terminal from the Port of Seattle to serve as a winter home for up to eight vessels for Shell’s offshore Arctic exploration, including drill rigs.

Russia, shipping and political crisis in Greenland — 2014 Arctic Year in Review

In Part 1 of the Arctic Year in Review, we looked at the Arctic Council, indigenous issues and energy with Heather Exner-Pirot,managing editor of Arctic Yearbook.

In Part 2, we talk politics, media misinformation and #sealfie with Mikå Mered, a political analyst and CEO of Polarisk Group, a research and political risk consulting firm specializing in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Now in Part 3, we look at Russia, shipping and what’s ahead in 2015 with Mia Bennett, manager of the Cryopolitics Arctic news and analysis blog, and a PhD student in the department of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles.

World needs to ignore Arctic fossil fuel resources: new research

A third of the world’s oil reserves, half of its gas reserves and more 80 per cent of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050.

That’s if warming is to stay below the two-degree C target for the world’s temperature increase, according to new research by the UK Energy Research Centre.

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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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