Environmental Must-Reads – January 13, 2015


Fracking Industry Shakes Up Northern BC with 231 Tremors

British Columbia’s shale gas fracking industry triggered more than 231 earthquakes or ”seismic events” in northeastern British Columbia between Aug. 2013 and Oct. 2014.

Some of the quakes were severe enough to ”experience a few seconds of shaking” on the ground in seven areas of the province on top of the large Montney shale gas basin.

Offshore gas port threatens to make New Jersey, New York ‘Louisiana north’

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

Business and labor groups support the plan, which was first proposed in 2008 and is projected to generate 800 construction jobs. But environmentalists, fishing groups and some elected officials say it is a dangerous, unnecessary project, given that America is awash in large supplies of domestically produced natural gas, much of which is produced in the Marcellus Shale formation just west of New York.

Poland’s shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests

“Whenever Chevron organised anything, we demonstrated,” said Barbara Siegienczuk, 54, one of the leaders of the local anti-shale gas protest group Green Zurawlow in south-eastern Poland. “We made banners and placards and put posters up around the village. Only 96 people live in Zurawlow – children and old people included – but we stopped Chevron!”

For 400 days, farmers and their families from Zurawlow and four nearby villages blockaded a proposed Chevron shale drilling site with tractors and agricultural machinery. Eventually, in July, the company abandoned its plans.

Center for Sustainable Shale Development aims to raise standards

Two years after a group of environmentalists joined forces with four natural gas producers to set standards for the shale drilling industry, organizers of the collaboration stopped to consider a few important questions.

“It needed someone to take a look at the organization to say, ‘Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?’” said Susan Packard LeGros, who was hired as director of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development nearly a year ago.

Slow going for fracking registration in Illinois

A Denver energy firm has become the first company to register for hydraulic fracturing in Illinois since regulations for the controversial oil production technique were approved in November,

As of last week, Strata-X Energy also was the only registrant.

Even proponents of fracking, as the practice of injecting a high-pressure mixture of chemicals, water and sand or gravel into rock formations to extract oil and gas is commonly known, say an extended regulatory fight, legal challenges and now low oil prices have discouraged energy companies from risky investments in still unproven shale oil fields.

New York’s fracking ban has Pennsylvania ties, implications

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration finalizes a ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, New Yorkers will watch their southern neighbor continue its experiment with shale gas.

New York has been under a fracking moratorium since 2008, and people on both sides of the shale gas debate see the state’s Dec. 17 announcement as a milestone in Pennsylvania’s experience with the gas drilling industry. It could have implications for the Delaware River Basin Commission, a multi-state river compact that has held back gas development in Wayne and Pike counties since 2010.

Obama Administration Sued Over Gulf Of Mexico Fracking

At a time when the rest of the world (for a host of reasons) is shying away from the hydraulic fracturing “boom,” the United States appears to be hell-bent on allowing fracking in every available space. The latest target for the industry has been the already imperiled Gulf of Mexico, the same waters that are still reeling from the effects of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

In its haste to allow as much fracking as possible in the Gulf, the Obama administration has repeatedly failed to release information about the dangers of fracking in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as information regarding the total number of permits that have been issued.

Famous Canadians call for no-fracking zone near Gros Morne

Some prominent Canadians are calling for action to prevent hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, and other resource development near Gros Morne National Park on Newfoundland’s west coast.

Last summer, UNESCO called on Canada to do more to protect the world heritage site, following a proposed fracking operation which generated much public outcry and ultimately failed in 2013.

Halliburton could join UK fracking firm Third Energy at Yorkshire test site

Campaigners have raised concerns over fracking in Yorkshire potentially being carried out by US drilling contractors Halliburton, the company that paid out over $1bn to settle claims over its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and admitted destroying evidence.

Third Energy has said it will apply to drill for shale gas at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale and a spokesman told the Guardian it intends Halliburton to be the drilling contractor. “As is normal in the oil and gas industry, Third Energy is discussing the scope of work, for various services and equipment contracts, with a range of potential sub-contractors,” he said. “At this stage no contracts have been awarded but Halliburton is one of the companies with whom we are in discussion.”

Environmental concerns raised as oil companies take fresh look at fracking in Kentucky

There’s been little heat so far in Kentucky over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique of drilling for oil and natural gas that has caused division elsewhere in the country, but now the controversy has gushed up here.

The potential to develop a vast underground shale layer that curves from the northeastern part of the state through Central Kentucky has sparked increased interest among oil and gas companies within the last 18 months.

Companies signed hundreds of additional oil and gas leases with landowners in 2014, according to local officials.

Tatum: New interest in Florida fracking of concern

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” is an oil drilling technique where sand, water and chemicals are injected deep into the ground under pressure in order to fracture the oil-bearing shale rock, allowing the oil and gas to be extracted. This technique causes earthquakes and is prone to leaking methane gases into the atmosphere. It also leaves toxic chemicals in the earth and in the aquifer.

Fracking is normally done in shale rock, but in Florida, most of the oil and gas is found in loosely mineralized soils, requiring the need for “acid fracking,” or “acidizing,” employing the use of acids such as hydrofluoric acid (HF) or hydrochloric acids (HCI) to dissolve limestone, dolomite and calcite cement.

Environmental Focus: Oil Trains

Now that New York bans fracking, will environmentalists turn their focus to the transportation of fracked oil?

More of the volatile, tar-sand hydrofracked oil is rolling by rail through Rochester and our state.

One group told WXXI as of its latest survey last summer, neither the state or federal government has added safety inspectors, rules or provided safety materials to towns like ours. “It’s a recipe for disasters,” said Travis Proulx of Environmental Advocates of New York.

Quebec town: Proposed settlement in oil train disaster is just a fraction of what’s needed

The deputy mayor of a Quebec town where a fiery oil train derailment killed 47 people said Monday a proposed settlement fund for victims represents just a fraction of what’s needed.

A $200-million settlement was announced last week, with more than one-half of the money going to various levels of government. About $50 million is destined for relatives of the 47 people who died in the July 2013 disaster, although the amount could rise. The settlement involves the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Canada Co., its insurance carrier, rail-car manufacturers and some oil producers. Three major companies have declined to participate — World Fuel Services, Canadian Pacific Railway and Irving Oil.

Quebec residents in the dark about rising crude oil shipments by rail

City officials in Montreal are starting to receive details on the sky-rocketing amount of crude oil that’s being shipped by rail across the island of Montreal but the public isn’t privy to the information.

The civil security director is using the details to better prepare the fire department and other emergency response teams to deal with a potential derailment or oil spill disaster.

NJ Emergency Officials Want More Info On Train Oil Shipments

Bergen County fire departments and local leaders met Sunday to discuss how to respond if a train carrying highly flammable crude oil happened to derail and catch fire in residential communities.

However, acquiring adequate data related to the oil shipments has been problematic, WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported.

Schumer talks Keystone XL, oil trains

Senator Charles Schumer says he plans to offer amendments to a bill that would approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Schumer, a Democrat from New York, says he has opposed the project in the past but now hopes to improve legislation that might allow it to go forward.

Schumer says any oil shipped through the line should be used in the US, not exported overseas.

BP, Anadarko lose appeals court bid for review of Gulf oil spill fines

The federal appeals court in New Orleans has narrowly refused to review its ruling that puts BP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. on the hook for paying federal pollution fines related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. In a 7-6 vote announced Friday, the 5th Circuit Court denied BP’s request that the full court review the decision, which had been made by a three-judge panel of the court.

The ruling originated with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. He decided in 2012 that BP and Anadarko, its partner in the failed Macondo well, were responsible for paying fines under the Clean Water Act, the federal law governing oil spills.

Enbridge tapped for Gulf of Mexico pipeline

Midstream company Enbridge said it was working with its upstream partners at Hess Corp. to oversee pipeline developments from a Gulf of Mexico oil field.

Enbridge said it will build, own and operate the $130 million project that will start in the deepwater Stampede project and terminate 16 miles away with a connection to a third-party pipeline system.

DuPont whistleblower lawsuit about chemical leaks goes to trial

A former DuPont chemical plant operator testified Monday that plant workers used black plastic drain pipes held together with duct tape to try to stem the flow of toxic leaks from the company’s acid plant in Ascension Parish and avoid costly shutdowns.

Jeffrey M. Simoneaux, the plaintiff in a federal whistleblower lawsuit against DuPont over the leaks, claimed the piping routinely and unpredictably corroded, releasing toxic gases. He also said the piping would not collect all the leaking gas even when it worked as designed and would cease to be effective whenever the plant lost power.

New Analysis Shows West Virginia’s Chemical Spill Traveled Into Kentucky

The chemical that contaminated West Virginia’s drinking water supply last year traveled father and lingered longer than had been previously recorded, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey researchers.

Published online in the journal Chemosphere, the peer-reviewed research shows that the chemical — 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol, also known as crude MCHM — was present at very low concentrations in Charleston, West Virginia’s tap water more than six weeks after the spill began on Jan. 9, 2014. The official tap water ban in Charleston was lifted five days later, with the Center for Disease Control saying concentrations of MCHM had reached an “appropriate” level of below 50 parts per billion. By Feb. 25, the researchers said Charleston’s tap water still measured crude MCHM concentration of 1 part per billion.

Improperly supported hose cause of oil spill near Regina last year

An improperly supported flex hose was what caused last year’s spill of 125 barrels of crude oil at an Enbridge pump station south of the city.

“They didn’t do what they were supposed to do to ensure that that hose didn’t move around. They realized where they went wrong. It could have been prevented. It will be prevented in the future by this company,” said Darin Barter, a spokesperson for the National Energy Board (NEB).

Hazmat, fire crews contain small oil spill in Jacksonville

Jacksonville Fire Department Battalion Chief, Ronald Mabee, tells NewsChannel12 hazmat and fire crews were called to a small oil spill in the city Sunday afternoon.

It happened around 5:15 p.m. at Precision Tune Auto Care on Western Blvd. Mabee says an oil line at the auto shop ruptured and 50 to 100 gallons of oil leaked onto the property.

Air pollution at oil spill site minimized, but cleanup still in full swing

Air quality tests indicate a 90 percent reduction of pollution levels in the Evrona Nature Reserve area, the site of last month’s large oil spill north of Eilat, the Environmental Protection Ministry reported on Monday.

“All of the oil has been pumped – parts of the reserve will be opened to the public soon,” Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ophir Akunis said, after touring the site in the morning.

Sundarbans Oil Spill: An Urgent Wake Up Call for the Bangladeshi Government

Another day, another calamity wrought by the fossil fuels industry. The latest? Over 75,000 gallons of oil spilled out of a downed tanker and into the Sundarban Delta straddling Bangladesh and India. A UNESCO-protected world heritage site, the Sundarbans are the world’s largest tidal mangrove forest, and, as home to hundreds of endangered Bengal tigers and riverine Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins, it is one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth.

Transporting tens of thousands of gallons of oil through one of the most fragile and magnificent ecosystems on Earth — what could go wrong?

Senate to Debate Keystone XL, Setting Stage for More Energy Battles

The Senate voted Monday to take up a bill that would force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, opening a debate on energy and climate change that will preview other clashes to come between President Obama and the new Republican Congress. It will also set the stage for the energy and climate battles of the presidential election next year.

But the bill’s fate appears certain: Republicans, with the help of some Democrats, are expected to easily push it through Congress, and Mr. Obama is expected to veto it.

Nationwide Rallies Planned as Fight over Keystone XL Reaches Pinnacle

In response to key developments related to the Keystone XL pipeline in recent days, climate activists across the U.S. have scheduled local rallies nationwide for Tuesday which they say are “critical” as a final White House determination on the project seems closer than ever.

An action alert from 350.org that went out to its members late Monday said their years-long campaign against Keystone “has been sustained by action in the streets and now we need to show that we still stand strong against this climate disaster of a project.”

Senate Democrats Look to Tweak Bill on Keystone XL Pipeline

Democrats plan to use Senate consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to get Republicans on the record about climate change and to resurrect parts of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill doomed by pipeline politics last year.

But Republicans readied additions of their own, such as lifting a ban on crude oil exports.

Four States Eye Substantial Tax Windfall from Keystone XL Pipeline Approval

The Senate this week will begin debating legislation to circumvent President Obama and authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline following approval of the same measure in the House on Friday.

The House’s 266 to 153 vote left the lower chamber well short of the 290 votes needed to override Obama’s threatened veto of the bill. But the vote put Obama under added pressure from the new Republican majority in Congress and some Democrats to eventually approve the $8 billion pipeline project that emerged as an important issue during the 2014 mid-term election campaign.

Temporary Keystone XL pipeline benefits devastating in long run

Pipelines, like highways and railroads, change the economic landscape. They change where people live and work. They alter flows of goods, credit and capital investment, with long-term and often ironic consequences.

TransCanada, the company building Keystone XL, would have you think otherwise.

Pipeline foes turn attention to cleanup in fight over Keystone XL

Nebraska has a law dictating how oil pipeline routes are approved, but not regulating how they are abandoned.

Omaha attorney Dave Domina, who argued the unsuccessful legal challenge to the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska, called on state lawmakers Monday to protect landowners for the day the project stops operations.

An Oil Pipeline Is Suspended Above Alaska’s Melting Tundra

This beautiful photograph reveals an oil pipeline hugging the shore of an Alaskan lake. The lake waters are slowly merging with the melting tundra beneath the pipeline, creating dark fissures around puzzle pieces of land.

Radioactive leak reported at TVA nuclear plant in North Alabama

A leak of radioactive water from a tank at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant released tritium into the environment this week, but a TVA spokesman said Saturday the leak was quickly contained and presented no public risk.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the plant near Athens, Ala., said a drain line leaked between 100 and 200 gallons of water containing tritium levels above acceptable EPA drinking water standards. The leak was fixed within three hours of when it was discovered and was largely contained within the plant area, according to TVA.

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant water leak may have reached the Tennessee River, monitoring shows no increased radiation

A worker at TVA’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant doing regular walk-around monitoring Jan. 7  identified a leak of radioactive water at the plant last week.

A Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman said today the leak resulted in a spill of between 100 and 200 gallons and some of that water, mixed with millions of gallons of cooling water, could have migrated to the Tennessee River.

U.S. lawmakers looking to intensify DOE’s low-dose radiation research

Exposure to very low levels of ionizing radiation is common—medical procedures, air travel, and industrial processes expose people to such radiation every day. But the health implications of these very low doses are not well understood. A bipartisan bill passed 7 January by the U.S. House of Representatives seeks to alter that landscape by revitalizing an existing Department of Energy (DOE) low-dose radiation research program.

Study Suggests Wi-Fi Exposure More Dangerous To Kids Than Previously Thought

Most parents would be concerned if their children had significant exposure to lead, chloroform, gasoline fumes, or the pesticide DDT.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRIC), part of the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO), classifies these and more than 250 other agents as Class 2B Carcinogens.  Another entry on that same list is radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF/EMF).  The main sources of RF/EMF are radios, televisions, microwave ovens, cell phones, and Wi-Fi devices.

Group files fresh complaint over Fukushima nuclear disaster

A group of people on Tuesday filed a second criminal complaint against a former nuclear safety official and eight others, arguing they failed to take necessary preventive measures in the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

A complaint filed in June 2012 named Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s then-chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, and others for causing the 2011 disaster at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Fukushima evacuees pledge to rebuild communities on Coming-of-Age Day

Outside of their hometowns and a day earlier than usual, hundreds of evacuees in Fukushima Prefecture celebrated Coming-of-Age Day with the nuclear disaster still looming large in their thoughts.

The evacuees, who have turned 20 or will do so over the next three months, had their later teenage years shaped largely by the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

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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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