Environmental Must-Reads – January 14, 2014


UK environmentalists brace for flood of fracking

Environmentalists in the United Kingdom are reeling after French energy giant Total became the first company to announce an investment in fracking in the country.

The $48 million play is tiny by industry standards, but many see it as the first sign that Prime Minister David Cameron’s push to allow the controversial practice has paid off, despite protests from environmentalists who say the environmental danger posed by shale gas exploration (commonly known as fracking) outweighs the potential economic benefits.

UK Proposes to Frack One-Half of Great Britain

As the rapid expansion of fracking in the U.S. has led to a growing chorus of concerned voices about the potential health and environmental repercussions of this activity, news has surfaced that the European Union (EU) is taking significant steps toward preventing fracking in Europe.

However, in a conversation with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that he will work to ensure that fracking comes to Europe.

Illinois Residents Demand a Ban on Fracking

An Illinois ban on fracking is inevitable. The question is whether it will happen before or after a major fracking disaster.

The public comment period on Illinois’ draft regulations ended Jan. 3 with groups in potentially impacted areas repeating their call for a ban on fracking. A group of southern Illinois residents representing several grassroots groups drove to Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) headquarters in Springfield to join with Frack Free Illinois in delivering comments on the regulation and a petition asking Gov. Quinn to oversee a rewrite.

Shell starts drlling in Siberia to tap one of the world’s largest shale deposits

Royal Dutch Shell Plc and OAO Gazprom Neft began a drilling campaign to assess the potential of Siberia’s Bazhenov formation, reckoned to be one of the world’s largest deposits of shale oil.

Salym Petroleum Development, the venture between Shell and Gazprom Neft, has started drilling the first of five horizontal wells over the next two years that will employ multi-fracturing technology, according to a statement today.

Lab Study Cuts Fracking Waste’s Radioactivity

Researchers believe they have found an unlikely way to decrease the radioactivity of some hydraulic fracturing wastewater: Mix it with the hazardous drainage from mining operations.

The wastewater is created when some of the chemical-laced water used to fracture thick underground rocks flows back out of the wellbore. The water is tainted with chemicals, toxins and in some parts of the country — such as Pennsylvania — naturally occurring radioactive materials, such as radium. Research has shown that even wastewater that had been treated with conventional means was changing the chemistry of rivers when discharged into waterways.

3.1 magnitude earthquake recorded near Azle, hours before town hall meeting

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, hydraulic fracturing critics have invited the public to the Azle Community Center for an information session about the rash of earthquakes there. And seven hours prior, yet another rumbled under the city.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a 3.1 magnitude earthquake occurred at 11:40 a.m. three miles northwest of Azle along Lark Street. USGS data shows this is the fourth earthquake between 2.8 to 3.3-magnitude to occur in the past 30 days. There have been more than 30 since Nov. 1.

Tests show Texas well water polluted by fracking, despite EPA assurances

Environmentalists and residents of Parker County, Texas, were dismayed last year when the EPA dropped an investigation into complaints that fracking by Range Resources was contaminating local water supplies with methane.

As part of a legal settlement that got the EPA off its back, the company agreed to test well water in the city of Weatherford, where the complaints were centered. Sure enough, Range’s test results found minimal levels of methane in the water.

Pa. DEP seeks input on overhaul of drilling regulations

Five years into Pennsylvania’s shale gas boom, the state is overhauling environmental regulations for drillers and changing the way the industry operates above ground.

A public hearing Monday night in Williamsport, Lycoming County set drillers, who argued the rules would go too far, against environmentalists who say the Department of Environmental Protection did not go far enough.

Fracking Opponents Appeal to Annapolis to Prevent Export of Shale Gas at Cove Point

Opponents of the fossil fuel extraction process called hydraulic fracturing rallied on January 8 at the Murphy Court of Appeals in Annapolis, MD, as oral arguments were presented in a lawsuit concerning the proposed expansion of the Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminal.

They also appealed to state legislators on the first day of the General Assembly session to prevent the fracking industry from coming to Maryland.

New Jersey decides not to run a gas pipeline through one of its last spots of wilderness

Sometimes governments actually make good decisions about the environmental resources they oversee. Sometimes this even happens in New Jersey — which, contrary to popular belief, is not covered entirely in highways and suburban developments and does have natural resources worth saving. At least one natural resource!

West Virginia Is Just The Beginning For Chemical Spill Disasters

Thanks to the mass privatization of public water systems and the fake rhetoric of “clean coal,” we’re all at higher risk for disasters like the Elk River chemical spill.

West Virginia is facing a massive disaster with no end in sight.  And if we don’t do something about anti-regulation zealotry, the mass privatization of public water systems and the real dangers of coal and other dirty energy productions, we’ll all be at risk of similar disasters in the future.

West Virginia chemical spill: end of water ban in sight, but questions linger (+video)

Officials in West Virginia say that an end may be in sight to the water ban that has left 300,000 West Virginians without drinking, cleaning, and cooking water for five days.

“We see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) told reporters Sunday.

The West Virginia American Water Co. continued testing local drinking water throughout the weekend for 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a chemical compound used to clean coal, which seeped from a holding tank at Freedom Industries into the Elk River on Thursday, contaminating local drinking water.

West Virginia Chemical Spill Poses Unknown Threat to the Environment

Although the tap-water ban was lifted in the wake of West Virginia’s Elk River chemical leak, the long-term ecological impacts of the spill remain uncertain.

On Monday, the 300,000 residents of nine counties in West Virginia were told that they could resume drinking and using their tap water, five days after an estimated 5,000 gallons of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCMH) leaked into the Elk River near Charleston.

West Virginia Chemical Maker Sued Over Elk River Spill

A West Virginia chemical maker was sued along with a local water company over a spill into the Elk River in the state’s capital, Charleston, that left businesses and residents without tap water for days.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: US Appeals Court Upholds BP Disaster Settlement Approval

A US federal appeals court on 10 January affirmed a federal judge’s approval of a multi billion-dollar settlement between BP and businesses and individuals who suffered economic losses in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In the 2-1 decision, a panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that US District Judge Carl Barbier was correct in rejecting a BP bid, which required businesses seeking compensation to provide proof that traced their economic losses to the oil spill.

BP Oil Spill Settlement Fight Wages On

BP Plc’s $9.2 billion partial settlement over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was upheld by an appeals court over the company’s protest that the deal wasn’t valid unless a claims-payment dispute was resolved in its favor.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans yesterday also upheld a lower-court judge’s certification of the settling plaintiffs as a class and rejected arguments that the agreement couldn’t be approved because it inconsistently compensated victims with the same types of economic injuries.

Study Indicates “Memory” of Benzene Remains in Marsh Sediment and Affects Its Future Degradation

Researchers have known that pollutant exposure alters the ability of ecological systems to degrade those pollutants upon encountering them again.

Troy University scientists have shown that this principle holds true for Gulf coast salt marsh sediments exposed to benzene; however, the type of alteration can change. Depending upon conditions, degradation may increase up to a point or it may reach is maximum ability more quickly. They published their findings in the March 2012 issue of Ecological Engineering: Anaerobic biodegradation of benzene in salt marsh sediment of the Louisiana Gulf coast.

Sinkhole meeting set to focus on vent wells

More information will be given Tuesday about current efforts to contain the giant sinkhole in south Louisiana.

Texas Brine and Assumption Parish officials will hold an informational meeting at 5:30 p.m. to bring the community up to speed on the latest developments.

Senator: Rail accidents put spotlight on pipeline needs (video)

Fiery explosions involving oil-carrying trains help make the case for Keystone XL and other new pipelines to transport the crude, a Senate Republican says.

“Clearly, pipelines are part of the solution,” said Sen. John Hoeven, of North Dakota, on Platts Energy Week. “We need more pipelines. Keystone XL pipeline is a good example that would not only reduce congestion in terms of rail, but also truck.”

Trains Will Still Move Oil Despite Wrecks, Keystone XL

The climate hazards of shale oil development in the U.S. and Canada are indisputable: Producing and burning shale oil emit large amounts of greenhouse gases that fuel climate change.

Shale oil’s other hazards, however, have begun to capture far more attention. That’s because recent train derailments have made painfully clear the dangers of just getting that oil to refineries.

Crude oil shipments, tanker punctures top of agenda at rail talks

Experts from Canada’s rail industry meet in Ottawa on Monday to discuss how to make North America’s fleet of DOT-111 rail tankers safer following a string of recent derailments and explosions involving crude oil.

The Canadian Transportation Research Forum (CTRF) is hosting a meeting of representatives of Canada’s rail companies, government regulators, the Department of National Defence and even the United States Embassy to examine, among other items, the risks of growing rail shipments of crude by 111 rail tank cars.

Study finds Alberta leads in disturbing natural landscape

A national study suggests that Alberta has disturbed more natural landscape than any other province.

The analysis by Global Forest Watch adds that Wild Rose Country also has two of the three areas in Canada where the rate of disturbance is the highest.

“There were at least three major hotspots, two in Alberta,” report author Peter Lee said Monday.

Arctic Passage Opens Challenges for U.S. Military

The 40-year-old Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star returned to the Arctic Ocean this summer after seven years in semiretirement, charging into a thinning polar ice sheet that U.S. defense officials predict will give way to new commercial waterways and a resource-rich frontier by midcentury.

In Antarctica and the Arctic, a game of multinational Monopoly

Just after noon on Sept. 4, 2010, a squat, yellow-black cargo ship lumbered out of the Norwegian port of Kirkenes. Naked ridges of glacially scarred granite slid by on either side as the Nordic Barents motored toward the open sea with 41,000 tons of iron ore locked in her belly. It might have resembled a routine voyage to Western Europe. But the sense of normalcy vanished as the ship reached the mouth of the fjord, a geographic and economic crossroads at the extreme northern edge of Scandinavia.

Radioactive Fukushima claims live on despite scientific findings

Is it possible that all life in the Pacific Ocean is on the verge of being wiped out but that knowledge is being kept from you by an unholy alliance of international governments, corporations and a compliant news media?

No. But that doesn’t stop people from believing it. Just when it seemed those scary Facebook posts had gone away, they came back again last week.

The Irradiated Sailors of Fukushima

The roll call of US sailors irradiated while delivering humanitarian help near the stricken Fukushima nuke who say their health has been devastated continues to grow.

So many have come forward that the progress of their federal class action lawsuit has been delayed.

California Researchers To Monitor State’s Kelp Forests For Fukushima Radioactive Contamination

Researchers from California State University Long Beach are set to monitor the state’s kelp forests for radioactive contamination resulting from the meltdown of Fukushima’s nuclear power plant in Japan.

Radioactive iodine traces from the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and meltdown had been detected a month later in kelp forests along the Orange County shoreline.

Tour sheds light on Fukushima’s disaster-affected area

A group of researchers and students at Fukushima University are offering a rare chance to see firsthand the problems facing this hard-hit prefecture.

The “Fukushima-gaku Kochiku Project” (Project to construct Fukushima-gaku studies) gives tours of the area impacted by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident.

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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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