Environmental Must-Reads – January 15, 2015


Mississippi Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion Picked Up By Radar

A natural gas pipeline near Jackson, Mississippi, burst into flames Wednesday morning, leaving wooded areas burned and a rare image on radar.

The blast spooked nearby residents, who saw the large, orange glow in the pre-dawn sky and began to ask about its origins on social media. Gulf South Pipeline confirmed the explosion was along a natural gas line east of the Barnett Reservoir, MSNewsNow.com reported.

Pipeline fire burns out; leaves behind scorched patch of forest

An explosion near the Barnett Reservoir lit up the skies Wednesday morning.

It erupted around 6:20, off of Three Prong Trail. That’s east of the Reservoir.

Gulf South Pipeline has confirmed the natural gas line explosion on their property.

Scientists Discover Two New Pollutants In Fracking Waste

The primary waste product created by oil and gas drilling contains two types of potentially hazardous contaminants that have never before been associated with the industry, research published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology on Wednesday revealed.

Duke University geochemistry professor Avner Vengosh and his team of scientists found that wastewater produced by both conventional and unconventional oil drillers contains high volumes of ammonium and iodide — chemicals that, when dissolved in water or mixed with other pollutants, can encourage the formation of toxins like carcinogenic disinfection byproducts and have negative impacts on aquatic life.

Fracking Brings Ammonium and Iodide to Local Waterways

Two hazardous chemicals never before known as oil and gas industry pollutants—ammonium and iodide—are being released and spilled into Pennsylvania and West Virginia waterways from the booming energy operations of the Marcellus shale, a new study shows.

The toxic substances, which can have a devastating impact on fish, ecosystems, and potentially, human health, are extracted from geological formations along with natural gas and oil during both hydraulic fracturing and conventional drilling operations, said Duke University scientists in a study published today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

NY Pro-Fracking Senator’s Profanity Laced Tirade Caught on Video

A newly released video of New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara interacting with an unknown person in a parking lot questioning him about a potential liquid propane gas facility on Seneca Lake reveals the Senator’s strong support for the project – and disdain for anyone who questions this support.

In the video O’Mara responds to a question about the proposed LPG storage facility for the old salt caverns next to Seneca Lake with emphatic support.

“I absolutely think its the right idea…because it is talking about moving forward.”

California Oil Officials Release Deeply Flawed Fracking Environmental Review

California oil regulators today released a draft environmental review of fracking that fails to adequately analyze many major risks from fracking, including air and water pollution and risks to public health. The review by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources was released even though state scientists are still six months away from completing their analysis of the risks and harms of the controversial form of oil and gas extraction.

The California Council on Science and Technology today released the first volume of a state-commissioned, three-part fracking study. The other two volumes won’t be released until July, and the first volume addresses only the extent of fracking in California and does not assess risks.

Opponents Ask Portland To Reject Propane Export Terminal

Hundreds of people attended a Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission meeting Tuesday as it considered a zoning decision for a controversial propane export terminal.

The Canadian company Pembina has proposed building a $500 million propane export terminal at the Port of Portland on the Columbia River by 2018.

20% of California’s oil, natural gas comes from fracking

About 20 percent of California’s oil and natural-gas production uses hydraulic fracturing — with almost all of it happening in one corner of San Joaquin Valley — according to the most authoritative survey yet released of fracking in the Golden State.

Oil companies frack 125 to 175 of the roughly 300 wells drilled in California each month, according to the survey released Wednesday by the California Council on Science and Technology. Nearly 93 percent of all fracked wells lie in western Kern County or in neighboring Fresno County, both of which sit atop the vast Monterey Shale formation — a potential treasure trove of oil.

“California Crossroads Tour” Calls On Governor Jerry Brown To Ban Fracking

California Governor Jerry Brown recently proposed the most ambitious renewable energy targets in the US, but that does not mitigate his support for the controversial high-intensity oil extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), according to activists who have embarked on a statewide tour to call for the governor to ban the practice.

Organized by Californians Against Fracking—a coalition of environmental and environmental justice groups including 350.org, Food & Water Watch, and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment—the “California Crossroads Tour” is aimed at not just ending dangerous oil extraction methods but is also calling on Governor Brown to go even further than he did with his recent proposal to change the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard from 33% by 2020 to 50% by 2030.

Companies will be legally required to reveal chemicals used for fracking

Fracking companies will be legally bound to reveal the chemicals used to blast gas out of every well they drill and to better monitor for groundwater pollution, under concessions made by the government in parliament. But the Labour party, which proposed the changes, said many flaws remained and ministers remain “zealously opposed” to the necessary regulation.

The Labour party proposed over a dozen amendments to the infrastructure bill currently passing through parliament, including baseline measurements of methane gas in groundwater, well-by-well disclosure of chemicals in the fracking fluid used and a legal duty to consult the water industry during the planning process. The government has now accepted the first two and is consulting on the third.

Blackhorse: Fracking and a Diné Revolution on the Verge

A group of mostly Diné youth named Nihígaal bee Iiná began a 200-mile prayer walk on the eastern Navajo Nation on January 6 to bring awareness to environmental issues occurring on the nation.

The Diné people have been fighting corporations seeking resources-for-profit through mineral extraction on the Navajo Nation for decades. The affected Navajo communities feel the Navajo Nation leadership, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Indian Mineral office have turned their backs on them allowing these companies a ‘free for all’ to mine and extract minerals. Fracking and uranium mining are issues the grassroots groups and Diné people have been battling for years and it is alive and well on the Navajo Nation.

McGladrey whistleblower claims Deepwater Horizon audit deeply flawed

A whistleblower who says he worked on the independent audit of the Deepwater Horizon claims facility completed by accounting firm McGladrey LLP has made allegations that the settlement process is far more dysfunctional and susceptible to fraud than reported in the publicly released audit.

The whistleblower, who appears to have filed an anonymous internal ethics complaint in the matter, said the audit entered into the court record in the Deepwater Horizon case in November has very little acceptable data to back up its assertion that damage claims are being paid accurately and to the appropriate people.

BP announces North Sea job cuts

Oil company BP is to cut 200 jobs and 100 contractor roles following a review of its North Sea operations.

It is believed that most of the cuts will be onshore. The company expects a relatively small number of compulsory redundancies.

Pipeline fire shuts down FM 2004 in Texas City

Crews on Wednesday afternoon battled an oil pipeline fire.

Officials said that a pump station that is part of an oil pipeline on the city’s northwest side caught fire at about 12:45 p.m. Fire crews had the blaze out by about 1:45 p.m.

Brine, oil spill in Renville County

The state health department reported a brine and oil spill Wednesday in Renville County.

Enduro Operating told the North Dakota Department of Health that 820 barrels of brine and 25 barrels of oil spilled, according to a press release from the department. Seventy barrels of the brine, a byproduct of oil production, left the oil well’s location.

Municipality of Verchères may face legal action following major oil spill

Quebec’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks says the South Shore municipality of Verchères could face legal action for the way it handled a major oil spill.

Early Wednesday morning, equipment failure at a Longueuil waste water treatment centre caused 28,000 litres of diesel to spill into the St. Lawrence River.

Enbridge to build $130 million oil pipeline in Gulf of Mexico

Enbridge Inc. will build a $130 million crude oil pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico to connect a planned Hess Corp. deepwater development to existing pipelines offshore. The company expects to complete the pipeline by 2018.

In a Tuesday (Jan. 12) statement, the Canadian energy transportation firm said the pipeline would be 16 miles long, originating at the Hess Stampede project in the Green Canyon region of the Gulf of Mexico about 220 miles southwest of New Orleans.

Poll: Majority of Americans back Keystone pipeline

A majority of Americans favor the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — a result that could give Republicans a boost as they move toward a showdown with President Barack Obama over the project — a CNN/ORC poll has found.

The 1,179-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline is backed by 57% of the 1,011 Americans surveyed on Dec. 18-21. Just 28% oppose it, while 15% say they are unsure.

Keystone XL Pipeline: A classic case of failed groupthink

There have been a couple of letters to the editor lately accusing Sen. Lisa Murkowski of not standing up for Alaska because she is supporting the Keystone XL pipeline. The lack of any detail in these letters, or balance of the risks and benefits involved, display a dismal failure of our education system to promote critical thinking.

It is sad to see the level of public discourse so degraded, with issues like the pipeline (and ANWR) becoming almost religious political ideologies, devoid of any analysis, gaunt symbols of a preconceived notion. And the fact is, stopping this pipeline won’t do a thing to solve global warming, or even mean that one less gallon of petroleum is consumed.

Why small business loves the Keystone Pipeline

Small business owners love the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline and are pushing for its approval.

The project, which would be a potential goldmine for contractors and suppliers, has the strong support of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a trade group that represents small businesses. In addition to lifting sales, the organization says the pipeline would help bring down energy prices and create jobs.

Grueling Keystone fight to hit new Senate

Senators are bracing for a debate over legislation on the Keystone XL pipeline that could take weeks to conclude, setting up an early test of GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to allow “regular order” in the upper chamber.

McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday threatened a midnight vote before senators agreed to move forward on the pipeline bill, and could soon turn to late nights and weekend work to muscle through a stack of amendments.

Bernie Sanders: Passing Keystone XL Means A ‘Significantly Less Habitable’ Planet

As the Senate prepares to vote on whether climate change is real as part of the proposed Keystone Pipeline bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) strongly believes “it’s a good idea” for President Barack Obama to veto the bill.

“Unless we get our act together, the planet that we’re going to be leaving to our kids and grandchildren will be significantly less habitable than the planet we have right now,” Sanders said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday.

Enbridge eyeing spring construction of pipeline

Enbridge hopes to start construction on a planned 165-mile oil pipeline this spring, but some landowners still are attempting to derail the project.

The Calgary, Alberta, Canada, company currently is building a pump station at its Flanagan Terminal in rural Pontiac and also one outside Decatur, said Jennifer Smith, the company’s communication manager.

Sierra Club sues for impact study of Enbridge pipeline

The Sierra Club is suing the federal government to get an order for an environmental risk study of an oil pipeline that runs through some sensitive areas.

The Sierra Club is disputing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to allow Enbridge Energy to continue pumping oil through the 1,100-mile line that connects Minnesota to Ontario through Michigan and Wisconsin. The Enbridge Energy line runs across the Upper Peninsula, under the Straits of Mackinac, and through the Lower Peninsula to Sarnia-Ontario.

Tough oil, easy decision

The falling price of oil and a steady stream of firms giving up on oil exploration in Greenland’s Baffin Bay has led that country’s government to give the two remaing licence-holders in Baffin Bay extra time to begin drilling exploration wells.

The move comes after three firms informed Naalakkersuit, the elected government, at the end of 2014 that they would no longer take part in oil exploration. Among them, Dong, a Danish firm, which had a share of a ConocoPhilips licence in the northern part of Baffin Bay. Dong will retain its licence to explore off the eastern coast.

Port Commissioners Rail Against, Then Allow Shell Oil Vessels at Elliott Bay Terminal

The Port of Seattle will very likely pursue a two-year subletting relationship with Shell’s Arctic oil drilling vessels. Any objections? Uh, yep.

On Tuesday, the Port of Seattle Commission held its first public comment session on the proposal, which also allowed port commissioners themselves to express opinions on the idea—and express opinions they did. Almost unanimously, commissioners gave impassioned monologues against the idea of tacitly supporting Arctic drilling. Commissioner Courtney Gregoire (the former Governor Gregoire’s daughter), delivered one of the most forceful speeches. “To those of you who will say, ‘you have no authority over drilling in the Arctic,’ I just don’t accept that as a public agency,” she said.

But the commission then went ahead and OK’d the project anyway.

The woes of Fukushima’s sake brewers

Ever since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, sake-maker Hiroyuki Karahashi has received phone calls from worried Japanese consumers.

Mr Karahashi, owner of the Homare Sake Brewing Company in the Fukushima prefecture, the region where the stricken nuclear power station is located, says the callers are all concerned about radiation levels.

School Principal Reports on Aftermath of Fukushima

Sensuke Shishido was a public elementary school principal in Fukushima Prefecture when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011. In April 2014, he visited schools in Southern California and Arizona to raise awareness about children in Fukushima. The Rafu Shimpo reported on his speaking tour in the May 20 edition.

During his travels in the U.S., Shishido collected messages on a giant koinobori (carp banner) from the students and community members that attended his speaking engagements. Recently, Shishido has been visiting schools in Fukushima and the greater Tohoku region, where he was able to deliver the messages from American schoolchildren. Here, he shares his most recent impressions of the situation of children in Fukushima.

Fukushima Meltdowns Pervade S. Korea Debate on Reactor Life

South Korea’s nuclear regulator postponed a decision on whether to extend the operating license for the Wolsong No. 1 nuclear reactor, the first to come up for renewal since the 2011 Fukushima disaster in neighboring Japan.

The 679-megawatt reactor, South Korea’s second-oldest, has been offline since its original 30-year license expired in 2012. Operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. has already spent 560 billion won ($520 million) to refit Wolsong No. 1, forecast to run at a loss if its operating life is extended to 2022. Regulators will discuss the issue at their next meeting after failing to reach a decision today, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission said in a text message.

Kurion To Develop Robot For Fukushima Daiichi Clean Up

Japanese industrial IHI Corporation, working for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, has turned to California-based radioactive waste innovator Kurion to develop a robot that will be used in clean-up work at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The new machine, to be named after the power plant for which it is being built, is being described as a dexterous robotic arm. It will be called the Fukushima Repair Manipulator or FRM and it is expected to be deployed by the second quarter of 2016.

Japan to retire 5 nuclear reactors in first such move since 2011 Fukushima crisis

Five of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors will be decommissioned due to old age, the Yomiuri Shimbun has reported, as the government seeks to reassure the public of the safety of the country’s reactors which have lain idle for almost four years.

The move would mark the first time Japanese utilities are retiring power reactors after all 50 of Japan’s reactors were shut down in the wake of the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the mass-circulation daily said in a report on its website on Wednesday.

Don’t throw history out with the radioactive bathwater

On Dec. 12, Congress passed legislation to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at three nuclear plants in Washington state, New Mexico and Tennessee. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 19. The park will preserve historic buildings, structures and nuclear artifacts at the sites where the first atomic bombs were created. Public officials in Richland, Washington, near the Hanford B Reactor are rejoicing. Tourism promoters hope that the Hanford plant will become a major historical tourist attraction.

But not everyone is celebrating. As a victim of radiation discharged downwind from that plant, my feelings are mixed.

Radiation testing underway in Prince Rupert

Volunteers across British Columbia, including in Prince Rupert, are working together to estimate public health risks associated with radioactive isotopes drifting from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

In March of 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake caused three of six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan to meltdown, resulting in the release of radioisotopes into the Pacific Ocean.

Ultra-realistic radiation detection training without using radioactive materials

Training of first responders on the hazards of actual radiological and nuclear threats has been challenged by the difficulties of adequately representing those threats.

Training against such threats would involve using hazardous, highly radioactive materials, experiencing actual radiation doses in training, or requiring the distribution of radioactive material over a large geographical area. To avoid these issues in exercises to train responders, surrogate radioactive materials have historically been used. However, these materials do not completely represent real threats due to their non-hazardous size and inability to be geographically distributed.

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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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