Environmental Must-Reads – January 16, 2013


New York’s Fracking Process Is Broken

New York’s four-year effort to assess the safety of the controversial gas drilling practice known as fracking is broken. To fix it, the state must either declare a ban on fracking, or extend the moratorium now in place while it addresses the fundamental flaws in what has been, to date, an almost Kafkaesque regulatory process.

Study: As Drilling Grows, Fracking Using More Water

A new University of Texas at Austin study has found that the amount of water used in the drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing has risen sharply in recent years as oil and natural gas production has surged.

Former chancellor resigns over fracking scandal

Raymond L. Orbach, director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin and former UCR chancellor, and geosciences professor Charles “Chip” Groat, have both resigned in the wake of a controversial “fracking” study.

The Public Accountability Initiative, a watchdog group, revealed that Groat, the head researcher and author of the study, held a spot on the board of directors of a natural gas and drilling company, Plains Exploration and Production. For the duration of the study, Groat received nearly $1.5 million within the last five years as a member of the board.

AP Exclusive: EPA reversed course on tainted Texas water wells after gas company protested

When a man in a Fort Worth suburb reported his family’s drinking water had begun “bubbling” like champagne, the federal government sounded an alarm: An oil company may have tainted their wells while drilling for natural gas.

At first, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane. More than a year later, the agency rescinded its mandate and refused to explain why.

EPA changed course after oil company protested

When a man in a Fort Worth suburb reported his family’s drinking water had begun “bubbling” like champagne, the federal government sounded an alarm: An oil company may have tainted their wells while drilling for natural gas.

Unrestricted Natural Gas Exports Could Have Disastrous Effects on U.S. Economy

U.S. News and World Report published an article entitled Should the U.S. Export Natural Gas? This article states that some leaders within the energy industry are questioning the benefits of exportation. They are apparently concerned about using up our resources to grow foreign economies.

New York’s Fracking Process is Broken

New York’s four-year effort to assess the safety of the controversial gas drilling practice known as fracking is broken. To fix it, the state must either declare a ban on fracking, or extend the moratorium now in place while it addresses the fundamental flaws in what has been, to date, an almost Kafkaesque regulatory process.

The U.S. Department of Energy Retreats on Natural Gas Efficiency – but Temporary Setback Could Set the Stage for Higher Standards

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just retreated on important new energy efficiency standards for natural gas furnaces that were scheduled to go into effect in May and would have saved Americans an estimated $10.7 billion in lower heating bills over the next three decades.

Outgoing EPA chief says sending BP fines to the Gulf Coast a highlight of her tenure

Outgoing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, who tangled often with congressional Republicans during her four-year tenure, says it will take strong public pressure to convince some lawmakers to accept scientific evidence of the harmful impact of some pollutants.

Deepwater Horizon: 1,000 Days Later

It has been 1,000 days since the BP-operated oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, gushing millions of barrels of crude oil into a body of water that supports countless ecosystems and economies.

Below is a timeline of major events that have occurred in the past 1,000 days.

Family members of BP Deepwater Horizon accident victims criticize company’s $4.5 billion criminal settlement

At least five family members of workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and one injured worker have filed victim statements in response to BP’s proposed $4.5 billion settlement of criminal charges stemming from the accident. Some are calling the settlement “incomprehensible,” and questioning why no top officials of the company have been charged with criminal acts.

Gulf disaster victims’ loved ones tell of grief

One has suffered nightmares. Another says she’s lost a piece of her heart. A third laments that companies put money ahead of safety. A fourth wants stiffer penalties for the oil titan at the center of it all.

The sentiments are among victim impact statements streaming in from the widows, parents, brothers and children of some of the 11 workers killed in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico rig explosion off Louisiana. Coastal residents affected by the resulting oil spill also are weighing in.

Lee looks to recoup $70 million from BP oil spill

Commissioners on Tuesday agreed Lee County lost $70 million in revenue as a result of the 2010 BP Oil spill.

Acting County Attorney Andrea Fraser told commissioners they had to immediately approve the number for a lawsuit the county filed against the oil company through a contracted law firm. Other Gulf Coast governments also have filed claims against BP Oil.

BP Oil Spill Settlement Payments 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.

More Gulf of Mexico shrimpers want to participate in shrimp subsidy fight

Two Gulf of Mexico shrimp groups on Tuesday informed federal agencies that several more shrimp industry businesses would like to participate in the federal investigation of subsidized shrimp imports. The Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries, which mainly consists of shrimp processors, filed petitions on Dec. 28 seeking “countervailing duties,” duties imposed to offset subsidies on shrimp by foreign governments.

Assumption Sinkhole Update

Texas Brine Company, believed to have caused the 8 and half acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish, has been given orders by the Louisiana Office of Conservation to assess the state of sediments under the sinkhole, prompting the company to withdraw the lawsuit filed last month.

3D seismic imaging proposed for exploring sinkhole

People who live near the massive sinkhole site in southeast Louisiana will likely be happy with a new plan being pushed for by state officials that could cut months off the investigation.

Kulluk won’t leave Kodiak bay until nearby tanner crab season ends

Wednesday at noon, Kodiak Island fishermen will drop their pots into the water of outer Kiliuda Bay, hoping to bag part of this year’s 660,000 pound-quota of tanner crab. Farther into the bay sits Royal Dutch Shell’s troubled drill rig Kulluk, still waiting for the results of a hull assessment following its New Year’s Eve grounding on the nearby Sitkalidak Island.

Environmental groups redouble efforts to block U.S. Keystone expansion

U.S. opponents of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL project are seizing on the growing distress in Canada’s oil patch as evidence that lack of pipeline capacity can strangle oil-sands expansion and limit the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions in Alberta.

API campaign touts XL pipeline, natural gas exports

The American Petroleum Institute has launched a new media campaign to build support for the Keystone XL pipeline, eliminate renewable fuels mandates and allow natural gas exports.

Ads for the new campaign, called “Investing in America’s Future,” will be spread across television, print, radio and online media both inside the Beltway and across the nation.

Scientists Call on President to Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline

Eighteen of the nation’s top climate scientists released a letter to President Obama today urging him to say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

“Eighteen months ago some of us wrote you about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, explaining why in our opinion its construction ran counter to both national and planetary interests,” wrote the scientists. ”Nothing that has happened since has changed that evaluation; indeed, the year of review that you asked for on the project made it clear exactly how pressing the climate issue really is.”

New Report Warns of Health Risks from EMF, Radiation Exposure

A new report by the BioInitiative Working Group 2012 says that evidence for risks to health has substantially increased since 2007 from electromagnetic fields (EMF) and wireless technologies (radio frequency – RF- radiation). The report reviews over 1,800 new scientific studies. Cell phone users, parents-to-be, young children and pregnant women are at particular risk.

Fukushima Daiichi 4 frame takes shape

The first layer of steel framing for a cover that will allow removal of used fuel from Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 has been completed.

After Fukushima, U.S. Seeks to Advance Small Nuclear Reactors

Two years ago, some thought that the nuclear energy had been leveled. But the industry today is picking up steam by getting construction licenses to build four new units and by getting government funding to develop smaller nuclear reactors that are less expensive and which may be less problematic when it comes to winning regulatory approval.

Washington: Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for January 11th to January 14th, 2013

Greenpeace International has issued the following news release:

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) announced this week that nuclear plants across the country will be required to build a second control room in order to remotely control venting and cooling functions at reactors in case a nuclear disaster occurs. The mandate, which also requires that the control rooms be resistant to earthquakes and tsunamis and have emergency power sources available, is expected to be unveiled when the NRA publishes new safety standards for nuclear plants in July. However, Shunichi Tanaka, Chair of the NRA, said that the agency will grant an exemption period and will allow power operators to restart idled reactors if they can produce written plans for upgrades, even if the control rooms have not yet been built.

Ship that survived 1954 H-bomb test draws renewed attention

Even after the passing of nearly 60 years, a Japanese fishing boat exposed to a U.S. nuclear bomb test remains a major attraction and a living history lesson, particularly in light of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The invisible price of nuclear

Yangliushan village in Jiaxing, East China’s Zhejiang Province, is home to part of China’s first nuclear power plant.

The Yangliushan section – unit two of the Qinshan power plant – began operating in 2002.

As China barrels ahead with an ambitious plan to almost double its nuclear power plants over the next several years, residents near China’s first nuclear facility have expressed concern over health problems plaguing the village.

Anti-radiation pills available to nuke plant neighbors

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday that potassium Iodide, or KI, pills being offered to neighbors of Illinois’ six nuclear power plants now are available at 64 participating pharmacies.

In late November, the agency announced it was launching a KI distribution program. Though the program, free pills would be available for all residents living within a 10-mile radius of an Illinois power plant, including Exelon Quad-Cities Generating Station near Cordova.

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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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