Environmental Must-Reads – January 16, 2014


NC fracking panel passes chemical disclosure rule

Fracking companies won the right to keep secret the chemical cocktails they pump underground during shale gas drilling in North Carolina under a chemical disclosure rule approved Tuesday by the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission.

The public safety standard will help the energy companies protect their secret sauce used in natural gas drilling, but critics said it would also keep residents in the dark about potent chemicals used near local farms and waterways.

EPA Still Burying Head in Sand on Key Fracking Contamination Cases

Earlier this week, NRDC finally received a response to a letter we sent last September to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy seeking an explanation for EPA’s sudden withdrawal from important investigations into suspected drinking water contamination from fracking in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.

As I have previously written, we have seen a marked and deeply troubling trend at EPA in recent months where the agency has been abruptly pulling out of high-profile inquiries into potential fracking-related drinking water contamination – first in Parker County, TX, then in Pavillion, WY, and finally in Dimock, PA.  And there are important indications that suggest it should not have dropped any of these cases – with concerns about drinking water safety and ongoing fracking operations still lingering in the impacted communities.

Colorado needs to be honest about the risks of fracking

Colorado has done a better job than some other states of updating its oil and gas rules, and the state should get credit where credit is due. But that’s not a very high bar, and the rules are still not strong enough to ensure that Colorado residents have the protections from oil and gas development in their communities that they need and deserve. Clean air, clean water, health and quality of life are still at risk.

The industry for the most part opposes any new rules in Colorado, and the industry’s rhetoric in Colorado is based on attempts to obfuscate the threats and discredit those who try to bring the truth to light.

Fracking disclosure bills moving again in Florida House

Oil and gas companies would be required to inform the state of chemicals being injected into the ground as part of the drilling process known as “fracking” under a pair of measures approved Tuesday by a House panel.

The Republican-dominated House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, in party-line 8-4 votes, supported the two bills (HB 71 and HB 157). The measures focus on disclosure of chemicals, as hydraulic fracturing — or fracking ˆ is not prohibited in Florida.

Nearly half of public ‘oppose fracking within 10 miles of their home’

Almost half the British public would not want fracking to take place within 10 miles of their home, an opinion poll has found, in a blow to government hopes to win support for shale gas exploration.

Some 47 per cent of people “would not be happy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home” while just 14 per cent said they would be happy, the poll by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and ICM found.

Fracking and house prices – Buyer beware

WHEN potential purchasers look around a house for sale, it’s the property’s visible features that typically draw most attention. The number of bedrooms, amount of floor space, and what the local area is like all tend to have the greatest influence on how much a house is worth. On the other hand, environmental threats to particular properties—from flooding, pollution, and other disasters—are often not considered by potential buyers, because they are not immediately obvious. But new research suggests these less-visible factors are now starting to affect property values as well.

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.

Steve Lipsky Responds to Report Clearing EPA of Wrongdoing in Fracking Water Contamination Study

Steven Lipsky’s phone was busy on the morning of Christmas Eve. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General had just released its report concluding the EPA was justified in intervening to protect drinking water from hydraulic fracturing in Weatherford, Texas, despite assertions to the contrary from the oil and gas industry and Congressional Republicans.

West Virginia company behind water contamination cited at second facility

State inspectors have cited the company whose spill contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians for five violations at a second facility where it is storing chemicals, and they say Freedom Industries might have to relocate its materials again because of a lack of a secondary containment plan.

State inspectors found the violations Monday at a Nitro site where Freedom Industries moved its coal-cleaning chemicals after Thursday’s spill, according to a state Department of Environmental Protection report. Inspectors found that, like the Charleston facility where the leak originated, the Nitro site lacked appropriate last-resort containment to stop chemical leaks.

Reality Check: W. Va. chemical spill’s plume and Ky.

As West Virginia continues to deal with a chemical spill putting thousands of people’s tap water at risk, the plume of chemicals is headed down the Ohio River.

The plume is expected to be in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky area by Tuesday evening and the Louisville area by the end of the week, according to the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection.

Analysis: BP’s U.S. Gulf oil spill settlement challenges may backfire

A year after agreeing to a multi-billion dollar settlement with victims of the 2010 Gulf oil spill, BP is aggressively challenging terms of the deal in a legal strategy that could backfire with the judge who will rule on the company’s potentially hefty federal fines.

The British oil giant has pushed for multiple reviews by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, complaining the claims system approved by the U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is overpaying for damages from the country’s worst offshore disaster.

BP Oil Spill Beach Report: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The following is a summary of the daily beach oiling report issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). I will endeavour to publish this summary each day the FDEP issues such a report. While the media and public believe that the effects of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Blowout and Oil Spill have been largely eradicated, this data suggests otherwise.

It is important to note that these reports of daily oil discoveries come at a time when BP is attempting to renege on its oft-stated “Commitment to the Gulf.” The company is repudiating the Contract it made with area businesses and individuals that compensates them for economic and environmental losses associated with BP’s spill.

Canada Support for Keystone Pipeline Falls, Nanos Says

TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline is losing popular support in Canada, a development that could embolden opponents of the project, according to a poll released today by Nanos Research Group.

Canadian support for the $5.4 billion link between Alberta’s oil sands and U.S. Gulf Coast refineries has declined to 52 percent in December from 68 percent in April, while opposition has increased to 40 percent from 28 percent. The survey of 1,000 Canadians taken between Dec. 14 and Dec. 16 has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, according to the Ottawa-based agency.

Canada Envoy at Odds With Climate Allies on Keystone XL

With his country’s foreign minister in tow, Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer walked the marble corridors of the U.S. Capitol yesterday pitching the prize his nation is seeking: the Keystone XL pipeline.

“It always makes more sense in our view to get energy from middle North American than the Middle East,” Doer said after a session with Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a Keystone supporter.

Sen. Mary Landrieu joins Canadian foreign minister to press Obama to support Keystone Pipeline

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., joined Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird in urging President Barack Obama on Wednesday to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL Pipeline.

“We think the time has come for the administration to make a decision,” Baird said during a meeting with reporters in the senator’s Washington office. He said Landrieu’s support for the project is important, particularly in the Senate Democratic caucus where some are pushing the president to turn down the project.

TransCanada will look to rail if controversial Keystone XL pipeline not approved

The chief executive of TransCanada says If the Obama administration doesn’t approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline his company will look to build rail terminals in Alberta and Oklahoma.

President Barack Obama is expected to decide early this year on Keystone, which is under review at the State Department. The pipeline would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Mitigation makes probability of oil spill very low, according to risk analysis done for Kinder Morgan

When it comes to Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the biggest fear of British Columbians is the increased risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Salish Sea.

To gauge the probability of such a spill, the oil transport company sought an opinion from Det Norske Veritas, world-leading risk analysts.

Michigan Judge Dismisses Charges Against Activist Who Protested Inside Enbridge’s 6B Pipeline

When Kalamazoo activist Chris Wahmhoff walked up to the fourth floor of the Calhoun County Circuit Court on Monday and checked the docket, he found his case sandwiched between three other cases also involving Enbridge — a telling sign of the times.

When Judge James Kingsley started speaking in the courtroom, Wahmhoff thought all was lost. He hung his head and waited, as the five minutes the judge spoke dragged on.

Edmonton Train Derailment: No Injuries, No Safety Concerns

The City of Edmonton says there are no public safety concerns around a train derailment near a rail yard in the north end of the city.

Canadian National Railway says three locomotives, two tank cars and a flat car derailed Wednesday morning following a slow speed collision involving three trains.

Oil-by-Rail Industry in North America Begins 2014 with Another Spectacular Crash

North America’s frenzied oil-by-rail industry began the new year in the same way it ended the old one—with a spectacular derailment and fire of oil train cars on the outskirts of a small community. It’s the latest calamity by an industry growing at a pace that should frighten anyone concerned with public safety and the world’s warming climate.

Concern is further underlined by a new derailment–seven cars in a 152-car coal train derailed in the center of the Vancouver region on Jan. 11. Nearby is a CP Rail route that handles daily shipments of oil to a refinery on the shore of Vancouver harbor.

Regulators knew about risky transport of oil before train crashes, documents show

A spate of fiery train crashes has spurred regulators to take a closer look at the booming movement of crude oil by rail. But documents obtained by NBC News show regulators have known about issues like overloading and mislabeling that may increase the risk of shipping the oil since as far back as the fall of 2011, a year and a half before the first of the crashes, which killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

Remote Alaska fishing town braces for Arctic oil development

This faraway spot in the middle of Alaska’s windswept, rocky Aleutian Island chain has long stood for seafood.

Unalaska is a stone’s throw from rich fishing grounds in the Bering Sea. The local port of Dutch Harbor is tops in the United States in terms of the sheer volume of seafood that passes through it.

But it isn’t seafood that has this town of about 4,300 people buzzing — and some even planning multimillion-dollar investments.

After a one-year break, Royal Dutch Shell is expected to resume its controversial Arctic exploration program this summer and base some of those operations in Dutch Harbor.

Japan approves Fukushima operator’s revival plan

Japan’s trade ministry on Wednesday approved a revival plan for the utility responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric Power Co, its second attempt at restoring its battered finances.

The plan hinges on Tokyo Electric (Tepco) restarting its Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant to cut fossil fuel costs, a contentious undertaking staunchly opposed by the local governor.

From Atomic Bombings to Fukushima, Japan Pursues a Nuclear Future Despite a Devastating Past

Japan is getting ready to mark the third anniversary of one of the world’s worst atomic disasters. It was March 11, 2011, when a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that struck Japan’s northeast coast. The twin disasters triggered a meltdown at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The radiation that spewed from the plant stranded more than 315,000 evacuees. In the years following the Fukushima disaster, tens of thousands of Japanese have taken to the streets to march in opposition to nuclear power. In the nearly three years since the disaster, the Fukushima cleanup and decommissioning efforts have been complicated by leaks of highly radioactive water.

New Fukushima Radiation Study Will Focus on West Coast Kelp Forests

Researchers are launching a new project to monitor California’s kelp forests for radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. For Kelp Watch 2014, as it’s called, scientists will fan out this year along the California coast, to collect kelp and find out if it has absorbed any radiation from the 2011 meltdown.

“I’ve gotten calls from people who are coming here to surf, people who live along the coastline, asking me, ‘Is it safe to go in the water?’” said Steven Manley, a biology professor at California State University, Long Beach who created Kelp Watch 2014. His plan is to measure radiation levels in kelp three times in multiple locations between the Oregon border and Baja California from mid February through next winter and make the results public.

Fukushima Fuel Transfer Reaches 10% Milestone

Tokyo Electric Power Company has reached a minor milestone in cleaning up the mess that started at its Fukushima nuclear power station on Friday, March 11, 2011 (March 12, U.S.). A subsea earthquake off the Pacific coast of T?hoku, the resulting tsunami, and an unfortunate series of human miscalculations have dogged the ruined facility for almost three years.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant originally comprised six boiling water reactors of a half-century-old General Electric design. The installation was one of the world’s 25 largest nuclear power stations. TEPCO currently believes that after the tsunami, units 1-3 suffered meltdowns, perhaps even through the floors of the buildings and into the soil.

Niigata governor calls TEPCO’s turnaround plan a ‘pie in the sky’

Government officials in Niigata Prefecture criticized Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s rebuilding plan that includes bringing idled nuclear reactors back online.

They questioned whether the utility could implement the plan according to schedule and raised doubts about TEPCO’s commitment to safety.

For Fukushima’s Displaced, a Struggle to Recover Lives Torn Apart by Nuclear Disaster

We continue to look at the fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant crisis in 2011 with a documentary about the former residents of Futaba, where the facility is located. “Nuclear Nation: The Fukushima Refugees Story” follows them in the first year after the disaster as they live communally in an abandoned school near Tokyo. Many mourn the loss of family members and their homes, and worry about the impact of radiation exposure on their health. We play excerpts from the film and are joined by director Atsushi Funahashi.

Fukushima 3 Years Later: England Continues To Build Nuclear Power Plants

England will soon have an extra three nuclear power plants as Japan’s Toshiba (TYO:6502) looks to buy 60 percent of a nuclear venture with NuGeneration, according to the BBC.

The deal, worth $167 million, comes as the nuclear energy industry has seen many projects scaled back or killed outright after the Fukushima nuclear power plant was destroyed by Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Three years later Japanese authorities still face critical problems with radiation leaks.

Add comment

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This