Environmental Must-Reads – January 18, 2013


Marcellus, N.Y., namesake of the Marcellus shale formation, bans fracking

The ongoing debate over hydraulic fracturing in New York focuses on the Marcellus shale, a geological formation that runs from New York through Pennsylvania to West Virginia. Energy companies are salivating at the prospect of  fracking in the state. But no matter what New York Gov. Cuomo decides on the existing fracking ban, there’s one place that no one will be able to frack: Marcellus, N.Y. — the town for which the formation is named.

Is ‘Wild West’ Era for Gas Drilling Coming to an End?

While in Washington to run a panel at an invaluable conference on disasters and the environment this week, I spent a few minutes in a studio to discuss the issues and opportunities surrounding hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (and oil) on the Current TV show The War Room, hosted by Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan.

I describe my recent posts on ways to identify gas leaks or prove — one way or the other — if water contamination came from a particular well. We talked about big impediments to the development of China’s huge shale gas reserves or increasing exports of liquefied natural gas to Asia. I also stressed that President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy could be disrupted by cheap gas — without an overarching energy policy to sustain investments advancing the next generation of non-polluting energy technologies.

BP: Shale Boom will Never Happen in the UK or Europe

Some British ministers, especially Chancellor George Osborne, hope that fracking will enable the UK to experience a shale gas boom similar to the US, and completely change the energy market over the next twenty years.

Unfortunately BP’s chief economist, Christof Rühl, disagrees, stating that Europe and the UK face very different circumstances than the US, which will not enable shale gas production to really kick off until around 2030, and even then only in small amounts.

N.J. fracking moratorium expires

New Jersey’s one-year moratorium on the controversial technique of natural-gas extraction known as fracking expired Thursday with little fanfare.

Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon Take Anti-Fracking Campaign to Pennsylvania

Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Susan Sarandon spoke out against fracking Thursday during a tour of natural-gas drilling sites in northeastern Pennsylvania, warning about what they view as the danger to air, water and human health.

New evidence: fracking has occurred in at least 32 states since 2005

Last month, EPA released a “progress report” on its ongoing study of hydraulic fracturing and the impacts of fracking on drinking water.  The progress report contains a lot of interesting information, but one particular map caught my eye.  The map shows that fracking has occurred in more states than previously known, including places like Arizona, Nevada, and Maryland.  All in all, we now know that fracking has occurred in at least 32 states since 2005.

Matt Damon’s new movie is about people, not fracking

In Promised Land, the new movie starring (and co-written by) Matt Damon and directed by Gus Van Sant, Steve Butler (Damon) is trying to save rural America by exploiting it. Steve works as a “landman” for a giant energy company, Global Crosspower: his job is to talk landowners into letting the company lease their property to extract oil and gas.

Steve’s a good salesman – the company’s best – because he believes he’s on the side of the angels. When he signs up a landowner he’s not just making money for his company and building his own career. He’s also giving the locals money they badly need, as he knows from personal experience, having watched his own home town in rural Iowa dry up and die after a manufacturing plant closed. Steve is selling hope.

You can see North Dakota’s oil fracking fields from space

If you look at the NASA satellite photo above, you can pick out, in the generally dark western plains, a weird clump of lights up near the Canadian border.

Those are the fracking fields of the Bakken oil boom.

Industry Consultants Warn Frackers: Do Not Underestimate the Global Anti-Fracking Movement

The bitter battle over fracking has gone global, and according to pro-business consultants, the oil and gas industry has every reason to be concerned.

Oil and gas rigs are popping up in communities across the world as the fossil fuels industry races to exploit reserves with the controversial drilling technique known as fracking. In response, a global anti-fracking movement has emerged, and activists are winning victories in countries across world.

BP receiving ‘significant 7-figure claim’ from Baldwin schools for Deepwater Horizon spill

The Baldwin County school board voted unanimously tonight to present a claim to BP asking for an undisclosed amount of money to make up for tax revenues lost as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Tampa to seek $50 million in oil spill damages from BP

The city of Tampa announced Thursday it is seeking more than $50 million in damages from BP to cover past and future losses to tourism, business and local tax revenues caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

“There are some damages in terms of sales tax revenue and bed tax revenue and gas tax revenue as a result of folks who didn’t come to the bay area and didn’t come to Tampa specifically,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times.

Tug boat carrying 4,000 gallons of diesel sinks in Mississippi River; officials say no chemicals leaked yet

A tug boat carrying 4,000 gallons of diesel and 100 gallons of lube oil sunk in the Mississippi River around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, officials said. No one was on the vessel at the time and no injuries were reported, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Alex Washington.

As Shell’s Arctic Drilling Hopes Hit Snags, Its Rivals Watch

Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic drilling program is now officially in jeopardy and its prospects will depend on the findings of two continuing federal inquiries. One review is on the grounding of the Kulluk drill ship on New Year’s Eve after it was set adrift for five days in stormy weather, and the other is on the safety management of the entire Shell program.

2 Reports on Oil Sands Paint a Dire Picture

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and the heavy Canadian crude oil that it would carry released two reports on Thursday asserting that the environmental impacts of the project are worse than previously estimated, and urged the Obama administration to veto it.

Risk assessments of oil spill inadequate, Enbridge pipeline review panel told

In a downtown Vancouver courtroom, lawyers in a criminal negligence case presented a defence that sounded very familiar to opponents of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. The lawyer’s argument was that poor technology and bad weather were responsible for the 2006 sinking of the Queen of the North.

Ironically, just one block away, dozens of presenters were raising similar arguments against a plan to ship crude oil from the BC coast, through the Douglas channel and archipelagos to overseas markets.

Environmentalists versus workers: Keystone pipeline decision will shape Obama’s legacy

Whether President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline or not hinges on one key question: Which is more important to him, creating jobs and promoting energy independence or fighting climate change?

Two reports released Thursday highlight both issues, making even clearer the choice the White House faces. Mr. Obama has delayed for more than a year a final decision on the massive pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil sands through the U.S. to Gulf Coast refineries.

GOP governors, Canadian leader press Obama to approve Keystone pipeline

Ten GOP governors and the premier of Saskatchewan are putting fresh pressure on President Obama to greenlight the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

Premier Brad Wall and the governors, in a letter to Obama Thursday, call the project “fundamentally important” to the future economic prosperity of the United States and Canada.

New Analysis Shows Simple Math: Keystone XL Pipeline = Tar Sands Expansion = Accelerated Climate Change

New research confirms what we have heard time and again from the industry itself: the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be a direct cause of an increase in tar sands oil development. More tar sands oil taken out of the ground means more dangerous pollution that hurts our climate and health. And, this new research also shows that tar sands will cause even more climate pollution than we previously thought due to the impacts of the high carbon byproduct petroleum coke.

As State Department nears completion of Keystone XL review, both sides dig in

The State Department is close to completing a draft of an environmental review that will help determine whether President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline, as environmental and energy industry groups sought to bolster their position with new information.

Pipeline opponent Oil Change International released a report Thursday saying that estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands development have failed to include the full emissions from a byproduct of refining oil sands crude — a coallike substance known as petroleum coke.

Climate Concerns are Key in Keystone XL Pipeline Debate

Concerns about oilsands pipelines dominated Canadian headlines in 2012, and the issue is unlikely to step out of the limelight anytime soon. Hearings into the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal are expected to continue until the middle of this year; meanwhile, proposals to move oil sands bitumen through pipelines to Eastern Canada are also facing significant opposition.

Why Canadian Tar Sands are the Most Environmentally Destructive Project on Earth

The Canadian tar sands have been called the “most environmentally destructive project on earth,” with good reason.

But what if we told you that a significant proportion of the climate impact from exploiting the tar sands has been overlooked?

Chevron propylene pipeline shut down after leak in Jefferson Parish marsh

Chevron notified State Police on Thursday about 5:45 p.m. that the company had shut down a propylene pipeline that had leaked into a Jefferson Parish marsh, a State Police spokeswoman said. The line was shut down immediately and company officials told State Police that there was “no environmental impact,” according to Trooper Melissa Matey.

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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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