Environmental Must-Reads – January 2, 2015


Voices and Votes Against Fracking Rang Out and Racked Up in 2014

Burch Muldrow was absolutely fed up with Lewis Petroleum.

The oil company was bulldozing dirt over a pit full of black, oily sludge on the ranch where he worked as caretaker.

Recalling a dramatic incident that happened two years ago, Muldrow said recently that he couldn’t just stand by and watch. So he grabbed an empty one-gallon plastic milk jug from the bed of his pickup.

He cut off the top and scooped up some of the waste, muck he described as having the consistency of thick cake batter and smelling like diesel fuel.

Good Times Run Out for Sand Producers

“This isn’t our first rodeo” has become a catchphrase among oil-industry executives who are laying off workers and dialing back spending in the wake of tumbling crude-oil prices.

But for many sand producers, this is their first time on the bucking bronco that is the cyclical energy business—and not all of them are ready for the wild ride, industry analysts say.

Fracking puts pressure on Moab

A different kind of spire is jutting into the iconic red rock vistas of Moab.

It is the scaffolding of drilling rigs, and it heralds a new chapter in Moab’s long history of energy extraction. Moab may have been comfortable with the uranium industry that put it on the map in another century. But having an oil patch amid this area’s popular national parks and renowned recreational backcountry is jarring to some residents.

2014 Was The Year Attention Turned to Fracking’s Air Pollution

Fracking’s impacts on air quality took the spotlight this year, fueled by new research and broad media coverage.

The modern shale boom has created a massive influx of oil-and-gas wells, compressor stations and other infrastructure that spew toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases into the air. The consequences for public health and climate change are increasingly recognized as serious issues, on par with the water contamination concerns that once dominated debates over the pros and cons of fracking.

New fracking regulations to take effect in July

Environmentalists in Santa Barbara County failed to get hydraulic fracturing banned back in November.

Now the state is putting companies under stricter rules.

Little fracking, but plenty of ‘acidizing’ used at LA, Orange County oil fields

While public concerns remain about unconventional oil techniques like hydraulic fracturing, data gathered over 18 months by local air regulators reveal little fracking in the complex picture of oil extraction activities in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Fracking is a well stimulation technique where petroleum operators shoot chemicals, sand and water into the ground to force oil and gas to the surface. Oil and gas companies reported no instances of fracking in the LA basin during the previous 12 months, and just 14 fracking events in the first six months of the reporting program carried out by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Fracking in the UK: What to Expect in 2015

The government has shown absolutely no evidence that it is willing to slow down its committed march towards the commercial development of shale gas.

For example, the government recently approved amendments to the infrastructure bill which, amidst heavy public resistance, will allow fracking companies to extract shale from right underneath people’s homes.

Riverkeeper questions fracking use report

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, one of the most vigorous opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline that would pass through Hunterdon and Mercer counties from its source in Luzerne County, Pa., has challenged a recently issued report on fracking, which was issued by the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD).

After New York ban, Pennsylvania renews focus on fracking health impacts

New York State banned fracking earlier this month, citing the potential risks to public health. In Pennsylvania, where shale gas drilling has boomed, the state has not studied those risks systematically and some say, deliberately ignored them. A new governor says he wants to take a different approach.

At a news conference the day after New York announced its ban, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor-elect Tom Wolf summed up his views on fracking:

“I want to have my cake and eat it, too,” he said. “I don’t want to do what New York did.”

How Putin Forged a Pipeline Deal That Derailed

Barely two weeks after President Vladimir V. Putin annexed Crimea on one side of the Black Sea, he won a different prize on the other side. In Bulgaria’s Parliament, lawmakers gave initial passage to a bill clearing the way for a mammoth gas pipeline from Russia.

The pipeline, known as South Stream, was Mr. Putin’s most important European project, a tool of economic and geopolitical power critical to twin goals: keeping Europe hooked on Russian gas, and further entrenching Russian influence in fragile former Soviet satellite states as part of a broader effort to undermine European unity.

Back in the headlines: Climate coverage returns to its 2009 peak

Call it the new black: Climate change again is in vogue, with media coverage in 2014 fully recovered – for now – from its recession-era dip, based on an analysis of The Daily Climate’s archives. Coverage grew for a second straight year, approaching its 2009 high and rebounding nearly 70  percent above its 2012 low.

Driving the trend were energy and political stories: Fracking, coal regulations, the UN climate talks all had more coverage last year than in 2013

Anti-fracking groups score court win

Residents in the Los Angeles suburb of La Habra Heights trying to ban new oil and gas wells scored a court victory Wednesday when a Los Angeles Superior Court rejected oil and gas industry-backed language from being included in a March 2015 ballot initiative.

The court ordered the city to revise the language.

The community-proposed initiative aims to ban new oil and gas development, including high-intensity practices like fracking and acid well stimulation that have been linked to health and environmental impacts.

The year in business: BP found ‘grossly negligent’ in oil spill, loses settlement appeal

The litigation surrounding the 2010 Gulf of Mexico continued this year as BP worked to overturn its massive oil spill claims settlement on one front and to convince the courts it was not entirely to blame for the disaster on another.

The British oil giant set aside $42 billion to cover costs and claims from the oil spill.

Exxon Mobil seeks to bar pipeline files

Exxon Mobil said it shouldn’t have to release any further information on a proposed but abandoned pipeline intended to run alongside the Pegasus pipeline that ruptured in 2013 in central Arkansas.

The company is facing a class-action lawsuit by landowners after the pipeline spilled more than 200,000 gallons of oil in a Mayflower subdivision.

UN sees ‘limited’ impact of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans oil spill

United Nations experts said Wednesday they found “limited immediate impact” on the ecosystem of the world’s largest mangrove forest in Bangladesh after a major oil spill early in December.

Local forestry officials raised the alarm when hundreds of thousands of litres of furnace oil were spilt into the forest’s vast network of rivers and canals after a tanker sank following a collision with another cargo vessel.

Oil spill after tanker and bulker collide in Singapore waters

A tanker and a bulker carrier have collided in Singapore waters about 11 nm northeast of Pedra Branca resulting in an oil spill.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said the Libyan-registered tanker Alyarmouk collided with the Singapore-registered bulker Sinar Kapaus resulting in damage to one of the tanker’s cargo tanks and the “spillage of some crude oil”.

FACTBOX-In Keystone pipeline case, what might Nebraska court do?

Nebraska’s Supreme Court could help settle the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline when it decides whether state lawmakers were right to clear the way for the project to help carry oil from Canada’s oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The ruling by the seven-judge panel could either clear a bureaucratic hurdle or send the TransCanada Corp plan into a logistical tailspin after more than five years of delays.

GOP-Led Congress Likely To Flex New Muscles With Keystone Pipeline Vote

Eager to assert their policy differences with the president once they have control of both gavels on Capitol Hill come Jan. 6, Republicans say they plan to advance legislation backing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, by TransCanada.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the GOP leadership, says the president will likely have a pipeline bill “on his desk in the first three months” of the year.

Environmental groups ask feds to reconsider Constitution Pipeline

Environmental groups are asking federal regulators to reconsider their decision to approve a new pipeline that would deliver natural gas from Northeast Pennsylvania to markets in New York and New England.

The Constitution Pipeline got the green light in early December, but Moneen Nasmith, an attorney representing the environmental groups, says the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did not consider all the ways constructing the line could hurt the forests it would pass through.

Cleanup continues on pipeline leak 3 weeks later

Three weeks after a natural gas pipeline blowout near Nordheim, a mound of contaminated soil looms over a 10-foot hole in the ground.

Kinder Morgan Inc., the pipeline operator, originally estimated the cleanup effort on Hohn Road would take 24 hours.

A company official now says the contaminated soil will be moved from the property within a week, weather permitting.

Public hearings set in Minnesota for Sandpiper oil pipeline

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will take public testimony next week at five hearings across the state on the all-new Enbridge Energy Sandpiper pipeline set to run from Beaver Lodge, N.D., to Superior, Wis.

This round of hearings is intended to focus primarily on the “need” for the new pipeline — both Enbridge’s need to serve their customers — oil companies — and whether Minnesota really needs another pipeline to carry oil that will mostly go to other states.

Enbridge oil facility in North Dakota catches fire; damage unclear

An Enbridge Inc crude oil storage and pipeline facility just south of Williston, N.D., has caught fire, eyewitnesses said.

The facility serves as a key gathering and distribution hub for crude oil produced in North Dakota, the second-largest crude oil producer in the United States.

2 from oil industry file lawsuit over Arctic ringed seals’ ESA listing

Two oil associations have filed a lawsuit against a federal agency challenging the listing of the Arctic ringed seal as a “threatened species.”

A subspecies of the mammal is listed under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as threatened, under the Endangered Species Act. The decision was made in December 2012 by the National Marine Fisheries Service, because the seals were ”likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future as a result of the projected effects of climate change on its Arctic habitat,” according to court documents.

Arctic Shipping Chills in 2014

The year 2014 has proved to be a slow one for Arctic shipping. Just 31 ships sailed between Europe and Asia across the Northern Sea Route, and 22 did part of the route. That’s down from a total of more than 70 in 2013.

Malte Humpert, executive director of the Arctic Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, says this year has served as a reality check on some of the over-heated Arctic predictions of recent years.

‘Arctic development will never be linear’

This year, the US takes over the chair of the interstate Arctic Council from Canada. Malte Humpert, director of the Washington-based Arctic Council, tells DW what he expects from the change in leadership.

Dangerous Oil Trains To Return to Lac-Megantic While Town Still Recovers

“We’re seeing strong growth. We’re seeing some large accounts come back. The future is bright.”

According to the Portland Press Herald, that was the assessment of the future by Ryan Ratledge, the current chief operating officer for Central Maine and Quebec Railway, the railroad that runs through Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

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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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