Environmental Must-Reads – January 21, 2013


Councilwoman wants regulations in Boulder to prevent fracking

Boulder needs to have regulations in place — or if not, at least a moratorium — to prevent fracking within city limits and on city open space, Councilwoman Suzanne Jones said.

Jones raised the issue at the City Council’s annual retreat after council members received a letter from a group of environmental activists and Boulder residents asking the city to take a stand against fracking. The letter included a map of existing oil and gas wells in and near the city obtained from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Pa. auditor to review wastewater from shale well drilling

Prompted by accidental spills and leaks from Marcellus Shale gas development and the industry’s waste disposal practices, new Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will begin a review this week of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s water regulation, testing and enforcement program.

Calling protection of the state’s water resources, including rivers, streams, lakes and groundwater, “one of the biggest issues facing Pennsylvania,” Mr. DePasquale said the performance audit will cover the years 2009 through 2012 and take up to a year to complete

Maryland Gov. to Spend $1.5M on Fracking Study

Home of the natural gas rich Marcellus Shale region of the country, Maryland’s governor questions the safety of the use of fracking in the state

Taking a Harder Look at Fracking and Health

A coalition of academic researchers in the United States is preparing to shine a rigorous scientific light on the polarized and often emotional debate over whether fracking for natural gas is hazardous to human health.

Some signed low-rent drilling leases

The land men came one evening in 2006, offering property owners modest riches for a simple act: leasing their land rights to the natural gas industry’s middlemen.

Carl W. Lohr, a farmer in Friendsville, didn’t sign that night. But when the land men from the Lexington, Ky.-based Keeton Group LLC came knocking at his door weeks later, he leased his 156 acres to the company for five years, at $5 per acre, in return for allowing gas wells to be drilled using a controversial practice called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

To frack or not to frack?

With the decision of the Caledonia Board of Alderman to allow fracking within the town’s city limits, what has been a national issue is now a local one.

The questions emerge: Is it safe? If so, what would fracking mean to the small town? There is no consensus on either question.

Gov. Jindal Ignores Sinkhole Disaster; Activists & Scientists Demand Assistance for Traumatized Residents

Although various agencies and companies claim to be doing their best to contain the problems associated with the Louisiana sinkhole that appeared on Aug. 3rd, 2012, these problems have, like the sinkhole itself, only continued to get bigger.

When the sinkhole first appeared, it was said to be the size of about 3 football fields. An American football field is about 9/10 of an acre, so the size of the original sinkhole was about 2-3/4 acres.

On Sat. Jan. 19, I asked Wilma Subra, environmental scientist and president of the Subra Company, what size the sinkhole is now. Subra responded, “It is over 8 acres with subsidence zones around the sinkhole that cause the overall impacted area to be 12 acres.  That does not count the area that caved in today. Those figures have not been released.”

‘T-Rex’ tests sinkhole

Cecil Hoffpauir used a decidedly low-tech method Friday to help scientists perform high-tech seismic tests to help understand an 8.5-acre sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish.

Two survey flags Hoffpauir planted in the ground and a length of rope stretched in between them were Hoffpauir’s guide to back the University of Texas’ 64,000-pound T-Rex vibroseis truck over the spot predetermined for testing.

Science conference focuses on BP oil spill

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who was in charge of cleaning up BP’s 2010 oil spill, will be the keynote speaker at an international scientific conference about the Gulf of Mexico.

His speech today in New Orleans kicks off hundreds of scientific presentations through Wednesday. They range from socioeconomic effects of the spill to developments in dispersant science and technology.

Science conference focuses on Gulf of Mexico oil spill, including damage to ecosystems and prospects for recovery

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who was in charge of cleaning up BP’s 2010 oil spill, will be the keynote speaker at an international scientific conference about the Gulf of Mexico.

Indian Rocks Beach Files Claim for BP Oil Spill

Indian Rocks Beach is joining other communities in filing claims against BP for the oil spill of 2010, according to the Belleair Bee.

Indian Rocks Beach is claiming $3.14 million was lost because of the oild spill.

Steffy: Rig survivor wants day in court before BP deal approved

Amid the emotional outpouring from families of those who died aboard the Deepwater Horizon is a simple request that U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance needs to grant before she approves BP’s record criminal settlement later this month.

Buddy Trahan, a Transocean manager and the most seriously injured survivor of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, remains in legal limbo, his case against BP entangled with other civil claims pending in a different New Orleans federal court.

Gulf Oil Spill Conference

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who was in charge of cleaning up BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, will be the keynote speaker at an international scientific conference about the Gulf.

His speech Monday in New Orleans kicks off hundreds of scientific presentations through Wednesday. They range from socioeconomic effects of the spill to developments in dispersant science and technology.

No oil spill, no outrage from Alaskans over Kulluk grounding

It is interesting to watch the fallout from the Shell drill rig’s grounding on Kodiak Island. On the one hand, the grounding has caught the attention of millions and given those who were already concerned about drilling in the Arctic new fuel for their fire. On the other hand, the fact that the rig did not spill any oil and did not, it appears, cause any significant environmental damage tempers the response of those on the fence.

‘Kulluk’ Damage Assessment Continues

The Kulluk  ran aground Dec. 31, 2012 on Sitkalidak Island and was later refloated and anchored in Kiliuda Bay.

Coast Guard personnel from the National Center of Expertise, the Salvage Emergency Response Team and Sector Anchorage have been aboard the Kulluk to assess the vessel’s stability, identify any potential pollution issues and to gather information for the ongoing investigation into the incident.

Mishaps prompt some oil companies to rethink Arctic gamble

When Shell started buying leases to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2005, the company was betting on Americans’ thirst for any oil locked under those Arctic waters, which could replace declining crude production from Alaska’s North Slope and other onshore resources.

Flash forward eight years, and the scenario has changed dramatically.

Salvagers battle Bahamas oil spill

Crews are trying to contain around 1,000 gallons of oil that spilled into the Atlantic off the northernmost island in the Bahamas, the owner of a salvage company in the archipelago says.

Raymond Darville of Overseas Marine Group said the spill is near an oil and gas storage facility in Freeport Harbour on Grand Bahama island.

Keystone Pipeline Adversaries Hope It Wilts Under Pressure, Now Petcoke Is The Problem

With President Obama set to announce climate change as a top priority for his second term, the stage is set for considering the Keystone XL Pipeline squarely within a global warming context, and a new report commissioned by the group Oil Change International certainly won’t provide much comfort to pipeline advocates.

Oil companies turn to trains instead of Enbridge’s leaky pipes

Enbridge — the Canadian company responsible for the worst onshore oil spill in American history when a pipe near Kalamazoo, Mich., ruptured in 2010 —  is suffering from oil companies’ newfound fondness for rail.

4000 Reasons Not to Build the Northern Gateway Pipeline

The Northern Gateway Pipeline Community Hearings are nearly complete, with two remaining sessions scheduled in Kelowna and Vancouver at the end of this month. Come February, the Joint Review Panel will move into the “Questioning Phase” of the final hearing, scheduled to end in May of this year.

Fish caught close to the Fukushima nuclear plant was 2,500 times over the legal safe radiation limit

The murasoi fish, which is comparable to a rockfish, was found in the area surrounding the now-closed power plant

Fish caught near crippled Japanese N-plant with 2,500 times the legal limit of radioactivity for human consumption

A fish caught close the the Fukushima nuclear plant is over 2,500 times the legal safe radiation limit for seafood, the plant’s operator has revealed.

The company Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) caught the fish, dubbed ‘Mike the Murasai’ online, in the bay close to the Fukukshima Daiichi main reactor.

Rift Widens Over Mining of Uranium in Virginia

In a landscape of rolling pastures and grazing cattle, Stewart East stepped from his pickup truck with a Geiger counter. He pointed it at a puddle filled by recent rains, and the instrument erupted in scratchy feedback.

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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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