Environmental Must-Reads – January 21, 2014


House panel to review Kansas fracking industry

A Kansas House committee is getting an update on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the state and the potential connection to increased seismic activity.

Officials of state agencies and the Kansas Geological Survey were scheduled to speak Tuesday to the House Energy and Environment Committee.

New attempt on fracking standards launches

A hotly debated partnership between major oil and gas companies and some environmental groups moved forward Tuesday, almost a year after it was first announced.

The Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale said in a release that it is now accepting applications for a program that aims to enforce tough but voluntary new standards for fracking and other related activities in the Northeast. The CSSD said it has hired Bureau Veritas, a French global testing and inspection firm, to review applications and compliance by drillers.

Allegheny County to monitor air pollution from airport natural gas wells

Bob Sterner says he trusts Allegheny County’s government more than Consol Energy when it comes to testing air quality around a gas drilling site near his Findlay home.

Allegheny County officials said on Monday that the county Health Department will study air pollution from natural gas wells at Pittsburgh International Airport. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he called for the monitoring when residents of Findlay’s Imperial Pointe neighborhood expressed concern.

Who’s on first? A tale of two states on hydraulic fracturing and the constitution

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision in Township of Robinson v. Commonwealth, 63 MAP 2012 (Dec. 19, 2013), has spurred an abundance of analysis and debate surrounding Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, commonly referred to as the Environmental Rights Amendment (“ERA”). Reaction to the opinion varies widely, some offering high praise to the Court’s empowerment of the previously little-used Amendment, while others contend that the opinion significantly overreaches by providing unprecedented power to the ERA. Meanwhile, in New York State, a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is now in its sixth year. New York’s approach to (high-volume water) hydraulic fracturing could not be more different from Pennsylvania’s policies, and yet, this approach also raises significant constitutional concerns that may soon be heard in New York courts. What is interesting in reviewing recent events in both states is that constitutional challenges and environmental impact considerations are being used by those in favor of, and against, oil and gas development to achieve a conflicting end result.

Crude-oil tankers go off the rails above Schuylkill 

IT COULD HAVE been worse – a lot worse.

None of the seven CSX cars – six of them loaded with volatile crude oil – that derailed on the 128-year-old rail bridge over the Schuylkill between University City and Grays Ferry about 12:30 a.m. yesterday fell onto the busy expressway, which would have risked a fiery conflagration.

And none of the oil-laden tanker cars – criticized by experts and environmentalists as too easy to rupture – broke open and spilled into the waterway as they tilted precariously, although the Coast Guard rushed a boat to the scene and placed booms across the river just in case.

More oil spilled from trains in 2013 than in previous 4 decades

More crude oil was spilled in U.S. rail incidents last year than was spilled in the nearly four decades since the federal government began collecting data on such spills, an analysis of the data shows.

Including major derailments in Alabama and North Dakota, more than 1.15 million gallons of crude oil was spilled from rail cars in 2013, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Judge to sentence Halliburton manager in oil spill

A former Halliburton manager faces a possible prison term when a federal judge sentences him for destroying evidence in the aftermath of BP’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anthony Badalamenti, of Katy, Texas, was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey. Badalamenti pleaded guilty in October to one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence and faces a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

State of the Gulf: BP Oil Spill Beach Report: Monday, January 20, 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.

‘They have devastated Mayflower’

For her entire life, 28-year old Genieve Long has called Mayflower home. But ever since an Exxon pipeline ruptured in late March 2013, dumping thousands of barrels worth of toxic crude oil onto the Arkansas town, Mayflower has come to feel more like a prison.

“I live next door to the house that I was raised in,” Long told msnbc. “This was a place I wanted to raise my kids in. And I’m afraid to raise them in it now, because of their health, because of what can happen to them.”

Pipeline being expanded Keystone XL-style hit with oil spill

A leak in one of the pump stations along Enbridge Energy’s Line 67 pipeline caused about 125 barrels to spray across a rural area of Saskatchewan, Canada, the company reported on Saturday. Once Enbridge detected the leak, it promptly shut down the pipeline and dispatched a clean-up crew, according to an official press statement.

“There is no impact to the public, wildlife or waterways,” according to the statement. “Enbridge first responders with clean-up and response equipment are on-site, and expect the cleanup to be completed this weekend.”

Oil to start flowing through southern Keystone pipeline

Hour after hour, day after day, the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is slowly filling with millions of barrels of oil.

The fate of the more controversial northern half of the Keystone, which crosses the Canadian border and requires approval by the White House, may remain undecided. But after years of legal and regulatory fights, the southern Keystone is scheduled to begin delivering oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast on Wednesday.

High-Tech Monitors Often Miss Oil Pipeline Leaks

Energy and pipeline companies like to point out they use high-tech sensors and remote-monitoring systems to automatically alert engineers when a pipeline starts to leak oil.

However, most leaks usually aren’t discovered that way, according to a review of four years of liquid pipeline accident records. The overwhelming majority of these pipeline spills, ruptures and leaks were discovered by somebody near the accident site, a Wall Street Journal review of a database of more than 1,400 accident reports collected by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found.

Canadian musician targets Keystone pipeline in anti-oil sands tour

TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline is a “terrible idea” that won’t benefit anyone, Canadian musician Neil Young said.

“This fuel is all going to China, which is probably the dirtiest place on the planet,” Young told reporters before a concert in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Thursday.

Enbridge launches hundreds of digs for cracks in Line 9

In the last six months, Enbridge Pipelines Inc. has filed hundreds of maintenance notices for cracks, dents and corrosion on the controversial Line 9 pipeline that runs through rural Hamilton.

Activists and pipeline experts say it’s a sign that the 38-year-old line is brittle, and strengthens their argument against the company’s current plan to reverse the pipeline’s flow and increase its capacity to carry crude.

‘Black swans’ of science: Alaska’s big earthquake and Exxon Valdez oil spill

Fifty years ago, North America’s most powerful recorded earthquake struck Alaska. With an epicenter in Prince William Sound, the magnitude-9.2 earthquake demolished communities in the state’s most populous region, created numerous killer tsunami waves, and resulted in 131 deaths, including some as far away as California. The catastrophic quake is today considered a scientific “black swan,” an extremely rare, unpredictable and disastrous event. Twenty-five years later, also in Prince William Sound, came another “black swan,” a disaster that officials had assured would not happen except possibly once in a century: the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

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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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