Environmental Must-Reads – January 22, 2013


Tracing the Culprit if Fracking Pollutes Water Supplies

Scientists are developing ways to add non-toxic tracers to drilling fluid so if groundwater is contaminated, investigators would be able to pinpoint if an oil or gas drilling operation was to blame.

“What’s impossible at the moment is if you’ve got multiple companies in an area and it’s thought there is contamination, there is no way to tell which company caused the contamination,” said Andrew Barron at Rice University in Houston.

Universities Teaming Up to Assess Health Impacts of Gas Drilling

Universities announce a collaborative effort to assess any health risks from fracking.

Photographers Seek to Shine Light on Marcellus Shale Drilling

A new photo exhibit on Marcellus Shale is up at the Gershman Y in Philadelphia, and it’s worth a look if you’re in town. Several years ago six professional photographers, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, decided to document the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh resident Brian Cohen helped conceive the idea, and simply calls it the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project. The photographers also include Noah Addis, Nina Berman, Scott Goldsmith, Lynn Johnson, and Martha Rial. A panel discussion and reception takes place Wednesday evening, January 23. I spoke with Brian Cohen last week as he was hanging the show in Center City Philadelphia.

Longmont wants fracking case in Boulder County

A lawsuit over Longmont’s anti-fracking charter amendment should be heard in Boulder County and not Weld County, and should not include a “takings” argument, the city’s attorneys argued in a filing to the Weld County District Court.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued the city in December over its ban of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process that uses high-pressure fluid to crack open oil and gas deposits deep below the earth. The ban was adopted by a citizen referendum.

BLM to Pull Back Proposed Fracking Rule, Will Issue Revised Version in First Quarter

The Interior Department will pull back its proposed rule on hydraulic fracturing for changes with the intention of issuing a new proposal sometime in the first quarter, an Interior spokesman said Jan. 18.

The Bureau of Land Management, an Interior agency, proposed the rule in early 2012 to update oil and gas drilling and production regulations on federal lands, but the draft received much criticism from industry and government officials, who said it would be very expensive and impractical.

Minnesota man dies in North Dakota fracking accident

Authorities say a 49-year-old Duluth, Minn., man has been killed in a hydraulic fracturing accident in North Dakota.

WV group studying regional impact of fracturing

A West Virginia-based environmental consulting group announced two new projects Jan. 21 looking at the controversial practice of shale gas development and the associated practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Independent film takes pro-fracking perspective

FrackNation is a new documentary that attacks opponents of fracking for oil and gas, but it also raises a bigger question: Is it possible to criticize environmentalists without being a tool for big industry?

Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is a method of stimulating oil and gas from deep underground that has led to a historic boom in U.S. production while also stoking controversy over its possible impact on the environment and human health. FrackNation, an independent documentary produced by Los Angeles-based filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, addresses the issue from an unusual perspective.

Meeting assesses Deepwater impact

The Deepwater Horizon/BP oil leak that started April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people, not only had local impact but also changed the way people in other countries see oil and gas exploration.

Scientists gather in New Orleans to discuss effects of BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill

More than 1,000 scientists and public officials gathered in New Orleans on Monday for the most comprehensive review of scientific information about the short- and long-term effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon accident and spill since it occurred in April 2010. The three-day Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference is aimed at understanding the effects of pollution resulting from the spill and its effect on natural systems in the Gulf and along the shoreline, and on the people who live and work there.

National Academy of Sciences to Run Environmental Program from BP Settlement

On 15 November, the US government and BP Exploration and Production Inc reached a settlement that requires the company to pay $4 billion in penalties for the 20 April 2010 Deepwater  Horizon disaster.

More than half of that money will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for restoration projects in the five states most affected by the oil spill. Another $350 million will be used by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to establish a program on human health and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico. As PHYSICS TODAY went to press, the settlement awaited final approval by a federal judge.

Bahamas Oil Spill, Another  1,000 Gallons in the Atlantic

Yet another oil spill has occurred in our world’s Atlantic Ocean, this time it’s a Bahamas oil spill. It is reported by the Associated Press that the spill occurred sometime yesterday morning off of the northernmost island in the Bahamas.  Crews are currently trying to clean up about 1000 gallons of oil that leaked from a source still not defined. Yes, it is still unclear as to what caused this oil spill; possibly a ship docked to refuel.  There is an oil and gas storage facility in Freeport Harbour on Grand Bahama island, could it be something to do with this facility? I’m sure we will all find out soon.

Salvage Company Trying to Contain Oil Spill in the Bahamas

The owner of a salvage firm in the Bahamas said teams have been trying to contain about 1,000 gallons of oil that spilled into the waters of the Atlantic off Grand Bahama island. According to Raymond Darville of the Overseas Marine Group Ltd., the spill took place on Sunday morning close to a gas and oil storage facility in Freeport Harbor. Darville added that they don’t know exactly how the spill happened, but a ship was refueling alongside a barge when an oily sheen started to spread close to the mouth of the harbor. Just last month, approximately 3,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Atlantic from a cargo vessel off Grand Bahama.

Eco-adventure tourism threatened by oil tankers

In June 2010, during the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Southern Mississippi’s charter boat industry was free-falling. Business crashed an average of 70 per cent due to the spill.

That statistic caught my attention. Seventy per cent declines are disastrous numbers for any industry, and this was a coastal tourism industry very similar to one we have here in British Columbia.

Lawmakers propose regulation of tar sands pipeline

Vermont legislators are proposing two bills aimed at regulating the potential piping of Canadian tar sands oil through Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

The bills — one already introduced in the House and another coming through the Senate this week — clarify that state approval would be necessary for physically changing an oil pipeline for purposes other than repair, and governing on the basis of safety falls under the strict purview of the federal government.

Sinkhole briefings  slated in Assumption

Two briefings for Assumption Parish residents affected by a large sinkhole are scheduled at the Assumption Community Center in Napoleonville, parish officials said.

Texas Brine Co. LLC officials will speak to residents about their activities in response to the sinkhole at 6 p.m. Jan. 30, parish officials said in a blog post Sunday.

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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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