Environmental Must-Reads – January 23, 2013


Split Fort Collins City Council advances fracking ban toward ballot

Wedged between overwhelming public outcry in favor of a vote that could prohibit hydraulic fracturing in Fort Collins and the near certainty that its passage would invite a lawsuit, a divided city council on Tuesday took the first step toward a ballot question about a ban.

What 204,000 Comments Say About Fracking

The fight over fracking has moved from an environmental and economic issue to a more fundamental question of democracy. On one side is broad public opposition to a practice that has known environmental and health consequences. On the other side are big corporate interests that make a fortune off of fracking, and in turn, invest heavily in political campaigns to protect their ability to frack. How the fracking issue gets decided will be an indication of whether we still have functioning independent democratic institutions or whether money really has taken over our system.

Wyoming judge hears fracking disclosure case

A judge heard arguments Tuesday over whether Wyoming regulators should empower the public to look up the ingredients in the chemical products used for hydraulic fracturing, the petroleum industry practice that splits open oil and gas deposits with pressurized water.

While California considers fracking rules, legal battles flare elsewhere

As California considers rules for hydraulic fracturing, a legal battle in Wyoming over regulations for the controversial drilling process could underscore the flash points in the coming debate here.

A coalition of environmental groups is suing the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission over that state’s “fracking” rules, arguing that regulators are rubber-stamping requests by oil and gas companies to keep secret certain chemicals they inject into the earth to break apart rock and release fossil fuels.

Fracking study group tackles disclosure rules

Interest groups hashing out North Carolina’s fracking regulations started work Tuesday by tackling rules on what the public will be told about chemical additives pumped underground and how broad trade secrecy exceptions will be allowed.

Duluth man’s death at fracking site in ND is ruled an accident

A Duluth man who died at a hydraulic fracturing site Saturday died of chest and abdominal injuries when he was hit by oilfield equipment, the North Dakota Medical Examiner’s Office said in a report issued Tuesday.

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.

Experts: Earthquake insurance covers fracking

If you want your homeowner’s insurance to also cover fracking-related incidents, you’re going to have to buy earthquake insurance, experts say.

“If you want to be covered in the event of an earthquake or earth movement, the homeowner has to buy either a (rider) to their existing standard homeowners policy or a freestanding earthquake policy,” said Mike Barry, vice president of media relations at the Insurance Information Institute, a national nonprofit institute funded by the insurance industry.

Montgomery lawmakers call for ban on fracking

Two Montgomery County lawmakers are proposing an outright ban on drilling for natural gas in Western Maryland through the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Del. Shane Robinson (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village and Sen. Karen S. Montgomery (D-Dist. 14) of Brookville are going beyond a proposal by colleague Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park to impose a moratorium on fracking until studies are done on public health and environmental effects of fracking, a process in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground to release the natural gas from rock formations.

Fracking questions bubble to surface

As of December, Colorado Springs City Council looked poised to pass an ordinance on oil and gas drilling regulations. Despite vociferous opposition outside and inside its chambers, the first reading of that ordinance passed fairly easily, 6 to 3.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a second reading: Council decided it had some more concerns. The second vote was postponed. And last Tuesday’s work session on drilling, which featured Kyle Campbell, the city’s local government liaison to the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, led to even more questions.

BLM revising its draft national fracking rule

A draft rule to govern hydraulic fracturing on public lands around the country will get another look before it’s reissued for additional public comment, federal officials said last week, explaining that they will released a revised draft sometime in the next three months, after a review by the Office of Management and Budget.

Study warns of increased amount of waste from Pennsylvania drilling

The volume of drilling wastes from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale is growing and threatening to overwhelm existing waste-handling infrastructure in Ohio and other states, according to a study released Tuesday.

Groups Demand Fracking Chemical Info

In an effort to help protect the public from exposure to toxic chemicals, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Earthworks and Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch) went to court today to ask a judge to require the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) to disclose information about chemicals used during the controversial oil and gas development process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Cancer-Causing Chemicals Used in 34% of Reported Fracking Operations

Recognized carcinogens are used in 1 in 3 hydraulic fracturing operations across the nation – according to industry self-reporting. Independent analysis of the SkyTruth Fracking Chemical Database by IT professional David Darling found that 9,310 individual fracking operations conducted between January 2011 and September 2012 disclosed the use of at least one known carcinogen. While not all hydraulic fracturing operations or all chemicals used in the process are disclosed by the drilling industry, thanks to the lack of a uniform national disclosure law and exacerbated by the liberal use of “trade secret” exemptions, known cancer-causing substances such as naphthalene, benzyl chloride, and formaldehyde were used in 34% of all fracks reported by industry to FracFocus.org.

Fishing Industry Frustrated With Science Reviews of BP Oil Spill

The public got a chance in New Orleans to hear about research under way to assess environmental damage caused by the BP oil spill. Some in the fishing industry say they feel left out of the process.

It was the first public forum at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference. The research initiative has $500 million provided by BP for a 10-year study. The head of the group said earlier this week that seafood is proving safe, and oil appears to be confined in the Gulf and breaking up. But to Dean Blanchard, this doesn’t mean much to his Grand Isle seafood business where fishing areas remain closed.

Lawyer seeks to extend filing deadline for BP Gulf oil spill seafood settlement

A Texas lawyer has filed a motion asking the federal judge overseeing the massive BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill litigation to extend the deadline for commercial fishing vessel owners and others to join a $2.3 billion settlement to cover seafood-related claims. The motion, filed Monday, comes ahead of this week’s seafood claims filing deadline, which is part of a larger settlement that aims to resolve more than 100,000 claims, which BP estimates could cost about $7.8 billion or more.

BP Oil Spill Conference Underway in New Orleans

Some of the world’s leading scientists and academics are in New Orleans this week to review research under way into the effects of the BP oil spill. It’s the first year of a 10-year review.

The conference is sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. BP is underwriting the $500 million-dollar grant program, which will look at the effects of the oil on people, as well as the Gulf ecosystem and coastline.

BP oil spill fine dollars starting to flow toward La.

Amid negotiation with the responsible parties, state officials continue to expect “billions of dollars” in civil and criminal penalties stemming from the 2010 Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, according to state attorney Drue Banta.

The state’s Coastal Master Plan, a 50-year outlook at $50 billion worth of flood protection and coastal restoration projects, would principally guide those funds, earmarked primarily for those purposes.

BP oil spill settlement claims chief says $332M being paid in Florida but more likely eligible

The administrator of a class-action settlement between petroleum giant BP and oil spill claimants said Tuesday that more than 34,000 Florida businesses and individuals so far have been approved to receive $332 million.

Patrick Juneau was in Tallahassee to meet with state officials and spread the word about the settlement. He appeared before a Florida Senate committee Tuesday and will visit with Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Wednesday.

Researchers debate oil-spill remedy

No aspect of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was more controversial than the decision to pump massive doses of chemical dispersant into the oil gushing from 1,500 metres down (see ‘Deep cleaning’). Advocates said that the mixture of solvents and detergent would separate the deep oil plume into finer droplets, speeding its breakdown. Critics feared damage to deep-water ecosystems.

Just how much will Shell sink into the Arctic?

Today, we published an advert in the Telegraph outlining a long list of disasters that have already befallen Shell and which demonstrate that Arctic drilling is a risk too far. The list is copied here and contains references for the facts referred to in the advert.

Alaska wants role in Kulluk investigation

The Alaskan government is calling on Washington to include its officials on a panel investigating last month’s incident regarding Shell’s drill ship Kulluk.

Seismic Activity Rose, Then Dropped After Louisiana Sinkhole ‘Burp’

Scientists have noticed a recent increase in seismic activity near the 8.5-acre sinkhole at Bayou Corne, and worry that it might grow again, Assumption Parish officials say.

The increase was first noticed about two weeks ago, John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told The Advocate.

New bubble site found at Louisiana sinkhole

Officials say 11 new bubble sites have been found in inundated swampland west of an 8.5-acre sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish.

The sites are roughly in a row west of an unnamed oilfield access road extending south from La. 70 South through the wooded swamp.

Governor of Nebraska Backs Route for Pipeline

The governor of Nebraska on Tuesday approved a revised route through the state for the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a decision for President Obama that pipeline opponents say will be a crucial test of his intentions on climate change.

Keystone pipeline faces new hurdles

The Keystone oil pipeline may have won approval from Nebraska’s governor Tuesday, but the final decision rests with President Obama.

Nebraska Governor OKs New Keystone Pipeline Route

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heinenman announced today that his state had completed an evaluation of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

In a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Heinenman said they were satisfied with a new route that avoids the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills so the state has approved the route.

Nebraska approves Keystone pipeline, leaving fate of project in Obama’s hands

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) on Tuesday approved a route through his state for the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, escalating Republican pressure on the White House to approve the project.

Heineman’s decision leaves the Obama administration as the last barrier in Keystone’s path, a fact that Republicans in both chambers were quick to highlight.

Controversial Keystone pipeline passes another hurdle

The controversial Keystone pipeline passed another hurdle Tuesday after the governor of Nebraska approved a new route that will avoid environmentally sensitive areas like the state’s Sand Hills.

An Early Nuclear Warning: Was It for Naught?

The accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011 alerted the American nuclear industry and its regulators to the possibility that operators at plants with more than one reactor might have to deal with more than one meltdown at a time in a flood, earthquake or other catastrophe. Officials are now working to assure that they could master that situation.

Fukushima Radiation Fears Still Haunt Japan

Disturbing news has come from the Fukushima area of Japan, site of the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that also destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, creating the worst nuclear disaster in decades.

Scientists monitoring sea life in the region have reported that a fish caught near the now-closed plant has radiation levels more than 2,500 times the limit established for seafood by the Japanese government, according to RT.com.

70% of towns behind in N-plans / Municipalities struggling to prepare disaster measures by March deadline

Fourteen of 20 cities, towns and villages in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures still have not compiled their disaster management plans despite a looming deadline in March, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

The 20 municipal governments are required to prepare the plans as they are located in areas where measures for responding to potential nuclear emergencies have been deemed necessary.

Giant Japanese Wind Farm To Replace Fukushima Power Plant

In the wake of the 2011 Fukishima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Japan has decided to build a 1GW wind farm.

When a wind farm is stated to be a certain number of MW or GW, that is normally the total generation capacity, so that is what you should assume.

Parents at Innovation Centre Encinitas concerned over radiation from cellphone antennas

Parents of children who attend a North County charter school are growing concerned about the dangers of radiation from cellphone antennas. Some are concerned to the point of withdrawing their children.

The antennas are on the grounds of the El Camino Christian Fellowship which leases space to the charter school, Innovation Centre Encinitas.

Cell tower fears have parents pulling kids from school

Parents in Encinitas were pulling their kids out of school because of health concerns at a charter school.

“She’s been attending this school since kindergarten,” said Sonya Goodwin, a mother.  “I pulled her out of the school just after Christmas, because I have concerns about the 18 cell sites.”

Europe ‘has failed to learn from environmental disasters’

Report says thousands of lives could have been saved and damage to ecosystems avoided if early warnings heeded

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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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