Environmental Must-Reads – January 26, 2015


Environment official: Saltwater spill reached Missouri River

Water testing has shown that saltwater contamination from a massive pipeline spill in northwestern North Dakota reached the Missouri River, the state’s environmental chief said Friday, adding that officials don’t expect harm to wildlife or drinking water supplies because it was so diluted.

Blacktail Creek and the Little Muddy River were contaminated after nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater leaked this month from a pipeline operated by Summit Midstream Partners LLC, the largest spill of its kind in the state since the current energy boom began.

Oil Train Spills Hit Record Level in 2014

American oil trains spilled crude oil more often in 2014 than in any year since the federal government began collecting data on such incidents in 1975, an NBC News analysis shows.

The record number of spills sparked a fireball in Virginia, polluted groundwater in Colorado, and destroyed a building in Pennsylvania, causing at least $5 million in damages and the loss of 57,000 gallons of crude oil.

Road Maintenance from Marcellus Shale Drilling Concerns Delegates

The House Finance Committee met Wednesday to hear the budget requests from various agencies within the Department of Transportation. But one of the many concerns the Delegates had was the state of roads due to Marcellus Shale drilling.

In the House Finance Committee, the budget requests were led by Transportation Secretary, Paul Mattox.

Like Sands Through the Fracking Facility

Cattle farmer Ken Schmitt walked up to a creek near his Wisconsin farm last June. Instead of a crystal-clear brook, he saw what looked like coffee with cream. Effluent from a nearby mine, where a company harvests sand used in the fracking industry, had washed into the creek during a rainstorm.

All over western Wisconsin, silt, sand, and chemicals from frac sand mines have been spilling into waterways, damaging trout habitat. Wisconsin holds 75 percent of the market for frac sand, 95 billion pounds of which was injected into fracking wells last year. In the last decade, the number of frac sand mines in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the other hot spot for the industry, has doubled.

 Pipeline spill exposes a fracking cost

From North Dakota comes word of a record oil and gas spill. No, not the petroleum itself, but the wastewater from the fracking process. And these days there’s a lot of it.

The water could be toxic, even though federal rules exempt it from treatment as hazardous waste. Fracking pumps huge volumes of water into the well, and even more comes back out. A typical well can spit about 1,000 gallons a day. Some of the water is recycled back into fracking, stored in pits or used to de-ice roads. It’s also injected deep underground, which has been known to cause earthquakes.

Why Is It Legal to Cause Fracking Earthquakes In Colorado?

This falls in the “You Can’t Make This Shit Up” category in Colorado.

Yesterday it was reported that a fracking waste company—NGL Water Solutions DJ LLC—that was linked to causing earthquakes is allowed by Gov. John Hickenlooper’s appointed oil and gas commission to increase their fracking waste injection operations, and it was determined that the company did not violate any law or rule when they likely caused the earthquakes.

Fracking paused on gas wells in Western Colorado

The largest natural gas developer in Colorado has instituted a fracking freeze in the Piceance Basin of Western Colorado in response to dropping prices for natural gas and oil.

WPX Energy announced in a blog post this week that it will “pause” the completion process for about 20 wells that have been drilled in the Piceance Basin. That means the wells will sit idle for the time being and won’t undergo the hydraulic fracturing needed to release gas from underground formations.

“We are looking at ways to save on costs,” said WPX spokesman Jeff Kirtland.

British lawmakers call for freeze on fracking citing enviromental concerns

A committee of British lawmakers demanded a national moratorium on fracking due to environmental concerns on Monday, ahead of a crucial vote intended to boost the shale gas industry.

An inquiry by the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee, which examines the effect of government policy on the environment, found the extraction and burning of more fossil fuels was contrary to Britain’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It warned that fracking — in which water, chemicals and sand are pumped at high pressure underground to extract gas — posed uncertain risks to public health, air quality, and water supplies.

America’s fracking ‘boom’ is having its worst months ever

They threw a fracking party in Illinois, and hardly anyone showed up.

More precisely, two months after the state completed a long regulatory process and opened the door to hydraulic fracturing, only one company applied. The state hired 36 employees and five lawyers to handle the expected rush of applicants, reported the Chicago Tribune, “for work that doesn’t exist.”

George Osborne urges ministers to fast-track fracking measures in leaked letter

George Osborne has requested that ministers make dozens of interventions to fast-track fracking as a “personal priority”, including the delivery of numerous “asks” from shale gas company Cuadrilla.

The list of requests are laid out in a leaked letter to the chancellor’s cabinet colleagues. They include interventions in local planning, and offering public land for potential future drilling. Anti-fracking campaigners claim the letter reveals collusion with the industry, while Labour said it showed the government was an “unabashed cheerleader for fracking”.

In BP oil spill trial, U.S. witness to outline how much BP can afford to pay in fines

The U.S. government plans to call its final witnesses Friday (Jan. 23) as it seeks the maximum $13.7 billion penalty against BP for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The testimony will estimate the impact such a fine would have on BP’s finances.

The Justice Department witnesses already have testified about the spill’s impact on the environment and the Gulf Coast economy in the penalty phase of the civil trial over the disaster. The penalty phase started Tuesday.

BP to call witnesses as it fights for lesser spill penalty

It will be oil giant BP’s turn Monday to call witnesses as it makes its case for a civil penalty lower than the $13.7 billion the federal government is seeking for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The second week of a three-week trial was set to begin in New Orleans. Last week, government experts testified about environmental, economic and social damage arising from the spill. BP attorneys disputed much of that testimony, and have argued the recovery of the environment and the Gulf economy has been strong.

BP’s finances ‘better today than prior to the oil spill,’ can handle $13.7B fine, witness testifies

BP’s financial position is “better today than it was prior to the oil spill,” leaving the company more than able to pay the maximum $13.7 billion penalty the government is seeking for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a forensic accounting expert testified Friday (Jan. 23).

Ian Ratner, a partner at GlassRatner Advisory & Capital Group based in Atlanta, was the final witness called by the U.S. government during the first week of the penalty phase of the civil trial over the 2010 oil spill. The trial began Tuesday.

Breached pipeline that spilled oil lies exposed on riverbed

Sonar indicates part of an underground pipeline that spilled almost 40,000 gallons of oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River and fouled a local water supply is exposed on the riverbed.

The pipeline is exposed for about 50 feet near where the breach occurred Jan. 17, according to a news release from public agencies involved with the response.

The pipeline had been buried at least 8 feet under the riverbed, and the depth was last confirmed in September 2011.

Exxon gets $1 million penalty for Yellowstone River spill

Federal officials have issued a $1 million penalty against Exxon Mobil Corp. for safety violations stemming from a pipeline rupture in 2011 that spilled 63,000 gallons of crude into Montana’s Yellowstone River.

The Department of Transportation order issued Friday reduces the penalty as originally proposed by about $700,000. That comes after the Irving, Texas-based oil company challenged some claims that it didn’t do enough to prevent the accident.

Yellowstone River oil spill clean-up hindered by ice at site of pipeline break

One week after a pipeline spilled nearly 40,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River and contaminated a Montana city’s water supply, clean-up crews have made little progress in their efforts to remove the oil from the partially frozen river.

The site of the pipeline break, six miles upstream from the high-plains city of Glendive, Montana, is almost entirely capped in ice, complicating efforts to retrieve the oil and slowing the response process. The cause of the spill remains under investigation.

Clean-up crews on site of Greenbrier County oil spill

Crews arrived Sunday morning to start clean-up efforts after a major oil spill in Greenbrier County on Friday night.

Meanwhile, municipalities along the Greenbrier River started preparing and warning residents of water problems caused by the 3,500 to 4,500 gallons of diesel fuel leaked into the nearby Anthony Creek during a tanker accident, said Greenbrier County Emergency Management Director Al Whitaker.

Further review sought for Enbridge pipeline expansion

Janesville City Councilman Jim Farrell uses words such as dismayed, disappointed—even embarrassed—to describe the city council’s decision not to support further scrutiny of planned expansion of an oil pipeline that runs through Rock County.

On a 4-2 vote in December, the council defeated a resolution similar to one that’s been passed in at least five Wisconsin counties and two other cities.

How a Hard-Charging General Became an Environmental Crusader

Lt. General Russel L. Honoré first noticed something was deeply wrong in his home state of Louisiana in September 2005, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. Honoré, commander of the military’s disaster response operation, was choppering back to his floating headquarters aboard the USS Bataan when he saw a ribbon of rainbow on the water beneath him. “What in the heck is that?” he recalls asking the pilot. “He said, ‘Those are old oil wells, General—you see the derricks knocked down.'” Honoré was staring down at one of the storm’s little-noticed consequences—millions of gallons of oil spilled into the state’s fragile coastal wetlands. “And my heart almost stopped.”

Woman documents the effects of giant sinkhole on the community

The community near the giant Louisiana sinkhole is largely a ghost town these days, but a filmmaker wants to make sure Bayou Corne is never forgotten.

“I haven’t been in my home for one year,” one woman said. “My home is deteriorating before my eyes.”

For the past two years, Victoria Greene has been gathering interviews and information about the massive sinkhole and the effects it’s had on Assumption Parish. The film will be finished in late spring, but a special preview gala is coming up next week in New Orleans.

Five Years after Enbridge Oil Spill, Landowners Await Spring Landscaping of Repaired Line

For weeks, the earth shook regularly outside David Gallagher’s house as the Canadian company Enbridge Inc. replaced its aging oil pipeline known as 6B.

The giant trenching tractors, bulldozers and trucks that once shook his house with the intensity of a small earthquake have disappeared and oil now pulses through the pipeline that runs 14 feet from his house near Ceresco, Mich.

The shaking stopped months ago, but Gallagher remains perhaps even more shaken by the emotional aftershocks of the experience.

Arctic oil is inconsistent with 2 degree Celsius target, says WWF

Norway’s decision to offer more Barents Sea drillings would be incommensurate with efforts to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), says Samantha Smith of the World Wildlife Fund.

Air temperatures rising, sea ice melting, snow cover declining, permafrost warming, glacier retreat accelerating, ocean surface warming, air temperatures rising and Greenland ice sheet melting. The list of evidence for global warming is long.

Obama proposes expanding oil-drilling ban in Alaska wildlife refuge

President Obama proposed designating 1.4 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as protected wilderness, drawing cheers from environmentalists but setting off a bitter new battle Sunday with the Republican-controlled Congress over oil and gas drilling in pristine areas of northern Alaska.

The plan would permanently bar drilling and other forms of development in the 19.8-million-acre refuge’s coastal plain, a narrow strip between the Brooks Range mountains and the Arctic Ocean where caribou give birth. The area, estimated to hold 10.3 billion barrels of oil, is home to more than 200 species, including polar bears, wolverines, musk oxen and thousands of migratory birds.

Add comment

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This