Environmental Must-Reads – January 27, 2014


Law could be changed to allow fracking below houses without owners’ permission

Ministers are reportedly reviewing laws that would allow fracking to be carried out underneath houses without the permission of the owners. Trespass laws are being examined to pave the way for energy companies to explore for shale gas.

Operators need to ask homeowners before they drill under their land but can turn to the law to appeal if an agreement cannot be reached.

Ohio EPA, health officials dismiss radioactive threat from fracking

When Pennsylvania environmental officials tested creek mud near a fracking wastewater-treatment plant last year, they found radiation at levels 45 times higher than federal drinking-water standards.

As the plant owner prepares to dredge radium from Blacklick Creek, Pennsylvania officials are examining other radiation problems related to Marcellus shale fracking. They’re testing tons of castoff rock and drilling sludge sent to Pennsylvania landfills and liquid waste routinely trucked to Ohio disposal wells.

EPA Defends Three Fracking Investigations, Will Work With States to Prevent Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency is working with states and will continue to do so to prevent or investigate groundwater contamination from shale gas drilling, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told a prominent environmental advocate.

McCarthy in a letter Jan. 10 was responding to a September letter from Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who accused the EPA of “a troubling trend of abandoning investigations of hydraulic fracturing before they are completed.”

TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes near Winnipeg

A natural gas pipeline operated by TransCanada exploded and caught fire in a rural part of western Canadan early on Saturday, putting fresh focus on the firm’s safety record ahead of a crucial White House decision over a controversial cross-border project.

The explosion happened near Otterburne, Manitoba, about 15 miles south of the provincial capital, Winnipeg. The area was evacuated as a precaution, said the National Energy Board (NEB), which oversees parts of Canada’s energy industry. No injuries were reported but the fire burned for more than 12 hours.

Fracking opponents want Colorado voters to decide regulations

The oil and gas regulation debate is heating up at the state Capitol.

Fracking opponents want to let Colorado voters decide whether cities and counties can ban businesses that conflict with the health, safety or welfare of a community.

De Blasio’s opposition to fracking

New York must be running out of room: Only days after Gov. Cuomo said there’s “no place in the state” for “extreme conservatives,” Mayor de Blasio said he doesn’t “see any place for fracking.”

De Blasio seems to be on the wrong side of history here, particularly in his own city. That’s because more and more New Yorkers are heating with natural gas — which can be supplied via fracking.

State agency fast tracks permits for fracking, raising concerns

The shale-gas company wanted a pollution permit in less than four months.

To help it meet that goal, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials had to do two things: avoid a public hearing and make sure the feds didn’t get involved.

Broomfield’s tab for election’s legal battles totals $13,000 so far

Broomfield has racked up at least $13,000 in costs related to lawsuits and other matters connected to the Nov. 5 election, which has been mired in controversy for months now

From Dec. 4 through Dec. 31, Broomfield spent about $13,000 on election-related costs, said Bill Tuthill, city and county attorney. Those costs came from line items in both the attorney’s office and Elections Division budgets.

Why West Michigan’s oil and gas – and fracking – boom failed to materialize in 2013

An oil and gas drilling boom that was hoped for – and feared – in West Michigan during 2013 never materialized.

While leases were signed and state lands were auctioned off for exploration rights amid fears that “fracking” would soon follow, the oil drilling rigs never arrived.

Proposal would allow fracking industry to move its waste down Ohio River on barges

Southwest Ohio may be hundreds of miles away from hydraulic fracturing activity, but the chemical-and-sand-infused byproduct of the shale gas drilling technique could soon be shipped down local waterways.

The U.S. Coast Guard is now mining through more than 1,000 public comments, as the agency decides whether to allow oil and gas companies to ship fracking wastewater on barges down the Ohio River and other rivers under its jurisdiction.

Fracking in eastern Virginia

Quietly and quickly, a company has leased thousands of acres around the Rappahannock River east of Fredericksburg to mine for oil and gas.

The target of all this activity is a geological formation called the Taylorsville Basin, which runs from north of Washington, D.C., to south of Richmond.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill conference discusses debunking myths and misconceptions

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference kicked off on Sunday (Jan. 26) in Mobile, Ala., where more than 800 oil spill-related experts are discussing their scientific research, the status of research and problems communicating that research from impacts on fisheries to the fate oil-spill residues as the fourth anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill approaches in April.

Volunteers use airborne patrols, satellite photos to spot oil spills along La. coast

Jonathan Henderson was shouting to be heard over the engine noise in the small plane as it circled above an oil rig just off the Louisiana coast. A ribbon of colored water extended from the rig for about 100 yards, and Henderson had asked the pilot for a closer look.

“Right there, that’s sheen,” Henderson yelled. “In fact, rainbow sheen tells us it’s oil, and it’s probably coming from that platform.”

Coast Guard overseeing cleanup of Delaware River oil spill

The U.S. Coast Guard reported Friday that it was overseeing the cleanup of 50 gallons of crude oil that spilled into the Delaware River from a Sunoco facility in South Philadelphia.

An estimated 2,000 gallons of crude oil had discharged Thursday from a broken pipe onto a parking lot at the Sunoco Logistics Terminal Facility. About 200 gallons spilled into a drain, of which 50 gallons went into the river.

Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train

Kerry’s Kitchen is where Casselton residents gather for gossip and comfort food, especially the caramel rolls baked fresh every morning. But a fiery rail accident last month only a half mile down the tracks, which prompted residents to evacuate the town, has shattered this calm, along with people’s confidence in the crude-oil convoys that rumble past Kerry’s seven times a day.

In North Dakota Town, Virtual Pipelines Prompt Concern (Photos)

Darrin Radenmacher, the son of the owner of Kerry’s Kitchen, took this picture of the fiery rail accident in Casselton, N.D., on Dec. 30, spilling 400,000 gallons of crude.

Analysis: Politics, legacy loom over Obama decision on Keystone XL pipeline

President Barack Obama will lay out an agenda on jobs, the economy and the environment during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday.

But he is unlikely to mention the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a politically charged project that could shape his legacy in each area.

Spike in deadly rail accidents fuel push to build Keystone XL pipeline

A string of deadly accidents and safety scares in recent months involving rail cars carrying crude oil is vividly demonstrating the dangers of relying on trains to transport the growing volumes of fuel being produced in North America, while giving ammunition to those who say the stalled Keystone XL and other pipelines are preferred ways to safely funnel fuel to market.

TransCanada Pipeline Explosion Shuts Off Gas For 4,000 Residents In Sub-Zero Temperatures

A natural gas pipeline operated by TransCanada Corp. exploded and caught fire in the Canadian province of Manitoba on Saturday, shutting off gas supplies for as many as 4,000 residents in sub-zero temperatures.

“We could see these massive 200- to 300-meter high flames just shooting out of the ground and it literally sounded like a jet plane,” resident Paul Rawluk told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

One of three pipelines returned to service, conservation still needed

One of three natural gas pipelines that have been out of service since an explosion in Manitoba early Saturday was being returned to service and is expected to reach full capacity by Monday afternoon, Xcel Energy officials said today.

“While this is good news, we still need customers to conserve natural gas,” said Kent Larson, Xcel Energy’s senior vice president for operations. “The system won’t be back to normal until the natural gas is delivered to our service territory, and demand remains high due to extremely cold temperatures.

Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement

Environmentalists have spent the past two years fighting the Keystone XL pipeline: They have built a human chain around the White House, clogged the State Department’s public comment system with more than a million emails and letters, and gotten themselves arrested at protests across the country.

But as bad as they argue the 1,700-mile pipeline would be for the planet, Keystone XL has been a boon to the environmental movement. While it remains unclear whether President Obama will approve the project, both sides agree that the fight has changed American environmental politics.

Pipeline to carry oil to Houma, south La. facilities

With the United States now producing more oil that it imports, south Louisiana facilities once used to import millions of barrels of oil are being redesigned and reversed to cope with the surplus of shale-produced domestic oil.

Shell is in the process of reversing the direction of a major artery linking oil hubs in Houma and Houston. On Dec. 16, the Houma-to-Houston pipeline, or Ho-Ho, became the Houston-to-Houma pipeline.

Railroad tank-car safety woes date decades before crude oil concerns

Long before crude oil and ethanol were transported by railroads in large quantities in minimally reinforced tank cars, other flammable and poisonous materials were riding around the country in the same cars, threatening major cities and waterways.

Federal regulators might be weeks away from issuing new safety guidelines for tank cars carrying flammable liquids, after a series of frightening rail accidents over the past six months.

Train Derailment In Edmunston, New Brunswick Is Second For Province In Three Weeks

Another CN (CN) freight train has derailed in New Brunswick, the second to run off the tracks in the province this month.

Local authorities say at least three cars derailed late Sunday night in the Edmunston-area parish of Saint-Basile in northwestern New Brunswick.

More Trouble in the Arctic for Shell

A US court decision may delay Royal Dutch Shell’s drilling plans in the Arctic in a small victory for environmentalists and Native American groups.

A panel of judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has agreed with environmentalists and Native American groups that the government acted illegally and with “incomplete information” when it moved to open up a 30-million-acre area of the Arctic to oil and gas exploration.

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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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