Environmental Must-Reads – January 29, 2014


Frozen Northeast Getting Gouged by Natural Gas Prices

As temperatures plunge anew into single digits across much of the U.S. Northeast, natural gas prices have been going in the opposite direction. On Jan. 22, thermostats in New York City bottomed out at 7 degrees, a day after the price to deliver natural gas into the city spiked to a record $120 per million British Thermal Units in the spot market on the outskirts of town. That’s about 30 times more expensive than what the equivalent amount of gas cost a hundred miles away in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, the biggest natural gas field in the U.S. and home to some of the lowest gas prices in the world. And you thought this was the age of cheap energy.

Environmentalists cringe as Obama touts oil and gas

President Barack Obama celebrated “booming” U.S. oil and gas production during his fifth formal State of the Union address Tuesday night, delivering a blow to environmentalists worried the president isn’t doing enough to combat climate change.

From his podium in the House of Representatives, Obama held steadfast to his pledge of an “all-of-the-above energy strategy” that he claimed was bringing America “closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.”

Ex-DEC Chief: Length of fracking review “seems to be excessive,” but precaution necessary

The state’s former top environmental regulator on Monday said the length of New York’s health review of hydrofracking “seems to be excessive,” but emphasized the importance of ensuring the protection of public water before moving forward.

Pete Grannis, former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said he’s “surprised it has taken this long” to come to a decision on whether to allow large-scale fracking in New York, which was first put on hold when Grannis (pictured) headed the DEC in 2008.

Eco-groups ask Obama to reopen Texas water contamination case

Pressure on the Obama administration to take decisive action to protect Americans from the public health and environment effects of fracking intensified today as a coalition of concerned organizations called on President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to re-open investigations into the connection between drilling and fracking for oil and gas and contaminated groundwater in Parker County, Texas, and to ensure that residents there have access to safe drinking water. Initiated by Americans Against Fracking and signed by over 200 groups, the letter also asked the administration to meet with residents whose water has been contaminated, just as the administration has met with representatives from the oil and gas industry.

Texas crude vies with Saudi Arabia for California imports

Texas is poised to join Saudi Arabia as a supplier of oil to California as the mounting glut of crude on the U.S. Gulf Coast makes the trade profitable.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, the pipeline operator that’s buying U.S. oil tankers, said it’s in talks to ship Texas crude to California through the Panama Canal. The 4,500-mile voyage would cost about $10 a barrel, broker Poten & Partners Inc. estimates, making Texas crude competitive with imports traveling 11,400 miles from Saudi Arabia, the West Coast’s largest supplier, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Fast-tracking of fracking permits comes under fire

Some environmental groups and eastern Ohio residents say the state is hurrying permits for gas processing plants amid the shale drilling boom.

They say fast-tracking some permit requests and trying too hard to help the operations prevent close examination of local concerns about air and water pollution from refineries and the fracking process that frees the gas. Ohio Environmental Council lobbyist Jack Shaner said the state is putting the industry over its concerned citizens.

Hurley to hold off on fracking moratorium

Town Board members were criticized Monday for announcing there would be no further effort to develop a moratorium against hydraulic fracturing for natural gas until consultants recommended that the time was right.

Discussions about proposed laws came after recommendations from the town planner and an attorney were read by Supervisor Gary Bellows.

Drilling company names fracking sites after superheros

Western Pennsylvania-based Rice Energy has been truly unconventional when it comes to naming its natural gas wells.

The company has appropriated monikers of superheros, including Batman and Robin, the Hulk, X-man, Zorro– even Captain Planet, an early 90?s cartoon promoting environmentalism.

Ministers have ‘failed to convince the public’ over fracking, Owen Paterson admits

Ministers have “failed to convince the public” over the merits of fracking and have lost ground to campaigners with “exciting” clothes and banners, Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, has admitted.

Mr Paterson said on Tuesday that he would like to see “shale gas exploited all over rural parts of the UK” on the grounds it would “bring wealth and prosperity and jobs”.

Fracking in Lincolnshire: Drilling for shale gas ‘would devastate our remaining countryside’

THE debate surrounding fracking, the controversial method of obtaining gas, has intensified in northern Lincolnshire.

It came after French energy giant Total revealed it was investing up to £12 million on drilling for shale gas in a field covering 240 square kilometres around Gainsborough.

West Virginia Chemical Spill Even Worse Than Reported

The amount of chemicals spilled from a West Virginia coal processing plant into the Elk River is even greater than previously reported, according to a statement issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection late Monday.

Freedom Industries has revised their estimate to approximately 10,000 gallons as the amount of Crude MCHM/PPH spilled on Jan. 9 into the local water supply, a mile and a half upstream from the intake pipes for the regional water utility, West Virginia American Waters.

Gulf Coast residents not showing higher chemical exposure post-BP oil spill than rest of nation

Gulf Coast residents in areas affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill don’t appear to have higher chemical exposure than others across the nation, the head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ epidemiology branch said Tuesday.

But researchers have found increased rates of depression and anxiety among people who worked in the spill cleanup.

USA TODAY poll: Slight majority backs Keystone pipeline

A slight majority of Americans favor the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that President Obama is expected to approve or reject this year, finds a poll conducted for USA TODAY.

About 56% say they favor the northern leg of the billion-dollar, Canada-to-U.S. project while 41% oppose it, according to the poll of 801 U.S. adults completed last month by Stanford University and Resources for the Future (RFF), a non-partisan research group.

NextGen Releases Ad Trashing Keystone Pipeline

The Keystone XL pipeline isn’t likely to come up during the State of the Union address but it’s on many people’s minds – including environmental activists’.

On Tuesday evening before the speech, NextGen Climate Action, the political advocacy group led by San Francisco philanthropist Tom Steyer, will run an ad on MSNBC trashing the pipeline proposal.

Keystone opponents use rail constraints to urge pipeline’s rejection

Environmentalists are making an unusual argument in their attempt to stop the Keystone XL pipeline: that trains can’t move all the oil out of Canada.

Keystone supporters say Canada could just as easily transport the additional oil to the U.S. on trains — meaning building the pipeline won’t contribute to climate change because the oil’s coming out, pipeline or no.

Shell seeks to sell stake in U.S. Gulf Coast pipeline: source

Royal Dutch Shell Plc wants to sell a stake in a key U.S. Gulf Coast crude oil pipeline for as much as $1 billion and is working with Barclays Plc to solicit offers, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Shell recently reversed the 360,000-barrels-per-day pipeline known as Ho-Ho that flows from Houston, Texas to Houma, Louisiana. The reversal and start of operations last month are expected to relieve a glut of crude oil in the Houston area.

The 1969 Oil Spill That Launched the Modern Environmental Movement

If you were to gaze out over the California waves on this date in 1969, your eyes might encounter an incoming tide of thick, black filth. That’s because on January 28 that year, a new drilling rig operated by Union Oil, Platform “A,” suffered a blowout and was violently flooding the ocean with loads upon loads of crude.

The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill still ranks in the top tier of the United States’ human-caused disasters; the only larger spills came from the 1989 Exxon Valdez crash and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon calamity. By the time workers sealed the Union well more than a week later, more than 4 million gallons of oil had escaped into the sensitive marine environment. Miles of California beaches were turned into hellish morasses of reeking petroleum, littered with the dead bodies of seals and sea lions and innumerable limp seabirds.

Arctic Finds Make Case for Northern Norway Oil Hub, Lundin Says

Recent oil discoveries in Norway’s Arctic Barents Sea, including one by Lundin Petroleum AB (LUPE), have made the case for the construction of billions of dollars of export infrastructure, the Swedish oil explorer said.

“These discoveries alone are sufficient to be able to justify infrastructure starting to develop,” Lundin’s Chief Executive Officer Ashley Heppenstall said at a presentation in Oslo today. “Don’t ask me how or when but it’s coming.”

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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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