Environmental Must-Reads – January 3, 2013


Bridge To Nowhere? NOAA Confirms High Methane Leakage Rate Up To 9% From Gas Fields, Gutting Climate Benefit

Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have reconfirmed earlier findings of high rates of methane leakage from natural gas fields. If these findings are replicated elsewhere, they would utterly vitiate the climate benefit of natural gas, even when used to switch off coal.

Methane leaks erode green credentials of natural gas

Losses of up to 9% show need for broader data on US gas industry’s environmental impact.

How fracking is corroding small-town America

This isn’t an article about the method of extracting natural gas from deep subterranean rock called hydrofracturing, or fracking, because you either already know where you stand on that issue or you’re not much interested. And it’s not exactly an article about Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant’s fracking drama “Promised Land,” even though the movie surprised me with the grace and sophistication of its portrayal of small-town America, along with nice supporting performances from Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt and John Krasinski. (I wish it hadn’t been crammed into the most crowded season of the year, amid all kinds of movies with more star power and sizzle.) It might be about why “Promised Land” hit me so hard, and may hit you hard too if you spend time in the parts of America where the fracking debate is defining the future.

Safer Fracking

Can hydrofracking—using fluids to break open underground rock formations and recover trapped natural gas—be done safely? This is a question I am often asked by friends who read stories linking shale gas production to incidents of water pollution. While fracking is frequently blamed for contaminating groundwater, studies indicate that pollution may actually stem from more basic issues like faulty well construction and design or improper wastewater disposal.

Gas Drilling Is Called Safe in New York

The state’s Health Department found in an analysis it prepared early last year that the much-debated drilling technology known as hydrofracking could be conducted safely in New York, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times from an expert who did not believe it should be kept secret.

NY State Health Department Report Says Fracking Could Be Done Safely

A document from Governor Cuomo’s Administration assessing the health impacts of hydro fracking, written in early 2012, says the gas drilling process is likely safe if proper precautions are taken by the governor’s environmental agency.

In Draft, State Says Fracking Requirements Would Likely Prevent Health Impacts

A draft assessment prepared by the state last year found New York’s proposed requirements for hydraulic fracturing would likely prevent or reduce the risk of impact on human health.

The draft, written in early 2012 and recently obtained by Gannett’s Albany Bureau, offers a glimpse at the state’s behind-the-scenes review of hydrofracking’s health effects. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation on Wednesday dismissed the assessment as outdated and no longer relevant.

An Investigation Of The Global Anti-Fracking Movement

Unconventional natural gas is often described as game-changing and transformative, a revolution heralding a golden age of cheap, plentiful energy for a resource-constrained world.

But only if it makes it out of the ground.

As shown by local bans in the US and Canada, national moratoriums in France and Bulgaria, and tighter regulation in Australia and the UK, the global anti-fracking movement has mounted an effective campaign against the extraction of unconventional gas through hydraulic fracturing.

Rulemaking for oil and gas drilling faces resistance from Boulder County fracking foes

Proposed setback of 500 feet between well, building slammed as ‘superficial’

Alaska fracking proposal draws praise

New rules proposed by state regulators in Alaska for hydraulic fracturing are “quite comprehensive,” the director of a water advocacy group said.

Alaska Proposes Changes to Hydraulic Fracturing Rules

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) has proposed to adopt changes to rules governing hydraulic fracturing activity in the state.

AOGCC said Dec. 20 it proposed regulations changes in Title 20, Chapter 25 of the Alaska Administrative Code. AOGCC plans to add new regulations, including requirements for landowners, surface owners and operators within one-quarter mile of a wellbore being notified of hydraulic fracturing activity.

Meet Anthony Ingraffea—From Industry Insider to Implacable Fracking Opponent

Why, exactly, is high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing such a devastating industry? How best to describe its singularity—its vastness, its difference from other industries and its threat to the planet?

When I interviewed Dr. Anthony Ingraffea—Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University and president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, Inc., I realized that his comments were perhaps the clearest, most compactly instructive of any I’d heard on fracking.

Why North Dakota glows at night – big picture

The north-west part of the state is one of least populated parts of the US but has been aglow in recent years.

Montana: Exxon Faulted for Response to Spill

Delays in Exxon Mobil’s response to a major pipeline break beneath Yellowstone River made an oil spill much worse than it otherwise would have been, Department of Transportation investigators said in a new report.

Feds: Delayed response worsened Yellowstone oil spill

Delays in Exxon Mobil Corp.’s response to a major pipeline break beneath Montana’s Yellowstone River made an oil spill far worse than it otherwise would have been, federal regulators said in a new report.

Yellowstone River Oil Spill: Delayed Response From Exxon Made Matters Worse, Feds Say

Delays in Exxon Mobil Corp.’s response to a major pipeline break beneath Montana’s Yellowstone River made an oil spill far worse than it otherwise would have been, federal regulators said in a new report.

Exxon Delay To Shut Pipeline Increased Size of 2011 Montana River Oil Spill

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) delayed fully shutting down a ruptured oil pipeline in Montana’s Yellowstone River in 2011, opening the door for an additional 1,000 barrels of crude to surge into the waterway, according to the U.S. government.

Shell under fire as oil rig runs aground on Arctic island

The multinational oil giant Shell is facing fresh criticism of its Arctic offshore oil drilling programme, after one of its platforms was left stranded in an environmentally sensitive area off the Alaskan coast.

Salvors board stricken Kulluk

Salvage experts have been on board the Shell-owned drilling unit Kulluk which remains grounded off the Alaskan coast.

A team of five personnel was airlifted to the unit by a US Coast Guard helicopter at around 10:30 local time on Wednesday morning. Authorities had previously stated the team consisted of six personnel.

Grounding of Kulluk sounds alarm about vulnerability of B.C. coast

Battered by high winds and heavy seas, an offshore drilling rig that drifted aground in Alaska has raised questions about the safety of marine transportation on the West Coast.

Environmentalists say they are alarmed by the incident, which a response team of more than 600 people was still trying to contain Wednesday, several days after the Kulluk got cut loose by tugs during a storm.

Pictures: Errant Shell Oil Rig Runs Aground Off Alaska

Waves lash at the sides of the Shell* drilling rig Kulluk, which ran aground off the rocky southern coast of Alaska on New Year’s Eve in a violent storm.

The rig, seen above Tuesday afternoon, was “stable,” with no signs of spilled oil products, authorities said. But continued high winds and savage seas hampered efforts to secure the vessel and the 150,000 gallons (568,000 liters) of diesel fuel and lubricants on board. The Kulluk came to rest just east of Sitkalidak Island (map), an uninhabited but ecologically and culturally rich site north of Ocean Bay, after a four-day odyssey, during which it broke free of its tow ships and its 18-member crew had to be rescued by helicopter.

The Battle Against the Keystone Pipeline

Environmentalists and landowners battle to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and its load of crude from flowing across Texas rivers and aquifers.

Inside silent Fukushima ghost town

It is nearly two years since Japan’s nuclear disaster at Fukushima and thousands of people who lived near the plant have still not been allowed to go home.

Many workers who stayed behind in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 were told by many at the time that they were going to die for their pains

Decommissioning Of Fukushima Nuke Plant To Begin This Year

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) plans to start work on decommissioning its tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan’s northeast, first by removing spent fuel rods by November this year. The decommissioning process is expected to take 40 years, Japanese media reported on Thursday.

In praise of … the Fukushima 50

In any other country, the workers who tried to prevent the plant from going into total meltdown would have been heroes

Why Japan’s ‘Fukushima 50’ remain unknown

Entering the exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is an unnerving experience.

It is, strictly speaking, also illegal. It is an old cliché to say that radiation is invisible. But without a Geiger counter, it would be easy to forget that this is now one of the most contaminated places on Earth.

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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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