Environmental Must-Reads – January 30, 2013


The Surprising Connection Between Food and Fracking

In a recent Nation piece, the wonderful Elizabeth Royte teased out the direct links between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the food supply. In short, extracting natural gas from rock formations by bombarding them with chemical-spiked fluid leaves behind fouled water—and that fouled water can make it into the crops and animals we eat.

But there’s another, emerging food-fracking connection that few are aware of. US agriculture is highly reliant on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, and nitrogen fertilizer is synthesized in a process fueled by natural gas.

The Myth of Purifying Fracking Water in Saudi America: The Competition Between Food, Drink and Energy Needs

Climate change already has caused some of the worst droughts and water shortages in the US and on the planet. In the midst of this disaster, the nation’s energy interests are celebrating a bonanza in fracking one of the largest sources of shale containing natural gas on the planet. The fracking technology being used is relatively new and inadequately regulated. The trillions of gallons of water already used contain about 400 billion gallons of toxic additives. The US has no established technology or infrastructure that can recover potable water from the enormous magnitude of this existing and projected future deadly waste. Present disposal methods cannot ensure long-term isolation from the environment.

Disgusting Flood of Fracking Water Devastates Egyptian Village

Port Said and Cairo have been dominating Egyptian headlines of late, while Fares, a small agricultural community 75 km north of Aswan, has gone completely unnoticed despite enduring a humanitarian tragedy of epic proportions. Since 2009, after DanaGas began to drill pilot hydraulic fracturing wells in order to evacuate fossil fuels, a process commonly called fracking, poisonous water has been spewing from the holes, inundating farm lands and homes.

Is fracking responsible for the flooding of an Upper Egyptian village?

The village of Fares, located about 75km north of the city of Aswan near Kom Ombo, is currently being destroyed by severe flooding of contaminated water caused by controversial oil drilling practices performed over the past four years, according to residents.

Rising wineries, organic farms clash with BLM over leasing in energy-rich western Colo.

At Azura Cellars and Gallery near Paonia, Colo., guests can sip cabernet franc while gazing across the valley at 11,400-foot Mount Lamborn.

That view is gold to Ty Gillespie, the winery owner, who is fighting to preserve it as the Obama administration gets ready to auction 20,000 acres of that valley for oil and gas development.

NY elected officials call for continued fracking moratorium

More than 600 ”Elected Officials to Protect New York” are calling on Governor Cuomo to extend the moratorium on fracking.

During a news conference in Buffalo’s City Hall – East Aurora Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Weberg said she’s skeptical of a process that injects precious clean water and chemicals underground.

DEP pulls permit, to allow comment

The state Department of Environmental Protection has rescinded a Marcellus Shale wastewater treatment permit that would have allowed a New Jersey company to spread chemically contaminated salts on roadways, sidewalks and fields statewide.

Pipeline Explosion Rattles Natural Gas Industry

On December 11, 2012, Sue Bonham stood at the epicenter of her home in Sissonville, WV and thought that the earth would swallow her. Projectiles were flying while her household items were sizzling and melting — after a natural gas delivery pipeline had burst and shaken the whole neighborhood there.

New gas pipeline will cut through Princeton, could affect 30 properties

A company that owns a massive pipeline for natural gas extracted from shale rock plans to build a 6.4-mile portion of its transmission line through Princeton and Montgomery.

Judge OKs $4B BP oil spill criminal settlement

A federal judge on Tuesday approved a plea deal between energy giant BP and the U.S. Justice Department for the company’s role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, finalizing BP’s criminal liability for the spill’s aftermath.

BP pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2010 gulf oil spill

A federal judge in New Orleans accepted an agreement for BP to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay a record fine in connection with the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which ranks as one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters.

The agreement, announced in November, allowed a unit of the London-based oil giant to plead guilty Tuesday to 11 counts of seaman’s manslaughter in connection with the explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the gulf. The company also entered a guilty plea to one felony count of obstruction of Congress and two environmental misdemeanors.

Judge approves BP plea agreement, record $4 billion fine

A federal judge in New Orleans Tuesday approved a $4 billion plea agreement for criminal fines and penalties against oil giant BP for the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history.

Judge approves $4 billion criminal plea over BP oil spill

A U.S. district judge in New Orleans has accepted a $4 billion criminal guilty plea by BP plc over its role in the catastrophic 2010 oil spill that fouled the Gulf of Mexico. But BP’s lawyers still have plenty of work to do managing the company’s massive liabilities over the disaster.

What others are saying about BP’s $4 billion Deepwater Horizon criminal settlement

U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance on Tuesday approved a plea agreement between the U.S. government and global oil giant BP that requires the company to pay $4 billion in fines to settle criminal charges stemming from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010, which killed 11, injured dozens more and led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Report details plan to address Gulf problems

An initial plan to address ecosystem and economic issues along the Gulf Coast is set to be released by July 6, according to a document posted Tuesday by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

The council was set up through the RESTORE Act to help develop the plan, which also will direct where a portion of the civil and administrative penalties from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP oil leak will be spent.

Iran says may sue BP for an Azeri oil spill

Iran believes BP (BP.L) operated Azeri oil platforms have polluted the Caspian Sea and may sue the UK oil major if it continues, Iran’s Deputy Head of Department of Environment (DoE) has been reported as saying by Iranian media this week.

Barges stuck as oil spill jams Mississippi River

With more than 50 vessels idled on the water for a fourth day Wednesday, authorities said they still did not know when they would be able to reopen a 16-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that was closed due to an oil spill.

A plan to pump oil from a leaking barge onto another barge — a process known as lightering — had been approved, but it was unclear how long that would take, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally said Tuesday. He said the other barge was en route.

Mississippi River oil spill: why Yazoo turn is treacherous

Oil continued to leak into the Mississippi River Tuesday from a barge containing more than 600,000 gallons of light crude, following an accident that took place early Sunday morning in Vicksburg, Miss.

The US Coast Guard says it has not yet determined how much oil escaped but that skimming operations have captured about 2,300 gallons of oily water mixture and about 7,000 gallons remain unaccounted for.

Oil Spill Cleanup Backs Up 800 Barges Along Mississippi

Almost 800 barges are backed up in the southern portion of the Mississippi River while an oil spill is cleaned up, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Traffic has been halted at Vicksburg, Mississippi, since Jan. 27 when a towboat with two barges ran into a railroad bridge, spilling oil from a tank containing 80,000 gallons of light crude. The oil remaining in the tank is being transferred to another vessel, said Lieutenant Ryan Gomez, a Coast Guard spokesman in Memphis, Tennessee. No timeline has been set to open the river, he said today in an interview.

Mississippi River Barge Crash: Oil Spill Cleanup Idles Ships Along 16-Mile Stretch

Freight barges were idled among some 50 vessels stacked up Tuesday along a normally bustling stretch of the Mississippi River that was closed as crews worked to clean up leaking oil spilled in a weekend barge accident.

Shell faces damages over Nigeria oil spill

A court in the Netherlands has ruled that Royal Dutch Shell can be held partially responsible for pollution in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region and ordered it to pay damages to one farmer.

The court dismissed on Wednesday four out of five allegations against the oil company. The amount of damages to be paid was to be announced at a later date.

Tar Sands Pipeline Should Get Act 250 Review, Groups Say

Environmental groups say any effort to ship tar sands oil through a northern Vermont pipeline should be subject to the state’s land use review.

The pipeline company has insisted it has no current plans to reverse the flow of an existing line to carry the heavy fuel across northern New England.

But the company does confirm it is studying future options for its pipeline.

Environmentalists voice opposition to Northern New England oil pipeline

Several environmental groups gathered in Montpelier, Vt. Tuesday, telling reporters they want to get out in front of a possible plan to pipe so-called tar sands oil from Canada to Maine. Such a pipeline would travel through Vermont and New Hampshire on the way to cargo ports in Portland.

At the press conference in Vermont’s capital city, opponents of the idea said tar sands oil is corrosive and messy, and could put waterways at risk.

House GOP, citing North African turmoil, boosts Keystone pipeline pressure on Obama

A mostly Republican group of House lawmakers is putting fresh pressure on President Obama to greenlight the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, and a senior member said that another Capitol Hill hearing could be in the offing.

“In light of the recent events in North Africa, we need to be investing in energy infrastructure to control our own resources. We need to be able to move resources, not only from Canada, but from the many domestic shale plays that have recently come on line. We need to make our country energy independent,” states a new pro-Keystone letter to Obama from 146 House members, including 14 Democrats.

Sierra Club’s Michael Brune on Keystone XL and civil disobedience

Earlier this month, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune announced that the Club would, for the first time in its long and storied history, officially participate in an act of civil disobedience — i.e., break the law. The target? The Keystone XL pipeline. “For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest,” he wrote. “Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism.”

Native American groups protest Keystone XL pipeline

Native American protesters concerned about pollution of ancestral lands by the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline rallied Monday outside the State Capitol.

Confirmation of John Kerry as new Secretary of State heralds in new decision-maker on Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Senator John Kerry as the next Secretary of State. One of the highest profile climate decisions he will face is whether to permit the northern segment of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Canada to the United States.  Before making that decision, however, the State Department must continue with the next step of permitting process which is the release of the highly anticipated draft environmental review for the pipeline.  This review must consider the impacts of the pipeline to air, land, water, and climate while also considering whether the pipeline is in the national interest.  And while Senator Kerry has not taken an official position on Keystone XL he has already committed “to leave no question unanswered including every possible economic and environmental consideration before a final decision is made.” This commitment is one of the most important things that Secretary of State Kerry can do: ensure we understand the impacts of the pipeline on our environment, our climate, and our national interest.

Radioactive Cattle Found Near Fukushima

Thousands of cows were abandoned in the evacuated zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the T?hoku region of Japan and released radioactive materials from the plant.

Now, nearly two years after the disaster, those abandoned cattle were found to be contaminated with radioactive elements. Traces of radioactive cesium, silver and tellurium were found in the 79 cattle analyzed by a scientific team led by Nagoya University engineer Toshio Fukuda and published in the journal PLOS ONE.

PROMETHEUS TRAP (1): U.S. frustrated with Japan’s initial response to Fukushima

Between late on March 14, 2011, and early the next morning, a top secret diplomatic cable arrived at the Foreign Ministry.

Sent three days after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the document detailed the major concerns that Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, had voiced to Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki. At the time, the Japanese government had still not decided to use Self-Defense Force helicopters to dump water into the crippled nuclear plant.

PROMETHEUS TRAP (2): U.S. officials feared for loved ones still in Japan

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a series that has run in the past under the overall title of The Prometheus Trap. This series deals with the differences between Japan and the United States in dealing with the Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011.

Fukushima decontamination faces severe labor shortages

Fukushima Prefecture is facing severe labor shortages for decontamination work following the 2011 nuclear crisis.

The shortage stems from radiation fears and low pay. According to the labor ministry’s Fukushima Labor Bureau, only about 10 percent of about 1,800 decontamination positions have been filled.

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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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