Environmental Must-Reads – January 30, 2014


Obama says fracking can be a ‘bridge’ to a clean-energy future. It’s not that simple.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama heaped praise on the boom in natural-gas production across the United States. And he made a comment about fracking that triggered some grumbling from green groups.

‘No plans’ for fracking permits

The state budget proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo does not include any funding to regulate the fracking industry, according to the administration’s environmental commissioner.

Joe Martens, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, said the state does not expect to issue permits to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing during the coming fiscal year, which extends to March 2015.

State fighting anti-fracking group over Athens County waste-well permit

The state wants an agency to throw out an appeal of a permit issued for a gas-drilling wastewater well in southeastern Ohio.

The Ohio attorney general’s office filed a motion this week with the state oil and gas commission asking for dismissal of the appeal of a drilling permit for the injection well in Troy Township, southeast of Athens.

U.S. Experimented With Nuclear Fracking

A few weeks ago, a reader wrote to me asking how we can be sure the government isn’t slyly getting rid of nuclear waste by injecting it into shale rock that’s been fracked for oil or gas. Jon Abel’s questions will seem far-fetched to some of you, worrisome to others, depending on how much you trust government and the energy industry

Gorgeous Aerial Photos Capture the Ironic Beauty of Fracking

Cities popping up in the middle of nowhere. Blackened landscapes of industrial runoff, including lakes of liquid hydrocarbons, like something from the moons of Saturn. Vast transportation systems snaking over previously empty hills and ranches, pulling not human passengers but tankers. This is the new geography of fracking.

Think, for example, of the brand new “city” now burning in the darkness of the Great Plains, seen in satellite images of the Dakotas.

Experts question whether MCHM ‘flushing’ worked

The “flushing” recommended by the Tomblin administration and West Virginia American Water may not have effectively eliminated “Crude MCHM” and other toxic chemicals from plumbing systems at homes and businesses, experts are warning.

MCHM from the Jan. 9 leak at Freedom Industries may be stuck inside pipes and hot water tanks, and experts are concerned that the chemical could also be breaking down into other toxic materials that have yet to be fully identified.

Company behind oil spill files Chapter 11

The West Virginia company blamed for the massive leak that tainted water for hundreds of thousands of customers with has filed for bankruptcy, a move that will temporarily shield it from dozens of lawsuits.

According to the Insurance Journal, the chemical spill occurred earlier this month, and so far, the company has not given any possible explanation for what caused leak.

BP Deepwater Horizon disaster offered lessons for more rapid, cooperative response, scientists say

The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill showed scientists that they need to get better at landing funding for on-the-ground research sooner after environmental disasters, so they can better measure its impact, participants at a national scientific conference on the spill said Wednesday.

Panelists at the conference, being held in Mobile, Ala., said they also need to create a better way for academic scientists, government agencies and oil and gas industry officials to work together.

BP Continued Suspension From New U.S. Contracts Sought

BP Plc (BP/)’s suspension from new government contracts and oil leases after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill should continue because the company hasn’t demonstrated it’s a responsible contractor, the U.S. said.

BP is fighting a 2012 ban imposed on 20 affiliates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which prevents all BP entities from bidding on any new government supply contracts or oil leases. The suspension, which doesn’t affect BP’s earlier government contracts, was imposed after the agency determined the London-based company hadn’t fully corrected problems that led to the fatal explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

BP Dodges Another Theft Claim Over Oil Spill Cap

BP need not face theft claims from a man whose idea to cap the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon disaster it considered, a federal judge ruled.

B.C. Oil Spill Risk Among Worst In Canada: Report

The coast of southern British Columbia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are the Canadian areas most vulnerable to marine oil spills and among the most likely for a major spill to occur, according to a government-commissioned risk analysis.

While observing that the “risk of large spills is generally low in Canada,” the 256-page study finds that small spills “can also cause significant damage and are likely to happen much more frequently than larger spills.”

Geologist Says Feds Made “Incredible Error” Ignoring Huge N.Y. Salt Cavern Roof Collapse

In the 1960s, a 400,000-ton block of rock fell from the roof of an old salt cavern in the Finger Lakes region of New York — a cavity that new owners now want to reopen and use to store highly pressurized natural gas.

The Midwestern energy company that seeks a federal permit for the storage project has denied knowing the roof failure ever happened. And the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is poised to rule on the company’s permit application, has never publicly acknowledged the event.

TransMontaigne signs oil pipeline, terminal deal with Magellan

TransMontaigne Partners LP has agreed to lease capacity at two oil product terminals and a pipeline to Magellan Pipeline Company LP under a 10-year deal, ending its current agreement with Morgan Stanley, TransMontaigne announced on Wednesday.

House GOP wants EPA answers on Keystone XL

Republican leaders said they want to know what ties the federal regulators have with environmental groups opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and House Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa., sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy asking about any ties with the Sierra Club.

Oil trains to keep rumbling through N.America’s cities

Mile-long trains carrying crude oil will likely keep chugging through North American cities even after a string of fiery disasters spurred safety officials to urge that railways send risky cargo along less populated routes.

Re-routing the crude-by-rail trains that support booming North American oil production would be hugely difficult given the location of major rail lines and lack of alternatives, industry watchers say, adding that skirting major centers carries different types of risks.

NY to strengthen oversight of oil shipping by rail

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed state agencies to strengthen the state’s oversight of petroleum shipments by rail, citing devastating accidents in Quebec and North Dakota and the expansion of crude oil shipping through the Port of Albany.

Shell shelves plan to drill in Alaskan Arctic this summer

Shell has announced plans to slash its exploration and development spending from $46bn (£27.8bn) to $37bn this year and has ditched plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic this summer.

The cutbacks were unveiled by new chief executive, Ben van Beurden, who said they were part of a range of initiatives to make up for what he described as Shell’s “loss of momentum”.

Oil drilling on US Arctic coasts suspended

Oil companies’ rush to find reserves off Alaska’s Arctic shores suffered a setback on Thursday after Shell said it would suspend its operations in the region — and possibly withdraw for good.

Shell puts 2014 Arctic drilling plans on ice after legal challenge

Shell officials on Thursday said the oil company will not resume drilling in Arctic waters north of Alaska this summer, following a federal appeals court decision throwing its offshore leases there into jeopardy.

Hundreds sue Fukushima plant makers saying they should be liable for meltdown

SOME 1400 people have filed a joint lawsuit against three companies that manufactured Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, saying they should be financially liable for damage caused by its 2011 meltdowns.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said that the lawsuit, filed at Tokyo District Court, is a landmark challenge of current regulations that give manufacturers immunity from liability in nuclear accidents.

Tepco to move Fukushima revitalization HQ to Tomioka

Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to move its Fukushima reconstruction headquarters to the town of Tomioka, which is closer to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, officials said.

The town, which is within 20 km of the plant, is part of the nuclear evacuation zone caused by the plant’s triple core meltdown in March 2011. The town plans to start letting residents return in fiscal 2017 after finishing decontamination work.

Fukushima Operator Building Frozen Wall to Prevent Radioactive Water Contaminating Sea

The Japanese firm in charge of the Fukushima nuclear plant has started building a frozen wall to prevent radioactive waste from contaminating the sea.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has started building its frozen wall of soil to stop waste escaping at the Number two and Number three reactors.

David Suzuki: Citizen scientists can fill info gaps about Fukushima effects

An Internet search turns up an astounding number of pages about radiation from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown that followed an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. But it’s difficult to find credible information.

One reason is that government monitoring of radiation and its effects on fish stocks appears to be limited. According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “No U.S. government or international agency is monitoring the spread of low levels of radiation from Fukushima along the West Coast of North America and around the Hawaiian Islands.”

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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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