Environmental Must-Reads – January 31, 2013


Lawmakers to hold hearing on fracking

State lawmakers will hold a hearing next month to examine the regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California.

Unlike other major oil-producing states, California does not require energy firms to disclose where they use the controversial procedure or what chemicals they inject into the ground. Regulators released draft rules for fracking last month that would mandate such disclosure but allow oil companies to keep secret the names of certain chemicals they claim to be proprietary.

New anti-fracking TV spot unveiled

A coalition of groups opposed to New York’s implementation of the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydrofracking brought in Pennsylvania residents Wednesday to share their allegations of health and environmental damage resulting from the process.

The news conference also unveiled a new TV spot that New Yorkers Against Fracking said would be running in the Albany and New York City markets.

EPA gets access to wells for fracking study

As much as the U.S. economy has enjoyed the benefits of the recent boom oil and gas exploration, plenty of questions have been raised about the engineering resources being used to tap into these new deposits.

Environmental activists have been fighting the spreading use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, insisting that the process could cause water contamination, a claim the energy industry has vehemently denied.

Letter: State leaders ban fracking where they live and work

I have recently read some of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing in this state. While I find many of them to be horribly inadequate for the protection of our health, safety and environment, one stands out as particularly troubling.

Regulation 750-3.3(a) prohibits hydraulic fracturing within the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. The only logical conclusion to be drawn from this regulation is that the DEC and our elected officials are concerned, with good reason, that the fracking process will poison their own drinking water and that of millions of downstate residents. Which begs the question: Why are they not concerned about our water supply

Pennsylvania Fracking Victims Come to New York to Share Their Stories

As the state rapidly approaches the deadline to decide whether to allow fracking to go forward in New York, residents from across Pennsylvania came forward to tell legislators their stories. New Yorkers Against Fracking also released an ad, which will initially run in the Albany and New York City markets highlighting stories of dead cows and poisoned water.

Dairy farms suffer in US shale gas fracking boom

When Sheila Russell decided to move back to her ancestral home in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, she wanted to start a new life. A seventh-generation Russell, whose family had settled the land in 1796, the last year of George Washington’s presidency, she left her corporate job at a catalogue company to do what she loved best: farming.

There was only one problem: shale gas. As luck would have it, the Russell farm happened to sit on top of the Marcellus shale, a large underground formation rich in natural gas. In 2010, just as Ms. Russell was embarking on her new career in organic farming, Chesapeake Energy drilled two shale-gas wells across the road, less a thousand feet from the farm.

Hydraulic fracturing well pad construction has some residents worried

On a map found on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) website showing “High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing: Applications and Permits since 2008,” there is a red dot indicating an ‘issued active permit’ in southwest Crawford County.

Water Demand for Energy to Double by 2035

The amount of fresh water consumed for world energy production is on track to double within the next 25 years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects.

And even though fracking—high-pressure hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations for natural gas and oil—might grab headlines, IEA sees its future impact as relatively small.

By far the largest strain on future water resources from the energy system, according to IEA’s forecast, would be due to two lesser noted, but profound trends in the energy world: soaring coal-fired electricity, and the ramping up of biofuel production.

N.Y. legislators grill health chief on fracking review

New York Health Commissioner Nirav Shah broke his silence on the state’s review of the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, telling lawmakers Wednesday that he anticipates completing the analysis in “the next few weeks.”

DEP behind schedule on gas drilling studies

State regulators are behind schedule on the release of two key studies mandated as part of the legislation that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin touted as a “milestone” in addressing concerns about the boom in natural gas drilling in Marcellus Shale regions of West Virginia.

Timeline of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill (in pictures)

Another chapter closed earlier this week in the nearly 3-year-old Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its aftermath with a federal judge’s decision to approve a settlement between BP PLC and the U.S. Department of Justice.

With the approval by U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance in New Orleans, the British oil giant will pay a $4 million criminal fine. The company pleaded guilty to 14 offenses, including manslaughter and obstruction of justice.

Next in BP spill saga: civil trial worth billions

Now that a $4 billion plea deal has resolved BP’s criminal liability for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill nearly three years ago, the company will turn its focus to a trial that could potentially cost it billions of dollars more in civil penalties.

Justice Department asks judge to require BP to produce documents showing how it low-balled oil flow

The Justice Department on Wednesday asked a federal judge in New Orleans to require BP to produce documents that outline how it low-balled the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from its Macondo well in 2010. The estimates were sent to the Coast Guard and Congress.

The request came just one day after BP’s guilty plea to criminal charges related to the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and fire that caused the release of millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf.

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.

Mixed Decision for Shell in Nigeria Oil Spill Suits

In a legal dispute that had been closely watched by multinational companies and environmental organizations, a Dutch court Wednesday dismissed most of the claims brought by Nigerian farmers seeking to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for damage by oil spilled from its pipelines.

The decision, by the District Court of the Hague, was unusual in that it was brought in a Dutch jurisdiction against a Dutch company for activities overseas by a foreign subsidiary.

Niger Delta oil spills: ‘Friends of the Earth’ to appeal Dutch Court judgment

Friends of the Earth, an NGO, said on Wednesday that it would appeal against the judgment of a High Court at The Hague which absolved Shell of responsibility in the 2004, 2005 and 2008 oil spills in two Niger Delta communities. Four farmers from the Niger Delta region had sued Shell at The Hague, Switzerland, for oil spills which destroyed their farmlands and fish ponds during the period under review.

Mississippi River Oil Spill Cleanup Limits Barge Traffic

Water vessels were moving cautiously Thursday through a section of the Mississippi River where a barge was leaking oil as Coast Guard officials attempted to ease the economic impact of shutting down one of the nation’s vital commerce routes.

Crews Clean Up After Oil Spills Into Keystone Lake

Work continues at Keystone Lake to clean an oil spill.

Around 5,000 gallons of crude oil was dumped into the lake on Saturday after a collision on U.S. Highway 412 in Pawnee County.

Kulluk drill ship in stable condition

The U.S. government said the Kulluk drill ship is in a stable state off the Alaskan coast as preparations are made to tow the Shell vessel for repairs.

Unified Command said the drill ship remains stable as it oversees preparations to tow the vessel to harbor for repairs.

Greens bank on Kerry to quash Keystone pipeline

John F. Kerry long has been a vocal crusader against climate change in the Senate, and in the process the Massachusetts Democrat became a hero to the environmental movement.

Now as the incoming secretary of state, Mr. Kerry is in a position to deliver one of the movement’s biggest victories in decades: drive a stake through the heart of the massive Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline project.

Buy An Oil Pipeline To Lower Your Taxes

While there is a growing renewable energy trend there still remains an entrenched fossil fuel infrastructure and system of associated economic incentives. The public may not be all that aware of one of the incentives, but certain business people are. Master limited partnerships are a way to structure an energy business to reduce the corporate tax burden greatly or even to nothing at all. Each partner’s profits from an MLP are counted as income from an individual so the MLP can be exempt from paying corporate income tax.

Sinkhole project raises concerns

Consultants working with Texas Brine Co. LLC to create finely detailed images of subsurface features beneath an 8.6-acre sinkhole and nearby swampland communities sought Wednesday night to allay concerns about potential effects from the seismic work.

Confronting the consultants were not only people worrying about what the seismic waves might do to their properties but also some audience members’ expressions of continuing frustration and skepticism stemming from the nearly six-month evacuation ordered just after the sinkhole erupted Aug. 3 in northern Assumption Parish swampland near Bayou Corne.

Could Scientists Have Prevented the Fukushima Meltdown?

Three-Eleven is what they call the disaster. On March 11, 2011, all hell broke loose when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the eastern coast of Japan. As if that weren’t enough, a massive tsunami followed about an hour later, churning over everything in its path for some 200 square miles.

Entire cities were lost. Some 16,000 people died. But it wasn’t over yet. The disaster would further its assault on locals and send chills down spines worldwide once the floodwaters receded and people realized the disaster that was unfolding in the seaside prefecture of Fukushima.

Japan Speeds Up Fukushima Reactor Decommissioning

The Japanese government earmarked Tuesday 156.4 billion yen ($1.7 billion USD) for the industry ministry to accelerate efforts to scrap the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s stricken reactors and support companies seeking to export nuclear technologies in the initial draft budget for the next fiscal year.

The nuclear power-related budget to be allocated to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry increased 12.4 percent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year, with the government seeking to pour in more funds to help the country recover from the 2011 Fukushima crisis and improve the safety of its nuclear power plants.

Women & Children First! (to be Harmed by Radiation)

“Woman and children first” is redefined in the nuclear age, now that science has shown that they are far more susceptible to the ravages of radiation than men and boys.

The nuclear power and weapons industry, people living near reactors, practitioners of nuclear medicine and dentistry, and the nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed Navy and Air Force all have a vested interest in radiation protection. Likewise the irradiation industry that zaps food, spices, medical instruments and merchandise with Cobaolt-60, construction firms that use X-ray machines to check welds, smoke detector manufacturers that place Americium-241 inside each unit, and nuclear waste brokers, haulers and dumpers who come in close proximity to radiation every day.

Food safety still a concern in Japan after nuclear crisis

Food safety is still a concern in north eastern Japan, almost two years after the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Many prefectures and facilities are still trying to reassure the public about the safety of food products in the market.

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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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