Environmental Must-Reads – January 31, 2014


Crews lose control of gas rig off Louisiana coast

Crews lost control of a natural gas well being drilled off the Louisiana coast Thursday, but officials said no injuries or pollution have been reported and efforts are underway to stop the flow of gas.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says most crew members were evacuated from the rig, which was drilling in 262 feet of water about 108 miles southwest of Lafayette.

New study links fracking to birth defects in heavily drilled Colorado

Living near hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — sites may increase the risk of some birth defects by as much as 30 percent, a new study suggests. In the U.S., more than 15 million people now live within a mile of a well.

The use of fracking, a gas-extraction process through which sand, water and chemicals are pumped into the ground to release trapped fuel deposits, has increased significantly in the U.S. over the past decade. Five years ago, the U.S. produced 5 million barrels of oil per day; today, it’s 7.4 million, thanks largely to fracking.

No Pipe Dream: Is Fracking About to Arrive on Your Doorstep?

For the past several years, I’ve been writing about what happens when big oil and gas corporations drill where people live. “Fracking” — high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which extracts oil and methane from deep shale — has become my beat. My interviewees live in Pennsylvania’s shale-gas fields; among Wisconsin’s hills, where corporations have been mining silica, an essential fracking ingredient; and in New York, where one of the most powerful grassroots movements in the state’s long history of dissent has become ground zero for anti-fracking activism across the country. Some of the people I’ve met have become friends. We email, talk by phone, and visit. But until recently I’d always felt at a remove from the dangers they face: contaminated water wells, poisoned air, sick and dying animals, industry-related illnesses. Under Massachusetts, where I live, lie no methane- or oil-rich shale deposits, so there’s no drilling.

Public Pressure Puts U.K. Fracking On The Defensive

Fracking is on the defensive in the United Kingdom. Regulation of its dangerous byproducts and sustained public attention to its ill effects have led major driller Cuadrilla to withdraw several drilling permit applications, and public opposition continues to grow, with the environment secretary saying proponents have “failed to convince the public.”

Kasich threatens to veto ‘puny’ fracking-tax bill

Gov. John Kasich said he told Republican leaders that if lawmakers send him a “puny” severance-tax proposal that doesn’t pass “the smell test in terms of what I think is fair,” he would veto it. “I told them, puny doesn’t work,” Kasich said of the GOP-controlled House, which drafted a new fracking tax package that is cheaper for the oil-and-gas industry than the one Kasich proposed two years ago.

Fracking bill requires new regulations

A Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill that lets oil and gas fracking in Virginia’s coastal plain go forward, but only after the Department of Environmental Quality develops regulations.

Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford, said he brought the bill because he fears fracking could contaminate a vast aquifer that supplies water from Hanover County up through Maryland, including the Fredericksburg area and the Northern Neck.

Industry in North Dakota to Cut Flared Natural Gas

Faced with growing criticism and lawsuits, an oil industry task force representing hundreds of companies in North Dakota pledged on Wednesday to make an all-out effort to capture almost all the natural gas that is being flared in the Bakken shale oil field by the end of the decade.

The gas being flared as a byproduct of a rush of oil drilling releases roughly six million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, roughly equivalent to three medium-sized coal plants. Because of a lack of gas-gathering lines connecting oil wells to processing plants, nearly 30 percent of the gas flowing out of the wells has been burned as waste in recent months.

On The Plains, The Rush For Oil Has Changed Everything

A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state’s fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.

Falling gasoline prices hurt Big Oil’s plea for US crude exports

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s push to export U.S. oil overseas is facing a new obstacle: falling gasoline prices.

A flood of new oil from Texas to the Great Plains has swamped refineries, driving down prices at the pump 10 percent since March, while global oil prices have hovered at about $107 a barrel. That suggests the world crude market is having waning influence on U.S. gasoline, which instead is beginning to track lower-priced domestic oil.

Much Of North Dakota’s Natural Gas Is Going Up In Flames

North Dakota’s oil boom isn’t just about oil; a lot of natural gas comes out of the ground at the same time. But there’s a problem with that: The state doesn’t have the pipelines needed to transport all of that gas to market. There’s also no place to store it.

In many cases, drillers are simply burning it.

Swarms of Earthquakes Shake Up Shale Gas Fields

The locals call it “incoming,” and some compare the violence of the tremors to living in a war zone.

Others say it’s like having their homes hit by a truck.

The scene is north Texas, home to the Barnett Shale, the largest unconventional gas field in the United States.

Restrooms or Wetlands: How Should Texas Spend BP Spill Money?

Bad as the BP Deepwater Horizon spill was with its oil tainting miles of Texas beaches (36 miles to be exact, according to the state), there is now restoration money floating into Texas.

As part of an agreement reached in 2011 for “early oil spill restoration,” BP is paying Texas and four other Gulf Coast states a total of $1 billion. Texas’s portion is $100 million.

Mass DEP fines Borges Construction of Ludlow $17K for oil spill at Greenfield site

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday it is fining Borges Construction Inc. of Ludlow $17,000 for failing to notify anyone following an oil spill during a road project in Greenfield in May.

Keystone pipeline impact study expected Friday

The results of an environmental impact study into the Keystone XL pipeline project will be announced Friday afternoon, two senior administration officials and another source familiar with the timing told CNN.

The sources were not authorized to speak on the record.

Keystone Report Said Likely to Disappoint Pipeline Foes

he U.S. State Department is preparing to issue a report as soon as today that will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, according to people briefed on agency discussions.

While the report will deviate from a March draft in some ways to the liking of environmentalists, the revisions won’t be as sweeping as they had sought, several people familiar with the government’s deliberations over the review told Bloomberg News. Changes could still be made to the report before its release.

Oil Pipeline Builder Betrayed by Partner, Jury Told

Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) was dropped from a deal to build a pipeline from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast when collaborator Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) realized it could make more money with another company, a lawyer told a jury.

“They did it for greed, money — not a little bit of money, billions of dollars of money,” Mike Lynn, an attorney for Energy Transfer, said in his opening statement today at a state court trial in Dallas.

Canadian regulatory agency supports Enbridge oil, gas pipeline plans

The National Energy Board in Canada said it supported plans by Enbridge Energy to build a 113-mile-long pipeline between two oil terminals in Alberta province.

The NEB, an independent regulatory agency, said Thursday it recommended the federal government approve the pipeline from the company’s terminal in Edmonton to a facility in Hardisty.

Keystone XL Pipeline Could Bring Epidemic of Violence Against Women

Native American women in the United States are two and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women of any other race. This staggering and awful statistic illustrates that there is a profound epidemic of sexual violence going on in Native communities, and lest people think this is an internal issue, much of that violence is coming from white men.

Tribes across the country are struggling with the issue and attempting to work within their own communities to heal and fight sexual violence from within, while also bridging with US government organizations and other groups to promote the health, safety and welfare of indigenous women.

Keystone Foes Say Two Pipelines Are Worse Than One

Opponents of Keystone XL now want to block its construction by showing that two oil pipelines from Canada to the U.S. are worse than one.

The Sierra Club said TransCanada Corp.’s (TRP) Keystone and the proposed expansion of Enbridge Inc.’s (ENB) Alberta Clipper should be reviewed together to account for how the combination would contribute to climate change. The San Francisco-based environmental group filed a petition today with 15 other groups, asking the U.S. State Department to revise its Keystone review.

Nebraskans Resist Keystone Spurning TransCanada’s Checks

An icy wind rattles a metal warehouse in York, Nebraska, as farmers and ranchers inside vow not to sign easements with a Canadian company to bury the Keystone XL oil pipeline on their land.

“I think TransCanada has been surprised we country bumpkins gathered,” said Bonny Kilmurry, one of about 145 landowners meeting here, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Omaha, who have declined the company’s overtures. “I think we do have hope in sticking together.”

Government wakes up to dangerous crude oil cars

Governor Cuomo has issued an executive order calling on state agencies to review their preparedness for an oil spill or explosion from rail cars. The move comes amidst growing awareness that shipments of volatile crude oil from North Dakota are skyrocketing nationwide. David Sommerstein reports.

Exxon to move Canadian crude by rail amid pipeline shortage

With limited pipeline options to ship oil sands crude out of Canada, Exxon Mobil Corp. plans to move up to 100,000 barrels per day of Canadian oil using a new rail terminal that should be running by 2015, an executive said Thursday.

The terminal, to be constructed in Alberta, will cost up to $250 million if it is built to a maximum capacity of 250,000 barrels of oil per day, said David Rosenthal, Exxon Mobil’s vice president of investor relations, during a conference call with analysts.

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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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