Environmental Must-Reads – January 7, 2014


Fracking contamination more common than US states report, says new review

In at least four states that have nurtured the nation’s energy boom, hundreds of complaints have been made about well-water contamination from oil or gas drilling, and pollution was confirmed in a number of them, according to a review that casts doubt on industry suggestions that such problems rarely happen.

Report: Fracking Operations Are Contaminating Well Water In 2 States

Complaints of water contamination in two states have been tied to oil or gas drilling, according to an Associated Press investigation.

The AP looked at well water contamination complaints in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas and found that two states — West Virginia and Pennsylvania — had linked some complaints to fracking. In Pennsylvania, since 2005, more than 100 well-water contamination complaints have been confirmed, meaning that the well water in question was found by authorities to be polluted, There were nearly 900 complaints claiming that drilling operations had affected private well water in the state in 2012 and 2013 alone. West Virginia had about 122 complaints that claimed drilling was affecting well water over the last four years, with four of them linked to oil and gas drilling.

Research Links Proximity to Fracking and Low Birth Weight in Newborns

It maybe early in a new year, but already new research has been published which raises serious health concerns about fracking.

What is most worrying about this research is that it shows that the controversial drilling technique could be impacting the most-at-risk in our society: new born babies.

State Regulators Wary of Releasing Fracking Data While Feds Rein In Oversight

Hundreds of complaints that drilling activity may have contaminated drinking water have emanated from states where fracking is in use, with state regulators confirming that contamination has occurred in some instances, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.

After requesting data from state regulators in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia, AP found major discrepancies between states in how complaint and contamination cases were registered and recorded. There was also pushback from some state officials over the release of the data in states like Pennsylvania, while in others, such as Texas, regulators did not hesitate to provide the requested information.

Canada’s Lubicon Lake Nation Continue Anti-Fracking Campaign, Appeal Court Injunction

On Friday, January 3, in Alberta, Canada, indigenous protesters filed a notice of appeal against Penn West Petroleum in their continued fight against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Last month, a judge’s injunction order against members of Lubicon Lake Nation shut down their three-week-long blockade, which began in late November 2013 on a drilling site of the oil and gas giant.

AP: Some drilling states offer little information on contamination

A review by the Associated Press has found that people in four natural gas producing states have filed hundreds of complaints, but three of those states, including Pennsylvania, provided little information about those complaints

Icy weather threatens oil output from Texas to North Dakota

The severe cold weather sweeping across the mid-United States is threatening to curtail booming oil production as it disrupts traffic, strands wells and interrupts drilling and fracking operations.

Weather stations across the U.S. Midwest recorded some of the coldest temperatures in two decades this weekend, with many schools closed and flights delayed. Arctic cold air is also spreading across Texas on Monday with temperatures expected to drop to single digits in the morning.

Oil company knew all along that it was transporting highly explosive chemicals

Days after a mile-long train derailed and exploded in a “giant fireball,” and following a similar incident in July that killed 47 people, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced Thursday that oil fracked out of North Dakota’s Bakken Shale — the same oil behind both explosions — was believed to contain more flammable, corrosive and toxic chemicals than ordinary crude oil.

It was news to most of us, but not, as DeSmogBlog found, to the company receiving the oil shipments. In a permit application submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources dated over a year before the explosion, Marquis Missouri Terminal LLC acknowledged the high volume of explosive chemicals in its cargo.

Oneok natgas pipeline explodes in Oklahoma; no injuries

A natural gas pipeline exploded near Milfay, Oklahoma on Monday, causing a blast felt for miles around but causing no injuries.

The fire on the pipeline operated by Oneok Partners is no longer burning and there was no damage to surrounding structures, the company said. Officials were on the scene.

Exxon gets extension on Pegasus oil pipeline overhaul

A U.S. federal energy regulator granted Exxon Mobil an extension to submit a work plan to restart the Pegasus oil pipeline, which burst last year in Arkansas.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration gave Exxon Mobile Pipeline Co. until April 7 to submit a work plan. Monday was the previous deadline.

Exxon Gets Extension for Pipeline Repair Plan, Key Questions Still Unanswered

ExxonMobil has landed a new deadline extension for telling regulators how it plans to safely resurrect the failed Pegasus oil pipeline, and the new April 7 due date guarantees that the line will still be idle one year after it ruptured and sent heavy crude streaming into an Arkansas neighborhood.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA, pronounced fimm-sa) granted Exxon its second 90-day reprieve last month, but the change wasn’t disclosed by Exxon and PHMSA until yesterday. Jan. 6 was the due date set by PHMSA for the Pegasus “remedial work plan” after Exxon requested a three-month extension from the original deadline of Oct. 6.

Jeff Rubin predicts disaster on Canada’s railways

Transport infrastructure in North America—mainly pipelines— hasn’t kept pace with the explosion in North American oil production. So you’ve got, in effect, a lot of stranded oil. That’s why, of course, oil is being loaded onto railcars out of the Bakken (in North Dakota)—and we’ve seen the tragic consequences of that in Lac-Mégantic. Meanwhile, there are already three rail terminals being constructed in Western Canada. All together, Canada may go from moving about 200,000 barrels of oil a day by rail to 900,000 barrels of oil, which, incidentally, is more than the Keystone XL pipeline. That’s been the de facto way that the industry has dealt with the pipeline bottleneck. Without rail coming to the rescue, the Bakken wouldn’t be producing 900,000 barrels a day and it wouldn’t be possible to increase production out of the tar sands either.

Northern Gateway not a sure thing, Harper says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government’s drive to diversify Canada’s energy markets doesn’t make cabinet approval of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project a foregone conclusion.

During a 30-minute Q&A session hosted by the Vancouver Board of Trade, Mr. Harper said on Monday that his cabinet will balance economic and environmental interests as it makes a final decision on whether to approve the $6-billion project to link the Alberta oil sands with Kitimat, B.C. Oil would then be shipped to foreign markets by tanker.

Canada PM says confident Keystone XL pipeline will be approved

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday he was confident that TransCanada Corp’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline would be eventually approved by U.S. authorities.

U.S. President Barack Obama is set this year to decide the fate of the northern leg of the proposed project, which would carry crude from the Alberta oil sands in Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Obama is under heavy pressure from environmental activists to block the pipeline.

Voting majority backs Keystone XL pipeline, poll finds

The oil industry has spent years working to convince lawmakers and the American public that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline means more energy and more jobs for the U.S.

But it looks like the sales pitch hasn’t been a complete success.

A Rasmussen Reports survey released Monday found that 56 percent of likely voters believe the pipeline will “be good for the U.S. economy.”

US expert Brigham McCown calls for new crude oil transport rules

A former head of the US’s main oil transport regulator has called for a re-examination of the rules for shipping crude oil by train in the wake of the latest serious accident in the fast-growing trade.

Brigham McCown was speaking after tank cars carrying crude oil exploded on December 30 following a collision with a derailed train carrying soybeans in Casselton, North Dakota. Both trains were operated by BNSF, operator of the US’s second-biggest rail network, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Sen. Schumer: Shoddy train cars transporting fuel could cause ‘deadly explosion’

Drawing on the recent train accidents in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and North Dakota, Sen. Chuck Schumer warned that substandard fuel-hauling train cars could cause oil flooding or ‘even a major, deadly explosion’ if they were to fail.

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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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