Environmental Must-Reads – January 7, 2015


Two Ways Infrared Cameras Have Boosted the Case for E.P.A. Rules Cutting Methane Leaks

I first realized the enormous value of infrared imagery in pollution detection in 2009, when I co-wrote “Curbing Emissions by Sealing Gas Leaks” with Clifford Krauss. In the related Dot Earth post, I included some remarkable video shot for the Environmental Protection Agency showing the difference between looking at an oil or gas facility with a standard camera and one tuned to the infrared wavelengths absorbed by gases like methane — the main constituent of natural gas

For The First Time, Fracking Causes Earthquake Strong Enough To Be Felt By Humans

A series of 77 earthquakes in Ohio — including one strong enough to be felt by humans — was caused by the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, scientists claimed in research publishedr Tuesday in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).

Fracking has been attributed to small earthquakes in Ohio before. But those earthquakes were all too small to be felt. Tuesday’s study is the first time scientists have attributed a larger earthquake to fracking, the process of injecting high-pressure water, sand, and chemicals underground to crack shale rock and let gas flow out more easily.

Anti-fracking leaders from Denton, Texas, to make appearances in St. Tammany Parish

Two people whose efforts helped enact a ban on fracking in Denton, Texas, will be in St. Tammany Parish this weekend for a party and a symposium about hydraulic fracturing. The citizens group Tammany Together is putting on the events.

Adam Briggle, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Texas, and his wife, Amber, will be the guests of honor at a party Friday night (Jan. 9) from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Pontchartrain Yacht Club in Mandeville. Tickets to the event, dubbed “An Evening with Allies,” are $15 and may be purchased at www.FrackingAbsurd.com. The party will include live music, a silent auction, raffle, cash bar, and food.

Massive spike in Okla. earthquakes may be due to fracking

The occasional earthquake was a curiosity and perhaps a momentary inconvenience in Oklahoma until about five years ago. Now they’re routine.

Oklahoma typically had one to three earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater annually from 1975 until 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Last year, the state had 564, far more than any other state except Alaska, as this chart shows. Nineteen of those were of at least magnitude 4.0, which is the point at which earthquakes begin to cause damage.

Fracking Ban Bill Introduced in Florida

There may not be any actual fracking going on in Florida yet. But some legislators there are taking no chances, introducing bills to ban the process in the state, just as New York did in mid-December. Yesterday state representative Evan Jenne introduced HB 169 which “prohibits well stimulation treatments for exploration or production of oil or natural gas.” His bill enumerated the problems caused by fracking: use of carcinogenic chemicals, heavy use of fresh water when many communities are facing water scarcity, threats to protected wildlife species, the potential to damage the surrounding environment and the emission of climate change-driving greenhouse gases.

Temporary restraining order granted in DEP lawsuit

A temporary restraining order has been granted in a lawsuit against the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection and Gastar Exploration Inc.

The temporary restraining order orders Gastar to cease and desist from any fracking activity pursuant to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Oct. 27 order, and orders the WVDEP to cease and desist from enforcing its Oct. 27 order that sets forth operational amendments to the permits issued to Gastar for three separate wells and the related permits.

Lawsuit challenges panel that made NC fracking rules

A lawsuit filed Monday by conservationists asks that rules on fracking in North Carolina be thrown out, arguing the panel that developed them was formed in violation of the state Constitution.

Lawyers representing the Haw River Assembly argue the state Legislature violated provisions separating the branches of government when it formed the Mining and Energy Commission in 2012, according to the lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court. The lawsuit says the Legislature usurped the authority of the executive branch by forming the commission as an administrative agency and then appointing eight of its 13 members. The governor appoints the rest.

Plummeting oil price casts shadow over fracking’s future

There’s no doubt that US-based fracking – the process through which oil and gas deposits are blasted from shale deposits deep underground – has caused a revolution in worldwide energy supplies.

Yet now the alarm bells are ringing about the financial health of the fracking industry, with talk of a mighty monetary bubble bursting ? leading to turmoil on the international markets similar to that in 2008.

Stillwater proposal to prevent mining on agricultural land

Residents in Stillwater are concerned about mining operations — which include oil and gas drilling — near their neighborhoods and a proposal to end drilling on agricultural-zoned lands will soon go before City Council.

“[We’re] worried about air pollution, water pollution,” said Ariel Ross of Stop Fracking Payne County.

Adventures in Mapmaking: Mapping a Fracking Boom in North Dakota

US oil production has been booming the past few years, due in large part to North Dakota’s Bakken formation, a rock layer tapped through fracking. Each well travels down about two miles, then turns horizontally and snakes through the rock formation for another two miles. There were 8,406 of these Bakken wells, as of North Dakota’s latest count. If you lined them all up—including their vertical and horizontal parts—they’d loop all the way around the Earth.

Low Oil Prices Are Killing the Fracking Industry, but the Tar Sands Will Be Fine (for Now)

The price of oil—specifically West Texas Intermediate crude, the gold standard in oil pricing—has been falling steadily since June of last year, and is currently sitting around $50 per barrel. That’s a far cry from the record high of 2008, when it topped out at $147 per barrel. The 2008 price surge saw hysteria about moving North America toward energy independence reach fever pitch; John McCain even called it a “national security issue” during his presidential campaign. It’s also quite a ways from the $65-per-barrel point at which fracking is economically viable. That low price of oil is a huge problem for the burgeoning fracking industry, which is largely composed of small, overextended businesses that can’t afford to wait out a dip in profits.

BP details job cuts, capital spending declines in latest economic impact report

BP’s U.S. business is shrinking as the British oil giant moves forward with a second round of asset divestments, according to numbers from the company’s 2014 economic impact report released Tuesday.

The report evaluates data from the previous year.

Capital expenditures, acquisitions, vendor spending and salaries and benefits all fell in 2013 compared to numbers from BP’s first such report for 2012 detailing its U.S. operations.

BP appeals McGladrey audit findings, says auditor should release interim reports on Deepwater Horizon payment investigation

BP PLC is demanding to see the work product of an independent audit of the Deepwater Horizon claims operation, saying the $14 million investigation overlooked serious flaws in the court appointed claims administrator’s operation.

The appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals seeks more information and earlier drafts of the audit performed by McGladrey LLP, which was initially budgeted at about $1.4 million but ballooned in cost to 10 times that.

Despite plunging oil prices, Gulf on brink of boom

Whoever is warning that slumping crude prices will curb oil production hasn’t told the tenants of this bustling oil port.

Cranes line two enormous slips, expanding capacity and building more facilities. Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards is constructing four massive dry docks able to service 300-plus-foot vessels. Workers drive pilings into the ground for what will be the expanded site of Schlumberger, an oil-and-gas technology supplier.

All this activity will soon cater to huge floating facilities in the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico as they drill for and produce crude and other products.

Chevron announces Gulf of Mexico discovery

Chevron Corp. said it’s made a significant discovery in the Gulf Of Mexico about 140 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

But the company did not announce the volume of reserves believed to be contained in the prospect; how much it’s spent on development so far; or whether there are plans for future production.

The Magnetic Wand That Cleans Up Oil Spills

You don’t have to think hard to imagine why cleaning up an oil spill would be daunting — millions of gallons of oil floating in miles of ocean waters, dispersed by waves, weather and wildlife. Just looking at the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows not just how difficult the challenge is, but how woefully uninnovative our cleanup efforts are. Of the more than 200 million gallons of oil that was unleashed during the spill, only approximately six million gallons were recovered from the Gulf. The cleanup effort relied on methods that were either ineffective — such as booms, which are barriers placed in the water to collect and absorb the oil — or dangerous — such as the use of Corexit, a chemical that was used to break up the oil that, it turns out, is much more toxic the environment than the oil itself.

Shell to pay out $83 mln to settle Nigeria oil spill claims

Royal Dutch Shell will pay out 55 million pounds ($83.4 million) in compensation for two oil spills in Nigeria in 2008 after agreeing a settlement with the affected community.

The largest ever out-of-court settlement relating to oil spills in Nigeria is a step forward for the oil-rich Niger Delta region that has been hit by regular environmental damage, but it is tiny compared with the billions in compensation and fines BP had to pay after the Macondo rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Shell agrees $84m deal over Niger Delta oil spill

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to a $84m (£55m) settlement with residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta for two oil spills.

Lawyers for 15,600 Nigerian fishermen say their clients will receive $3,300 each for losses caused by the spills.

What new fines would have meant in Windsor oil spill

An oil and gas operator who spilled 7,500 gallons into the Poudre River last year would have faced 15 times the financial penalty under a new fine structure passed this week.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved a maximum penalty of $15,000 a day for “the most egregious violations” in a Monday hearing — up from a previous maximum fine of $1,000 per day.

With Veto Threat, Obama and Congress Head for Collision Over Keystone Pipeline

The White House on Tuesday made it clear that President Obama would veto a bill authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting up an immediate clash with Republicans just as they assume control of Congress.

“The president threatening to veto the first bipartisan infrastructure bill of the new Congress must come as a shock to the American people who spoke loudly in November in favor of bipartisan accomplishments,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the new majority leader, said on Tuesday.

Peters says pet coke, pipeline may be part of debate

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan said this morning he may inject two items of interest to the state into this week’s debate over the future of the Keystone XL pipeline — health concerns related to petroleum coke and the safety of a pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call this morning, Peters, a Democratic congressman elected to replace retiring U.S. Carl Levin, said he was considering bringing both subjects up when a new Republican-controlled Senate takes up approval of the extension of the controversial Keystone pipeline.

The truth behind the job numbers: Keystone XL will hurt more than help job creation

The new Republican majorities in Congress are once again trying to force approval of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline but they aren’t changing their incorrect talking points about how many jobs the risky project would create. Pipeline backers cite inflated job numbers, misleading the public. The truth is that, according to the State Department, the pipeline will create 35 permanents jobs and 1,950 construction jobs for two years. NRDC expert Anthony Swift took a deeper dive on the job numbers here. Meanwhile, a spill from the pipeline—a virtual inevitability—would threaten tens of thousands jobs of Americans living along its route. Keystone XL will hurt not help job creation in America. Calling Keystone XL a job creator is a distraction when real job creation will come from more investments in clean energy.

Ductile materials for Arctic conditions

The production of oil and gas at temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees below zero means that researchers must advance the development of materials that can withstand these harsh conditions.

The oil industry is heading north. It is said that 30 per cent of remaining gas, and 13 per cent of remaining oil, reserves are to be found in the Arctic. We’re talking about billions.

Oil industry eyes sharp recession

The oil price plunge will force energy companies to slash capital spending in North America, Europe and Asia in 2015, investment bank Evercore IS says.

But investment will continue to rise in Africa and the Middle East as producers in those areas seek to boost long-term output in the flooded global oil market.

Dangerous oil trains are one more reason to end extreme oil

More than 25 million Americans live within an ‘oil train blast zone’, writes Ralph Nader. But as volumes of tar sands and shale oil carried by train soar, the oil cars identified as a ‘substantial danger to life, property, and the environment’ in 1991 remain in use. We must ban those dangerous railcars – and put an end to all ‘extreme oil’.

A Nuclear Plant Leaked Oil Into Lake Michigan For Two Months Straight

A cooling system attached to a nuclear power plant in southwest Michigan was steadily spilling oil into Lake Michigan for about two months, the Detroit Free Press reported Saturday.

Approximately 2,000 gallons of oil from a cooling system at the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant leaked into the lake last year, according to an event notification posted on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission website. The leak started on October 25, and was isolated on December 20, the report said. Plant officials reportedly notified the State of Michigan of the leak on December 13.

Restart of Japan’s largest nuclear plant still in doubt

The influential governor of a Japanese region rebuffed on Tuesday pleas by Tokyo Electric Power to restart the world’s largest nuclear plant, saying the utility had not atoned for the disaster at its Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011.

Governor Hirohiko Izumida of Niigata prefecture is a staunch critic of Tokyo Electric Co and has veto power over the operation of the company’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear station, a seven-reactor facility on the coast 300 km (180 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

Niigata governor scolds TEPCO president, rejects reactor restarts

Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida on Jan. 6 remained adamantly opposed to restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant and chided the president of the plant operator over the company’s response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., was seeking Izumida’s approval to bring two idle reactors at the plant back online, but he instead received criticism from the governor.

Number of injured workers soars at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant

The number of workers injured at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant this fiscal year, which ends March 31, far exceeded the 2013 figure by November, Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said.

The rise mainly reflects an increase in the overall number of workers at the disaster-hit plant, according to the officials.

Federal district court ruling in Fukushima Daichi case has implications for global nuclear liability management

A recent ruling in Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Company, No. 12-CV-3032, S.D. Cal., Oct. 28, 2014, one of three lawsuits [1] filed in the United States related to the 2011 incident at the Fukushima-Daichi nuclear power plant, highlights gaps in the application of methods for managing nuclear liability and the need for global expansion and strengthening of those methods.

Don’t panic! Fukushima radiation just hit the West Coast

Nuclear energy gives plenty of people the heebie-jeebies: Like horror-movie ghosts and ancestral curses, you can’t see or feel or smell it, but it can still kill you. So when Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant was damaged in March 2011, releasing a flood of radioactive cesium-tinged water into the Pacific, nervous nancies the world over took note. And that note, typically, was: PANIC!!!!!1!!11!

First of all: No. Don’t. While some wafting fallout hit the U.S. in the first months after the disaster (results: TBD), ocean-borne radiation took the long way around to get to us. Specifically, 2.1 years, according to an analysis published last month in PNAS.

Radioactivity from crippled Fukushima reactors turns up off B.C. coast

Radioactivity from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors has turned up off the British Columbia coast and the level will likely peak in waters off North America in the next year or two, according to a Canadian-led team that’s intercepted the nuclear plume.

The radioactivity “does not represent a threat to human health or the environment,” but is detectable off Canada’s west coast and the level is climbing, a team led by oceanographer John Smith at Fisheries and Ocean Canada (also known as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans) reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Nine-Year Pressure Buildup Unleashed Fukushima

The earthquake that set off the tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster was unleashed by a stealthy nine-year buildup of pressure on a plate boundary, scientists said Tuesday.

Part of a fault where two mighty plates on the Earth’s crust collide east of Japan was being quietly crushed and twisted for nearly a decade, they said. It was this hard to detect activity which caused the fault eventually to rip open on March 11, 2011 and cause the catastrophe.

Years-long ‘silent quake’ unleashed Fukushima tsunami

The earthquake that set off the tsunami which caused the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster was unleashed by a stealthy nine-year buildup of pressure on a plate boundary, scientists said Tuesday.

Part of a fault where two mighty plates on the Earth’s crust collide east of Japan was being quietly crushed and twisted for nearly a decade, they said.

All rice grown in Fukushima pass radiation safety checks for first time

All bags of rice harvested in Fukushima Prefecture in 2014 submitted for testing met the national standards for radiation, marking the first time that all bags fell within acceptable levels since the checks began in 2012.

Testing for radiation got under way after the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Radiation found in food 80 miles across the border from Cumbrian nuclear-plant Sellafield

RADIATION has been found in food 80 miles across the border from a Cumbrian nuclear-plant a report has revealed.

Nuclear waste released from the Cumbrian reprocessing site has made fish and shellfish caught off the Dumfriesshire coast slightly radioactive.

Radiation pills available soon for residents near Davis-Besse

Jerusalem Township residents who live within a 10-mile radius of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant will have an opportunity next week to pick up free potassium iodide pills designed to provide some protection in the event of a radiation leak.

Toledo-Lucas County Health Department officials said there are no problems at the nuclear facility and this is a precautionary measure that takes place every three to four years when the pills expire.

Add comment

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This