Environmental Must-Reads – January 8, 2013


Group wants sinkhole declared federal disaster

A group is petitioning the Obama administration to get the sinkhole in Assumption Parish declared as a federal disaster, so a federal team can be assigned to the cleanup and investigation.

So far, “We the People” has over 50 signatures, but needs a total of 25,000 before Feb. 4.

Experts say sinkhole gas burning off slowly

One-tenth to one-twentieth of the methane gas estimated to be trapped under the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities in northern Assumption Parish has been burned off so far, according to parish emergency response officials.

Drilling Rig’s Thick Hull Helps Prevent Oil Spill

A Shell Oil drilling rig has been pulled of the rocks, where it washed up a week ago during a storm. It has been towed to a bay where divers will inspect it for damage. The incident raises questions about the oil company’s controversial plans to continue exploring for oil in the Arctic Ocean this summer.

Kulluck drilling rig refloated, being towed to shelter in Alaska

An oil drilling rig that ran aground off an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska last week was being towed in stable condition Monday, with no sign of environmental impact or fuel leakage, recovery workers said.

Shell drill rig finds safe home for now, crews check for damage

Royal Dutch Shell’s troubled drill rig Kulluk found its way back into deeper waters Sunday night, after nearly a week stranded in shallow waters off of Sitkalidak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. By Monday morning, the circular, 266-foot-diameter rig had been towed 30 miles north to the relative shelter of Kiliuda Bay, on the east side of Kodiak Island.

La. buys wetlands with oil spill settlement funds

The state has acquired more than 11,000 acres of wetlands in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes as part of a conservation project funded by a settlement over the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Nigeria: Mobil Yet to Clean Up Oil Spill On Ibeno Shoreline

About three weeks after oil spill was reported within the Qua Iboe oil fields being operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, the cleanup of the contaminated Atlantic shoreline is yet to be carried out.

Oil Tanker Hits San Francisco’s Bay Bridge

An empty oil tanker sideswiped a tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog yesterday but the Coast Guard believes no oil was spilled into the bay. A large amount of absorbent boom was deployed as a precaution after the crash, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. There was damage to the 750-foot “Overseas Reymar” and to fenders around the bridge, but not to the bridge itself, which remained open to traffic. The Coast Guard is looking at human error as the possible cause of the accident.

Major Oil Spill Recovery Reception Facilities: New EMSA Report

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) publishes its report on facilities for discharge of oil collected following a major oil spill in the sea.

Pacific Island wakes up to threat of oil spills

Coral reefs and marine ecosystems in the Milne Bay Province of the Pacific Island nation of Papua New Guinea are at serious risk of long-term environmental damage. The reason: an oil spill from a ship that ran aground on a reef on Kwaiawata Island on Christmas Eve, and authorities’ long delay in mobilising an appropriate response to the accident.

Extreme Fossil Fuel Extraction Impacts Future of Beluga Whales

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Alaska Fisheries Science Center released last week its annual survey of endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales—and the findings don’t bode well for belugas. The 2012 population estimate is 312. According to NOAA, this is a “small, but not scientifically significant increase over last year.”

In latest Keystone Pipeline protest, environmentalists storm offices of oil giant TransCanada

Two activists were arrested Monday during a protest at the Galleria-area offices of the TransCanada Corporation, whose Keystone XL pipeline is currently under construction to bring controversial tar sands to the Gulf Coast oil industry.

8 arrested for Keystone XL protest

Police moved protesters into a police van Monday after they were arrested for trespassing at TransCanada corporate offices in Westborough. The eight chained themselves together in protest of the company’s Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Protests Ignite Nationwide Targeting TransCanada’s Keystone XL

More than 100 blockaders stormed the lobby of TransCanada’s Keystone XL office in Houston this morning. Protesters danced, spilled black ‘tar sands’ balloons and hung neon orange hazard tape to highlight the deadly effects of TransCanada’s corporate greed on communities and ecosystems.

Environmentalists urge Obama to block Keystone XL and act on climate change

After a strategy of ‘climate silence’ during president’s first term, activist groups signal intent to be more vocal in next four years

O’Malley panel urges ‘fracking’ safeguards

An advisory commission studying whether shale gas extraction should proceed in Maryland called Monday for new legislation to deal with potential abuses in leasing and drilling for the fuel, but environmentalists said so many questions remain about the safety of the drilling method known as “fracking” that they want lawmakers to impose a moratorium until the issue has been fully analyzed.

Fracking Health Study Dispute

There’s controversy over a leaked report that says fracking can be done safely in New York State.

The analysis was prepared by the health department early last year and recently given to the New York Times. It’s an 8 page summary of previous research and includes information on the potential impacts of fracking on water resources, air emissions and other factors. The report basically says fracking could be done safely within the regulations that are being developed.

Elected officials push for extension of fracking public comment period

People have until Friday to comment on the DEC’s revised regulations for hydrofracking. Another 30 day public comment period began in December after the state filed for a 90 day extension on the rule-making process. But some local officials are asking for extra time to submit their comments.

What Impact Could Fracking Have on California Vineyards?

The energy industry’s growing interest in a controversial extraction technique has growers worried about water problems and other environmental concerns

The EPA Hasn’t Figured Out How To Publish Results Of Its Fracking Chemical Study Without Spilling Trade Secrets

The EPA asked nine drillers to submit detailed information about their operations as part of the agency’s years-long study of fracking’s impact on drinking water.

However, the companies deemed “a majority” of information they provided to the EPA’s megastudy on fracking as confidential, which complicates the agency’s ability to publish their findings.

Meet Chip Northrup—An Articulate and Energetic Opponent of Fracking

When I first began writing about the anti-fracking movement in New York, I was told I must interview James “Chip” Northrup, a Texas oil-investor-turned-anti-fracker with a home in Cooperstown, New York, and another in Dallas, Texas. “Chip,” I was told, had an insider’s knowledge of the industry and was a frequent speaker on the subject in local forums as well as in national and international media.

Methane Leaks Erode Green Credentials of Natural Gas

Scientists are once again reporting alarmingly high methane emissions from an oil and gas field, underscoring questions about the environmental benefits of the boom in natural-gas production that is transforming the US energy system.

Inergy Seeks Approval for Gas Storage in Once Deemed Unusable Salt Caverns

A Kansas City energy company is urging New York and federal regulators to disregard explicit warnings about the structural integrity of two salt caverns that it plans to use to store millions of barrels of highly-pressurized liquid propane and butane.

One cavern was plugged and abandoned 10 years ago after a consulting engineer from Louisiana concluded that its roof had collapsed in a minor earthquake. He deemed the rubble-filled cavity “unusable” for storage. It is now scheduled to hold 600,000 barrels of liquid butane.

Oil, gas panel OKs groundwater sampling rule

Colorado oil and natural gas regulators on Monday approved rules making the state the first to require energy companies to do groundwater sampling both before and after they drill.

The sampling is meant to show whether supplies of drinking water have been affected by energy development.

Oil and Gas Groundwater Protections Approved by State Regulators

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation today approved what it is calling “pioneering” new groundwater protection rules considered among the strongest in the country. The new regulations mark another innovative step in Colorado’s pacesetting regulation of this important industry.

80+ Groups Challenge Gov. Cuomo to Lead on Climate Change and Protect His State from Fracking

A coalition of national environmental and progressive groups—including 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Democracy for America, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace and Sierra Club—joined with other national and New York organizations to send Governor Cuomo a letter challenging him to be a national leader in addressing climate change. The letter applauds his stated commitment to addressing climate change and environmental protection, but highlights how permitting fracking in New York would contradict those goals.

The Overlooked Threat to Our Nation’s Drinking Water

Wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations – disposed of deep underground – recently burbled to the surface in Oklahoma. It wasn’t a one-off. Similar contamination from so-called “injection wells” happened at seven locations across Oklahoma and at twelve California locations between 2008 and 2010. Elsewhere, 673 wastewater injection wells in Kansas and 429 in New Mexico failed safety tests, meaning they’re at risk from leaking into aquifers and drinking water, says a recent ProPublica investigative report.

Fracking Debate on NY Moratorium

The controversial use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” that is behind the country’s natural gas boom has come under scrutiny in the new Hollywood drama, Promised Land, and met stiff resistance in New York state, where a four-year moratorium against the process could soon expire.

Democracy Now! hosted a 30-minute debate on fracking with two opponents and two supporters.

Cellphone radiation health warning

A new report warns against the harmful effects of using mobile phones, citing an increased risk of getting a brain tumor – while male users risk sperm damage.

The report, conducted by the BioInitiative Working Group 2012, warns that evidence for risks to health has “substantially” increased since 2007 from electromagnetic fields and wireless technologies (radiofrequency radiation).

Fukushima cleanup crews cut corners

Two construction joint ventures hired to wash radioactive substances off buildings in two Fukushima Prefecture communities in December allowed the tainted water to run off into street gutters, an Environment Ministry official said Tuesday.

Fukushima children recuperate at center on Okinawa island

A recuperation center set up on Kumejima island in Okinawa Prefecture is providing support for children affected by the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture.

Kumi no Sato, located about 100 kilometers west of Naha, was set up by nonprofit organization Okinawa Kumi no Sato in the aftermath of the nuclear crisis as part of efforts to help maintain the health of disaster-afflicted children in Fukushima.

Sizewell nuclear incident plan post Fukushima ‘inadequate’

Changes to Suffolk’s emergency plan for Sizewell nuclear power station after the Fukushima disaster in Japan have been called “totally inadequate”.

Virginia: For (Uranium) Lovers?

State lawmakers in Virginia will soon decide whether to give the green light the nation’s first East Coast uranium mine, an operation that promises jobs and security for the nuclear industry, but also fears of long-term contamination by neighbors and opponents.

Legislators at the statehouse in Richmond plan to introduce a bill this month that would overturn a three-decade state moratorium on uranium mining, opening the door to development of the Cole’s Hill site in Chatham, Va., not far from the North Carolina border.

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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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