Environmental Must-Reads – January 8, 2015


New Research Links Scores of Earthquakes to Fracking Wells Near a Fault in Ohio

Not long after two mild earthquakes jolted the normally steady terrain outside Youngstown, Ohio, last March, geologists quickly decided that hydraulic fracturing operations at new oil-and-gas wells in the area had set off the tremors.

Now a detailed study has concluded that the earthquakes were not isolated events, but merely the largest of scores of quakes that rattled the area around the wells for more than a week.

11 tremors jolt North Texas since Tuesday morning

Eleven earthquakes centered near the old Texas Stadium site in Irving jolted North Texans on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning.

The largest of the quakes — 3.5 and 3.6 magnitude — were felt by thousands across dozens of cities Tuesday afternoon. There were no reports of injuries or serious damage, although some residents worried about the potential impact on their homes.

Dallas area now up to 11 small earthquakes in two days

Seismologists installed a new earthquake-monitoring device in the Dallas suburb of Irving this week after a series of minor tremblors rocked an area near the site of the former Dallas Cowboys football stadium.

Irving was shaken by 11 quakes yesterday and into today, including three measuring magnitude 3.6, 3.5 and 3.1, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

26 Earthquakes Later, Fracking’s Smoking Gun Is in Texas

There’s a monster lurking under Texas, beneath the sand and oil and cowboy bones, and it’s getting a little restless after a 15 million year nap. Shaking things up in the city of Irving, just slightly west of Dallas, where no less than ten earthquakes yesterday and today bring the total tremors to 26 since October in that town alone. Over 100 quakes have been registered in the North Texas region since 2008, a staggering uptick from just a single one prior that year.

Are Oil and Gas Industries Behind the Rare Texas Earthquakes?

A rare series of earthquakes in northern Texas has residents asking if oil and gas activities are responsible for the shaking, which has left people rattled but did not cause significant damage or injuries.

A series of nine earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 1.6 to 3.6 shook the Dallas region over a period of less than 24 hours late Tuesday and early Wednesday. The shaking was felt in Dallas, Irving, and surrounding towns. Residents of those areas have flooded Twitter with accusations that the quakes were caused by oil and gas activity.

Lawsuit filed in effort to close loophole on fracking emissions

Chemical plants, coal mines, power plants, steel mills, oil refineries and even the maple syrup industry must disclose their releases of hazardous pollutants on the federal Toxic Release Inventory.

But the natural gas drilling industry isn’t required to do the same, even though it now releases more toxics into the air than any other industry except for electricity-generating power plants, according to a coalition of environmental and open-government organizations.

BLM defers fracking near Chaco Canyon

A coalition of local and regional watchdog groups said Tuesday in a news release that they support the Bureau of Land Management’s recent decision to defer leasing five Navajo allotment parcels totaling more than 2,800 acres for fracking near Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The BLM’s decision, announced Dec. 30, came after the groups filed a protest challenging the lease sale.

New Mexico Lawmaker Faces Challenge In Strengthening Oil Regulation

New Mexico’s oil and gas industry is the goose that lays the golden egg. Before the recent drop in oil prices, the industry generated about 30 percent of the state’s revenue.

The industry is also generous with political campaign contributions, and some in government are especially protective of it.

Marshall County plant loses fracking fight

A West Virginia judge has thrown out new legal challenges to a plan for natural gas production near a Marshall County chemical plant.

Late in December, Marshall Circuit Judge David W. Hummel dismissed legal complaints filed by Axiall Corp. over the natural gas drilling and production operation proposed by Gastar Exploration near Axiall’s chlorine and caustic soda plant at Natrium, located along the Ohio River near the Marshall-Wetzel county line.

California Court Rejects Misleading Language In Local Fracking Ballot Initiative–Twice

Residents of La Habra Heights in Los Angeles County, California want their city to become the latest to ban fracking and other high intensity oil extraction methods, and have placed an initiative on the March 2015 ballot to do just that.

The residents and activists seeking to ban fracking in La Habra Heights won a significant battle on New Year’s Eve when inaccurate and misleading ballot language backed by the oil and gas industry was rejected by the Los Angeles Superior Court. Now they’ve won a second victory against the oil and gas companies trying to game the citizen initiative system.

Fracking Data Sought by Environmental Groups in EPA Lawsuit

A coalition of advocacy groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for public access to information on toxic chemicals released by the energy industry through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other forms of oil and gas drilling.

Fracking involves the injection of water, chemicals and sand below ground to extract oil and gas from shale formations. The process has been criticized as environmentally dangerous, even as its use has driven U.S. natural gas production to new highs amid litigation across the country.

Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Ban Fracking In Florida, Citing Health And Environmental Concerns

One Florida state representative introduced a bill this week that would ban fracking in his state, an act that comes on the heels of similar legislation introduced by two of his colleagues in the state Senate.

Florida Rep. Evan Jenne (D) filed a bill Monday that outlines the potential problems associated with fracking in Florida, including use of chemicals which, according to the bill, “may pose a widespread and significant risk to public health and safety and the environment.”

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.

Railroad: Oil train reports could enable insider trading

In the latest attempt to keep states from publicly releasing information about crude oil trains, one railroad argues that the disclosures could facilitate insider trading.

In a Dec. 29 letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Kansas City Southern wrote that the state “should not disclose information to individuals that creates the potential for investment activity by individuals having non-public information.”

New California Law Aims to Ease Oil Train Safety Worries

Last May, after devastating rail crashes made more damaging by a particular kind of crude oil being carried, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order.

It said if more than a million gallons of that crude was moving on the rails, local emergency crews had to be notified.

California’s legislature tried to make that kind of notice permanent – not just for oil but also for 25 of the most toxic substances traveling the rails.

Oil Spill in Singapore Strait Puts Endangered Turtles at Risk

Oil spill response companies are rushing to clean up a large oil spill in the Singapore Strait, off the coast of Indonesia, in the hope of stopping the oil slick before it reaches protected turtle nesting areas on Bintan Island, Indonesia.

On Jan. 2, an estimated 4,500 tons (or 33,000 barrels) of crude oil were spilled when the Libyan oil tanker Alyarmouk and a Singaporean cargo ship, Sinar Kapuas, collided approximately 11 nautical miles from the territorially-disputed shoreline of Pedra Branca, Indonesia, northeast of Singapore.

Nigeria: Ogoni Residents Hope Shell Oil Spill Settlement Sets Precedent

Residents in Ogoniland have welcomed a settlement in which oil giant Shell will pay double digit million pound compensation for land ruined by two oil spills in 2008. They hope other deals will follow.

The oil giant Shell has agreed to a compensation package for the Bodo fishing community in Ogoniland in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta totaling 55 million pounds ($83 million, 70 million euros).

Cleanup ongoing for 7,500-gallon oil spill

A cleanup crew continued to scrape soil from a 7,500 gallon oil spill on state Highway 185 about four miles south of Victoria on Wednesday.

On Saturday morning, the driver of a southbound Sun Coast Resources, Inc. cargo trailer drove off the east side of the roadway and into the median, where the vehicle rolled, spilling crude oil, according to the San Antonio Department of Public Safety communications office.

Nebraska court could hold up Keystone pipeline

The Republican-led Congress appears ready to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but no matter what actions are taken in Washington, the entire 1,179-mile project could be delayed until Nebraska signs off on the route.

After several years of intense debate, the routing process is before the Nebraska Supreme Court, and depending on how the justices rule, months or years could pass before construction begins in that state.

Obama and Congress head for first confrontation over Keystone XL pipeline

As Republicans gear up for the beginning of the first time they’ve controlled both chambers of Congress since 2007, one legislative item at the top of the list will be an effort to push forward a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Indeed, a bill to do just that was introduced in the House yesterday as H.R. 3, and the White House has already made clear that the president will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk

Four Reasons Why Keystone XL Pipeline Is a Goner

The new Republican Congress has promised to expedite legislation to promote the Keystone XL Pipeline. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven is expected to unveil his bill as soon as today, January 6. The House will quickly follow with a similar proposal.

So do the supporters of the Keystone XL Pipeline have a deal? Or is the pipeline done, dead?

Here are four reasons why the pipeline might never be built.

Why the Fight Over the Keystone Pipeline is Completely Divorced From Reality

In the six years since TransCanada Corp. first sought U.S. approval to build the pipeline, the debate over Keystone XL pipeline has, somewhat strangely, become one of the central fights in U.S. politics. It’s about to get even bigger. On Wednesday, Republicans will inaugurate the new Congress by taking up a Senate bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would connect oil producers in Western Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. The House will vote on the measure on Friday.

The Phony Debate Over the Keystone XL Pipeline

They’re playing you for fools on both sides of the Keystone XL pipeline debate. Oil lobbyists and conservatives call it a jobs project; they’re wrong. Environmental lobbyists and liberals call it a globe killer; they’re wrong.

What each side has done is tease out its own micro grain of truth—then inflate it, distort it, and disseminate it through channels greased by ambition and cash. You can’t believe these professional partisans.

Keystone Is Bad, and So Is Fracking

As the 114th Congress kicks off, environmental activists and good-government advocates alike are holding their breath – and their noses – at what we worry could be the most hostile period ever for clean air, clean water and public health in America. Some Congressional Republicans are even calling for the complete eradication of the Environmental Protection Agency. You can’t make this stuff up.

So I’m obviously pleased that the Obama administration is already pushing back against early efforts by Congressional Republicans – and weak Democrats – to lay siege to our environment. The president’s vow to veto legislation that would push through the Keystone XL pipeline is promising. His outright rejection of the foolish pipeline plan would be even better, but that’s another story.

Oil Sands Producer Defaults on Canada Pension Fund Debt

Junior oil sands producer Laricina Energy Ltd. said it may no longer be able to fund its operations after defaulting on financing extended by Canada’s largest pension fund, the CPP Investment Board.

The privately-held company’s chief executive said Monday that Laricina is in talks with the fund and expressed confidence an agreement would be reached to allow the company to stay in business after it breached a debt pact covenant.

Much of world’s fossil fuel reserve must stay buried to prevent climate change, study says

Vast amounts of oil in the Middle East, coal in the US, Australia and China and many other fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change, according to the first analysis to identify which existing reserves cannot be burned.

Study shows how much coal, oil and gas must stay untouched to solve global warming

In a study that has sweeping implications for policymakers, energy companies and even individual investors, scientists have found that if we are to have a decent chance of limiting global warming to below “dangerous” levels, then more than 80% of current coal reserves, half of all gas reserves and a third of oil reserves must remain unburned through at least 2050.

Oil Crash Risks Further Delay at Statoil Arctic Castberg Project

Statoil ASA (STL) could be forced to delay its Johan Castberg project in Norway’s Arctic waters for a third time after oil prices dropped by more than half since June.

“It remains to be seen whether we’re able to come up with a good enough solution within the timeframe that’s been set,” Eldar Saetre, Statoil’s acting chief executive officer, said in an interview in Oslo today. “There’s a situation that forces us to make tough prioritizations.”

Will Port of Seattle be repair center for Shell Oil’s Arctic vessels?

The Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 is being proposed as a repair and service center for vessels engaged in Shell Oil’s troubled, delayed program to drill for oil in Arctic waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska.

The port was not talking on Wednesday, but will release information Thursday. The Seattle Port Commission will hear a staff briefing Tuesday on what is certain to be a controversial proposed tenant.

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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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