Environmental Must-Reads – July 1, 2014


Lafayette, Houston companies strike $24 million deal to explore central Louisiana oilfield

Two Gulf Coast oil and gas companies with large footprints in south Louisiana are partnering in a $24 million deal to drill some of the state’s oldest oilfields. The companies plan to use new drilling technology to tap oil and gas reserves they say larger companies left behind decades ago.

Lafayette-based PetroQuest Energy Inc. said on Monday (June 30) it has agreed to pay $10 million in cash upfront and $14 million in future drilling costs to acquire half of the interests in one of Midstates Petroleum Co.’s drilling projects in central Louisiana.

New York Towns Can Prohibit Fracking, State’s Top Court Rules

In a decision with far-reaching implications for the future of natural gas drilling in New York State, its highest court ruled on Monday that towns can use zoning ordinances to ban hydraulic fracturing, the controversial extraction method known as fracking.

Since the issue arose about six years ago, there has been a statewide moratorium on fracking, and the State Health Department is currently studying its potential health effects. But in recent years some towns, worried that the state would eventually allow the practice, have taken matters into their own hands by banning fracking within their borders.

New York’s top court upholds towns’ right to ban fracking

New York’s top state court held Monday that towns have the authority to ban drilling for gas, giving a boost to opponents of the controversial method known as fracking.

The Court of Appeals in a 5-2 decision upheld bans in the Ithaca suburb of Dryden and in Middlefield, near Cooperstown, saying the laws were extensions of the towns’ zoning authority. Town are allowed to ban fracking — hydraulic fracturing — only within their borders.

State agency: Fracking fire likely fouled eastern Ohio creek

A fire last weekend at a Monroe County fracking well likely sent contaminants into a nearby creek, killing crayfish, minnows and smallmouth bass as far as 5 miles away from the site, state officials said yesterday.

Officials of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said crews fighting the fire flooded the area with water on Saturday, likely sending fracking chemicals into the creek, which feeds into the Ohio River.

Boom Meets Bust in Texas: Atop Sea of Oil, Poverty Digs In

From the window of her tin-roofed trailer, Judy Vargas can glimpse a miraculous world. It is as close as the dust kicked up by the trucks barreling by but seems as distant as Mars.

As you walk out of her front yard — where the chewed-off leg of an animal, probably a feral hog caught by a prowling bobcat, rots outside — a towering natural gas flare peeks over the southerly view. Across the railroad tracks and Interstate 35, a newly reopened railroad interchange stores acres of pipe and receives shipments of sand from Wisconsin to be used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

At Aspen Ideas, Hickenlooper says that he opposes local regulation of oil and gas

Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday at the Aspen Ideas Festival that he opposes proposed state ballot amendments that would cede control of oil-and-gas development to local jurisdictions.

Hickenlooper told a standing-room-only audience at the Doerr-Hosier Center that Colorado is the leader in the country in regulating the industry. It adopted the nation’s toughest regulations on air pollution earlier this year and limits the amount of methane that can be emitted during drilling and production.

‘Micro refineries’ a solution to oil-train woes, energy firm says

A handful of small refineries in North Dakota could remove dangerous gas from oil train cargoes and make shipments from the state’s productive Bakken shale area safer on the tracks, according to a company which has pitched the idea to regulators.

The proposal from Quantum Energy Inc would strip propane and other volatile gas from North Dakota crude and send much of the remaining fuel to distant refineries.

Study completed on fracking in Md.

Public health officials unveiled a recently completed study on Saturday that assessed the health implications of hydraulic fracturing as the governor’s office continues to move forward with plans to make a decision on the future of fracking in Maryland by the end of the year.

Currently banned in Maryland, state officials are looking at the experiences of other states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Colorado, in an effort to reach a conclusion on fracking’s future.

North Dakota’s Latest Fracking Problem

For cattle rancher Vawnita Best, the struggle by North Dakota regulators to keep up with the oil boom strikes close to home: She can see the natural-gas flares of an oil well from her front porch.

“It’s been flaring for nearly a year,” she said amid the rolling hills of her Elkhorn Creek Ranch. “It’s absolutely ridiculous to be so wasteful,” she said. “They’re flaring gas and using diesel to fuel the pumps—it’s like something Homer Simpson would do.”

One Man’s Mission to Curb Illegal Dumping of Frack Waste in Texas

Deputy Sheriff Hector Zertuche parked his pickup across the road from a gas and oil waste dump and watched through binoculars as a container truck unloaded a mountain of black sludge.

Zertuche, the environmental crimes officer for Jim Wells County, is the law here when it comes to oil and gas waste. The job has fallen to him, he said, because the state’s environmental agencies don’t effectively police the disposal of the industry’s waste. It typically contains benzene and other chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing, along with heavy metals and other contaminants from deep within the earth.

Gas-charged fluids creating seismicity associated with a Louisiana sinkhole

Natural earthquakes and nuclear explosions produce seismic waves that register on seismic monitoring networks around the globe, allowing the scientific community to pinpoint the location of the events. In order to distinguish seismic waves produced by a variety of activities – from traffic to mining to explosions – scientists study the seismic waves generated by as many types of events as possible.

In August 2012, the emergence of a very large sinkhole at the Napoleonville Salt Dome in Louisiana offered University of California, Berkeley scientists the opportunity to detect, locate and analyze a rich sequence of 62 seismic events that occurred one day prior to its discovery.

BP starts to pay medical claims in 2010 Gulf oil spill

After more than a year of delays, BP has paid the first 100 of about 10,000 medical claims filed by Gulf Coast residents and cleanup workers affected by the 2010 oil spill.

Payments to cover the costs of treatment for skin and respiratory ailments and other human-health impacts from the April 2010 disaster when a BP well spewed oil into the Gulf for nearly three months, should begin to flow in earnest over the next two to three months, said Matt Garretson, the administrator appointed by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to process and pay those claims.

Ex-BP exec can be tried on obstruction charge

A former BP executive can be tried on a charge that he obstructed a congressional investigation into the 2010 Gulf oil spill, a federal appeals court in New Orleans said in a ruling posted Monday.

The case involves allegations that David Rainey failed to disclose information from BP PLC indicating that the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion could have been far higher than estimates that were being made publicly.

100 gallons of oil spilled from rail car at Port of Albany

An estimated 100 gallons of oil that spilled from a rail car at a transfer facility at the Port of Albany Sunday posed no danger to nearby residents or the environment, a port official said.

But county officials, who have imposed a moratorium on the growth of the oil infrastructure at the port amid safety concerns, said they were furious that they weren’t notified of the incident — no matter how small.

How A Massive Oil Spill In 1969 Changed Everything

Music echoed around the world in 1969 during Woodstock. The world watched with captivated eyes as Neil Armstrong touched down on the moon. And in southern California — on the same stretch of coastline where offshore oil drilling first took place at the turn of the 20th century — an oil spill forever changed the way we view the environment.

The Santa Barbara oil spill that began on the morning of January 28, 1969 had many lasting impacts. In the immediate aftermath, thousands of seabirds died, seals and dolphins were poisoned, and kelp forests were devastated as oil up to six inches thick coated 35 miles of coastline along the idyllic, Mediterranean shores of Santa Barbara County. The oil muted the sound of the waves on the beach and the smell of petroleum was pervasive. The only larger oil spills to have happened in the U.S. since are the 1989 Exxon Valdez crash and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Arkansas Spill Pollution Case Against Exxon Can Proceed, Court Says

Federal and state attorneys who sued ExxonMobil Corp. over its Arkansas pipeline spill have won court rulings to keep the lawsuit alive and to deny the company’s attempt to limit the information it must provide in the case.

The rulings, which came earlier this month, represent a critical step forward for a case that has moved slowly since it was filed a year ago. The lawsuit, filed June 13, 2013 in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, Ark., accuses Exxon of violating federal and state air and water pollution laws as well as Arkansas’ hazardous waste regulations.

Chinese Oil Pipeline Burns, Thousands Evacuated

A leaking oil pipeline caught fire in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian, forcing the evacuation of nearly 20,000 residents, a government oil company said Tuesday.

The pipeline was damaged by construction work at about 6:30 p.m. on Monday, allowing oil to flow into a sewage pipe, where it caught fire, China National Petroleum Corp. said in a statement. It said the oil burned for 25 minutes before being extinguished.

It’s time for LEGO to block Shell

Imagine you’re eight years old and picture the Arctic. There are no oil rigs, no industrial shipping and no politicians fighting over it.

It’s just an endless sparkling expanse of sea and ice, populated by brave scientific explorers, magical animals and Indigenous Peoples who have called the far north home for millennia. An enchanted place to explore, create stories and let your imagination run free.

At least that’s what LEGO is telling kids. Its new Arctic play set has brought the magical polar north into kids’ bedrooms around the globe. And by doing that it’s helping to educate children and create a generation of Arctic supporters who will be inspired to protect it.

Greenpeace urges Lego to end Shell partnership

Lego is putting sales above its commitment to the environment by partnering with Shell, according to Greenpeace, which is launching a global campaign to force the world’s biggest toymaker to end a deal that puts the oil company’s logo on the famous bricks.

On Tuesday the environmental group will target the Danish company, which has distributed more than 16m Shell-branded toys via petrol stations in 26 countries, hoping to pressure it through “creative action” and mobilising the 5 million “Arctic supporters” it has signed up online.

Oil train protester sits on track in Portland

Police have moved a protester attached to a plastic drum full of concrete off of a railroad track at a Portland oil terminal and arrested her.

Officers used an electric saw and a hammer to free the woman Monday. Her arm was locked to rebar inside the concrete.

Aberdeen residents plan daylong oil train protest

Opponents of a proposal to ship crude oil from Grays Harbor are planning a daylong observance in Aberdeen as a memorial to the 47 people killed in July 2013 when a 74-car train loaded with Bakken crude oil tankers derailed and exploded at Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Speakers, musicians and tribal dancers will take part in the event from noon-7 p.m. Sunday at Zelasko Park along the Wishkah River. The event is billed as “Honoring Lac-Megantic, Honoring Tribes, Honoring Our Earth.”

Railroad in fatal oil train explosion sells Canadian assets, plans settlement fund

With completion of the sale of the bankrupt railroad responsible for an oil train derailment that killed 47 people, attention now turns to creation of a settlement fund with hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate victims.

Bankruptcy attorney Robert Keach said he’s working to establish the settlement fund while sorting through the numerous claims as civil lawsuits in the U.S. are on hold and a Canadian class-action awaits certification.

Major New Pipeline Proposed Next to Enbridge Line That Ruptured in 2010

The wild grass is only now beginning to hide the scar left by the giant ditch digger that gouged a trench though Ron Kardos’ Oceola Township, Mich. pasture last year for an oil pipeline—but already Kardos is preparing for another onslaught of construction.

Earlier this week Kardos got a letter from Energy Transfer Partners, a Houston, Texas-based company, saying a subsidiary—ET Rover Pipeline Company LLC—intends to build an interstate pipeline to move natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale gas formations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio to a terminal in Ontario, Canada.

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