Environmental Must-Reads – July 10, 2014


Secret Trade Doc Calls For More Exports Of U.S. Oil And Gas To Europe

The European Union is making its desire to import more oil and natural gas from the United States very clear in the course of discussions over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal, according to a new leaked document.

The document, which The Washington Post first reported on Tuesday morning, shows the EU pressuring the U.S. to lift its ban on crude oil exports and make it easier to export natural gas to Europe.

U.S.: Oil production in 2015 to be highest since 1972

U.S. crude oil production, rising steadily since 2008, is likely next year to hit its highest level since 1972 while Iraq’s output, despite unrest there, is expected to hold steady, according to a forecast Tuesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Spurred by the use of hydraulic fracturing or fracking in shale rock deposits, U.S. oil production has jumped from 5.0 million barrels per day in 2008 to 7.4 million last year and is expected to average 8.5 million this year and 9.3 million next year, according to the EIA, the analytical arm of the Department of Energy.

In Rare Effort, Ohio Scientist to Test Water Before Fracking Soars

As the shale gas boom was making its way into Ohio in 2012, University of Cincinnati scientist Amy Townsend-Small began testing private water wells in Carroll County, the epicenter of the Utica Shale. Her project, which includes samples of more than 100 wells, is one of the few sustained efforts in the nation to evaluate drinking water quality before, during and after gas drilling.

Although it will likely be another year before Townsend-Small releases the results, her work offers a template for other communities worried about how drilling, fracking and producing unconventional natural gas might contaminate groundwater supplies.

Fracking issue galvanizes grassroots efforts

Since learning last month that Davie County may be poised for natural gas exploration through a process known as fracking, Rosalyn Fielding has rarely been away from her computer or off her telephone.

Fielding, an Advance resident, is among several residents in Davie and Yadkin counties organizing a grassroots effort against fracking.

South Londonderry residents seek ‘Community Bill of Rights’

Residents concerned about a proposed gas pipeline that may snake through their community asked South Londonderry Township supervisors Tuesday to adopt a “Community Bill of Rights” ordinance to codify the township’s right to make its own decisions.

“It’s an ordinance that would secure the community’s rights regarding clean air and water and overall environmental safety from potentially harmful corporate activity,” explained Maureen Gettle of Mt. Gretna. “If they have an ordinance, then they’ve set the standard; it’s saying ‘these are my rights as a community.'”

Obama to Pick Defense Aide for Energy Post

President Obama announced Tuesday that he would nominate Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the National Security Council’s top nuclear proliferation and defense policy official, to be deputy secretary of energy.

If confirmed by the Senate for the No. 2 job at the Department of Energy, which has been held for five years by Daniel Poneman, Ms. Sherwood-Randall would join the department at a moment when it is remaking the nation’s nuclear weapons complex and figuring out the delicate politics of the boom in oil and gas fracking. She would oversee the nuclear complex and a multibillion-dollar program to overhaul the nation’s nuclear laboratories as well as its program to update a modestly shrunken arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Ohio study finds more costs than benefits in shale gas drilling

Even before the most recent recession, Carroll County in rural eastern Ohio was struggling. Employment prospects were sparse and young people were fleeing for opportunities elsewhere. Then came 2011 and arrival of the shale industry, giving the local economy an injection of jobs and the attendant financial benefits an influx of new business creates.

Though shale development has changed the county’s fortunes, the transformation from ghost town to boom town has been far from smooth, according to a study released in April by nonprofit research organization Policy Matters Ohio. Months after the study was made public, there are still lingering questions about whether the cultural, environmental and public health costs of fracking outweigh the economic benefits.

Texas Sheriff Wants Criminal Charges Filed in Fracking Pollution Case

A Texas waste hauling company that is already facing civil charges for a March accident that spread toxic drilling waste along a rural road could also be facing criminal charges.

Karnes County Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva said he will ask county prosecutors to file a criminal complaint against On Point Services LLC after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Railroad Commission close their civil cases against the company.

It’s Official: Colorado Oil Shale Development Would Use Tons Of Water

Energy development takes water, and in Colorado, water is a precious resource. That is why debate has raged for years over just how much water one type of energy development – oil shale – would use.

Now, environmentalists say they have forced one company, Chevron, to admit that developing oil shale in Western Colorado would use a whole lot of water.

Oil and gas battle lines drawn for November Colorado ballot

Fronts in the fight over local control of oil and gas drilling are taking shape, with groups collecting signatures on five ballot measures — three backed by environmentalists and two by industry.

Meanwhile, Gov. John Hickenlooper is running out of time in his effort to blunt the ballot-box battle with compromise local-control legislation that would require a special session to be called.

Fracking Guidelines Issued by API to Ease Community Fears

The oil industry’s largest lobbying group began a new effort to ease public fears about hydraulic fracturing after a legal setback in New York state and a voter push in Colorado to ban the drilling practice.

The American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based group that includes Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Chevron Corp. (CVX), released guidelines for improving community relations as “fracking” extends to more towns, raising concerns about pollution risks.

Hearing Held On Fracking Campaign Finance Dispute

An administrative law judge in Denver is hearing a complaint alleging that a group promoting fracking limits isn’t properly disclosing its source of money.

The complaint being heard Wednesday seeks to force the group Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy to disclose the source of a donation worth $1.5 million. A rival group aligned with the oil and gas industry has argued that Democratic Rep. Jared Polis is backing the group.

Research shows Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused lesions in fish: scientists

Oil that matches the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been found in the bodies of sickened fish, according to a team of Florida scientists who studied the oil’s chemical composition.

“We matched up the oil in the livers and flesh with Deepwater Horizon like a fingerprint,” lead researcher Steven Murawski, a professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science in Tampa, told Reuters.

ND pipeline leaks about 1M gallons of saltwater

Around 1 million gallons of saltwater has leaked from a North Dakota pipeline, some of it into a bay that leads to a lake that provides drinking water for an American Indian reservation, company and tribe officials said Wednesday.

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall told The Associated Press that an underground pipeline near Mandaree leaked about 24,000 barrels, or just over 1 million gallons, of saltwater near Bear Den Bay, a tributary of Lake Sakakawea. The Missouri River reservoir provides water to communities on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, occupied by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes in the heart of western North Dakota’s booming oil patch.

North Dakota Pipeline Spill Cleanup May Take Weeks

Company and tribal officials say a pipeline on North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian reservation has leaked 1 million gallons of saltwater, with some of the fluid finding its way to a bay that leads to a lake that provides drinking water for the reservation.

Cleanup continued there Thursday and Miranda Jones, vice president of environmental safety and regulatory at Houston-based Crestwood Midstream Services Inc., said it was expected to last for weeks.

Washington Township oil spill clean up effort nets nearly 3K gallons

As clean-up efforts in Washington Township’s latest oil spill wind down, final estimates show contractors collected a total of 2,700 gallons of product, more than double the previous estimates.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said that the bulk of the cutting oil, similar in smell and consistency to home heating oil, clean-up is complete, but the DEP will continue to monitor the small pond behind Hydra Lane and Spring Lake to address ongoing issues.

Possible Oil Pipeline Could Go Through Harrisburg

Even Harrisburg City Administrator Andrew Pietrus admits information about an oil pipeline has caught city officials off guard. The first time they even heard of this possibility was Monday morning.

“A landowner to the west of Harrisburg contacted us and sent us a copy of the letter and asked if we were aware of the project or if anyone else had received letters,” Pietrus said.

Keystone Route Legal, Nebraska Tells State’s High Court

The Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed route through Nebraska was legally drawn, lawyers for the state told its Supreme Court in defending legislation, struck down by a state judge, that gave the job to the governor and the conduit’s builder.

With President Barack Obama’s approval of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s planned $5.4 billion pipeline still pending, Nebraska’s attorneys in a filing yesterday reiterated their argument for reversing Judge Stephanie Stacy’s February ruling in favor of landowners who challenged the route selection measure.

Nebraska court date pushes final Keystone XL decision past the midterms

The Nebraska Supreme Court will announce as soon as Thursday that it will hear oral arguments in the case over the Keystone XL pipeline’s route in early September, effectively postponing any final federal decision on the controversial project until after the midterm elections.

In April, the State Department announced that it would not issue a determination on whether the pipeline was in the nation’s interest until Nebraska resolved whether the project’s path through the state complied with state law. A group of landowners is challenging the decision by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to sign legislation designed to speed the project by approving its route and letting the company use the power of eminent domain in negotiating right of way for the project.

Wisconsin environmentalists working to stop Enbridge pipeline expansion

Madison 350, a local chapter of an international climate action group, is calling on Dane County and other counties located along a pipeline that runs the length of Wisconsin to address potential oil spills by requiring bonds be issued on the project, an unprecedented move toward the industry.

“There is nothing in state or federal law that protects communities against a spill,” said Peter Anderson, an environmental activist with Madison 350, a local chapter of 350.org. “The oil spill laws that the federal government has do not apply to tar sand oil spills.”

Supreme Court land ruling in favour of B.C. First Nation won’t impact Northern Gateway, Enbridge CEO says

The recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling recognizing the Tsilhqot’in First Nation’s aboriginal title claim in British Columbia won’t impact the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, Enbridge Inc. president and CEO Al Monaco said Wednesday.

While hailed by the province’s aboriginal community as a powerful new legal lever to defeat the project, Mr. Monaco said the decision confirms Enbridge has been taking the right approach all along by reaching out to communities in the Alberta-to-West Coast pipeline right of way and offering economic participation. So far, 26 First Nations have signed up to be equity owners.

Enbridge CEO says court ruling could affect Gateway

Addressing a landmark Supreme Court decision on First Nations land rights for the first time, Enbridge Inc. chief executive Al Monaco said the ruling could have an impact on its push to build the Northern Gateway pipeline if future claims come forward but it won’t change the pipeline company’s approach to aboriginal communities.

Enbridge says Flanagan South construction to conclude in Q3

Enbridge said it will complete construction of its Flanagan South pipeline from Pontiac, Illinois, to Cushing, Oklahoma, in the third quarter. The completion will be later than previously expected.

The Calgary-based company will begin line fill of the nearly 600-mile pipeline in October or the early fourth quarter, said Kristen Higgins, a company spokeswoman.

The World’s Next Oil Shipping Corridor: The Arctic Ocean

It’s colder than the Persian Gulf, needs more icebreakers than the Suez Canal and passes less picturesque beaches than the Mediterranean, but the so-called Northern Sea route connecting Europe to Asia via the northern coast of Russia has its advantages.

It’s a shorter and quicker route, and thus more energy efficient. And it avoids many of the geopolitical flash points that make shipping risky–instead of the Strait of Malacca, the Horn of Africa and Egypt’s Suez region, boats can hug the coat of Russia for a chilly but uneventful ride.

Delaware won’t disclose oil train details

Despite a series of explosive train crashes, Delaware will not publicly disclose when and where trains carry crude oil across the state.

The state’s department of safety and homeland security confirmed that CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. report oil train shipments in compliance with the Department of Transportation’s May emergency order requiring rail companies to notify state officials when they ship more than 1 million gallons of the highly flammable Bakken crude.

Shale Oil Trains: Weighing National Security Versus The Public Right To Know, Wisconsin Reveals Routes Through The State

The sudden boom in oil production from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale deposits has fueled a nationwide increase in crude-by-rail transport — and associated accidents –prompting heated debate about publicizing the rail routes that oil companies use. The debate centers on which is more important, security for the oil in transit or the public’s right to know about the routes.

Wisconsin is the latest state to weigh in on the matter and it chose the public’s right to know about the routes when it recently revealed the routes and number of trains carrying the volatile Bakken oil through the state. In doing so, Wisconsin rejected arguments from the rail industry, and formerly the federal government, that this information should only be released to those who “need to know” and not the general public, to prevent terrorist acts.

Disclosing New Jersey’s crude oil transportation by train still undecided

One year ago Wednesday, 47 people died in Quebec, Canada, as a direct result of a fiery train crash. On the anniversary, activists gathered along train tracks in Philadelphia to remember those victims and call for local agencies and governments to advocate for more protective measures regarding the transportation of oil.

Lawmakers across the country are currently weighing options regarding when to let the public know what products are being moved along the railroads that snake through rural neighborhoods, industrial complexes and urban centers — especially crude oil from the Bakken shale region in North Dakota.

Typhoon Neoguri heads for Fukushima nuclear plant

Typhoon Neoguri, the worst storm to hit Japan in 15 years, is likely to reach areas near the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant by Friday morning, forecasters have warned.

The site’s operator said workers were bracing for the storm, which has been downgraded from a typhoon to a ‘severe storm’.

Fukushima ice plan failing to take hold

Japan’s nuclear regulators have expressed alarm at the failure of a much-vaunted effort to freeze radioactive water that has built up beneath the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, warning that the water could very easily escape into the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Toyoshi Fuketa, the commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has called on Tokyo Electric Power Co. to re-examine its plan to freeze around 11,000 thousand tons of contaminated water that is sloshing about in trenches dug around the reactor buildings.

Tepco Says It Has Turned Corner on Fukushima Nuclear Clean-Up

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that after three years of mishaps it’s starting to gain control over decommissioning work at its Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station, as Japan’s biggest utility begins building an ice wall around the damaged reactors.

More than 100 of the 1,571 cooling pipes due to surround reactors 1 to 4, where most of the radiation is emitted, have been installed and work is on schedule to meet the March 2015 deadline, Fukushima Dai-Ichi chief Akira Ono said at an on-site briefing yesterday.

Drone helps Fukushima clean-up

Scientists at the University of Bristol have successfully mapped radiation levels around a Japanese power station using a drone.

They claim it is the safest way to monitor levels after the tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011.

Marubeni Unit to Build Small Hydropower Station in Fukushima

A unit of Marubeni Corp. (8002) will build a 175-kilowatt hydropower station in Fukushima prefecture.

The plant will be operated by Mibugawa Electric Power Co., a wholly owned unit of the Japanese trading company, and will start running in April, Marubeni said in a statement today.

Stigmatized nuclear workers quit Japan utility

Stigma, pay cuts, and risk of radiation exposure are among the reasons why 3,000 employees have left the utility at the center of Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster. Now there’s an additional factor: better paying jobs in the feel good solar energy industry.

Engineers and other employees at TEPCO, or Tokyo Electric Power Co., were once typical of Japan’s corporate culture that is famous for prizing loyalty to a single company and lifetime employment with it. But the March 2011 tsunami that swamped the coastal Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, sending three reactors into meltdown, changed that.

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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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