Environmental Must-Reads – July 11, 2013


Rules on Toxic Clean Up Chemicals Unclear as New Leak Pours into Gulf of Mexico

A new well leak in the Gulf of Mexico is spewing natural gas and possibly crude oil 75 miles off the coast of Louisiana, reports the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Fracking a Whole Flock of Pandoras

As we’ve all heard, hydraulic fracturing releases natural gas contained in deeply buried shale formations.  I wondered  about the association between shale and natural gas.  In researching that connection, I came across something unexpected.   This section describes the shale-gas connection and the next reveals its largely understated  threat.

Natural Gas Bill Could Have Big Impact on Texas

Already the country’s leading natural gas producer, Texas could see the industry expand even further in the state under a proposal approved Wednesday by a U.S. House subcommittee. But critics of the measure say that there are environmental concerns that should not be cast aside.

Saline Township couple relinquishes mineral rights after battling oil company

For the past three years, Lorie Armbruster, 59, of Saline Township has said no to an oil company — Paxton Resources LLC — as it’s tried time after time to get her to sign a lease for the mineral rights to her property.

Fracking Pushes U.S. Oil Output to Highest Since 1992

U.S. oil production jumped last week to the highest level since January 1992, cutting consumption of foreign fuel and putting the U.S. closer to energy independence.

Drilling techniques including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, pushed crude output up by 134,000 barrels, or 1.8 percent, to 7.401 million barrels a day in the seven days ended July 5, the Energy Information Administration said today.

Nabors struggles in oversupplied fracking market

A profit warning from Nabors Industries Ltd (NBR.N) highlights the struggles facing smaller companies as they get squeezed by bigger oil patch rivals such as Halliburton Co (HAL.N) in an oversupplied U.S. land drilling market.

100 Protesters Say No Fracking Way to Governor Cuomo in Ithaca

“As you can Ithaca is really a community strongly opposed to fracking and really easy to mobilize.”

More than 100 Fracktivists, stood outside loud and proud … as Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke at Cornell University

Fearing oil boom could bring influx of strippers, Fairfield, Ill., readies ban

While Southern Illinois residents hope capitalize on an expected oil boom in the region — officials at Fairfield, Ill., have formed a “fracking committee” to look for opportunities that an increase in oil production could bring — they also hope to head off problems that sometimes follow an increase in the number oil field roughnecks.

China wants bigger share of U.S. shale revolution -U.S. official

China expressed a desire to increase its investment in U.S. shale gas during talks between the two countries on Wednesday, an American official said.

State Dept Contractor ERM Lied About TransCanada Ties, Another Fatal Flaw of Environmental Review

The contractor the Obama U.S. State Department hired for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of the northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands export pipeline overtly lied on its conflict-of-interest disclosure form that it signed and handed to State in June 2012.

North Colorado’ residents want to create the 51st American state

If some Colorado counties have their way, the fifty nifty United States may need to make room for one more.

Organizers from 10 counties in northeast Colorado met Monday to draw boundaries for a brand new state they’re calling “North Colorado.”

This latest statehood campaign is the result of a growing political divide between urban and rural citizens in the area, CBS Denver reports. When it comes to issues like gun control, raising renewable energy standards, and increasing regulations on oil and gas, these two groups couldn’t be any more different.

Enviros hope to sink LNG tanker plan off NJ/NY coast

Two years ago, environmental organizations in New Jersey and New York torpedoed a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal proposed for coastal waters outside New York harbor. The kill shot was fired by New Jersey’s then new governor, Chris Christie, who exercised the veto power provided under federal law to governors in states affected by such projects.

Shell to spend $115 million on pollution control

Shell Oil has agreed to spend at least $115 million to cut harmful pollution at a Houston-area refinery.

Trucks Are Tearing Up The Roads in West Virginia

Mayor Julie Beresford and Delegate David Evans, R-Marshall, support the Marcellus Shale drilling boom, but they want to see that U.S. 250 and other roads around the city remain safe.

“The roads are really getting beat up because of the constant truck traffic,” Beresford said. “Even when the trucks are not overweight, it is the constant pounding that the roads take from multiple trucks that go one right after the other.”

Frac sand exposure study FOIA: 13 months and still no response from CDC

Field studies conducted at hydraulic fracturing well sites by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2010 and 2011 found exposures to respirable crystalline silica well in excess of safety limits set by both NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The NIOSH  findings, released in April and May 2012, found 79% of air monitoring samples taken in personal breathing zones for silica exceeded the NIOSH recommended exposure level (REL) and 47% were greater than OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL). Nine percent of the samples showed respirable silica exposures 10 or more times the OSHA limit, with one sample 25 times the PEL.  Thirty-one percent of all the air monitoring samples showed silica exposures 10 or more times NIOSH’s  REL, with one sample exceeding it by more than 100 times.These findings, from eleven different fracking sites in five states, prompted NIOSH and OSHA to issue a “Hazard Alert” in June 2012 for worker exposure to silica. The question now is what progress may have been made since then in improving conditions to better protect workers from this potentially serious health hazard.

Fracking Featured as New Storyline in Iconic Dick Tracy Comic Strip

This week, the legendary comic strip Dick Tracy began an on-going storyline on GoComics.com about fracking. Writer Mike Curtis and illustrator Joe Staton pen the cartoon, using Wheaton Farm as the subject for a relentless Mr. Hy Pressure who is determined to lease the family’s land to the fracking industry.

Assessing Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

While numerous studies are under way to determine the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico, the extent and severity of these impacts and the value of the resulting losses cannot fully be measured without considering the goods and services provided by the Gulf, says a new report from the National Research Council. The congressionally mandated report offers an approach that could establish a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts and help inform options for restoration activities.

Calculate BP’s gulf oil spill damage broadly, report says

The federal damage assessment of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill should take into account the broader economic and social impacts of the 2010 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Research Council.

BP Oil Spill Settlement: Why Company is Trying to Renege

The formulas developed by BP, agreed to by BP, and attested to under oath by BP, indeed may result in an overall liability that exceeds $7.8 billion, as seemed likely to all parties since day one. Why? Because the Deepwater Horizon Disaster devastated the economy from Key West to Tampa, from Mobile to Birmingham, from Pascagoula to Jackson, and from New Orleans to Shreveport. Along the coast and well inland. From beachfront t-shirt shops to manufacturing and service companies located hundreds of miles from the shore but who supply, support and rely on the tourism trade just as the surf shop does.

ExxonMobil Releases Cause of Mayflower Oil Spill

ExxonMobil has released the cause of the oil spill in Mayflower earlier this year.

Exxon says the manufacturer of the Pegasus Pipeline is to blame for the spill.

A lab report identifies the cause as “original manufacturing defects” in the pipeline, which was first installed more than six decades ago.

20 dead, 30 presumed dead in Quebec oil train crash, police say

The 30 people missing after a runaway train crash in Quebec over the weekend are presumed dead, police said Wednesday, in what has become Canada’s worst railway catastrophe in almost 150 years

“We informed them of the potential loss of their loved ones,” Quebec police inspector Michel Forget said Wednesday after meeting with families of the dead and missing. “You have to understand that it’s a very emotional moment.”

Rail chief blames employee in Quebec train crash

The head of a railway company whose train crashed into a Quebec town, killing at least 15 people, blamed the accident on an employee who he said had failed to properly set the brakes.

Quebec oil train blast: Amateur video of explosion in Lac-Megantic

Dramatic amateur video footage has emerged of an explosion in Canada following the derailment of an oil train in the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic on Saturday.

Adrien Aubert filmed the aftermath of the blast from around 200 metres away. “Everything is blowing up,” he said.

Quebec tragedy unlikely to slow oil shipments via rail

With shipments of crude rising, some say an accident as happened in Quebec was inevitable, but others say trains are the only — and safest — way to move the fuel

Lac Mégantic oil spill cleanup efforts ‘a great success’

Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet and Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume on Tuesday flew over the Chaudière River, which has its source in Lac Mégantic, and said they are satisfied an oil spill from the Lac-Mégantic disaster is under control.

NTSB warned of rail car used in Quebec train fire

US and Canadian regulators have been warning for years that the type of rail car involved in the fatal derailment and explosion in Quebec is far more prone to rupturing in accidents than other models available.

The Issue is Trust, Not Pipelines vs. Railways

Dozens of people are still missing in the aftermath of last weekend’s oil tank rail car disaster in Canada, but advocates of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline have already jumped on the tragic loss of life to advance their case for pipeline vs railway transportation.

Battle rages over Obama’s climate standards for Keystone XL pipeline

Two weeks after President Obama said he would support the proposed Keystone XL pipeline only if it “does not significantly exacerbate” greenhouse-gas emissions, the political battle over how to define that is still raging.

This week, the American Petroleum Institute unveiled a new eight-state ad campaign backing the project, environmental groups renewed conflict of interest charges against a State Department contractor, and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote a 20-page letter to the State Department arguing that the pipeline does not meet the president’s climate test.

Beyond the Keystone Pipeline

Imagine if President Obama had promised in his long-awaited climate speech in June to launch the first 45 renewable-electricity projects ever built on federal land, enough to power 4.4 million homes. Imagine that he also pledged to slash the government’s carbon emissions by 15%, jack up vehicle-efficiency standards enough to eliminate an entire year’s worth of U.S. emissions by 2025 and enact appliance-efficiency standards that would save enough electricity to power every single-family home for two years.

Oil under the Mackinac Bridge: Protest planned this weekend over Enbridge pipeline

A protest is planned this weekend to raise awareness of an oil pipeline that runs under Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge.

Representatives of nearly a dozen organizations will gather in St. Ignace on Sunday to rally against the pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy, the Canadian company responsible for the 2010 oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.

Work on controversial oil pipeline begins in Cass and Berrien counties

Work on the controversial Enbridge oil pipeline started this week in Cass and Berrien counties. Built in 1969, the pipeline carries oil from Canada to the United States, and the work is to replace 285 miles of it and build a new one right next to the existing pipeline.

Enbridge says up to 600 people will work on the pipeline in our area – 60 percent are pipeline contractors from all over the United States and about 40 percent are local union workers.

Government doesn’t know exact route of Keystone XL

You might think that one would need to know the precise route of a huge planned pipeline in order to assess its environmental impacts. But the State Department apparently disagrees.

Congressional leaders urge State to consider Keystone XL’s significant climate impact

Today Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse submitted a detailed letter to the State Department urging it to correct significant mistakes in the analysis of the climate impacts of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  In their letter, they noted that the agency’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) underestimated the cost of transporting tar sands by rail and ignores the views of numerous market experts. The Congressional leaders observed that the Administration’s own estimates of the social costs of carbon show that the additional carbon pollution from Keystone XL will impose $71 billion in costs.  Waxman and Whitehouse concluded that a ‘thorough, unbiased, and comprehensive” analysis of the tar sands pipeline  “would show that the Keystone XL pipeline fails the test the President set forth and must be denied.”

Nebraska rejects Keystone XL measure

Legislators on a Nebraska county commission announced they rejected a measure opposing the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Pipeline company TransCanada opted to propose an alternative route for Keystone XL to avoid a sensitive groundwater area in the state. A measure proposed by Keystone XL opponents to the York County commission in eastern Nebraska would have put the county on record against the pipeline.

Trouble in high places from the Shard to the Arctic

On Thursday morning, on western Europe’s tallest building, Greenpeace swapped high latitudes for high altitudes in their ongoing protest against the oil and gas rush in the Arctic. Whether the protest changes attitudes remains to be seen, but whether it should is already a clear yes.

North Sea Oil Leaks Expose Industry’s Inability to Safely Drill in Arctic

Greenpeace has warned about new figures showing Britain’s offshore rigs and platforms have leaked oil or other chemicals into the North Sea 55 times over the past month should act as a “reality check” for an industry aiming to drill in the Arctic.

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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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