Environmental Must-Reads – July 11, 2014


Methane May Leak From 40% of Gas Wells in Parts of Pennsylvania

People who live among the fracking fields of Pennsylvania should expect considerable leaking of methane from natural gas wells into the groundwater and atmosphere, according to new research by a professor who has been a consistent critic of the boom in hydraulic fracturing.

A research team led by Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University reached this conclusion after examining state inspection records of more than 41,000 wells drilled from 2000 through 2012 throughout Pennsylvania.

Here’s another complication for fracking — radioactive waste

At the Chemung County landfill in Elmira, New York, piles of drill cuttings from Pennsylvania shale oil wells are scattered around the yard. The cuttings look like heaps of wet black sand, wrapped in a black plastic liner — and they’re radioactive.

Those radioactive drill cuttings — the waste pulled to the surface when a new well is drilled — are opening a new front in the already-contentious battle over hydraulic fracturing, know as fracking.

U.S. oil group pens ‘good neighbor’ standards for fracking

An oil industry lobbying group on Wednesday unveiled voluntary standards aimed at tamping down concerns about the oil and gas production process known as horizontal drilling, or fracking, in communities around the United States.

The American Petroleum Institute said it published standards for how to engage with communities that host shale drilling sites, based on the “best practices” of industry participants who have been involved in such projects for 65 years.

Fate of Longmont fracking lawsuit is in judge’s hands

After more than three hours of legal argument Wednesday afternoon, it’s now up to a judge whether Longmont’s fracking case ever comes to trial.

Boulder District Court Judge D.D. Mallard said Wednesday she would issue a written order in the battle over Longmont’s ban of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a controversial method of cracking open hard-to-reach oil and gas deposits. City residents voted to ban it in 2012, with many citing environmental concerns.

Illinois has hired few workers to oversee fracturing

More than a year after a much-lauded compromise paved the way for high-volume oil and gas extraction in Illinois, the agency in charge of overseeing the practice has hired just four of 53 new employees it says it needs as it continues working to complete rules that drillers must follow.

The Department of Natural Resources has come under criticism from industry groups, lawmakers and other supporters of hydraulic fracturing who had hoped drilling could begin this summer. That scenario now appears unlikely.

Exxon Fights Over Fracking With Pennsylvania Attorney General

Exxon Mobil Corp. is fighting criminal charges over a wastewater spill in Pennsylvania with an unusual defense, contending that the state’s attorney general improperly singled the company out in an effort to stop hydraulic fracturing.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane fired back on Wednesday in a court filing that calls the company’s claims “nothing more than weak attempts to obfuscate the truth.” Prosecutors say Exxon subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. is criminally liable for a big leak of water that had been used in fracking in north-central Pennsylvania in 2010.

Both Sides of Fracking Debate Prepare for Denton Council Vote

Another petition is just the latest tool in Denton’s fight over fracking, but this time they seem to be in favor of the drilling method.

Petitioners have been spotted in parking lots and on sidewalks throughout town since late last week trying to collect signatures on a petition labeled “a petition to protect our taxpayers and local economy,” with indicators that it is for citizens against the ban.

Health Care Professionals Opposed To Fracking Urge Cuomo Adm. To Look At More Research

A group of health care professionals are seeking a meeting with Governor Cuomo’s health department, saying they have compiled a compendium of new and on going research  that highlights numerous health risks associated with hydro fracking.

The health experts, including a doctor, a veterinarian, and a Cornell University medical professor,  have requested a meeting with Governor Cuomo’s acting  health commissioner , Dr. Howard Zucker, to go over the growing number of studies that indicate numerous health risks associated with fracking.

Natural Gas Pipeline Plan Creates Rift in Massachusetts

Standing on a dirt road outside his aging barn, Walter Jaworski, a former veterinarian turned cattle rancher in this rural part of north-central Massachusetts, points south across his 200 acres of forest and pasture to a nearby tree line. If things don’t go his way, he says, that’s about where a new natural gas pipeline will slice through his land on a 180-mile journey from central New York to a transmission hub north of Boston.

Canada’s Enbridge in Talks with Alaska on Natural-Gas Pipeline

Enbridge Inc. is in talks with Alaska about building a pipeline to ship natural gas from the North Slope, according to company and state officials, who describe the project as a potential alternative to an Alaskan pipeline project backed by Canadian rival TransCanada Corp.

The state is eyeing the competing projects to carry surplus natural gas from the North Slope, either to meet demand in-state through the existing utility grid or to reach foreign buyers once the gas is liquefied for transport by ship.

Work has stopped at sinkhole

Work has stopped at the Sinkhole in Bayou Corne due to increased levels of seismic activity.

Crews stopped working Wednesday near the sinkhole. Assumption Office of Emergency Preparedness Director John Boudreaux says they are actively monitoring the situation and so far there have been slo sluff in. No word yet on when work will resume.

EPA trying to confirm N. Dakota spill didn’t reach lake

Officials are assessing a spill of oil-drilling saltwater from a North Dakota pipeline to ensure none of the brine affected the lake an American Indian reservation uses for drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

In its first public statement in the two days since the spill was detected, the agency said it had no confirmed reports that the saltwater had reached Bear Den Bay. It leads to Lake Sakakawea, which provides water for the Fort Berthold reservation occupied by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes in the heart of western North Dakota’s booming oil patch.

Cleanup area extends nearly 2 miles after ND spill

The path of brine spilled from an underground North Dakota pipeline extends nearly 2 miles down a steep ravine, but dead vegetation is limited to about 200 yards from the source of the spill, a company official said Thursday.

Miranda Jones, vice president of environmental safety and regulatory at Crestwood Midstream Partners Inc., said the cause of the spill appears to involve a separation of the pipe that carries saltwater, a byproduct of oil and natural gas production. Crestwood subsidiary Arrow Pipeline LLC owns the pipeline.

Oil Spill In The Straits Of Mackinac Would Be Ecological Disaster Says U-M Study

An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac would be an ecological disaster – according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

Researcher and hydro-dynamics expert Dave Schwab explains that the currents are why that area is so problematic.

“I can’t think of another place in the Great Lakes where something that entered the water would be spread as far and as fast as the Straits of Mackinac,” he said.

Mackinac Island oil spill possible if Straits pipeline breaks, study says

A new study shows how an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could impact one of Michigan’s most beloved destinations: Mackinac Island.

The study, released on Thursday, animates what a 1 million gallon oil spill would look like from a twin pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge, the Canadian pipeline company responsible for the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.

Oil Spill from U.S. Navy Ship Contained

A U.S. Coast Guard pollution response crew in Boston is responding to an oil spill from the USNS Fisher, dry docked at the Boston Ship Repair facility.

The spill, estimated at approximately 11,000 gallons, is self-contained in dry dock and there is currently no oil in the water.

ExxonMobil’s repair plan for Pegasus pipeline leaked

The details about ExxonMobil’s repair plan for the Pegasus pipeline’s northern segment, a document that was submitted to federal pipeline regulators at the end of March, have been leaked. The “integrity verification and remedial work plan” for the damaged pipeline was not publicly released, but a new source has obtained a copy through a public records request.

Exxon plans to conduct stress tests on the pipeline to prove that it can be safely restarted. But the company also said if high-pressure tests trigger a significant number of pipeline failures, it might lower the pressure of the pipeline.

Texas firm proposes oil pipeline through Iowa

A Texas energy company is hoping to build an 1,100-mile underground pipeline to transport a highly volatile type of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields through 17 Iowa counties en route to Illinois, according to a report from The Des Moines Register.

The project still faces regulatory hurdles from the Iowa Utilities Board and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and from regulatory agencies in other states. But some Iowa environmental groups said Wednesday they were unaware of the proposal and were quick to voice concerns.

Activists vow to fight oil pipeline that would cross Iowa

Environmental activists vowed Thursday to fight plans for a proposed 1,100-mile crude oil pipeline that would slice diagonally through the heart of Iowa, but the state’s politicians are withholding judgment for now.

Former state legislator Ed Fallon of Des Moines, who is leading about 40 people on a transcontinental march across the United States to bring attention to climate change, said he will emphatically oppose plans for the proposed Bakken pipeline, which would cut across 17 counties from northwest Iowa through central Iowa and southeast Iowa.

Enbridge CEO not deterred by aboriginal title ruling

The Supreme Court of Canada’s recent ruling on aboriginal title has not swayed Enbridge Inc.’s outlook for its controversial Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast, CEO Al Monaco said Wednesday.

“I think, in many, ways the decision does provide some clarity on the law that was already there. It puts into practice what the law was,” Monaco told a TD energy conference in Calgary.

Oil Train Blast Zone Website Lets You See Your Proximity to Bomb Trains

As part of the ongoing oil-by-rail Week of Action, ForestEthics has launched a new Oil Train Blast Zone website that allows people to search their address and determine if they are within the estimated blast zones for the trains carrying highly flammable crude oil, known as “bomb trains.”

“Millions of North Americans live in the blast zone, do you?” asks Todd Paglia, ForestEthics executive director. “Citizens understand the danger, it’s time for policy makers to catch up and step up.”

Watch: Could the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster happen in the U.S.?

After receiving desperate calls for help from their Canadian counterparts in Lac-Mégantic, Québec, Maine’s Fire Chief Tim Pellerin and a group of volunteer firefighters made the two-hour journey to the site of an oil train fire one year ago.

The only way to describe it, Pellerin said, was “like driving into hell.” The devastation was total.

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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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