Environmental Must-Reads – July 14, 2015


Natural gas edges past coal to become biggest US electricity source for first time ever

Natural gas overtook coal as the top source of U.S. electric power generation for the first time ever earlier this spring, a milestone that has been in the making for years as the price of gas slides and new regulations make coal more risky for power generators.

About 31 per cent of electric power generation in April came from natural gas, and 30 per cent from coal, according to a recently released report from the research company SNL Energy, which used data from the U.S. Energy Department. Nuclear power came in third at 20 per cent.

OIL AND GAS: Courtroom slugfest nears as drilling creeps toward ancient Chaco world

Kyle Tisdel and Samantha Ruscavage-Barz sift through rocks beside a dusty road in New Mexico’s high desert, searching for remnants of life a thousand years past.

With the nearest meager town of Cuba an hour away, they’re off the beaten path by any standard. But to them, these dirt roads surrounding Chaco Canyon are the front lines of a monumental battle pitting ancient Pueblo culture against the modern world’s thirst for oil.

Well Application Challenges Fracking Ban

An upstate New York energy company has filed an application to drill a natural-gas well using a waterless method that will test the state’s fracking ban.

The Snyder Farm Group, made up of five landowners from Barton, N.Y., near the Pennsylvania border, signed an agreement with the energy company Tioga Energy Partners to collect gas from 53 acres of land collectively owned by the group. Tioga Energy Partners filed an application for a natural-gas well with New York state regulators last week.

Abita Springs Mayor gets birds-eye view of new fracking site

The mayor in Abita Springs participated in a flyover Monday of the Helis Oil & Gas drilling operation in St. Tammany Parish.

What we don’t know about fracking could hurt us

A year and a half in the making, a new scientific report on hydraulic fracturing in the state offers Californians the less than satisfying revelation that scientists are still in the dark about fracking. That’s not to denigrate the report released last week by the California Council on Science and Technology, which was carefully researched, objectively written and based on the best available information. The problem is that the best available information is terribly deficient, which should give pause to state residents and regulators.

Fracking battle brewing in Bonita Springs

A rallying cry against an oil drilling technique is taking place right here in Southwest Florida.

Environmental groups are urging people to descend on Bonita Springs to pressure the City Council to ban fracking.

Environmentalists want people to wear red, and go to City Hall Wednesday morning when city officials are supposed to vote on banning the oil extraction technique.

Australians Tour Pennsylvania’s Gaslands as Fracking Threat Looms Over South Australia

A group of Australians who made a fracking fact-finding trip to the Marcellus Shale region will report to the Australian Parliament before any decisions are made about the future of fracking in South Australia.

In June, the group of twelve Australians—including members of Parliament, farmers, medical and legal professionals—visited communities in Pennsylvania and New York. They saw evidence of contaminated water as a result of accidents and leaks connected to the fracking industry, and met with people both for and against the process.

Fears for fracking in WA’s South West as exploration permit moves step closer

A preferred applicant has been chosen for a shale gas and oil exploration permit which an environmental group fears could pave the way for fracking in Western Australia’s South West.

The ABC has been told five local government areas including Bunbury, Busselton, Capel, Dardanup and Donnybrook-Balingup have been briefed by the Department of Mines and Petroleum.

Bergen County responders training to handle oil train derailment

Dozens of firefighters, police officers and emergency managers in Bergen County are training to handle a potential oil train derailment in a series of drills given this week by CSX, the railroad company that hauls millions of gallons of volatile crude oil through the region.

These “tabletop exercises” are the first regionwide drills to address safety concerns about the enormous growth in the amount of crude oil hauled through 11 Bergen County towns on the way to a Philadelphia refinery. The crude oil, from the Bakken rock formation in North Dakota, has been involved in a series of fiery derailments across North America, including one two years ago that killed 47 people in a small Quebec town.

Philadelphia’s top emergency planner won’t disclose oil-train plans

The City of Philadelphia’s top emergency-management official said on Monday she will not disclose the city’s tactical plans for dealing with any oil-train derailment or explosion despite fresh calls from environmentalists for the city to be more open about how it would handle such an emergency.

Office of Emergency Management director Samantha Phillips said the City does not publicly state plans such as where residents would be evacuated to in the event of an oil-train incident because it’s a public-safety issue that should not be open to comment from activist groups.

Buffett may benefit as train lobby bids to weaken safety rule

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is set to be a chief beneficiary of a bid by Senate Republicans to weaken new regulations to improve train safety in the $2.8 billion crude-by-rail industry, a key cog in the development of the vast North American shale oil fields.

A series of oil train accidents, including the July 2013 explosion of a train carrying crude in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people, led U.S. and Canadian regulators to announce sweeping safety rules in May. Among other things, U.S. oil trains are required to install new electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.

Federal hearings this week on natural gas pipeline

Federal energy regulators will be in southern Rensselaer County on Tuesday and Wednesday to take public comments on potential environmental impacts from the proposed Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline project.

Staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold public meetings on the planned 36-inch pipeline, which would run through the southern sections of both Albany and Rensselaer counties.

Struthers company will benefit from natural gas pipeline

Industrial Piping Specialists in Struthers is one of several Ohio companies benefiting from the construction of a natural gas pipeline.

Rover Pipeline is spending more than $85 million between all of them for parts and services pertaining to the project. The 711-mile pipeline will transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale production areas to markets in the Midwest, Great Lakes and Gulf Coast.

In Pristine Big Bend, a Pipeline Could Run Through It

Peering from beneath the brim of his Indiana Jones-style fedora, David Keller marvels at the gently sloping mountains in Big Bend that frame everything in sight.

“It’s sacred landscape. It is truly the last best place in Texas,” says Keller, an archaeologist at nearby Sul Ross State University’s Center for Big Bend Studies who very much looks his part: the scruffy goatee, the beige button-down shirt torn at one elbow and, of course, that brown hat. “When you destroy that landscape, you lose that sense of place.”

$2 million BP offer accepted by West Bank levee authority

BP’s $2 million offer to the West Bank levee authority, to resolve claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil disaster, was accepted Monday (July 13). The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West board of commissioners approved the settlement during a special meeting at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in Algiers.

The vote came two days before the deadline set for local governments to decide whether to accept proposed compensation to mitigate economic losses from the disaster. The oil giant agreed to pay $18.7 billion to five states and the federal government. Louisiana’s share is estimated at $6.8 billion.

Panel probes California oil spill that blackened beaches

The nation’s top pipeline regulator is lagging in meeting congressional requirements imposed several years ago but it is planning to increase staff for safety inspections, its interim director says.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has been facing new questions about its effectiveness after a May 19 break near Santa Barbara created the largest coastal oil spill in California in 25 years.

Monsanto, BP and Veolia agree to pay for cleanup of contaminated Welsh site

Monsanto, BP and Veolia have agreed to pay to contribute to the cleanup of a former quarry in South Wales that was polluted with a cocktail of toxic waste, including Agent Orange derivatives, dioxins and PCBs.

The agreement, confirmed by Welsh officials to the Guardian, marks the end of a five-decade-long saga that began when thousands of tonnes of chemical and industrial waste from a Monsanto-owned plant in Newport was dumped at the Brofiscin quarry, near the village of Groesfaen, in the 1960s and 70s.

Judge denies groups’ bid to intervene in $225M Exxon pollution deal

A state Superior Court judge on Monday denied attempts by a coalition of environmental groups and a Democratic state lawmaker to intervene in a pollution settlement between Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and Exxon Mobil.

The decision comes as the judge prepares to rule on the $225 million deal, which administration officials have defended as the largest of its kind in New Jersey history.

Straits of Mackinac oil pipeline task force report coming Tuesday

A state task force report on the status of a controversial oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac is due out this week.

The Michigan Attorney General’s office has announced the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report will be released on Tuesday morning, July 14.

Serial Pipeline Spillers Spewed 4,200 Gallons Of Crude Oil In Illinois

A pipeline company already in hot water for mucking the Pacific Ocean in a 100,000 gallon oil spill near Santa Barbara, California in May has now admitted to making a mess of downstate Illinois.

Last week the Plains All-American Pipeline Company acknowledged that a pump station for its Capwood Pipeline had spewed 4,200 gallons of crude near the border of Bond and Madison Counties downstate. Oil has reached Silver Creek, a tributary to Silver Lake the source of drinking water for Highland, Illinois, not far from St. Louis. As of Saturday, the town’s water was safe as a crew of 100 labored to contain and clean the spill.

TransCanada taking transport bids for original Keystone pipeline

TransCanada Corp. is taking bids to move an additional 10,000 to 15,000 barrels of crude oil per day through its Keystone pipeline.

The original Keystone — which began operation July 1, 2010 — begins at Hardisty in Alberta, Canada, and ends at Patoka, Illinois, and passes through six states including Nebraska.

Enbridge pipelines face opposition in Minnesota

Native and environmental groups are fighting a pair of proposed Enbridge pipelines that would cross lake-dotted country in northern Minnesota.

The Sandpiper and Line 3 Replacement projects would take the same route through much of the state — carrying North Dakota light oil and oilsands crude, respectively, to Superior, Wisconsin.

Shell’s damaged Arctic drilling support ship heads to Oregon

Royal Dutch Shell PLC said on Monday an icebreaker crucial to planned Arctic oil drilling will be sent to Portland, Oregon to repair a gash in its hull, but the issue is not expected to delay the beginning of drilling off Alaska later in July.

Shell crew on the Fennica icebreaker last week found the 39-inch (1 meter) gash in the hull, likely caused by an uncharted shoal. Voyage time between Portland and southern Alaska should not delay the company’s plans to begin drilling off northern Alaska in the Chukchi Sea later this month, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.

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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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