Environmental Must-Reads – July 16, 2014


North Dakota wrestles with radioactive oilfield waste

Last winter, when Rick Schreiber saw the photos of two abandoned flatbed trailers heaped with thousands of pounds of low-level radioactive garbage, some spilling onto the ground, he’d had enough. A landfill director in western North Dakota’s Bakken oil field, near where the waste was left, Schreiber turns illegal industrial rubbish like that away from the McKenzie County municipal landfill weekly.

The water-energy nexus could become a collision in a warming world

If you thought fracking was a water-guzzling and violent way to get the oil and gas flowing from shale, then you should check out oil shale* retorting. Earlier this month, details were made public regarding an oil shale project Chevron proposes for western Colorado. Of particular note was the amount of energy and water it will take to produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day. If you think about it, it makes about as much sense as melting down five quarters to make a silver dollar.

Environmental groups seek immediate ban of oil shipments in older railroad tank cars

Environmental groups asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to immediately ban shipments of volatile crude oil in older railroad tank cars, citing oil train wrecks and explosions and the agency’s own findings that accidents pose an imminent hazard.

The petition filed Tuesday by the Sierra Club and ForestEthics seeks an emergency order within 30 days to prohibit crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains and elsewhere from being carried in the older tank cars, known as DOT-111s.

In DFW, Little Traction on Improving Air Quality

When the Dallas County Medical Society asked Texas environmental regulators in October to increase pollution controls on coal-fired power plants, they knew it would be a tough sell.

But the association of more than 6,500 physicians said it was fed up with seeing patients suffering from the region’s air quality problems, which are among the worst in the nation. And members said real improvement was possible by targeting two of the nation’s oldest coal-fired plants, which are among the state’s biggest sources of nitrogen oxide emissions — air pollutants that reacts with other toxic chemicals in the presence of sunlight to create ozone.

Nelson vows to bring concerns about fracking to the EPA

Sen. Bill Nelson promised Monday to take area concerns about the environmental effects of increasing oil drilling in Southwest Florida back to Washington, and see if legislation is needed.

“There is clearly a federal interest here on the behalf of the people of Florida and the United States, and I intend to make sure that that interest is protected,” the Democrat told residents, Collier County officials and environmental groups in a meeting at the Southwest Florida International Airport.

Dozens of trains haul volatile Bakken oil to NY weekly: railroads

As many as 44 trains loaded with volatile Bakken crude oil are being sent through the state of New York each week, according to confidential disclosures made by railroads to state emergency responders, and released to Reuters through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The disclosures come as New York and other states grapple with health and safety risks posed by a recent surge in oil-by-rail cargoes, following at least six fiery derailments of trains carrying Bakken oil in North America since last July.

Tainted Legacy: Heirs to ill-gotten fortune back in court seeking more

Legacy lawsuits have been filed by some of Louisiana’s wealthiest and most powerful people.

Former Gov. Mike Foster, despite being a champion of tort reform, won a large settlement against Exxon to clean up his property in St. Mary Parish. One-time Democratic Party Chairman Buddy Leach saw his clean-up efforts tied up in messy litigation even after his $15 million settlement. Lake Charles oilman and big bucks campaign contributor Bill Dore won the largest remediation judgment to date – $57 million – after his oil industry colleagues turned their back on him.

North Dakota Expects ‘Big Surge’ in Summer Crude Output

North Dakota, the second-largest oil-producing state in the U.S., expects output to surge through the summer as more benign weather gives roughnecks extra time to work in the field.

Output rose about 3.6 percent to 1.04 million barrels a day in May, the state’s Department of Mineral Resources reported yesterday. It was the largest increase since August.

For Rural Texans Overwhelmed by the Fracking Boom, Training to Fight Back

Virginia Palacios wants to empower the people of south Texas. She and her organization, the Austin office of the Environmental Defense Fund, want them to know they can make a difference in the face of the oil and gas boom that’s sweeping the Eagle Ford region.

In partnership with the Rio Grande International Study Center, Palacios will present a series of workshops in five heavily impacted counties in the Eagle Ford, a 400-mile-long swath of oil and gas development that reaches from northeast Texas to the U.S.-Mexico border. The goal is to let residents know what resources are available if they believe they are being sickened by toxic emissions, or their water is becoming tainted or their wells are being drained.

Denton Council leaving fracking decision up to voters

There will be no ban on fracking in Denton at this time.

After more than eight hours, the City Council shot down the ban — but they are leaving the final decision up to voters.

North Texas city rejects partial fracking ban

The council governing a North Texas city that sits atop a large natural gas reserve rejected a bid early Wednesday morning to ban further permitting of hydraulic fracturing in the community after eight hours of public testimony.

Denton City Council members voted down the petition 5-2, sending the proposal to a public ballot in November.

Big research effort will track Colorado ozone

An intensive campaign to measure air pollution along Colorado’s northern Front Range will produce a wealth of data to help identify the sources and levels of harmful ozone, researchers said Tuesday.

Aircraft, balloons, vans and ground stations will collect and analyze millions of air samples over the next month, from the south Denver area to Fort Collins.

Is the U.S. Fracking Boom a Bubble?

America’s oil boom continues at breakneck speed. Last week the Bank of America released figures showing that the U.S. is now the world’s leading oil producer, overtaking both Saudi Arabia and Russia.

BP claims fraud can mean tough sentences, Forbes reports

Some of those who have been caught making false claims for damages in the BP oil spill are getting hit with tough criminal sentences, Forbes reports Tuesday (July 15)

Forbes contributor Walter Pavlo suggests the sentences are tougher than they should be, highlighting the case of Luom Van Ngo, a Vietnamese immigrant and nail salon owner in Waveland, Miss., who falsified a claim to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

U.S. court revives BP retirement-plan suit filed after oil spill

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived a lawsuit in which participants in four BP Plc employee retirement savings plans alleged they were deceived into buying and holding BP stock before and after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said that a ruling last month from the U.S. Supreme Court upended the reasoning applied by a lower court that had dismissed the class action suit two years ago.

Belle Chasse crude oil spill brings cleanup crews near residential area

About 160 barrels of a crude oil and water mixture spilled on Monday near a residential community in Belle Chasse, according to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and State Police.

While cleanup crews and DEQ officials remained on the scene Tuesday, residents were told that there was nothing to worry about in terms of health effects.

Cleanup continues at Washington Twp. oil spill site

While most fuel oil was vacuumed from a Washington Township lake, fire crews will contine to routinely spot check the narrow waterway, according to fire chief John Hoffman.

Crews, contracted through the state Department of Environmental Protection, completed an aggressive clean-up of Spring Lake near Pitman-Downer and Fish Pond Roads.

Arctic seas: Little ability to cope with an oil spill

A new report suggests little is known how an oil spill in the Arctic would act or spread in icy and snowy conditions.

The report also says little is known on how to go about cleaning up such a spill in Arctic conditions.

Arctic residents are concerned about about the recent approval for seismic testing and potential oil and gas development off the coast of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait and what would happen to fish and sea animals they rely upon for food in the event of a spill. In addition, reduced sea ice means more large vessel, tourist and potential commercial shipping traffic could be traveling through the often hazardous waters.

Central Arkansas Water concerned with Pegasus Pipeline remediation plans

More than a year post oil spill, Exxon-Mobil has plans to reopen the Pegasus Pipeline, the line that dumped gallons upon gallons of oil in Mayflower after rupturing. Part of the reopening process is submitting a remedial work plan – a plan which must list what the cause of the rupture was in the first place.

Exxon-Mobil lists “hook cracks” as a manufacturing defect leading to the rupture, but officials at Central Arkansas Water say that doesn’t go far enough to explain how the rupture truly happened.

Google-gas: mapping cars search for pipeline leaks

Environmentalists have teamed up with Google to shine a spotlight on natural gas leaking from pipes buried under city streets in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island.

Using sensors and other technology on Google Street View mapping cars, the Environmental Defense Fund and researchers at Colorado State University collected 15 million readings over thousands of miles of roadway.

Oil pipeline across Iowa is another kettle of fish

The proposal to build an oil pipeline all the way across Iowa may force politicians here — including Gov. Terry Branstad — to refine their positions on certain issues raised by the politically charged debate over the Keystone XL project.

Branstad said Monday that he didn’t have a position on a proposal by a Texas oil company to build a pipeline through Iowa from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. He said he had not heard about the Energy Transfer Partners project before it hit the newspaper last week. “I just want to learn more about it,” Branstad said.

American Midstream expands Gulf of Mexico presence with $115M pipeline deal

American Midstream Partners said on Tuesday (July 15) it would spend $115 million to buy an Alabama natural gas plant as well as offshore oil and gas pipeline from a competitor, adding to the company’s existing oil and gas infrastructure in southeast Louisiana.

The deal boosts the Denver-based company’s oil and gas pipeline network in the Gulf of Mexico as drilling activity ramps up offshore.

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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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