Environmental Must-Reads – July 17, 2013


Hess Corporation, Newfield Exploration Co. Leave Pennsylvania Due To Fracking Moratorium

Two energy companies are pulling out of northeastern Pennsylvania, where a three-year moratorium on gas drilling has infuriated landowners who say it’s now cost them a windfall of more than $187 million.

Hess Corp. and Newfield Exploration Co. sent a letter to landowners that notified them their leases are no longer in effect, according to the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, which negotiated a master lease on behalf of more than 1,300 families and businesses.

Newfield Exploration Says Low Natural Gas Prices Led to Wayne County Lease Terminations

For the past several weeks, Wayne County property owners who have leased their mineral rights for gas drilling have gotten some unwelcome letters. Hess Corporation and Newfield Appalachia have terminated leases negotiated almost four years ago, in August 2009.

State urged to tighten ‘fracking’ safeguards

With Maryland weighing some of the toughest regulations in the nation on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, environmentalists and some property owners are questioning whether the rules go far enough to safeguard drinking water, natural resources and public health.

An industry representative, meanwhile, warned that some proposed rules might be so strict that no company would want to drill in the state.

Fracking: The Confusing Vocabulary of Hydraulic Fracturing

A few weeks ago, I was telling my mother about the work I do at UCS’s Center for Science and Democracy. “We’re putting together a forum next month about recent developments in natural gas and oil extraction and public access to information,” I said. “It’s called Science, Democracy, and Community Decisions on Fracking.”

In her 70s and a longtime resident of Illinois where new fracking regulations have just been passed, my mother scowled in puzzlement: “Fracking? I don’t know what that is, but I don’t like the sound of it.”

Can fracking cause bigger, more frequent earthquakes?

Injecting fluids into the Earth, whether to recover natural gas or to obtain thermal energy from the planet, can cause earthquakes. New reports that look at American fracking, deep waste-water injection, and geothermal activities suggest there are big risks and thus a need to develop strong regulatory framework to deal with them.

In Search of the Federal Role on Fracking

I have been reading and thinking a lot about hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas lately as, here at UCS, we plan for a Science and Democracy Forum to be held this month in Los Angeles. Our forum will explore what we know—and need to know—to inform decisions on fracking. But given that fracking is now a major source of oil and gas production domestically and internationally, as we prepare for the forum, I find myself continually asking, “where is the federal government in all of this?”

MoveOn Members Launch Local Campaigns to Ban Fracking; Host 300 Gasland II Screening Events

On Sunday, July 14th, MoveOn members across the country hosted approximately 300 individual movie parties to watch Gasland Part II, the sequel to Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, which debuted on HBO last week. After the screening, attendees joined director Josh Fox on a conference call to discuss how to stop fracking at the local level.

Who Pays the Cost of Fracking?

Raising new concerns about a little-examined dimension of the fracking debate, Environment America Research & Policy Center today released a report analyzing state and federal financial assurance, or bonding, requirements for oil and gas drilling operations. As fracking expands at a frenzied pace in several states and federal officials consider allowing fracking near national parks and forests and key drinking water sources, Who Pays the Costs of Fracking? reveals current bonding requirements are inadequate to cover the costs of damage from gas drilling.

FRAC Act Reintroduced in the Senate

Amid widespread fears that the boom in fracking for natural gas poses a growing array of environmental threats, some members of Congress are making a new effort to reverse a 2005 law that exempted the industry from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

WV Fracking Site Shut after Blast

Antero Resources must cease operations at its north-central West Virginia gas well pad where eight workers suffered injuries including five treated for burns after an explosion last Sunday.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Office of Oil and Gas said Friday the cause of Sunday’s fire at the Hinterer hydraulic fracturing operation near New Milton in Doddridge County remains under investigation.

Silica – The New Asbestos? OSHA Fracking Hazard Alert and British Columbia Proposed Construction Hazards Rule

Is respirable silica the “new” asbestos-like hazard for workplace exposure? OSHA and Canada appear to think so.

OSHA, along with its sister agency, NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), have recently posted a “hazard alert” for Worker Exposure to Silica during Hydraulic Fracturing.  In British Columbia, a proposed construction safety rule for silica has just been published to amend the Provincial Occupational Health and Safety Regulations

Colorado Residents Protest Fracking at Democratic Governors’ Conference

Hundreds of Coloradans from across the state gathered outside the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) meeting on Saturday at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, CO, to tell Gov. Hickenlooper and other governors from across the country to say no to fracking and yes to a renewable energy future. The demonstration outside the DGA’s “Summer Policy Conference” was organized by Protect Our Colorado, a statewide coalition dedicated to protecting Colorado from fracking, and allies. The groups sought to ensure that these important state leaders and presidential hopefuls know that support for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is unpopular with voters and to urge them to chart a course for a renewable energy future.

BP asks federal court to suspend claims payments during fraud investigation

Attorneys for British oil giant BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier late Tuesday for a preliminary injunction to temporarily suspend payments of private economic  claims until former FBI Director Louis Freeh completes an investigation of alleged fraud in the multibillion-dollar claims payment program.

BP asks judge to temporarily halt Gulf oil spill settlement payments amid misconduct probe

BP asked a federal judge on Tuesday to temporarily halt all settlement payments to Gulf Coast businesses and residents who claim they lost money after the company’s 2010 oil spill while former FBI Director Louis Freeh investigates alleged misconduct by a lawyer who helped administer the multibillion-dollar settlement program.

BP PLC argues in a court filing that it shouldn’t be required to take the risk that hundreds of millions of dollars in claims payments could be “tainted by fraud, corruption and malfeasance.”

BP sets up ‘snitch line’ for fraudulent Deepwater Horizon damages claims

BP has set up a “snitch line” to reward people who inform the oil giant about fraudulent claims related to 2010’s massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The hotline promises that “tips that lead directly to an indictment, a recovery of money paid, or the denial of a claim because of fraud or corruption may entitle the reporter to a reward”.

Oil Sheens Near Deepwater Horizon Spill from Sunken Rig

Recurrent sheens of oil in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill have baffled researchers and led to fears that oil may once again be spewing from the seafloor well.

But a study published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology shows that there is no new leak: The oil is coming from isolated tanks and pockets within the wreckage of the sunken rig, according to a statement from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the research.

Gulf Of Mexico Oil Sheens Likely Came From Deepwater Horizon Wreckage, Study Shows

A team of researchers has concluded that pockets of oil trapped in the wreckage of the sunken Deepwater Horizon are the likely source of oil sheens that have been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the deadly 2010 explosion on the BP-leased drilling rig.

Residents continue to be frustrated over sinkhole

Emotions ran high Tuesday at a community meeting over Assumption Parish’s 24-acre sinkhole when Bayou Corne residents found fault with Texas Brine over buyout talks, testing procedures and whether the company is concerned about their plight.

Also state Office of Conservation expert Don Marlin provided his much awaited interpretation of highly detailed seismic data collected under the sinkhole.

Expect Years Before Enbridge Oil Spill Cleanup Is Completed

A massive spill, a massive cleanup and a massive headache.

3 years after 800,000 gallons of oil spilled from an Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo river.

Tonight, as our Nick Perreault found out, while it’s been years of clean up so far many should expect years before the project is complete.

Exxon Secrecy Over Ruptured Pipeline May Mask National Danger

The 1940s-era construction process that ExxonMobil said caused an oil pipe to rupture in Arkansas earlier this year is a common and well-documented problem the pipeline industry has battled for decades—and one the industry believes can be detected and controlled with appropriate vigilance.

“With proper inspection and maintenance, these catastrophic events can be prevented,” said Mohammad Najafi, a pipeline construction expert and engineering professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “As pipelines exceed their design lives, they need more maintenance and a proper asset management strategy to prevent or minimize these ruptures.”

Americans Support the Keystone XL Pipeline by Wide Margin

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds most Americans back the GOP-supported project despite environmental concerns.

Keystone XL Conflict of Interest: Obama Attorney’s Law Firm Represents TransCanada

A recent DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that Robert Bauer, former White House Counsel and President Obama’s personal attorney, works at the corporate law firm Perkins Coie LLP, which does legal work for TransCanada’s South Central Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Project, formerly known as Alaska Gas Pipeline Project.

Friends of the Earth Sues State Department on Keystone XL FOIA Delay, DeSmog Requests White House Financial Disclosure Forms

Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for failing to expedite its April 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking communications between TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline’s influence peddlers and the agency tasked to make the final decision on KXL’s northern half.

Study: Keystone XL Pipeline would raise price of gas

A new study from a leading consumer rights group says the much debated Keystone XL Pipeline would dramatically increase the price peopl pay for gasoline, but supporters of the pipeline accuse the group of engaging in a misinformation campaign.

The pipeline would transport oil from fields in Canada down to the Gulf States, but Consumer Watchdog says the impact is much greater. “Gas prices in America, gas prices in the Midwest, gas prices in California, are going to go up,” says Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Jaime Court.

Nobel Laureates Speak out in Washington Post against Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

An advertisement in the Washington Post featured a letter from ten Nobel Laureates who are asking President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline based on its significant impact to the climate.  The advertisement sponsored by NRDC, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, and Environmental Defence Canada reproduced the letter in full which said “as leaders who have spoken out strongly on these issues, we urge you, once again, to be on the right side of history and send a clear message that you are serious about moving beyond dirty oil.”

Siouxlanders express concerns about Keystone XL pipeline

The decision on whether or not the Keystone XL project moves forward ultimately rests with the U.S.President, but before a decision gets made federally some Nebraskans want to see action locally.

Engineer in Quebec oil train derailment ‘devastated’

The engineer who parked the oil train that rolled away, derailed and exploded in the center of a Quebec town was heard from Tuesday for the first time since the July 6 disaster that killed 50 people, with his lawyer saying he is “devastated.”

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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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