Environmental Must-Reads – July 18, 2014


Florida to sue Texas oil company for violating drilling regulations near the Everglades

Florida’s environmental agency says it is suing a Texas oil company for violating state drilling regulations at a well near the Everglades.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday that it would file a lawsuit against Dan A. Hughes Co. for using a fracking-like oil recovery practice at its Collier-Hogan well, located near endangered Florida panther habitat.

Health chief: No fast answer to drilling questions

The head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health said Wednesday that its experts are responding to health complaints related to natural gas drilling, but there is no quick and easy way to answer questions about the issue.

Health Secretary Michael Wolf told The Associated Press that the department is working to do research with other public and private partners, such as hospitals.

Giant Hole Forms In Siberia, And Nobody Can Explain Why

A giant hole has opened up in Siberia, and nobody quite knows why.

The massive hole, which spans about 262 feet in diameter, was spotted recently on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia, commonly known as the “end of the world,” The Siberian Times reported. The depth of the hole is not yet known.

Texas judge upholds $3 million fracking verdict

A Texas judge upheld a $3 million jury verdict by ruling in favor of a family who claimed that oil and gas drilling near their land made them sick, in a landmark case hailed as a victory by anti-fracking activists.

Last week’s ruling, confirmed by lawyers on Tuesday, is the latest step in a three-year case that began when Bob and Lisa Parr filed suit against a handful of oil companies claiming that fumes from drilling around their 40-acre (16-hectare) ranch exposed them and their livestock to hazardous gases and industrial chemicals.

Effort to Avoid Vote on Fracking Falters in Colorado

Efforts by leading Colorado Democrats to head off a costly and divisive election-year fight over oil and gas drilling appeared to crumble on Wednesday as Gov. John W. Hickenlooper announced that he did not have enough support to pass a compromise law giving local towns more control over fracking in their backyards.

“Despite our best efforts and those of other willing partners, we have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session,” Mr. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Google searches for natural gas leaks, finds a lot of them

Want to know where natural gas lines are springing leaks near you? There’s a map for that.

Tech giant Google has teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a New York-based advocacy group, to document methane leaks under US cities with the hope they might be patched.

Google, nonprofit map gas leaks in U.S. cities

Those Google Street View cars aren’t just taking pictures of your house. They’re also sniffing your sidewalks for gas.

In three U.S. cities, Google cars roamed over the past year equipped with sensors to record methane leaks from utility pipes.

Thousands of gas leaks in Boston area, study finds

An online map published Wednesday by Google and the Environmental Defense Fund reveals thousands of natural gas leaks under the streets of Boston and surrounding cities.

Just don’t expect a rush by utility companies to repair most of the pipes.

The overwhelming majority of the leaks are small and do not pose immediate public safety threats. National Grid, Boston’s leading natural gas distributor, said such low-grade emissions typically are not flagged for repair right away but rather are monitored and then fixed in the normal course of pipe replacement.

Age-old legal tool poses modern threat for oil and gas

When a Texas jury handed down a $3 million verdict this year for a family affected by natural gas drilling, Dan Raichel saw a pattern coming into focus.

Environmentalists had for years sought to slow the breakneck pace of shale development, but sophisticated attempts to challenge regulations or prove contamination had fallen short. And yet, down in Texas, a driller was thwarted by something as simple as nuisance law.

Protests grow over proposed pipeline through Mass.

There are the signs.

Stop the Pipeline. Protect our Common Wealth. No Fracked Gas in Mass.

And there are the meetings.

Boards of selectmen hosting informational sessions. Residents packing town halls and school auditoriums to learn about a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cross the state’s northern hem, starting at the New York border and passing through thinly populated rural areas, conservation land — and their backyards.

Battle over local control of drilling leaves statehouse for ballot box

The battle over local control of oil and gas drilling Wednesday swung from the statehouse to the ballot box in what is shaping up as Colorado’s most expensive initiative battle ever.

After months of talks, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday abandoned his effort to get bipartisan legislation on local control of drilling to block the ballot measures.

‘Individuals end up having to do the jobs of government’ with fracking, Swartz Creek speaker says

As more deep hydraulic fracking projects begin in Michigan, individuals are forced to do the government’s job by suing those companies when there are environmental issues, says Christopher Grobbel.

“Individuals end up having to do the jobs of government,” Grobbel said to about 75 people on Thursday night.

Right-Wingers Advised to Invest in Water as Fracking in Drought Areas Prompts Activism

As a historic drought grips the U.S. southwest, towns in Texas and California are taking action to make sure precious fresh water is not wasted and spoiled through fracking.

At the same time, some investment advisors are urging right-wingers at the annual libertarian “Freedom Fest” to view drought and skyrocketing water prices as a major investment opportunity.

Feds roll out details on Western Gulf lease sale

The Obama administration on Thursday released final details for its planned Aug. 20 sale of oil and gas drilling rights in the western Gulf of Mexico, including its plan to auction off acreage near the United States’ maritime border with Mexico.

Some 21.6 million acres will be up for grabs during the sale, though oil and gas companies’ interest is likely to be concentrated on just a few hot areas.

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Hudson River, Endangered Wildlife From Massive Increase in Dangerous Crude Oil Shipments

Responding to a massive increase in shipments of highly explosive crude oil along the Hudson River, the Center for Biological Diversity today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency for failing to update their oil-spill plans to ensure that spill-response activities do not harm the many endangered species dependent on the river. The lawsuit, filed under the Endangered Species Act, identifies 17 federally protected endangered species, including Atlantic sturgeon, sea turtles and piping plovers that, like the millions of people living along the river, are threatened by the increased risk of spills.

Sicily Channel oil spill ‘could have devastating effect’

An oil spill in the busy channel between Malta and Sicily would linger and have a high probability of hitting one of the two islands, according to simulations being developed by university experts.

Oceanographer Aldo Drago told Times of Malta that the strong anti-clockwise current meant the slick would not float away. Instead, it would remain fairly static, moving only in a circular motion until it hit one of the two islands.

Oil spill chokes Canary coastal paradise

An oil spill thought to have been caused by a passing ship has destroyed over a kilometre of coastline on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, just weeks after Spain announced it would allow gas and oil drilling off the Canary coast.

What’s causing the monster Bayou Corne sinkhole? PBS’ NOVA to take stab at answer

The Public Broadcasting Service television series NOVA is working on a documentary about the sinkhole in northern Assumption Parish.

NOVA producer Larry Klein tells The Advocate a film crew associated with the science program finished up four days of interviews and shooting in Bayou Corne on Friday. Klein says a one-hour program is set to air in the winter of 2015.

Canadian rep to Beaumonters: Keystone XL will be approved

The Keystone XL pipeline that would send Canadian crude oil developed from tar sands to Texas ultimately will be built, a representative of the Canadian government said Wednesday in Beaumont.

“As a diplomat, I am convinced the XL will be approved,” said Paula Caldwell, Canadian consul general based in Dallas, to members of the Rotary Club of Beaumont.

“Just in case it isn’t, you have elections coming up.”

Six Nations protesters stop Enbridge Line 9 dig in North Dumfries

Protesters from Six Nations and other parts of southwestern Ontario stopped work at a dig on a portion of the Line 9 pipeline in North Dumfries Thursday morning.

According to a statement from protesters, a group marched onto a work site east of Highway 24 near the Grand River between Cambridge and Brantford around 10 a.m. Thursday. They say Enbridge’s employees are working without consent or consultation on land that is on Haudenosaunee territory.

Timeline: Koch Brothers’ 50 Years in the Tar Sands

The Koch brothers built their first fortune on the particularly dirty form of oil mined in Alberta’s tar sands, where they have been major players for 50 years, and remain deeply invested.

The key moment came in 1969, when Charles Koch secured full ownership of a heavy oil refinery in Minnesota. Almost forty years later he called the acquisition “one of the most significant events in the evolution of our company.”

Berkeley pushes for cancer warning stickers on cell phones

Berkeley, undaunted by abandoned efforts in San Francisco, is attempting to become the first city in the nation to require retailers to put stickers on cell phone packaging warning people that the devices may emit cancer-causing radiation.

City officials say they have learned from San Francisco’s similar attempt in 2010, which ended two years later with a defeat in federal court and the Board of Supervisors ultimately withdrawing the ordinance.

Fukushima evacuees livid at NRA’s decision on Kyushu plant

Residents evacuated because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster were aghast at the decision that would allow reactor restarts at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.

“I am divided between anger and resignation–the anger that I cannot forgive and the resignation that our voice cannot be reached,” said 64-year-old Mikio Watanabe, who lives in temporary housing in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture.

M4.6 quake hits Fukushima

A moderate 4.6-magnitude earthquake hit the region that hosts Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on Wednesday, but there were no reports of damage and authorities did not issue a tsunami warning.

The quake struck at 5:24 p.m. in Fukushima Prefecture at a depth of 10 kilometers, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Fukushima radiation still showing up in some Japanese cars

In the wake of the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, there was a fear that radioactive cars and trucks could be bound for export. Within days of the tragedy, Nissan was already testing its vehicles’ radiation levels (pictured above), and the rest of the Japanese auto industry followed soon after. However, three years after the natural disaster, it appears that some used models are still making it out and winding up on the roads in Central Asia.

Study: Cesium from Fukushima debris removal likely spread 50 km

Radioactive substances released during rubble-removal work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant last year likely spread to areas nearly 50 kilometers away, according to a research team at Kyoto University.

The agriculture ministry earlier raised the likelihood that debris-removal operations on Aug. 19, 2013, led to cesium levels exceeding the safety standard detected in rice harvested more than 20 km from the plant.

Doubts over ice wall to keep Fukushima safe from damaged nuclear reactors

In fading light and just a stone’s throw from the most terrifying scenes during Japan’s worst nuclear accident, engineers resumed their race against time to defeat the next big threat: thousands of tonnes of irradiated water.

If all goes to plan, by next March Fukushima Daiichi’s four damaged reactors will be surrounded by an underground frozen wall that will be a barrier between highly toxic water used to cool melted fuel inside reactor basements and clean groundwater flowing in from surrounding hills.

Japan nuclear regulator gives first plant security clearance since Fukushima

A Japanese nuclear plant won preliminary approval Wednesday for meeting stringent post-Fukushima safety requirements, clearing a major hurdle toward becoming the first to restart under the tighter rules.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority accepted a 418-page report that found that design upgrades and safety improvements at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s two reactors at the Sendai Nuclear Power Station have complied with the requirements introduced last July.

‘Empty and lonely’ Fukushima towns struggle in catastrophe’s wake

Three years have passed since a mega-earthquake and tsunami slammed into Atsushi Fuda’s hometown of Hirono, forcing him to leave with only the clothes on his back.

Today, Fuda, 72, is among more than 150,000 evacuees unable to return home. And he’s worried that people have stopped paying attention.

Fukushima: Bad and Getting Worse

There is broad disagreement over the amounts and effects of radiation exposure due to the triple reactor meltdowns after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) joined the controversy June 4, with a 27-page “Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR Report ‘Levels and effects of radiation exposures due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami.’”

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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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