Environmental Must-Reads – July 2, 2014


Earthquakes frequent at Arcadia Lake

Southern Arcadia Lake has had 565 earthquakes this year. Thirty events there have been of a 3.0 magnitude or greater, said Austin Holland, research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

He is one of only two seismologists working at OGS. Holland spoke at a town hall meeting at the Waterloo Baptist Church in Edmond. One-hundred of these events have been felt.

Anti-Fracking Win in N.Y. Court May Deal Blow to Industry

New York’s cities and towns can block hydraulic fracturing within their borders, the state’s highest court ruled, dealing a blow to an industry awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision on whether to lift a six-year-old statewide moratorium.

The case, closely watched by the energy industry, may invigorate local challenges to fracking in other states and convince the industry to stay out of New York even if Cuomo allows drilling. Pennsylvania’s highest court issued a similar ruling last year, striking down portions of a state law limiting localities’ ability to regulate drillers.

Fracked Oil, Gas Well Defects Leading to Methane Leaks

Defects in fracked oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania are leading to methane leaks in shale wells throughout the state — greenhouse gas emissions that could exacerbate climate change, according to a Cornell University study published Monday.

The study, conducted by a team led by Cornell environmental engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, analyzed more than 75,000 publicly available state environmental compliance records for about 41,000 oil and gas wells that had been drilled between 2000 and 2012 across Pennsylvania, where the energy industry has been producing natural gas from the Marcellus shale.

Fracking study finds new gas wells leak more

In Pennsylvania’s gas drilling boom, newer and unconventional wells leak far more often than older and traditional ones, according to a study of state inspection reports for 41,000 wells.

The results suggest that leaks of methane could be a problem for drilling across the nation, said study lead author Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who heads an environmental activist group that helped pay for the study.

One Man’s Mission to Curb Illegal Dumping of Texas Frack Waste

Deputy Sheriff Hector Zertuche parked his pickup across the road from a gas and oil waste dump and watched through binoculars as a container truck unloaded a mountain of black sludge.

Zertuche, the environmental crimes officer for Jim Wells County, is the law here when it comes to oil and gas waste. The job has fallen to him, he said, because the state’s environmental agencies don’t effectively police the disposal of the industry’s waste. It typically contains benzene and other chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing, along with heavy metals and other contaminants from deep within the earth.

BLM mixes oil, grouse in Lander plan

Gov. Matt Mead and BLM director Neil Kornze last week touted a Lander-area federal land plan they said would save greater sage grouse, allow energy development and be copied across the West.

The Lander Resource Management Plan would allow oil and gas leasing across much of 2.4 million federal acres but would restrict resulting development. To protect sagebrush landscape critical to imperiled sage grouse, energy companies would be required to use horizontal drilling to avoid surface disturbance in some areas.

New concerns arise over fracking’s safety

The ongoing controversy over the method for removing oil and gas from unconventional, hard-to-reach underground deposits that’s known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has some new data to chew on.

It seems a large percentage of oil and gas wells tapping the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania are leaking methane gas, either into the air or into underground sources of drinking water.

St. Tammany fracking odds? Less than 50-50, Helis Oil says

Should Helis Oil & Gas Co. successfully overcome fracking opponents and get the green light, the company would invest a total of about $6 million to drill a hole roughly 2 ½ miles deep near Mandeville, then study data to determine if the well could be turned into a money-maker. Its chances? Less than 50-50, according to the project manager.

Sanford Officials Hold Public Hearing on Fracking Rules

On Tuesday night residents in Sanford heard a set of proposed rules on stormwater and water quality for when drilling for natural gas begins in the area.

The proposed rules would establish stormwater management requirements for oil and gas production sites.

Bakken Shale oil explorers told to cut flaring or face punishment

North Dakota, the second-largest U.S. oil-producing state amid booming output from shale, plans to punish crude explorers that fail to curtail the burning of natural gas as waste.

Energy companies that don’t curb so-called gas flaring will face limits on the amount of oil they can pump from the Bakken shale formation, the North Dakota Industrial Commission said in a statement today.

State closes probe into Westlake fire in Geismar

Air releases from an early June fire inside a refrigeration unit at Westlake Chemical Corp.’s vinyls plant in Ascension Parish did not exceed pollution limits and most of what was sent into the sky that day was carbon dioxide, a company estimate says.

Greg Langley, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said Tuesday that with that information, the state’s investigation into the fire has been closed.

Lansing Police treating Grand River oil spill as a criminal investigation

Officials from the city of Lansing and the state of Michigan are currently investigating the cause and source of an apparent oil spill along the Grand River.

“This is a vexing issue,” Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said on Tuesday at the Brenke Fish Ladder. The spill was first spotted on Thursday, June 27 and within 30 minutes, the Lansing Fire Department and the Lansing Board of Water and Light had dispatched booms – large buoys used to absorb and separate the oil – onto the river.

Grand River Oil Spill Mystery Deepens

Five days after officials discovered an oil spill in the Grand River there’s still no word on who’s to blame.

And now, as workers clean up the mess and as city and state officials search for answers, Lansing police are calling it a criminal investigation.

Agencies work together to clean-up oil spill in Corydon Township

Workers from several agencies worked together on Tuesday to clean-up an oil spill in Willow Creek in Corydon Township.

Bruce Manning, director of the McKean County Emergency Management Agency, explained that crews were called out about 9 a.m. to an oil spill in Willow Creek along West Washington Street not far from the fire station in Corydon Township.

NTSB chairman cites Hattiesburg oil spill in letter on safety

A 50,000-gallon crude-oil spill from a train derailment near Hattiesburg this year is one of several accidents that have transportation of hazardous materials under scrutiny.

The National Transportation Safety Board chairman last week included the derailment in a letter to two senators outlining safety concerns.

N.J.: Someone will pay for Washington Twp. oil spill

The state will “go after” the parties responsible for a Sunday morning oil spill in a Washington Township lake once investigations determine which party is at fault, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

A Uranus Lane resident, who authorities would not name, is accused of dumping 1,000 gallons of fuel oil down a storm drain that flows into Spring Lake.

Exxon Mobil reports fire, oil spill at Nigeria terminal

Exxon Mobil Corp., said thunderstorms caused a tank fire June 27, and an oil spill Monday at the Mobil Producing Nigeria Qua Iboe Terminal it operates in Akwa Ibom State.

Offshore production and loading of oil continue, the Irving, Texas-based company said in a e-mailed statement. No fatalities or injuries were reported.

The amount of oil lost to the fire and spill hasn’t been calculated, the company said.

New membrane can separate even highly mixed fine oil-spill residues

Whenever there is a major spill of oil into water, the two tend to mix into a suspension of tiny droplets, called an emulsion, that is extremely hard to separate—and that can cause severe damage to ecosystems. But MIT researchers have discovered a new, inexpensive way of getting the two fluids apart again.

Their newly developed membrane could be manufactured at industrial scale, and could process large quantities of the finely mixed materials back into pure oil and water. The process is described in the journal Scientific Reports by MIT professor Kripa Varanasi, graduate student Brian Solomon, and postdoc M. Nasim Hyder.

With North Dakota oil boom comes concern over spills

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple says he wants to vastly expand the oil pipeline capacity in his state.  With oil production churning along at 1 million barrels per day, the boom may spark concerns about pipeline spills.

The state’s Department of Mineral Resources said total output in North Dakota averaged just over one million barrels per day in April – the most recent data available – which is an all-time high for the state and marks the first time that production has topped the 1 million bpd mark.

Groups want tougher action on Great Lakes pipeline

Some environmental groups are asking Gov. Rick Snyder to get Michigan government more directly involved in efforts to determine the condition of an oil pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac and to guard against spills.

More than a dozen organizations signed a letter contending Snyder has the power to demand answers from Enbridge Energy Partners LP about the line, which was laid in 1953. It is part of the 1,900-mile Lakehead network, which originates in North Dakota near the Canadian border. A segment known as Line 5 runs through northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before ducking beneath the Straits of Mackinac and winding up in Sarnia, Ontario.

Main Street, Montana: Small Towns Pray for Keystone XL Pipeline

Sally Hickok wasn’t planning to spend money on Main Street, even if it was Garage Sale day in this small town on the eastern prairie. The 56-year-old judge had no need for a used prom dress or a second-hand porta potty. But once inside the community center, she started chatting with neighbors, who were selling the town’s junk for charity—and she walked out with six half-empty bottles of colored nail polish.

She can’t exactly say why, but it isn’t so complicated: there’s just something different about shopping on Main Street, that wide and inviting roadbed that seems to run through the marrow of America. It’s a place where you don’t just run errands, you create community. And if you are anything like Sally Hickok, you buy that old toe paint because it’s the neighborly thing to do.

The Main Street in Circle is a classic small town commercial strip, one that just so happens to be further from a Starbucks store than any other Main Street in America. But more to the point of what Main Street means today—the subject of a special project by NBC News—Circle is in the middle of not only a local fight for survival, but an explosive debate over the future habitability of the planet. (Yes, the planet).

Russia’s Gazprom Neft Starts Arctic Oil Drilling

A subsidiary of Russian energy company Gazprom Neft said it started drilling its single-well program in the arctic waters of the Pechora Sea.

The subsidiary, Gazpromneft-Sakhalin, started exploratory work in the Dolginskoye field on the continental shelf in the Pechora Sea.

Lego and Shell – FAQs

What has Lego got to do with the Arctic?

Lego has a longstanding relationship with Shell, with plans to renew its deal later this year.

Shell wants to drill for oil in the Arctic. The only reason they’re able to do this is because the Arctic ice is melting because of climate change. Something that oil companies are responsible for. Scientists say that it’s extremely risky to dill in the Arctic and any oil spill in those freezing conditions would be impossible to clean up.

Shell is spending money on making itself appear caring and family friendly by putting their branding on the things we love and is using its relationship with Lego to divert attention away from its dangerous plans.

 Montreal train tracks have become thoroughfares for crude oil tankers

A year ago, when Michel Girard looked out his bedroom window, he would rarely see a train carrying oil tank cars.

Now, hundreds of tank cars filled with crude are hauled daily on the Canadian Pacific track that goes by his Vaudreuil-Dorion home.

“The other day, I counted 127 (tanker) cars going through on one train,” said Girard, whose back door is about 150 feet away from the track. “Out of about 17 trains going by my house every day, I’d say at least half have (tanker) cars. They’re long. They’re heavy, and the house shakes now more than ever.”

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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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