Environmental Must-Reads – July 21, 2015


Fracking Industry Has Changed Earthquake Patterns in Northeast BC

New research and presentations by both provincial and federal scientists show that the shale gas industry, which the B.C. government hopes will eventually supply proposed liquefied natural gas terminals with fracked gas, has caused more than a thousand earthquakes in northeast B.C. since 2006 and changed the region’s seismicity.

The earthquakes, ranging in magnitude from 1.0 to 4.3, include six events higher than 4.0 and more than 20 events that shook buildings and moved furniture in places like Fort St. John. Several events caused casing damage to horizontal wells. Moreover, industry-caused tremors remain an ongoing geological revolution for the region.

St. Tammany orders cease and desist against fracking project

St. Tammany Parish has issued a cease-and-desist order against a fracking project in development along Hwy. 1088.

The move came hours after a Baton Rouge judge issued a ruling in the latest filings of the parish’s court battle with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and Helis Oil to stop the project permanently. The project has been the subject of controversy in St. Tammany for more than a year.

Sierra Club backs effort to put fracking ban on Michigan ballot

The Sierra Club plans to throw its support behind an effort to get a fracking ban on a statewide ballot in 2016.

That means help from hundreds of volunteers and more than 60,000 members and supporters, the environmental group says.

“If the ban fracking proposal is placed on the ballot, voters in Michigan who overwhelmingly say they want to protect our state’s waters, land and communities will have the opportunity to overcome the oil industry’s grip on Lansing and protect our state,” said David Holtz, chair of the Michigan chapter executive committee.

BLM fracking rule delayed another month

The fate of a federal fracking rule will not be decided for at least another month.

A federal judge magistrate recently granted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s request for an additional month to compile its official account of how the regulation was drafted.

The account had been due by July 22 under the stay issued by U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl in June. The bureau now has until Aug. 28 to submit the record.

Recession, Not Fracking, Behind Drop in U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions, Scientists Conclude

It’s been a talking point for boosters of the shale gas rush for years: as fracking spread across the country and the supply glut drove prices down, utilities have been shuttering dirty coal plants and burning natural gas instead – meaning that America’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dropped sharply. Fracking, the argument went, is actually good for the environment because it’s good for the climate.

“The boom in American natural-gas production is doing what international negotiations and legislation couldn’t: reducing U.S. carbon-dioxide pollution,” Bloomberg reported in 2012.

Columbus fracking petition falls short

Carolyn Harding and her group gathered signatures for more than a year to put an issue on the ballot to try to keep fracking out of Columbus.

But 5,470 of the 13,461 signatures they collected on the Columbus Community Bill of Rights petition were not valid. They were nearly 1,000 shy of the 8,951 needed to secure a place on the November ballot.

Thanks to anti-fracking group, Athens residents to vote on county’s powers

An Athens anti-fracking group won its battle last week to put an issue on the November 2015 ballot that could give the county more legislative power and a community bill of rights restricting certain activities of oil and gas companies within county limits.

If residents vote in favor of the measure, Athens County would have a charter form of government, meaning the county would be considered a municipality, as opposed to being governed by the state of Ohio, explained Nancy Pierce of the Bill of Rights Committee, the group heading the issue.

WV Museum, Clay Center, Launches Gas Funded Pro-Fracking Exhibit for Kids

The Clay Center, West Virginia’s premiere arts and science museum for kids, recently launched a new exhibit focused on the science and wonders of fracking, thanks to hefty donations by the oil and gas industry.

The exhibit, called “Power Your Future,” is housed inside a natural gas-powered truck, which enables it to be driven to local elementary and middle schools.

Oral arguments set for September in Longmont fracking ban appeal

The Colorado Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments in Longmont’s fracking ban appeal case for late September.

In oral arguments, each side’s lawyers will have 15 minutes to make their case, answering questions from the three-judge panel. Attorneys also may reserve time to rebut the opposing side’s argument.

New Mexico Dems call for tough new methane rule

Four New Mexico Democrats are encouraging the Obama administration to release a strong rule regulating methane emissions at oil and gas drilling sites.

“We recognize that oil and gas producers have an economic incentive to minimize methane losses and the industry is improving its practices,” the Democrats — led by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich — wrote in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Board, council opposition to Mountain Valley Pipeline won’t impact final decision

Since announced last September, opposition has grown against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The proposed 300 mile natural gas pipeline would run through Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties.

Many board of supervisors and town councils in those communities have passed resolutions opposing the pipeline, including Rocky Mount last week. Supervisors in Roanoke, Montgomery and Giles counties along with the Blacksburg Town Council have all opposed the pipeline with resolutions.

Congress should not be in the pipeline permitting business

The recent growth in U.S. natural gas production, especially in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, has highlighted the need for new natural gas pipeline infrastructure. Without new infrastructure, American homes and businesses cannot enjoy fully the benefits of this new domestic energy resource.

Because permitting is often arduous, time-consuming and costly, Congress is seeking ways to improve the process. One obvious way, and one proposed by three bills—H.R. 2295 in the House and S. 411 and S. 1196 in the Senate—involves eliminating Congress’ de facto role as a pipeline permitting agency and leaving the job to the federal agency with expertise.

A New Oil Spill Disaster Waiting To Happen In The Gulf

The number of oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico that have been temporarily sealed is growing, according to a new investigation from the Associated Press.

Oil companies sometimes put temporary caps on oil wells if there is the possibility that they will return to use the well at some point in the future. But wells that have not been permanently sealed can suffer from corrosion, leaks, and potential ruptures, posing a safety and environmental risk.

Use BP oil spill fine money for restoration, voters say

An overwhelming majority of voters in coastal communities in Louisiana and other Gulf states continue to see the BP oil spill as a major problem and want oil spill fine money spent on restoration of natural resources, according to a nonpartisan poll released Thursday (July 16) by The Nature Conservancy and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The after-effects of the spill on natural areas and wildlife along the Gulf Coast ranked fourth, at 61 percent, on a list of extremely and very serious problems cited by voters, behind the economy and unemployment, quality of public education, and crime.

Oil spill contained in Cuyama

Crews are working to determine how much oil leaked out of a broken pipeline in Cuyama on the Russell Lease.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department says the call came in shortly after 7:00 a.m. for the broken gas and oil lines on the 8700 block of Highway 166.

Two Barges Collided Near the Houston Ship Channel. Again.

It’s happened again. On Monday morning another pair of barges smacked into each other near Bolivar Penninsula, sparking a fire on one of the barges. There were two tugboats pushing four barges  near the entrance of the Houston Ship Channel when one of the boats lost power. After two of the barges collided a fire erupted on the barge that was loaded up with more than one million gallons of naptha, a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture.

Court filings urge judge to reject $225M Exxon settlement

Several environmental groups and a state senator filed court briefs Monday laying out why they think a judge should reject a controversial $225 million environmental settlement between Exxon Mobil and the Christie administration, calling the deal “unfair, unreasonable, and contrary to law and the public interest.”

The proposed settlement involves money to restore about 1,800 acres of wetlands damaged by pollution from Exxon’s former refineries in Bayonne and Linden. It has drawn sharp rebuke because the state originally argued it would take nearly $9 billion to restore the wetlands and compensate the public for their loss of its use.

5 years since Enbridge oil spill on Kalamazoo River

This weekend marks the 5-year anniversary of the Enbridge pipeline rupture in Marshall; one of the largest inland oil spills ever in the country.

More than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into almost 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

Five years later, Newschannel 3 took a look at the timeline of the cleanup effort.

Shocking oil spill scenes from Siberia: but is there a way to a cleaner future?

Or is it too expensive to put the environment before the need for energy?

These disturbing pollution cases show the toll suffered by Siberia as one of the world’s foremost oil producing regions on which our nation’s health and economic well-being depends.

Shot over a number of years, these haunting images show the damage to wildlife and nature from oil spills often resulting from the rupture of old pipelines. There are rivers and lakes of oil, frequently in some of the remotest and inaccessible places.

So-Called ‘Failsafe’ Pipeline Leak Detection System Failed in Massive Alberta Tar Sands Spill

By the time a contractor spotted a burst in the wall of an Alberta tar sands pipeline on July 15, a spill was already well underway. In a public apology on Friday, the pipeline’s owner, Nexen Energy, announced the spill was contained, but the cause, and the length of time it had been spilling, was still unknown. Thirty-one thousand barrels (roughly 1.3 million gallons) of bitumen, water and sand had spilled—a greater volume than even the 2010 Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan, still the largest land spill in the U.S.

Builder of leaky Nexen pipeline said it followed designs

The builder of a ruptured Nexen Energy oil sands pipeline in Canada that caused one of North America’s largest oil-related land spills said on Monday it had followed the design plans it was given for the infrastructure.

Surerus Pipeline Inc, a contractor based in Fort St. John in British Columbia, “had no involvement in this project after the completion, so whatever Nexen’s doing, they’re doing,” said Sean Surerus, vice president of the company, said in an interview.

Nexen spill: New pipelines not always safer, investigator says

As the search for what caused a massive pipeline leak in northern Alberta continues, one U.S. oil spill investigator is warning that new pipelines are not always the safest.

Last week, a contractor discovered a leak in a Nexen Energy petroleum pipeline that spilled five million litres of emulsion — a mix of bitumen, sand and water — outside Fort McMurray, Alta.

State approves tar sands mine but requires water monitoring

Utah state officials have given the go-ahead for a tar sands mine under construction on the eastern flank of the state. They will, however, require the company to do water and air quality monitoring in a move environmentalists are calling a victory.

Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining director John Baza said Monday that his decision addresses concerns raised by opposition while acknowledging that U.S. Oil Sands Inc., the Canadian company building the mine, has complied with regulations.

State Budget provision put Enbridge before citizen

Five years ago this month residents of Marshall, Michigan fell victim to one of the largest inland oil spill in United State’s history. This wasn’t your typical crude oil. This was thick, heavy tar sands oil mined from deforested lands in Canada and pumped through Enbridge’s Line 6B. More than 840,000 gallons spewed from the ruptured pipeline for over 17 hours before Enbridge was told by a local authorities that they had a leak flowing into the Kalamazoo River. Cleanup took more than four years at cost of $1.21 billion.

N.D. agency signals comfort on pipeline issues

A Texas company appears to have adequately addressed some of the biggest environmental issues facing its $3.8 billion pipeline from western North Dakota to Illinois, North Dakota regulators said Monday.

North Dakota’s Public Service Commission held an informal work session on Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access project, the biggest-capacity pipeline proposed to date to move North Dakota crude across South Dakota and Iowa on its way to Illinois, where crude would be shipped to Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries.

Oil contractor fined for its part in poisoning Raetihi water supply

Oil industry contractor Petroleum Services will have to pay $54,500 for its part in poisoning the water supply of Raetihi, leaving the central North Island town without water for three weeks.

In September 2013 diesel spilled from a tank on Turoa skifield, entering a stormwater drain feeding the Makotuku River catchment, from which Raetihi drew its water.

Officials: Oil Train Didn’t Speed Before Montana Derailment

A train that derailed and spilled 35,000 gallons of oil in northeastern Montana was traveling within authorized speed limits, federal officials said Monday as they continued to probe the accident’s cause.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train loaded with crude from North Dakota was traveling 44 mph before Thursday’s wreck, U.S. Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Matthew Lehner said.

CSX to discuss West Virginia oil train derailment cleanup

CSX has invited the public to attend a meeting to discuss the cleanup of a February oil-train derailment in southern West Virginia.

The meeting is set for Tuesday evening at the Glen Ferris Inn.

Arctic oil spills to be studied at Churchill research facility

With increased shipping activity and plenty of potential drilling, researchers are hoping to better understand the effects of an oil spill in arctic sea ice and how to prevent it thanks to a multi-government, multi-university research centre in Churchill, Man.

“It allows us to sort of understand what it looks like for an oil spill to be amidst ice-covered seas,” said John Yackel, the head of the department of geography at the University of Calgary and the lead researcher at the Churchill Marine Observatory who will focus on detection.

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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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