Environmental Must-Reads – July 23, 2014


The Hospital Disinfectant That’s Being Used In Fracking

Fracking seems to have more going against it than for it, but a South Carolina-based company is hoping the oil and gas industry will mitigate environmental damages and health concerns with its latest product, Excelyte.

Excelyte is an EPA-approved solution that addresses major controversies associated with fracking: pollution of groundwater with toxic chemicals, release of hydrogen sulfide that endangers oil field workers’ lives, and excess wastewater.

Colo. Oil & Gas Association: Lafayette residents’ fracking lawsuit ‘frivolous’

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought forth by two Lafayette residents who seek immediate enforcement of the fracking ban passed in November by the city’s voters.

In a statement released Tuesday, COGA described the suit as “frivolous.”

New York State of Fracking: A ProPublica Explainer

New York is one of a handful of states around the country that currently has at least temporarily halted fracking. Since 2008, when the state was first confronted with interest in gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing by energy companies, towns have banned the practice, the state has undertaken environmental and health studies, courts have issued rulings on fracking and concerns have been raised about the state’s pristine water supply.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about the current status of fracking in New York, the protections available to the state’s major watershed and the implications of the most recent court ruling for local municipalities.

PA Auditor General: Department Of Environmental Protection Caught Unprepared By Fracking Growth

Pennsylvania’s auditor general has released a report critical of the Department of Environmental Protection’s regulation of the natural gas drilling industry.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the audit, covering the period of 2009 through 2012, shows that the rapid growth of the shale gas industry caught the Department of Environmental Protection unprepared to adequately protect drinking water and respond to complaints.

Opponents sue oil exploration company, DEQ over permits to drill wells near Ann Arbor

Residents attempting to stop oil exploration in Scio Township have filed a lawsuit targeting the company looking to drill there and the state of Michigan.

Citizens for Oil-free Backyards, a group of area residents, is suing Traverse City-based West Bay Exploration and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. The company wants to drill test wells near Ann Arbor to capitalize on oil deposits located through seismic testing.

Race for North Dakota’s agriculture commissioner is all about oil

North Dakota’s biggest oil producers have picked a side and put money into an obscure election for the state’s agriculture commissioner, hoping to ward off a rising Democratic challenger who could limit development of new wells and pipelines.

With a legislature that meets only every two years, North Dakota has given an unusual amount of power to the agriculture commissioner and two other members of the state’s Industrial Commission, charging the triumvirate with oversight of permitting and other issues critical to the oil industry, which hopes to drill 35,000 new wells within 15 years.

Gardner pointed to Udall as an example on fracking

The recent battle over fracking in Colorado quickly entered Colorado’s Senate race and the latest tiff involves Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) caught on tape a couple years ago praising his opponent on oil and gas policy.

“I believe, as Governor Hickenlooper believes, as Senator Udall has said, that the decisions on fracking ought to be made at the local level,” Gardner says in the video, provided to 9NEWS by the Udall campaign.

California Halts Injection of Fracking Waste, Warning it May Be Contaminating Aquifers

California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state’s drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.

Gov. Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed

Upon his election, Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades.

“The proposed project will need state regulatory and governmental agencies to understand and support this project,” said the proposal submitted by FPL vice president Sam Forrest.

Small Colorado Town Picks Big-Time Fight Over Fracking

When the people of Longmont voted in November 2012 to ban fracking in their Colorado community, they knew it would put them in the cross hairs of powerful oil and gas interests.

The City Council had already been sued by the industry’s trade group and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, for trying to restrict the controversial drilling technique.

S.African anti-fracking group threatens legal challenge

A South African anti-fracking group threatened a legal challenge on Tuesday to government plans to grant shale gas exploration licences in the pristine semi-desert of the Karoo, saying the regulatory process had been marked by “patent ineptitude”.

In a February State of the Nation address, President Jacob Zuma described shale gas as a “game changer” for the economy and said Pretoria would allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, “within the framework of our good environmental laws”.

Oil spill claimant hits back at BP’s ‘campaign of intimidation’ with defamation suit

A New Orleans law firm swept up in BP’s public campaign challenging payments to certain oil spill claimants has sued the British oil giant, one of its lawyers and an Associated Press reporter for defamation.

According to court documents filed in late June, attorney Gilbert “Gibby” Andry said BP wrongly and purposefully implicated him and his firm, The Andry Law Firm LLC, in an investigation into alleged fraud in the oil spill settlement through a “campaign of intimidation” in court and in the media.

Gulf Oil Spill: Ex-BP Engineer’s Retrial Postponed

The August retrial of a former BP engineer accused of obstructing justice in an investigation of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been postponed while an appeals court decides whether a judge was right to throw out his earlier conviction.

Federal prosecutors allege that Kurt Mix illegally deleted text messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor involving the amount of oil flowing from BP’s Macondo well after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

Ongoing Impacts of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

It’s been four years since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that took the lives of 11 people and caused the discharge of an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf resulting in the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Researchers with Ocean Alliance recently teamed up with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for ‘Operation Toxic Gulf.’ The marine expedition has been documenting the ongoing impacts of the spill on the Gulf ecosystem and on marine life with a particular emphasis on Sperm whales which are considered an indicator species for the overall health of the ecosystem.

Don’t touch the sand patties — BP Deepwater spill dispersants still lurk on beaches

After the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, unprecedented amounts (approx. 210 million gallons) of oil rushed into the Gulf of Mexico. In a desperate attempt to minimize the damage, BP authorized pouring 1.84 million gallons more chemicals on top of the oil spill.

Maine’s tar sands oil ban a win for activists

Since World War II, fleets of oil tankers from around the world have sailed up to the long jetty in this placid harbor and unloaded their crude into a 236-mile pipeline that pumped it to Montreal, where it was refined into everything from jet fuel to gasoline.

In recent years, as natural gas has reduced the demand for crude and as Canada has begun extracting its own vast reserves of so-called tar sands oil, the number of ships has dwindled from dozens to just a few a month. As a result, the company that owns the pipeline has sought permits that would allow it to reverse its flow, triggering fears here that the controversial Canadian crude could soon course through this coastal city and fill a new fleet of tankers bound for Asia and other foreign ports.

McCoy to call for criminal, civil penalties if oil spills aren’t reported

County Executive Daniel P. McCoy is expected to unveil legislation Wednesday that will make a crime the failure to report an oil spill at the Port of Albany.

McCoy’s move comes a little less than a month after gallons of oil spilled from a rail car at a transfer facility at the Port of Albany Sunday.

Appeals Court affirms shipping company’s liability in ’08 oil spill recovery payment dispute

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has affirmed a district court’s decision, holding a shipping company liable for recovery in an oil spill clean up case.

On July 23, 2008, near New Orleans on the Mississippi River, an ocean-going tanker collided with an unmanned barge owned by American Commercial Lines LLC, damaging the barge and spilling oil into the river.

In Marshall, lessons from an oil spill

July 26, 2010, is a day that no one at Enbridge will ever forget.

On that day, nearly four years ago, our pipeline failed near Marshall, Michigan — with crude oil released into the Kalamazoo River, and numerous lives disrupted throughout the area.

Cleanup continues four years after the Enbridge Energy oil spill in Michigan

This week marks four years since a pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy burst. It was a segment of Line 6B located just downstream from the pump station in Marshall.

The result? More than 1,000,000 gallons of oil have been recovered from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Enbridge mulls Midwest rail terminal to ease pipeline congestion

Canada’s largest pipeline company Enbridge Inc may build a 140,000 barrel per day unit train unloading terminal in Pontiac, Illinois, to relieve congestion on its crude oil export network.

The terminal would be able to handle two unit trains a day and could be in service by the first quarter of 2016, according to a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Canadian envoy urges U.S. to approve Keystone pipeline

Canadian ambassador to Washington Gary Doer said on Tuesday there was no evidence to suggest the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the United States should not be built.

At the annual Pacific Northwest Economic Region summit in Whistler, a resort town 120 km north of Vancouver, Doer said all the evidence — environmental, economic, safety and scientific — showed favorable conditions for government approval of the project.

Exxon Mobil Moves Ahead With Russian Oil Drilling Project

Exxon Mobil, which is assisting a Russian state energy company in exploring the Arctic Ocean for oil and natural gas, took a pivotal step to further this project over the weekend.

A drilling rig to be operated by Exxon set sail from Norway on Saturday, two days after the downing of a passenger airliner in Ukraine led to mounting pressure in the United States and Europe for new sanctions against Russia. Those sanctions could target the country’s important energy industry.

Rosneft to Study Arctic’s Fauna to Protect it During Oil Exploration

Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft will monitor marine fauna in the Northern Sea Route in 2014 in a bid to preserve marine life during oil exploration, the company’s press release says.

“The objective of the said studies is collection of data on marine fauna in Rosneft License Areas with a view to building a complete and detailed picture of the baseline environment state and developing a set of environmental controls to be applied during hydrocarbons exploration and production,” Rosneft said in a press release released Wednesday.

Greenpeace, Inuit join to fight Arctic seismic testing for oil and gas

Greenpeace and the Inuit are joining forces to protest Arctic seismic testing, warning Ottawa that its plans to gauge oil and gas reserves with high-intensity sound waves pose grave dangers to marine life.

Inuit activists are staging a protest Wednesday in Nunavut’s Clyde River, a tiny Baffin Island hamlet just above the Arctic Circle, a week after Greenpeace took their cause to the United Nations.

Arctic Ice Melt Seen Freeing Way for South Korean Oil Hub

Melting Arctic ice is widening a path for ships to deliver European oil to Asia, stoking South Korea’s ambition to become a regional storage and trading hub.

The country, whose proximity to China, Russia and Japan makes it an ideal conduit for oil arriving via the Arctic, plans to add tanks for storing almost 60 million barrels of crude and refined products by 2020, about the same as Singapore’s current capacity. The nation also seeks to leverage its energy infrastructure, which includes five refineries, to become Northeast Asia’s oil hub, said Kim Jun Dong, the deputy minister of energy and resources policy.

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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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