Environmental Must-Reads – July 24, 2014


Wisconsin frac sand facility operates wells without permit, faces $52,500 in fines

An Eau Claire County frac sand mining company was ordered to pay $52,500 for drilling and operating two high-capacity wells without a permit in 2012, according to a decision released last week.

The judgment filed by the state Department of Natural Resources says Hi-Crush Augusta LLC, based in Bridge Creek, about 30 miles southeast of Eau Claire, used the two wells for just over three months in 2012. The company operated one well without a meter.

Federal Report Details Chemicals Used At Drilling Site

For the first time, we are learning some of the chemicals used to frack an oil and natural gas well that was involved in a huge fire June 28 in Monroe County.

But we’re learning about the chemicals the hard way, after those products and trucks staged to hydraulically fracture oil and natural wells went up in a giant inferno.

Agencies concerned fracking site could impact wetlands

There have been protests and heated public meetings over a proposal to begin fracking in St. Tammany Parish.

Now, the Army Corps of Engineers is spelling out concerns from state and federal agencies in response to a permit application for a drilling well pad along Hwy. 1088.

Earthquakes Are Rising in Oklahoma, and Insurance Is Booming

Earthquakes used to be rare in Oklahoma, a handful per year or so. Not anymore. So far this year, the state has experienced some 2,300 earthquakes, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, an average of more than 11 per day.

Accordingly, the number of Oklahomans with earthquake insurance has jumped a startling 500 percent in less than three years, reports the Oklahoma Department of Insurance. While the cause of increased tremors in the Plains States remains under contention, residents, at the least, are preparing for the worst.

Pennsylvania Regulator Faulted for Lax Role in Fracking

Pennsylvania regulators were unprepared for the fracking-fueled boom in natural gas production during the past decade, putting drinking water supplies at risk, the state’s watchdog said.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection failed to order drillers to clean or replace tainted water supplies, or to act quickly on residents’ complaints of contamination, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said today. It also used a 25-year-old inspection policy.

‘Underfunded, understaffed’ Pa. regulators lax on polluters — audit

Pennsylvania regulators declined to take action against gas drillers who contaminated groundwater, tracked complaints poorly and failed to inform people who were affected by water contamination about the state’s actions, according to a state audit released today.

While praising the Department of Environmental Protection’s staff, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found the agency went too easy on the oil and gas industry and lacked the resources it needs to do its job.

Marcellus Shale driller plans to close Amwell impoundment

State environmental regulators are reviewing plans by Range Resources to close an impoundment in Amwell Township that has been at the center of a two-year legal battle by nearby residents to get the company to disclose all fluids and chemicals at the site.

Range notified the state Department of Environmental Protection March 3 that it intended to close the Yeager impoundment near McAdams Road and remediate the site, even though drillers are not required to file a formal application when removing impoundments.

Pipeline to carry natural-gas liquids from Ohio to Texas moving forward

Plans for a pipeline to carry natural-gas liquids from Ohio to the Gulf Coast are progressing.

Dubbed the Utica Marcellus Texas Pipeline Project, the pipeline is being developed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP and its partner, MarkWest Utica EMG LLC. It is designed to serve the Utica and Marcellus shale regions in Ohio and surrounding states.

Geothermal Industry Grows, With Help From Oil and Gas Drilling

Geothermal energy — tapping into heat deep underground and using it to produce power — is sometimes described as a forgotten renewable. It languishes in the shadows of better-known sources like wind and the sun, and in 2011 it accounted for less than 1 percent of electric power worldwide, according to last year’s World Energy Outlook.

BP shuts down internal oil spill claims program

In a shocking move, BP has decided to shut down its internal oil spill claims program, taking away an avenue for more than 10,000 claimants who have opted out of the oil giant’s controversial settlement agreement or others who are not covered by it.

BP won’t say how many claimants it served with the BP Claims Program over the last two years, but the amount paid through the end of April was a paltry $12 million. By contrast, over the exact same time frame, the court-supervised settlement program paid $3.8 billion.

Study examines Gulf oil spill’s possible impact on nearby wreck of German U-boat, ship it sunk

The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.

Interpretations differ. But the pictures taken remotely from Robert Ballard’s exploration vessel Nautilus are among the brightest and clearest ever taken of the American ship Robert E. Lee and the U-166, a German U-boat that was sunk by depth charges from the Lee’s escort during World War II on July 30, 1942.

BP & The Real State of the Gulf – Pollution Report for Monday, July 21, 2014

On Monday, FDEP environmental specialist David Perkinson conducted a post-response monitoring survey on Escambia County, Florida beaches, with a focus in the Fort Pickens area.

Numerous Surface Residue Balls (SRBs or “tar balls”) were found throughout the area. These hardened balls are often filled with deadly, flesh-eating bacteria. Do not handle without protective gloves.

Monday’s findings indicate that oil from BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill is still quite prevalent. A total of 249 tar balls were collected during the survey, amounting to over four pounds of Deepwater Horizon oil product removed from these sections of beach – by just one person.

Amazon oil spill has killed tons of fish, sickened native people

On the last day of June, Roger Mangía Vega watched an oil slick and a mass of dead fish float past this tiny Kukama Indian community and into the Marañón River, a major tributary of the Amazon.

Community leaders called the emergency number for Petroperu, the state-run operator of the 845-kilometer pipeline that pumps crude oil from the Amazon over the Andes Mountains to a port on Peru’s northern coast.

Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

Responding to a series of fiery train crashes, the government proposed rules Wednesday that would phase out tens of thousands of older tank cars that carry increasing quantities of crude oil and other highly flammable liquids through America’s towns and cities.

But many details were put off until later as regulators struggle to balance safety against the economic benefits of a fracking boom that has sharply increased U.S. oil production. Among the issues: What type of tank cars will replace those being phased out, how fast will they be allowed to travel and what kind of braking systems will they need?

The White House Has a Plan to Stop Oil Train Explosions—Eventually

In the latest chapter of the exploding oil trains saga, the Obama administration has finally released its proposal on how to make them safer and, hopefully, less prone to blowing up. The fixes include phasing out old tank cars, enforcing lower speed limits, using better brakes, and possibly making railroads reroute trains containing large amounts of oil around populated areas.

U.S. Proposes Faster Changes in Oil Trains

Federal regulators said on Wednesday that they would require railroads and oil shippers to use stronger tank cars to transport crude oil within two years.

The new rules lay out a speedier timetable than initially expected to phase out old cars in response to a spate of derailments and spills involving oil trains in the last year.

Work on Bayou Corne sinkhole gets delayed again

The Office of Conservation has reported that another hold has been placed on the work needed for the sinkhole in Assumption Parish. This is the second time in less than a month that a hold has been placed.

TransCanada gets regulatory nod for new Alberta oil sands pipeline: spokesman

TransCanada will start construction work this fall on a 90-km (56-mile) dual pipeline in Alberta to handle growing oil sands output in the province, company spokesman Davis Sheremata said Wednesday.

The Northern Courier Pipeline, which will transport diluted bitumen and condensates, will be completed by 2017 and will serve the 160,000 b/d Fort Hills bitumen mining project to be built by Suncor Energy, Total E&P Canada and Vancouver-based Teck Resources.

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.

“The melting Arctic is a problem for all of us”

The Arctic is melting. The world would have been struck by panic long time ago if the thickness and extent of sea ice were economic indicators.

The seven summers with the lowest levels of Arctic sea ice have all occurred in the past seven years. As much as 75 percent of the Arctic ice volume has disappeared in just one generation. The effects of climate change in the Arctic can be seen far from the pole. Flood prone coastal cities have already some of the consequences of rising sea levels. Many small island states are in danger of disappearing all together.

EU says could halt technology for Russia to develop Arctic oil and gas

The European Union should not give Russia technical help to develop Arctic oil and gas fields if Moscow fails to help to defuse the Ukraine crisis, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Wednesday.

EU officials have always said energy should not be used as a weapon in attempts to solve the crisis over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

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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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