Environmental Must-Reads – July 25, 2014


EPA: No comment on fracking air pollution

For more than a year, InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity have been reporting on air pollution caused by the fracking boom in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas. Despite hundreds of complaints from residents, many of them about noxious air emissions, we discovered that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution and rarely fines companies for breaking emission laws.

Boulder County judge strikes down Longmont fracking ban

A Boulder County District Court judge has struck down Longmont’s fracking ban but said the ban can remain in place while the city considers an appeal.

Judge D.D. Mallard issued the summary judgment Thursday. In the ruling, she said Longmont’s charter amendment clearly conflicted with the state’s regulations and its interest in the efficient development of oil and gas deposits.

Push to Ban Fracking Puts Denton in Fight Over Owners’ Rights

Debbie Ingram understands the importance of Texas’ oil and gas industry, and she enjoys the look of a lit-up drilling rig rising in the nighttime sky.

But a few months of living about 400 feet from a natural gas well — the source of a cacophony of noises and nauseating fumes that, at times, have overtaken her brick house — prompted her to join hundreds of others pushing back against the industry in this North Texas city.

‘Saltwater’ from fracking spill much different from ocean water

In early July, a million gallons of salty drilling waste spilled from a pipeline onto a steep hillside in western North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation. The waste – a byproduct of oil and gas production – has now reached a tributary of Lake Sakakawea, which provides drinking water to the reservation.

The oil industry called the accident a “saltwater” spill. But the liquid that entered the lake bears little resemblance to what’s found in the ocean.

Halliburton Fracking Spill Mystery: What Chemicals Polluted an Ohio Waterway?

On the morning of June 28, a fire broke out at a Halliburton fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio. As flames engulfed the area, trucks began exploding and thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into a tributary of the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water for millions of residents. More than 70,000 fish died. Nevertheless, it took five days for the Environmental Protection Agency and its Ohio counterpart to get a full list of the chemicals polluting the waterway. “We knew there was something toxic in the water,” says an environmental official who was on the scene. “But we had no way of assessing whether it was a threat to human health or how best to protect the public.”

After Rancher’s Death, Calls for Fracking Health Study Grow Stronger

Last month, Terry Greenwood, a Pennsylvania farmer whose water had been contaminated by fracking waste, died of cancer. He was 66 and the cause of death was a rare form of brain cancer.

His death drew attention from around the globe in part because Mr. Greenwood was among the first farmers from his state to speak out against the gas industry during the early years of the state’s shale gas rush.

Fracking chemicals not on Canada’s pollutant list

Environmentalists and legal experts are criticizing the federal government’s decision to leave toxic fracking chemicals off a list of pollutants going into Canada’s air, land and water.

“The government doesn’t know exactly which chemicals are being used for fracking and as a result doesn’t know the risk that may be posed by those chemicals,” Joseph Castrilli of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, an Ontario-based legal-aid clinic for environmental issues, said Wednesday.

Audit questions whether Pa. lawmakers understand fracking

A key question during Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom centers on how much damage it’s done to water resources.

According to new information released this week by the state Department of Environmental Protection, water supplies around the commonwealth have been damaged by oil and gas operations 209 times since the end of 2007. This is the first time the agency has released such a tally.

Why did it wait so long?

Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Faults Oversight of Natural Gas Industry

Environmental officials in Pennsylvania have failed to adequately regulate the state’s booming natural gas industry, a state report said, reflecting what critics say is weak oversight of the oil and gas industry at a time when drilling is spreading across the United States.

Pennsylvania’s auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, said Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has been unable to keep up with the workload placed on it by a proliferation of shale gas wells in the last five years, and has failed to respond adequately to many public complaints about water and air contamination resulting from gas development.

Dominion gains another approval needed to move ahead with LNG facility in Calvert

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and the two other members of the state Board of Public Works voted Wednesday to give Dominion Resources a tidal wetlands license, one more incremental approval needed by the power company as it aims to build a liquefied natural gas export facility in Calvert County.

In doing so, the governor dashed the hopes of a small group of environmentalists who have been passionately fighting the proposed facility, which is expected to receive final federal approval this summer.

State gives gas export facility go-ahead

Maryland’s top elected officials gave a key approval Wednesday to developing a natural gas export facility in Southern Maryland that some fear could threaten residents’ safety and the environment.

In their first and only vote on the controversy, Gov. Martin O’Malley and the other two members of the state Board of Public Works allowed the $3.4 billion project to proceed, following more than 21/2 hours of testimony.

Chinese firms eye huge methanol plant for Texas

Chinese firms are looking into building a $4.5 billion methanol production and deep-port export facility in Shoal Point, Texas City, Texas. If completed, it will be one of the largest plants of its kind in the world.

Fund Connell USA Energy and Chemical Investment Corporation secured a lease on a 900-acre property in Galveston Country, where they will begin engineering pre-design and feasibility studies a target date of mid-2015 for a final go-ahead decision.

Fracking panel unlikely to recommend continued moratorium

While Dr. David Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University, prepared to talk about his findings from a government-commissioned study into the topic in one of the upstairs rooms at the Pictou County Wellness Centre Monday, downstairs opponents to fracking were handing out information of their own.

Mary Rigby, one of those distributing fracking information said her biggest concern is with the potential risk to the water supply.

“Water is non-refundable,” she said.

Statewide meeting focuses on Virginia gas drilling

A statewide meeting about natural gas and oil regulations Wednesday had a familiar ring to some Washington County residents, some of whom voiced their opinions on gas drilling.

The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy hosted a meeting of the Regulatory Advisory Panel, which is looking at the current gas and oil regulations, reviewing best practices, determining whether fluids used in hydraulic fracturing should be disclosed and determining if additional regulations are necessary in different areas of the state.

Poll: Californians support global warming rules – unless gas prices rise

Californians continue to strongly support their state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases – until they find out it involves higher gasoline prices, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The Public Policy Institute of California’s annual environmental survey also found majorities oppose the greater use of fracking for oil exploration (54 percent), increased offshore oil drilling (51 percent) and building more nuclear power plants (64 percent).

1,783 pounds of BP oil removed from seashore

Weather continues to hamper the cleanup of a large tar mat submerged in the surf zone on the National Seashore’s Fort Pickens beach.

“We’re still working it but the weather has been a huge hurdle, and today we’re planning to get back out there,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy, who is in charge of BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill response for our area.

Oil train derails in Seattle rail yard; no spill

Nothing spilled when three tanker cars in an oil train from North Dakota derailed at a rail yard early Thursday, but it alarmed environmentalists.

“This is a warning of how dangerous this could be,” said Kerry McHugh, communications director for the Washington Environmental Council.

Officials require more supports beneath oil pipes

Two oil pipelines at the bottom the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan will get additional support structures to help prevent potentially devastating spills, officials said Thursday.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, said they had put Enbridge Energy Partners LP on notice following the company’s acknowledgement it was partly out of compliance with an agreement dating to 1953, when the pipelines were laid in the Straits of Mackinac.

Slow North Dakota city fire alert raises concern

A more efficient system must be established to alert residents of danger in North Dakota’s booming oil patch, an emergency manager and residents said, after authorities failed to alert the public for more than six hours when a facility storing toxic chemicals exploded.

No one was injured or killed in the explosion and fire that started around midnight Monday and raged for much of Tuesday at the Red River Supply plant, located about half a mile from downtown Williston. The blaze shot fireballs into the air and a plume of smoke prompted the cancellation of flights for several hours.

Oil Spill Danger in Mackinac?

Is there danger of an oil spill near Mackinac?

The state has given Enbridge a formal notice to reinforce its two oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which link Lakes Michigan and Huron. They were installed 60 years ago, but they don’t meet the requirement of having supports every 75 feet. Last month, Enbridge said it intends to install more supports. The state also wants to know how long those pipelines are expected to last.

Arctic oil spills could cross borders: study

New research suggests that any type of significant oil spill in Canada’s western Arctic would likely spread quickly and foul oceans around Alaska and possibly as far west as Russia.

“Spills originating from the Canadian Beaufort and resulting coastal oiling could be an international issue,” says the report from RPS Applied Science Associates, a global environmental consultancy.

How a Town in Maine Is Blocking an Exxon Tar-Sands Pipeline

Citizens trying to stop the piping of tar-sands oil through their community wore blue “Clear Skies” shirts at a city council meeting in South Portland, Maine, this week. But they might as well have been wearing boxing gloves. The small city struck a mighty blow against Canadian tar-sands extraction.

“It’s been a long fight,” said resident Andy Jones after a 6-1 city council vote on Monday to approve the Clear Skies Ordinance, which will block the loading of heavy tar-sands bitumen onto tankers at the city’s port.

Pipeline To Continue Carrying Crude Oil Underneath Santa Monica Through 2024

About four miles of pipeline that runs underneath Santa Monica and carries crude oil will continue to operate through at least 2024, thanks to a franchise agreement the City Council unanimously approved July 8.

The renewed franchise agreement authorizes Crimson California Pipeline to continue using the underground tube, which is 10 inches in diameter, to transport oil north and south through Santa Monica, between Ventura County and the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Nolan wants Enbridge Sandpiper route moved south

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan voiced opposition Thursday to Enbridge Energy’s proposed Sandpiper pipeline route, which would cut across northern Minnesota.

Citing environmental and economic concerns, the Minnesota Democrat issued a statement in which he spoke of potential threats to environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, porous sandy soil, drinking water sources and what he termed some of the cleanest lakes in the state.

Online fundraiser launched to battle Enbridge

British Columbia First Nations and environmental groups are launching a fundraising campaign for the coming legal battle against the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Sierra Club BC, in partnership with Victoria-based legal defence fund RAVEN Trust, and several northern aboriginal communities have created the website Pull-Together.ca.

First oil train derailment in Washington happens under Seattle’s Magnolia Bridge

There were 100 tankers full of oil passing through Seattle Thursday morning on their way to a refinery at Anacortes.

Three of them slipped off the tracks under the Magnolia Bridge.

Crowd protests oil trains, BP operations at Cherry Point

The fate of a Cherry Point oil-loading dock. Distrust of BP. A minor oil-car derailment in Seattle. All of these surfaced Thursday at a hearing in Seattle.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held the public hearing to discuss a draft environmental impact study of a dock for oil ships built in 2001, a project that did not go through such an analysis at that time.

Fukushima No. 1 chief admits using used parts for water tanks

The manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant admitted Thursday that some of the tanks built to store the radioactive water churned out each day are made with used parts but insisted their quality is fine for the purpose.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Tepco is using at least 20 tanks that were previously used at other construction sites, according to the daily Mainichi Shimbun.

New strategy for Fukushima trench water

New approaches to removing the contaminated water from trenches around units 2 and 3 at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant are being explored after attempts to freeze it failed.

The trenches contain highly-contaminated water that has flowed from the main power plant buildings – a mixture of injected cooling water and groundwater that has leaked into the basements.

Experts Say Nuclear Industry Should Plan for Another Fukushima

Expect the unexpected when it comes to nuclear power accidents, experts said Thursday in a report on the lessons learned from the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The industry and regulators must “seek out and act on” any new data about hazards, they reported, as well as take into account rare, low probability incidents — not just the ones that plants were designed to withstand.

Fukushima report urges U.S. plant operators to take heed

To avoid the kind of complacency over safety that led to the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan, U.S. nuclear plant operators and regulators must be prepared to take timely action to upgrade plant safety features in line with advances in the understanding of natural hazards, states a report released today.

Fukushima Study: Think About Unthinkable Disasters

A U.S. science advisory report says Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident offers a key lesson to the nation’s nuclear industry: Focus more on the highly unlikely but worst case scenarios.

That means thinking about earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, solar storms, multiple failures and situations that seem freakishly unusual, according to Thursday’s National Academy of Sciences report. Those kinds of things triggered the world’s three major nuclear accidents.

Japanese monkeys’ abnormal blood linked to Fukushima disaster – study

Wild monkeys in the Fukushima region of Japan have blood abnormalities linked to the radioactive fall-out from the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster, according to a new scientific study that may help increase the understanding of radiation on human health.

The Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) were found to have low white and red blood cell levels and low haemoglobin, which the researchers say could make them more prone to infectious diseases.

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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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