Environmental Must-Reads – July 29, 2013


Internal EPA report highlights disputes over fracking and well water

An EPA staff report suggests methane from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, contaminated wells near Dimock, Pa., but the agency says the water’s safe to drink.

LA Times: EPA Censored Key Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Study

A must-read Los Angeles Times story by Neela Banerjee demonstrates that – once again – the Obama administration put the kibosh on a key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) groundwater contamination, this time in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Why Would EPA Hide Info on Fracking & Water Contamination in Dimock?

The Los Angeles Times published a story today reporting on a leaked document that indicates that the Environmental Protection Agency  has never conveyed to the public the possibility that methane released during drilling “and perhaps during the fracking process” resulted in “significant,” and possibly long-term, “damage to the water quality” of a drinking water source for 19 families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, even though some staff believed this was the case.

Father Of The Fracking Boom Dies – George Mitchell Urged Greater Regulation Of Drilling

George Phydias Mitchell died Friday, aged 94. The billionaire oilman will be most remembered as a trailblazing wildcatter who set in motion the technological breakthroughs that have led to America’s current oil and gas boom.

But just because he set in motion the “fracking” revolution doesn’t mean Mitchell was a knee-jerk apostle of the practice. In perhaps his last interview in July 2012, he spoke to me about how he was in favor of more regulation of fracking. “The administration is trying to tighten up controls,” he told me. “I think it’s a good idea. They should have very strict controls. The Department of Energy should do it.”

Quakes trigger undersea methane belch

Earthquakes can rip open sub-sea pockets of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, according to a European study.

Quake-caused methane should be added to the list of heat-trapping carbon emissions that affect the world’s climate system, although the scale of this contribution remains unclear, they say.

Mark Ruffalo on the Gulf Gas Well Blowout and Why We Need to Kick Big Oil to the Curb

The spinmeisters for the oil and gas industry sure earned their money this week. A natural gas drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico has a catastrophic blowout, erupts into uncontrolled flames for days, and most of the media buys the industry’s line that we should simply be glad that this disaster wasn’t as serious as that other accident in the Gulf a couple of years ago. That would be the Deepwater Horizon blowout and spill, which killed 11 workers and dumped millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf.

Heavy metals found more concentrated near Barnett Shale gas wells

A study organized by a University of Texas at Arlington chemistry professor finds that heavy metals, including arsenic, that are commonly found in groundwater tend to be present in higher concentrations near natural gas wells in the Barnett Shale.

FORMER SHELL OIL PRESIDENT: Everybody Knows Some Fracking Wells Go Bad

The boom in oil and gas fracking has led to jobs, billions in royalties and profits, and even some environmental gains.

But some experts say arrogance, a lack of transparency and poor communication on the part of the drilling industry have helped fuel public anger over the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Issues With Fracking Could Be Eased If Industry Was More Honest, Some Say

The boom in oil and gas fracking has led to jobs, billions in royalties and profits, and even some environmental gains.

But some experts say arrogance, a lack of transparency and poor communication on the part of the drilling industry have helped fuel public anger over the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Climate change, fracking, water shortages in Northern Colorado top environmental concerns in coming decades

As the environmental challenges Northern Colorado faces in the coming years continue to mount, a look back at headlines of a half-decade ago shows how quickly the region’s environmental concerns have evolved.

Michigan fracking proposal draws attention from environmentalists

A proposal to drill as many as 500 wells in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula by using hydraulic fracturing is attracting attention and criticism from environmentalists.

Encana Corp., which has drilled about a dozen wells since 2009, has proposed the new wells, The Detroit News reported, and spokesman Doug Hock says the company is “in the early stages” of new drilling in Michigan.

FSU Researchers Explore Impact of BP Oil Spill

While many focus on the economic impact of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, researchers from the Florida State University Coastal Marine Lab are now looking into a new area – for the past two years, they’ve been looking in the deep sea.

200000 Dollars Is Not Enough For Destroying the Environment

Halliburton has agreed to plead guilty and pay the maximum fine for criminally destroying evidence during the 2010 investigation into the BP Gulf oil spill, according to a statement released by the Justice Department on Thursday. The $200,000 fine and 3-year probation is merely a slap on the wrist and will not achieve any sort of institutional change in the practices of the company. The announcement is indicative of the typical government deal that permits large companies to evade criminal prosecution for illegal and harmful actions. And this practice needs to stop (the Justice Department had charged Halliburton with a misdemeanor for destroying evidence during the investigation that followed the spill in the Gulf).

Halliburton Destroys BP Oil Spill Evidence, Gets an Underwhelming $200K Fine (But That’s Not the End of the Story)

British Petroleum has been synonymous with the Gulf Coast Oil spill — called the worst environmental disaster in American history by some — since the Deepwater Horizon rig blew out on April 20, 2010, killing 11 and starting a leak that dumped almost 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil Spill in Thailand’s Sea Reaches Tourist Island

An oil spill that leaked from a pipeline has reached a popular tourist island in Thailand’s eastern sea despite continuous attempts to clean it up over the weekend, officials said Monday.

Thai navy deployed to fight oil spill

Saturday about 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of the eastern province of Rayong, operator PTT Global Chemical said.

The company, part of state-owned giant PTT, said 10 ships were involved in an urgent clean-up and it was confident of containing the leak.

Pelicans covered in oil after Port of Brisbane spill

Pelicans have been found covered in oil as authorities race to contain a spill in the Port of Brisbane.

The Queensland transport minister, Scott Emerson, said the oil had been spotted along a 1,400-metre stretch of the wharf, but had not spread to the channel.

Haz-mat crews respond to oil spill in canal

Hundreds of North Logan residents are without access to irrigation water due to an oil spill into a canal that runs through Logan, North Logan and Hyde Park, but officials said that water should be available again by Monday.

Alberta oil spills cause concern over Canada’s approval of tar sands project

Campaigners have raised new concerns over controversial “tar sands” after it emerged a series of oil spills have occurred at one site in recent months.

The unconventional fuel is being produced in Canada, but opponents warn it is more polluting than conventional oil as it requires significant energy to extract, pushing up its carbon emissions, and have also raised concerns over local environmental impacts.

Exxon Axes Housing Aid for Ark. Oil Spill Victims—Then Reinstates It After Fury

Some homeowners were told Exxon would end payments for temporary housing on Aug. 31. Then local politicians spoke up and Exxon reversed course.

Environmental risks of pipeline underestimated

A new UNSW-led study modelling the impacts of an approved $47 million pipeline pumping water from the Macquarie River to the city of Orange reveals far greater risks to river health than those estimated by the environmental assessment.

Obama Disputes Number of Jobs Created by Keystone Pipeline

President Barack Obama called into question the number of jobs that would be created from the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in an interview with the New York Times released on Saturday.

“Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator,” Obama said, according to the newspaper.

Keystone XL Pipeline: How Montana Sold This Environmental Disaster to Its People

One year ago, former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer told the Washington Post how he wrangled TransCanada into building an on-ramp onto its proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The on-ramp, owned by TransCanada subsidiary MarketLink LLC, of Houston, Texas,  would inject American oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana into the pipeline at Baker, Montana.

Obama points out economic downsides of Keystone XL

President Obama doesn’t seem sold on the economic benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry carbon-intensive tar-sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast for export.

Brewery Sues Over Tar Sands Spill, Paints A Frightening Picture of Keystone XL Pipeline

The oldest and largest Michigan brewery is filing suit against the Canadian energy company Enbridge after an oil pipeline broke and spilled about 843,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River. The suit from Bell’s Brewery underscores not only safety concerns over tar sands pipelines like the Keystone XL, but also the fact that spill cleanup causes even more pollution and public health hazards than the spill itself.

Obama Says He’ll Evaluate Pipeline Project Depending on Pollution

President Obama said in an interview that he would evaluate construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on the basis of whether it would significantly contribute carbon to the atmosphere.

But he mocked Republicans’ arguments that the approval of the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, would create many jobs in the United States.

MPs protest over Arctic oil drilling

A group of MPs has labelled the UK “complacent” over oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, calling for an environmental sanctuary instead.

The Environmental Audit Select Committee consists of 16 MPs with a remit to examine how government departments’ policies will affect the environment and sustainable development. It has raised concerns over the failure for oil companies to prove they could clean up spills in the harsh Arctic environment.

UK failing to protect the Arctic from drilling, warn MPs

The coalition government is failing to protect the Arctic from drilling for oil and gas, by allowing new projects to go ahead with too little scrutiny of their potential risks, the UK’s parliamentary green watchdog has warned. The MPs urged a moratorium on Arctic drilling, which the coalition has so far rejected, and called on David Cameron to revisit the Arctic, where early in his leadership of the opposition he famously was photographed with huskie dogs.

Arctic drilling: UK ‘complacent’, say MPs

The Environmental Audit Committee said this was despite oil companies being unable to prove “they could clean up an oil spill in such harsh conditions”.

Members renewed their call for a halt to new drilling, saying it was risky for the climate and the environment.

Fukushima radiation levels as high as 2011

Water samples taken at an underground passage below the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contain alarming levels of radiation which are comparable to those taken immediately after the catastrophe.

According to a Saturday statement by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the tested water contains 2.35 billion becquerels of cesium per liter, and the radioactive water is now seeping into the sea. The findings were also evident from samples taken within a 50-meter radius around the plant.

Radioactive Water Detected at Fukushima

Extremely high concentrations of radiation have been detected in water from near one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. 9501.TO -9.84% said Saturday.

Fukushima Leak: TEPCO Delayed Informing Public Of Contaminated Water Leaking Into Sea

The operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear plant said Friday that it delayed acknowledging that the plant was leaking contaminated water into the sea because it did not want to worry the public until it was certain there was a problem.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. acknowledged for the first time this week that its Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was leaking contaminated underground water into the ocean, a problem many experts had suspected since shortly after the crisis unfolded more than two years ago.

A Look Around the Ruins of Fukushima, Where Radiation Still Poses Danger

Luck has not turned around for now-deserted Fukushima, Japan. Two years after enduring an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the area is still radioactive and leaking contaminated water into the sea. Independent Television News’ Alex Thompson shares a rare glimpse of the radioactive ghost town.

Radioactive water remains at site near Fukushima nuke plant

Water near a Fukushima nuclear power plant is as radioactive as it was after the plant nearly melted down in 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

Nuclear experts slam Fukushima nuclear plant operators over toxic water admission

Foreign nuclear experts have blasted the operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, with one saying its lack of transparency over toxic water leaks showed “you don’t know what you’re doing”.

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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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