Environmental Must-Reads – July 30, 2014


Fracking Regulators Won’t Create Rules for Air Pollution

From now until Sept. 15, North Carolinians will have the chance to raise their concerns about natural gas drilling during a public comment period.

In comments to the state, residents can address a number of draft rules for drilling, including the rules governing hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

But residents won’t have a chance to comment on one set of environmental rules that could have a large impact on the public’s health.

Funding for health studies near drill sites loosening

Science requires replication, and lots of it.

So it’s been difficult to gauge the health impacts of shale development from a few scattered studies, says Bernard Goldstein, a public health expert who once led the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health and remains an active voice in the fracking health debate.

What’s more, it’s been difficult to get such studies funded, he said, although interest and money for research is increasing.

Up for shale: the auction that will open half the country to fracking

With the Government kicking off a massive auction of fracking licences covering nearly half the country, it is clear that the shale oil and gas industry has come a long way – but it remains far from certain that a single molecule of hydrocarbon will ever be produced commercially.

Ministers have been preparing for the UK’s nascent shale industry for the past 18 months, offering generous tax breaks for would-be developers and changing the trespass laws to allow producers to drill horizontally below houses without their owners’ permission.

Government pushes ahead with fracking plan despite wide opposition

Overwhelming opposition to the government’s plans to expanding fracking across Britain was expressed by interest groups during an official consultation, whose results were released a day after ministers signalled a go-ahead for shale gas drilling around the country.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s report on the government’s Strategic Environmental Assessment of its nationwide fracking plan recorded a wide range of objections, including from bodies such as Public Health England and the Natural England.

Mixing oil and cattle: N.D. ranchers say mineral rights get too much emphasis

Byron Richard’s pickup bounces up and down over the washboard gravel road. He clutches the wheel with one hand and points with the other as he passes dozens of oil wells on land where crops once grew and cattle grazed. A few of the wells are decades old; most are new or under construction. Oil field vehicles of assorted shapes and sizes clog the road in places and kick up thick clouds of dust.

Richard’s way of life is changing. He knows that. He accepts that.

But the Belfield, N.D., farmer and rancher says too many of the changes favor the oil industry at the expense of him and other agriculturalists.

Big Oil’s New Pitch: Fracking Means Never Having to Fear Putin

As Ukraine sinks deeper into crisis, the oil and gas industry is pressing the United States to deploy its abundant natural gas supply as a weapon against Russia—and lawmakers of both parties are lining up behind the proposal. “We have this natural-gas boom,” Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) said last week, after the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet, allegedly by pro-Russian rebels. “We can use this newfound energy as a diplomatic tool to give the European leaders some backbone in standing up to the Russians.”

Congressional watchdog urges EPA to step up actions on fracking

The Government Accountability Office is calling on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to step up enforcement of water contamination and seismic activity associated with fracking, the high-pressure injection of fluids into wells to extract oil and natural gas.

In a report made public Monday, the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, found that the EPA’s efforts were hindered because the guidance it gives other agencies hasn’t been updated since the 1980s. In addition, the GAO said, the EPA lacks the resources needed for enforcement, such as annual on-site evaluations. The issue is important because fracking has been increasing.

Gov. Brown agrees to Mexico pact on climate change; environment activists wary of business ties

Gov. Jerry Brown, calling for “heroic efforts” to combat climate change, agreed with Mexican officials Monday to work together on policies to address air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement, though nonbinding, comes as the Democratic governor moves to expand his diplomatic efforts on the environment. Dozens of reporters ran upstairs at Mexico’s foreign affairs ministry to set up cameras for the signing ceremony, while Brown, a longtime advocate for environmental causes, heralded his state as a burgeoning source of pressure on other governments to address climate change.

Silver bullet or long shot? ‘Takings’ challenges to drilling regs face iffy fate

To Scott Kurkoski, the problem is obvious.

New Yorkers expected to reap a profit on natural gas buried in the Marcellus Shale. Government officials got in the way, and now landowners want compensation.

“It’s a basic property rights issue,” Kurkoski said. “Here we have people who are prepared to develop their oil and gas, and the government is telling them they can’t do it. That’s a basic constitutional protection in the United States.”

The fracking debate: How communities are trying to control drilling

Gates Mills residents are joining what’s become a nationwide movement and petitioning to have a bill of rights placed on the November ballot that would attempt to ban more oil and gas wells.

The state has exclusive rights to regulate oil and gas drilling, so Mayor Shawn Riley believes local legislation — like a bill of rights — would have little to no effect.

Western Penn. Residents Request Fracking-Related Illness Probe

In April 2013, a Texas jury awarded Bob and Lisa Parr nearly $3 million on the claim that a nearby hydraulic fracturing operation made them sick. According to the findings, Aruba Petroleum started a fracking operation less than 2 miles from the Parrs’ North Texas ranch in 2009. It was contended that the chemicals that leached into the ground, as well as toxic gases from the operation, migrated onto the Parr property and made the ranch’s livestock and the Parrs ill.

Sand Is Like Gold In LaSalle County, Where Some Oppose More Mining

The next time you take a weekend trip to one of Illinois’ biggest state parks, you may notice something different along the way: more mining.

Sand mining operations are exploding in LaSalle County, and people who live there wonder what it will mean for their families and for the thousands of tourists who visit Starved Rock State Park every year

Impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill found on two additional coral communities

A new discovery of two additional coral communities showing signs of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expands the impact footprint of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery was made by a team led by Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Penn State. A paper describing this work and additional impacts of human activity on corals in the Gulf of Mexico will be published during the last week of July 2014 in the online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

BP Oil Spill Is Much Worse Than People Think, Scientists Say

Scientists at Penn State University have discovered two new coral reefs near the site of BP’s historic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the impacts to those reefs from the spill have been greater than expected, according to research released Monday.

Researchers: BP oil spill’s impact was “deeper and wider” than thought

More than four years after an explosion sent over 200 million gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, BP continues to insist that the damage wrought by its infamous Deepwater Horizon spill wasn’t so bad — and the evidence to suggest otherwise continues to pile up. The latest study to suggest that all isn’t well in the Gulf, published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, documents the presence of damaged coral located nearly twice as far away from the damaged well and 50 percent deeper than those that had been discovered before, “considerably expanding” the area believed to have been affected by the spill.

Oil spill claims administrator opens Metairie assistance center

The Deepwater Horizon Claims Center has opened a new office in Metairie to serve claimants from the BP oil spill in the New Orleans region.

In a Tuesday (July 29) statement, Claims Administrator Patrick A. Juneau said assistance centers in Gretna and eastern New Orleans have seen a decline in foot traffic in recent months.

Juneau defends negative statements made about BP’s CEO

Deepwater Horizon Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau said he was not threatening to sue the chief executive of BP PLC when he told a Lafayette newspaper recently that the oil executive had publicly disparaged his reputation to a degree that was “actionable.”

In a recent interview with Lafayette-based newspaper The Daily Advertiser, Juneau claimed BP CEO Bob Dudley lied and publicly stated Juneau had “willfully misinterpreted” the legal settlement agreement over the energy giant’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

BP’s second quarter profit jumps, but still wary of future expense of oil spill

BP PLC saw its profits rise Tuesday on the account of its investments in Russian energy company Rosneft. BP reported $3.18 billion in replacement cost profit for the second quarter compared with $2.4 billion the same period last year.

The British energy company’s 20 percent stake in Rosneft was behind the large boost, profit from the joint venture jumping from $218 million to more than $1 billion year over year. But the company said it did not expect the same profits in the next quarter as the prospect of further sanctions against Russia loom.

BP employees shower Houston officials with emails over lawsuit

Weeks after Harris County joined the city of Houston in a lawsuit against several companies involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one of those companies – BP – is waging what local government officials describe as a strange and unprecedented mass email campaign aimed at getting them to drop the suit.

4 workers injured in Kansas oil refinery fire

Four workers at an oil refinery in southeast Kansas were burned Tuesday in an early morning fire, the Texas company said.

CVR Refining said in a news release that the fire at its Coffeyville refinery was reported at 12:30 a.m. and extinguished by 1:18 a.m. The refinery was shut down and initial reports indicate there was no impact to the surrounding community.

Louisiana lawmakers call for funds to finance oil-spill restoration

Louisiana lawmakers said federal agencies have been slow to act on a law that steers money to Gulf Coast states to help them recover from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“Louisiana is ready to go,” Sen. Mary Landrieu testified at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on the status of restoration efforts under the 2012 RESTORE Act. “We don’t want to delay or wait any longer.”

In 2014, Colorado Oil And Gas Spills Are Happening Twice A Day

The more they drill, the more they spill. And the part about telling residents about it, not so much.

A Denver Post analysis of Colorado oil and gas spills so far in 2014 reveals that they are happening twice a day “and usually without anyone telling residents.”

That rate, 467 spills for the first 7 months of this year, suggests that the state will surpass last year’s record of 575, the paper reported, due to a surge in oil and gas development and more stringent reporting rules. The state oil and gas commission said that tougher enforcement is also a factor.

Erosion exposes Enbridge oil pipelines near river

Like many streams in the Red River Valley, the Tamarac River twists and winds its way across the northwest Minnesota landscape.

Constantly changing shape as floodwater erodes the soil, the Tamarac flows into the Red River about two hours north of Moorhead.

But in a grassy swath carved out of trees that flank the river, the channel’s normally placid brown water is broken by pipelines spanning the Tamarac.

Michigan’s AG promises continued oversight for Enbridge

An oil spill four years ago led the state to push for new precautions for Enbridge pipelines through Michigan. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil leaked into the river from an Enbridge pipeline.

Enbridge recently began airing a promotional spot on stations in West Michigan, including WZZM 13. It features residents and officials from Marshall talking about the cleanup along the Kalamazoo River.

Enbridge takes next step toward eminent domain

Enbridge has taken another step toward seeking eminent domain for the remaining land the Canadian-based company needs to build a planned 165-mile oil pipeline from its Flanagan Station to a major refinery hub in Patoka.

More than 30 legal notices have been published in The Pantagraph in the past several days, announcing pending action in McLean County Circuit Court.

Coordinated Sanctions Aim at Russia’s Ability to Tap Its Oil Reserves

The United States and Europe kicked off a joint effort on Tuesday intended to curb Russia’s long-term ability to develop new oil resources, taking aim at the Kremlin’s premier source of wealth and power in retaliation for its intervention in Ukraine.

In announcing coordinated sanctions, American and European leaders went beyond previous moves against banking and defense industries in an effort to curtail Russia’s access to Western technology as it seeks to tap new Arctic, deep sea and shale oil reserves. The goal was not to inhibit current oil production but to cloud Russia’s energy future.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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