Environmental Must-Reads – July 4, 2014


Study links Oklahoma earthquake swarm with fracking operations

Oklahoma has seen a boom in two things in recent years: oil and gas production and earthquakes.

To many residents, the timing says it all. Before the oil and gas industry started drilling so many underground injection wells, they say, it was rare to feel an earthquake. Today, Oklahoma is the second-most seismically active state in the continental United States, behind California.

Wastewater from energy extraction ‘triggers US quake surge’

Massive injections of wastewater from the oil and gas industry are likely to have triggered a sharp rise in earthquakes in the state of Oklahoma.

Researchers say there has been a forty-fold increase in the rate of quakes in the US state between 2008-13.

The scientists found that the disposal of water in four high-volume wells could be responsible for a swarm of tremors up to 35km away.

Study shows how drilling wastewater causes quakes

A new study explains how just four wells forcing massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are probably shaking up Oklahoma.

Those wells seem to have triggered more than 100 small-to-medium earthquakes in the past five years, according to a study published Thursday by the journal Science. Many of the quakes were much farther away from the wells than expected.

Study maps fracking methane risk to drinking water

A major study into the potential of fracking to contaminate drinking water with methane has been published.

The British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency have mapped where key aquifers in England and Wales coincide with locations of shale.

The research reveals this occurs under nearly half of the area containing the principal natural stores of water.

6,300 sign petition of support for Mendocino County fracking ordinance

Shannon Biggs, community rights director of Global Exchange in San Francisco, assists communities in passing new laws that place the right of residents over the interests of corporations.

On June 27, she and a large contingent of local activists, The Community Rights Network of Mendocino County, presented the county registrar’s office with a fracking ordinance petition signed by more than 6,300 registered voters, more than enough to qualify the issue for the November ballot.

Lawsuit aims to block US-approved Nevada drilling

A rural Nevada group is asking a federal judge to block the sale of oil and gas leases it says will be used for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other development that poses a much greater threat to sage grouse, fish and other wildlife than the U.S. government claims.

The Bureau of Land Management concluded in an environmental analysis in February that energy exploration resulting from the sale of the leases would have little or no impact across about 270 square miles of central Nevada’s Lander, Nye and Esmeralda counties.

Citizens raise concerns at hearing about water rules

With a muffled beat of bass and snare drums sounding from just outside, anti-fracking activists spent Tuesday evening voicing concerns to several state regulatory officials who had come to Sanford.

The event was a public hearing held by the state’s Environmental Management Commission on a new regulatory rule it’s proposing about stormwater runoff, as well as slight tweaks to four existing rules for the management of wastewater produced by businesses. The meeting at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center drew dozens of attendees — including many regulars at anti-drilling events in the area — who spoke about the rules and how they will affect hydraulic fracturing.

Co. explains testing of fracking byproducts for radioactivity to Youngstown residents

A presentation by Austin Master Services at Youngstown City Hall on Wednesday clarified the process the company is taking in testing radioactivity in materials that come out of the Earth through hydraulic fracturing.

Pete Collopy, radiation safety officer, and Pat Horkman, regional manager, explained the the use of an expedited analytical process to tell the oil and gas industry the levels of radium 226 and radium 228 in Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material or TENORM.

Aggressive Tactic on the Fracking Front

For the last eight years, Pennsylvania has been riding the natural gas boom, with companies drilling and fracking thousands of wells across the state. And in a little corner of Washington County, some 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh, EQT Corporation has been busy 2013 drilling close to a dozen new wells on one site.

It didn’t take long for the residents of Finleyville who lived near the fracking operations to complain 2013 about the noise and air quality, and what they regarded as threats to their health and quality of life. Initially, EQT, one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania, tried to allay concerns with promises of noise studies and offers of vouchers so residents could stay in hotels to avoid the noise and fumes.

Federal magistrate to oversee Wisner Donation demand that BP clean oil from its south Lafourche Parish land

Allegations that BP Exploration & Production Inc. has stopped cleaning up oil contamination on Edward Wisner Donation property along the Caminada headland and Elmer’s Island in southern Lafourche Parish will be overseen by a federal magistrate judge in New Orleans, according to a ruling issued in federal court earlier this week.

The ruling on Tuesday (July 3) by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier allows both sides to begin collecting evidence and taking depositions involving the dispute, and urges the two sides to allow Magistrate Judge Joseph Wilkinson Jr. to oversee a trial in the dispute. Barbier oversees the majority of civil lawsuits filed against BP in the aftermath of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Drinking petrodollars: BP’s ongoing threat to the Great Lakes

Emergency sirens at BP’s vast Whiting refinery cut the quiet of the night on March 24. Emergency operators warned concerned callers from nearby East Chicago, Indiana to stay indoors but could not explain the reason behind the commotion. The following day BP officials admitted that the plant had experienced a “disruption in the refining process” that caused 500 gallons of crude oil to leak into Lake Michigan — an estimate the company would later revise to more than 1,600 gallons days later.

Local water officials in Indiana are still awaiting results of BP’s internal investigation, with no release date on the horizon. Meanwhile, the U.S. federal Environmental Protection Agency assured the public that their drinking water was safe just one day after BP went public with the spill. By April 4, the agency had declared the company’s cleanup efforts complete.

TransCanada’s Donation to Town Means Silence on Pipeline

TransCanada Corp. (TRP) provided an Ontario town along the proposed Energy East pipeline route with cash to buy a rescue truck on conditions that include the municipality not comment on the company’s operations.

TransCanada gave Mattawa C$30,000 ($28,200) under its community engagement program, according to an agreement appended to the agenda of the town council’s June 23 meeting. The city agreed to “not publicly comment on TransCanada’s operations or business projects” for five years as part of the agreement, the document showed.

Crude oil pipeline to Texas gains a twin

Enterprise Products Partners said Thursday it has constructed a 512-mile twin to its Seaway crude pipeline running from the oil-tank hub in Cushing, Okla., to a storage and terminal facility on the Gulf Coast, about 60 miles south of Houston.

But the Houston-based pipeline and oil-tank operator and its Canadian partner in the project, Enbridge, said they won’t send oil through the pipeline until they have finished procedural testing and commissioning work through the third quarter 2014.

Enterprise Doubles Capacity on Seaway Crude Oil Pipeline

Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) and Enbridge Inc. (ENB) said the 512-mile expansion of their Seaway oil pipeline is mechanically complete, with commissioning work remaining before it starts to move oil south from the delivery point for West Texas Intermediate futures in Cushing, Oklahoma.

Enterprise looped the existing Seaway line with a parallel pipe, increasing capacity to the Houston area to 850,000 barrels a day, the companies said in a joint statement.

Local residents ticked about Enbridge construction

Residents in Brandon Township as well as Bruce Township in Macomb County share concerns about the Enbridge construction project that is repairing and replacing a total of 285 miles of pipeline between Griffith, Ind. and Sarnia, Ontario.

One of the biggest concerns among homeowners near the construction sites is the lack of communication from Enbridge.

Greenpeace campaign ship refits for more Arctic protests

International environment protesters Greenpeace are refitting their campaign ship for more Arctic Ocean protests, the group said.

Arctic Sunrise, arrested by maritime border officials in last September’s storming of a Russian Arctic oil rig, is being prepared for action again, spokeswoman Maria Favorskaya told ITAR-TASS on Friday.

Two Oil-Tank Cars on Canadian National Train Derail in Rural Alberta

Two crude-carrying cars on a train operated by Canadian National Railway Ltd. derailed in central Alberta early Friday, according to the railway company and a local official. There were no reports of injuries or fire.

The 79-car train was carrying oil and forestry products when it derailed near Whitecourt, Alberta, about 125 miles northwest of Edmonton, capital of the oil-rich province, according to a spokesman with Canada’s Transportation Safety Board.

Oklahoma officials agree to railroad demands to keep oil train shipments secret

Oklahoma residents curious about the number of trains shipping oil through their communities will have to stay in the dark after state officials decided to keep the information secret.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said a state commission acting as the clearinghouse for emergency response information entered into confidentiality agreements with several railroad companies in June.

Quebec town struggles one year after oil train fire storm

This weekend the small town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec is preparing to mark the one year anniversary since that deadly train derailment, when a U.S. tanker train exploded killing 47 people.

Brian Mann has been covering this story since last July when the disaster first occurred and he’s back in Quebec today. He spoke with Martha Foley.

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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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