Environmental Must-Reads – July 5, 2013


Contaminated Water, Land Damage, and Earthquakes: The Legacy of Waste Injection Wells

Early scientific analysis predicted that the risks associated with hazardous waste injection wells would be negligible. Unfortunately, experience has indicated that disposing of hazardous waste deep underground has been linked to water contamination, destroyed ecosystems, toxic leaks and earthquakes.

Fracking opposition stepped up in N.E.

Opposition to the drilling technique known as fracking is growing in New England as lawmakers consider banning it in their states and environmentalists escalate protests against the controversial practice.

Petroleum industry officials say there’s little chance of fracking taking place in New England, but some environmentalists and politicians say they’re taking no chances. Vermont recently became the only state to prohibit fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, and similar legislation has come under consideration in Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut.

Fervent foes devote lives to fracking fight

Big energy companies have been trying for five years to tap the riches of the Marcellus Shale in southern New York, promising thousands of new jobs, economic salvation for a depressed region, and a cheap, abundant, clean-burning source of fuel close to power-hungry cities. But for all its political clout and financial prowess, the industry hasn’t been able to get its foot in the door.

Sand Rush: Fracking Boom Spurs Rush on Wisconsin Silica

They look like pyramids in a cornfield, or sea dunes mottled by the summer rain.

But these stockpiles hold one of the secrets to America’s energy revolution. The heaps of dozer-hauled, diesel-crushed grains are pure silica sand, and the future of fracking depends on stripping hundreds of millions of tons of it.

Josh Fox’s “Gasland II” to expose power politics of fracking

Pictures of flames shooting out of a tap in Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated first film about the natural gas boom helped make fracking a household word in America.

Gasland Part II, scheduled to air on HBO on July 8, aims to expose the money and political power driving the rush to gas — although it does also feature pictures of a homeowner in Texas lighting his garden hose on fire.

Clarity on health care and fracking

Earlier this year, a former president of the Colorado Medical Society, along with several other doctors, expressed concern that state rules protecting trade secrets in the oil and gas industry might bar them from sharing crucial information with other health care officials during a medical emergency. Obviously this would have been intolerable.

Middlebury College’s fracking problem

Middlebury College in Vermont may be a small school, but it has long been recognized as a big leader on the environment. Back in 1965, Middlebury established the nation’s first environmental studies major. More recently, in 2007, the school was among the first to pledge to go carbon neutral. It is also the birthplace of the international climate group 350.org and home to renowned environmentalist Bill McKibben. But despite this clear commitment to protecting the planet, Middlebury College is now supporting a controversial pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas through Vermont and under Lake Champlain to the state of New York.

Energy Industry Heavyweights Arguing Against Outright Ban On ‘Fracking’ In National Park

Environmental groups are fearful that a new blueprint for the 1.1-million-acre George Washington National Forest will open the largest federally protected forest in the East to a form of natural gas drilling that has spawned its own environmental movement.

EPA’s Abandoned Wyoming Fracking Study One Retreat of Many

When the Environmental Protection Agency abruptly retreated on its multimillion-dollar investigation into water contamination in a central Wyoming natural gas field last month, it shocked environmentalists and energy industry supporters alike.

In 2011, the agency had issued a blockbuster draft report saying that the controversial practice of fracking was to blame for the pollution of an aquifer deep below the town of Pavillion, Wy. – the first time such a claim had been based on a scientific analysis.

What happens when a green college considers fracking?

At Allegheny College, students eat locally grown food from biodegradable containers using compostable forks.

Just 90 miles north of Pittsburgh, the private, liberal-arts college has won national awards for green initiatives, gets all its electricity from wind generation and has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2020.

Now, the school touted in the Princeton Review’s guide to green colleges as a leader of environmental friendliness, is talking about leasing land for fracking, the horizontal drilling technique used to get gas from shale.

Growing Doubts on the Numbers from Fracking Giant Chesapeake Energy

America is in the midst of the biggest onshore oil and gas rush in recent history, with excitement spreading across the U.S. Oil and gas companies have cashed in on this frenzied excitement by courting huge investment domestically and abroad.

But a growing chorus of independent analysts and law enforcement agencies have their doubts and have questioned whether shale drillers are overhyping their financial prospects and overestimating how much oil or gas they can profitably pull from the ground. Just this week, one of America’s biggest agricultural lenders, the Netherlands-based Rabobank, announced that it would no longer lend money to companies that invest in shale gas extraction (nor to farmers worldwide who lease their land to these drillers).

EPA officials pressured to weaken oil and gas science and environmental protections

On the eve of Independence Day, when I’d like to celebrate everything I love about America, I got a powerful reminder of something I don’t like: efforts by a polluting industry–and its friends in government–to squash scientific investigation intending to determine whether people are being harmed by toxic contamination of their drinking water.

Beyond fracking: is California being pumped full of acid?

Fracking – maybe you’ve heard of it? From exemptions to environmental regulations to contaminating our water, air, and communities to an Oscar-nominated documentary and a sequel, fracking has dominated our debate about fossil fuels lately.  Here’s the thing – while we’ve (rightly) been debating fracking, other potentially equally risky forms of fossil fuel extraction are being used. And we don’t know much about them.

Fracking Independence Day

The fracking rush in the heartland may have been unleashed by ill-conceived regulatory measures last month, but frontline organizations and citizen groups in southern Illinois are not throwing in the towel—or even taking vacations this summer.

Welcome to Fracking Independence Days.

The Probe Into BP Oil-Spill Payouts Could Be Bigger Than You Think

Louis Freeh’s investigation of the BP-claims mess could reveal major legal funny business in the Big Easy.

In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek cover story, I explained how the private-claims process following BP’s (BP) 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill devolved into a plaintiffs’-lawyer feeding frenzy. On July 2, I reported that the New Orleans federal judge in the case had called in Freeh, a former FBI director, to probe kickback allegations. Here’s why this matters not just to the multibillion-dollar BP litigation, but to the broader world of corporate liability and the American justice system

David Rainey, Former BP Executive, Given More Time To Prepare For Gulf Oil Spill Trial

A federal judge has postponed the trial of a former BP executive charged with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was spewing from the company’s blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Three people charged for filing false claims to BP oil spill recovery fund

More people have been charged with allegedly trying to illegally take money from the BP Oil Spill recovery fund.

“Gulf Coast Syndrome”

On the one-year anniversary of the oil disaster, Alex Woodward talks to coastal residents who say they’re coming down with mysterious and frightening illnesses

Shell says Gulf find may hold 100 million barrels

A drilling hunch with its roots in the Jurassic period is paying off for Royal Dutch Shell, with a potential 100-million barrel oil find adding to the company’s bounty in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell said Wednesday that its Vicksburg exploratory well encountered an estimated 500 feet of net oil pay. The well is five miles from the company’s Appomattox site, where Shell already has found 500 million barrels of potentially recoverable resources.

Oil spill stretches 10 miles down a river in Mississippi

A 10-mile stretch of Mississippi’s Chickasawhay River was fouled by more than 200 barrels of oil after equipment at a drilling well malfunctioned.

Shell Reports Largest Oil Spill in Nigeria this Year

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) said Friday that a June incident on a pipeline operated by its Nigerian joint venture resulted in the company’s most significant oil spill in the country this year.

Pipeline leaks estimated 42K gallons of gasoline on Crow Reservation

A Phillips 66 pipeline has been shut down, after leaking on the Crow Reservation.

The leak happened late Tuesday and Phillips 66 alerted the tribe Wednesday morning.

Canada pipeline hangs in the balance

US President Barack Obama to make decision on oil pipeline, which environmentalists say will accelerate climate change.

Keystone XL Pipeline Will Cause Damage Beyond Spills (Op-Ed)

Back in 2007, while I was working and living in Alberta and focused on the protection of watersheds, I organized a canoe expedition down the Athabasca River. The river is part of a lush watershed that flows through the heart of tar-sands mining and drilling operations in Canada’s pristine boreal forests.

Keystone XL pipeline foes turn focus to local government

Frustrated with state and federal officials, opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are turning to low-level county commissions and zoning boards in a new attempt to slow a project that has become a focal point of the national battle over climate change.

Bay Area Battles Chevron’s Dangerous Tar Sands Refinery

350BayArea.org, joined by local groups and unions, last week announced plans for a massive protest Aug. 3 at California’s Chevron Richmond oil refinery.

Centrica, E.ON and RWE lead Arctic rush for oil

Half of the big six energy companies operating in the UK are leading a new dash into the Arctic in search of new oil and gas after gaining exploration licences in Norwegian waters. The push comes despite three of Norway’s environment agencies warning that total or partial drilling bans are needed in most of the blocks.

Three of big 6 plan look to drilling in Arctic

E. On and Centrica admitted they were interested in exploring for oil and gas in the Barents Sea.

RWE Npower is also reportedly interested in exploiting resources in the environmentally sensitive area.

French nuclear tests ‘showered vast area of Polynesia with radioactivity’

French nuclear tests in the South Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s were far more toxic than has been previously acknowledged and hit a vast swath of Polynesia with radioactive fallout, according to newly declassified ministry of defence documents which have angered veterans and civilians’ groups.

Thousands exposed to nuclear fallout 500 times the maximum accepted levels during South Pacific tests

Islands in the South Pacific were exposed to up to 500 times the maximum accepted levels of radiation during French nuclear tests in the 1960s and 1970s according to newly declassified military documents.

Japan nears switching on reactors after Tepco’s meltdown

A countdown is starting in Japan for restarting some of the 48 nuclear reactors that were idled after the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns caused the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl.

Japan utility hires nuclear safety advocate

The Japanese utility still battling leaks of radiated water at the nuclear plant sent into meltdown by the 2011 tsunami thinks it has found the perfect person to oversee its safety campaign — a foreign woman.

Lady Barbara Judge — a British-American, who has worked as a lawyer, banker and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner — says that Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility behind the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, has changed enough under a new president to begin restarting its reactors.

Fukushima Plant Operator Intends to Restart Reactors Elsewhere

The operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Tuesday that it would ask regulators to allow it to restart two reactors at a separate site in eastern Japan, even as problems with the company’s cleanup in Fukushima continue to multiply.

Fukushima records highest radiation level in a year

You might think that radiation levels would be falling more than two years after Japan’s most serious nuclear disaster since the bombing of Nagasaki in the Second World War.

But on a rooftop in Fukushima, radioactive cesium levels were at the highest levels observed in the past year, according to the Asahi Shumbun newspaper.

Fukushima a ‘blueprint’ for terrorists, IAEA warns

The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, whose 2011 triple-meltdown forced the relocation of 160,000 people, may provide a new blueprint for terrorists seeking to inflict mass disruption, security analysts said Monday at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Waste Dump

July 1 marks Canada Day when many Canadians celebrate the unification of three colonies into their country on the same date in 1867. In Ontario, droves of people head off to their summer cottages and vacation get-a-ways on the shores of the Great Lakes for the holiday weekend. Lake Huron’s sandy beaches and beautiful aquamarine waters attract many visitors from all over the world. But this year, many First Nations were not celebrating the stripping of their sovereignty rights and desecration of their lands.

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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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