Environmental Must-Reads – July 6, 2015


Fracking’s Water Footprint Is On The Rise

According to a new study released by the U.S. Geological Survey, the amount of water used in controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — is on the rise.

Released Tuesday, the study found that a horizontal natural gas well in 2014 used 28 times more water than a similar natural gas well in 2000, while an oil well used 22 times as much water. But water use also varies widely across the industry, with operations using anywhere from 2,600 gallons to as much as 9.7 million gallons per well.

New York’s fracking ban starts the clock for lawsuits

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration officially banned large-scale hydraulic fracturing Monday, it finally put an end to a seven-year review process that drew hundreds of thousands of public comments and sharply divided the general public.

For now.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s action started a 120-day clock for fracking proponents to examine whether the ban has any legal holes; fracking opponents have lauded the ban. If a lawsuit isn’t filed by Oct. 27, state law says the decision can no longer be challenged.

Anti-fracking ‘bill of rights’ template loses again

The template for community bill of rights protections against oil and gas fracking and related activities lost another Ohio court case last week.

The most recent legal defeat leaves that strategy for enacting local drilling bans and regulations 0-2 so far this year in the Buckeye State. That’s in addition to an Ohio Supreme Court decision that overruled local drilling regulations.

Anti-fracking Nanas: ‘The government is all out for shale – we’re all out to stop it’

If the two security guards had been awake, they probably wouldn’t have believed their eyes. Twenty-five women aged between 25 and 60, in yellow tabards and matching Hilda Ogden headscarves, vaulting a gate in order to occupy the Blackpool field that the energy company Cuadrilla had paid the guards to mind.

“Everything went smoothly, except for the logistical bits we left to the fellas,” said hairdresser Anjie Mosher, one of the group known as the Nanas, who have become the frontline against fracking in Lancashire, alongside Friends of the Earth and the Green party. The men had been tasked with arranging a van to transport the women to the field on Preston New Road in Little Plumpton, but they forgot.

Secrecy over fracking chemicals clouds environmental risks, advocates say

The fracking industry must be compelled to provide far more detailed information to regulators if the public is to be accurately informed of any risks to the environment, advocacy groups say.

A report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month found that hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas can lead, and has led, to the contamination of drinking water. It was the first time the federal government had admitted such a link.

Environmental group trying to block fracking at Long Beach oil islands

An environmental group has petitioned the California Coastal Commission to stop plans that may lead to the resumption of controversial fracking operations at the oil islands off the Long Beach shoreline.

The state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources granted permits for fracking work at eight existing offshore oil wells and five new ones, according to agency spokesman Don Drysdale. Any fracking at the wells, which are managed by the city of Long Beach and a subsidiary of California Resources Corp., would be subject to new statewide regulations that went into place on July 1.

Airborne lab seeks fracking leaks

The inside of the Twin Otter airplane was turned into a flying laboratory, crammed with racks of computer equipment and an array of suitcase-sized plastic containers.

Its mission: to fly over the busy natural-gas drilling operations of northeastern Pennsylvania so a pair of scientists could measure how much of the stuff was leaking into the atmosphere.

State Supreme Court decision seen as a victory for earthquake victims

An Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling on a case stemming from the 2011 Prague earthquake is important not so much for what the justices concluded, as what they didn’t, observers say.

In essence, the court said claims alleging damages from high-pressure disposal wells — and, by extension, other oil- and gas-related activity — must be decided by the court system, not the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Pipeline Builder Sues Boston Over West Roxbury Gas Line

Spectra Energy Corporation has sued the city of Boston for preventing them from constructing a portion of New England’s largest natural gas pipeline in West Roxbury.

The West Roxbury Lateral gas line is a 5-mile section of Algonquin Incremental Market’s larger pipeline. It is set to run through Westwood, Dedham and West Roxbury.

Spectra has alleged the city would not sell the rights-of-way needed to bury the gas line near a gravel quarry in one of West Roxbury’s neighborhoods, according to a federal suit filed against the city last week.

Two years later, Lac-Mégantic struggles to rebuild

Two years on, there’s still a pile of toxic dirt where the centre of Lac-Mégantic used to be.

Guarded 24 hours a day by security and surrounded with fences, it’s a daily reminder of what happened July 6, 2013, when an unmanned train with 72 tankers carrying 8 million litres of crude oil careened into town, exploding in its core.

Lac-Mégantic rail-safety group says too many train derailments for comfort

Montreal, Maine and Atlantic — and the company that bought it after it declared bankruptcy — have experienced a number of train derailments since the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.

In the year following the Lac-Mégantic train derailment and explosion, the former MM&A reported 13 derailment incidents in Canada and the United States.

Citing Dangers to Disadvantaged People, Advocates Push to Stop Transporting Oil by Train

When researchers talk about deadly dangers low-income and minority Californians may face in their neighborhoods, they often refer to gang violence, or even lack of access to fresh food and health care. A lesser-known danger lies in the frequent derailments and explosions of trains transporting crude oil, new research finds.

Low-income, nonwhite, and non-English-speaking communities face a disproportionately high risk of these devastating explosions, according to a report published this week by environmental advocacy groups ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment.

The Bomb Train Next Door: Part II

Just before last week’s Independence Day holiday weekend, more than 5,000 residents living near Maryville, TN were evacuated after a CSX tanker car derailed and caught fire on July 2. The tanker car was carrying Acrylonitrile, a highly flammable and toxic gas which can cause membrane irritation, headaches, nausea and kidney irritation if inhaled in high concentrations. Ten officers and 30 first responders were hospitalized with inhalation injuries following the incident, where authorities established a two mile evacuation zone near the derailment site.

Conservation groups praise lawmakers after BP settlement, urge them to focus on Gulf restoration

Now that a final amount has been set for BP’s penalties and settlements relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many local and national conservation groups have praised lawmakers for reaching a settlement and urged them to use the settlement funds for environmental restoration projects they say are consistent with the spirit of the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, the two primary laws involved in the settlement.

Alabama and other states announced an $18.7 billion settlement agreement with BP Thursday morning, a deal that would include around $2.3 billion for Alabama. That agreement still must be approved by the court.

Experts: La., oil industry recovering post BP spill

BP’s $18.7 billion settlement still needs a judge’s approval, but all parties are in apparent agreement on what U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynn called “the largest settlement with a single entity in American history.”

The result: BP will be doling out payments to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas for at least 16 years. Of that money, some $6.8 billion is headed to Louisiana, the state most harmed by the April 20, 2010, explosion that spilled the equivalent of at least 3 million barrels of oil, perhaps as much as 5 million, into the Gulf of Mexico. In total, the state will receive some $10 billion for the harm inflicted on it by the spill.

As Record Settlement Announced Over BP Gulf Oil Disaster, Lesson Is Clear: Clean Energy Now

BP and the Justice Department announced Thursday the agreement of an $18.7 billion settlement over federal, state, and local claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmental groups responded to the settlement by stressing that the damage from the 2010 oil disaster is ongoing; that the funds must be used to restore the Gulf and its communities; and that the lessons of the disaster should be heeded by moving towards a clean energy future.

Lawyer for environmental group ‘interrogated repeatedly’ at US border

Deanna Meyer lives on a sprawling 280-acre goat farm south of Boulder, Colorado. She’s been an activist most of her adult life and has recently been involved in a campaign to relocate a prairie dog colony threatened by the development of a shopping mall in Castle Rock.

In October of last year, an agent with the Department of Homeland Security showed up at her mother’s house and later called her, saying he was trying to “head off any injuries or killing of people that could happen by people you know”.

Direct Actions Across Canada Declare: ‘Time to Move on’ from Tar Sands

Creative direct actions are taking place across Canada on Saturday, in a nationwide mobilization meant to demonstrate that Canadians “care about their communities, and that we are ready to stop digging, start building and move beyond the tar sands.”

The ‘We > Tar Sands’ rallies and events are coming in advance of a major March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate happening in Toronto on Sunday, and on the heels of a series of student-led sit-ins that swept the country on Friday.

Keystone XL pipeline is back on PUC agenda

South Dakota landowners and environmentalists have another chance to weigh in on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Utility regulators will solicit another round of public input this week on the controversial project, which would carry crude oil nearly 1,200 miles from Canada to southeastern Nebraska, where it would flow into existing pipelines connected to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

The Trouble With Inspection Tools for Oil Pipelines

Oil pipeline companies like to brag that their advanced testing methods and remote monitoring technology prevent spills. So why was a Southern California beach coated in crude in late May?

Pipeline inspection tools have come a long way in recent years, and can now spot problems like corrosion and dents. But they can still overlook some problems. And there is room for human error, since people have to pick the right testing tools, run the tests and decide how to respond to problems.

Crawling robot patrols Alaska pipeline’s formerly ‘unpiggable’ pipes

In the trans-Alaska pipeline’s early days there was just a pig, a large projectile sliding through pipe with the flow of crude oil, scraping away corrosion-causing water or waxy buildup.

Then along came the “smart pig,” a high-tech twist on the original version that used magnetic and other forces to inspect the pipe as it drifted down the line, providing updates on the pipeline’s condition from the inside.

Class-action suits challenge Union Pacific railroad’s authority to OK oil pipeline 

The U.S. government began handing out land to railroads to encourage their development more than 150 years ago, but there are still questions about how much control those companies have over the land.

Union Pacific is facing several lawsuits related to whether a railroad it acquired years ago had the authority to allow an oil pipeline to be built along its tracks in six states and who is entitled to the royalties that are now worth more than $14 million a year.

Canada not prepared to deal with Arctic or deep water oil spill

An internal report warns the federal government isn’t fully prepared to respond in the event of an oil spill in the Arctic or in deep water offshore.

The document “An Emergency Response Biomonitoring Plan for Accidental Spills” dated May 23, 2014, was prepared for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It was written by the consulting firm SL Ross Environmental Research Ltd. of Ottawa, and released under Access to Information laws.

Marching for Action on Climate Change, Jane Fonda Warns Against Arctic Oil Drilling

Earlier this year, Grace and Frankie actor and lifelong political activist Jane Fonda urged women at the Sundance Film Festival to shame the studios for being so gender-biased.

Now she’s calling on the international community to shame President Obama for what she called an “inconceivable” act, according to The Hollywood Reporter: allowing Shell to drill oil in the Arctic Ocean. The practice creates the potential for an oil spill and poses significant threats to the environment and wildlife, Fonda and other environmentalists say.

Melting Arctic Ice Is a Warning, but Oil Companies See It as a Chance to Drill

In September 2013, 30 Greenpeace activists from 18 countries protested Russia’s drilling in the Arctic. In response, their ship, Arctic Sunrise, was seized by masked commandos, and these men and women were charged with piracy and thrown into the Russian prison system.

Truthout recently interviewed Ben Stewart, who heads media relations for Greenpeace International and is the author of Don’t Trust Don’t Fear Don’t Beg.

Deadly dome of gorgeous Pacific island leaking radioactive waste

A PICTURESQUE coral atoll that lies northeast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean harbours a deadly secret.

A giant, concrete dome filled with radioactive waste looms above Runit Island, and it’s leaking. Locals call it “The Tomb”.

Runit (or Cactus) dome was used for Cold War nuclear testing by the US government for 10 years from 1948. There were 42 tests in total on Enewetak Atoll, including 22 explosions on platforms, barges and underwater in the space of just three months in 1958, just before a moratorium on atomic testing.

Scorpion-Like Robot to Venture Into Fukushima Nuclear Reactor

In 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake rattled Japan’s Pacific coast, triggered a devastating Tsunami, and precipitated the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The massive wave knocked out power, causing the meltdown of three nuclear reactors and severely damaging a fourth. More than four years on, the island nation continues to struggle with the daunting task of cleaning up.

But progress is being made. A 54 centimeter robot with a scorpion-like tail, able to withstand up to 10 hours of radiation, will be sent inside one of the reactors this August. It will travel through a duct, to the primary containment vessel of the Unit 2 reactor, and will survey the melted nuclear fuel inside. The robot’s operators must undergo a month of training before they take hold of the controllers for the big event.

Looking Inside Fukushima Prefecture

Because of Japan’s unconscionable open-ended new secrecy law, it is very likely journalism in the nation has turned tail, scared of its own shadow. Nevertheless, glimmers of what has happened, of what is happening, do surface when brave people come forward.

On May 22nd 2015 Hiromichi Ugaya, a photojournalist who is well-informed, insightful, and engaging, was interviewed about what he witnessed in the aftermath of one of the world’s most horrendous disasters.

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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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