Environmental Must-Reads – July 7, 2015


Reforesting After Fracking: Working To Restore Pennsylvania’s Drilled Land

While most of the attention on the impacts of fracking has focused on things like drinking water, air pollution and earthquakes, state regulators in Pennsylvania are working on another less-discussed, but no less serious, side effect of oil and gas development: forest fragmentation.

That’s what happens when things like well pads, roads, and pipelines crisscross the landscape carving up large swaths of forest into smaller pieces. As Marie Cusick of WITF in Harrisburg reports, foresters are trying to help gas companies figure out the best ways to clean up after themselves.

Public Comment Sought About Fracking in Kentucky

Bracing for a boom in deep-well fracking, state lawmakers revised Kentucky’s regulations on oil and gas production in March.

Environmentalists and landowners will now get to express their views about the regulatory revisions in a trio of public meetings across the commonwealth, beginning tonight in Madisonville.

Fracking ordinance in the works for three towns

A joint ordinance that would regulate fracking in Newtown Township, Upper Makefield and Wrightstown will be voted on soon by the supervisors in all three townships, according to an attorney who helped draft the ordinance.

Matt McHugh, of Grim, Biehn and Thatcher in Perkasie, said the ordinance will likely be voted on by all three governing bodies in the next month or two.

Opponents of landfill expansion plan raise concerns over fracking sand

Some opponents of Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s expansion plan are uneasy the facility can accept sand that is a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, even as the landfill has not accepted any of it and some industry experts say the byproduct is not dangerous.

Drillers pump water, additives and sand into the Marcellus Shale to extract natural gas. The sand holds underground voids open, but some of it escapes with the water and must be disposed.

Refracking Is the New Fracking

The technique itself is nothing new. Oil crews across the world have been schooled on its simple principles for generations: Identify aging, low-output wells and hit them with a blast of sand and water to bolster the flow of crude. The idea originated somewhere in the plains of the American Midwest, back in the 1950s.

But as today’s engineers start applying the procedure to the horizontal wells that went up during the fracking boom that swept across U.S. shale fields over the past decade, something more powerful, more financially rewarding is happening.

Toxic East Tennessee train derailment may have affected water

Officials on Sunday issued an advisory against activity in Culton Creek after biologists found dead fish in the wake of Thursday’s CSX train derailment.

The advisory came down from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and officials from Blount County, Alcoa and Maryville governments.

Congress allocates $246M for oil transport safety

In an effort to improve the safety of transporting Bakken crude by rail and pipelines, Congress has allocated $246 million to the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA).

As reported by the Williston Herald, last week Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) announced the funding made possible by the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill. In a statement, he said, “This legislation provides critical funding that will enhance oil pipeline and rail shipment safety, which will help prevent accidents in the first place and mitigate their impacts if they do occur.”

Cuomo urged to ban oil trains from New York

It’s been two years since a runaway oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, and exploded. The resulting inferno killed 47 people and incinerated the center of the town.

What wasn’t known then was that the crude oil the train carried from the Bakken field of North Dakota was far more flammable than most crude.

4 arrested after midair oil-train protest at Benicia Bridge

Police arrested four Bay Area activists Monday morning after they suspended themselves from the Benicia-Martinez railroad bridge to hang a banner protesting oil trains, the California Highway Patrol said.

About 7:50 a.m., some of the activists suspended themselves from the bridge with cords as they tried to display a banner that read, “Stop Oil Trains Now: Are You in the Blast-Zone.org.”

Two Years After Oil Train Disaster, Profound Scars Remain in Lac-Mégantic

A week of direct actions across Canada and the U.S. to stop so-called “bomb trains” began on Monday, the two-year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, when an unmanned train with 72 tankers carrying 30,000 gallons of crude oil careened into a small town in the Canadian province of Quebec, where it derailed, exploded, and killed 47 people.

Decontamination work continues to this day at the crash site, but was suspended at noon for a moment of silence. Later in the day, church bells will ring out 47 times at Lac-Mégantic’s St. Agnes Church.

Blocking the Bomb Trains: Nationwide Protests On Lac-Megantic Anniversary

“It’s corporate greed versus the common good, whether it’s rail safety or climate change.”

Those were the words of Lowen Berman, a Portland activist involved in a blockade of oil train tracks to mark the second anniversary of the Lac-Megantic oil train disaster.

Berman and 60 other activists protested in Portland today as part of a national Oil Train Week of Protests led by 350.org and ForestEthics.

Billions in gas projects stranded by climate change action, says thinktank

More than $280bn (£180bn) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects being planned over the next decade risk becoming “stranded” if global action is taken to limit climate change to 2C, according to a report by the thinktank Carbon Tracker.

LNG projects allow gas to be compressed into tankers and sold around the world, making it key to hopes in the US, Canada and Australia of fully exploiting their gas reserves.

How BP’s $18.7-Billion Oil Spill Settlement Could Help the Gulf of Mexico

Oil company BP agreed on July 2 to pay US$18.7 billion to settle civil lawsuits over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil poured into the Gulf during the months-long crisis, the largest marine spill in US history.

The payment will add to $14 billion that BP said it had already paid in claims, advances and settlements related to the spill.

BP oil spill: Claims payments top $5.2 billion

The administrator running the BP oil spill settlement says more than $5.2 billion has been paid to individuals and businesses harmed by the disaster. The majority of those payments have gone to compensate businesses and the Gulf of Mexico seafood industry.

Claims administrator Patrick Juneau provided details on settlement payments in a June 30 report, part of an ongoing series of reports filed with the federal court as checks continue to go out.

St. Tammany meets over BP oil spill settlement offer

St. Tammany Parish leaders met Monday night in a special meeting to discuss the recent BP oil spill settlement.

In St. Tammany in 2010, tar balls washed into Lake Pontchartrain three months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill.

BP oil spill settlement: Alabama coast got shortchanged, Byrne says

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, ripped into state lawmakers on Monday for not earmarking more money to his district from the multi-billion-dollar settlement Alabama and other Gulf states agreed to with BP for the 2010 oil spill.

Federal legislation was created with the intent that recovery dollars paid by BP would flow into local communities so local officials would make the decision on where the money would go, Byrne said. But the congressman said only 25 percent of the $2.3 billion awarded to Alabama from the oil spill is allocated for Gulf communities in the state. He added that local officials weren’t consulted before Alabama agreed to the settlement.

Tar Balls from California Oil Spill Litter Beach in NASA Photo

Spotting dark, gooey and flammable tar on the beach — remnants from an oil spill in Southern California in May — just got a lot easier, thanks to NASA.

The agency recently captured a light-sensitive image of tar-seeped sand and water in Santa Barbara to help officials study and respond to the spill.

Citizen Actions in Canada Are Putting the Brakes on Tar Sands Pipelines

This past weekend, citizens from across Canada gathered in Ontario to voice their support for moving beyond the tar sands industry to a clean energy future. Over 10,000 people marched in Toronto in support of Jobs, Justice, and the Climate. The march became the most diverse climate mobilization ever in Canada, drawing Indigenous communities, unions, students, celebrities, social justice organizations, and environmental leaders. The marchers called on political leaders to move Canada toward a clean energy economy, which would alleviate the environmental destruction faced by Indigenous communities and countless others and also create a strong new basis for Canada’s economic growth.

Enbridge Stuffs Provision Into Wisconsin Budget to Expedite Controversial Piece of ‘Keystone XL Clone’

On Thursday, July 3, on the eve of a long Fourth of July holiday weekend, Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge landed a sweetheart deal: a provision in the 2015 Wisconsin budget that will serve to expedite permitting for its controversial proposed Line 61 tar sands pipeline expansion project.

Line 61 cuts diagonally across Wisconsin and goes into north-central Illinois, beginning in Superior, Wisconsin and terminating in Flanagan, Illinois. The Wisconsin Gazette refers to the pipeline as the “XXL” pipeline because it is bigger in size and has higher carrying capacity than the better-known tar sands pipeline cousin, TransCanada’s Keystone XL, and is “buried beneath every major waterway” in the state.

South Dakota regulators hold hearing on Keystone XL pipeline

South Dakota residents were split Monday over the merits of allowing the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state, with some telling regulators the project would be an economic engine but others calling it a grave threat to the environment.

More than 50 people offered their opinions on the state’s portion of the pipeline during the three-hour South Dakota Public Utilities Commission session. The commission will make its decision after holding a final evidentiary hearing starting in late July.

Public Gives Opinion on Keystone XL Pipeline

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved a permit for TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline in the state back in June of 2010.

They had four years to begin construction, but the pipeline has since been vetoed by the President and the Senate has failed to override that veto.

US Coast Guard chief: We are ‘not even in the same league as Russia’ in the Arctic

The US is lagging far behind other nations, especially Russia, when it comes to planning for the Arctic region as ice melts.

“We’re not even in the same league as Russia right now,” Newsweek quotes Coast Guard Commandant Paul F. Zukunft as saying. “We’re not playing in this game at all.”

Austria files lawsuit against EU Commission over UK nuclear plant

Austria launched legal action on Monday against the European Commission over its backing of British plans for the 16 billion pound ($24.9 billion) development of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, Chancellor Werner Faymann said.

The project, to be built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in southwest England, is crucial for Britain’s plan to replace a fifth of its aging nuclear power and coal plants over the coming decade while reducing carbon emissions.

Post-Fukushima, Japan’s first n-plant begins refuelling

For the first time since Japan established stricter nuclear safety criteria following the Fukushima accident, the operator of Sendai nuclear plant began to refuel its reactor 1, scheduled for reactivation in August.

According to a spokesperson of Kyushu Electric Power, the operator of the plant, loading of all the 157 fuel rod bundles of the reactor have begun and would take four days to complete. This is the first nuclear plant to reactivate after Fukushima, Efe news agency reported.

What an underground nuclear explosion looks like

One this day, 53 years ago, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory detonated a thermonuclear device 194 meters below the Nevada desert. Why? Well, the government at the time thought blowing up a nuclear bomb underground sounded like a good idea if you want to excavate a mine. It’s a lot quicker than drilling with a lot machines. After all, mines are made using thousands of tonnes of dynamite. Why not take a shortcut and nuke the damn thing. The problem, of course is radiation. But how can you have people work in a mine if it’s contaminated with radiation, right? The logic escapes me as well.

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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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