Environmental Must-Reads – July 8, 2014


A California Oil Field Yields Another Prized Commodity

The 115-year-old Kern River oil field unfolds into the horizon, thousands of bobbing pumpjacks seemingly occupying every corner of a desert landscape here in California’s Central Valley. A contributor to the state’s original oil boom, it is still going strong as the nation’s fifth-largest oil field, yielding 70,000 barrels a day.

But the Kern River field also produces 10 times more of something that, at least during California’s continuing drought, has become more valuable to many locals and has experienced the kind of price spike more familiar to oil: water. The field’s owner, Chevron, sells millions of gallons every day to a local water district that distributes it to farmers growing almonds, pistachios, citrus fruits and other crops.

Collier drilling permit on shaky ground

The head of the state Department of Environmental Protection on Monday said all enforcement options are on the table to hold a Texas oil company accountable for using a fracking-like process at a Collier County well, including revoking the company’s permit.

Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. plans to attend the 9 a.m. Collier County commission meeting today in Naples and address public concerns that the Dan A. Hughes Co., of Beeville, Texas, used the controversial process, despite the DEP’s order to stop.

Natural gas mega-pipeline plan has Michigan residents bracing for disruption

A major interstate natural gas transmission pipeline proposed to pass through Michigan on its way to Ontario has some residents feeling a sense of déjà vu.

Some of the same residents already endured torn-up yards and disrupted lives from a major oil pipeline project last year. They’re exhausted and still reeling from what they perceived as mistreatment at the hands of Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge and its replacement of a major oil transmission line — Line 6B — across the Lower Peninsula.

Energy companies say disposal wells are central to Oklahoma’s oil, gas operations

Oklahoma has shook, rattled and rolled through nearly 800 earthquakes in the past year, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

That is more than enough for Cynde Collin-Clark, who is poised to leave her Edmond home for someplace without as much seismic activity.

“That’s all I can think to do anymore,” she said.

Methane’s Role In Climate Change

The U.S. is rushing to exploit its newfound wealth of fossil fuels. With startling regularity, a government agency or energy company announces a new natural gas or oil field, proposes another liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal, or lays out plans to expand a chemical plant. The bonanza is particularly important to the chemical industry as companies eagerly take advantage of these new resources for feedstocks and fuel.

But the push for fossil-fuel development and use comes at a time when greenhouse gas emissions continue their upward climb and climate scientists sharpen their calls of alarm.

‘Watershed moment’ for fracking foes?

Opponents of fracking are feeling emboldened by a ruling in New York’s highest court that found towns can outlaw the controversial drilling practice.

Environmentalists are cheering the decision against hydraulic fracturing as a major step toward more local control over the natural gas production. Industry groups, on the other hand, fear the ruling could results in a patchwork of local rules that slow development of the booming energy source.

Germany’s Fracking Retreat

Modern environmentalism is sometimes likened to a medieval religion, in which articles of faith remain binding on believers even when contradicted by reason and evidence. A case in point is an astounding German proposal to ban fracking at just the moment when the need to diversify Europe’s gas supplies has never been greater.

A call for new fracking data for NYS

An environmental group is calling on New York to start over on the SGEIS, a DEC document outlining permit regulations for natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing.

It has yet to be finalized.

Would You Take $50,000 in Return for Promising Never to Sue a Fracking Company?

ProPublica reports on an impressively bold gambit by EQT, a natural gas company that conducts fracking operations in Pennsylvania:

[EQT] offered all of the households along Cardox Road $50,000 in cash if they would agree to release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future. It covered potential health problems and property damage, and gave the company blanket protection from any kind of claim over noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations.

Landrieu, oil & gas officials, call for expanded offshore drilling

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and oil and gas officials Monday challenged the government agency writing the nation’s next five-year energy exploration plan to expand offshore drilling to federal waters off the East and West coasts and offshore Alaska.

“The U.S. has a bountiful resource, much of which is untapped,” said Kent Satterlee III, manager of offshore regulatory policy for Shell Upstream Americas.

Exxon’s Burst Pipeline Could Restart Within a Year, but Repair Plan May Be Inadequate

ExxonMobil could restart the northern leg of its Pegasus oil pipeline within a year, but the company’s pre-startup tests could leave behind threats large enough to endanger the public, according to a review of Exxon’s proposal.

Those details and others are laid out in Exxon’s repair plan for the Pegasus northern segment, a document that was submitted to federal pipeline regulators at the end of March. The so-called “integrity verification and remedial work plan” was not publicly released, but InsideClimate News obtained a copy through a public records request.

Canadians are eating tar-sands pollution

Tar-sands extraction isn’t just turning swaths of Canadian land into postapocalyptic film sets. New research shows it’s also contaminating the wild animals that members of the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations have traditionally relied on for food.

We already knew that the tar-sands operations have been dousing northern Alberta with mercury and other forms of pollution. Now university scientists have collaborated with the First Nations to test the pollution levels in hunted animals found downstream from the tar-sands sites.

Canadian government approves Northern Gateway pipeline

Canada’s federal government approved Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway crude oil pipeline project as long as it meets 209 conditions a joint review panel imposed in December.

“Today constitutes another step in the process,” Canadian Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said in announcing the decision on June 17. “Moving forward, the proponent must demonstrate to the independent regulator, the [National Energy Board], how it will meet the 209 conditions. It will also have to apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments.”

Final phases of Enbridge pipeline begin

Eighty-foot segments of pipe are laid out along the Enbridge, Inc. right-of-way in St. Clair County, signaling the start of the final phase of the oil company’s pipeline replacement project.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum said in an email the 30-inch pipe will remain above ground for three to four weeks while crews bend, weld and then bury the pipe.

Enbridge Completes One Cushing-Freeport Seaway Pipeline

Enbridge Inc.– the parent company of Enbridge Energy Partners L.P.– announced that the 512-mile Seaway Pipeline system loop is mechanically complete. The finished pipeline system from Cushing, OK connects the Jones Creek storage and terminal facility near Freeport, TX. The new 30-inch pipeline is expected to expand the capacity of the Seaway system to 850,000 barrels of oil per day (BPD).

Is Seaway One Pipeline Too Many?

Back in 2012, when crude oil inventories at the hub in Cushing, OK were rising, the Seaway Pipeline project made sense. Enterprise Products Partners and Enbridge set about reversing the line’s flow back toward the U.S. Gulf Coast and doubling its capacity. The new pipeline is complete, but is it flowing in the right direction? More importantly, is it still needed?

On July 3, the companies announced the mechanical completion of the 512-mile loop of the Seaway Pipeline system from Cushing to the Jones Creek storage and terminal facility near Freeport, TX. The new 30-inch twinned line should more than double the capacity of the Seaway system to 850,000 barrels per day (BPD).

Oil Spill: Akwa Ibom community locks down ExxonMobil

Some youth from ExxonMobil host communities in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State, have shut down the operations of the multinational firm over recurrent oil spills and strings of unfulfilled promises made to the communities.

The youth, who blocked the main gates to ExxonMobil’s Quo Iboe Terminal, QIT, have vowed never to leave the area until the company carries out proper remediation on the environment and also fulfilled some of the promises made during past oil spills.

Louisiana refuses to disclose oil train records

Louisiana officials are refusing to disclose the details of crude oil shipments railroads haul through the state.

The state Department of Public Safety and Corrections says the information freight railroads are required to provide to Louisiana is considered confidential.

Oklahoma Agrees to Keep Oil Train Shipments Secret

Surging oil production in states like North Dakota has outpaced pipeline capacity, and the energy industry has turned to railroads to transport oil from fields to refineries.

But several high-profile oil-train accidents — including Canada’s explosive Lac-Mégantic 2013 derailment that killed 47, and other accidents in Alberta, Alabama and Virginia — have raised questions about the safety of shipping crude oil on trains.

State moves to improve safety in transporting oil by rail

A year after rail tanker cars carrying crude oil in Canada exploded and killed 47 people, California is stepping up efforts to prevent a similar disaster on tracks crisscrossing the state.

In recent weeks, the state began pumping more money into a new rail safety program, the Legislature approved new fees on oil being carried by train, and the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department started planning how to better protect inland waterways from oil spills.

North Dakota Fracking: Behind the Oil-Train Explosions

When energy companies started extracting oil from shale formations in South Texas a few years ago, they invested hundreds of millions of dollars to make the volatile crude safer to handle.

In North Dakota’s Bakken Shale oil field, nobody installed the necessary equipment. The result is that the second-fastest growing source of crude in the U.S. is producing oil that pipelines often would reject as too dangerous to transport.

Residents protest transport of oil by rail

350 New Hampshire and other concerned citizens demonstrated in the Garrison City on Sunday, marking the first anniversary of the oil train explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, near the Maine border.

Some of the demonstrators donned “hazardous material” suits and did mock cleanups of oil spills, while other held signs like the one depicting Uncle Sam telling the public “I want you off fossil fuels,” or another that read “There are no jobs on a dead planet.”

Secrecy by rail: PEMA says the public has no right to oil train info

Although the democratic attitude of the age supports government openness and transparency, the first reflex of officialdom is often secrecy. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, unfortunately, is no exception.

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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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