Environmental Must-Reads – July 9, 2014


Fracking Fears Grow as Oklahoma Hit by More Earthquakes Than California

Squinting into a laptop perched on the back of his pickup, Austin Holland searches for a signal from a coffee-can-sized sensor buried under the grassy prairie.

Holland, Oklahoma’s seismology chief, is determined to find the cause of an unprecedented earthquake epidemic in the state. And he suspects pumping wastewater from oil and gas drilling back into the Earth has a lot to do with it.

New study links Oklahoma earthquakes to fracking

A substantial number of earthquakes in one region of Oklahoma over the past several years can be linked to the process of hydraulic fracturing, i.e., fracking, according to a new study from Science magazine.

Fracking itself – which involves pumping water, sand, and other materials under extremely high pressure into a well in order to fracture underground rock and extract oil and natural gas – has previously been linked to earthquakes. Now, scientists believe that putting fracking wastewater in underground disposal wells – a common post-fracking practice –  is more strongly linked to seismic activity than fracking itself.

Public concern about wastewater disposal wells growing

Oklahoma has been shaken, rattled and rolled through nearly 800 earthquakes in the past year, according to U.S. Geological Society 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.

Report: Too much BLM time threatens billions of dollars in oil, gas revenue

U.S. onshore oil and gas revenues averaging $3 billion a year are at risk because the federal agency responsible for approving permits takes too long to process applications to drill, a new audit concludes.

The report released this week by the Office of Inspector General also notes that the Vernal field office of the Bureau of Land Management is one of three in the country handling well more than half the annual workload.

Department of Environmental Protection considers rules on tremors and fracking

The closest earthquakes presumably caused by hydraulic fracturing stirred about a mile west of the Pennsylvania border, but regulators felt the reverberations in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is considering creating rules for the first time for wells in “seismic hazard areas” — places that may be susceptible to tremors triggered by well stimulation techniques like fracking.

Greenpeace activists block Chevron shale site in Romania

Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the gates of a Chevron shale gas exploration well in eastern Romania on Monday, blocking access to the site and urging the leftist government to ban fracking.

Romania could potentially hold 51 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, which would cover domestic demand for more than a century, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates.

Five Shocking Places Where Fracking Is Taking Off

By now, many people have heard about the booming Bakken Shale in North Dakota where there is a mad rush for oil, enabled by the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a practice that pumps millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand underground to break rock and release hydrocarbons.

The Bakken has garnered big media attention and so too has Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale and the gas-rich Marcellus Shale in the Northeast. But more than these big shale plays are on the table. Fracking is happening in 17 states and more than 80,000 wells have been drilled or permitted in the last nine years — some of these in surprising (and alarming) places.

In Rare Effort, Ohio Scientist to Test Water Before Fracking Soars

As the shale gas boom was making its way into Ohio in 2012, University of Cincinnati scientist Amy Townsend-Small began testing private water wells in Carroll County, the epicenter of the Utica Shale. Her project, which includes samples of more than 100 wells, is one of the few sustained efforts in the nation to evaluate drinking water quality before, during and after gas drilling.

Although it will likely be another year before Townsend-Small releases the results, her work offers a template for other communities worried about how drilling, fracking and producing unconventional natural gas might contaminate groundwater supplies.

Mandeville City Council Delays Vote On Fracking

In the end, the Mandeville City Council deferred action on a proposed resolution to ban fracking.  Council members said they needed more time and more information about the practice before making a decision.

About a half dozen Mandeville residents spoke during the meeting to make the case against fracking.  But no one from Helis Oil and Gas was there.

Helis is a New Orleans company. They’re seeking permits to drill a well just north of Interstate 12 and use the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, method to extract oil and gas.

Florida County Goes To Court Over “Acid Fracking” Near Everglades

Fracking is simply not natural. It is, in fact, taking the “natural’ out of this idea of natural gas. And clear water is no longer free. Florida has a precarious vulnerability with the state’s water, waterways, and shores. In Florida, pollution in and destruction of the Everglades are some of the largest environmental problems. Even on a national level, they are high on that list. There is no miracle cure to the concerns of the Gulf. Challenged to free up life with progress, Florida must be quick in the bargain for ecological wellness, aquatic health.

NY High Court’s Local Ban Decision is No Basis for Greenlighting Fracking

When the New York State Court of Appeals ruled last week that municipalities have the right to use their zoning codes to ban fracking, my reaction was one of intense relief and celebration. But I immediately became concerned that the pro-fracking elements would try to salvage something from their defeat by claiming that the decision somehow provided a justification for Governor Cuomo to greenlight fracking in the state. A column over the weekend by Fred LeBrun in the Albany Times Union made pretty much just the point I had feared. But we still think Governor Cuomo will do the right thing: Decide based on science. Because the court’s decision doesn’t change the basic fact that the limited science that does exist on fracking’s health impacts raises serious reasons for concern.

‘Explosive’ earthquakes may be the cause of mysterious Bayou Corne sinkhole

Nearly two years ago, a massive sinkhole opened up in Bayou Corne, Louisiana after a salt mine collapsed, causing natural gas to spread into nearby homes. As of June 3, 2014 the massive sinkhole was still expanding, with data suggesting the hole is now encompasses 20,000 square metres and is 100 metres deep.

While some of the 350 evacuated residents have since returned home, others remain displaced following the August, 2012 disaster.

Gas-Charged Earthquakes Linked to Louisiana Sinkhole

Surges of gas-charged fluid may have explosively generated the earthquakes preceding a giant sinkhole in Louisiana, researchers say.

On Aug. 3, 2012, a giant sinkhole formed overnight near Bayou Corne in southeast Louisiana, prompting a declaration of emergency from state officials and evacuation of nearby residents. The sinkhole — filled with a slurry of water, debris and crude oil — swallowed cypress trees, and recent estimates suggest it is now more than 215,000 square feet (20,000 square meters) and about 330 feet (100 meters) deep.

Court examines charges in 2010 BP disaster deaths

Prosecutors tried Tuesday to persuade a federal appeals court to reinstate some of the manslaughter charges against two BP employees in a case arising from the deaths of 11 workers in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine were indicted on 22 manslaughter counts in connection with the 11 deaths. Prosecutors said they failed to act on pressure readings that provided “glaring indications” of trouble ahead of the disaster. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Claims expert critical of BP under fire for alleged conflict of interest

A Loyola University professor who has held himself out as an impartial expert on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, has a stake in a claim against the energy giant, court documents show.

LeCesne, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law since 1991, has served as a legal analyst for numerous local, national and international media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, PBS News Hour, the British Broadcasting Company and Al Jazeera Television. He is also author of Crude Decisions: Re-examining Degrees of Negligence in the Context of the BP Oil Spill – an academic paper providing a comprehensive overview of the Deepwater Horizon incident and the ensuing legal fallout.

Plaquemines Parish moves forward to restore pelican nesting site damaged by BP oil spill

This spring, P.J. Hahn pleaded with the Legislature and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to provide the remaining $3 million of the $6.5 million he needs to rebuild a Cat Island pelican rookery destroyed by BP’s oil spill.

He went home with empty pockets.

But the director of Plaquemines Parish’s Coastal Zone Management Department has decided to start the project anyway. He hopes his actions will be more convincing than his words.

Fish skin lesions, oil residue decline in years after Gulf oil spill

Scientists studying the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the health of fish in the Gulf of Mexico have found strong evidence that an outbreak of skin lesions and oil residue signatures discovered in fishes a year after the spill may be related to the catastrophe.

BP Wants Unspent Spill Recovery Money Back

After watching a $5 million grant to Gov. Rick Perry’s office go unspent nearly four years after it was presented in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is asking Texas for its money back.

The funds were given to Texas in September 2010 to help with oil spill recovery, but few of the state and local officials who work on such projects were aware of the grant until a legislative hearing in May. Lawmakers at the hearing were angered and said the money should have been given to agencies with the expertise to spend it. BP was frustrated as early as last winter about the unspent funds and asked Perry to return the money, according to correspondence obtained by The Texas Tribune through an open records request.

Washington Township oil spill clean up effort nets nearly 3K gallons

As clean-up efforts in Washington Township’s latest oil spill wind down, final estimates show contractors collected a total of 2,700 gallons of product, more than double the previous estimates.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said that the bulk of the cutting oil, similar in smell and consistency to home heating oil, clean-up is complete, but the DEP will continue to monitor the small pond behind Hydra Lane and Spring Lake to address ongoing issues.

Lightning strike cause Bakken oil spill

A lightning strike in North Dakota sparked a fire at a saltwater disposal facility, causing hundreds of barrels of oil and brine to spill.

The state’s Department of Health was notified on Monday of the fire and spill at the Helling Alexander SWD #1, owned by Dallas-based 1804 Operating and located about three miles south of the town of Alexander.

The fire caused a failure of the primary containment system, the Health Department said. This led to a spill of some 649 barrels of oil and 2813 barrels of brine.

Emergency responders prepare for Mississippi River oil spill

With rail lines running along either bank, the Mississippi River is also vulnerable to spills in the event of a derailment.

An interstate agency chartered by governors of five states along the river hosted a discussion in April between local, state and federal officials and is planning an exercise this fall to simulate a derailment near Goose Island.

Enbridge responds to Sandpiper pipeline critics

A spokeswoman for Enbridge Inc., on Tuesday responded to criticisms at Monday’s protest in Backus to the firm’s proposed pipeline route that would cut across northern Cass County.

Critics, who included Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth program director, as well as representatives of area churches and lake associations, said the pipeline could endanger wildlife and result in abandoned pipelines once the oil resources in North Dakota are depleted.

$10 million pipeline research center to open in Houston

As the pipeline industry strives to reduce failures in the aftermath of several high-profile ruptures, an industry-supported research organization is developing a $10 million center in Northwest Houston aimed at developing new technologies to bolster safety.

The Pipeline Research Council International, which is building the Technology Development Center, says it will be is the largest independent pipeline testing facility of its kind. The council expects to complete construction by February.

Environmental groups say another Enbridge pipeline could be disaster in waiting

A “who’s who” of environmental groups say a 67-year-old pipeline in the straits of Mackinac  could be a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

The pipeline is owned by Enbridge.

This fake LEGO ad shows the Arctic drowning in an oil spill

I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to get their kids a Shell-themed LEGO set, but apparently someone did, or Greenpeace would not have had to make this depressing video protesting the advertising partnership between the world’s largest toy company and a global fossil fuel conglomerate. (I mean, child-me would definitely have coveted those polar bear and husky minifigs, but a flaming oil rig?)

Do You Live in the Blast Zone of an Exploding Oil Train?

Between Canada’s tar sands and the US fracking boom, North America is pumping out a record amount of oil. All that oil needs to be transported, often across thousands of miles, from wellhead to refinery to port, in order to make it to market. Since our pipelines are overflowing, oil companies are turning to trains, and a lot of those trains are exploding.

One Year Later, Site Of Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Crash ‘Still Very Much One Of Horror’

One year after an oil train crashed in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, much of the town’s center is still in disarray, with residents and officials struggling to come to terms with the losses the crash inflicted.

Giant Protective Ice Wall Unveiled at Japan’s Fukushima Plant

A giant underground ice wall intended to protect Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was unveiled on Tuesday. Journalists were given the first glimpse of the project, which will see 1,550 coolant-containing pipes driven 100 feet into the ground, freezing the soil and creating a layer of permafrost. In theory, this will stop groundwater and mountain runoff reaching the facility’s four reactors that were damaged in the devastating 2011 earthquake. The ice wall is due to be completed in March.

New Leak At Fukushima Unit 5, Previously Thought Safe

The Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear power complex at Fukushima 1 has suffered a new and dangerous leak. The flaw is in the fifth reactor unit, not in one of the four originally wrecked in March 2011 in what might still become the world’s worst nuclear accident.

At that time just over three years ago, an offshore level 9 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that killed 18,000 people in Japan and incapacitated the power plant. Fukushima 1 Reactor Units 5 and 6 were offline at the time of the disaster, but the fuel rods in Unit 5, still loaded in its cooling water pond, now threaten disaster within the next week and a half.

Sendai nuclear plant set to restart without off-site emergency center

The Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture could restart two reactors in autumn without a crucial emergency facility in place to deal with a possible nuclear accident and evacuations of host communities.

The Sendai plant, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., is expected to be the first to resume operations among all plants that have applied for safety screenings by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Floating nuclear plants: Is the future of nuclear offshore?

Researchers have presented an alternative nuclear reactor – one that floats on water. Although floating nuclear reactors at sea have some benefits, there are concerns with surrounding marine life and terrorism threats in the context of a post-Fukushima world.

An abuse of science – concealing fracking’s radioactive footprint

A new scientific paper presents the radiation produced by fracking as ‘natural’ and harmless. But it’s based on sketchy data, hyperbolic statistics and questionable assumptions, writes Paul Mobbs. Is it an attempt to stifle an essential public debate?

Add comment

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This