Environmental Must-Reads – July 9, 2015


Methane Emissions in Texas Fracking Region 50% Higher Than EPA Estimates

The release of 11 research papers Tuesday marked another milestone in the Environmental Defense Fund’s ongoing effort to understand the natural gas industry’s carbon footprint. Overall, the studies found that emissions of methane––a greenhouse gas at least 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide––in the Texas Barnett Shale were 50 percent higher than estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Methane from fracking is probably more of a problem than EPA thinks

America’s natural gas boom might be generating a lot more greenhouse gas emissions than the EPA has estimated, according to a new study spearheaded by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Eleven teams of researchers looked at fracking operations in one oil- and natural gas-rich area in North Texas, the Barnett Shale, and discovered that at least 50 percent more methane was escaping from drilling operations there than the EPA has suspected. That means the EPA’s estimates for other operations are probably off as well.

California Farms Are Using Fracking Wastewater to Grow Crops

California’s epic drought is pushing Big Oil to solve a problem it’s struggled with for decades: what to do with the billions of gallons of wastewater that gush out of wells every year.

Golden State drillers have pumped much of that liquid back underground into disposal wells. Now, amid a four-year dry spell, more companies are looking to recycle their water or sell it to parched farms as the industry tries to get ahead of environmental lawsuits and new regulations.

Fracking with propane proposed for Tioga County, NY

A proposal to frack for natural gas using gelled propane and sand was announced Wednesday morning at Barton Town Hall in Tioga County.

Snyder Farm Group spokesman Kevin “Cub” Frisbie said an application was filed Tuesday with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Ohio communities want control over fracking

More than 100 local officials asked Gov. John Kasich for the authority to ban or regulate oil and gas drilling after several courts said they had little power.

A recent Ohio Supreme Court decision said state officials, not local ones, have the power to approve the location of wells used in the oil and gas drilling process called fracking. The case started when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources allowed a company to drill in an Akron suburb without city officials’ approval.

Local lawyer files lawsuit against state over fracking ban

A local lawyer has filed a lawsuit against New York State over a recent ban on hydraulic fracturing or fracking. That’s the method of using water under high pressure to drill through rocks to find natural gas. When putting the ban in place the DEC said current safety measures weren’t enough to keep our environment protected.

Attorney David Morabito spends most of his days representing clients in criminal cases. Now he is representing himself in what appears to be the first and only lawsuit filed against the state over fracking.

In oil-friendly Okla., Gov. Fallin moved slowly on ‘awkward’ issue of quakes

As she knocked on the federal government’s door for aid in the wake of a damaging earthquake in 2011, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) avoided talking about one aspect of the earthquake — its cause.

Too “awkward,” said Fallin’s communications director, Alex Weintz.

“The problem is, some people are trying to blame hydraulic fracturing (a necessary process for extracting natural gas) for causing earthquakes,” Weintz wrote in an email, vetoing mention of the earthquake at an energy conference. “So you see the awkward position that puts us in. I would rather not have to have that debate.”

Feds Propose More Safety Valves for Gas Lines

The Obama administration moved Wednesday to significantly expand a requirement for utilities to install inexpensive safety valves on gas lines across the U.S. after deadly fires and explosions going back decades that could have been avoided.

The Transportation Department proposal would cover new or replaced natural gas lines serving multi-family dwellings, small businesses and homes not already covered under a 2009 mandate.

Frackers Use EPA Draft Water Report To Raise Doubts On Science

Last month’s Environmental Protection Agency draft report on fracking’s impact on U.S. drinking water served up a sound-bite gift to the energy industry for its fight against the spread of state and local fracking bans.

While the 998-page report cited specific instances where gas drilling contaminated water wells, the nation’s headline writers by a wide margin seized on the take-away line from the executive summary: The EPA “did not find evidence” that modern hydraulic fracturing has “led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”

Plan for gas pipeline polarizes the Big Bend

A showdown is coming to the area that bills itself as “America’s Last Frontier,” as backers of a high-pressure natural gas pipeline in the Big Bend region face opponents who question the project’s impact and raise doubts about its benefit.

Lisa Dillinger, spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, part of a consortium planning to build the 42-inch underground line, said a three-county area in West Texas stands to see $7.1 million a year in taxes.

Pipeline spill reported near Tioga

A pipeline spill caused about 1 barrel, or 42 gallons, of natural gas condensate to release about 10 miles south of Tioga, the North Dakota Department of Health said Wednesday.

Hess Tioga Gas Plant is the owner of the natural gas gathering pipeline. The spill affected an intermittent drainage of Dry Fork Creek, health officials said.

Natural gas exports to Mexico are surging

If you look at a recent map of Kinder Morgan’s natural gas pipelines, in the West, you’ll see several new spurs heading south across the border into Mexico. The pipeline giant has been part of a major increase in energy exports in recent years that largely escaped notice. While potential exports of Liquefied Natural Gas, or LNG, hogged countless headlines, exports of natural gas through new and expanded cross-border pipelines nearly tripled from 2010 to 2015, with barely a mention. This growth is expected to continue as Mexico takes advantage of low-priced U.S. natural gas to help continue the transformation of its electricity sector, which in 2014 was opened to private sector participation.

Utility, environmental group disagree on risk level for Tacoma oil train terminals

Oil trains supplying two oil terminals on the Tacoma tide flats could pose a significant danger of a potential explosion.

That’s according to the Seattle-based sustainability nonprofit, the Sightline Institute, which in a Wednesday statement said the Tacoma Public Utilities doesn’t carry sufficient insurance to protect against such an accident.

It’s Been Two Years Since This Deadly Oil Train Explosion. What’s Changed?

Church bells in Lac Megantic, Quebec, rang 47 times on Monday to honor each person killed by a runaway oil train just two years ago.

It was the second anniversary of what’s become the town’s defining tragedy, when a unit train carrying 72 tankers of highly volatile crude oil derailed and exploded. There were fires, fumes, and an approximately 1.5 million gallon oil spill — emergency responders described a “war zone.” A “river of burning oil” ran down city streets and engulfed buildings in flames. Today, there are still scars on the soul of the town.

With options dwindling, BP seized a chance to settle oil spill case

In early May, with its legal options dwindling and investors impatient, BP Plc saw a chance to negotiate what became a $18.7 billion settlement that ended five years of litigation over the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

An unexpected opportunity to secure a global deal that would wipe the slate clean of hundreds of claims and untold billions of dollar in penalties opened up when Chief Executive Bob Dudley met with Patrick Juneau, the lifelong Louisiana litigator who BP had panned for handing out “absurd” sums of money as part of a class settlement in 2012.

BP could get billions in tax breaks on oil spill settlement

Last Thursday (July 2), states attorneys general in Louisiana and four other Gulf Coast states celebrated an $18.7 billion settlement with BP over claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says the true value of the deal could be far lower after BP files its taxes.

Federal tax law prevents companies from deducting penalties paid for breaking the law from their corporate taxes. But damage payments — such as money paid for coastal restoration — can be treated as a business expense.

Rep. Bradley Byrne says Alabama’s BP oil spill settlement less than what state reported

Alabama will get $405 million less than what the governor’s office reported last week in the a settlement with BP for damages resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, said Wednesday.

Byrne said his office determined that a previously reported $2.3 billion figure includes previous money already paid to the state that should not have been included in the final settlement figure. More than half of the $1.895 billion settlement, Byrne said – or $1 billion, paid out over 18 years – will go straight to the state’s General Fund.

A&M Research vessel to discover gulf secrets

Texas A & M Galveston is welcoming its new 2.4 million dollar research vessel, the Trident.

The 65 foot catamaran can hold 44 passengers and can sleep 12 for overnight trips.

It is one of the few scientific research vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. TAMUG Associate Vice President of Research & Graduate Studies Professor Antonietta Quigg overseas much of the research on the boat.

Capps Offers Amendment for Oil Spill Response

Today, an amendment authored by Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) to increase funding for local response and preparedness training for inland oil spills was voted on by the full House of Representatives. The importance of robust spill response preparation and training was highlighted by the response to the May 19th Plains Oil Spill along the Gaviota Coast.

The amendment was offered to the FY 2016 Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2822), but failed on a largely party-line vote.

Environmental groups say $16k oil spill fine not severe enough

An energy company with a history of pipeline problems has been fined and warned by Alberta’s regulator for a 2013 spill that sent millions of litres of salty water into the muskeg.

But environmental groups say Apache Canada’s $16,500 penalty isn’t even a slap on the wrist.

“It’s more like a wave in the general direction of a wrist,” Keith Stewart of Greenpeace said Tuesday.

Limited court filings hint at spill case against Eastman, water company

Eastman Chemical Co. did not properly caution Freedom Industries about the potential for the chemical Crude MCHM to corrode Freedom’s storage tanks prior to Freedom’s January 2014 leak that contaminated the Kanawha Valley region’s drinking water supply, lawyers for area residents allege in new court filings this week.

Lawyers for residents also alleged in their court filings that then-Freedom Industries official Dennis Farrell tried unsuccessfully on the morning of the leak to convince a West Virginia American Water Co. official to turn off the intake pumps on its Elk River treatment plant, located just 1.5 miles downstream from the site of the Freedom facility.

Big Oil’s decades of deception: Report reveals that Exxon’s known the truth about climate science since 1981

While evaluating the potential impact of developing a gas field it was interested in off Indonesia, ExxonMobil found one major reason for concern: the field in question was 70 percent carbon dioxide. If the field were developed, and that gas vented into the atmosphere, it could become the “largest point source of CO2 in the world,” accounting for a full one percent of climate change-causing emissions.

According to Leonard S. Bernstein, a former chemical engineer at the company, Exxon recognized the potential for global warming concerns to lead to regulations that would impact the project and others like it.

The year was 1981.

Are Michigan’s pristine lakes at risk from aging pipelines?

In Michigan, two aging pipelines carry 20 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas a day under some of the most pristine water in the country, the Great Lakes Straits of Mackinac. An oil spill would be devastating to the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water to 30 million people. Special correspondent Elizabeth Brackett reports on the debate on how to prevent such a disaster.

Union groups oppose pipeline project

A coalition of four union groups voiced opposition to a proposed pipeline project before a hearing slated for today in Belfield, saying they wish to protect residents from what they call bad actors in the region.

A union representative denied Wednesday that the issue was over union versus non-union workers and companies while explaining opposition to the proposed Heart River Pipeline. Several union group members plan to testify in opposition Thursday at Belfield City Hall, 107 Second Ave., to the project.

Protestors express concerns about Canadian pipeline

Protestors took to the Capitol Wednesday to express concerns of a Canadian pipeline.

They were there specifically to get Gov. Scott Walker to veto a plan that would let Enbridge condemn private property to expand an oil pipeline across Wisconsin.

Protestors also said Republicans sided with Enbridge lobbyists when Dane County tried to make Enbridge get insurance for possible environmental disasters.

Enbridge hopes for Line 9 to start this year

An Enbridge executive says he hopes the company will be allowed to start shipping crude to Montreal through its Line 9 pipeline later this year.

But senior vice-president Vern Yu says there should be more clarity on the timeline when Enbridge reports its second quarter-earnings within the coming weeks.

Protestors speak out against proposal to prohibit Enbridge from paying catastrophe insurance

A group of Wisconsin homeowners protested a plan that would prohibit Dane County from requiring oil companies like Enbridge to provide catastrophe insurance before expanding.

The protestors used a blow-up octopus and hundreds of fake dollar bills to make their point outside the State Capitol on Wednesday.

Congress subpoenas John Kerry over Keystone Pipeline

Congress is bringing back the fight over the Keystone XL Pipeline, issuing a subpoena to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee say they want a look at department documents, reports and letters.

Oil spills in Arctic, deep water would create challenges for Canadian government

An internal report warns the Canadian 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.

Feds to decide whether state’s last nuclear plant stays or goes

Federal regulators have restarted the process of deciding whether California’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, will remain open for decades.

And like most everything else in Diablo’s long, contentious history, the move is sure to provoke a fight.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reported that it would once again begin processing a request from plant owner Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to renew Diablo’s operating licenses, set to expire in 2024 and 2025. That request has been on hold since shortly after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster rekindled fears of nuclear danger.

EPA plan to relocate Las Vegas radiation detection lab draws concerns

Nuclear safety advocates are sounding the alarm about the risks of a plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to dismantle a mobile radiation detection laboratory stationed in Las Vegas and move it to Alabama, which could happen as early as Friday. Losing the lab, they say, could leave Nevada more vulnerable to a nuclear accident or act of terrorism, a claim that the EPA denies.

The mobile environmental radiation laboratory is a pair of trailers that carry state-of-the-art detection technology that can be rapidly deployed and are currently stationed at the EPA’s offices at UNLV.

Atomproekt to construct demonstration tritium removal plant at Fukushima Daiichi

The Russian company Atomproekt has announced that in 2016 it will construct a treatment plant at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to demonstrate their ability to process contaminated water and remove tritium.

The tritium processing demonstration facility will have a capacity of only 400 cubic meters per day.

Evacuation of Fukushima town of Naraha to be lifted Sept. 5

The central government has notified the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, it will remove on Sept. 5 the evacuation order that has been in place since the March 2011 nuclear crisis.

Naraha will be the first to see the evacuation order lifted among seven Fukushima municipalities that were completely emptied by evacuation orders.

Fukushima town residents protest official’s comment about radiation safety

Nuclear evacuees from the Fukushima Prefecture town of Naraha have protested over a government official’s comment that he thinks the safety of the town’s drinking water is “a psychological issue.”

The whole town was designated as a no-entry zone after the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, but is set to have its evacuation order lifted on Sept. 5, as announced by Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yosuke Takagi on July 6 when he visited the town. After the announcement, he held a press conference where, in response to a reporter’s question he pointed out that radioactive cesium amounts in Naraha tap water are below the detectable level, and said, “People differ in how they think about radiation. I think whether you think (the water source is) safe or not is a psychological issue.”

Support must continue to help Fukushima evacuees rebuild their lives

The government has decided to lift evacuation orders for wide areas around the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and end blanket compensation payments to people in Fukushima Prefecture who are still suffering from the aftermath of the reactor meltdowns.

More than four years since the nuclear disaster, the uncertain future of the affected local communities and their members is causing further negative effects.

Fukushima in the frame for robot, drone testing center

A center dedicated to testing next-generation robots is set to be built in Fukushima Prefecture under plans being developed by the Japanese government.

Government officials said it was planned to put the center into use around 2017 as a core part of its strategy to boost the use of robots in dangerous locations, such as damaged nuclear power plants, natural disaster-hit areas such as the Tohoku region and workplaces with labor shortages.

Iron Ore Got You Down? Try Nuclear Waste

Hit by tumbling iron-ore prices, at least one mining company deep in the Australian outback is exploring a classic “not in my backyard” strategy: storing nuclear waste.

Gindalbie Metals Ltd., an iron-ore miner, is among scores of bidders vying to make the short list for a federal-government nuclear repository worth 27 million Australian dollars ($20 million) over the next four years, and likely hundreds of millions more once construction starts.

Radiation safety for sunken-ship archaeology

About 42 miles southwest of San Francisco and 2,600 feet underwater sits the U.S.S. Independence, a bombed-out relic from World War II. The aircraft carrier was a target ship in atomic weapon tests at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands during the war. Then, in 1951, it was loaded up with 55-gallon drums of low-level radioactive waste and scuttled just south of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge off the California coast.

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