Environmental Must-Reads – June 10, 2013


Californians uneasy about fracking’s safety, lack of oversight

More than 70% of voters favor banning or heavily regulating chemical injections into the ground to tap oil and natural gas, a USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll finds.

Fracking Companies Silence Water Complaints With Sealed Settlements

Chris and Stephanie Hallowich were sure drilling for natural gas near their Pennsylvania home was to blame for the headaches, burning eyes and sore throats they suffered after the work began.

The companies insisted hydraulic fracturing — the technique they used to free underground gas — wasn’t the cause. Nevertheless, in 2011, a year after the family sued, Range Resources Corp. and two other companies agreed to a $750,000 settlement. In order to collect, the Hallowiches promised not to tell anyone, according to court filings.

How fracking companies exploit Amish farmers

It’s no secret that fracking companies engage in some shady behavior. But a report in The New Republic reveals just how low they’ll sink in the rush to exploit natural gas: Energy companies in eastern Ohio — home to the world’s largest Amish population and billions of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves — have been convincing Amish farmers to sign away drilling rights to their land for far less than they’re worth, knowing that because their religious tradition frowns on lawsuits, the landowners will have little recourse for justice once they realize they’ve been duped

Gas fracking will cause ‘irreversible’ damage, says Conservation Council of WA

CONSERVATION Council of WA director Piers Verstegen claims gas fracking cannot occur without causing massive and irreversible environmental damage.

Mr Verstegen claims it has devastated large areas and poisoned communities in the United States.

“Recently I had an opportunity to visit shale gas fracking areas in the USA and I was horrified,” he wrote in a campaign letter sent out to CCWA supporters and donors this week.

‘Deer don’t vote’: Quebec island quietly cleared for fracking

An opposition party says the Quebec government has quietly approved hydraulic fracturing on Anticosti, warning that the picturesque island packed with four-legged wildlife will be “devastated” when oil drill rigs arrive and begin exploration work in earnest.

In Texas, Abandoned Oil Equipment Spurs Pollution Fears

Amid the dry weeds on a 470-acre ranch here, a rusted head of steel pokes up, a vestige of an oil well abandoned decades ago. Across the field stand two huge, old wooden oil tanks, one of them tilting like a smokestack on the Titanic.

“Basically I get 61 acres here I can’t do anything with,” said Stuart Carter, the landowner, who is in a legal dispute with the oil producer operating on part of his ranch over who should clean up the site. Carter fears that the oil well, probably dating to the 1930s, could create a pathway for saltwater or oil to contaminate the groundwater.

Fracking operation set to break ground after the state of Tennessee passes new regulation on Hydraulic Fracturing

The relatively untapped Chattanooga shale field—which runs from southern Kentucky through central Tennessee—will soon see a long awaited incursion of major gas and oil companies such as CONSOL Energy, CNX Gas and GeoMet and Atlas Energy. Tennessee’s General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Government Operations passed a series of rules on hydraulic fracking on May 22st, set to go into effect June 18th.

West Texas Oilfield Town Runs Out of Water

Barnhart, a small community in West Texas, has run out of water.

John Nanny, an Irion County commissioner and an official with Barnhart’s water supply corporation, said on Thursday that the situation was serious. When reached by telephone, he was working on pumping operations and hoped to have a backup well in service Friday morning. A load of bottled water was on its way to the community center, he said.

Chevron among drillers facing gas wells nuisance lawsuit

Chevron Corp. (CVX), Williams Cos. and WPX Energy Inc. (WPX) face a lawsuit by six Pennsylvania families who claim nearby gas wells are a nuisance that have diminished their ability to make use of their property.

University seeks bids for fracking on its own land

The University of Tennessee is officially seeking bidders who want to drill natural gas wells on land it owns on the Cumberland Plateau.

The Tennessean reports the University of Tennessee released its request for bids on Friday.

Sandra Steingraber’s Manifesto: Illinois Fracking Rules a Betrayal of Democracy and Science

A new salvo has been fired in the national battle against fracking.

Within hours of the Illinois General Assembly’s vote on its controversial bill on hydraulic fracking last Friday night, the Associated Press‘s headline rippled across nationwide newspapers: “Illinois lawmakers approve nation’s toughest fracking regulations.”

Not so fast, says Dr. Sandra Steingraber, the renowned scientist whom Rolling Stone has called the “toxic avenger.” She returned to her native Illinois last week to join a growing citizens uprising against gas drilling and sand mining operations she defines as “an accident-prone, inherently dangerous industrial process with risks that include catastrophic and irremediable damage to our health and environment.”

Recycled Coal Plant Waste Cleans Up Oil Spills

When Sudipta Seal and his co-principal investigator Larry Hench applied for a grant from the National Science Foundation, their goal was to create a material that could remove large volumes of oil from seawater economically and using a process that would be completely green.

In July 2010, Seal and Hench received a Rapid Response Grant from NSF’s Division of Materials Research to develop a novel process for treating fly ash — a by-product of burning coal — to absorb oil.

Use of BP spill response money, global warming, ocean acidification are focus of Capitol Hill Ocean Week

With the impending arrival of billions of dollars for restoration of environmental damage along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, the 13th annual Capitol Hill Ocean Week, a gathering of federal, state and local ocean and coastal managers, scientists and related industry executives in Washington, D.C., provided an important perspective on how that effort should be coordinated with other environmental issues involving the Gulf, its shoreline and the oceans in general.

Pace of oil spill recovery in Gulf picking up

Three years after the BP oil spill ravaged the Gulf Coast in the nation’s worst environmental disaster, federal officials and coastal communities say the pace of government-sponsored recovery efforts is slowly starting to pick up.

ExxonMobil Wants Oil Spill Lawsuit Thrown Out

ExxonMobil is fighting back against a group of homeowners that filed a lawsuit in the wake of the Mayflower oil spill on March 29th.

In a Motion to Dismiss filed Thursday, lawyers for ExxonMobil argue that residents whose property wasn’t directly impacted by the spill can’t sue the company on the basis that their property has lost value.

Ohio EPA to assess oil spill

Ohio Environment Protection Agency officials plan today to assess the damage caused by the oil that leaked into the Mahoning River last week.

Chris Abbruzzese, OEPA spokesman, said Sunday that it’s too soon to tell how much oil spilled into the river or how much the cleanup effort is costing.

Brazil ‘on alert’ over an oil spill from Ecuador

Brazil is “on alert” over an oil spill that originated in Ecuador and is travelling downstream towards the Brazilian Amazon.

In a statement, the Brazilian foreign ministry said the navy and other agencies had been informed, and help was offered to Ecuador and Peru.

Last month, an estimated 11,480 barrels of oil leaked from a damaged pipeline into the River Coca in Ecuador.

Assumption sinkhole levee under repair as lawsuits mount

Texas Brine Co. contractors expect to have a swath of sunken containment levee around the Assumption Parish sinkhole temporarily restored by sometime Friday, a company spokesman said.

In the meantime, lawsuits have continued to mount against Texas Brine and other defendants over the sinkhole, bringing the total in state and federal court to 14, court filings show.

Sudan Says Pipeline Shutdown Is ‘Reversible’

Sudan’s information minister said Sunday that a shutdown of a pipeline carrying South Sudan’s oil ordered a day earlier by the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, was “reversible,” suggesting that his country was seeking to ward off another escalation in tensions.

82% of Americans Now Support the Keystone Pipeline

Keystone XL is likely the most famous oil pipeline in the world. Rarely out of the news, it seems every minor detail has been reported on, or about by journalists and partisans. Opponents of the pipeline have resorted to every type of negative messaging possible and this week is no different. On the other hand, supporters have been quick to share the latest poll showing that those against the pipeline haven’t been able to stop the growing momentum which is now at an eye-catching 82%.

TransCanada Cuts Corners in Protecting U.S. Water Supply from Possible Keystone XL Spills

Inside Climate News reports that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will not include several key safety features that could help protect the critical Ogallala/High Plains aquifer from potential spills, including external sensor cables that would detect smaller leaks.

Keystone XL pipeline unleashes gusher of debate

The proposed expansion of the $7 billion Keystone pipeline from Canada has touched off an intense debate in the United States.

Its construction is estimated to create 35 permanent jobs and as many as 3,900 temporary positions, according to the State Department.

Cnooc teams up with Icelandic group in its play for Arctic oil

Cnooc has become the first Chinese oil company to make a play for oil in the Arctic after teaming up with an Icelandic business in a sign of the Asian country’s growing interest in the polar region

Grand Canyon Threatened by Uranium Mining

The U.S. Forest Service has decided to allow Energy Fuels Resources, Inc. to begin operating a uranium mine near Grand Canyon National Park. The Canyon Mine, located on the Kaibab National Forest six miles south of the park, threatens cultural values, wildlife and endangered species, and increases the risk of soil pollution and pollution and depletion of groundwater feeding springs and wells in and near Grand Canyon.

Fishermen to Tepco: Scrap plan to release No. 1 plant water into Pacific

Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture have voiced opposition to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to release groundwater from its crippled nuclear power plant into the Pacific.

Some expressed concern Friday about the harmful rumors that might be triggered by such a discharge of water from the Fukushima No. 1 plant, while others said they don’t trust the utility.

Fukushima kids’ thyroids screened

Forty-four children living in areas of Fukushima Prefecture subject to high levels of radiation were screened for thyroid cancer Saturday in Tokyo, highlighting widespread health fears following the 2011 nuclear meltdowns crisis.

San Onofre California nuclear plant to shut

A California nuclear power plant will close permanently amid doubts it could operate safely, 18 months after a small radiation leak was discovered.

A long cooling-off period for San Onofre nuclear plant

Tearing down San Onofre’s two nuclear reactors will be a technically complex job completed over decades. It’s likely Southern California Edison will first mothball the plant.

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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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