Environmental Must-Reads – June 10, 2014


Scientists to study possible link between wells, Greeley earthquake

The answer to Greeley’s first earthquake in at least 40 years may be sitting 10,000 feet below the surface in a deep-water trash can that might be overfilling.

The oil and gas boom has put added stress on the industry’s wastewater injection wells that cut 2 miles below the surface.

North Dakota’s Downside to the Oil Boom: Traffic Deaths

Nowhere has the U.S. oil boom wrought as much change as in western North Dakota, where an influx of people chasing a gusher of well-paying jobs has led to some of the nation’s highest apartment rents. But the energy rush has also created a sharp jump in fatalities as the roads around Williston, Watford City, Dickinson, and Minot fill with commercial trucks linked to the oil industry.

Pipeline firm led Pennsylvania list of fines paid

Subsidiaries of a pipeline giant that wants to build a $2.1 billion natural gas pipeline project through central Pennsylvania paid the most money last year in fines imposed by the state’s environmental regulators, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners LP is considering building the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline to transfer more natural gas from Marcellus Shale-producing areas in northern Pennsylvania to heavily populated East Coast markets.

Natural gas industry money pouring into Pa. governor’s race, mostly to Corbett

In what seems to be a reprise of four years ago, hundreds of thousands of dollars are pouring into the race for Pennsylvania governor from company executives with ties to the state’s burgeoning natural gas industry.

But the donations, almost entirely to Gov. Corbett, are flowing with one key difference: The stakes are even higher for both the companies’ fracking profits and the Republican Corbett, one of the country’s most vulnerable governors.

In Argentina, enormous fracking potential and opposition to match

On the surface, Neuquen province is a vast tract of Patagonian desert that extends 1,000 miles to the southern tip of Argentina. But deep underground lies one of the biggest oil and shale gas fields on Earth.

The Vaca Muerta or Dead Cow rock formation covers an area about the size of Maryland. It holds the world’s second-largest shale gas deposit, after China, and fourth-largest shale oil reservoir, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Oil, gas drilling moving into Michigan suburbs

There are places that are good fits for oil and gas exploration. Laura Robinson is convinced her community is not one of them.

Scio Township, which abuts Ann Arbor, is far from the plains of Texas or the wilds of Alaska. But like those traditional homes to drilling, it is being eyed as a source of oil. So is Rochester Hills. And Jackson County.

Will Fracking Cause Our Next Nuclear Disaster?

The idea of storing radioactive nuclear waste inside a hollowed-out salt cavern might look good on paper. The concept is to carve out the insides of the caverns, deep underground, then carefully move in the waste. Over time, the logic goes, the salt will move in and insulate the containers for thousands of generations.

“The whole game is to engineer something that can contain those contaminants on the order of tens of thousands of years,” Tim Judson, the executive director of the Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS), told Truthout. NIRS is intended to be a national information and networking center for citizens and environmental activists concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy issues, according to Judson.

As a State Wrangles, Its Coast Is Swept Out to Sea

John Barry is either a hero or a huckster, a concerned citizen or a radical activist. It depends on who you ask.

Barry, as part of a board appointed by the state to study flood protection after Hurricane Katrina, helped engineer a lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies, seeking damages that would help pay for a plan to mitigate Louisiana’s eroding coastline. The suit charges that the companies’ activities contributed to the coastline shrinking and they should pay to restore the state’s natural flood protection.

Water Woes: Drawn away

Tank trucks carrying groundwater thunder by on a nearby highway as Terry Fender sheds his hat, wipes his brow and kneels to record the water level of a well bordered by cracked cement in northern Montague County.

It’s 85 degrees under a cloudless Texas sky, and the live oaks scattered around the well don’t offer much shade. Since the drought struck the region in 2009, the pasture surrounding the well has been reduced to scorched earth.

Pipeline opponents cheer court ruling

Local environmental groups opposed to construction of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline are cheering a federal appellate court ruling that found deficiencies in how various phases of the natural gas project were approved.

The ruling last week by the U.S. District Court of Appeals, which ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review its approvals, marks the first time the courts have sided with environmentalists in their ongoing campaign not only against the pipeline project itself but also against the fracking technology being used to harness previously inaccessible natural gas from Marcellus Shale deposits in Pennsylvania.

Proposed Mass. Pipeline Sees Criticism

A proposal to build a new pipeline carrying natural gas is stirring criticism in Massachusetts, where more than a dozen towns near the potential path of the 250-mile line have passed resolutions against the project.

The plan, which calls for expanding a pipeline system that already stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northeast, stems in part from a push by the six New England governors to boost the region’s supply of natural gas.

Pipeline opponents warn of water contamination

Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline extension through Addison County want to see the project put on hold until concerns over water contamination are addressed.

The environmental group Rising Tide Vermont rallied outside the Public Service Board offices in Montpelier on Monday to pressure state regulators to delay the construction of the pipeline extension until these concerns are considered.

U.S. Supreme Court refuses, for now, to stop BP oil spill payments

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined a request from BP to block payments to businesses while the oil giant appeals its 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster settlement. For the time being, the decision upholds the ruling by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that under terms of the settlement, businesses claiming damages from the undersea eruption need not prove direct harm.

BP is now asking the Supreme Court to review the ruling itself. The company sought to have payments to businesses put on hold while it pursues that appeal. The Supreme Court declined without comment.

Supreme Court denies BP on spill payment freeze

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected BP’s emergency petition to halt oil spill payments while it considers whether to take up a broader dispute over allegedly fabricated economic-loss claims.

The London-based oil company had asked Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who has jurisdiction over certain petitions coming from the 5th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court in New Orleans, to reverse the lower court’s order that had lifted an injunction last month on payments to thousands of Gulf Coast businesses who say they sustained financial damage in the wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Tug captain, family business guilty in deadly barge explosion, oil spill

A tugboat captain and the family-owned business he worked for were both found guilty Monday of the negligent manslaughter of a crew member who died in a huge barge explosion in 2005.

Dennis Egan, 36, illegally allowed deckhand Alex Oliva, 29, to use the naked flame of a propane blow torch on a barge, triggering an explosion that killed Oliva, sank the barge and flooded the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal with 600,000 gallons of oil, U.S. District Judge James Zagel ruled.

Judge won’t toss joint state-federal lawsuit over Mayflower oil spill

A federal judge on Monday denied a motion by ExxonMobil to dismiss a lawsuit filed by federal and state officials over the 2013 Mayflower oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker said the suit by Chris Thyer, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel can proceed.

City officials identify source of oil spill into Grand River, spill found to be accidental

The source of oil that leaked into the Grand River was traced back to Industrial Steel Treating Company, 613 Carroll Ave., near Ganson Street.

An investigation concluded the incident was accidental and the company will not face any penalties, according to Todd Knepper, director of the city’s Department of Public Works.

Opposition Grows To Proposed Canadian Oil Pipeline Through Native Lands

Canada is one of the world’s major oil producers, and nearly all of it is exported to a single country — the United States.

But as U.S. demand is falling, Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, is considering plans to build giant pipelines from Canadian oil fields to the Pacific Ocean, so Canadian oil can be shipped on to Asia.

Canadian Official Lays Groundwork for Oil Pipeline

Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver said failure to find new markets for the country’s energy products would have stark economic consequences, signaling that the government is moving toward approving a contested pipeline to transport Alberta crude to the Pacific Coast.

Without new markets, long-term growth in oil-sands production will likely slow, Mr. Oliver said, something an energy trade group foreshadowed in an annual forecast issued Monday.

A Federal Response to Navy SEAL’s ‘Threat Assessment’ of Keystone XL

Last week we reported on a former Navy SEAL chief named David Cooper who was hired by the nonprofit group NextGen Climate to determine how vulnerable the controversial final leg of the Keystone pipeline network might be to terrorism. In a 14-page report, Cooper determined that it would “easy to execute a catastrophic attack” on the fourth segment of the pipeline system, based on a mock-attack he carried out on the completed Keystone I, or Gulf Coast Pipeline, which came online in January. He went on to describe multiple scenarios for spills ranging from 1.02 to 7.24 million gallons of diluted bitumen, the viscous, toxic, low quality oil derived from Alberta’s tar sands.

Moratorium on Gulf of St. Lawrence oil exploration sought

A coalition that includes environmental groups, First Nations communities and fishery representatives from five Canadian provinces is pushing for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The St. Lawrence Coalition says too little is known about the possible effects of oil and gas projects on the gulf’s fragile ecosystem to proceed with them in its waters.

2 states sign deal with Duke for river cleanup

Environmental and wildlife officials in North Carolina and Virginia signed an agreement with Duke Energy Monday for the cleanup of toxic coal ash from the Dan River, which flows through the two states.

The agreement requires Duke to pay any “reasonable” cost associated with the Feb. 2 spill at its power plant near Eden, which coated 70 miles of the river in gray sludge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also a party to the deal.
Duke signed a similar agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month.

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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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