Environmental Must-Reads – June 11, 2013


Boulder and other Colorado cities try to fight fracking

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) loves fracking — he once even drank fracking fluid to prove it — but other elected officials in the state are not so gung ho. A handful of Colorado cities are trying to limit or ban the practice — and are finding that it’s not so easy to do.

Missouri Lawyer Brings Nuisance Claims to Fracking Arena

Six Pennsylvania families who sued Chevron Corp. (CVX) and units of The Williams Companies Inc. and WPX Energy Inc. (WPX) over hydraulic fracturing-related claims have turned to a Missouri lawyer who has used nuisance allegations to win cases against commercial animal feed operations.

The Fayette County residents last week alleged in a state court lawsuit that the energy companies’ fracking efforts leaked methane and polluted water, while their employees intimidated them and even ruined a breeding stock of Black Angus cows. The focus of their lawsuit, however, isn’t the property damage so much as the offensive byproducts of the operations, a legal tactic that has begun to gain traction as courts consider the application of nuisance law to the natural gas boom.

Californians Oppose Fracking, but Some Could Be Bribed with Cheap Fuel

Almost half of Calfornians are opposed to more fracking in the state, according to a poll released Friday, but some of those opposed say they could be bought off with cheaper fuel. According to the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll, 45 percent of Californians opposed an increase in fracking in the state — until pollsters reminded them of the possibility that fracking might lower the cost of gasoline and natural gas.

Fracking and Big Oil Come to Florida’s Everglades

Homeowners in the Golden Gate Community outside of Naples, Florida are alarmed over plans now afoot to drill and frack a 13,900-feet deep exploratory well within 1,000 feet of their residences.  Residents living within a square mile of the intended site first learned about this when they received a frightening notice from a company called Total Safety, Inc., requesting emergency contact information from each household so they could formulate an evacuation plan in the event of an explosion or a toxic chemical release.

U.S. Agency Boosts Worldwide Shale Gas Projections

The Energy Information Administration has increased its assessment of the amount of shale gas available worldwide by ten percent. The comparison to a 2011 report shows the “technically available” recoverable gas is now 7,299 trillion cubic feet. That includes unproven resources, which are natural gas deposits that may not be profitable to extract using current technology. The EIA says it has updated their assessment due to new information on shale formations from more countries, and a greater number of shale formations worldwide.

Fingerprinting Fracking Fluid

Oil and gas companies drilled a total of 1,365 “unconventional” natural gas wells . . . just in Pennsylvania . . . just in 2012. “Unconventional” means the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was used—which means the drillers sent gallons and gallons of the mystery chemical soup known as fracking fluid down underneath the Pennsylvania countryside. And that means 1,365 possible new sources of groundwater contamination.

An Inside Look at the Fight to Stop Fracking in Michigan

With nothing short of a cultural shift at stake, Michigan’s second Common Ground retreat, held June 1-2, was bittersweet—and everyone knew it. Sixty-some activists representing 40-some groups working to end fracking in Michigan—or, if not calling for an outright ban, then calling to take pause and scrutinize the process using the precautionary principle—took part.

CSU studies natural gas pipeline methane emissions

Excessive emissions of the greenhouse gas could take away ‘a lot of the potential benefits’ of natural gas usage, CSU professor Bryan Willson says.

States target hydraulic fracturing with bans, fines

As the North American natural gas boom continues, state legislators across the country have targeted hydraulic fracturing for new regulations, proposing a range of 50 bills involving bans, moratoriums and increased disclosure requirements, according to a new Colorado State University study.

$14 billion dollars later, BP’s oil spill is cleaned from 3 of 4 affected states

BP said the Coast Guard has concluded ‘active cleanup operations’ in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, but the work continues along 84 miles of Louisiana’s shoreline.

BP oil spill cleanup ending in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, Coast Guard and BP say

The U.S. Coast Guard and BP announced Monday that the company will end active Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup operations in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida by mid-June. A Coast Guard news release also said future response efforts in those states, if needed, will no longer be led by its Gulf Coast Incident Management Team, which will continue to oversee cleanup efforts in Louisiana.

Three years after BP oil spill, active clean-up ends in three states

Three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP announced Monday that the U.S. Coast Guard is ending its clean-up effort along the shorelines of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and transitioning the area back to the National Response Center.

Encana Names Ex-BP Oil Spill Executive Doug Suttles CEO

Encana Corp. (ECA) said Doug Suttles, the engineer who led BP Plc (BP/)’s response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, will be the next chief executive officer of Canada’s largest natural gas producer.

Ecuador oil spill threatens Brazil and Peru

Brazilian officials have put riverbank communities on alert as oil spilled from a broken pipeline upstream in Ecuador flows toward the country’s Amazon Basin.

A May 31 landslide ruptured the pipeline in the Andean foothills near the Reventador Volcano, dumping some 11,000 barrels worth — 420,000 gallons — of crude oil into the Coca River, which in turn flows into the Napo River, a major tributary of the Amazon.

Goldman Sachs report finds that Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is linchpin for tar sands production

In a report released last week, Goldman Sachs painted a clear picture outlining why Keystone XL is a linchpin for tar sands production and the significant climate emissions associated with it. NRDC and Oil Change International summarize Goldman Sachs’ key findings in the following backgrounder. In short, Goldman Sachs finds that without Keystone XL, lower tar sands prices and higher transport costs will result in the cancelation or deferment of tar sands expansion projects. Contrary to the State Department’s findings, Goldman Sachs concludes that rail is not a feasible alternative for the tar sands pipeline due to higher costs as well as technical and logistical barriers. In its environmental review, State must recognize what the tar sands industry, the financial sector and the environmental community agree upon – that without Keystone XL, tar sands expansion and the climate impacts associated with it will be significantly reduced. On the basis, the President should reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as a project that locks the U.S. into decades of dirtier fuel and increased climate emissions.

Keystone XL: The Iconic Climate Battle

In February, 50,000 people marched on the freezing Washington Mall to tell President Obama that he must reject Keystone XL and move forward on climate. Since then, Sierra Club activists and our partners have met President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry at more than 20 events around the nation to repeat the message. Hundreds of people demonstrating the escalating public opposition to Keystone XL – from 200 in Chicago, to 500 in New York City, and 1,000-plus in San Francisco. Just last week, hundreds more met President Obama in Palo Alto and Santa Monica, California, and the size and momentum of these events only continues to grow as the decision on the pipeline looms closer.

Anti-Keystone Pipeline Group Spends Big on DC TV Ads

A coalition of environmental groups hit the Washington airwaves during the Sunday morning talk shows with ads pressuring Secretary of State John Kerry to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which is under review at his agency.

Canadian ambassador: Alberta’s oil sands crude ‘will get to market’

Companies will keep harvesting bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands, even if a pair of  pipelines through North America are blocked, Canada’s U.S. ambassador says.

That “oil will get to market,” Ambassador Gary Doer said on Platts Energy Week. The only question is how it gets there, Doer said. “The oil isn’t staying in the ground. It is going to get to the Gulf Coast.”

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