Environmental Must-Reads – June 11, 2014


Battle Over Fracking Poses Threat to Colorado Democrats

An impassioned national debate over the oil-production technique known as fracking is edging toward the ballot box in Colorado, opening an election-year rift between moderate, energy-friendly Democrats and environmentalists who want to rein in drilling or give local communities the power to outlaw it altogether.

If they make the ballot in November, an array of proposals will be among the first in the nation to ask a state’s voters to sharply limit energy development. Some measures would keep drilling as far as a half-mile from Colorado homes. Others would give individual communities the right to ban fracking.

Severe Water Shortage in West Fails to Stop Fracking at Gas Wells

Critics of fracking, may have hoped drought-ridden states might be inclined to shut down the oil and gas extraction method that uses huge amounts of water.

But just last month, in the midst of the worst drought in California’s history, the state Senate killed a bill that would have put a moratorium on the state’s use of hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking fears surface in dirt pit rezoning case in northern St. Tammany Parish

Dismissing claims that it could pave the way for fracking operations, the St. Tammany Parish Zoning Commission has rezoned 120 acres near the Washington Parish border so a company can excavate dirt from a pit that was abandoned about seven years ago. The commission’s recommendation has been appealed by three citizens, whose appeals will come before the Parish Council in July.

Commissioners to review injection well over residents’ seismic concerns

Garfield County commissioners have agreed to hear a local citizens group’s concerns about the risk of earthquake activity related to wastewater injection wells used by oil and gas operators in the area.

Commissioners, meeting in Parachute Monday, set a July 14 “call-up” hearing at the request of Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens to consider additional conditions for an injection well approved by county planning staff last month for energy company Ursa.

Code: Oil wells must be 600 feet from homes

Norman city staff confirmed Monday that oil and gas drilling operations must follow distance requirements based on existing city code. Those code provisions deal primarily with homes and water wells.

The city is currently examining its code regarding the location of oil and gas wells and whether to implement setbacks that will protect the watershed and surface water sources in Norman, in particular Lake Thunderbird and its tributaries.

In North Dakota, signs of changing attitudes towards oil and gas development

In February 2013, Scott Skokos was sitting in the North Dakota state capitol at a meeting of the Industrial Commission, the three-member body that approves every oil and gas permit in the state. Normally, says Skokos, a field organizer for the Dakota Resource Council, the commission green lights all the requests before them — public comment or protests are limited. But this meeting was different.

Archaeologists, historians, residents of the Fort Berthold Reservation and land owners got up to protest a request to drill in the Killdeer Mountains, near a historic battlefield. Skokos, who has been following oil and gas issues in North Dakota since 2010, says it was the first time he witnessed significant public opposition to drilling. Before then, the attitude was, “if you’re against oil, you’re against North Dakota. Any dissent was marginalized.”

Anti-fracking campaign dampens British buzz over shale

The walk from the village of Balcombe to the drill site takes less than half an hour on a footpath that winds through the dense West Sussex forest, past a farmyard, and then down the overgrown verge of a rural road. It reaches the spot where a group of anti-fracking protesters encamped and police converged in a high-profile standoff last summer.

The drilling company hired by Cuadrilla Ltd. is gone now – as are the police and protesters – though the company has received a county licence to return to test the oil flow in the well that was drilled in August last year. When it does, it will be met by a determined group of villagers who remain busy appealing permits, meeting with media and engaging with the international movement that seeks to put the brakes on industry’s effort to expand North America’s shale gas/tight oil boom.

Exporting U.S. natural gas isn’t as “clean” as you think

One of the rallying cries in favor of liquefying and exporting U.S. natural gas has been to help reduce greenhouse gases in other countries, by crowding out coal in Asia and Europe.

Yet tucked into an Energy Department report on LNG exports is a different view: That U.S. exports of LNG to China could end up being worse from a greenhouse gas perspective than if China simply built a new power plant and burned its own coal supplies. The report also says that the climate benefits of exporting LNG to other countries are modest.

Energy Department: US gas exports unlikely to help cut emissions

The argument that the US fracking boom could curb global greenhouse gas emissions, by first replacing American coal power with gas and then repeating the trick by exporting shale gas to other coal-rich nations has long been heralded as one of the primary reasons to support fracking development. But does it stack up?

Now fresh questions are being asked about the ability of shale gas to deliver net emission reductions, after the Washington Post revealed that the US Energy Department expects gas exports to deliver modest climate change gains at best.

Critics challenge Sunoco Pipeline as public utility

An array of critics has challenged Sunoco Pipeline L.P.’s attempt to win crucial public utility status for its embattled Mariner East pipeline by recasting the local benefits of the project.

Several advocacy groups filed objections with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission before Monday’s deadline, calling on the PUC to reject Sunoco’s application to declare its cross-state pipeline a public utility, which would allow it to bypass local zoning controls.

BP loses another round in its battle to stiff oil spill victims

Oil giant BP this week extended its .000 batting streak in its effort to kill its own settlement in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, losing a bid to have the Supreme Court halt payments to spill victims while it stretched out its appeal.

The court’s ruling was as terse as it gets, a single sentence declaring that BP’s motion to continue a stay on damage payments was denied. Payments have now been resumed.

Why Canadians shouldn’t forget the BP Oil Spill

It has been four years since the U.S. faced the largest environmental disaster in its history.

British Petroleum’s (BP) oil spill resulted in damage to the habitats and well-being of marine wildlife, while also causing the deaths of 11 workers and injury to 17 others. Approximately 200 million gallons of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico.

Susan Shaw, founder of the Marine Environmental Research Institute in the U.S. was in Halifax recently to deliver a lecture on revisiting the Gulf oil spill. In an interview with The Weather Network’s Nathan Coleman, Shaw talks about why Canada should still be paying attention to the aftermath of the incident. She stresses the importance of lessons to be learned due to Canada’s offshore drilling on the Scotian Shelf, a project currently underway.

Odyssey back in Gulf detailing oil impact on whales

The crew of international scientists and activists from Ocean Alliance, a whale research group founded by world-renowned Dr. Roger Payne, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will visit Pensacola once again this month on their fifth oil spill research trip in the Gulf of Mexico.

Spokeswoman Lisa Agabian said the crew will be providing tours of the RV Odyssey, Ocean Alliance’s 93-foot sailboat, when they pull into port. Dates are expected to be announced soon.

U.S. judge orders ExxonMobil produce documents on Arkansas spill

A U.S. federal judge has denied ExxonMobil Corp’s bid to dismiss a government lawsuit and instead ordered the oil giant to hand over documents going back decades on a pipeline that ruptured last year and inundated an Arkansas town with oil.

Federal Regulators, Exxon to Face Off at Hearing on Arkansas Spill, but Public Isn’t Welcome

Federal pipeline regulators and ExxonMobil lawyers will spar Wednesday in Houston over a proposed $2.7 million fine and allegations that the company delayed crucial inspections, skewed risk data and ignored warning signs before its Pegasus oil pipeline ruptured in Arkansas last year.

The two sides are presenting evidence for and against the fine and allegations in an “informal” administrative hearing that’s closed to the public. It is being heard by a presiding officer from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), according to Damon Hill, spokesman for the regulatory agency. A final ruling could take six months or longer.

Colerain Twp. firemen honored for work at nature preserve oil spill

Six Colerain Township firefighters will be honored for their unit’s work during the oil spill at the Oak Glen Nature Preserve.

Division Chief Brad Miller, Captain Chris Ruwe, and firefighters Tom Ehrman, Thomas Holland and Jacob Merkel will be awarded the Outstanding Unit Citation for the initial actions they took on March 17 to discover the source of an oil spill from a broken 24 inch petroleum pipeline and stem the flow of oil before it reached the Great Miami River aquifer.

TransCanada CEO Remains Optimistic Keystone XL Pipeline Will Be Built

TransCanada Corp.’s chief executive said Tuesday he remains “very optimistic” that the Keystone XL pipeline will get built, but he isn’t sure when it will happen.

Russ Girling made the remarks during a panel session at a major economic conference in Montreal. He told reporters later that the cost of the project will be “materially more” than the current $5.4 billion estimate.

Enbridge pipeline construction to start in St. Clair County

Enbridge Inc. crews are working their way east from Oakland County toward St. Clair County, bringing with them miles of pipeline and major construction.

Crews should cross the county line in early July.

Rail dangers could be worse than pipeline, report says

Not building the Keystone XL pipeline and moving Canadian tar sands oil by rail could be far deadlier and more dangerous than previously thought, according to a list of corrections the U.S. State Department has released for its review of the controversial proposal to build the pipeline through the heart of America.

The State Department issued an errata sheet on Friday to update its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which is thousands of pages long and was released Feb. 5.

Rail oil shipments rise as Keystone pipeline remains in limbo

As U.S. oil production surges, the rail industry is boosting its capacity to transport crude oil beyond that of pipelines in some areas, and this increase raises the risk of lethal accidents, according to two new federal reports.

The number of rail cars carrying oil began rising in 2012, and their capacity is  nearly double that of pipelines in the Bakken Shale area of Montana and North Dakota, the Energy Information Administration reports Tuesday. Citing data from the North Dakota Pipeline Authority,  it says this capacity totaled 965,000 barrels per day by the end of 2013 while that of pipelines was 515,000 barrels per day.

Railroads disclose Oregon oil train routes but state undecided whether to share publicly

Three railroad companies have complied with a federal order and told Oregon first responders where they haul volatile crude oil and how much they move.

Whether the public will learn the same information remains to be seen.

The Public Eye: Fight over crude-oil transports through California intensifies

The fight over the secrecy of crude-oil rail shipments through California intensified Monday.

Responding to a federal order, BNSF Railway Co. acknowledged in a report to state safety officials that it’s transporting flammable Bakken crude oil in California, but it continued to vehemently resist releasing information about the shipments to the public. Such information is a trade secret, and only fire responders should be allowed to know, the company says.

States balk at federal call to shield oil train data

A recent U.S. Department of Transportation requirement to limit the release of information about Bakken crude oil shipments by rail has set up a conflict between railroads, states and the federal government that could wind up in court.

DOT and the railroads want state agencies to keep the information confidential, but some states have not agreed to comply, citing their open-records laws. Washington state is among the states that did not sign a nondisclosure agreement with railroads.

Rosneft-ExxonMobil successfully complete arctic research expedition

The Kara-Winter-2014 Ice Expedition organised by the Arctic Research and Design Center, a joint venture of Rosneft and ExxonMobil, with expert support from the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute Federal State Budget Institution

It has become the largest expedition in the Arctic Ocean since the USSR collapse. Scientists spent 63-days studying the Laptev, Kara, and East-Siberian Seas on board the Yamal Ice-Breaker, as well as carrying out work off the coast of the Novaya Zemlya and Severnaya Zemlya archipelagoes, and De Long Islands.

Newfoundland government, Statoil to spend $3.9 million on Arctic oil research

Statoil Canada and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador will spend $3.9 million to help advance contentious oil and gas development in harsh environments, including the Arctic.

Statoil said Tuesday it will spend $2.4 million on three new research projects while Crown corporation Research and Development Corp. will spend $1.5 million.

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