Environmental Must-Reads – June 17, 2015


Fracking operator faces record $8.9M fine for alleged water contamination

Pennsylvania regulators plan to levy a record fine against a shale gas operator that reportedly failed to correct a well that leaked methane into nearby water supplies.

Range Resources, the Texas-based company that drilled the first Marcellus Shale well in 2004, faces a $8.9 million civil penalty stemming from a leaking gas well in Lycoming County. It follows a pair of multi-million-dollar fines against drilling companies last year.

Arlington officials report on fracking fluid blowout

Two months ago, 100 homes in Arlington had to be evacuated as fracking fluid spilled out of a drilling site onto the city streets.

Now we know officially what happened, why it happened, and why Arlington officials are blaming the drilling company for “unacceptable behavior.”

Site of Arlington Fracking Fluid Leak Could Soon Reopen

An Arlington gas well site that leaked thousands of gallons of fracking fluid in April could soon resume drilling.

All operations at Vantage Energy’s Lake Arlington Baptist Church site along Little Road have been suspended since that leak occurred.

Judge demands explanation for three-decade delay on energy lease

A federal judge is pressing U.S. officials to explain why it’s taken three decades to decide on a proposal to drill for natural gas just outside Glacier National Park in an area considered sacred by some Indian tribes in Montana and Canada.

A frustrated U.S. District Judge Richard Leon called the delay “troubling” and a “nightmare” during a recent court hearing. He ordered the Interior and Agriculture departments to report back to him with any other example of where they have “dragged their feet” for so long.

EPA Looks at Fracking Risks to Water: No Data, No Problem?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its long-awaited draft report on impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing on drinking water last week, completing the most extensive scientific review of published data to date. At nearly 1,000 pages, it’s a substantial report. But it’s nowhere near a comprehensive evaluation – or even enumeration – of the risks that oil and gas development poses to both surface and ground water.

The biggest issues aren’t what’s in the document, but what isn’t. For all its heft, the biggest lesson in the report is just how little we actually know about these critical risks.

 92-year-old booked into jail after fracking protest

A 92-year-old woman was taken into custody and booked into the Denton jail for a short time on Tuesday after protesting at a fracking site.

Violet Palmer said she knew that was a possibility when she joined her son and a small group of protesters outside a drilling operation on the west side of the city Tuesday morning.

“I did feel compelled,” she said. “I feel like I must do something.”

How fracking is linked to Fox Creek earthquakes

The trembling that shook residents in Fox Creek, Alberta, on June 13 wasn’t the first. And there’s a chance it won’t be the last.

Since Nov. 2013, Natural Resources Canada has recorded 24 earthquakes in the region of magnitude 3 or greater and 81 of magnitude 2 or greater. The June 13 earthquake is the second since January that was magnitude 4 or greater.

Fracking and water: Quantity, not just quality, a concern

Even in a water-rich state like Ohio, growing water use for fracking could strain water reserves, according to new research from the FracTracker Alliance, a non-profit organization that compiles data, maps and analyses about the impacts of the oil and gas industry.

FrackTracker compared the oil and gas industry’s water use within southeastern Ohio’s Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) to residential use in that area, which covers roughly 20 percent of Ohio. Residential water use includes families’ home use, but excludes water for agricultural, industrial and other purposes.

Will Big Oil’s money sway Texas regulators’ decision on energy-earthquake link?

Sometime in the next few months, the Texas Railroad Commissioners will file into a wood-paneled hearing room on the ground floor of an office building a few blocks north of the state Capitol in Austin and make a decision in a high-profile case involving the oil and gas industry.

The latest round involves deciding whether two natural gas producers contributed to earthquakes in a Fort Worth suburb. Whatever decision the commissioners reach, they’ll likely be criticized.

Report warns public must be given their say on fracking

The Scottish public must be given a genuine opportunity to influence the decision-making process on fracking and other unconventional gas developments, according to a report.

In a wide-ranging report, The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) said they must be allowed to influence the decision-making process and be provided with meaningful information.

Fayetteville couple rejects pipeline request to survey land

A Fayetteville couple falls among the few landowners in the state fighting the right of Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC to come onto their property and conduct a survey for its proposed natural gas pipeline.

As proposed, the roughly 550-mile natural gas transmission line would run through land in the Gray’s Creek community owned by Lynne Williams and Gautam Dev.

They are denying permission to survey.

Plans for pipeline in Appalachia met with protests

As the developer of a pipeline to bring fracked natural gas to North Carolina sues landowners for refusing to cooperate, a politically influential collection of opponents is trying to raise $1 million to torpedo plans to route the project through Virginia farms and properties, saying the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be a scar on Appalachia.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is becoming the East Coast’s most-controversial pipeline project, with constant protests by Virginians along the potential path and plans for a media blitz aimed at persuading state and national lawmakers to get involved.

Concerns grow over proposed natural gas pipeline

Plans are in the works to build a 42-inch natural gas pipeline that will be called Nexus. If approved, the line would start in northern Ohio and run through a large part of western and northern Metro Detroit.

In one scenario, plans call for this pipeline to be built very close to a school in Washtenaw County. As you might imagine, local residents do not want this in their backyard for countless reasons including safety and property values.

Dakota Access Pipeline gets OK for Watford City terminal

A pipeline company got zoning for an oil tank terminal near here Tuesday, but it suffered a sharp public spanking in the process.

Dakota Access Pipeline went to the McKenzie County Commission for authority to locate a massive crude oil terminal on the south edge of the Watford City limits.

Gulf of Mexico Alliance looks to the future

The future of the Gulf of Mexico is the focus of a conference in Biloxi this week. The group is called GOMA, which stands for Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Some 400 scientists, researchers and environmentalists are meeting at the IP Casino Resort, tackling the many challenges facing the gulf waters.

They come from the five Gulf States sharing a common purpose: Doing good things for the Gulf of Mexico.

Michigan has a duty to prevent a Great Lakes oil spill

Two 62-year-old pipelines lie on the bed of Lake Michigan, transporting nearly 23 million gallons of oil across the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac every day. Nothing lasts forever, including steel oil pipelines lying underwater since 1953 in “the worst possible place” in the Great Lakes for an oil spill, according to University of Michigan researchers.

At the heart of this story is pure Michigan law, the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, which requires the state to act as trustee and protect our public trust bottomlands and waters of the Great Lakes from pollution, harm, and destruction. The state’s duty becomes urgent where, as in the case of an oil spill from these “Line 5” pipelines, the magnitude of harm could be so catastrophic. A 2014 UM study showed that a million gallon Straits oil spill could engulf Mackinac Island and potentially spread 85 miles from Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island to Lake Huron’s Rogers City.

Crews cleaning up after oil spill into Trinity River in Madison County

Crews are working on containment and cleaning up after an oil spill into the Trinity River in Madison County.

A Railroad Commission of Texas official says they were notified about the spill in the Trinity River flood plain on June 8.

Containment boom set up near Granville Island following False Creek diesel spill

Hours after the stink of diesel permeated Vancouver’s False Creek Monday and closed sections of a seawall to pedestrians, emergency officials could confirm little more than that a spill had taken place.

Its source and extent remained unknown by mid-afternoon, although officials estimated it may have come from one boat, been as little as 30 litres or as much as 5,000 litres, and the cleanup was largely over.

Canadian Pipeline Regulator Responds to Oil Group’s Plea for Better Engineers

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association told Canada’s parliament in May that pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board, does not have the funding to hire and maintain the quality of engineering staff needed to perform its functions.

In response, NEB Chair Peter Watson told lawmakers, at a senate committee hearing on the pending Pipeline Safety Act, that salaries offered by the board cannot compete with those paid in the private sector. Plus, entry-level engineers hired by NEB jump ship when they have more experience, he said.

‘Many Paddles, One Canoe’: Allies Back First Nations as They Ready Tar Sands Pipeline Fight

In what has been described as an unprecedented grassroots mobilization, activists, environmental groups, and others concerned about the future of the Pacific coast this week are rallying to support a First Nations court battle to block the construction of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.

“First Nations are poised to stop this in its tracks,” said Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director for Sierra Club British Columbia, in a statement Tuesday. The campaign Pull Together was launched to “show these nations are not standing alone” as they confront the infinite resources of the fossil fuel industry.

The Week to End Enbridge

One year after the federal government formally approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway tankers and pipelines project, with 209 conditions, opposition to the project has not wavered. From June 13-21, during the “Week to End Enbridge,” people from all walks of life will again join together across BC to say “No” to this dangerous mega-project.

The Yinka Dene Alliance has always said that we will use all lawful means to defend our lands and waters from this risky project. Two of our member nations, Nak’azdli and Nadleh Whut’en, will be in court this fall alongside six other First Nations, four non-profits and Canada’s largest private sector union, Unifor, seeking to overturn Northern Gateway’s approval.

API calls on policymakers to prioritize Arctic oil & natural gas

API encouraged Congress and regulators to prioritize Arctic offshore oil and natural gas development as the House Natural Resources Committee prepared to hold a hearing on Arctic energy today.

“Arctic oil and natural gas represent incredible potential for American energy security, jobs and revenue for the government,” said API Upstream Group Director Erik Milito. “No other undeveloped energy basin in the country can match the amount of oil and natural gas we can produce in the Arctic.”

No “showstoppers” yet for Shell’s Arctic drilling plans

Offshore drilling regulators on Tuesday vetted Shell’s specific plans for boring two exploratory oil wells in the Arctic Ocean, while one of the company’s rigs traveled to Alaska and its emergency equipment was deployed in a simulation.

As the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement scrutinizes Shell’s drilling permit applications, regulators are asking the company for more details about its first two planned wells in the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska.

Young: Let locals decide fate of Arctic drilling

What happens in the Arctic is the Arctic’s business, Rep. Don Young told members of a House subcommittee on Tuesday.

“He lives there,” Young said, referring to Richard Glenn, executive vice president of the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., who was in Washington, D.C., to testify before Congress about issues related to oil drilling in the Arctic. “He doesn’t live in California or Virginia or any other place. He lives there and understands this. And they are supporting this activity.”

Environmentalists say Arctic drilling report goes too easy on oil industry

Oil industry representatives and allies on Capitol Hill on Tuesday touted a National Petroleum Council report on Arctic drilling as a definitive, unbiased resource on oil development in the remote region shaped by a diverse set of stakeholders.

But environmentalists say they were largely locked out of the process and that the final report reads more like an industry wish list for Arctic drilling than a balanced assessment of the abilities and shortcomings of today’s technology.

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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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