Environmental Must-Reads – June 18, 2015


Texas City Leaders Repeal Voter-Approved Ban on Fracking

Leaders of a North Texas university town that was the first in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing repealed the voter-approved measure early Wednesday, sounding a tone of capitulation to the state’s powerful oil and gas interests after a seven-month battle.

The Denton City Council called it a “strategic repeal” that would undermine pending lawsuits filed by the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association shortly after the ban was passed.

Abbott Signs Bill to Limit Pollution Lawsuits

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed legislation that could make it tougher for local governments to sue big-time polluters – an effort that largely targets Harris County prosecutors.

House Bill 1794, set to become law on Sept. 1, will set a five-year statute of limitations and cap payouts at about $2 million when counties sue companies that have fouled their water or air. It’s another win for a wide range of business groups in a rough legislative session for environmental advocates.

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.

Public Service Commission to decide whether FPL can charge more for fracking

State utility regulators will decide Thursday whether Florida Power & Light’s 4 million customers — or its shareholders — will finance the company’s expansion into oil and natural gas reserves.

The Florida Public Service Commission gave the company approval to get into the controversial fracking business in December. It now must decide whether to approve guidelines proposed by FPL that would let the company spend up to $750 million a year more on gas exploration without regulatory approval.

Building Bridges: Sharing Fracking Experiences in Argentina

There is a misconception in the United States, that for Latinos in our country, and people in Latin America, environmental issues are not a priority. Latinos care deeply about the environment, and what impact our actions have on our Mother Earth. This point was never as clear to me as on my recent trip to Argentina.

With mass expansion of oil extraction in their country through fracking, and the government providing incentives through secret deals for multinational corporations, Argentinians are coming together to protect their environmental rights. Small, but passionate, community groups have organized to stand up and speak with one voice. The public are educating themselves, and are learning that fracking is not the rosy, revolutionary, safe process sold to them by their government.

Court Delays Ruling on 2013 Quebec Oil Train Crash Settlement

A Quebec judge reserved his decision on Wednesday on whether to grant a motion that would clear the way for a settlement between victims of the 2013 Lac-Megantic oil train disaster and dozens of companies and individuals linked to the crash that killed 47 people.

Patrice Benoit, the lawyer representing the defunct railway at the center of the disaster, appeared in court to ask that parties who have agreed to pay into a C$431 million [US$354 million] compensation fund be protected from further lawsuits.

Agencies train in Greenville for rail oil spill response

The scenario was frightening.

A freight train with several tankers filled with Bakken crude oil derailed and overturned in Greenville Junction, and the engine also was leaking diesel fuel.

The hazardous liquid was seeping into a ditch within a few hundred yards of Moosehead Lake.

Fortunately, it was only a training exercise.

Pipeline rupture released thousands of pounds of gas vapors

A massive blaze caused when a natural gas pipeline burst released thousands of pounds of gas vapor.

Officials are still investigating what caused the pipeline to rupture and explode Sunday near Cuero.

No one was injured when the more than 3-foot-wide pipe burst, but the fire melted power lines and a section of roadway and triggered an air emission that is also being investigated.

Pipeline company communication gaffe provokes Giles County lawsuit

Pipeline opponent Rick Shingles described the outcome, linked to bungled legal notice, as a small victory.

Shingles and seven other Giles County property owners filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Mountain Valley Pipeline, and the company responded by temporarily suspending surveying of Giles County properties to which it had been denied access by owners.

Gas firm seeks approval of revised Pinelands pipeline plan

A controversial proposal to run a natural-gas pipeline through the Pinelands, blocked in a Pinelands Commission vote last year, emerged Wednesday before the Board of Public Utilities in a move that the gas company hoped would ease opposition to the project.

At a hearing, South Jersey Gas asked the board to approve the relocation of a pipeline connection point outside the Pinelands and to restrict any new pipeline from adding natural-gas customers.

NEXUS says southern pipeline route is no-go

GREEN So says NEXUS Gas Transmission in a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Officials in Green and Lake Township disagree.

Spectra Energy and DTE Energy — the companies behind NEXUS — want to build the 36-inch pipeline from Kensington in Columbiana County to Michigan. The pipeline would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day to customers in Ohio, Michigan and Canada. The $2 billion project is slated to begin operating by November 2017.

Dinorah Hall enlists powerful allies in fight against pipeline

As more and more concerns surfaced about Spectra Energy’s plan to build a $3.5 billion natural gas pipeline that would transmit as much as 1 billion cubic feet of product a day from central Alabama to central Florida — passing through eight Georgia counties, including Dougherty, along the way — more and more opponents of the plan surfaced.

From government officials to community activists to property owners to environmental groups, Spectra’s plan to complete the so-called Sabal Trail pipeline drew opposition far and wide.

Kinder Morgan looks to sign producers to Ohio-Texas NGL pipeline

Kinder Morgan said Wednesday it was soliciting shipping contracts along a new 1,100 mile pipeline running from the Marcellus and Utica shales to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The proposed line, called Utica Marcellus Texas Pipeline, will carry natural gas liquids from the rich shale plays of Ohio region to the processing centers along the Gulf Coast.

State officials focusing on two proposals for a possible bypass route around Bayou Corne sinkhole

State highway officials have largely jettisoned three proposed routes for a long-term bypass around the Bayou Corne sinkhole in favor of two other routes, one of which roughly mirrors a route the Assumption Parish Police Jury called for a year and a half ago.

State Department of Transportation and Development officials have been engaged in early planning and design for the bypass and a shorter emergency detour in the event the now 31-acre sinkhole should grow large enough to threaten La. 70 — something state scientists say is unlikely — or if other sinkholes are created from underground salt dome caverns near the sinkhole and La. 70.

DOTD prepares for worst case scenario in Assumption Parish

Only a dozen or so residents still live near the Bayou Corne sinkhole. However, around 9,000 cars and trucks travel by it on Highway 70 each day.

While things have been quiet at the sinkhole site, the Department of Transportation and Development is preparing for a worst case scenario.

Oil spill settlement boss says claim centers closing this week

The Louisiana attorney running BP’s oil spill settlement program says the 10 offices where Gulf Coast residents have been filing damage claims will close on Friday after a three-year run.

The deadline to file spill claims under the 2012 settlement elapsed on June 8. The 10 Claimant Assistant Centers were still open to take questions from claimants who say they saw financial losses in the wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Bay County Commissioners Discuss What to Spend BP Oil Spill Funds On

The BP Oil Spill may have happened 5 years ago, but Bay County is still waiting on settlements worth millions of dollars, and right now they’re trying to figure out how to spend some of the money they did receive.

Commissioners still haven’t made any concrete decisions. The 6.3 million dollar settlement comes from Transocean, the company that operated the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf in 2010.

Spill cleanup crews decline in California

While efforts continue in the cleanup of the California oil spill, the number of personnel deployed is down more than 10 percent, a response team said.

Line 901, a pipeline system operated by Plains All American leaked as much as 2,500 barrels of oil in Santa Barbara County in mid-May. About 500 barrels may have reached the waters off the coast of Refugio State Beach in a release the Environmental Protection Agency said was the worst spill in California in the last 25 years.

Company behind Santa Barbara oil spill pays South Bay claim

The oil company responsible for the May 19 spill in Santa Barbara County has agreed to pay for damage to a sail done by tar drifting in the water off of Redondo Beach.

Robert Cole, a member of the King Harbor Yacht Club, submitted a claim for about $2,100 to Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. on June 9. Cole had been racing his 30-foot boat Priorities a couple miles offshore on May 26, the day before tar washed up in the South Bay, when a glob of oil got on the bag containing his spinnaker sail.

Fix for oozing oil in Muskegon County’s Bear Lake moves a step closer

It’s a problem 2,000 feet deep and 85 years in the making.

But, despite more than two decades of oil slicks and stinks in the Fenner’s Ditch bayou area of Bear Lake in Laketon Township, no one knows exactly where the oil is seeping from, let alone how to stop or contain it.

That may finally change in the next few years.

Tanker Accident Causes Oil Spill in Martin County

Hazmat crews were called out to an oil spill on Tuesday night after a tanker rolled on its side.

The accident happened north of Stanton on FM 846, around 7:30 p.m.

DPS Troopers say a semi tried to take a turn too fast causing the truck and trailer to roll.

Petrol spills into Bulgarian lake after pipeline rupture

Up to 40 tonnes of petrol spilled into a lake near the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas after a product pipeline of LUKOIL’s Neftochim Burgas refinery ruptured late on Wednesday, the environment minister said.

A spokeswoman for LUKOIL Bulgaria confirmed the leak, adding that it was now under control and rescue teams were working to clean up the damage.

Horowhenua coast oil spill spans 14km but source still a mystery

The oil spill on the Manawatu-Horowhenua coastline has affected a larger area than expected and authorities still do not know where it is coming from.

Ian Lowe, who is co-ordinating the clean-up for Horizons Regional Council, confirmed the extent of the spill, but was reluctant to speculate about its source.

Chevron hits out at British documentary on oil pollution in Ecuador

The US oil giant Chevron has attacked the British makers of a short art-house documentary film about oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon featuring the actor Julie Christie reading a Pablo Neruda poem for ignoring the environmental record of the country’s own state oil producer.

The 13-minute film, follows the unresolved, 22-year-long series of legal fights in the US, European and Latin American courts over the dumping by US oil company Texaco of 18bn gallons of toxic wastewater and crude oil in the forest near the town of Lago Agrio between 1964 and 1992.

Kinder Morgan appeals Palmetto Pipeline decision

Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan on Wednesday appealed a Georgia transportation official’s decision that put its proposed billion-dollar Palmetto Pipeline project in limbo last month.

In its 58-page filing, Kinder Morgan takes the Department of Transportation to task for what it says are procedural errors, including a slow and incomplete response to its open records request, as well as for what it sees as a faulty decision.

Daines calls for oversight hearing for nation’s pipeline safety agency

After two Yellowstone River oil pipeline breaks in five years, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is requesting an oversight hearing on the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

PHMSA has been the nation’s pipeline cop for a decade and is up for reauthorization by September’s end. As part of the Department of Transportation, the administration has overseen two Montana pipeline disasters that together dumped at least 93,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone, the nation’s longest undammed river.

110 Scientists Band Together To Stand Up For Native Rights, Against Keystone XL in Canada

A group of more than 100 scientists, ranging from economists to geophysicists, have come together to stand against development in the Alberta oil sands, Indian Country Today Media Network reports.

In a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the scientists invoked the treaty rights of aboriginal people, Native sovereignty, and scientific evidence in their statement against the extraction of bituminous crude from Alberta.

Gazprom Neft ships 110,000 tons of oil from Arctic field

Gazprom Neft this winter sent seven tanker loads of oil from the Novoportovskoye field to global markets. The total volume of oil amounted to 110,000 metric tons, the company said in a press release.

It was the first year with comprehensive winter shipping of oil from the field, also called Novy Port, and one of the biggest in the Yamal Peninsula. The shipments were conducted with support from Rosatom’s nuclear icebreaker fleet.

Alaskan Senator Presses DOE Nominees on Energy, Arctic

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday questioned President Obama’s nominees for the Department of Energy (DOE) on the department’s plans to increase American energy exports and expand opportunities for energy production in the Arctic. The nominees, Mr. Jonathan Elkind for Assistant Secretary of International Affairs and Dr. Monica Regalbuto for Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, appeared and were approved by the committee last Congress but neither nomination received a vote on the Senate floor.

Document shows TEPCO recognized risk of huge tsunami at Fukushima plant in 2008

Tokyo Electric Power Co. in 2008 recognized the “indispensable” need for countermeasures against a towering tsunami at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but it ended up doing nothing, an internal document showed.

The document was disclosed on June 18 by TEPCO, operator of the Fukushima plant, at the request of its shareholders who have filed a lawsuit against the utility’s executives. The plaintiffs are demanding that company executives be held responsible for the nuclear crisis at the plant that was triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Fukushima town decides to preserve pro-nuclear signs as negative legacy

The government of what became a ghost town in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has decided to preserve signboards featuring slogans boasting a bright future from nuclear energy.

The decision, announced by Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa at the town assembly operating in Iwaki on June 17, followed a campaign to keep the two pro-nuclear signboards in Futaba as a negative legacy of nuclear energy.

Document shows Tepco was aware of need for tsunami measures in 2008: lawyers

Tokyo Electric Power Co. was aware of the need to take anti-tsunami measures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant before the 2011 crisis, contrary to its claims regarding such hazards there, lawyers for plaintiffs in a damages suit said Thursday.

State orders larger evacuation during Millstone emergency drill

During an emergency drill Wednesday, state officials decided that a larger area around the Millstone Power Station in Waterford should be evacuated to protect residents from a radiation release than plant staff recommended.

The drill, the fourth to take place in the $7 million Emergency Operations Center for Millstone that opened in January, tested how plant staff handles an emergency that would occur when three critical radiation containment systems at the Unit 2 nuclear power plant failed.

Report: Nuclear power a costly failure

Nuclear energy is a costly failure, and Ohio and other states should focus on alternative energy, according to a report released Wednesday by an energy institute.

Upgrading the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and other aged nuclear and coal plants around Ohio and asking the state to assess fees to help bail out the plants will ultimately cost power customers more money, said Mark Cooper, author of the report “Power Shift: The deployment of a 21st century electricity center and the nuclear war to stop it.”

Belarusian nuclear power plant to store radioactive waste for at most ten years

Radioactive waste will be stored at the Belarusian nuclear power plant for up to ten years. The information was released by Grigory Astashko, Deputy Head of the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Department (Gosatomnadzor) of the Belarusian Emergencies Ministry, during a press conference held in BelTA’s press center on 17 June.

Charlottetown residents angry over cellphone tower in neighbourhood

Residents in the Charlottetown’s Brighton neighbourhood are not happy that Eastlink has erected a cellphone tower on the top of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans range light on Queen Elizabeth Drive. About 1,000 signatures have been collected on a petition and they’re planning on taking the matter to the Island Regulatories and Appeals Commission next month.

Beaconsfield residents stop Telus small cell installation

Scott Hebert and his wife Debbie Sarik won a temporary battle to prevent Telus workers from installing a small cell receiver on a Hydro Quebec pole, located on the front edge of their Taywood  Drive property, last Friday.

If it wasn’t for Sarik, who stayed home to tend to a sick child, the small cell would have been installed without consultation.

“She was in disbelief that they could just do it without notifying us,” said Hebert.

Cell Phones and WiFi are a “Serious Public Health Issue” – Canadian Parliamentary Report

Cancer, infertility, and learning disabilities might be caused by our cell phones and WiFi, according to a new Parliamentary report.

The microwave radiation from our little wireless devices is now a “serious public health issue” according to the report delivered Tuesday by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health (HESA).

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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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