Environmental Must-Reads – June 19, 2014


Fate of $3M Fracking Damage Award for Texas Couple in Judge’s Hands

A Texas judge will soon decide whether to accept a jury’s $2.9 million award to a Wise County family who claims to have been sickened by emissions from the gas and oil wells surrounding their home.

In April, a Dallas County jury found that Aruba Petroleum, a Plano, Texas company, “intentionally created a private nuisance” that affected the health of Jim and Lisa Parr and their daughter. It appears to be the first successful U.S. lawsuit alleging that toxic air emissions from oil and gas production sickened people living nearby.

Colorado Citizens Launch Class Action Lawsuit to Protect Lafayette’s Fracking Ban

Citizens of Lafayette, Colo., have filed a class action lawsuit against the State of Colorado, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and Governor John Hickenlooper requesting immediate enforcement of Lafayette’s Community Rights Charter Amendment to ban fracking.

In November 2013, 60 percent of Lafayette voters approved the Community Rights Amendment, which allows citizens to prohibit harmful activities, such as fracking. Following the passage of the Lafayette Community Rights Amendment, COGA sued the City of Lafayette, claiming that the state’s Oil and Gas Act trumps the people’s right to protect themselves from oil and gas activities.

Texas Gas Town Considers Banning Fracking

Natural gas money has been good to this Texas city: It has new parks, a new golf course and miles of grassy soccer fields. The business district is getting a makeover, and the airport is bustling, too.

For more than a decade, Denton has drawn its lifeblood from the huge gas reserves that lie beneath its streets. The gas fields have produced a billion dollars in mineral wealth and pumped more than $30 million into city bank accounts.

Kasich misled public on parks fracking plan, environmental group says

A plan to sell Ohioans on the merits of fracking in their state parks was still being discussed by members of the Kasich administration in late 2012, documents obtained by an environmental group show.

A 19-page memo from Sept. 10, 2012, shows that the administration was planning to tell the public that fracking on state lands is needed to avoid implementing park entrance fees.

Fracking Boom Threatens U.S. Water Supplies

Since the onset of the fracking boom almost a decade ago, every state in the US has been examining its geological resources in the hope of finding oil or gas it can access through this extraction method. Almost half the states are now producing at least some shale gas, with a few—Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, North Dakota—sitting on massive deposits.

If Fracking Is the Question, Insurers May Ask – What Is the Answer?

When it comes to the use of evolving technologies such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in oil and gas production one big question insurance companies are faced with is: to insure or not to insure?

That is a key question for underwriters, according to Robert Weireter, vice president and senior underwriter at Swiss Re.

Oil regulators revise proposed fracking rules

A flood of public comments has prompted state regulators to tighten up proposed rules governing fracking, acid matrix stimulation and other enhanced oil recovery techniques starting next year.

The California Department of Conservation, citing 150,000 comments filed since draft rules were rolled out in November, clarified and made modest adjustments to several measures that would be required of oil field operators.

Driller fined nearly $200G for two Wyoming County spills

State environmental regulators fined a natural gas well operator $192,044 for two spills in Wyoming County more than a year ago.

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced the fines against Houston-based Carrizo Marcellus LLC Wednesday.

Report says diesel still used in North Dakota fracking jobs

A Washington-based environmental group says a report it will release today finds that oil companies in North Dakota and other states continue to use diesel fuel in hydraulic fracking, despite oil industry claims to the contrary and new federal rules.

The Environmental Integrity Project says its report “Fracking Beyond the Law,” will show use of diesel in fracking despite new guidance issued in February by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

German beermakers look like winning their battle to stop fracking

“Germany is a beer nation: if their beer has no flavour, people will mount the barricades,” says Friederike Borchert. At her family’s brewery in Lünne, Lower Saxony, about 800,000 litres of beer are produced a year: a light pilsner, a dark beer and a buckwheat brew. Borchert, 27, dreams of one day making her own India pale ale, though now fears she may have to put her aspirations on hold.

In spring 2011, US energy group ExxonMobil made a horizontal test drill into shale rock under a field down the road, so far the only one of its kind in Germany.

Threatened bird leads feds to block some drilling

The federal government this week declared more than 400,000 acres in southwestern Colorado and eastern Utah off-limits to energy exploration or any other kind of development to protect the Gunnison sage grouse, a precursor to a much larger fight over another species of the bird that ranges across 11 Western states.

The Bureau of Land Management directive released Monday formalizes protections the government had already implemented to preserve the Gunnison grouse. A decision on whether to list it as an endangered species is due in November.

Scientists deploy torpedo-like gliders to measure Gulf’s health

A team of Texas scientists this week will release four torpedo-like, remote- controlled gliders into the northern Gulf of Mexico to measure oxygen levels, bringing researchers closer to a long-cherished goal of broadly monitoring the health of the world’s oceans.

“The community of scientists that study oceans have long dreamed of deploying these silent sentinels of the sea,” said Steve DiMarco, an oceanographer at Texas A&M University.

Waveland, Miss., man sentenced for oil spill fraud

A commercial fisherman in Mississippi has been sentenced to three years in prison for mail fraud related to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Luom Van Ngo of Waveland pleaded guilty in February.

Canada’s pipeline through paradise: Concerns about an oil spill drive huge opposition against planned exports to China

No nation is more thirsty for Canadian oil than China. But until now, the oil from Alberta has only flowed one way: south – to the United States.

Now the Canadian government has approved a proposal for a major pipeline to transport the country’s oil to Asia, despite powerful resistance from environmental groups, the First Nations and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political rivals in parliament.

Ship Operator Fined $2,500 after Oil Spill

The Coast Guard has fined the operator of a coal ship $2,500 for a spill on Friday that released an estimated 200 gallons of fuel oil into the Elizabeth River.

The spill happened when a tank on the 740-foot Ostria S overflowed after being filled. The ship was docked at Pier 6, the coal pier at Lamberts Point operated by railroad company Norfolk Southern.

Exxon Eyes July Restart for Ruptured Pipeline’s South Leg, Worrying Residents

ExxonMobil intends to restart the southern portion of its Pegasus oil pipeline on July 1, ending a 15-month shutdown that began when the pipeline ruptured and flooded a residential street in Arkansas with crude.

The move is a disappointment to Texans like Barbara Lawrence, who said the 1950s-era southern leg of the Pegasus runs under the Richland-Chambers Reservoir, where she lives on the shore. She and others worry about potential oil spills in reservoirs and other waterways, and have questioned the safety of reopening any part of the Pegasus line without extensive testing.

This Map Shows The Largest Company By Revenue In Every State

The above graphic shows the largest company by revenue in every state.

Created by Mike Simmons in collaboration with Broadview Networks, the map drew information from Hoover’s — a Dun & Bradstreet company — database of company profiles. The site includes the most up-to-date information, showing figures from the most recent fiscal year.

Senate panel clears bill to build Keystone XL pipeline

A Senate committee voted Wednesday to cut President Obama out of the process to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but another powerful Democrat still stands in the way of the project — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

On the heels of Wednesday’s bipartisan vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, lawmakers were skeptical that Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat and an opponent of the massive Canada-to-Texas pipeline, will allow the full Senate to vote on the measure.

Al Gore: President Obama has ‘signaled’ he’ll reject Keystone

Al Gore says President Barack Obama has “signaled” that he will kill the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, though the former vice president didn’t cite any evidence for his statement.

“[Obama] has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone XL-pipeline proposal for the transport of oil from carbon-intensive tar sands to be taken to market through the United States on its way to China, thus effectively limiting their exploitation,” Gore wrote in a Rolling Stone story about climate change that was published online Wednesday.

A Vulnerable Democrat Pushes The Keystone XL Pipeline

Seniority in Washington isn’t what it used to be, but it still has certain perquisites. Mary Landrieu chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, a perch that offered the vulnerable Louisiana Democrat an opportunity Wednesday to mix policy and politics.

With President Barack Obama delaying a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reluctant to schedule a floor vote on a bill that would subvert Obama’s authority, Landrieu pushed through a committee vote on the controversial pipeline. It passed, 12-10, with Landrieu joining Republicans to vote in favor of the project.

Canada’s indigenous: ‘We are the wall’ that the pipeline cannot pass

First Nations groups have vowed to fight the Canadian government’s approval of a planned pipeline with lawsuits and direct action. They say Tuesday’s decision violates their constitutional rights because the government failed to consult tribal bands, the basic units of government for First Nations in Canada.

“The government has moved their legal responsibility to consult with First Nations to Enbridge, and that’s a wrong move on their part,” said Grand Chief Edward John of the Tl’azt’en Nation. Enbridge is the Canadian energy company behind the planned Northern Gateway pipeline.

2 states beef up oil-by-rail and pipeline safety after string of accidents

Alarmed by a string of explosive and disastrous oil spills, two states recently passed laws aimed at forcing rail and pipeline companies to abide by more rigorous emergency response measures instead of relying on the federal government.

The moves by New Hampshire and Minnesota reflect a desire for more control over in-state hazards, as well as mounting frustration over gaps in federal law involving oil pipelines and oil trains, superficial federal reviews and the secrecy surrounding spill response plans submitted to U.S. regulators.

Northern Gateway: Ottawa’s green light for Enbridge has many in B.C. seeing red

To reach the Pacific Ocean, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline would have to cross some of Canada’s most rugged terrain – 1,177 kilometres of pipeline constructed across the towering Rocky Mountains, remote valleys and rugged wilderness. But the daunting engineering challenges are shaping up to be nothing compared to the landscape of anti-pipeline opposition standing in Enbridge’s way.

Any project of this magnitude inherently comes with almost guaranteed opposition, but the opposition in B.C. to Northern Gateway appears to be substantially greater than proponents expected. The voices against Enbridge are more than drowning out the faint chorus of groups in B.C. who support it.

Enbridge plans next steps in wake of pipeline approval

Enbridge Inc. is hoping to win over Coastal First Nations who adamantly oppose its Northern Gateway pipeline with a claim that the controversial project would actually improve marine safety in the treacherous waters off the British Columbia coast despite the increase in supertanker traffic.

While acknowledging the need to build support among local communities in B.C., the company sees the federal approval announced Tuesday as providing a clear pathway to project completion by 2018, Enbridge executive vice-president Janet Holder said in an interview.

Enbridge raises pipeline replacement cost by $500-million

Enbridge Inc. is making executive changes, raising the cost estimate of a major pipeline replacement and issuing $400-million of stock in a slew of announcements one day after it won federal approval for its contentious Northern Gateway project.

Enbridge said Richard Bird, the company’s chief financial officer and corporate development head, is retiring at the end of this year, after two decades with the company.

Arctic oil to be explored despite environmental, safety concerns: N.L. premier

Newfoundland and Labrador is uniquely equipped to lead Arctic oil exploration and development as a North American “staging ground,” says Premier Tom Marshall.

The province already has a proven track record of safe offshore production in some of the harshest conditions on Earth, he told an oil and gas conference Wednesday in St. John’s.

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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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