Environmental Must-Reads – June 23, 2014


Activists use pedal power to oppose fracking

People in St. Tammany Parish are saying, “Not in our backyard,” when it comes to fracking.

Opponents said they feel the controversial drilling practice will contaminate their water supply, damage the environment and decrease their property values.


In November, the state gave Southwestern Energy Production Co. a permit to drill a natural gas well a half-mile from Ms. Dougherty’s house.

Ms. Dougherty and her doctor of 15 years wrote to the state Environmental Hearing Board, asking the judges to revoke the well permit.

“It is my medical opinion that if this permitting is allowed for even one well … it would create a serious, life-threatening risk to Ms. Dougherty,” her doctor wrote. “I seriously doubt she can survive this fracking process so close to her house.”

Fracking increases dangerous earth burps

A study of derelict Pennsylvania oil and gas wells has spotted what is possibly a huge source of additional greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane, which is pound-for-pound a much more potent climate-warming gas than carbon dioxide, could be leaking from hundreds of thousands of abandoned wells. And that’s just in the Keystone State. A growing body of evidence says countless old wells across the country — most poorly monitored — could be belching up the same dangerous emissions.

Slow-Motion Earthquakes Caused by Natural Fracking?

Natural fracking may be to blame for weird “slow” earthquakes that last for hours to days, a new study suggests.

Oil and gas fracking involves cracking open rocks using water laced with sand and chemicals, pumped underground at high pressure. Now, seismic evidence from the Cascadia subduction zone leads researchers to suggest a similar process takes place deep on the zone’s massive fault, generating slow earthquakes. The findings were published today (June 18) in the journal Nature.

Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidates discuss fracking

The four Republican gubernatorial contenders in Tuesday’s primary answer questions about what they’d do if elected. Here, they talk about how fracking. Each responded in writing. Answers were edited for space reasons.

Fracking project OK’d on Nevada sage grouse land

Federal land managers have approved an oil and gas project involving hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in a portion of northeast Nevada identified by state wildlife officials as essential habitat for the imperiled greater sage grouse.

The Bureau of Land Management signed a decision record earlier this month on Noble Energy Inc.’s proposal to conduct oil and gas exploration drilling around Tabor Flats near Wells in Elko County.

A demand for sand: Well operators using more and more to boost productivity

The white sand beaches in Pennsylvania are a mile underground, where salt water and fine mesh sand luxuriate in the fracks of the Marcellus Shale.

The volume of frack sand used at each well to prop open newly created fissures and allow gas to flow to the wellbore has been on the rise over the past year. By some estimates, the increase has been dramatic.

Fracking foes turn to cities

Anti-fracking forces across the country have tapped into local governments to get them to tap the brakes on fracking, a technological advance that allows energy companies to extract oil and gas from deep rock formations by pressure-pumping them with sand, water and chemicals.

Some states allow communities to regulate the energy industry, but some do not, according to Deborah Goldberg, a New York attorney with Earthjustice, a national nonprofit known for using the court system to protect the environment and people’s health.

Quakes Rattle Confidence in Texas Energy Boom

It wasn’t the semi-trucks rumbling down country roads, or the dust, or the natural gas wells that popped up around their homes that finally got to residents of Azle and Reno, Texas. It was the earthquakes. These weren’t major quakes, magnitude 3.6 was the biggest, but no one in those North Texas towns had ever felt tremors before. Now in just three months, between last November and January, 34 quakes large enough to be felt shook homes, cracked walls and foundations, scared horses and pets, and opened a few sinkholes.

Pressure builds against France’s ban on fracking

Deep beneath the City of Light lies what some believe to be an energy bonanza ripe for harvest.

If the rosy forecasts are correct, France is sitting on one of the biggest deposits of shale gas in Western Europe, enough to supply the country for decades and even some neighboring ones as well. French companies such as energy giant Total already boast the know-how for conducting the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, needed to extract the natural gas.

There’s just one hitch: Fracking is forbidden in France. And the current government has pledged to keep it that way.

Fracking planned at Morgan County spill site as cleanup ends

Tanker trucks and vacuums are still whirring on a piece of Morgan County land, trying to clean up thousands of gallons of oil and chemicals that spewed eight weeks ago from a not-yet-completed natural-gas well into surrounding fields and streams.

Cleanup efforts are almost finished, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. But some of the oil is still bubbling from the soil around the well into a streambed that leads to a creek that drains into the Muskingum River, and crews were still at the site last week trying to remove oil-saturated dirt.

The man behind a New Mexico county’s fracking ban

On a raw, bright winter day, John Olívas and his wife, Pam, hold court at the Hatchas Café in Mora, New Mexico. They seem to know everybody who comes in, chatting as they stamp snow off their boots and find seats. The street is lined with crumbling adobes and rusty pickups, and snowpacked pastures dotted with livestock and unused farm equipment stretch toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There’s not a fast food drive-through or big-box store in sight.

Study finds oil from BP Deepwater Horizon spill slows swimming of mahi mahi fish, newspaper reports

Scientists at the University of Miami have found that juvenile mahi-mahi fish exposed as embryos to oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill swim more slowly than those that aren’t exposed, reporter Jenny Staletovich wrote in the Miami Herald Friday.

Researcher’s at the university’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science tested the mahi-mahi in a tiny fish treadmill device. The fish is a major commercial species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Park Service Still Looking for Oil from BP Spill

A specialized dive team from the National Park Service is looking for lingering globs of oil that washed ashore four years ago during the massive BP oil spill.

The oil washed up on Pensacola Beach in June of 2010. The Pensacola News Journal reports that a team of underwater archeologists are checking for oil in spots identified through sonar. They are checking to see if oil is trapped in those areas.

BP & The Real State of the Gulf – Pollution Report for Friday, June 20, 2014

On Friday and Saturday, FDEP environmental specialist David Perkinson conducted a post-response monitoring survey on Escambia County, Florida beaches, with a focus in the Fort Pickens area.

Numerous Surface Residue Balls (SRBs or “tar balls”) were found throughout the area as well as a large submerged oil mat. These hardened balls are often filled with deadly, flesh-eating bacteria. Do not handle without protective gloves.

New tool used to measure Gulf oxygen levels

A team of Texas scientists this week are releasing 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.

7,500 gallons of oil spills in Colorado river

A storage tank damaged by floodwaters dumped 7,500 gallons of crude oil into the Poudre River near Windsor in northern Colorado, slickening vegetation a quarter-mile downstream but apparently not affecting any drinking water, state officials said Friday.

The bank where the storage tank sat next to the river was undercut by the high spring river flows, causing it to drop and break a valve, Todd Hartman of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources said in a statement.

Shell ready to settle Nigeria oil spill lawsuit

Royal Dutch Shell is ready to pay up to £30m in compensation for two oil spills in Nigeria in 2008, but lawyers said it might face a far bigger pay out after a London court ruled it could be liable for damage.

About 15,000 residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta represented by law firm Leigh Day appealed in 2011 to a London court for more than £300m in compensation.

County Board urges DNR to revoke pipeline permit

Dane County supervisors approved a resolution Thursday urging the Department of Natural Resources to revoke a permit awarded earlier that day to Enbridge Energy and undertake a environmental review of plans the company has to boost production along its main Wisconsin oil pipeline.

Installed in 2006, Enbridge’s Line 61 transports roughly 400,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands soil per day from Superior to Pontiac, Ill. The 42-inch diameter line crosses northeast Dane County through the towns of York and Medina.

A relationship cut short in B.C. with one fell swoop by Enbridge

When Enbridge Inc. officials went to scope out a terminal site for their proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in Kitimat, they needed access to Crown land that is subject to land claims by the Haisla First Nation. With a provincial permit in hand, their crews pulled out chainsaws and felled ancient cedars to help with their mapping. Fourteen of the trees that were cut down had been marked in some way by the Haisla people long before British Columbia became a colony.

Local officials working on oil train safety plan

King County Council members are expected to approve a plan Monday to join other agencies in a comprehensive safety plan to deal with possible accidents involving Bakken oil train derailments.

The plan would also require railroad companies to provide information to first responders regarding shipments, which coincides with similar calls by federal and state officials.

CSX’s oil shipping information publicized by government

Between two and five CSX tanker trains loaded with 1 million gallons or more of flammable crude oil cross Virginia’s midsection weekly, taking a west-to-east route to a Yorktown refinery, state records show.

No railroad has previously revealed its oil shipping volumes and routes in the state. But the U.S. Department of Transportation last month told the nation’s railroads that ship flammable Bakken crude oil to notify states of oil-filled trains moving within their borders as a safety precaution, effective this month.

Oil giants lay hopes on untapped Russian Arctic

Tens of degrees below zero during winter and home to endangered species and remote infrastructure — the Russian Arctic is emerging as a new promised land for oil companies, despite clear obstacles.

“The Arctic is one of the world’s largest remaining regions of undiscovered conventional oil and natural gas resources,” ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson said during a major industry conference in Moscow two weeks ago.

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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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