Environmental Must-Reads – June 24, 2014


New York’s Silent but Deadly Fracking Problem

Leanne and Robert Baum used to take their children sledding in the field across the road from their house in Minisink, New York. But these days, Leanne, who drives a school bus for a local Christian academy, and Robert, who runs a hardware store, say they’re afraid to even let their kids play in the front yard. The couple’s small township in Orange County has for decades supplied fresh organic and heirloom produce to the restaurants and farmers’ markets in New York City, 60 miles south. Now, it is the site of a growing health crisis. Property values are plummeting and locals are complaining of chronic nosebleeds, rashes, migraines, and dizzy spells. The smell in the air can range from rotten eggs to burning paint.

There Are 1,401 Uninspected High-Risk Oil and Gas Wells. Here’s Where They Are.

Johnson County, Wyoming, is the kind of remote, quiet Western community where life revolves around cattle—it was the site of an infamous 19th-century armed battle between cowboys and suspected cattle rustlers. The county ranks only 11th statewide for oil production, but it holds the No. 1 ranking nationwide for a more ignominious distinction: It has 249 new, high-risk oil and gas wells that the federal government has failed to inspect for compliance with safety and environmental standards.

Minnesota Town Caught in ‘Frac Sand’ Mining Rush Wants Answers on Pollution

How much dangerous dust is being kicked into the air from the mounds of frac sand hauled daily across the southern Minnesota town of Winona?

Looking for answers, the community got the state to install in January a pollution monitor for crystalline silica, or frac sand—the first in Minnesota not financed by industry. Located on top of Winona’s downtown YMCA, directly above a major intersection for sand trucks bound for fracking fields, it’s been collecting data ever since.

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.

Oil drilling threatens solitude of national park

After the last hints of sunset dip behind the hills, the North Dakota horizon comes alive with flickering orange flames of a different kind — natural gas flares.

These tiny tongues of fire burn bright against the dark prairie just beyond the boundaries of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands, where the man who later became the nation’s 26th president sought solace after his wife and mother both died unexpectedly on the same day in 1884 in his native New York.

Drilling industry, watchdogs: Testing water quality is good

The oil and gas industry is urging domestic well owners in New Mexico to test their water quality before and after drilling. Industry watchdog groups want the same thing, but for very different reasons.

The industry trade organization is encouraging oil and gas well developers to get permission from water well owners to test as a way of proving that drilling and fracking are safe and won’t hurt water quality. The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association launched a campaign last week encouraging industry to voluntarily work with domestic well owners to have water tested.

The Midterm Politics of Fracking

Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has a challenging road to re-election this November. Polls show he’s locked into a tight contest against Republican Cory Gardner, and his party’s president has an approval rating in the low 40s.

Here’s another headache for Udall: hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking.”

Pennsylvania health officials ordered to ignore fracking-related health complaints

Live near one of the more than 6,000 fracking wells drilled in Pennsylvania within the last six years? Suffering from skin rashes, nausea or nosebleeds, and worried that nearby drilling is to blame? Don’t bother calling the Department of Health, which apparently isn’t concerning itself with these sorts of things.

Pennsylvania, situated atop the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale, has been a focal point of the nation’s fracking boom, the potential health impacts of which we know little. And according to a damning report from NPR State Impact, the state has dealt with that lack of information about the health risks of fracking not by studying the health risks of fracking, but by ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away.

Fracking Chemicals Can Disrupt Hormones and May Impact Health

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can impact the environment in the form of chemicals. Now, scientists have found that these chemicals can disrupt not only the human body’s reproductive hormones, but also the glucocorticoid and thyroid hormone receptors, which are necessary to maintain good health.

In hydraulic fracturing, chemicals and water is injected deep underground under high pressure in order to facture hard rock. This releases trapped natural gas and oil, which is then extracted for use. However, there has been some concern about the chemicals seeping into groundwater and impacting the natural environment. That’s why it’s important to see what effect these chemicals could have on humans.

Coal Mining and Fracking Are Responsible for Less Than 0.6% of PA Employment

Just to put things in perspective for those hearing the concern trolling from the coal, oil, and natural gas industries that implementing new federal emissions regulations and a state severance tax on shale gas production will have serious consequences for jobs and economic growth, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says Mining and Logging (which includes all natural gas employment, all coal employment, and employment in all the other extractive industries) accounts for about 0.6% of employment in PA.

Kansas residents concerned about pipeline eruption

Kansas health officials on Monday were at the site of natural gas pipeline eruption in eastern Kansas, where crops and trees have withered since a dark, oily plume burst from the line while crews were trying to perform maintenance.

Shrubs, crops, trees and houses near Olpe were covered in a mist of the substance, which the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told The Associated Press was natural gas condensate, a mix of natural gas and hydrocarbons. Since then, leaves on trees have begun to wither and soybeans have died. An unpleasant smell lingered Monday.

BP shuts down internal oil spill claims program

In a shocking move, BP has decided to shut down its internal oil spill claims program, taking away an avenue for more than 10,000 claimants who have opted out of the oil giant’s controversial settlement agreement or others who are not covered by it.

BP won’t say how many claimants it served with the BP Claims Program over the last two years, but the amount paid through the end of April was a paltry $12 million. By contrast, over the exact same time frame, the court-supervised settlement program paid $3.8 billion.

Fish Exposed to Oil From BP Gulf Spill Swim Half as Fast

It’s not hard to imagine that the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in which 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, hurt the wildlife there. But how much? Studies addressing this question have begun to come out, and they don’t paint a rosy picture.

In March, research found that in several species of fish, including Bluefin tuna, young animals that were exposed to oil from the spill developed numerous heart defects that often proved fatal. Now, another study, by many of the same researchers, has found that young mahi-mahi exposed to oil from the BP spill swam nearly half the speed of unexposed fish.

More than 1,250 pounds of BP oil removed from seashore

A tar mat discovered on a beach in the National Seashore’s Fort Pickens area Friday is larger than first thought.

A Coast Guard-led cleanup crew thought the mat was getting lighter as they dug it out of the sand in the surf zone on Saturday, but they found another large area Sunday.

Deep-water drillers discover creatures as well as crude

Massive oil fields aren’t the only discoveries emerging from the drilling resurgence in the Gulf of Mexico. The boom in deep-water operations also has unleashed a plethora of up-close images of unusual — or even unknown — underwater creatures.

The robotic cameras that oil companies use to monitor their equipment operating thousands of feet underwater have spotted enormous jellyfish and uncommon species of sharks swimming through the sea.

Damaged Storage Tank Spills 7,500 Gallons Of Oil Into River In Colorado

A storage tank damaged by flooding spilled 7,500 gallons of oil into Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River on Friday.

According to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, high floodwaters caused the Noble Energy storage tank to dip down onto a bank, damaging a valve that caused oil to leak out of the tank. The oil has gathered on vegetation up to a quarter mile downstream, but officials say the spill isn’t ongoing. Cleanup crews are working to remove oil from the riverbanks with vac-trucks and absorbent materials, and officials say no drinking water has been affected.

Windsor oil setback didn’t account for river flooding

When a ruptured crude oil tank was discovered on Friday — having dumped 7,500 gallons into the Poudre River near Windsor — it sat more than the required 300 feet from the river bank, according to state regulators.

Nevertheless, the tank’s 400-foot buffer didn’t prevent the flooding river from overcoming a protective earthen berm, upsetting the tank and breaking a valve, spilling the oil into the river.

EPA claims victory in Supreme Court decision on pollution rules

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the EPA’s efforts to limit greenhouse gases from power plants, refineries and factories — a key affirmation of the Obama administration’s climate agenda.

But the justices, in a split ruling, trimmed the scope of the new requirements, saying the Environmental Protection Agency could not require reductions in carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from smaller sources that would otherwise not need an air pollution permit, such as churches, schools and apartment buildings.

Keystone Pipeline Path Illegal, Foes Tell Nebraska Court

Nebraska landowners opposed to the proposed $5.4 billion Keystone XL pipeline urged the state’s highest court to uphold a judge’s ruling invalidating the route mapped by Governor Dave Heineman and TransCanada Corp. (TRP)

The property owners urged the state Supreme Court to uphold a February ruling effectively blocking the pipeline. Judge Stephanie Stacy in Lincoln declared TransCanada a common carrier like a railroad. As such, a 2012 law giving the governor control over the path violated a part of the state constitution vesting power in the Public Service Commission.

BNSF won’t seek injunction to stop release of oil train info in Washington

BNSF Railway says it will not go to court to block Washington from releasing oil train notification information under the state’s public records law.

“BNSF does not intend to file an injunction regarding prospective handling of the information provided,” spokeswoman Courtney Wallace wrote in an email Monday. “The determination about how such information is controlled or communicated is ultimately a decision for the federal government and subsequently the Washington State Emergency Response Commission.”

Oil trains could mean danger in NW

King County is joining the growing ranks of states, counties and local governments trying to figure out what to what to do if an oil train derails. The trains, towing more than 100 tanker cars carrying highly volatile crude oil from fields in North Dakota, routinely pass through high population areas, including downtown Seattle. But there is no plan in place to respond in the event of a crash, a spill or even an explosion.

“It’s a new problem and a new risk and a serious risk,” said King County Council member Rod Dembrowski. “Today our emergency plan doesn’t address it.”

King Co. Council orders study on oil train risks, preparation for possible accidents

With the number of oil trains passing through the area rising, the pressure is on to find ways to mitigate the potential harm to the public.

On Monday, the King County Council unanimously passed legislation directing emergency officials to study the risks of transporting petroleum products by rail and to prepare for possible accidents.

What Happened in Last Summer’s Oil Train Disaster in Quebec That Killed 47

Details of the events leading to last July’s oil train disaster in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, have been made public for the first time. They reinforce an existing portrait of the accident as a perfect storm of corporate malfeasance.

The information comes from a freedom of information request by the Montreal English-language daily The Gazette and the French daily Journal de Montréal. The two newspapers obtained a 29-page document prepared by Quebec provincial police in its application for a search warrant of the offices of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) several weeks following the disaster.

Details released surrounding crude oil train routes in Virginia

The public is getting its first look at details surrounding trains loaded with volatile crude oil that travel through Virginia.

CSX operates between two and five trains loaded with crude oil through Virginia each week, according to a disclosure report filed with the state’s department of emergency management earlier in June.

Wash. state senators say public has right to know about oil trains

Local governments, responders and residents need to know what and how much is loaded onto oil trains that pass through Washington cities, two Washington state senators argue in a letter to railroads and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

Oil refineries in northern Puget Sound began receiving rail shipments of crude oil from North Dakota in September of 2012, and shipments have since soared.

Statoil strikes out in well at center of Greenpeace standoff

Statoil ASA failed to find oil in the northernmost site ever drilled off Norway’s Arctic tip.

The Apollo well, which had been the focus of a standoff with Greenpeace activists that occupied its rig last month, was “dry,” the Stavanger-based Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said in a statement today.

“We’re thrilled that there were no accidents and we’re thrilled that they didn’t find anything,” said Truls Gulowsen, program manager for Greenpeace Norway, by phone today. “If they had listened to us, they would have avoided wasting hundreds of millions of kroner on a meaningless exploration well.”

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