Environmental Must-Reads – June 25, 2014


Colorado suspends oil and gas wastewater disposal well after quake

Disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling into a Colorado well was ordered halted this week after seismic activity was detected in the area, state regulators said on Tuesday.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered High Sierra Water Services to stop disposing wastewater for 20 days into the well in Weld County after seismologists detected a small 2.6-magnitude temblor on Monday. That came after a 3.4-magnitude earthquake shook the area on May 31.

Greeley area hit by second earthquake this month

On Monday at 11:27 a.m., a 2.6 magnitude earthquake rattled to the surface from 2.5 miles under the earth 5 miles north-east of Greeley. It’s roughly the same spot that generated a 3.4 magnitude quake on May 31st and that fueled speculation that waste-fluid injection wells tied to the oil-and-gas drilling process known as fracking were bringing quakes to the region.

Greeley is in the heart of the northern Front Range gas patch, where the politics of fracking have heated up, pitting residents and environmental groups against the drilling industry and most political leaders, who for years have seemed unwilling or powerless to address resident concerns in a way that might quell growing public concern and frustration.

Frackquakes in Colorado? Scientists Probe Fracking Wastewater Link to CO Earthquakes

At 9:35 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, Greeley, Colorado was struck by a 3.4 magnitude earthquake. Earthquakes are highly unusual in eastern Colorado, raising speculation that it was a “frackquake” — a man-made earthquake stimulated by the disposal of contaminated drilling water in deep injection wells. This disposal technique forces wastewater generated from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) deep into underground rock formations, lubricating layers of rock that would not ordinarily be subject to movement.

Fracking chemicals could mess with your hormones

Feeling overly hormonal? Not hormonal enough? Just wait for frackers to move into your neighborhood and let them throw the medical dice for you. Fracking chemicals have been found to screw with many of the hormones that control a wide range of important bodily functions.

Last year, a team of researchers reported that fracking chemicals found in water samples from a heavily fracked region of Colorado messed with human estrogen and androgen receptors in laboratory experiments. Those scientists linked Colorado’s fracking binge with “moderate levels” of such chemicals in the Colorado River, which is a major source of drinking water. That’s screwed up, because those hormones help us maintain sexual health.

Anti-fracking resolution up for vote before Mandeville City Council

The Mandeville City Council may join other St. Tammany officials and entities in formally opposing fracking in the parish. A resolution by Councilman David Ellis supporting a prohibition on the controversial oil drilling procedure is on the council’s Thursday night agenda.

Confusion Mars Loveland Fracking Vote

A special election in Loveland on a fracking moratorium has been marred by confusion.

The Tuesday vote coincided with primary election contests, and some voters returned ballots for both in the same envelope.

Oil From U.S. Fracking Is More Volatile Than Expected

Millions of barrels of crude oil flowing from shale formations around the country—not just North Dakota—are full of volatile gases that make it tricky to transport and to process into fuel.

Oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale field has already been identified as combustible by investigators looking into explosions that followed train derailments in the past year.

Anti-shale gas group suing New Brunswick government

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance and three citizens are suing the provincial government over plans to develop the industry in New Brunswick.

The alliance, which represents 22 community organizations, and the three other plaintiffs, filed a notice of action and statement of claim with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saint John on Monday, alleging Charter of Rights and Freedoms violations.

Marcellus waste ends up in NY landfills, study finds it could be radioactive

Whenever an oil or gas well is drilled, the material that comes out of the well can include rocks and drilling mud and brine and water. New York and the other states in the Marcellus region allow that waste, which comes up before a well is fracked, into municipal landfills.

A study by the US Geological Survey found that the radioactivity associated with the Marcellus Shale is three times higher than in other layers.

Frac sand mining ruling could affect similar Minnesota cases

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld a Winona County decision that no environmental impact statement is needed for a controversial frac sand mining project already operating in Saratoga Township.

Jay Squires, a Minneapolis lawyer representing the county, said the ruling could have implications for similar disputes in the state. Unlike Wisconsin, he said, “we’ve not had too many silica sand decisions.”

Horizontal drilling fuels Oklahoma’s latest oil boom

More than 2,600 oil and natural gas wells were completed in Oklahoma last year, according to reports filed with state regulators.

Nearly 20 percent of those wells were drilled in two counties, Alfalfa and Woods, in northwest Oklahoma, as companies once again applied for more than 4,000 drilling permits in 2013.

Western Mass. Residents On Edge Over Natural Gas Pipeline Proposal

Plans to build a natural gas pipeline through central and western Massachusetts are running into opposition from residents in the communities affected.

The pipeline begins in Troy, Pennsylvania and runs through Wright, New York before entering Massachusetts in Richmond. It would run through dozens of communities before ending in Dracut.

Residents in eastern Kansas town raise concerns about eruption along gas pipeline

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.

Pipeline Spills 1,300 Gallons And Kills Crops

A Thursday pipeline spill near Olpe has caused acres of damage to surrounding vegetation. However, people are not a risk.

Crews are still cleaning up five days after a pipeline spilled just north of Olpe near the Panhandle Eastern’s Plant.

“It was a bad spill. It was a bad situation,” says Brian Rees, Lyon County Extensions Office Agricultural Department.

Pipeline mishap causing serious problems

Some residents in Olpe are dealing with a sticky situation after an accident at the Panhandle Easter Pipeline Company coated plants with an dark, oily residue withering crops and trees, essentially suffocating the plants.

“Where the natural gas condensates got on vegetation, you’ll see that the vegetation has died and that is because like natural gas, it would suffocate the plants and vegetation underneath,” said Sarah Belfry with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

BP ends internal oil spill claims program: Has your business been affected?

While BP continues its public battle against business payments under its massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill settlement, the company has quietly stopped payments through an internal program set up to compensate claimants who opted out of the deal.

As first reported Monday (June 23) by WWL, the British oil giant abruptly shuttered the BP Claims Program last week, though it’s still unclear how many claimants are impacted by the move.

Oyster beds still recovering after storms, oil spill

For the first time in its 100-year-plus history, one of New Orleans’ biggest oyster dealers has resorted to importing oysters to subsidize demand for the shellfish delicacy, which in recent years, dealers say, has become hard to harvest in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Al Sunseri, co-owner of P&J Oyster Co. in the French Quarter and a member of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, said Tuesday that his company has shucked and sold fresh Louisiana oysters for more than 130 years. In his 35 years with the company, he said, he’s never seen anything like today’s market.

Nearly 1,400 pounds of BP oil removed from seashore

A tar mat discovered on a beach in the Gulf Islands 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.

Crews dismantle tank at site of Colorado oil spill

Environmental officials and work crews are dismantling a flood-damaged storage tank so they can remove oil-stained soil from an area where about 7,200 gallons of crude leaked into a northern Colorado river.

Latest Oil Spill In Poudre Raises Questions About Sites Near Rivers

After a Noble Energy storage tank that spilled 178 barrels — about 7,500 gallons — of oil into the Poudre River was discovered June 20, questions arose about how vulnerable some oil and gas facilities are to flood damage.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has estimated that “more than 5,900 oil and gas wells lie within 500 feet of a Colorado waterway that is substantial enough to be named.”

Nigerian fishermen reject Shell’s $50 million

Thousands of Nigerian fishermen have rejected an offer of $50 million from Royal Dutch Shell for “some of the largest oil spills in history,” their British lawyers said Friday after winning a landmark court ruling.

Shell already accepts responsibility for paying compensation and cleaning up spills caused by its own failures. But the London High Court decided that Shell can be held legally liable for spills caused by oil thefts, if it fails to provide reasonable protection for its pipeline infrastructure.

Overturned Tanker In Sonoma County Spills 5,600 Gallons Of Oil, Closes Highway 1

An oil tanker overturned on state Highway 1 Tuesday morning, spilling 5,600 gallons of oil onto the roadway and into a dry creek bed north of Jenner in Sonoma County, California Highway Patrol officials said.

House moves another bill advancing Keystone XL Pipeline

The House voted 238-173 Tuesday for legislation that would eliminate a requirement that oil and gas pipelines crossing international borders get a permit from the White House — a move intended to push forward the Keystone XL Pipeline.

All five Louisiana House Republican members — Steve Scalise, Bill Cassidy, Vance McAllister, John Fleming and Charles Boustany – voted for the bill. The delegation’s only Democrat, Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, voted no.

B.C. oil pipeline: A threat to the whole Northwest?

In Big Energy’s massive rush to export oil and coal from inland United States and Canadian mines and wells to the hungry power users of Asia, there’s a leader. First-past-the-post honors go to Northern Gateway.

The Canadian government has approved the plan to send Alberta tar sands oil to northern British Columbia for export.

‘Bambi Taking on Godzilla’: A Q&A With Nation’s Top Pipeline Safety Advocate

Fifteen years ago this month, gasoline from a burst pipeline spilled into a Bellingham, Wash. creek and exploded, killing three boys: ten-year-olds Stephen Tsiorvas and Wade King, and 18-year-old Liam Wood. The tragedy opened the nation’s eyes to dangers lurking in the labyrinth of pipelines underground and spurred Bellingham residents to launch SAFE Bellingham, a group that would later morph into America’s first pipeline safety watchdog.

First Crude Oil Train Rolls Out of Black Thunder Terminal

Another rail loading facility for crude oil opened in Wyoming last week, bringing the total to at least seven.

Seventy- thousand barrels of Wyoming oil rolled out of the Black Thunder terminal in the Powder River Basin, headed for a refinery on the East Coast.

Oil Train Info Shows Heavy Traffic

Disclosures from railroads about volatile oil shipments from the Northern Plains show dozens of the trains passing weekly through Illinois and the Midwest and up to 19 a week reaching Washington state on the West Coast.

The Associated Press obtained details on the shipments Tuesday under public records requests filed with state emergency officials. They offer the most detailed insights to date on the increasing volumes of crude being moved across North America by rail in the wake of a domestic shale oil boom.

With 18 oil trains weekly, Columbia River Gorge is the key route for Pacific Northwest’s crude-by-rail

Eighteen oil trains a week move along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, newly released data shows, a figure that could more than double if a proposed Vancouver, Wash., oil train terminal opens.

BNSF Railway Co. notified Washington authorities that it hauled 19 oil trains through Klickitat County in one week between May 29 and June 4, the state’s most heavily traveled route. All but one continued on through the gorge to Clark County, en route to Seattle and Portland.

Government estimates all Fukushima areas safe for living by 2021

Evacuees can return home in the hardest-hit areas around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by 2021, after decontamination work sufficiently reduces radiation levels there, according to government estimates released on June 23.

Fukushima nuclear plant water purifier restarted

Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has restarted its trouble-plagued water decontamination system for the first time in three months, the utility said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has been forced to repeatedly switch off its Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which purifies radiation-tainted water, due to a series of glitches plaguing the system since trial operations began last year.

Fukushima operator restarts water decontamination system

Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on Sunday restarted its trouble-plagued water decontamination system for the first time in three months, the utility said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has been forced to repeatedly switch off its Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which purifies radiation-tainted water, due to a series of glitches plaguing the system since trial operations began last year.

Ishihara visits Fukushima in latest apology over cash-for-storage gaffe

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara on Monday apologized again for making a remark suggesting that the issue of where to store contaminated soil from the damaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant was a matter of handing out money.

Angry Japan farmers bring cow from Fukushima to Tokyo

Angry farmers from Fukushima brought a large cow to the centre of Tokyo Friday to demand Japan’s government investigate a disease they say cattle have developed since the nuclear disaster three years ago.

Better working conditions needed to tackle Fukushima plant toxic water

A Japanese government official involved in measures to combat the toxic water buildup at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant emphasized the importance of improving working conditions for the roughly 6,000 workers at the site during a recent tour for Kyodo News reporters.

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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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