Environmental Must-Reads – June 26, 2014


Air Pollution Spikes In Homes Near Fracking Wells

Levels of particulate matter spike at night inside homes near gas wells in Southwest Pennsylvania, the director of an environmental health monitoring project said Wednesday.

The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPA-EHP) has been conducting a “pretty aggressive” indoor air monitoring project since 2011 in the midst of Pennsylvania’s gas drilling boom, particularly near unconventional wells that employed hydraulic fracturing, project director Reina Ripple said in a webinar hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas exploring possible connections between fracking, earthquakes

Earthquakes used to be almost unheard of on the vast stretches of prairie that unfold across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma.

But in recent years, temblors have become commonplace. Oklahoma recorded nearly 150 of them between January and the start of May. Most were too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives. Yet they’ve rattled nerves and raised suspicions that the shaking might be connected to the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Proposed fracking project now has its own website

Helis Oil & Gas Co., which has taken a lot of heat over its proposed drilling and fracking near Mandeville, has launched a website for its project. The site, helisenergyproject.com, went online  Wednesday afternoon (June 25) and included a message from Helis President David Kerstein, who said the company would be respectful of the parish’s natural resources and citizens.

Officials shut drilling waste operations after second Weld earthquake

Colorado regulators shut down an oil and gas wastewater-disposal site in Weld County after a second earthquake in less than a month was detected.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission directed High Sierra Water Services to stop the underground injection of drilling waste after a 2.6-magnitude earthquake occurred Monday afternoon.

Fracking moratorium defeated in Loveland

Loveland voters on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have imposed a two-year stay on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within the City limits, according to unofficial election results.

The vote total opposing the fracking moratorium was 10,844, while those in favor totaled 9,942.

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.

Pennsylvania Weighs New Tax on Natural-Gas Drilling

Lawmakers facing a $1.5 billion budget gap in Pennsylvania are considering imposing a new tax on natural-gas production, one of several drilling-boom states wrestling with how much to tax the maturing industry.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has said a so-called severance tax, which drillers pay on the value of the gas taken from a well, could kill much-needed jobs. But his position recently has begun to soften.

House bill would require drillers to report production monthly

In an age of big, fast data, Pennsylvania takes its slow, sweet time collecting information on how much gas is produced from wells in the commonwealth.

A bill in the state House of Representatives aims to change that by requiring companies that operate Marcellus Shale and other unconventional wells to report their gas production monthly rather than only twice a year.

Narrow Shift by Washington on Oil Exports

As the oil industry pushes the Obama administration to lift a longstanding ban on the export of crude oil, the Commerce Department has granted two Texas companies permits to export a light, processed form of oil, according to people familiar with the matter.

Fracking could cause heart defects

PEOPLE living within ten miles of fracking sites could be at risk of heart defects, according to latest papers.

The publication, written by Michael Hill in The Lancet medical journal, highlights concerns over the controversial procedure to extract shale gas and oil from the ground.

Sinkhole frustrations continue

Frustration continues at the Bayou Corne sinkhole despite assurances from parish officials as well as the company that operated the collapsed underground salt dome cavern.

“Texas Brine indicated to the community that they should be able to remove all gas by the end of the year,” said John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. “I would say that it’s probably their plan, but I don’t believe that can happen”.

About 1,000 gallons spill from northeast Ohio oil well tank

Local officials say nearly 1,000 gallons of gas and oil spilled from a holding tank at an oil well in northeast Ohio.

The Vindicator in Youngstown reports that local and state authorities responded to the spill at a well in Bristol Township on Monday night.

Most of the oil spilled into Hebron wetlands recovered

More than 970 gallons of oil, about 88 percent of the 1,100 gallons that spilled into the wetlands at the Hebron Station School in late December, have now been recovered, a Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Additionally, a water sample was taken at the perimeter drain outfall pipe, and no petroleum was detected in the effluent from the pipe, DEP communications director Jessamine Logan said.

As delays snag Keystone XL, momentum builds for pipeline to Canada’s east coast

As the U.S. delays reviewing the Keystone XL proposal, experts say momentum has swelled for a plan to build a pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to Canada’s east coast — crossing numerous waterways, including the St. Lawrence River.

Experts say Canadian producers, scrambling to find more paths to export the glut of tar-sands oil produced in Alberta, want to increase railroad and pipeline capacity. They believe the Energy East pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. of Calgary, which unlike the Keystone XL project would not require U.S. approval, could play a key role toward that end by delivering crude oil to the Atlantic Coast for export. The plan has been praised by Canadian producers as a viable alternative to the Keystone XL pipeline extension, which would transport oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Rethinking the Keystone Pipeline

One of the recurring arguments in favor of Keystone XL—the hard-fought “bullet pipeline” that would create a direct link between the Alberta oil sands and the Gulf of Mexico—is that its defeat won’t keep oil in the ground or keep carbon out of the atmosphere. Canada exports 2.7 million barrels of oil every day, most of it strip-mined or melted from the vast deposits of oil-rich sand and clay under the forests of northern Alberta, and the United States is the country’s best customer. “This is oil that’s going to be produced whether or not there’s a Keystone pipeline,” the former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz told Ryan Lizza in an article for the magazine last September. “Get over it!”

Senate continues blame game on stalled Keystone Pipeline bill

For the second straight day, Republicans and Democrats took turns blaming each other Wednesday for the Senate’s failure to take up legislation that would authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline and bypass now required Obama administration approval.

Video: Idle No More Blasts Enbridge Inc.’s Line 9 Pipeline From Ontario to Quebec

First Nations across Canada are livid at the federal government’s approval of a massive pipeline built by Enbridge Inc. to run oil from the Alberta oil sands, through pristine indigenous territory in British Columbia, and on to the Pacific Coast for export to Asia.

But there’s another project being proposed for oil sands crude, by the same company. Enbridge in March won approval from Canada’s National Energy Board to reverse the flow of oil in Line 9, a pipeline that runs between Southern Ontario and Quebec, according to The Globe and Mail.

Worried residents question Enbridge

The message to Enbridge officials was clear Monday, as dozens of area residents gathered in Jefferson to voice their anger over an expansion project slated to increase pressure on an oil pipeline running through Jefferson County.

Enbridge Energies’ Line 61 runs through Wisconsin from Superior to Illinois, crossing into Jefferson County near Waterloo.?It travels through the southwestern corner of the county, crossing beneath the Rock River south of Fort Atkinson and just north of Lake Koshkonong.

North Dakota Discloses Oil Train Shipment Details

Dozens of mile-long trains loaded with crude are leaving western North Dakota each week, with most shipments going through the state’s most populous county while en route to refineries across the country.

The U.S. Department of Transportation ordered railroads last month to give state officials specifics on oil train routes and volumes so emergency responders can better prepare for accidents. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said a pattern of fiery accidents involving trains carrying crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana had created an “imminent hazard” to public safety.

State releases data on oil trains running through NorCal

BNSF Railway has been running oil trains through at least nine counties in Northern California, according to documents released Wednesday by the state’s Office of Emergency Services.

Last month, the federal government ordered rail companies to begin providing the information to state and local emergency responders.

Oil Train Traffic On The Rise, Prompting Worry About Busy Routes Through Urban Areas

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.

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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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