Environmental Must-Reads – June 28, 2013


San Benito County Stands Up to Fracking

Last week, one rural county in central California took a big leap forward to protect its communities by passing groundbreaking regulation governing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and other oil and gas extraction operations.

Methane in Pennsylvania Groundwater May Originate in Fracked Gas Wells

A new study links elevated levels of methane and other gases in groundwater to nearby hydraulic fracturing wells on the Marcellus Shale, and suggests the problem lies in poorly designed well casings

Fracking critics unhappy with Obama climate speech

President Barack Obama’s speech this week on climate change forcefully rejected some key arguments made by opponents of natural gas fracking, upsetting some environmental groups that otherwise back his climate goals.

Environmentalists urge Mass. ban on “fracking”

Environmentalists are pressing Beacon Hill lawmakers to back a bill that would ban the practice of fracking in Massachusetts.

Review: ‘Gasland Part II’ probes a deeper layer in the ‘fracking’ controversy

The season of summer movie sequels need not apply only to superhero adventures. Apparently environmental documentaries can get in on the action as well, as the haunting and provocative “Gasland Part II” gets a small theatrical release ahead of its airing on HBO in early July. Many people had never heard of “fracking” — a process that uses drilling and high-pressure water to release natural gas from deep underground — until Josh Fox’s 2010 documentary “Gasland,” which went on to be nominated for an Academy Award. The process, and its health effects on people and impact on local water supplies, has become a point of great contention as it has moved around the country and now the globe, largely pitting environmentalists and grassroots activists on one side and the energy industry on the other.

EPA tells Ohio to stop keeping fracking secrets from first responders

Ohio firefighters, cops, and local officials might soon learn a little bit more about the poisons that frackers are storing and injecting into the ground beneath their feet.

The Growing Evidence of the Threat of Fracking to the Nation’s Groundwater

For some time now, proponents of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” have claimed there was little or no evidence of real risk to groundwater. But as the classic saying goes: “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” of a problem. And the evidence that fracking can contaminate groundwater and drinking water wells is growing stronger with every new study.

Tsunami of Public Outrage Against Fracking in Colorado

Many people used to think serving on city council wasn’t worth a bucket of warm piss, as Roosevelt’s first vice president, John Garner, famously described his job.

These council meetings were perceived as petty stuff when compared to the daily babble-dazzle about NFL gladiators and their owners, themselves the very soul of welfare capitalism. Sewers, gutters, zoning, budgets and taxation used to be the principal domain of city councils, with a little larceny thrown in now and then as reward—maybe a new driveway or remodeled bathroom from a favor-seeking contractor. In Colorado, city council members are sometimes paid a feeble $5,000 a year, but in smaller towns it may be nothing. Public service is its own reward.

Halliburton and ALEC Push Industry-Friendly Fracking Legislation in North Carolina

North Carolina senators are taking an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) style approach in their efforts to push through legislation that allows oil companies a loophole in regulations requiring disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations.

UK Earmarked for Fracking, Massive Public Backlash On Horizon

According to Greenpeace research almost two-thirds of England has been earmarked for potential fracking, and local opposition, particularly in Conservative constituencies, is expected to be fierce. Local hostility in Balcombe, West Sussex is already delaying the fracking process, with the Campaign to Protect Rural England warning of a massive backlash if large areas of countryside are “transformed into industrial sites.“

U.S. Senate panel looks at Geismar plant explosion

Federal lawmakers and officials discussed Thursday increasing the level of safety inspectors and improving enforcement under existing laws in the wake of recent plant explosions in Geismar and West, Texas.

Determining how much oil spilled from BP’s Gulf well ‘not an easy task,’ judge says

Determining how much oil was released from BP’s runaway Macondo well during the 86 days crude flowed into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 will be a challenge, the federal judge overseeing the sprawling civil trial said during a status conference Thursday.

Unsealed BP report could slash Gulf oil spill penalties by billions

A London petroleum engineering professor hired by BP claims the U.S. government overestimated by 50 percent the amount of oil that spewed from the company’s undersea Gulf of Mexico well in 2010. The finding could cut the maximum Clean Water Act penalties BP faces by up to $7 billion.

BP’s oil spill cleanup and closing tax loops

BP’s more than three years of clean-up of the Gulf Coast cost the company millions of dollars, but it also saved them billions of dollars in tax write-offs which in turn hit tax payers.

House advances plan to unleash drilling on US-Mexico maritime border

The House of Representatives advanced two items on the oil industry’s wish list Thursday, by passing legislation that would unleash drilling in the Western Gap area of the Gulf of Mexico and waive new financial reporting requirements on companies’ foreign dealmaking.

U.S., state officials file lawsuit against ExxonMobil over Arkansas oil spill

Residents of Mayflower, Ark., want payment from ExxonMobil for the environmental damage done by an oil spill there in March. In fact, they’re moving so fast they’ve forced the state and federal government to file suit against the company to seek fines and damages just a few months after the spill.

Secrecy surrounding Exxon’s Pegasus probe fuels questions over Keystone XL plans

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s bid to shield from public view its inspection results for a shuttered pipeline that leaked at least 5,000 barrels of heavy Canadian oil sands crude in Arkansas this spring is galvanizing a debate over transparency and spill readiness that could affect the future of Keystone XL.

Warrenton fishing company fined for ‘entirely preventable’ oil spill near Willapa Bay

The Washington Department of Ecology has fined fining Sturgell Fisheries of Warrenton $11,500 for spilling nearly 675 gallons of oil to state marine waters Jan. 25.

Canada Regulator Reports Oil Spill on Kinder Morgan Line

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P.’s said Thursday that it shut down a major Canadian oil pipeline after it leaked an estimated 20 to 25 barrels of crude oil into the ground near the British Columbia town of Hope, about 100 miles east of Vancouver.

Arkansas judge delays Enterprise distillate pipeline shutdown

An Arkansas judge has delayed the shutdown of a Texas-to-Indiana distillate pipeline that shippers say is critical to supply for various markets along its route, according to state and federal court filings.

Environmental groups call on state to tighten pipeline regulations

The Hoosier Environmental Council and the Pipeline Safety Trust on Thursday urged state officials to enact more stringent regulations of fuel pipelines traversing the state.

During a media Webinar, the groups said Indiana should regulate interstate pipelines as well as intrastate pipelines, adopt a law requiring full public interest review, and require state approval of facility response plans and rules for public participation and approval of plans prior to state approval.

Environmentalists seek new review of Keystone pipeline plan

Six advocacy groups have asked the State Department to prepare a new environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying that evidence has emerged showing it will hurt the environment.

The demand, contained in a 48-page letter, comes as President Obama has pledged to block the project, which would carry heavy crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast, if it would “significantly exacerbate the climate problem.”

Obama State Dept. Leaving Citizens in the Dark About Exact Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Believe it or not, the precise route of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline remains shrouded in mystery.

Of course, both TransCanada and the U.S. State Department have revealed basic Keystone XL route maps. And those who follow the issue closely know the pipeline would carry Alberta’s tar sands diluted bitumen or “dilbit” southward to Port Arthur, TX refineries and then be exported to the global market.

Keystone XL Will Unleash Tar Sands Expansion Causing Widespread Impacts

As President Obama recently set a high profile marker to review the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline based on its climate impacts, new analysis reveals that rapid acceleration of tar sands expansion tripling production by 2030 from 2010 levels will have shocking impacts to the environment and climate.  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is widely regarded as essential to further these expansion plans.  For this reason, we know that Keystone XL fails the climate test and the President should reject the pipeline.

Japan gets first MOX nuclear shipment since Fukushima

A vessel under armed guard and loaded with reprocessed nuclear fuel from France arrived at a Japanese port on Thursday, the first such shipment since the Fukushima disaster as utilities lobby to restart their atomic reactors.

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Casts Shadow Over EDF’s Safety Drill

For Electricite de France SA (EDF), a lot rode on its nuclear drill yesterday.

Members of its new rapid-action nuclear force created after the meltdown in Fukushima in Japan in 2011 gripped the nozzle of a hose, looking triumphant as it began spouting water from a canal near the utility’s Chinon atomic plant on the banks of the Loire River.

Melted fuel removal at Fukushima plant seen optimistically starting in 2020

Work to remove melted fuel from the three crippled reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant could start in 2020, the government and Tepco optimistically said Thursday, based on a revised, albeit vague, plan to decommission the stricken complex, a process expected to take decades.

TEPCO rejects compensation settlement for radiation anxiety

Tokyo Electric Power Co. on June 26 rejected a compensation proposal by a state arbitration body on grounds there is insufficient scientific evidence to support health anxieties by claimants about the future effects of radiation exposure, lawyers said.

US, Japan develop new method for analyzing radiation levels

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency have worked together to develop a new method for analyzing radiation data after nuclear accidents. The two agencies said the data gathered months after the nuclear disaster in 2011 was used to perform a detailed study and to come up with the new methodology.

Higher radiation levels may hint at leaking tank at Hanford facility

An elevated radiation level at a tank holding radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear complex in Washington state may indicate a leak, officials say.

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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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