Environmental Must-Reads – June 4, 2014


The Potential Downside of Natural Gas

CONVENTIONAL wisdom, strongly promoted by the natural gas industry, is that natural gas drives down American emissions of carbon dioxide, by substituting for carbon-rich coal. The climate stabilization plan announced by the Obama administration on Monday relies on that. But in other ways, cheap natural gas drives emissions up.

“It’s a seesaw,” said Michael W. Yackira, chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association of the investor-owned electric companies. Some of the factors are hard to quantify, making it uncertain whether, in the long term, natural gas’s net effect is positive for climate control.

Oil company president tells St. Tammany leaders that fracking operation would be respectful to parish

Perhaps hoping to counter some of the public criticism of its proposed fracking project north of Mandeville, Helis Oil & Gas Co. recently sent letters to officials across the parish pledging to conduct the drilling operation in a “respectful and disciplined” manner. Company President David Kerstein made the statement and outlined the company’s plans to drill in a May 30 letter apparently sent to a number of officials, including the St. Tammany Parish Council and Mandeville City Council.

Fracking Bans Get High-Court Test

New York state’s highest court heard arguments Tuesday on two cases concerning whether towns can use zoning regulations to ban the practice of the natural-gas extraction method known as fracking.

Legal experts say the decision made by the state of New York Court of Appeals will have ramifications for more than 170 towns and cities in the state that have banned or enacted moratoria on fracking, according to FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit that monitors gas drilling.

N.Y.’s Local Fracking Bans Spur Debate Before Top Court

New York’s cities and towns shouldn’t be able to block hydraulic fracturing within their borders because such prohibitions are trumped by state law, opponents of the bans told the state’s highest court.

Lawyers defending such measures enacted by the upstate towns of Dryden and Middlefield argued to the Court of Appeals in Albany today that local governments are within their rights to bar fracking, which uses chemically treated water to free gas trapped in rock.

Greeley quake adds ammunition to Colorado fracking war

On Saturday night, a 3.4 magnitude earthquake rumbled out from its epicenter 4.8 miles north east of Greeley, the city at the heart of the northern Front Range gas patch in Colorado, shaking homes and baffling residents and raising more questions about the safety of the intense drilling activity that has covered Weld County with tens of thousands of wells.

“Felt like someone was on the roof pounding it with a very big sledge hammer and the windows also shaked,” wrote one of the more than hundred area residents who filed brief accounts at Earthquake Report. “Went outside to see if someone was on the roof. Found myself in the company of my neighbors who also experienced their houses shaking.”

Public hearing on proposed Denton fracking ban scheduled for July

After a Tuesday night city council meeting, the City of Denton inched a little closer to becoming the first city in Texas to ban energy exploration in city limits.

Fracking opponents in Denton spoke first by signing their name on a petition, which was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, and they’ll soon have a microphone and the city council as an audience.

Seismic devices installed in eastern Ohio to monitor for quakes around injection wells

On New Year’s Eve 2011, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake rocked Akron and the rest of Northeast Ohio.

That quake was traced to an injection well near Youngstown. Below ground was a rock fracture that’s getting lubricated by the pressurized salty drilling wastes injected deep underground for disposal.

Gas boom dulls carbon rule’s effect

Despite fears that the Obama administration’s proposed rule to curb carbon-dioxide pollution could wreak severe damage on the economy, the true effect is likely to be much more modest. And a key reason can be linked to the nation’s boom in natural gas production.

The Environmental Protection Agency, in announcing plans Monday to reduce power plant emissions 30% by 2030 from 2005 levels, estimated that the measure will cost up to $8.8 billion annually for compliance.

North Dakota starts natural gas capturing plans

North Dakota oil companies must submit a gas capturing plan with their drilling permits beginning this month in an attempt to cut down the amount of natural gas that is burned off and wasted as a byproduct of oil production.

The state Industrial Commission, which regulates North Dakota’s oil and gas industry, in March unanimously endorsed the proposal, which was self-imposed by the industry. The plan must include detailed information about when a well is slated for completion, its location and anticipated production. The plan also must contain a signed affidavit to show that gas-gathering companies have been consulted so that they may plan to meet the demand.

Legal scholars again urge Jindal to veto bill to kill lawsuit against oil, gas companies

Damage claims filed by a variety of local and state agencies against BP stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill could be negated by a bill approved by the legislature that is designed to kill a suit filed by the east bank levee authority against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies, according to a revised letter from 22 law professors and a retired New Orleans judge asking Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto the bill.

Federal hearing on Texas oil spill resumes in Galveston

The captain of a tugboat whose barges collided with a cargo freighter in the Houston Ship Channel in March says the larger vessel increased its speed in foggy conditions and she couldn’t turn quickly to avoid the crash.

No one was hurt in the March 22 accident but nearly 170,000 gallons of oil spilled into the busy waterway and the Gulf of Mexico.

Ship Officers Agree Speed, Fog Factor in Collision

The captain of a tugboat whose barge collided with a cargo freighter in the Houston Ship Channel said Tuesday the larger vessel increased its speed in foggy conditions and she couldn’t maneuver quickly enough to avoid the crash.

The pilot guiding the freighter said he never heard earlier radio traffic from the tug, did not expect it would cross in front of his vessel and did not see the other boat until it was too late to avoid a collision.

City getting closer to finding source of oil spill in Grand River, cleanup ending

City officials are closer to identifying the source of an oil spill that closed parts of the Grand River in the county.

“We think we are having some luck. We should have something within a few days,” said Todd Knepper, director of the city’s Department of Public Works.

WWF: Oil spill in northwest Finland worse than expected

The environmental organization World Wildlife Fund says last Friday’s oil spill in the northwest Finland city of Raahe is worse than originally estimated. Volunteers will continue their cleanup efforts in the islands near the mainland for as long as another week. On Tuesday volunteers focused their recovery efforts on the island of Selkämatala, an important marine nesting ground.

“This is a critical location. There’s some oil on the beach and many birds are here,” said WWF field coordinator Teemu Niinimäki.

Oil Spills In Wildlife Refuge After Republicans Dismiss Need For New Regulation

Two weeks after Republican lawmakers dismissed the need for new rules on drilling in national wildlife refuges, federal agencies are cleaning up a crude oil spill in a Louisiana refuge.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday that an estimated 50 barrels of oil spilled in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, affecting 10 acres of freshwater marsh. The Times-Picayune reported that officials first identified the spill on May 28 and are now working to clean it up.

Plains Midstream pleads guilty, fined $1.3 million for two oil spills

Pipeline company Plains Midstream has pleaded guilty to three charges relating to two massive pipeline breaks that spilled nearly 5 million litres of crude oil into Alberta waterways, and agreed to pay a combined $1.3 million in fines.

The charges relate to two incidents. The smaller one was a spill on June 7, 2012, where a pipeline owned by Plains Midstream failed, spilling 462,750 litres of oil into the Red Deer River and Glennifer Lake, near the town of Sundre, Alberta.

BLM releases final report on national monument oil spill

The Bureau of Land Management released the final report on an oil spill in Little Valley Wash in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Working in coordination with the Dixie National Forest, which manages the majority of these lands, and with representatives from the current field operator – Citation Oil & Gas Corporation – the BLM conducted field inspections with petroleum engineering technicians, natural resource specialists, geologists, botanists, biologists, and other experts in resource management to determine the extent and impacts of the spill.

Washington-area woman charged with $900,000 BP oil spill fraud in Mobile

Federal agents Tuesday arrested a Washington, D.C.-area woman on charges that she helped make more than $900,000 worth of fraudulent claims related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

L.A. Spill Case Has Exposed Flaw in Pipeline Safety Oversight

On March 17, a Los Angeles-area oil pipeline spilled between 1,500 and 3,000 gallons of crude onto a neighborhood street, surprising residents and creating a noxious mess that took weeks to fully rectify.

The pipeline’s owner, Phillips 66, must have been plenty shocked, too. It thought the pipe was empty.

EPA Emissions Rule May Influence Decision on Keystone XL

One of the most sweeping environmental regulations in American history may also affect perhaps the biggest current symbol in the debate over U.S. energy and global warming policy.

A new emissions rule unveiled Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency – the first ever to address carbon-dioxide emissions from existing power plants – could influence whether President Barack Obama approves the controversial Keystone XL pipeline extension, which would carry crude oil about 1,200 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the American Midwest.

Breaking: TransCanada Shuts Down Southern Leg of Keystone XL Pipeline, Raising “Suspicions”

TransCanada shut down the southern leg of the Keystone XL (now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project) on June 2 for “routine work,” according to Reuters.

“Pipelines aren’t normally shut down for maintenance shortly after being started up. They may have planned it but something is wrong,” an industry insider told DeSmogBlog. “A two day shutdown on a new line raises suspicions.”

Canada’s Enbridge Reopens Midwest Pipeline

Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. said Tuesday it reopened a pipeline carrying crude oil from Canada through northern Indiana and southern Michigan that was shut down earlier in the day after a third-party power failure.

Enbridge said its Line 6B pipeline, which runs for 293 miles between Griffith, Ind., and Sarnia, Ontario went offline Tuesday morning after an unspecified power failure but returned to service later that day.

Anti-Keystone movement energized by EPA ruling

The green movement undoubtedly scored a significant win when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its ambitious plan to regulate power plant emissions on Monday. Although the EPA proposal is somewhat milder than what the movement had hoped for, it is still a landmark proposal, and an indication that the president intends to substantially reduce domestic carbon emissions during his time in office.

As a result, Monday’s announcement has bolstered progressive hopes that the Obama administration will nix the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension, thereby ending one of the fiercest energy policy battles in recent memory with another environmentalist victory.

U.S. lawmakers fault regulators for lax oil train controls

U.S. regulators reacted timidly to a spate of oil train mishaps and have been too reluctant to manage dangerous cargo on the tracks, several lawmakers said on Tuesday, faulting officials for lax oversight of a fast-growing industry.

After Crash Killing 47, Oil-by-Rail on Trial in Canada, Maine

A trial of three employees of the bankrupt Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) had a brief opening session in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, May 13. They are charged with criminal negligence in the oil train crash and conflagration on July 6, 2013, that killed 47 people and destroyed the center of the town.

The three – engineer Thomas Harding, manager of operations Jean Demaître, and traffic controller Richard Labrie – were formally charged and then released on bail. Their next court appearance is September 11.

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