Environmental Must-Reads – June 5, 2013


Boulder approves one-year fracking moratorium

Boulder City Council members Tuesday night unanimously approved a one-year fracking moratorium, blocking oil and gas drilling permits in the city and on Boulder-owned open space properties.

Several council members also said they are warm to the idea of bringing forward a ballot measure in November to approve a longer-term ban — a process that would involve study sessions and public hearings in coming months.

Hauler illegally dumped fracking waste, state says

An Ohio company that hauls fracking waste from Utica shale wells ceased operations yesterday after state officials accused it of illegal dumping.

Employees for Harch Environmental Resources dumped fracking waste and oil-based mud down a hill to a private pond in Belmont County on May 16, according to a news release from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

French fracking ban endorsed on U.S. environmental repercussions

France’s ban on hydraulic fracturing should not be eased because the oil and gas drilling technique is causing “considerable” environmental damage in the U.S., according to a government minister.

“We have to have our eyes wide open about what is going on in the U.S.,” Environmental and Energy Minister Delphine Batho said during a radio debate. “The reality is that the cost of producing gas doesn’t take into account considerable environmental damage.”

Germany shelves ‘fracking’ draft law for now

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Tuesday dropped plans for a draft law on “fracking” for the time being amid concerns by some coalition allies about the oil and gas extraction technique, sources said.

New York’s Top Court Asked to Hear Fracking Home Rule Cases

New York’s top court has been asked to decide whether local governments can ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Last month a mid-level appeals court ruled unanimously in favor of upholding local bans in the towns of Dryden and Middlefield, meaning there’s no requirement for the case to be taken up by the top court.

Alberta First Nation loses lawsuit over B.C. oil and gas rights sales

Members of an Alberta First Nation lost their bid to stop the sale of oil and gas tenure in neighbouring British Columbia, but they did win recognition from the judge that they must be consulted.

The Dene Tha filed the lawsuit against the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, Nexen Inc., Penn West Petroleum Ltd., and Vero Energy Inc., claiming the band was not adequately consulted on the B.C. government’s sale of subsurface exploration rights on 21 parcels of land three years ago, most for shale gas “fracking” development in northeastern B.C.

Illinois’ Flawed Fracking Law Is Everyone’s Problem, Ecologist Says

What happens in Illinois, doesn’t stay in Illinois. That was the message last week of acclaimed scientist and author Sandra Steingraber, who joined the growing local uprising’s last ditch effort to pass a moratorium on the controversial hydraulic gas drilling operations until the state could conduct a comprehensive scientific and health assessment.

Hundreds Pack Hearing to Save Rock Run and Loyalsock State Forest from Fracking

Last night, over 400 people packed a hearing in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, to let both the gas drilling industry and state authorities know that the people are drawing a line in the sand when it comes to Anadarko’s plans to frack a sacred place — Rock Run, in the Loyalsock State Forest — to bits.

A Little Radiation May Be A Big Deal As Ordinance Could Halt GreenHunter

The natural gas wastewater that GreenHunter Water plans to recycle in Warwood can contain trace amounts of radioactive radium and radon, according to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

BP’s Oil Spill Deal Sours as Claims Add Billions to Cost

BP Plc’s (BP/) $8 billion settlement with victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill may have hurt Europe’s second-largest oil company more than it helped.

The company is relying on a U.S. appeals court to rein in awards by the settlement’s claims administrator for what it considers to be unreasonable demands, such as a $21 million payout to a rice mill 40 miles from the coast whose revenue rose the year of the spill.

Briefings for BP Oil Spill Settlement Claims Today

Alabama’s Attorney General, Luther Strange, and Patrick Juneau, a court-appointed oil spill claims administrator, will conduct briefings about who is qualified to file a claim in the settlement with BP and how to go about filing.

Court to keep BP emails out of Gulf oil spill trial

U.S. Magistrate Mary Shushan has ruled on behalf of BP to disallow certain email communications from an upcoming trial on Feb. 27 to delineate responsibility among companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and subsequent oil spill.

Shushan ruled that communications were often not within the scope of professional relationships and should be discounted. In addition, the magistrate determined some of the emails were clearly substitutes for phone calls, casual in nature and contained hearsay.

Ecuador Oil Spill Pollutes Amazon Tributary

Ecuador’s state oil company resumed pumping through the country’s main pipeline on Tuesday, four days after it was damaged by a landslide. But crude spilled by the accident reached tributaries of the Amazon River and polluted drinking water for a regional capital far downstream.

Russian communities clean up oil spill as company does nothing

On Sunday 26 May, oil began flowing down the Kolva River through Komi indigenous land in northern Russia. For a week now, the oil has been coating the river and building up on the banks, with no reaction from Rusvietpetro, the joint venture company of VietPetro and Zarubezhneft, a state-controlled Russian oil company, and no cleanup being organised by the company or even the local authorities.

Canada’s oil spill response outdated, could not handle Exxon Valdez-sized spill

The National Energy Board’s Northern Gateway joint review panel isn’t expected to issue its findings until late this year but a report on the Canadian Coast Guard’s woeful spill-response capability aren’t likely to help the massive project’s prospects.

Crews working to clean 15,000 gallon mineral oil spill

In Sebastian County, emergency crews are still cleaning up a mineral oil spill that happened over the weekend.

5NEWS reported that an O.G.E. Transformer exploded, spilling 15,000 gallons of mineral oil into Massard Creek. While officials said the spill is non-toxic, people living in the area say they weren’t even told about the spill.

400 ft. of protective berm sinks around giant Louisiana sinkhole

There are more problems at the site of the giant sinkhole in southeast Louisiana.

Officials said between 400 and 500 feet of the berm on the south side of the sinkhole, which was set up to help keep possible contaminants from leaking into other parts of the swamp, has now sunk underwater.

Levee, trees sink after week of tremors at sinkhole

A 400- to 500-foot section of the emergency containment levee around the Assumption Parish sinkhole disappeared under as many as 4 feet of swampland water after a nearly weeklong active period of tremors, parish officials said Tuesday.

Stability indicators show near sinkhole

Like a chocolate soufflé removed too soon from the oven, fractured rock and sediment rising up for months inside a failed salt dome cavern tied to the Assumption Parish sinkhole has begun to drop, if ever so slightly.

The fall could be an indication that stability is increasing around the 15.1-acre sinkhole and Texas Brine Co.’s failed cavern that is suspected of causing the sinkhole to form, company officials and regulators agreed Friday.

Pungent rats will serve as bait for endangered beetles along pipeline route

Building the $5.3 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline across the middle of the United States will require thousands of workers and millions of pounds of steel.

It also will require a lot of smelly dead rats.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service this month said Keystone’s proposed route across Nebraska put the endangered American burying beetle at risk. The agency said the black and orange-spotted insect could be spared, and the project move forward, if proper procedure is followed.

No Time for Pipeline

Oklahoma City residents Nancy Zorn and Stefan Warner are among several members of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance arrested for nonviolently protesting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Opposition to the pipeline and development of the Canadian tar sands is based on a long-range view of tar sands development and its threat to sustainability on earth.

TransCanada Digging Up Defective Segments of New Pipeline, Angering Landowners in Texas

A Canadian company is repairing dozens of defects along the newly laid southern leg of the Keystone XL—the section of the oil pipeline that does not need approval from the U.S. State Department and is already under construction.

Statoil sees new era in Arctic oil hub

Statoil is to build an oil terminal in the Arctic that the Norwegian group said could spark “a new industrial era” in the region.

The state-controlled oil and gas group will spend NKr80bn-Nkr90bn ($14.6bn-$16.4bn) to develop the hub close to its Skrugard and Havis fields – thought to contain 400m-600m barrels of oil – in the Barents Sea.

Statoil delays $15.5 bln Arctic project over tax rise

Statoil delayed a $15.5 billion Arctic oil project on Wednesday due to a planned tax increase, dealing a blow to the Norwegian government’s hopes of creating a new oil region in the far north.

State-controlled Statoil said it would halt the Johan Castberg development, the biggest project in Norway’s part of the Barents Sea, and withhold contracts for now after the tax rise sharply raised its already high break-even cost.

In Reversal, Tepco Says Water at Fukushima Is Contaminated

In an embarrassing reversal from its earlier claims, the operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant said that radioactive particles have been detected in groundwater flowing into the plant, an admission that could raise renewed questions about the company’s ability to handle the plant’s cleanup.

Fukushima tuna study finds minuscule health risks

Go ahead, order the sushi.

Levels of radioactivity found in Pacific bluefin tuna that spawned off Japan around the time of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident are far below anything that would pose a health risk and have dropped in fish caught the following year, U.S. researchers reported Monday.

Fukushima schools re-build after disaster

How do you re-build an education system destroyed by a disaster? The OECD’s Andreas Schleicher describes the efforts in Japan, two years after the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

Thyroid cancer hits 12 kids in Fukushima

An ongoing study on the impact of radiation on Fukushima residents from the crippled atomic power plant has found 12 minors with confirmed thyroid cancer diagnoses, up from three in a report in February, with 15 other suspected cases, up from seven, researchers announced Wednesday.

NRA releases images of debris inside Fukushima reactor building

The Nuclear Regulation Authority released some of the images on June 4 of damaged equipment that was used to cool a reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Act against conventional pollution, cell tower radiation, experts exhort

Radiation from cellphones and towers is set to become as major a source of pollution as air, water and noise. Skin rashes, hearing problems, sleeplessness, migraines, fatigue, lack of concentration, fearfulness and skin dehydration are among the problems reported by people living in the vicinity of mobile phone towers, which are to be found in every other building in the city. Environmental activists and experts say that citizens and the government must act not only against conventional sources of pollution, but also radiation from cell towers and gadgets.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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