Environmental Must-Reads – June 7, 2013


Dome: Vote on fracking moratorium moves to full NC House

An N.C. House committee approved a bill Thursday that keeps the state’s fracking moratorium in place and puts the state geologist back on the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission.

The legislation, Senate Bill 76, rejects the Senate’s attempt to fast-track shale gas exploration in North Carolina and restores a number of public protections and environmental safeguards the legislature enacted last year. The bill passed another House committee Wednesday and is expected to be voted on Friday by the full House.

Confidentiality Agreements Prevent Fracking Contamination Claims From Being Made Public

Bloomberg reports on how confidentiality agreements with landowners across the country have helped protect drilling companies from bad publicity and allegations of pollution.

The article specifically mentions the Hallowich v. Range Resources case in Washington County.

The Hallowich family sued gas drillers after they said drilling activity near their home outside Pittsburgh made their children sick. The case was eventually settled for $750,000, but the family signed a strict gag order.

Is fracking regulation a federal issue?

A couple of items about fracking regulations worth keeping track of. First, the Associated Press reports that the comment period is being extended by 60-days for a new rule that will regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The 171-page rule would require companies who drill for oil and natural gas using hydraulic fracturing to disclose chemicals used in the process.

Drillers Silence Fracking Claims With Sealed Settlements

Chris and Stephanie Hallowich were sure drilling for natural gas near their Pennsylvania home was to blame for the headaches, burning eyes and sore throats they suffered after the work began.

The companies insisted hydraulic fracturing — the technique they used to free underground gas — wasn’t the cause. Nevertheless, in 2011, a year after the family sued, Range Resources Corp (RRC). and two other companies agreed to a $750,000 settlement. In order to collect, the Hallowiches promised not to tell anyone, according to court filings.

Fracking Industry Asks NY Court to Throw Out Gas Drilling Bans

Proponents of hydraulic fracturing have asked New York’s top court to decide whether local governments can ban gas drilling, but whether the court agrees to take the case is far from certain. Attorneys for Norse Energy and an Otsego County farmer made the filing late Friday, asking the seven-member Court of Appeals to take on the cases of a pair of upstate towns that changed their zoning laws in 2011 to ban hydrofracking and gas drilling.

Californians uneasy about fracking’s safety, lack of oversight

As energy companies seek to plumb vast reserves of underground oil in California through the controversial drilling technique known as fracking, voters are concerned about its safety and uneasy with the state’s lack of oversight, according to a new poll.

More than half of voters — 58% — say they favor a moratorium on the process of injecting chemicals deep into the ground to tap oil and natural gas deposits embedded in rock until an independent commission has studied its environmental effects. More than seven in 10 say they either want the process banned outright or more heavily regulated, according to the poll by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times.

Judge hands partial victory to former BP engineer charged in Gulf oil spill case

A former BP engineer accused of obstructing the investigation of the 2010 Gulf oil spill by deleting hundreds of text and voice mail messages scored a partial victory Thursday when a federal judge ruled prosecutors may mention only a handful of the voice messages to jurors.

Gulf of Mexico oil-cleanup progress slow, funding still uncertain

Three years after the infamous BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast, lawmakers are still trying to nail down the effectiveness of past, present and future relief efforts backed by billions of dollars.

Restoration efforts will receive anywhere from $5.4 billion to $21 billion from parties responsible for the spill, depending on the outcome of ongoing civil trials in New Orleans. Of that, a law passed in July 2012 dictates that 30 percent of funds will go to broad ecosystem restoration, 65 percent will be divided among the five Gulf Coast states — Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama — and 5 percent will be invested in scientific purposes, such as research, monitoring and technology.

ExxonMobil file for dismissal of lawsuit seeking damages related to oil spill at Mayflower

Attorneys for ExxonMobil Corp. and Exxon Pipeline Co. have filed a motion asking for dismissal of a lawsuit by Mayflower residents over a recent oil spill.

ExxonMobil Pipeline’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured March 29 and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in the town about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock and forced the evacuation of about 20 homes.

Ecuador resumes pumping after oil spill, but crude enters waters of Amazon tributary

Ecuador’s state oil company says it has resumed pumping through the country’s main pipeline four days after it was damaged by a landslide. But a spill caused by the slide polluted drinking water for a city of about 80,000 people.

Bec Chairman: Several Companies Could Be Responsible For Oil Spill

FOLLOWING reports of a “huge oil spill” in the Clifton area near the BEC power plant, BEC chairman Leslie Miller pointed out that there are several companies in that area that could be responsible for the spill.

Tar Sands Re-route Coming to a Wetlands Near You

Back in 2011, when Gulf Coast residents were still reeling from the BP oil spill disaster, a pipeline company, Plains Southcap, LLC received a quiet approval to build a 45-mile pipeline in Montgomery Co. Alabama. Once constructed, the pipeline  “capable of transporting 150,000 barrels of oil per day when completed” will run from Ten Mile terminal in Mobile — where tar sands oil carried south from Canada by train can be unloaded — under the Mobile river, through dozens of wetlands and end up in Pascagoula, Miss. where it can be refined.

A “tar sand” pipeline actually contains tar, sulphur, arsenic, and mercury

In the wake of renewed interest in the Keystone Pipeline project and the likelihood that Obama will eagerly approve it unless we stop him, there’s a lot of interest in what actually flows through those pipes.

Reid: Keystone XL vote coming

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thurdsay said the Senate will hold a vote on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline

“There’s going to come a time when we’ll vote on it. That’s fine. It doesn’t bother me at all,” Reid said during a Thursday media call without providing a timeline for action.

Protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline is a Moral Imperative for Saving the Planet

Nancy Zorn and Stefan Warner are two Oklahoma City activists with 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.

Listening sessions start process for Alaska-focused Arctic drilling rules

Looking for lessons in Shell’s disastrous campaign to drill offshore in the Arctic, the Interior Department on Thursday launched an effort to create special rules for oil and gas activity in federal waters off Alaska’s coasts.

Top 10 Reasons NOT to turn the Atlantic Ocean into a Blast Zone

This coming Saturday, June 8, is World Oceans Day, the one day a year people around the globe set aside to celebrate and honor one of the world’s most precious habitats. Unfortunately, this same day next year could be a noisy disaster for the species you love if harmful blasts from seismic airguns are allowed to go off underwater in the Atlantic, injuring and potentially killing thousands of dolphins, whales, sea turtles and fish. These deafening blasts are no way to celebrate the world’s ocean, but they soon could be a reality all year round if the U.S. Department of the Interior allows seismic airguns to be used to search for oil and gas off the coasts of seven states from Delaware to Florida.

Interior chief says no new drilling in Atlantic as GOP forges ahead

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Thursday that the White House won’t allow drilling in the Atlantic Ocean while House Republicans are putting the finishing touches on legislation to do so.

“We’ve done a five-year plan — it doesn’t include the Atlantic. I don’t expect to go back on that,” Jewell told reporters Thursday after a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

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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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