Environmental Must-Reads – June 9, 2014


Mining for fracking sand drives some Illinois farmers from land

The Flynns are weary of bright lights that flood their bedroom each night from a sand mine next door. A second neighboring mine is in the works, and yet another nearby field has just been sold for mining as well.

“I always thought when I died I’d want to be cremated and just thrown around the farm,” Cathy Flynn said. “But if everything around me is going to be sand mines anyway, forget it.”

Natural gas industry money pouring into Pa. governor’s race, mostly to Corbett

In what seems to be a reprise of four years ago, hundreds of thousands of dollars are pouring into the race for Pennsylvania governor from company executives with ties to the state’s burgeoning natural gas industry.

But the donations, almost entirely to Gov. Corbett, are flowing with one key difference: The stakes are even higher for both the companies’ fracking profits and the Republican Corbett, one of the country’s most vulnerable governors.

Pennsylvania draws a line in the sandstone

When it comes to defining an unconventional gas well, Pennsylvania draws a line in the sand. Specifically, state Department of Environmental Protection regulations say any shale well drilled and fracked below the Elk sandstones is unconventional.

The Elk group refers to a stack of sand formations found above the Marcellus Shale in the western part of Pennsylvania. Deposited about 375 million years ago, the sandstones have served as a border for the past several years between the traditional oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania and the growing Marcellus activity that the DEP was figuring out how to regulate.

Court cases suggest Texas is heading to a subsurface lease market

With a subsurface trespass case pending before the Texas Supreme Court and a recent $3 million nuisance verdict that has been called the nation’s “first fracking trial,” the industry may be wondering whether Texas is headed toward a subsurface lease market. At least that’s what FPL Farming v. Environmental Processing Systems and Parr v. Aruba Petroleum seem to suggest.

Water worries bring local oil and gas operation under scrutiny

A hydraulic fracturing operation in rural Norman is using non-potable water from a local farm pond and Little River tributary, sources confirmed this week. Fracking started at the well site on Franklin Road recently.

The combination of hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling and technological advances have invigorated the Oklahoma and national oil and gas markets. That means less dependence on foreign oil, said Clay O’Neil, operations manager of the Mid-continent Division of Finley Resources, the company that owns the land on Franklin Road and is overseeing the operation.

Fracking blamed for health problems

Bob Parr had visions of a peaceful rural life with his new wife and her daughter on the undulating Texas prairie.

He had brought Lisa and her daughter Emma to his ranch outside Decatur, Wise County, 100km northwest of Dallas, in 2008.

It was a short-lived dream. Wise County sits atop the Barnett Shale in North Texas, one of the richest oil and gas fields in the US. Within a year gas wells began to mushroom around the Parrs’ home as oil companies moved in, part of a loosely regulated hydraulic fracturing – fracking – shale boom that has funnelled US$7 billion ($8.3 billion) into Texas tax coffers since 2012. It has also brought misery to the Parrs and many other rural inhabitants.

Quiz: What shale play are you?

Like snowflakes, no two shale formations are the same. Each rock has its own peculiarities. Its own unique geology. Its own “Je ne sais quoi.” Which shale play is your seismic soul mate? Take this FuelFix.com quiz to find out!

Canandaigua joins fracking bans

The city of Canandaigua has joined the roster of New York communities to prohibit drilling for natural gas.

The City Council voted 8-to-0 Thursday night to adopt a local law that permanently bans natural gas exploration and the storage, treatment or disposal of drilling wastewater disposal within city limits.

Poll: Pennsylvanians favor drilling, not in parks

Pennsylvanians support drilling for natural gas nearly 2-to-1, but a majority opposes conducting it under state parks and forests, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday.

The survey found 58 percent of respondents supported Marcellus Shale drilling and 33 percent opposed it.

Pennsylvania firm charged with improper disposal of gas drilling waste

A waste cleanup firm and its owner improperly disposed of toxic natural gas drilling waste, the state Attorney General’s Office said in charges filed on Friday.

Minuteman Environmental Services and Brian Bolus, who owns the Milton-based company, were charged in Union County with unlawful conduct. Bolus also is charged with conspiracy, prosecutors said.

Welcome to West Port Arthur, Texas, Ground Zero in the Fight for Climate Justice

If you live in a toxic environment like this, surrounded by refineries, you’re probably not thinking about some future apocalypse. You’re living in one.

Bobby Jindal signs bill to kill lawsuit against oil, gas companies

Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed legislation aimed at killing a lawsuit filed by a New Orleans area regional levee board against 97 oil and gas companies, despite concerns that the new law could negatively affect state and government claims against BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“This bill will help stop frivolous lawsuits and create a more fair and predictable legal environment, and I am proud to sign it into law,” Jindal said in a written statement Friday (June 6).

Bobby Jindal’s huge favor for his pals in the oil and gas industry

Despite frantic warnings from legal experts around the country and from his own attorney general, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday signed a bill killing a local coastal agency’s lawsuit against the oil and gas industry.

What unnerves the experts is that the bill is so sloppily written that it could undermine other lawsuits against oil and gas interests in Louisiana, including damage claims from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP is sure to use the measure as another weapon against claims it’s already fighting in federal court in Louisiana.

Exxon to continue cleanup after spill

More than a year after a pipeline cracked open and spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into a Mayflower neighborhood, Exxon Mobil is preparing for other phases of cleanup and restoration, now focused in a cove of Lake Conway.

The oil giant’s task has shifted from the Northwoods subdivision — where the pipeline ruptured between two houses March 29, 2013 — to the cove, separated from the main portion of the popular fishing lake by Arkansas 89. Authorities have said oil reached the cove but not the main portion of the lake.

Pipeline trenching operation causes ND oil spill

North Dakota health officials say a pipeline trenching operation near Alexander has caused a spill of about 300 barrels of oil. A barrel equals 42 gallons.

Officials say the crude has been recovered and berms have been put in place to contain it in the event of rain.

Federal plan for B.C. oil spill relies on using banned chemicals

The federal government’s backup plan in the event of a catastrophic oil spill in British Columbia’s waters relies on using chemical dispersants that are currently banned from marine use by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak says her province is not prepared to sign off on the federal oil-tanker safety plan rolled out last month as part of an effort to address concerns about marine environmental safety in advance of Ottawa’s Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline decision.

The Keystone Pipeline Is Just One Of Canada’s Oil Export Options, And Maybe Not Even The Most Important

As the U.S. debates whether to relax a decades-old ban on oil exports and a political battle in the U.S. delays and threatens to reject Canada’s plans to ship oil south through the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada is looking to export significant amounts of oil overseas.

The oil shale boom in the U.S. has shrunk American demand for oil imports as Canada’s rich oil sands continue producing oil, leaving the country with too much oil and not enough buyers. About 98 percent of Canada’s petroleum exports go the U.S, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Canadian oil accounts for about 22 percent of U.S. oil imports, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The Canadian commerce chamber has also said its producers could gain $50 million a day, $18-19 billion a year, by selling their oil outside North America.

U.S. corrects Keystone study estimate of rail deaths, other errors

The State Department on Friday corrected several errors it made in a key study evaluating the impact of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, including a understatement of how many people could be killed on railroad tracks if the project were rejected and oil traffic by rail increased.

The department said, however, these corrections had “no impact” on the integrity of the conclusions of the January report, which played down potential environmental consequences of TransCanada Corp’s Canada-to-Texas project.

Lac Megantic lawyers to argue dangers of volatile Bakken oil ignored in train disaster

Shippers wrongly moved explosive gas as part of a crude oil delivery that derailed and killed 47 people in a Canadian town last year, lawyers seeking to represent the devastated town in a class action lawsuit are expected to argue in a proceeding that starts on Monday.

Several tank cars exploded with surprising force when the cargo from North Dakota’s Bakken energy patch jumped the tracks and detonated in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, last July.

Crude oil rail transports to run through Sacramento region

Sacramento’s history as a rail town is long and rich. A potential new chapter, however, is creating concern: The city may soon become a crude-oil crossroads.

As part of a national shift in shipping practices, several oil companies are laying plans to haul hundreds of train cars a day of flammable crude through the region on the way to coastal and Valley refineries, passing through neighborhoods and downtowns, and crossing the region’s two major rivers. Saying they’ve been told little about the transport projects, area leaders are scrambling to gather information so they can advocate for local safety interests as several of the rail shipment proposals move forward.

North America’s rail regulators face safety concerns on oil transport

When a train carrying crude oil exploded by Virginia’s James River, it was a stark confirmation of local environmentalists’ fears.

Less than a month before, on April 30, the local chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental group, had warned that an increase in crude shipments to a transport hub at Yorktown by CSX, the eastern US’s main railroad, was a “recipe for disaster”.

A new report finds nations are woefully unprepared for Arctic oil spills

Back in January, Royal Dutch Shell announced it was abandoning plans to drill for oil in the Arctic waters near Alaska. It was the second time in two years the company was forced to postpone plans to drill in the region.

Given the difficulties the company has faced — including losses of about $6 billion dollars — and the continuing geopolitical and environmental battles surrounding the practice, the question arises: Is it even worth the trouble?

Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise: Russia ‘frees protest ship’

Russian authorities have released the Greenpeace ship seized after a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic last year, the environmental group says.

The Arctic Sunrise, which had been held in the port of Murmansk, is back in the hands of campaigners, Greenpeace said.

‘Reactor decommissioning town’ planned to rebuild Fukushima

The government’s reconstruction plans for Fukushima Prefecture include creating a town for 5,000 people tasked with decommissioning the crippled nuclear plant, but some local leaders doubt anyone else will want to live there.

According to the proposal of the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the new town will help to create jobs and prompt evacuees to return to their homes near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Survivors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Disaster Fear Being Forgotten

Three years after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant more than 100,000 former residents remain displaced.

In Japan, the government is forging ahead with plans to decontaminate and reopen the area currently deemed a “no-go zone,” but former residents have mixed feelings about returning.

Tepco Hires U.S. Company to Filter Water Stored at Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) will deploy a second system to strip a dangerous isotope from water stored at its wrecked Fukushima nuclear facility, as it struggles to overcome problems with its existing water processor.

The utility known as Tepco has signed a contract with Kurion Inc. to remove strontium from about 400,000 metric tons of radioactive water stored at Fukushima using truck-mounted filters, the Irvine, California-based company said in a statement today.

Woman starts UK’s first kelp farm to supply Japanese market hit by Fukushima disaster

A mother and son are turning an isolated Irish island into an unlikely supplier of edible seaweed to Japan, after stocks were hit by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kate Burns and her son Benji McFaul are growing thousands of tonnes of kelp on ropes that extend out from the shoreline into the sea around Rathlin, an island with a population of around 100.

Antinuclear activist Harvey Wasserman accuses corporate media of Fukushima cover-up

For more than 30 years, author Harvey Wasserman has been one of America’s leading critics of the nuclear industry.

In a new essay on the NationofChange website, the editor of nukefree.org has condemned the corporate media’s silence regarding the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

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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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