Environmental Must-Reads – March 10, 2014


Wastewater Injection Triggered Oklahoma’s Earthquake Cascade

One of Oklahoma’s biggest man-made earthquakes, caused by fracking-linked wastewater injection, triggered an earthquake cascade that led to the damaging magnitude-5.7 Prague quake that struck on Nov. 6, 2011, a new study confirms.

The findings suggest that even small man-made earthquakes, such as those of just a magnitude 1 or magnitude 2, can trigger damaging quakes, said study co-author Elizabeth Cochran, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

In Pennsylvania, Gas Company Complaints Grab Statewide Attention

One of the biggest natural gas companies in the U.S. is facing legal trouble over allegations it cheats landowners out of royalty money. Chesapeake Energy has faced similar accusations across the U.S.

Texas Could Lead on Methane Reduction, Report Says

Oil and gas companies could play a major role in slashing emissions of methane, and Texas, the nation’s top energy producer, could help lead the way, environmental advocates say.

The industry could curb projected emissions by as much as 40 percent in the U.S. by 2018 through actions that could save it money in the long run, according to a report released this week by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Trucking costs derail shale recycling

A South Side company has backed off plans to process fracking waste.

Ohio Soil Recycling had planned by last November to begin recycling crushed rock and shale (called cuttings) brought to its Integrity Drive facility by fracking companies operating in eastern Ohio.

Stakes are high for LNG export plan

Sixty miles from the nation’s capital, on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, seven massive natural gas tanks tower over white pipelines that snake into the sea.

Their destination is an offshore dock one mile from the coast, with two piers that jut like outstretched arms into the water, waiting for massive tankers to unload liquefied natural gas destined for customers along the East Coast.

Fracking foes make a racket as Brown addresses California Democrats

Anti-fracking advocates repeatedly interrupted Gov. Jerry Brown’s speech at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles on Saturday, chanting and waving signs as he gave his first major speech since declaring his intention to run for reelection.

Chanting “No fracking!” and waving signs that said “Another Democrat Against  Fracking,” scores of protesters repeatedly drowned out Brown as he tried to deliver a speech arguing that California has prospered while politicians in Washington, D.C., have fiddled.

W.Va. Senate OKs drilling waste in landfills

A bill allowing drill cuttings from horizontal wells to be discarded in commercial solid waste facilities passed unanimously Friday in the West Virginia Senate.

The bill states the drillings must be contained in separate, lined cells. Drilling companies will be charged $1 per ton to fund Department of Environmental Protection studies on the viability of using existing landfills for cuttings. The bill also sets aside $75,000 for a scientific study on the leeching of these cells, said Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson.

Smells like fracking! Fake cologne ad targets Gov. Brown

The fight over fracking has an amazing way of turning allies against each other, particularly in California.

To see just how personal that sniping can get, check out the new online ad for “Frack Water, a fragrance by Jerry Brown.”

Analytical Test Could Underestimate Radioactivity In Fracking Wastewater

When energy companies extract natural gas from shale using hydraulic fracturing, they generate flowback wastewater, a brine solution that contains naturally occurring radionuclides, including radium isotopes. Because some of this wastewater is diverted to treatment plants and eventually discharged into local waterways, state environmental agencies have started to establish procedures for monitoring radium levels in the wastewater. However, a new study cautions that one test state agencies are considering could underestimate radium levels by as much as 99% (Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2014, DOI: 10.1021/ez5000379).

Drilling for Certainty: The Latest in Fracking Health Studies

For years, environmentalists and the gas drilling industry have been in a pitched battle over the possible health implications of hydro fracking. But to a great extent, the debate — as well as the emerging lawsuits and the various proposed regulations in numerous states — has been hampered by a shortage of science.

In 2011, when ProPublica first reported on the different health problems afflicting people living near gas drilling operations, only a handful of health studies had been published.  Three years later, the science is far from settled, but there is a growing body of research to consider.

Too Much Propane Could Be a Factor in Exploding Oil Trains

As federal regulators continue investigating why tank cars on three trains carrying North Dakota crude oil have exploded in the past eight months, energy experts say part of the problem might be that some producers are deliberately leaving too much propane in their product, making the oil riskier to transport by rail.

Sweet light crude from the Bakken Shale formation straddling North Dakota and Montana has long been known to be especially rich in volatile natural gas liquids like propane. Much of the oil is being shipped in railcars designed in the 1960s and identified in 1991 by the National Transportation Safety Board as having a dangerous penchant to rupture during derailments or other accidents.

Next fracking controversy: In the Midwest, a storm brews over ‘frac sand’

Sand is used in the fracking process, and there’s plenty of it to be mined in the upper Midwest. As a sand-mining boom has emerged, residents are divided over whether it’s lifting or ruining their communities.

Evidence Of Giant, Growing Louisiana Sinkhole Showed Up In Radar Before Collapse: NASA

A Louisiana sinkhole the size of 19 American football fields shifted sideways in radar measurements before its collapse and resulting evacuations in 2012, a study reveals.

The implication is that if certain types of radar measurements are collected regularly from above, it is possible to see some sinkholes before they collapse. The researchers added, however, that their discovery was “serendipitous” and there are no plans to immediately use a NASA robotic Gulfstream plane used for the study to fly over spots that could be vulnerable to sinkholes.

Radar information can help Nasa predict sinkholes

Sinkholes which have devoured cars, boats and even houses could be spotted before they open up thanks to new research by Nasa.

These vast crevices, which are formed without warning, are caused by the earth’s surface collapsing into subterranean caverns

The American space agency has found that an analysis of radar data it collected in 2012 had indications that a sinkhole was likely on the site of an underground salt mine at Bayou Corne, Louisiana.

While BP Stalled On Gulf Oil Spill Payments, CEO’s Pay Tripled Last Year

BP CEO Robert Dudley had a busy year fighting the massive settlement he agreed to in 2012 that would pay for economic losses from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. His corporation may still be mired in lawsuits, but Dudley received a big pay raise last year that is worth triple his total pay from 2012. Counting his salary, bonus, and stock options, Dudley’s compensation was $8.7 million. With his pension included, Dudley cleared $13.2 million.

“BP has made strong progress over the past three years under Bob Dudley’s leadership – particularly in areas such as safety, operations and building for the future through reserve replacement – and his remuneration reflects this,” a BP spokesman said. “The great majority of his potential pay is directly dependent on BP’s performance in areas essential both to the delivery of the company’s strategy and to the long-term interests of its shareholders.”

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: BP Warns Costs Could Pass $18bn

British oil major BP has warned that the cost of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill could pass the $18bn mark.

BP said it could face additional lawsuits, lose business in the wake of the damage to its reputation, and miss out on opportunities as its legal expenses were pressurising its cash flow.

New report: incomplete documentation makes determining Coast Guard progress after BP oil spill difficult

After the 2010 BP oil spill, the Coast Guard received 534 recommendations to improve response to similar disasters. But a new report by the inspector general (IG) for the Coast Guard’s parent agency says faulty documentation makes it impossible to determine how many of those recommendations have been carried out.

And it says that the Coast Guard “could not be certain” whether it had implemented recommendations from previous disasters,  1996 Cape Mohican Oil Spill and the MV Cosco Busan Oil Spill in 2007, both off San Francisco. Both incidents prompted follow up reports calling on the Coast Guard to conduct better outreach with local officials and stakeholders.

BP seeks trial on harm from Macondo spill

BP is calling for a trial to hear arguments about the environmental harm caused by its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – and is fighting an attempt by the US government to keep evidence on its effects out of court.

The US government is also attempting to raise in court evidence of BP’s previous safety failures, including the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 people.

WV DEP Investigating Oil Spill Near West Union

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is investigating an oil spill near West Union.

The spill was reported to the DEP at 2 p.m. Thursday. Inspectors from the DEP arrived at the scene just after 3:30 p.m. and discovered that approximately 20 to 25 barrels of oil leaked from a well into an unnamed tributary and later flowed into Tom’s Fork Creek, said DEP Spokesman Tom Aluise. Ryan Environmental is working with the DEP to contain the oil, which is estimated to be between 800 to 1,000 gallons. The oil came from a private well owned by Sam Farrow, an Alabama resident. The DEP is working with Farrow, who could be cited for the spill, said Aluise. Preliminary reports indicate that a pipe on the well may have frozen and then burst, resulting in the spill.

Oil spill drills: Crude shipments raise concerns about readiness on Hudson

On Nov. 26, 2004, the single-bottomed tanker Athos I carrying crude oil struck an anchor at the bottom of the Delaware River about halfway between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del.

More than 263,000 gallons of oil spilled. Some floated to the top. But a significant amount was blasted from the ship into sediment on the river’s bottom, creating a two-tiered cleanup challenge.

While America Waits On Keystone Decision, A Different Tar Sands Pipeline Just Got Approved

While all eyes in America were turned to President Obama’s looming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian regulators on Thursday approved their own, smaller version — a pipeline that would for the first time directly connect Alberta’s tar sands to Montreal.

Canada’s National Energy Board have approved a proposal by Enbridge Inc. to allow the reversal and expansion of their Line 9 pipeline. The “reversal” means that the pipeline can now carry crude oil east rather than west. The “expansion” means it can now also carry tar sands oil from Alberta — the same type of oil that would be transported by the Keystone XL pipeline if approved.

Two-Thirds Back Keystone Pipeline; More See Jobs than Environmental Risk

Support for the Keystone XL pipeline reached a two-year high in the latest ABC News/ Washington Post poll, with the public overwhelmingly saying it would create jobs, while dividing on its potential environmental impact.

Two-thirds favor government approval of the 1,700-mile, $5.4 billion pipeline to move oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, up 6 points from 2012, vs. two in 10 opposed. Eighty-five percent think it would create jobs, with 62 percent feeling that way strongly – up 11 percentage points.

Decision time looms for Keystone XL

After five and a half years, the battle over the Keystone pipeline will soon be at an end. In Washington, the request to extend TransCanada’s crude oil pipeline from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska has crossed all of the requisite bureaucratic hurdles except for one: Final approval from the Obama administration through the issuance of a presidential permit.

Warren Buffett And The Keystone Pipeline: Cause And Effect

If a Mad magazine existed for economists (that is, we who labor in what’s known as the “dismal science”), it would be Warren Buffett’s annual March letter to his Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) shareholders.  Written in a breezy, sometimes cheeky tone, it’s a harbinger of spring, like sighting the first robin of the year.  But this year’s letter is a bit different — still breezy and cheeky — but omits a crucial fact, one that’s related to the Keystone Pipeline controversy.

Rail carries Canadian crude while Keystone pipeline decision simmers

While supporters and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have been busy debating the controversial proposal, the oil that it’s intended to move has found another carrier _ one that didn’t require the president’s stamp of approval or several years and billions of dollars to construct.

Keystone’s friends and foes alike may have underestimated the North American rail system’s ability to handle the thick, gritty oil from western Canada known as tar sands. And while rail was originally a stopgap solution to the lack of a pipeline, oil producers have discovered its advantages.

New England has environmental concerns over Canada oil sands

A decision by Canadian regulators to let pipeline company Enbridge pump oil sands into Quebec has environmental activists and politicians worried the oil could eventually spill into the neighboring New England region of the United States.

Canada’s National Energy Board on Thursday approved a plan by the country’s No.1 pipeline company Enbridge to reverse and expand its Line 9 from southern Ontario to Quebec on condition that it undertake additional work on consultation and safety.

U.S. Armed Forces Sickened After Fukushima Meltdown Get Help From Online Fundraising

Mike Sebourn served at a U.S. Navy base in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, measuring radiation and decontaminating aircraft. Nathan Piekutowski spent the days after the disaster with the Marine Corps, passing out water to survivors near the stricken power plant.

Today, nearly three years after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear catastrophe, Sebourn has lost 60 percent of the strength on the right side of his body. Piekutowski faces a long recovery from a recent bone marrow transplant.

Both men are among hopeful beneficiaries of an online campaign launched this week aimed at raising money for medical expenses the U.S. government won’t cover for sailors and Marines who served near the power plant and may now be suffering radiation-related illnesses.

Thousands stage anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo ahead of Fukushima anniversary

Tens of thousands of Japanese citizens have turned out for an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo, as the nation prepares to mark the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima radiation

Very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster likely will reach ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast next month, scientists are reporting.

Current models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won’t harm humans or the environment, said Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who presented research on the issue last week.

Low-Level Fukushima Radiation Set To Hit West Coast

Low levels of radiation will reach ocean waters along the United States’ West Coast next month, scientists said, as fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster drifts across the Pacific Ocean.

Radiation will be at levels low enough to leave humans and the environment unharmed, scientists predict, but there are calls for increased monitoring as federal agencies currently do not sample Pacific Coast seawater for radiation, reports USA Today.

Fukushima’s children at centre of debate over rates of thyroid cancer

Three years after the worst nuclear accident in a generation, the Japanese prefecture is reporting a rise in the number of children showing cancer symptoms. But is this directly related to the disaster, or is the testing more rigorous?

After Fukushima, safety issues linger

Three years ago this week, the world watched a nuclear accident unfold. Although Fukushima Daiichi sits halfway around the globe, there are chilling similarities between what happened in Japan and what could happen here.

Pennsylvania has six reactors that are of similar designs to those at Fukushima, two each at the Limerick, Susquehanna, and Peach Bottom nuclear plants. New Jersey has one each at the Hope Creek and Oyster Creek facilities. In addition to a shared technology, U.S. and Japanese regulatory systems have much in common.

THREE YEARS AFTER: Risks of radiation exposure remain high for Fukushima workers

About half of the workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in the three years since the triple meltdown have been exposed to more than 5 millisieverts of radiation, a level used as a radiation exposure reference for humans.

The levels of radiation exposure among workers at the crippled Fukushima plant have decreased since the 2011 nuclear accident, but there was a spike from last summer with the problem of dealing with the growing volume of radiation-contaminated water.

Fukushima evacuees still living in temporary homes, 3 years after disaster

It has been three years since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown hit Tohoku in northeast Japan.

Many survivors still live away from their hometown, in temporary shelters.

Japan Sees Future Business in Fukushima Cleanup

There is something surprising in the radioactive wreck that is the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant: opportunity. To clean it up, Japan will have to develop technology and expertise that any nation with a nuclear reactor will one day need.

Eyeing dozens of aging reactors at home and hundreds of others worldwide that eventually need to be retired, Japanese industry sees a profitable market for decommissioning expertise.

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