Environmental Must-Reads – March 11, 2014


Japan marks Fukushima disaster anniversary

Japan is marking the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami disaster which swept away 18,000 victims, destroyed coastal communities, and sparked a nuclear emergency that forced a rethink on atomic power.

Remembrance ceremonies are being held on Tuesday in towns and cities around the disaster zone and in the capital Tokyo, where Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are to lead tributes to those who lost their lives in Japan’s worst peacetime disaster.

U.S. Nuclear Agency Hid Concerns, Hailed Safety Record as Fukushima Melted

In the tense days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, staff at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission made a concerted effort to play down the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis to America’s aging nuclear plants, according to thousands of internal emails reviewed by NBC News.

Japan parents near Fukushima nuclear disaster still too scared to let kids play outside

As indoor play centers go, “Pep Kids Koriyama,” in a former supermarket warehouse, is nothing short of lavish. The free, public facility is equipped with a jogging track, obstacle course, playhouse, and a mind-numbing set of equipment to climb, jump, swing from and gerbil-run on.

But the jewel in the crown at Pep Kids is an enormous sandbox — complete with running water — where kids happily run around barefoot, burrowing and making mud pies.

Fukushima Radiation To Reach West Coast In April, Experts Weigh In On How Dangerous It Is

On the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, scientists report that radiation from the crippled Daiichi reactor in Japan will reach the West Coast of the U.S. sometime next month. But far from painting a nightmare scenario in which swimmers will sprout third arms and ordinary fish will become monsters, scientists say the level of radiation on its way to U.S. shores is very low and won’t pose a threat to humans or the environment.

After Fukushima, Utilities Prepare for Worst

Stored near the twin nuclear reactors here, safely above the flood level of the Susquehanna River, is a gleaming new six-wheel pickup truck with a metal blade on the front that can plow away debris from an earthquake or other disaster. Attached to the back is a trailer that carries a giant diesel-powered pump that can deliver 500 gallons of water a minute.

If the operators at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan had owned such equipment when the tsunami struck three years ago Tuesday, they might have staved off disaster, plant operators say.

Fukushima: Is fear of radiation the real killer?

I went back to the little Japanese town of Namie this week. It lies just 5km (three miles) north of the sprawling complex that was once the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

You can see the tall white chimneys of the plant peaking over a low hill. I’ve been to Namie before. Each time I go back is like the first, so arresting is the scene that confronts you.

Battles over BP settlement could be nearing an end

Legal wrangling over BP’s multibillion-dollar settlement to resolve hundreds of thousands of claims for damages tied to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster could be nearing the end of the line, some experts believe, after a federal appellate panel ruled last week that businesses did not have to prove the Gulf of Mexico oil spill directly caused their losses.

At the moment, though, payment of such business claims is still on hold while two separate legal challenges by BP work their way through the courts.

BP Is Biggest Loser Among U.S. Government Contractors

BP Plc (BP), once the Pentagon’s top fuel supplier, is now the biggest loser among U.S. government vendors.

A combination of no big contracts awarded and promised military work withdrawn left BP with a net loss of $654 million in federal contracts in the year that ended Sept. 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compared with $2.51 billion in awards in fiscal 2012.

Green Army Prepares to Battle Louisiana Legislators To Protect Water From Oil Industry Threats

The Green Army, a group representing environmental and social justice organizations led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, met on the steps of the state capitol for a rally preceding the start of Louisiana’s legislative session which begins today. Their demonstration, called a “Water Festival,” was a cry to protect Louisiana’s water.

Judge upholds AG Buddy Caldwell’s approval of levee authority’s vote in wetlands damage suit

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell acted appropriately in approving the east bank levee authority’s vote to hire a law firm for a wetlands damage suit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies, a Baton Rouge judge ruled Monday. The judge also ruled that the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association’s lawsuit attempting to overturn Caldwell’s approval was frivolous.

Bill to address natural gas cavern expansion at Lake Peigneur

State Sen. Fred Mills is looking forward to the legislative session, which was set to kick off at noon today, for several reasons. But one of the biggest is that he expects to hear some interesting arguments this session.

The District 22 Republican from Parks had 37 bills filed as of Friday morning, many of those related to Medicaid reform and budgeting issues. But two bills, one on medical marijuana use and one addressing salt mining at Jefferson Island, are sure to create some interesting debates, Mills said.

Investigators Discover Cause of Oil Spill Near West Union

The Department of Environmental Protection said that they have found the cause of a oil spill near West Union. It was a pipe on the well that froze and burst.

They said as soon as the spill happened on Thursday afternoon, they took immediate and fast action to get it under control. It happened about ten miles upstream from West Union. The DEP, along with Ryan Environmental, worked all weekend to contain it.

Burden of proof: Niger Delta communities learn the ropes of oil spill monitoring

“People are dying silently. The oil companies bring sickness to our communities”, a man from a polluted community in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state told us.

But when it comes to oil spills in the Niger Delta, it’s not what you’ve suffered or what you know; it’s what you can prove.

The Media’s Conspicuous Silence On A Groundbreaking Keystone XL Report

When the State Department released its final Environmental Impact Statement, nearly all the headlines read the same: “Report Opens Way to Approval for Keystone Pipeline” and “State Dept. Keystone XL Would Have Little Impact On Climate Change.” Yet after Reuters broke the news last week that the State Department was wrong in its predictions of greatly expanded rail capacity, undermining its claim of no climate impact, no major media outlet amplified the report.

Why the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Matters for Climate

Following the close of the thirty day public comment period, the National Interest Determination (NID) process will continue as federal agencies consider over 2 million comments concluding that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not the nation’s interest.  At the same time, the environmental community submitted its own comments regarding the project, in which NRDC included an in-depth analysis of Keystone XL’s critical role in enabling high cost tar sands expansion projects to move forward.

Activists arrested in Philly over XL oil pipeline

Dozens of environmentalists blocked entrances to a federal office building Monday in Philadelphia to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline and police arrested at least 24 people, organizers said.

About 40 activists stood in front of three sets of doors to the downtown William J. Green Building as another 100 people sang, chanted and waved signs in support of the civil disobedience. A fourth entrance remained open.

Daryl Hannah Puts Keystone Pipeline Doc ‘Above All Else’ Under the Spotlight

Daryl Hannah is hardly the first movie star to take a stand in social activism, but she’s clearly among the most committed to her cause.

The “Splash” and “Kill Bill” actress was arrested not once, but twice, for taking part in protests against the expansion of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a controversial crude oil transportation system that extends from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas, with a final and fourth phase still pending government approval.

Filmaker Chronicles Anti-Keystone XL Pipeline Movement in Texas

Those who follow the movement against the Keystone XL pipeline may remember a time in 2012, when protesters began acts of civil disobedience in East Texas aimed at stopping the pipeline during construction. They chained themselves to trucks and organized a “tree sit,” putting themselves directly in the path of vehicles and machinery that were clearing forest for the pipeline.

Does a 1,000-mile, international pipeline need a permit?

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge plans to spend nearly $7 billion building more than 1,000 miles of pipeline from Alberta to Wisconsin — all without a new presidential permit.

Under a 1968 executive order, the U.S. Secretary of State has the authority to issue permits for pipelines, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure spanning the country’s international borders.

Lac-Mégantic mayor demands U.S. action on oil train safety

Eight months after a runaway train carrying highly flammable and toxic crude oil brought disaster to the tiny rural Quebec community of Lac-Mégantic, the town’s diminutive leader has come to the world’s most powerful capital, not for sympathy, but for action.

Colette Roy-Laroche, the unflappable and determined mayor of Lac-Mégantic, joined a coalition of mayors and city representatives from Quebec, New Brunswick, Illinois and Maine Monday to convince U.S. lawmakers and regulators of the urgent need to improve safety measures for the transportation of dangerous materials by rail.

Oil trains numbers in north Idaho likely to rise

The number of oil trains moving through north Idaho is expected to increase in coming years, raising fears of accidents.

BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas says an average of 1.5 loaded oil trains move through north Idaho each day. The trains roll through Sandpoint, Athol, Rathdrum and Hauser from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota and Montana to coastal refineries.

Ohio earthquakes linked to fracking

Ohio authorities shut down a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) natural gas operation in Mahoning County on Monday after two earthquakes were felt in the area, which is near the Pennsylvania border, local newspapers and broadcasters reported.

The quakes registered magnitudes of 3 and 2.6, the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center said on its website.

State orders fracking operation in Mahoning County to stop following earthquakes

The state shut down a fracking operation in Mahoning County this afternoon after two earthquakes were felt in Poland Township near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border this morning.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources halted operations of the Texas-based Hilcorp Energy, which operates six wells on 2,200 acres of Carbon Limestone Landfill. One of the wells was producing natural gas.

Ohio community group hopes third time’s the charm for anti-fracking measure

At a Feb. 28 meeting in this Rust Belt town, Susie Beiersdorfer takes the microphone and calls for a drumroll.

Roughly 100 people — all crammed into a church basement, with some spilling out into the adjacent kitchen, hallway and stairwell — respond by stamping their feet on the floor.

Above the rumble, Beiersdorfer tells the crowd, “Today we found out that we will be on the ballot.” She says more, but the rest of her words are drowned out by applause, shouts and whistles.

Fracking leads to boom in sand mining, but not everyone’s pleased

Ohio isn’t the only Midwestern state dealing with the pros and cons of fracking.

Our neighbors who aren’t seeing a spike in oil and gas drilling are instead seeing a big increase in a related field: Sand mining.

Oil and gas companies need huge amounts of sand used in fracking operations to hold open cracks in shale rock. In Ohio, that rock is usually the Utica formation. In West Virginia and Pennsylvania, it’s the Marcellus shale.

Court bars anti-fracking activist from more than 300 square miles of Pa.

A judge has signed off on an order which bars an anti-fracking activist from setting foot on more than 300 square miles–or nearly 40 percent–of Susquehanna county. It’s all the land owned or leased by the area’s biggest driller, Cabot Oil and Gas.

Although Cabot asked for the court order, a spokesman for the company says it didn’t mean for it to be so broad.

In Fracking, the Energy Business Gets Neighborly

It isn’t just a radical fringe of Americans who worry about the environment—and energy executives finally seem to have noticed.

A couple of years ago at the energy industry’s massive annual gathering, IHS CERAWeek in Houston, the people who pull oil and natural gas out of the ground were largely dismissive of the public’s concerns about hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

Fracking is no answer to ‘immediate dilemma’ of energy security

Fracking might be a controversial proposition, but there is no need to panic just yet. It may be that shale is indeed the solution to our energy crisis, but many are unaware of the complex and tangled web of legal issues to be picked through before anyone puts a drill in the ground.

DEP routinely changes data on gas wells

Since Feb. 18, when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released natural gas production data for the second half of 2013, the department changed it at least eight times.

A disclaimer on the department’s oil and gas reporting website states, “All production data is posted as it was received” and “the producers and DEP endeavor to correct any errors discovered after the data was posted.” Users who view production data on one day might be looking at different data the next.

Large Oil Spill in the Eagle Ford

A mess today in the Eagle Ford shale following a tanker truck mishap in Karnes County, 1200 WOAI news reports.

“An oil tanker lost its load northwest of Karnes City,” Rickey Dailey of TxDOT told 1200 WOAI news.

NTSB: Pipeline explosion could have been prevented

Severe corrosion caused a 2012 natural gas pipeline rupture and explosion in West Virginia that destroyed three houses and cooked a stretch of Interstate 77, and the incident likely could have been prevented if the pipeline had been inspected or tested, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report released Monday.

Investigators found severe external corrosion that reduced the thickness of the pipeline wall to about 30 percent of its original thickness. The 20-inch buried pipeline, which was installed in 1967, had not been inspected or tested since 1988, the report said.

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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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