Environmental Must-Reads – March 12, 2014


Denton homeowners sue energy company over fracking sites

A battle that has been brewing for months between an energy company and upset residents of one Denton neighborhood has spilled over into the courts.

More than two dozen families living in and around Meadows at Hickory Creek just south of Denton recently filed a joint lawsuit against EagleRidge Energy.

Fracking in Public Forests Leaves Long Trail of Damages, Struggling State Regulators

Last Wednesday, the Washington D.C. city council passed a resolution opposing fracking in the George Washington National Forest, making the nation’s capitol the third major U.S. city, after Los Angeles and Dallas, to decry the hazards of shale drilling in recent days.

The D.C. council’s resolution called on the U.S. Forest Service to prohibit horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the forest’s headwaters of the Potomac River, the sole source of water for the nation’s capital, citing the risks of pollution and the costs of monitoring for contamination.

Judge Says Broomfield’s Anti-Fracking Ballot Measure is Valid

A Colorado District Court judge ruled last week that a five year ban on hydraulic fracturing that citizens of Broomfield approved on the city’s November, 2013 local ballot is valid and can go into effect.

Broomfield is one of five Colorado cities that have brought local ballot initiatives to regulate fracking activity within their borders. The others are Lafayette, Boulder, Longmont and Fort Collins.

Anti-fracking activist barred from 40 percent of Pennsylvania county

A court injunction obtained by Texas-based Cabot Oil & Gas is preventing Pennsylvania resident Vera Scroggins from going to her local grocery store, her friends’ homes, schools, or even the hospital.

That’s because those properties sit atop the more than 200,000 acres in Susquehanna County that the energy producer owns and leases for gas extraction – land on which Scroggins, a determined anti-fracking activist, is not allowed to tread.

Ohio Looks at Whether Fracking Led to 2 Quakes

Ohio officials said Tuesday that an oil and gas well near the site of two small earthquakes was undergoing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, when the quakes occurred.

The State Department of Natural Resources ordered work halted at the well and six others in Poland Township, near the Pennsylvania border, on Monday after the two earthquakes earlier in the day. The quakes, of magnitude 2.6 and 3.0, caused no damage or injuries but were felt in nearby towns.

North Texans deserve more immediate action in response to earthquakes

For people who live in and around Azle, patience has to be wearing thin.

Since November, Azle and Reno have endured a spate of seismic activity believed to be related to 11 wastewater disposal wells used to get rid of wastes from gas drilling’s hydraulic fracturing process, known as fracking.

Bill to Regulate W.Va. Gas Drilling Waste on Hold

A bill to regulate the disposal of waste produced by gas-well drilling will likely be introduced by the governor in a special session.

Lawmakers who negotiated a version both sides could agree on were unable to get the measure passed before midnight Saturday, the deadline for the regular session.

Fracking exposes rift between Jerry Brown, Democrats

Fracking has opened vast oil and natural gas deposits across the country, creating legions of fans and foes alike. Now the technology has exposed a rift between Gov. Jerry Brown and a very vocal part of his Democratic base.

Brown has come under increasing fire from the state’s powerful environmental lobby for his support of hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique that has revolutionized America’s oil and gas industry.

Officials: Cache of illegal oil field waste found

Officials in North Dakota are reporting what may be the state’s biggest incident of illegal dumping of radioactive oil filter socks, the nets that strain liquids during the oil production process.

State Waste Management Director Scott Radig said hundreds of the tubular filters were discovered last week in an abandoned building in Noonan, a town of about 200 people in northwestern North Dakota. Radig, who viewed pictures of the scene, said it’s likely to be more than twice as large as the state’s next-largest dumping incident found last month in McKenzie County.

NJ environmentalists call for permanent fracking ban

The Delaware River Basin Commission’s new executive director won’t officially start his job until August, but he’s already getting an earful from environmentalists and anti-fracking advocates about the agency’s moratorium on natural gas drilling in the watershed.

The commission, which oversees water resources across the entire Delaware River basin in New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania, created the moratorium in May 2010 and extended it indefinitely in November 2011, when it delayed enacting regulations that would have allowed drilling to occur.

In Louisiana, an environmental lawsuit brings hope for a new chapter

Louisiana is being slowly devoured by water. Hardly anyone disputes that. But beyond a shared sense of creeping panic, there’s little common ground in the state.

As over 2,000 miles of coast have been eaten away over the last 80 or so years, the state and federal government, oil and gas companies, activists and residents battled and bickered over funding the future of the state’s coast. So far, little has been accomplished.

John Barry, an author cum activist, hopes to change that.

Judge rejects BP bid to halt Gulf spill payments

BP’s bid to temporarily halt payments under its $9.2 billion oil-spill settlement so that heightened accounting and fraud safeguards can be established was rejected by a federal judge in New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, in a three-sentence ruling Tuesday, denied BP’s request without an explanation. BP has said widespread fraud and a faulty interpretation of settlement terms have caused the claims administrator to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in unwarranted claims for damage from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst U.S. offshore spill.

Florida still in grip of 2010 BP oil spill

A confluence of developments over the past week show once again that Florida remains in the grip of the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Including Manatee County.

With the state of Florida joining a multistate lawsuit against British oil company BP, a new study showing sick fish as far south as Sanibel, and a giant tar mat washing ashore off Pensacola Beach, we’re reminded that this catastrophe has not disappeared.

IG: Coast Guard falling short on Deepwater Horizon recommendations

The U.S. Coast Guard did not properly track its progress in carrying out the hundreds of recommendations resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to a recent inspector general’s report.

In a review last year, federal auditors could only confirm that the agency had implemented less than 10 percent of the 549 proposals that came in response to the Gulf Coast disaster, which was the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Exxon seeks regulatory OK to restart part of Pegasus oil line

Exxon Mobil has sought permission from regulators to restart a Texas stretch of the Pegasus oil pipeline that it says was not affected by a line rupture in Arkansas in March 2013.

Exxon plans to restart operations on a 210-mile leg, running from Corsicana to Nederland, Texas no later than March 28, it said in a January filing to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Green Army’s First March

Retired Lieutenant General Russell Honoré got famous after Katrina for restoring a semblance of order to the streets of New Orleans.  Mayor C. Ray Nagin called him “one John Wayne dude,” and he was branded “the Ragin’ Cajun” for his bravado.

On the steps of the capitol on Saturday (March 8), the praises — and the rage — continued. Instead of looting and evacuations, he yelled about sinkholes and contaminated lakes. Then he played washboard to a Cajun band’s rendition of “Don’t Mess with my Bayou.”

Shell’s Ho-Ho pipeline still shut after leak

Royal Dutch Shell’s entire Houston-to-Houma crude oil pipeline remained shut on Monday, following a reported leak late last week, the company said.

Construction crew members accidentally punctured the Ho-Ho line near Port Neches, Texas, about 100 miles east of Houston, on Thursday afternoon, releasing about 364 barrels of crude oil.

$7-Billion Pipeline To Roll Through Northern Valley

We’ve recently heard a lot of controversy surrounding the proposed Keystone pipeline. It would transport Canadian tar sand through the U.S. to a refinery on the Gulf.

However, another pipeline company is already moving forward with plans for a new, 7-billion dollar replacement pipeline, right through the northern valley.

Experts: Keystone XL May Create Fewer Jobs Than Most Expect

Call it the jobs gap.

While most Americans support the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline expansion, many more believe it would create “a significant number of jobs,” a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found.

Keystone XL southern leg having major effect on US oil hub

The southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline has drained oil supplies at the Cushing, Okla. hub to their lowest levels in more than two years, according to a federal report released Tuesday.

The crude supply at the major U.S. hub fell to 32.1 million barrels at the end of February, down 8 percent from the week before and the lowest mark since November 2011, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Keystone XL southern leg made its first deliveries to the Gulf Coast on Jan. 22.

Big Oil’s new strategy: If you can’t build a new pipeline, just overload the old one

Yesterday, Canadian pipeline behemoth Enbridge won government approval for its plans for 9B, one of the most contentious pipes in pipe business. While it doesn’t get much press, 9B is important because it’s part of a hot, new trend in trans-national pipe dreams: Skirting environmental review, and public scrutiny, by pumping dirty crude through existing pipelines rather than building new ones.

Enbridge wants to use 9B to carry up to 300,000 barrels of tar-sands oil per day to Quebec for refining and export. And it is determined to not repeat the mistakes of TransCanada, the company behind the much-maligned (and very publicly held-up) Keystone XL pipeline. Thus the tactic of reusing old lines, a game that it has already played with several other pipes.

TransCanada makes final appeal for Keystone XL

Keystone XL is the safest and most environmentally sound way to transport Canadian and North Dakota oil to Gulf Coast refineries, TransCanada Corp., said in its last-ditch appeal for the pipeline’s approval.

The Calgary-based company made the assertions in a 35-page filing with the State Department, rehashing mostly old arguments that the proposed border-crossing pipeline should win a presidential permit. TransCanada’s arguments were released Tuesday but filed along with more than 100,000 others during a government public comment period that ended Friday.

‘We lost part of our soul’ in oil train disaster, mayor of Quebec town says

The mayor of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where 47 people died in a massive inferno following a train derailment last summer, came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to push lawmakers and regulators for rail safety improvements.

Colette Roy-Laroche, whose picturesque lakeside town became the scene of one of the worst rail accidents in decades, was joined by a group of mayors from Canada and the U.S. All were united by the concern that the rail lines in their towns have become pipelines for a North American energy renaissance, and bear the risks that come with it.

Fukushima, 3 Years Later: Disaster Still Lingers

The disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, destroyed tens of thousands of lives and had ripple effects around the world as nations reliant upon or considering nuclear power rethought their plans.

The meltdown of three of the six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, about 130 miles north of Tokyo, was the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986. The result of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and associated tsunami waves that reached heights exceeding 100 feet, the disaster demonstrated that nuclear power plant operators may not have anticipated the full range of worst-case scenarios that could beset their facilities.

San Francisco Fukushima Protest Marks Japan Earthquake Anniversary

Bay Area residents were marking the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident Tuesday with events including a protest outside the Japanese consulate in San Francisco – one of many planned at consulates across the United States.

Because the disaster occurred on March 11, 2011, the group No Nukes Action Committee, which includes a number of Japanese citizens living in the Bay Area, has been holding regular monthly rallies outside the consulate on the 11th day of the month, according to organizer Chizu Hamada.

Three years after Fukushima, Japan still struggles to cope

The control room for the crippled No 1 and No 2 is coated in pink plastic sheeting. The lights on the monitoring panels are all out. There are no sirens.

It is far cry from the scenes of chaos that will have unfolded here three years ago on Tuesday, when the Fukushima Daiichi plant was rocked by Japan’s biggest earthquake in living memory and the tsunami that it triggered.

After Fukushima disaster, serious questions about Japan’s new Rokkasho plant

Sporting turquoise-striped walls and massive steel cooling towers, the new industrial complex rising from bluffs astride the Pacific Ocean here looks like it might produce consumer electronics or bath salts.

But in reality it is one of the world’s newest, largest, and most controversial production plants for nuclear explosives.

3 Years After Fukushima, Life Returns in the Sea

Three years have passed since the Great Japan Earthquake. Though it was lost for a time, the land is surely regaining its color.

In Minamisanriku, in the Miyagi Prefecture, seven people lost their lives due to the earthquake disaster, and 217 still remain missing to this day. Mr. Sato Chomei, who is an underwater photographer and dive shop owner in Minamisanriku, was interviewed on my TV show News Station Sunday. Mr. Sato has been observing the rich sea of Minamisanriku for more than 20 years. There was one specific little fish that caught Mr. Sato’s attention called the grunt sculpin. “For me, this fish is like the bluebird that brings happiness. I cannot begin to talk about my diving life without talking about this fish,” he said. Mr. Sato opened his dive shop, the Grunt Sculpin, and started underwater photography after a fateful encounter with this small fish.

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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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