Environmental Must-Reads – March 13, 2013


Gulf Coast residents cite evidence of ongoing oil spills as BP faces civil trial

In New Orleans, the civil trial for the BP oil disaster continued today with the vice president for Halliburton testifying on his company’s role in providing cementing services for BP’s Macondo well. The well exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and triggering a massive, ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The trial is aimed at determining the negligence of BP in the accident and so far has featured executives and lawyers from BP, Halliburton and Transocean sparring over who is to be held responsible.

Cement seal had ‘low probability of success,’ Halliburton executive testifies at BP trial

The cement slurry used to seal the ill-fated BP Macondo well “had a low probability of success,” a Halliburton executive who served as head of its cementing operations at the time of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster testified Tuesday in the BP spill trial.

Thomas Roth, who now serves as global operations manager for Halliburton’s Boots & Coots pressure control subsidiary, testified in the third week of the sprawling civil trial that the cement slurry was not designed to standards consistent with best practices, acknowledging that “subsequent reviews show we’ve identified gaps in that.”

Huge blaze erupts after tugboat pushing oil barge hits pipeline on La. Bayou

A tugboat pushing an oil barge struck a gas pipeline in a bayou south of New Orleans on Tuesday night, igniting a blaze that burned for hours and left two people injured, one critically.

Ensign Tanner Stiehl told The Associated Press the collision occurred at about 6 p.m. Central time on Bayou Perot, in a marshy area near where Lafourche and Jefferson parishes meet, about 30 miles south of New Orleans.

Bayou Blaze: Fiery Tugboat Crash in Lafitte Leaves 1 Injured, Oil Spill Reported

A fiery collision between a tugboat and a pipeline near the Jefferson Parish town of Jean Lafitte injured the boat’s captain, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The 47-ft. tug Shannon E. Settoon was pushing a 154-ft. barge in Bayou Perrot about 6 p.m. Tuesday when it collided with a pipeline. The tug and barge burst into flames, but crew members were able to escape.

Engineer who did forensic analysis of blowout preventer continues testimony in BP Gulf oil spill trial

An engineer who helped conduct a forensic analysis of the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer for the Department of Justice continued his testimony Monday in the BP oil spill trial.

Rory Davis, who was on a team of engineers put together by the California-based Talas Engineering, first took the stand on Thursday and was cross-examined by BP attorneys Monday. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is trying the complex civil case without a jury to assign liability for the accident.

Erin Brockovich Tackles Sinkhole Challenges In Louisiana (VIDEO)

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich spoke with HuffPost Live’s Josh Zepps on Tuesday to discuss her latest concern — a massive sinkhole in Louisiana containing highly-combustible liquid butane. More than 150 homes have been evacuated from the area since last August due to dangerous gases being released into the air.

“It’s not going to be usable land again, they’re not going to get to go home again, and when you’re walking around there, I even felt that fear,” Brockovich said.

US politicians should reject Keystone pipeline

As a Canadian energy and climate economist, I have first-hand experience with the magician-like techniques of the Canadian government and petroleum industry as they try to double the output of our highly polluting tar sands. Politicians in Washington should be wary, especially if they are sincere in wanting to spare us and our children from an increasing barrage of Katrinas, Sandys and droughts.

Norway’s Arctic idyll shivers at oil plans

Oil companies seeking new Arctic areas for exploration face a battle with environmentalists, fishermen and hotel owners over Norwegian islands where jagged snow-capped peaks rise sheer from the sea.

With oil production falling to a 25-year low this year and the state depending on oil revenues, Norway’s ruling Labour Party is warming to drilling in Lofoten’s pristine waters, setting up the issue as the year’s biggest political fight ahead of elections in September.

Another George Bush runs for office in Texas, talks up oil and gas drilling

George Prescott Bush has kicked off a campaign to run for Texas land commissioner next year. Haven’t heard much about this Bush? Just wait — you will. He’s the 36-year-old son of former Florida governor and 2016 presidential aspirant Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife Columba.

Bahamas will soon be invaded by oil drills

Catch ya later, unspoiled beaches of Bahamian paradise. It’s been real.

Offshore oil drilling will soon be allowed in the heavenly West Indies archipelago of the Bahamas, which is made up of thousands of islands and cays off the Floridian coast. Initially, the drilling will be exploratory only — an experiment that will punch a bunch of holes in the ocean floor to see what goop lies beneath.

The Facts on Fracking

OPPOSITION to fracking has been considerable, if not unanimous, in the global green community, and in Europe in particular. France and Bulgaria, countries with the largest shale-gas reserves in Europe, have already banned fracking. Protesters are blocking potential drilling sites in Poland and England. Opposition to fracking has entered popular culture with the release of “The Promised Land,” starring Matt Damon. Even the Rolling Stones have weighed in with a reference to fracking in their new single, “Doom and Gloom.”

Do the facts on fracking support this opposition?

Fracking Groundwater Rules Reflect Legal Ambiguities

In Karnes County, at the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale, oil and gas drillers seeking to use water for hydraulic fracturing must get a permit from the local groundwater authority. They can pump only a certain amount of water, and they must report how much they use.

In Dimmit County, another Eagle Ford Shale drilling hotbed, drillers can pump as much water as they want — and no permit is required.

Fracking opponents rally at Illinois Statehouse

Environmentalists and land owners rallied Tuesday against a proposal that would jumpstart hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, saying the drilling practice — known as fracking — is unsafe and requires further study.

The bill is among the strictest in the nation but was written with help from the oil and gas industries, which have been seeking certainty in the law before investing too heavily in the practice.

Using Abandoned Mine Drainage to Frack

In the Susquehanna River Basin, just one well can use an average of 4.4 million gallons of water during a frack job, which can last several days to a week. The majority of that water comes from Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams.

Japan warms to ‘fire ice’ potential

Japan has moved closer to unlocking a potential new energy source, after a research group extracted methane gas from frozen undersea deposits for the first time.

Japanese officials hope the achievement, in a test conducted off Japan’s central Pacific coast, will win their resource-poor nation a measure of energy independence. It was announced a day after the second anniversary of the Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that crippled the country’s atomic power industry and exposed its lack of domestic energy sources.

‘Fracking’ Brings Prosperity, Problems to Pennsylvania

Times are good these days at the Linde Corp., where despite a sluggish economy nationally, the company is on a hiring binge.

The construction company, based near Wilkes-Barre in northeastern Pennsylvania, has seen its workforce nearly triple over the past five years as it switched from helping to build big-box stores to laying miles of natural gas pipelines connecting hundreds of gas wells drilled in the rolling rural terrain here in Susquehanna County.

Coalition Acts to Protect Longmont’s Constitutional Right to Ban Fracking

A coalition of community, public health, consumer and environmental organizations filed a motion yesterday in the Weld County District Court to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Longmont’s ban of the oil and gas practice known as fracking and related surface activities, such as storage of toxic post-fracking fluids. This ban was instituted by the citizens of Longmont in an amendment to the City Charter, Article XVI, the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act.

Groups to Obama: Take a Timeout on Natural Gas Exports

The Center for International Environmental Law, Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Earthworks, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society sent a letter to President Obama strongly pushing for a timeout on natural gas exports until critical national economic, environmental and trade concerns are thoroughly analyzed and carefully addressed.

Fracking: What’s That Smell?

You know what natural gas smells like. Or do you? Natural gas is actually odorless. That rotten-egg smell is added for safety reasons. Otherwise, you might not notice a potentially deadly gas leak.

If only we could add a similar smell to the natural gas industry. Too many people—especially politicians—aren’t paying attention to the dangers of the current “boom” in natural gas development. Here are three big reasons why we should stop new gas drilling before it starts and replace fossil fuels at every opportunity with clean, renewable energy.

NY health regulators to make fracking decision within weeks

Less than a week after the New York State Assembly voted to extend the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, the state health commissioner said he plans to give his recommendation on whether New York should approve fracking in the coming weeks.

N.Y. recommendation on fracking expected in weeks

New York’s health commissioner says he plans a recommendation to Gov. Andrew Cuomo “in weeks” on whether the state should approve hydraulic fracturing.

Health Commissioner Nirav Shah also said he met with researchers from the Environmental Protection Agency and Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania within the past two weeks.

N.Y. State Health Commissioner Won’t Wait For Studies On Fracking

New York State Health Commissioner Nariv Shah said Monday that he will not wait for the completion of any studies, and plans a recommendation “in weeks” on whether the state should approve hydraulic fracturing.

Longmont granted change of venue in fracking ban lawsuit

Longmont’s request for a change of venue in the fracking ban lawsuit filed against the city by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association has been granted. The case will now be heard in Boulder County.

COGA filed the lawsuit in December in Weld County after 60 percent of Longmont voters passed Ballot Measure 300 on Election Day. The measure banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the storage and disposal of fracking waste within the city limits.

Sean Lennon, Yoko Ono Recruit Famous Friends for Anti-Fracking Clip

Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon have put up billboards, run a TV ad and presented petitions in opposition of fracking, now they’ve recruited celebrity friends including Liv Tyler, Susan Sarandon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the new video to their song “Don’t Frack My Mother,” which debuted last summer on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.

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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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