Environmental Must-Reads – March 20, 2014


California city halts new oil drilling over fracking concerns

The council of the Los Angeles County city of Carson, California, has unanimously approved a 45-day moratorium on new oil and gas drilling, a setback for Occidental Petroleum’s plans to drill more than 200 new wells there and the latest example of local governments taking a stand against fracking.

Oil industry group: ‘Irresponsible’ to link L.A. quake, fracking

An oil and gas industry association blasted a push by several members of the Los Angeles City Council to investigate whether hydraulic fracturing and other forms of oil well stimulation played any role in the earthquake that rattled Los Angeles on Monday, calling the move “appallingly irresponsible.”

Officials probe whether L.A. earthquake caused oil leakage

Work crews continued to scramble Tuesday to clean up crude oil that seeped from the ground and forced the closure of a Wilmington residential street, but it remained unclear what caused the leak or who was to blame.

A Phillips 66 spokesperson said the oil company is assisting in the cleanup but did not believe the firm has any responsibility in the leak.

Attempt To Ban Fracking In Johnson County, Illinois Fails

One day after the American Petroleum Institute celebrated fracking’s 65th birthday across social media, residents in Johnson County Illinois voted against a measure that would have effectively banned fracking in their community.

The southern Illinois county is home to just 12,000 people, but sits atop of the coveted “New Albany Shale” of the Illinois Basin. The shale could hold up to 300 billion barrels of oil.

Link Between Fracking and Earthquakes Grows With Surge of Quakes in Ohio

Evidence is mounting that there is a connection between the hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—method for extracting natural gas and earthquakes.

Consider this item from EcoWatch this week: “On Monday, Northeast Ohio experienced at least four earthquakes in Mahoning County, just south of Youngstown. Can anyone guess what was nearby? – A fracking site with seven drilling wells. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered the Texas based energy company, Hilcorp, to halt all fracking operations in the area.”

Fracking lawsuit says B.C. government is sidestepping its own water laws

A pair of environmental groups allege the B.C. government is skirting its own laws by allowing energy firms to spend years using large quantities of fresh water for natural gas extraction without having to go through the rigorous process of applying for long-term water licences.

Pipeline co. wants to nix punitive damages in explosion lawsuit

A natural gas pipeline company has asked a federal court to dismiss part of a lawsuit by two Glouster area residents, who sued over a 2011 pipeline explosion.

In a motion filed March 12 in U.S. District Court, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. and its parent firm argue that plaintiffs Gladys Chrissy Sharp and Joe G. Hixson should not be allowed to seek punitive damages, because their complaint “includes no factual support for a punitive damage claim.”

Louisiana’s coastal insects still dying from BP oil spill, researcher says

Insects living in wetland grasses along Louisiana’s coast oiled in the aftermath of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster are still dying, the result of exposure to remaining oil in the marsh almost four years later, Louisiana State University entomologist Linda Hooper-Bui said Wednesday.

BP in a response late Wednesday said any oil reaching the shoreline was stripped of compounds that might damage wildlife.

BP oil spill doc ‘Vanishing Pearls,’ focusing on plight of Louisiana fishers, picked up for distribution

The BP oil-spill doc “Vanishing Pearls,” made by native New Orleanian and first-time filmmaker Nailah Jefferson, is doing anything but vanishing. After premiering at January’s Slamdance Film Festival, Jefferson’s film has been picked up for distribution by the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement.

“Vanishing Pearls” will be released in New York and Los Angeles on April 18, according to Deadline. That’s just two days before the fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, in which an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil fouled the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana’s coast. It’s unclear when the film will be released in New Orleans.

In Gulf of Mexico, offshore oil industry regains footing

Four years after the world watched more than 200 million gallons of oil gush from a damaged well about a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, the offshore drilling industry here is experiencing a rebirth.

There are more active drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico now than there were before BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill. Major oil companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron — even BP — are spending billions of dollars developing deep-water fields that are projected to almost double the flow of oil over the next decade.

Oil soils Ohio nature preserve

Authorities in southwest Ohio said about 240 barrels of oil spilled from a pipeline system controlled by Sunoco into a 300-acre wetland preserve.

Sunoco Logistics said in a statement its emergency response crews contained the release from its Mid-Valley pipeline system and recovery of the spilled oil is underway. The company said Tuesday it had notified state and local authorities of the spill.

Colerain Township oil spill contained, focus now on public health

The 10,000-gallon oil spill at the Oak Glen Nature Preserve in Colerain Township is now contained and the pipeline has been shut off.

The focus now has shifted to the public’s health as the strong smell still lingers and health leaders going on a blitz want to make sure no one gets sick

Interior delays hike in oil spill fines

The Interior Department is delaying a rule that would raise the penalties on offshore facilities that are responsible for oil spills amid pressure from industry groups.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) both wrote to the Interior Department requesting an extension of the comment period, which the agency granted Tuesday, so these groups will have more time to review and respond to the rule.

Exxon Says There Are No “Unacceptable” Enviro Effects From Oil Spill, Arkansas Officials Disagree

ExxonMobil released a report claiming that there are no environmental effects resulting from last year’s massive oil spill in Mayflower. But one local agency says the oil giant is overreaching.

Exxon has been making similar claims since the oil spill on March 29th of last year. But now the oil giant officially stands by its initial claims that there is no need for concern.

Keystone XL Pipeline Divides Democrats

As the Obama administration deliberates over whether to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built, the proposed pipeline continues to draw broad support from the public. Currently, 61% favor building the pipeline while 27% are opposed. These views have changed little over the past year.

As previous surveys on the pipeline proposal have found, there is far more support for constructing the pipeline among Republicans (84% favor) and independents (61%) than among Democrats. About half of Democrats (49%) favor building the pipeline while 38% are opposed.

Crude oil pipeline planned, would pass through three Game and Fish wildlife management areas 

A crude oil refiner and a pipeline company are contemplating running an east-west gas line through Arkansas’s mid-section, connecting Cushing, Okla., on the west and Memphis on the east. A route under consideration would take the pipeline through three Game and Fish wildlife management areas, and Game and Fish is finding out that its options to keep the crude oil pipeline out of the Steve Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms WMA, the Henry Gray Hurricane Lake WMA and the Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMA are limited. The Black Swamp is 5,590 acres along the Cache River, its bottomlands filled with giant cypress trees and water tupelos and rich with bird and animal life.

Hearings Set On Alberta Clipper Oil Pipeline

Minnesota regulators are holding hearings across northern Minnesota this week on Enbridge Energy’s proposal to expand the capacity of its Alberta Clipper pipeline.

Following a hearing Tuesday night in Hallock, the Public Utilities Commission has hearings set for Wednesday in Thief River Falls and Cass Lake, and Thursday in Floodwood and Duluth. The hearings will conclude with a final forum April 3 in St. Paul.

Oil companies may get tax break for enhanced recovery, more pipeline land rights in Michigan

Oil and gas companies would receive tax breaks for re-using carbon dioxide to tap capped wells and have more power to obtain land for pipelines under legislation working its way to the desk of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Republican-led state Senate approved the last measure in a four-bill package on Wednesday morning in a 25-13 vote, sending it back to the House for concurrence a day after approving the three others.

Canadian PM appoints Keystone XL champion as finance minister

Joe Oliver, Canada’s former energy minister and champion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, was appointed the country’s new finance minister on Wednesday, signaling a stay-the-course approach to fiscal and economic policy.

“I just named Joe Oliver Canada’s new finance minister,” Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote on his official Twitter.

Filmmaker 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, according to State Impact.

Why a Melting Arctic Could Sink the Global Economy

Normally shy in policy debates, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, released a new report warning Americans that “We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.” In addition to putting policymakers and the public on sharp notice of the consequences of climate change, the report makes clear that “the sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came to this same conclusion well before the AAAS report release, dating back to his days in the U.S. Senate, where he was an outspoken advocate of U.S. legislation to limit carbon pollution and strong international climate action.

Gazprom Neft joins arctic spill response venture

Oil company Gazprom Neft said Wednesday it’s the first Russian company to join an international group tasked with assessing the safety of arctic oil work.

Gazprom Neft said Wednesday it joined the Arctic Oil Spill Response Technology Joint Industry Program, a program launched in 2012 to examine what would happen in the event of an oil spill in the frigid region.

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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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