Environmental Must-Reads – March 21, 2014


Colorado’s Tough New Drilling Rules Make an Impact in Texas

Colorado’s tough, new air pollution rules for the oil and gas industry were approved only a month ago but they’re already making an impact in Texas, where lawmakers and energy companies have long resisted tightening air standards.

Several companies have approached the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund and expressed interest in discussing whether Colorado’s rules make sense for Texas, according to Jim Marston, a vice president at EDF. Marston didn’t name the companies.

Fracking employee sentenced to probation for dumping thousands of gallons of waste into Mahoning River

A former employee of a Youngstown oil- and gas-drilling company was sentenced today to three years probation for dumping tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River.

Michael Guesman pleaded guilty in August to a federal charge of unpermitted discharge of pollutants under the federal Clean Water Act.

How Fracking Destroys the American Dream

Last fall, Resource Media compiled an in-depth media tip sheet to provide journalists with background information and sources about the growing body of evidence linking drilling with widespread impacts on property values, property rights and quality of life in communities across America.

Enviro Group Files for Anti-Fracking Ballot Measure

A new grassroots group dubbed Water Guardians filed an initiative to ban fracking, acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steam injection, and other “enhanced” extraction techniques on land in the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County. Conservationists Katie Davis and Rebecca Claassen led the small group to formally file papers with the Santa Barbara County Registrar on Tuesday afternoon.

Fracking foes push for public health impact study

Dozens of people showed up at the Capitol to weigh in on a bill that would simply require a study to determine the impact oil and gas operations are having on the health of people who live near well sites.

House Bill 1297 would examine data from Adams, Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties through 2017 at a cost to the state of $570,000.

Keystone Foes Take Aim at Maryland Natural Gas Project

Environmentalists fighting the Keystone XL pipeline are rallying to block a Maryland natural gas export terminal as momentum builds to use the U.S. fuel as a weapon against Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

The energy required to liquefy and ship gas at Dominion Resources Inc.’s proposed Cove Point terminal in Maryland will raise the fuel’s greenhouse-gas emissions to the level of coal, says Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Such terminals threaten the climate like pipelines tied to developing oil in Alberta, including Keystone, he said.

Green groups: Russia-fueled push for natural gas exports will fade

Green groups say they’re confident the push to expand U.S. natural gas exports will fade as attention moves away from Russia’s clash with the West over Ukraine.

The fight has brought new attention to Russia’s use of its natural gas reserves as political leverage over Europe, and has fueled GOP arguments that the U.S. should step up its efforts to export its own natural gas as an answer to Moscow.

Fracking Hammers Clean Energy Research

A single bottle of dirty water transformed into the power source for a home—such was the promise of a technology package that became known as the “artificial leaf.” And such was the vision introduced by its inventor, Daniel Nocera, at the inaugural summit of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy in 2010.

Are Natural-Gas Exports the Next Keystone?

A coalition of grassroots environmentalists are galvanizing around a fossil-fuel project and urging President Barack Obama to oppose it.

Sound familiar? It’s not the Keystone XL pipeline, but the parameters of the fight—and the arguments—are awfully similar to the fight that’s been raging in Washington and throughout the country over the proposed pipeline for the last five years.

WH to unveil new methane strategy this month

The White House plans to press ahead with more executive actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the coming weeks, including a government-wide strategy aimed at cutting methane emissions, according to top Obama advisers.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is about 25 times more powerful as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide, the largest human contributor to climate change. While it largely dissipates in a few decades and there is far less of it in the atmosphere than CO2, it continues to drive global warming and the administration has been looking at how to minimize methane emissions as natural gas production expands in the United States.

Tough new fracking rules in Colorado drawing keen attention in Texas, where boom rages on

Colorado’s tough, new air pollution rules for the oil and gas industry were approved only a month ago but already are making an impact in Texas, where lawmakers and energy companies have long resisted tightening air standards.

Several companies have approached the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund and expressed interest in discussing whether Colorado’s rules make sense for Texas, according to Jim Marston, a vice president at EDF. Marston didn’t name the companies.

Ohio drillers’ growing use of fresh water concerns environmental activists

Drillers in eastern Ohio are using more fresh water to hydraulically fracture wells for natural gas and related liquids, and that trend has Ohio activists concerned about future water consumption.

By late 2014, drillers in Ohio will require an estimated 5.8 billion gallons of water per year, says an analysis by Ted Auch and Danny Berghoff of the FracTracker Alliance, an environmental group with offices in Cleveland Heights.

Down the Drain: Who’s Watching Chemicals Used in Oil Drilling?

A case of alleged dumping of possibly thousands of gallons of chemicals into Odessa’s sewer system has local officials wondering who’s supposed to police the drilling industry.

“We’re finding that there’s so much confusion in this area of law regarding who is responsible for what,” said Susan Redford, the Ector County Judge. ”So in Ector County, we have taken the lead upon ourselves to investigate the more serious illegal dumping cases and to prosecute those cases both civilly and criminally.”

Editorial: Horror of silicosis

Choking, wheezing sickness and death among U.S. workers who breathe rock dust has declined greatly during the past half-century – but a disturbing number of blue-collar laborers still suffer agonizing silicosis.

The menace is expected to worsen because large amounts of “frac sand” are used at Marcellus Shale horizontal gas wells. The sand is mixed with liquids and pumped into deep strata, to prevent fractures from closing after high pressure splits them. Workers on the surface can encounter clouds of tiny silica particles. West Virginia is up to its neck in the Marcellus boom, and thus at risk.

North Carolina Says Utility Pumped Millions of Gallons of Wastewater in River

Duke Energy, the electric utility whose massive spill of toxic coal ash into a river six weeks ago is part of a federal investigation, illegally pumped as much as 61 million gallons of coal-ash wastewater into a second river from September to last week, North Carolina regulators charged on Thursday.

Both the accidental spill and the deliberate releases occurred not far upstream from municipal drinking-water intakes.

Breaking: North Carolina Regulators Take Legal Action Against Duke Energy for Coal Ash Dumping

North Carolina environmental regulators have cited Duke Energy for violating the conditions of a wastewater permit after it illegally dumped an estimated 61 million gallons of coal ash wastewater into a Cape Fear River tributary, according to Waterkeeper Alliance.

The state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued the citation on Thursday for the permit violations after state officials discovered the dumping during a March 11 inspection at Duke Energy’s Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant.

BP wins new US oil contracts four years after Deepwater Horizon disaster

British oil giant BP won 24 bids to begin offshore exploration in the Gulf of Mexico this week, just days after federal authorities lifted a ban imposed against the company for its involvement in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. As Reuters reports, BP submitted 31 bids ahead of Wednesday’s auction in New Orleans, held by the US Interior Department. Its 24 winning bids are valued at $41.6 billion, though competitors Shell, Chevron, and Freeport McMoRan submitted winning bids that are worth more.

Republicans take aim at oil and gas legacy lawsuits

Two Republican politicians running for statewide office in 2015 joined an energy association Thursday in opposing legacy lawsuits filed by local governments against oil and gas companies.

A third politician, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., acknowledged the escalating fight between oil and gas interests in Louisiana and those suing the companies.

Pipeline bursts, makes a big mess in Ohio nature preserve

A ruptured oil pipeline has dumped more than 10,000 gallons of crude into a wetland area and nature preserve in southwestern Ohio. How’s that for a reminder that pipelines aren’t necessarily cleaner than oil trains?

The 1950s-era pipeline, owned by Sunoco Logistics, was sending oil from Texas up to refineries in Michigan. The spill was discovered Monday, but some neighbors reported smelling oil since late February.

EPA to inspect oil spill

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will inspect the site of an oil spill into the Missouri and Yellowstone river confluence area near Williston today.

The Denver-based EPA onsite emergency response coordinator will look at how the 33-barrel spill, equivalent to 1,400 gallons, has affected the waters and possibly land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and nearby wildlife management areas.

Crews cleaning up pipeline oil spill that leaked 400 barrels

Crews are cleaning up an oil spill in McKenzie County after an above-ground section of pipeline leaked, releasing about 400 barrels.

The spill occurred Thursday about six miles northeast of Alexander at a facility owned by Hiland Crude LLC, said Dennis Fewless, director of the Division of Water Quality for the North Dakota Department of Health said.

CP updates plan for oil spill cleanup

Crews monitoring and cleaning up the oil spill along Canadian Pacific tracks provided an update this week to the state agency supervising the efforts.

The 44-page plan, submitted by consultants Pinnacle Engineering to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, contains a four-page update on response and monitoring efforts in the wake of an oil spill that deposited about 12,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil along 70 miles of Canadian Pacific track between Red Wing and Winona on Feb. 3.

While America Spars Over Keystone XL, A Vast Network Of Pipelines Is Quietly Being Approved

After countless marches, arrests, Congressional votes, and editorials, the five-and-a-half year battle over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is nearing its end. If a recent ruling in Nebraska doesn’t delay the decision further, America could find out as soon as this spring whether or not the pipeline, which has become a focal point in America’s environmental movement, will be built.

But while critics and proponents of Keystone XL have sparred over the last few years, numerous pipelines — many of them slated to carry the same Canadian tar sands crude as Keystone — have been proposed, permitted, and even seen construction begin in the U.S. and Canada. Some rival Keystone XL in size and capacity; others, when linked up with existing and planned pipelines, would carry more oil than the 1,179-mile pipeline.

Valero moves to source all crude for Quebec refinery from North America by end of 2014

Valero Energy Corp., owner of Canada’s second-largest oil refinery, is working to source the Lévis, Que. facility’s entire crude oil supply from North America by the end of 2014.

The shift would mark a break from the refinery’s near-complete dependence on so-called Atlantic basin crude from Algeria and other overseas nations for the past several decades. And it means Quebec will have access to oil that is more secure at a time geopolitical tension is climbing in several corners of the world.

Oil trains carrying volatile Bakken crude have local officials preparing for the worst

The likelihood of a fiery, Quebec-style oil train derailment in the Inland Northwest is considered remote but authorities already have begun planning for the worst as shipments of Bakken crude rolling through Spokane keep growing.

“If we have a moderate to severe event, we’re going to be stretched very thin,” said Deputy Spokane Valley Fire Chief Andy Hail. “We’re looking at a potential depletion of local resources.”

Lac Mégantic mayor wants oil train shipments to resume

Incredible but true. Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche of Lac Mégantic, Quebec wants oil train shipments to resume through her town now that the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway has been sold to the U.S. investment firm Fortress Investment.

Fire Fuels Debate over Pittsburg Oil Terminal

More than 50 acres of Contra Costa County went up in flames Thursday as crews fought hard against the dangerous combination of a spark and drought-dried grass.

“Kinda like a dark smoke.  When I saw that I was like, it’s near to my place and sure enough it’s just right there,” Eric Nilo said. He lives just off of Williow Pass Road in Pittsburgh.

Environmental group Greenpeace accuses Arctic Council of promoting pro-oil agenda

Greenpeace Canada has accused the Arctic Council of pushing a pro-oil agenda under Canada’s leadership, ahead of the council’s upcoming meetings in Yellowknife.

A meeting of the council’s senior Arctic officials, which includes delegations from its member states and permanent indigenous participants, gets underway in Yellowknife March 25.

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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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