Environmental Must-Reads – March 24, 2014


Anti-fracking activist banned from Pennsylvania land heads to court

An anti-fracking activist is set to ask a Pennsylvania judge on Monday to lift an injunction that bars her from her local hospital, grocery and other properties that sit atop vast lands leased by a Texas-based company for shale gas extraction.

A five-month-old injunction prohibits Vera Scroggins, 63, of Brackney, Pennsylvania, from setting foot onto 40 percent of Susquehanna County that is leased by Cabot Oil and Gas.

Residents: Quakes, fracking are linked

The first time Judy Pack felt the earth move, she was asleep in her house in rural Mahoning County, just a few houses from the Pennsylvania state line.

A natural-gas processing plant had recently been built across the street; Hilcorp Energy, a Texas oil company, had started drilling and fracking for gas about 3 miles away.

Mapped: Groundwater Contamination in Texas

Though the rise of fracking (and the chemicals used in the fracking process) has raised concerns about groundwater contamination, the source of a majority of Texas’ cases is far more mundane.

Gasoline is the most prevalent source of groundwater contaminant in Texas, according to a Joint Groundwater Monitoring and Contamination Report put out last year by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Of 2,083 total cases in the last five years, almost half (922) were because of a gasoline leak. The map above plots every reported contamination case from 2008 to 2012, the most recent year of data.

Magnitude 4.0 earthquake hits central Oklahoma, follows six other quakes Friday

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake shook central Oklahoma shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The quake followed two other earthquakes — a 2.8 and a 2.6 magnitude — that were centered near Langston just minutes earlier and four other earthquakes ranging from 2.7 to 2.9 magnitude near Guthrie, Yale and Crescent on Friday afternoon and evening, the Geological Survey reported.

Seismic testing before gas drilling divides some W. Pa. communities

For two days, trucks wandered through the streets of Aliquippa, thumping the ground with heavy metal plates and sending shockwaves deep into the earth to gauge how much natural gas lies beneath.

That part of the seismic survey didn’t take long, but preparations for it — public hearings and panicked calls to the police — spanned more than a year.

How Dangerous Are the Gas Pipes Under Your City?

Last week, a massive explosion leveled two five-story buildings on an East Harlem street in New York City, killing eight and injuring dozens more.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have yet to officially identify the cause of the disaster, but they appear to be focusing on a natural gas leak. They’ve isolated a crack in an 8-inch gas pipeline running next to one of the two apartment buildings, part of a system that is over 100 years old. If confirmed, this incident would be tied with a 2010 blast in San Bruno, California, as the decade’s deadliest gas explosion.

North Dakota Gas Flaring Doubles, Pumping CO2 Into Air

Fracking for crude oil is big business in North Dakota, but with that oil is coming a steadily increasing amount of wasted natural gas that is burned off, releasing large amounts of climate change-driving carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to new U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

The Bakken shale of North Dakota is one of America’s largest sources of crude oil. It’s produced by drilling and then hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shale formations deep underground. But the oil fields rarely produce only oil — natural gas and other hydrocarbons come with it.

California Tribes Front and Center at Sacramento Anti-Fracking Rally

Parched by drought that is causing water shortages and threatening crops and fisheries, California and the tribes residing there are embattled over fracking, which uses millions of gallons of water per shale well.

California has more tribes than any other state, and scores of them were out in force on March 15 at a “Don’t Frack California” rally at the State Capitol in Sacramento. More than 4,000 people gathered to demand that Governor Jerry Brown pass a moratorium on hydraulic fracking for oil.

Mineral rights can be confusing

As the oil and gas industry moves into drilling for Marcellus and Utica Shale, property owners are scrambling to find out about the status of the mineral rights on their property.

According to available statistics, there are 2,423 mineral rights that are owned in Wood County. This does not include leases. The wells are considered real estate. The numbers do not include mineral rights that are under lease, only cases where individuals or oil and gas companies or others own the mineral rights, but not the surface land.

Driller’s hot-rocks policing irks foes

Environmental watchdogs say a system for tracking radioactive material unearthed during natural-gas drilling depends too much on the industry’s self-policing, making it impossible to judge how much waste is generated or how dangerous it might be.

Their concern centers on cuttings — rocks exposed during drilling.

Oil company endorses Nevada’s proposed fracking rules

A Houston-based oil company has endorsed Nevada’s proposed rules governing hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.

The proposed regulations support proven technologies to safely develop Nevada’s oil and gas, said Kevin Vorhaben of Noble Energy Inc., which is exploring for oil in three Elko County locations.

Houston Ship Channel oil spill ‘significant’; wildlife damage seen

A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as about a fifth of its cargo into the waterway.

Coast Guard officials said that up to 168,000 gallons were dumped after one of the barge’s tanks ruptured and that oil had been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico as of Sunday afternoon.

Oil spill cleanup impedes major Texas ship channel

A barge that once carried some 900,000 gallons of heavy tar-like oil was cleared Sunday of its remaining contents, a day after the vessel collided with a ship in the busy Houston Ship Channel and leaked as much as about a fifth of its cargo into the waterway.

Coast Guard officials said that up to 168,000 gallons were dumped after one of the barge’s tanks ruptured and that oil had been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico as of Sunday afternoon.

Galveston oil spill backs up Gulf of Mexico traffic

The cleanup of an unknown amount of thick, sticky oil that spilled into the Galveston Bay blocked traffic Sunday between the Gulf of Mexico and one of the world’s busiest petrochemical transportation waterways, affecting all vessels, even cruise ships.

A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of marine fuel oil collided with a ship Saturday afternoon, springing a leak. Officials believe only one of the barge’s tanks — which holds 168,000 gallons, was breached, though Coast Guard Petty Officer Andy Kendrick said Sunday it wasn’t clear how much oil spilled.

Residents and businesses near area impacted by oil spill feeling effects

Sunday was a busy day back on Galveston Bay as emergency crews work to really clean up the oil spill following yesterday’s collision. Locals tell us they’re already feeling the impact from this emergency.

The main road leading to the Texas City dike’s usually pretty busy on Sundays, but the oil spill cleanup in the Ship Channel now has businesses warning folks the area’s closed. Police are setting up road blocks, turning regular visitors like Ric Ware and his wife away.

Nearly 32K gallons of liquid removed in Colerain oil spill

Pipeline safety investigators have not yet determined what caused an interstate pipeline to burst and leak oil in a Colerain Township nature preserve.

However, Colerain Township Fire Department Capt. Steve Conn said Sunday pipeline repair and emergency cleanup operations are continuing as scheduled. However, the impacts on wildlife in the area may be growing.

Crews repairing pipeline that leaked oil in Ohio

Repairs have begun on a pipeline that leaked more than 10,000 gallons of crude oil into a suburban nature preserve.

Officials said Sunday that repairs approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation are underway on the pipeline that leaked in the Oak Glen Nature Preserve in suburban Cincinnati. A Colerain Township fire department release says more than 31,000 gallons of combined water and oil have been recovered in cleanup of the contaminated area.

Methane from oil spill absorbed by bacteria, entered Gulf’s food web

Researchers at Florida State University and Florida A&M University have confirmed that the methane released in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has disappeared.

It was absorbed by floating bacteria in the Gulf and that bacteria has entered the food web.

Tar balls believed to be from BP spill wash up on West Ship Island, Mississippi officials say

Mississippi environmental authorities say oil debris found this week on state barrier islands is believed to be from the BP’s disastrous 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and contractors for the oil giant are involved in the cleanup.

Officials believe high winds and seasonal low tides uncovered the material.

Timeline: most notorious marine oil spills in history

Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, we look back at the most notorious marine oil spills in history

After 25 years, Exxon Valdez oil spill hasn’t ended

Twenty-five years ago on March 24, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez slammed into Bligh Reef and spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil into the cold, clear waters of Alaska’s Prince William Sound — one of the “last best places” on Earth. The oil charged through Prince William Sound and out into the Gulf of Alaska, damaging more than 1,300 miles of some of the most remote, wild shoreline in this country.

The U.S. Energy Chief on Gas Exports, Russia, and the Keystone Pipeline

In a wide-ranging discussion with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz at Bloomberg’s Washington office on March 21, Moniz acknowledged what many observers have already deduced: U.S.-Russia relations are “under strain,” and yes, “everything in terms of the relationship is going to be reevaluated.”

What Happens if the Keystone XL Pipeline Isn’t Built?

After five years, it appears the Obama administration will soon issue a decision on whether to build the long-delayed and controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would cross an environmentally sensitive area of the Great Plains and move nearly a million gallons of oil a day to Gulf Coast refineries.

Quebec Oil-Train Disaster Report Filed With Prosecutors

Quebec police have finished and filed with authorities their investigation into the Lac-Megantic train disaster that killed 47 people and prompted backlash against the growing practice of transporting crude oil by rail.

The report has been sent to Quebec provincial prosecutors, said Claude Denis, a spokesman for Quebec’s provincial police service. A story by the QMI news service on March 22, citing an unidentified police source, said the train’s engineer knew some of the train’s brakes were broken and that police expected prosecutors to file criminal charges.

Investigation into Lac-Megantic train derailment complete, charges expected

Quebec provincial police have concluded their investigation into the deadly Lac-Megantic train derailment that killed 47 people in July.

A police source has told QMI Agency that they are confident prosecutors will lay criminal negligence charges against at least three people, including the train’s engineer and the CEO of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) railway

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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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