Environmental Must-Reads – March 25, 2014


Research Shows Some Test Methods Miss 99 Percent of Radium in Fracking Waste

Every year, fracking generates hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater laced with corrosive salts, radioactive materials and many other chemicals. Because some of that wastewater winds up in rivers after it’s treated to remove dangerous contaminants, regulators across the U.S. have begun to develop testing regimens to gauge how badly fracking wastewater is polluted and how effective treatment plants are at removing contamination.

Fracking Activist Wants Back on Driller’s Land

A high-profile anti-fracking activist who often gives tours of natural gas drilling sites in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region asked a judge Monday for relief from an order barring her from stepping foot on more than 300 square miles of land owned or leased by one of the state’s leading natural gas drillers.

Fracking company owner pleads guilty to ordering toxic waste dumped into Mahoning River

The owner of a Youngstown oil- and gas-drilling company pleaded guilty today to ordering an employee to dump tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River.

Benedict Lupo, 63, of Poland, Ohio, could be sentenced up to three years in federal prison and be ordered to pay restitution of more than $3 million, plus fines of up to $1 million for his crimes.

Nevada Fracking Plans OK’d

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

Noble Energy’s Kevin Vorhaben says the proposed regulations support proven technologies to safely develop Nevada’s oil and gas. Noble Energy is exploring for oil in three Elko County locations.

What do Denton and LA have in common? Think fracking

What do Los Angeles and Denton have in common? Both cities are taking a stand against fracking.

Los Angeles became the biggest city in the country to have a moratorium on fracking in February.  The City Council approved  the measure banning not only fracking but acidizing and other well stimulation techniques, the L.A. Times reported.

How Many People Are Affected By Fracking?

Working with a colleague at the Wall Street Journal, we set out to ask that exact question. The answer: At least 15.3 million Americans lived within a mile of a well that has been drilled since 2000. That is more people than live in Michigan or New York City.

Fracking initiatives start to fracture Colorado

A gusher of proposed ballot initiatives on hydraulic fracturing is poised to flood the November ballot as Colorado digs in for a gritty election battle between the oil and gas industry and environmentalists.

Nothing has qualified yet, but it would be no surprise if as many as a half-dozen proposals reach the Nov. 4 ballot, setting up what could become a national proxy war on energy development akin to last year’s debate on gun control.

Are New Fracking Regulations in California Enough?

California is instituting what some are calling the toughest regulations in the nation for the controversial oil extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. But some say the regulations don’t go far enough and instead want a ban.

Fracking safety: report warns of ‘significant unknowns’

The lack of publicly available data on the UK’s onshore oil and gas drilling means there are significant “unknowns” about the safety of future fracking wells, according to a new study. The research also found that public data from the US showed that hundreds of recent shale gas wells in Pennsylvania have suffered failures that could cause water or air pollution.

Oil well safety warning for fracking

Plans to expand shale gas “fracking” in the UK must learn from leaks and poor monitoring at existing onshore oil and gas sites, scientists say.

A review of 2,152 wells drilled from 1902-2013 found up to 100 “orphaned” wells for which no firm is responsible.

Only two cases of well “failure” were recorded, but legacy sites are not monitored for leaks, the authors note.

BP oil spill linked to heart defects in tuna and amberjack, new study says

Oil from BP’s Macondo well has again been linked to heart defects in embryonic and newborn bluefin and yellowfin tuna and in amberjack, key commercial, open water fish that were spawning in the Gulf of Mexico at the time of the catastrophic blowout, according to a peer-reviewed lab study released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We can now say with certainty that oil causes cardiotoxicity in fish,” said Stanford University fisheries biologist Barbara Block, who studies bluefin tuna in the Gulf, during a Monday (March 24) news conference about the study. Block is one of the authors of the study, which was published in latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Damning study blames BP oil spill for heart defects in fish

Last December, scientists announced that dolphins in Louisiana were experiencing lung diseases and low birthrates in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that released more than 636 million liters of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Now, researchers have also found evidence of potentially lethal heart defects in two species of tuna and one species of amberjack — all economically important species for commercial fisheries. This news, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, comes less than a week after the announcement that BP will once again be allowed to explore the Gulf of Mexico for oil.

Galveston oil spill: Does oil boom mean more spills?

Galveston oil spill released heavy sticky oil into Galveston Bay Saturday, shutting down a major shipping route and creating a large oil slick. The safety record of oil tankers has improved dramatically over recent decades. Does Galveston oil spill highlight risks of increased tanker traffic?

Austin seafood market keeping a close eye on gulf oil spill

The oil spill clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico is now sparking concern well beyond the Texas Coast.

Quality Seafood, an Austin seafood market and restaurant for 75 years, gets about 60 percent of its seafood shipped in daily from the Gulf of Mexico.

Houston ship lane to have ‘tapered’ reopening; Exxon cuts output

U.S. authorities expected a “tapered” re-opening of the Houston Ship Channel, but gave no timeline on Monday of when vessels could start moving again after an oil barge spill shut the waterway for a third day, forcing the nation’s second-largest refinery to curb production.

“We will begin the process of a tapered … not a floodgate resumption of marine traffic,” Captain Brian Penoyer, commander of U.S. Coast Guard sector Houston-Galveston and captain of the Port of Houston, told reporters on Monday.

Galveston Oil Spill Threatening Crucial Bird Refuge

A barge that spilled 168,000 gallons (635,000 liters) of oil Saturday into Galveston Bay is threatening a refuge that’s crucial habitat for thousands of birds, experts say.

The spill occurred when the barge collided with a ship in the Houston Ship Channel near Texas City, on the western coast of Galveston Bay.

The area is about 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Bolivar Peninsula, which is home to the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, a preserved area of marshy mudflats that’s home to a variety of geese, ducks, herons, and other waterbirds.

Texas Still Learning When It Comes to Oil Spill Response

Two dozen boats and over 500 people are now involved in the response to an oil spill from Saturday that closed the Houston Ship Channel.

What spilled was a heavy fuel oil, called bunker fuel, which was carried in a barge that collided with a ship. Up to 168,000 gallons were dumped into the channel.

Ohio Oil Spill: Mid-Valley Pipeline Leak Released More Than 20,000 Gallons Into Oak Glen Preserve

Federal environmental officials now estimate more than 20,000 gallons of crude oil — double the initial estimates — leaked from a pipeline into a nature preserve in southwest Ohio.

Meanwhile, Sunoco Logistics said Monday that the pipeline has been repaired and re-opened. Sunoco shut off the stretch of Mid-Valley Pipeline from Hebron, Ky., to Lima, Ohio, early March 18 after a leak was confirmed.

Sydney oil spill will significantly affect wildlife, say anglers

Recreational fishers have warned of a significant impact upon fish and bird life in Botany bay after an oil spill in the area.

The spill originated from Caltex’s Kurnell refinery, with the company blaming heavy rain for causing a containment area to overflow. Caltex said the oil spill was small, with the Sydney Ports Corporation confirming that it had been fully contained with booms.

25 Years After Exxon Valdez, We’re Not Ready For the Next Big Spill

A quarter-century ago, after the Exxon Valdez’s captain downed one too many drinks and left a third mate in charge, the oil tanker struck a reef and bled 11 million gallons of oil across 1,300 miles of Alaska’s coastline. But the catastrophic oil spills have continued in the US—and we’re still not prepared to handle them.

For Americans, the words “Exxon Valdez” are iconic—depending on when you grew up, it was the national crisis that spurred a thousand environmental clubs, donation drives, and grade-school science projects. In theory, it also changed how the US deals with environmental disasters. In practice? Not so much.

Fox Uses Galveston Bay Oil Spill To Push For Keystone XL Pipeline

Fox Business personalities seized on reports of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to push for approval of Keystone XL, ignoring the fact that the pipeline could lead to increased risk of spills near the Gulf Coast.

On March 23, Reuters reported that cleanup crews had quarantined a portion of the heavily trafficked Houston Ship Channel in response to a significant oil spill. The spill, estimated to be roughly 4,000 barrels (or 168,000 gallons), began after a tanker vessel carrying heavy fuel oil collided with a cargo ship in Galveston Bay, an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico.

Landowners awarded $2.1 million in pipeline easement case

A Johnson County jury has found that a pipeline company must pay more than $1.6 million for an easement to cross a Mansfield property, 20 times more than the value set in 2007 during an eminent domain proceeding.

State Judge Robert Dohoney, in an order issued March 20, also assessed interest and expenses against Peregrine, bringing the total judgment to $2.1 million.

Southern leg of Keystone XL pipeline reaches capacity faster than expected

The southern leg of Keystone XL pipeline reached capacity much faster than expected, a TransCanada official said Monday.

Corey Goulet, vice president of TransCanada’s Keystone development, said the company wanted the 485-mile pipeline to transport 700,000 barrels of oil a day after about 90 days of operation.

Opposition grows as oil pipelines proliferate in northern Minnesota

Leon Rogers has lived next to crude oil pipelines for years. He’s had enough.

With four pipelines already buried beneath his farmland and a fifth one planned next to his house, Rogers and many of his neighbors are no longer ambivalent about the river of oil flowing through this region of forests, lakes and rivers.

“They are making it a freeway for pipelines,” said Rogers, a registered nurse who has lived on a small farm south of Park Rapids for 18 years. “It comes down to, ‘I don’t want to live here.’

Investigators complete report on Quebec oil-train disaster

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.

Rail Safety Of Bay Area Oil Shipments Doubted

Last summer’s oil train accident in Quebec that killed 47 people has lawmakers and others in the Bay Area concerned that it could happen here as the volume of crude oil from fracking and other petroleum products arriving from North Dakota and Canada to local refineries surges.

On Monday’s 25th anniversary of the 1990 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said he fears the response to major oil spill will far short.

Exxon Valdez: what lessons have we learned from the 1989 oil spill disaster?

It’s been 25 years to the day since human error allowed the Exxon Valdez tanker to run aground in the pristine waters of Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska, dumping 11 million gallons of crude oil in what would become the greatest environmental disaster for an entire generation.

Even after the recent Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico — a much larger accident in terms of the amount of oil released — the spectre of Exxon Valdez remains fresh in the minds of many Americans old enough to remember the wall-to-wall media coverage of crude-smothered rocks, birds, and marine mammals.

Health Officials: No Fukushima Radiation at California Beaches

The beach is safe. At least from radiation.

A YouTube video, seen by over 750,000 people, shot by an anonymous man holding a Geiger counter that captured readings of radiation on a San Mateo County beach stoked fears among the excitable that “Fukushima is here.”

But the radiation detected by the hand-held device has nothing to do with the faraway nuclear meltdown. In fact, it’s nothing to worry about at all, according to the California Department of Public Health.

‘Fukushima:’ a catastrophe that could happen here

The new book “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster” documents the cascading catastrophes that led to three nuclear meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in 2011 and warns that the sequence of events could happen anywhere.

Fukushima fishermen approve plan to release groundwater from plant

Fishermen working near Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant agreed on Tuesday to allow the release of uncontaminated groundwater around the facility into the ocean, a fisheries union official said, a rare victory for the operator.

Key Fukushima decontamination system shut

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday it had shut down a key decontamination system used to clean radiation-tainted water, the same day local fishermen agreed to allow the release of uncontaminated groundwater around the facility into the ocean.

Radiation Leak at New Mexico Nuclear Waste Storage Site Highlights Problems

A recent fire and radiation release at New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) uranium repository has brought renewed focus on the problem of what to do with a growing stockpile of radioactive waste and spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors.

The radiation release February 14, 2014, exposed at least 13 workers, after an alarm sounded and high levels of radiation were released from the underground repository in southeastern New Mexico, where nuclear waste from federal nuclear labs and weapons sites, along with discarded machinery, clothing and other radioactive waste is stored.

1 comment

  • Cynical? Welcome to my waking state of being every day. Yeah, I was wacnihtg when that coastal planning fiasco went down. I’ve reached a level of despair over my state and the morons we continue to elect that if I could I’d move away. Literally. In my own state house district this year, once again a Republican is running unopposed. I even gave serious thought to throwing my name in the ring just for there to be some opposition, but we pay our state legislators so little that the only folks who can afford to run are those who don’t need to work. My business is doing pretty decent considering the climate I started it in almost two years ago, but without me here to run it every day it would disappear over night.The fracking thing in this state is supposed to go on in a rural area, as one would expect. The trouble is that the two areas being considered fall on either side of one of the most populous areas of the state and our capital city as well. On top of that, one need only to look at a geologic map of the state to realize that the fractures are going to run right through that area, and it’s going to be an ungodly mess when the piper comes for his paycheck. This is going to make life miserable for a lot more than just a bunch of us rural hillbillies out in the woods. It’s gonna get real ugly before it’s through, I just hope my well here is far enough away and off the fault lines to remain uncontaminated. My county has no public water system. It’s a well or nothing out here.

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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