Environmental Must-Reads – March 25, 2015


A $600-Million Fracking Company Just Sued This Tiny Ohio Town For Its Water

A tiny town in eastern Ohio is being sued by an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company that bought more than 180 million gallons of water from the town last year. That water use, combined with a dry fall, prompted the village to temporarily shut off water to Gulfport Energy. Now, a second company has a water agreement, and there might not be enough water to go around.

Gulfport Energy alleges in the lawsuit that the village of Barnesville, population 4,100, violated its agreement to provide water from its reservoir by entering into a contract with oil and gas company Antero Resources. Gulfport says the village’s contract with Antero allows for withdrawals beyond what Gulfport is allowed to take.

Courtroom skirmishing starts in lawsuit challenging proposed fracking well in St. Tammany

One of the three legal challenges to plans for a single fracking well in St. Tammany Parish got underway Tuesday when lawyers for Abita Springs, the state and Helis Oil & Gas Co. squared off before a state district court judge.

The hearing on the Abita Springs suit — the first on the matter in a St. Tammany court — gave lawyers for both sides an opportunity to argue about whether the case should go forward and, if so, where it should be heard. A similar suit was filed by the parish in state court in Baton Rouge, and lawyers for Helis and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources argued Tuesday that the Abita Springs suit should be handled there, as well.

Lawyers argue over Abita Springs’ fracking lawsuit

The appropriateness of Abita Springs’ fracking lawsuit was the subject of more than an hour of sparring between attorneys Tuesday (March 24) at the St. Tammany Parish courthouse, but the judge took the matter under study without issuing any rulings.

State Judge William Knight, who noted the opposing sides’ “very entrenched” positions, did not indicate when he would rule.

W.Va. Finalizes Deal With Statoil To Drill Under Ohio River

For an average price of $8,732 per acre with 20 percent production royalties, the West Virginia Department of Commerce with allow Norway-based Statoil to frack for oil and natural gas thousands of feet beneath the Ohio River.

The finalized lease agreement for drilling in state-owned mineral tracts under the river is in addition to those filed by Noble Energy and Gastar Exploration, which would pay the state $4.9 million and $749,000, respectively, in addition to the 20 percent royalties. These deals are not yet official, however, as the companies remain in negotiations with state leaders.

Mansfield council OKs tighter gas well restrictions

After a final public hearing, the Mansfield City Council Monday night unanimously approved tighter restrictions on gas well drilling but did not widen the city’s 600-foot minimum separation between gas and oil wells and the public.

The 6-0 vote, with Councilman Stephen Lindsey absent, culminates more than a year of public debate over how to protect against nuisance and potential health risks without stifling oil and gas development — and inviting litigation.

Texas Lawmakers Propose Bills To Regulate Drilling Statewide

If you think gas wells are too close to homes and schools, wait until you hear how much closer they could be getting.

Right now, there are city ordinances all over North Texas that keep gas wells 600 to 1500 feet away from homes schools and parks. Texas lawmakers are considering shortening that distance to just 200 feet.

Texas bill to limit local anti­-fracking ordinances advances

A bill that would limit cities and towns from passing local ordinances restricting oil and gas drilling and exploration is headed to the full Senate.

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development voted 8-0 on Tuesday to advance a proposal by its chairman, Horseshoe Bay Republican Sen. Troy Fraser.

A small victory in the fight against fracking-related earthquakes in Kansas

Down in Harper County, Kansas, a recent and sudden rise in earthquakes has caused structural cracks and damages to the courthouse, with repairs estimated at $1.1 million. In adjacent Sumner County — also located in the Sunflower State along the Kansas-Oklahoma border — earthquakes continue to damage homeowners’ walls and roofs. Last November, the largest earthquake ever recorded in Kansas occurred in Sumner County.

These quakes are new phenomena. From 1977 to 2012, only about 30 earthquakes happened in Kansas that were strong enough to feel, Rex Buchanan, interim director at the Kansas Geological Survey, has said.

State may challenge federal fracking rules

North Dakota’s attorney general will be looking at the possibility of challenging new rules concerning fracking that were issued last week by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

“We need to take action,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple, adding that the fracking rules are an overreach that could interfere with the work of the state’s water commission and health department.

As fracking becomes a possibility in Maryland, lawmakers try to stall it

The Maryland House of Delegates passed legislation Tuesday that would forbid natural-gas drilling in the western part of the state for three years, while the state Senate approved a bill that would hold drilling companies financially responsible if things go wrong.

Each bill generated hours of debate and is far from becoming law. Even if approved by the other chamber, either or both bills could be vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has called such drilling “an economic gold mine.”

Berlin fracking bill criticised ahead of UN climate talks

For months, the German government has been working on a bill that would legalise fracking. But environment and health advocates warn that it sends the wrong message ahead of the UN Climate Conference in Paris. EurActiv Germany reports.

Sharp criticism has been directed at a government proposal for a law to permit exploitation of crude oil and natural gas using the controversial fracking technique.

America’s Second-Worst Oil Spill Is Still Scarring the Shores of Alaska

It was the worst man-made environmental catastrophe in U.S. history — that is, until five years ago, when it was eclipsed by a disaster roughly 20 times its scope. On this day, March 24, in 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound and spewed an estimated 11 million gallons of oil into pristine arctic waters. Only the 2010 drilling-rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was worse; then, over the course of 87 days, more than 200 millions of crude oil gushed into the Gulf.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Anniversary: Effects, Facts, Pictures, Captain’s Drinking Rumors [PHOTOS]

At 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in the Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska. It was one of the worst oil spills in history at the time, leaking nearly 11 million gallons of oil – think 17 Olympic swimming pools’ worth – into a pristine sea and ultimately coating more than 1,300 miles of shoreline coated with black, sludgy oil. “We’ve fetched up hard aground, and evidently we’re leaking some oil,” Exxon Valdez Captain Joseph Hazelwood said in a recording during the crash.

Act Now to Protect Our Oceans and Rivers from Oil Spills

I am a survivor of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a marine toxicologist, a commercial fisherman, and an author-turned activist. The turning happened 26 years ago today, when I flew over the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The Sound was my backyard, my fishing grounds, and most importantly, a place I loved. The giant inky stain on the water was … overwhelming. Intimidating. It was vast, and I was only one person. What could I do? As I flew over the ocean of oil, I realized I knew enough to make a difference. But did I care enough? The answer, I knew, would change my life.

BP drops out of conservative ALEC policy group

Oil company BP said on Monday it has stopped supporting conservative political group ALEC, becoming the latest corporation to end its membership in a group critics say works to deny the existence of climate change.

“We have determined that we can effectively pursue policy matters of current interest to BP without renewing our membership in ALEC,” a spokesman said. BP was the second large oil company to drop support of the group after Occidental Petroleum cut ties last year.

Scientists present oil spill research

LSU AgCenter fish physiologist Christopher Green and wetland wildlife ecologist John A. Nyman will present their research on the toxic effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coastal fisheries Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Terrebonne Parish Main Library, 151 Library Drive, Houma.

Bayou Corne residents allege they were “mistreated and manipulated” by lead attorneys and special master, granted greivance hearing

Plaintiffs in the Bayou Corne sinkhole lawsuit have asked for a meeting with the judge overseeing the case, saying they were “mistreated and manipulated by the class counsel and the special master” who is overseeing the $48 million settlement.

Michael Schaff and five other former residents of Bayou Corne, which gained notoriety when a sinkhole formed in the wake a mining mishap and threatened to swallow up nearby homes, will air their grievances in a New Orleans courtroom on April 8.

Freedom Industries Pleads Guilty to Pollution Charges

A now-bankrupt chemical company pleaded guilty Monday to three pollution charges related to last year’s spill that contaminated a West Virginia river.

Mark Welch, chief restructuring officer of Freedom Industries, entered the plea on behalf of the company in federal court to negligent discharge of a pollutant and unlawful discharge of refuse matter, both misdemeanors, and violating a permit condition under the Clean Water Act, a felony.

One Year After BP Whiting Spill into Lake Michigan: Local Groups Demand Action by Mayor Emanuel

Concerned citizens of Chicago will deliver a letter to the mayor Wednesday, March 25th at 10 a.m. at City Hall in Chicago demanding a thorough public report and investigation into the BP Whiting refinery tar sands oil spill into Lake Michigan one year ago.

Last March the refinery spilled up to 1638 gallons of tar sands oil mixed with conventional crude into Lake Michigan, 8 miles from Chicago’s water intake.

After the spill Mayor Emanuel requested “a full accounting to the public and city” of the damage; and yet one year later, no such report has emerged and BP was not even fined.

FWP: Oil spill won’t affect paddlefish season

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has no plans to change its paddlefish season as a result of January’s oil spill in the Yellowstone River west of Glendive.

On Jan. 17, the 12-inch diameter Bridger Pipeline broke beneath the Yellowstone River six miles upstream from Glendive, dumping about 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the water. Efforts to clean up the spill and account for damage from the oil were thwarted until last week because ice covered the river.

Enbridge conducting right of way tours for Northern Gateway pipeline

Representatives from the Northern Gateway pipeline project have been speaking with communities along the proposed right-of-way route, over the last week.

Ivan Giesbrecht, communications manager with Northern Gateway, said the tours are part of an ongoing effort to meet the conditions imposed by the government.

Enbridge faces environmental, safety fines in Canada for the same Line 3 in Minnesota

Enbridge Energy was fined $264,000 in National Energy Board (NEB) penalties by the Canadian government with regard to safety and environmental hazards related to maintenance work on Line 3 in Manitoba last summer.

The $100,000 in fines are in connection with Line 3 for two separate matters and another $64,000 is related to design changes made to a storage tank in Regina that had not been approved by the regulatory authority.

Shell’s Arctic drilling questioned over safety concerns

The U.S. government won’t confirm, but it’s widely expected to reaffirm a controversial Arctic oil lease sale by the end of March.

Shell Oil wants to drill for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea, despite major equipment failures and accidents a few years ago. The Interior Department has proposed tighter rules for Arctic drilling, including a containment dome nearby, in case of a blowout.

Seattle worries Arctic drilling would impact its port

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is poised to help Shell clear a major hurdle in its effort to resume drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean, despite opposition from her hometown of Seattle, where the company’s drilling fleet would be moored at the city’s port.

All nine members of the Seattle City Council signed a letter on Monday calling on Jewell to block the Arctic drilling, said council member Mike O’Brien, who spearheaded the effort.

Officials battle imaginary oil spill in icy seas

A major oil recovery training operation is to take place in the icy waters off Kemi, northern Finland, on Wednesday. Ahead of the exercise, a wide-ranging international conference was held on Tuesday at Kemi Cultural Centre, with more sessions to be held on Thursday. The seminar features speakers from Canada, the UK, the US, Russia and China, as well as Norway, Estonia and Finland.

Some 150 representatives of Baltic Sea states and Arctic Council members will observe Wednesday’s exercise from the icebreaker Sampo. The operation will include aerial surveillance, satellite monitoring and mechanical recovery tasks.

As Obama administration weighs Arctic drilling, Shell moves rigs to region

The Obama administration is set to announce within days whether it will reaffirm a 7-year-old government auction of oil leases in the Chukchi Sea — a decision critical to Shell’s plans to resume drilling in those Arctic waters this summer.

Even before the pending decision, Shell Oil Co., has begun moving its drilling rigs to the region, marking the clearest sign yet that the firm expects to be boring new Arctic wells this summer.

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This