Environmental Must-Reads – March 26, 2014


Fracking fear: Well barrier failure likely to contaminate certain sites’ surroundings

A small percentage of the shale gas sites drilled in the event of a UK fracking boom would probably contaminate the surrounding environment because of problems with wells, a new report has warned, adding that in some cases the damage could be exacerbated because the companies that drilled them will have gone out of business.

Energy Department OKs LNG terminal on Oregon coast

The U.S. Energy Department gave conditional authorization Monday for liquefied natural gas to be exported from a proposed terminal in Coos Bay, on the Oregon coast.

Jordan Cove LNG terminal is the seventh project to get such authorization, although it may be years before exports begin. The project must still go through an environmental review and final regulatory approval.

Chevron Pizza ‘Scandal’ Leaves Small Town Divided

More than 12,000 people from the Netherlands to San Francisco apologize for insulting Bobtown, Pa., after the energy giant responded to an explosion of one of its natural gas wells by giving nearby residents coupons for free pizza.

The explosion killed a young worker.

Are new fracking regulations in California enough?

Fracking protestors successfully grabbed Governor Jerry Brown’s attention recently by interrupting his speech at the Democratic State Party Convention.

“All you guys who like to make noise, just listen, a moment,” said Brown during his speech that focused on climate change. “Californians and most of you included are driving over 330 billion miles a year, 99 percent is fossil fuel.”

Obama Is Negotiating an Agreement That Could Unleash Fracking Around the World

There is a river running through Quebec called the St. Lawrence. It touches New York state as it connects the Great Lakes to the North Atlantic. It carries boats, waters crops and feeds aquifers. It darts out into swimmable lakes and canals, and if it were polluted with toxic chemicals … it would be a great loss. This is why Quebec placed a moratorium on fracking when American energy company, Lone Pine, decided to frack beneath the river.

Resolutions To Bar Fracking And Associated Waste Materials Considered

Clinton County legislators and councilors in the city of Plattsburgh are poised to limit hydraulic fracturing, the divisive gas drilling process, and associated materials in the area.

In February, the League of Women Voters of the North Country’s HydroFracking Study Group made a presentation to Clinton County legislators on the public health and environmental concerns surrounding the use of fracking waste. Study Group co-chair Mary Dufort (‘do-four”) says the industry is growing exponentially. While there is minimal concern that actual drilling will occur in the North Country, with New York still under a de facto drilling moratorium while state officials conduct an open-ended health review, there is worry about the use or disposal of fracking’s byproducts.  “Because of the huge amount of waste product, that we feel is toxic and hazardous to health and clean water, we will likely be asked to in some way participate in disposal of this waste product. Because there just are  not enough places  to take it.

SandRidge eyeing options for fracking water disposal unit

SandRidge Energy Inc has started taking steps toward monetizing its fracking water disposal business, the largest in the United States, as it tightens its core focus on oil and natural gas development, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

25 speakers oppose fracking sand

The Port of Olympia commission voted 2-1 Monday night to seek bids for a new marine terminal warehouse. But before that happened, commission members got an earful from more than 20 residents who testified against it.

It wasn’t the warehouse structure they were concerned about, but rather that ceramic proppants — known more commonly as fracking sand — would be stored inside it. The product and the oil extraction process have drawn the ire of environmentalists nationwide.

Rail cars moving crude oil need makeover

Walking with his daughter from a Friday night football game in New Brighton, Pa., Fire Chief Jeffrey Bolland heard what sounded like a jet overhead and saw an orange glow in the distance.

Twenty-three rail tank cars of ethanol derailed on a bridge above the Beaver River on that night in 2006, setting off an explosion that burned for 48 hours. Some of the black, torpedo-shaped cars tumbled into the river.

Natural Gas Pipeline Fire in Copano Bay

A natural gas pipeline is on fire in Copano Bay. The Rockport Volunteer Fire Department says no one was injured, but it will be up to the pipeline company to turn off the supply.

The scene is a few hundred yards off the Copano Bay Causeway. Witnesses tell us there was a large plume of smoke at first, followed by a large column of fire that is still coming up from underwater.

No record of leaking Arvin pipeline being checked, state says.

The pipeline that has been leaking toxic gas in a neighborhood near Arvin High School has never been tested for leaks, according to a state agency.

A spokesman for the California Department of Conservation said Tuesday there is no record of the low-pressure pipeline beneath Varsity Road ever being tested.

The pipelines crisscrossing the Louisiana Senate race: James Varney

One feature of Louisiana’s political landscape with the U.S. Senate election coming seems particularly relevant. That is that it is crisscrossed with pipelines.

Given the starring role Louisiana could play regarding which party controls the Senate until 2016, a variety of pipelines — big money, national media — will plug into the Pelican State’s peculiar open primary and likely runoff. It’s the one carrying that old gooey gold — oil — that may matter most, but all of them are connected.

TransCanada Executive Visits Tulsa In Support Of Keystone Pipeline

In a push to get the central portion of the Keystone Pipeline built, a top executive of the company that’s building it, TransCanada, was in Tulsa on Monday to highlight some of the jobs that would come with it.

A vice president of TransCanada, Cory Goulet, stopped in at west Tulsa’s Pipeline Equipment Company. The company’s 80 employees make the valves and gauges that will be used along the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline.

Oil train Quebec case wrapping up; Canada phasing out rail cars

Police say they have wrapped up their criminal investigation into the oil train derailment in Quebec that killed 47 and it is now in the hands of prosecutors. The crash and explosion  incinerated a large swath downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec last July.

Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Aurelie Guindon said Tuesday the investigation was officially completed Saturday and the case is now in the hands of the province’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions.

Berkeley: Council votes to oppose rail shipments of crude oil

The City Council is poised to fight plans by big oil companies to ship millions of gallons of highly flammable Bakken crude oil by rail through the city after a unanimous vote Tuesday night.

The council voted 9-0 to pass a resolution directing the city attorney to join anticipated lawsuits over the plans to transport oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Canada through the area to refineries in the Bay Area and Southern California. The resolution also says the city will formally oppose any permits or environmental impact reports filed with local agencies where oil refineries plan to expand or begin oil shipments by rail.

New York calls for federal spill response plans amid rail accidents

New York officials asked the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to update a contingency plan for dealing with oil spills amid the rapid expansion of rail shipments of crude oil from North Dakota across New York to coastal refineries.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens sent a letter Monday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. He said under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the EPA is responsible for creating Inland Area Contingency Plans to improve preparedness for oil spills.

Oil Spills Into Lake Michigan After Refinery Malfunction

A malfunction at BP’s Whiting Refinery in Indiana caused oil to spill into Lake Michigan.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said the disruption was discovered around 4:30 p.m. Monday. It resulted in the discharge of crude oil from the refinery’s cooling water outfall into the cove between the waste water treatment plant and the steel mill.

BP confirms oil spill into Lake Michigan from Whiting refinery

Less than a year after BP started up a new unit to process Canadian tar sands at its Whiting refinery, the company reported today that a malfunction allowed a slug of crude oil into Lake Michigan a few miles away from the Chicago city limits.

It remains unclear how much oil spilled into the lake or how long the discharge continued. Workers at the refinery reported an oil sheen on the water about 4:30 p.m. Monday, and an official from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the leak was plugged by the time he arrived at 9 p.m.

BP contains oil spill in Lake Michigan, begins cleanup

BP says it has contained and is now cleaning up crude oil that spilled into Lake Michigan  from its Whiting, Indiana refinery near Chicago.

The spill was detected about 4:30 Monday afternoon.

Reminiscent of the tar balls collected off the Gulf Coast after a different BP spill a few years ago, this one was confined to a shallow cove between the massive refinery and a steel mill.

Dead, oiled birds sighted 3 days into Texas oil spill cleanup

Efforts to clean up a 168,000 gallons of thick, viscous oil that spilled into the Port of Houston near Galveston, Texas, stretched into a third day Tuesday, as wildlife rescuers sought to estimate the impact on birds and marine life.

The spill, which occurred over the weekend after two vessels collided, has forced the closure of the heavily trafficked port, putting dozens of ships in limbo as they wait in a queue to enter and exit the waterway early Tuesday afternoon.

Shipping Channel Opens Partially After Huge Oil Spill in Galveston Bay

Shipping traffic through the Houston Ship Channel started to resume Tuesday, the Coast Guard said, as crews continued to try to remove oil from a weekend spill along the Texas coast.

Ships are being prioritized for passage through the channel, the Coast Guard said.

Houston Bayou’s Evolution Into Busy Port Ongoing

A century ago, the Houston Ship Channel was nothing more than a bayou meandering into the Gulf of Mexico. Today, massive ocean-going vessels carrying thousands of containers zip in and out of the channel, where a barge collided with a ship over the weekend, spilling 170,000 gallons of gooey tar-like oil into the water.

Businesses file class action lawsuit after oil spill

Business owners in Galveston filed a civil lawsuit following the accident that lead to a giant oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel.  The business owners claim the oil spill killed their businesses.

“It’s a big impact on us. Not only on us, but everyone around,” said Matt Garner.

Ohio Pipeline Spill Twice As Large As Original Estimate

20,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a damaged pipeline into a nature reserve in southwest Ohio — double the initial estimates — according to officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The leak was discovered by Gary Broughton as he was driving on March 17 and smelled a “fuel, oily smell,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Exxon: ‘no current health/environment hazards in Mayflower’

With the year’s anniversary of the Exxon Pegasus Pipeline failure and the deadline for Exxon to submit its “remedial work plan” just around the corner, two Exxon officials gave a summary of the work so far to clean up Mayflower.

They spoke at a press conference in Mayflower on Tuesday afternoon.

Almost One Year Later, Officials Talk Mayflower Oil Spill

Saturday marks one year since more than 200,000 gallons of sticky crude oil poured out of a ruptured pipeline here.

Exxon Mobil says it’s spent $70M trying to clean up.

Tuesday, was a day for officials to talk about all the progress that’s been made over the last year.

Exxon, PHMSA Withholding Key Documents on Pegasus Pipeline as Restart Nears

The southern leg of ExxonMobil’s idled Pegasus oil pipeline, a segment regulators say is susceptible to seam ruptures, might be restarted as early as this week. Residents along the pipeline and others, however, have no idea whether—or how—the pipeline has been made safe because the information is not publicly available.

“We’re all still in the dark,” said Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit watchdog group based in Bellingham, Wash.

Not Just Another Pipeline: The Truth About Tar Sands and Keystone XL

According to the tar sands lobby, Keystone XL is just another pipeline — but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When an oil company executive tells American families that we don’t need to be concerned with tar sands pipeline safety, it’s not only misleading, it’s insulting. Tell that to the people of Mayflower, Arkansas, where more than 200,000 gallons of dirty tar sands oil spilled from ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline last spring, soaking their homes, land and water.

Franklin County judge rules pipeline company lacks eminent domain power

Bluegrass Pipeline does not have the power to claim land easements through eminent domain, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled Tuesday.

The summary judgment in favor of Kentuckians United to Restrain Eminent Domain states that without a clear mandate from the legislature, Bluegrass Pipeli ne does not have the power to seize land for construction of a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline to the Gulf Coast.

Family Tomato Farm Fighting Oil Pipeline In Tabor

A family of farmers is fighting plans for an oil pipeline coming through their tomato farm in the Brazos County community of Tabor.

News 3 investigated how both sides are trying to reach an agreement for the pipeline already being built in the Brazos Valley.

An old emergency oil outpost takes scrutinized strides toward commercial production

ConocoPhillips Co. spent much of winter hauling heavy equipment and building materials across Alaska’s frozen North Slope tundra from Deadhorse to an oil development site just inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

With frigid temperatures icing the fragile wetlands into a rock-hard surface, workers are blasting to extract gravel, installing pipeline pilings and building roads and small bridges at the remote Colville River Delta site, known as CD-5.

Key Fukushima Cleansing 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.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) switched off its Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) after workers discovered leaks “seeping” from a tank late Monday.

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.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the operator of the Fukushima station that suffered triple nuclear meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, is trying to contain radioactive water at the site. It has lobbied local fishermen to allow a “groundwater bypass” for nearly two years.

Radioactive Water Buildup Grows as ‘Decontamination’ System at Fukushima Fails Again

At the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, a defect has again forced the shutdown of the decontamination system that is central to the radioactive water cleanup strategy, owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced Tuesday.

According to TEPCO, the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) — designed to decontaminate the water used to cool melted reactors — was turned off after leaks were discovered by workers Monday night, Al Jazeera America reports.

Few displaced residents returning to Fukushima despite government job aid

Only 18 people have decided to take up jobs in Fukushima Prefecture through a government plan to find employment for those who fled due to the nuclear crisis, according to regional labor bureaus.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry set up a special section in May to support Fukushima evacuees at seven of the government’s “Hello Work” job placement centers in five prefectures.

TEPCO shuts down Fukushima decontamination system amid leaks

Officials at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant say they have switched off a key decontamination system used to clean radiation-tainted water after workers discovered leaks.

This comes as the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) spotted the defect just hours after the system came back online.

Government team keeps high radiation data on three Fukushima municipalities from the public

Despite people’s clamor for transparency in radiation levels found in the prefecture of Fukushima, a Cabinet office team has delayed releasing the results of its latest measurement of radiation in three municipalities in the region. The government has postponed making the results public as they seek to recalculate the information and release a much lower level findings.

1,500 valves at Fukushima plant still untagged

Labeling tags were not attached to 1,500 valves controlling the flow of radioactive water in piping and other equipment at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in the aftermath of the March 2011 disaster, sources said.

The revelation shows that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s measures to deal with the accident are still lagging three years after the triple meltdown triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

‘Fukushima:’ a catastrophe that could happen here

In 1982, less than four years after Three Mile Island’s partial meltdown, members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) resisted the need to plan for worst-case scenarios at nuclear plants. The chances of a radiation leak causing widespread death, one member said, were “less than the possibility of a jumbo jet crashing into a football stadium during the Super Bowl.”

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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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