Environmental Must-Reads – March 3, 2015


2 Train Cars Carrying Crude Derail in New Orleans; No Spill

The New Orleans Fire Department says two train cars carrying crude oil have derailed in the city but no oil has spilled.

The department said in a statement Sunday night that it received a report of the derailment around 6:15 p.m.

The statement says two New Orleans Public Belt Railway cars each carrying 30,000 gallons of crude went off the tracks. Fire officials found no leakage and say there’s no immediate threat to the public.

Millions of Pennsylvanians live in oil train explosion evacuation zones: report

Millions of Pennsylvanians residents could be impacted by potential derailments of trains carrying oil from the North Dakota to refineries in Philadelphia and along the East Coast, according to reports released Monday.

The ramp-up of production from North Dakota’s Bakken oil field in recent years have saved many of the state’s petroleum refineries from the brink of closure. However, the absence of pipeline infrastructure means that about 70 percent of the 1 million barrels of oil produced every day is transported via rail.

Crude on Derailed Train Contained High Level of Gas

The crude oil aboard the train that derailed and exploded two weeks ago in West Virginia contained so much combustible gas that it would have been barred from rail transport under safety regulations set to go into effect next month.

Tests performed on the oil before the train left North Dakota showed it contained a high level of volatile gases, according to a lab report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The oil’s vapor pressure, a measure of volatility, was 13.9 pounds per square inch, according to the Feb. 10 report by Intertek Group PLC.

Fracking: Oil company sues to overturn San Benito County fracking ban; could affect other counties

An oil company has sued to block San Benito County’s voter-approved fracking ban in a move that could affect the growing trend of California cities and counties’ efforts to stop the controversial oil drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing.

In the lawsuit, Citadel Exploration, based in Newport Beach, is attempting to overturn Measure J, approved by 59 percent of San Benito County voters four months ago.

Can Fracking Pollute Drinking Water? Don’t Ask the EPA

Can fracking pollute drinking water?

The Environmental Protection Agency embarked in 2010 on what was intended to be a definitive study to find out. The answer could prove critical to future U.S. regulation of the multibillion-dollar fossil fuel sector and to ensuring water safety for millions of Americans.

No remote sensors before Williston 3 million gallon saltwater leak

The pipeline that ruptured and spilled nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater, contaminating a nearby creek and two rivers near Williston, could have been monitored remotely but the system wasn’t turned on, a regulator said last week.

Meadowlark Midstream, a subsidiary of Summit Midstream, relied on checking meters by hand rather than a more sophisticated system that had been installed, said Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources.

Fracking With Your Health and Your Home

At the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), we have raised many serious concerns about the health and environmental risks from chemical used in fracking. We are especially concerned that communities living near fracking operations are bearing the greatest burden from this risky technology. Given the dangers from fracking, it’s not surprising when these communities have fears about the effect that fracking could have on property values. But it’s often surprising to hear how few rights land owners often have when conflicts arise around fracking.

Fracking ban forcing some New York towns to consider redrawing state lines

Plenty of people leave New York state but in a job-hungry stretch of upstate, folks talk about staying put – and seceding to Pennsylvania.

Local officials stung by a recent decision to ban natural gas fracking have raised the idea of redrawing the Keystone State’s border. Even though they don’t expect it to happen, members of the Upstate New York Towns Association hope the spectre of secession will result in something – anything – good for a struggling part of the state peering enviously over the state line.

Microbes could help clean up after fracking

As fracking has exploded across the country, so have toxic ponds of salty and contaminated water that litter places like North Dakota and Texas.

Now, a team of researchers may have come up with process they believe will treat this wastewater, helping address one of the industry’s biggest headaches.

Writing in the journal Environmental Science Water Research & Technology, the University of Colorado Boulder scientists described their invention of a way to remove both salts and organic contaminants from fracking wastewater using microbes that gobble up the latter, leading to a chemical reaction that does away with the former.

Gibson, Maloney split on effort to aid fracking lawsuits

Two local congressional representatives are divided on a legislative effort that would make it easier for property rights owners to sue because of New York’s announced ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Cold Spring Democrat who represents the southwestern portion of Dutchess County, said he opposes a bill introduced by western New York Republican Tom Reed.

Constitution Pipeline: ‘The Keystone Pipeline of Natural Gas’

“This Constitution pipeline is about enriching a few billionaires by impoverishing the people of New York State,” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. told Ed Schultz on MSNBC’s The Ed Show. “And the bullying that we’ve seen go along with this, the corruption—FERC is really a rogue agency, it’s a classic captive agency, it issued this permit illegally.”

Gulf of Mexico Turns Deadly for Dolphins

Dolphins are dying in great numbers in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Since February 2010, 1,308 dead or dying marine mammals — mostly bottlenose dolphins, including juveniles or aborted fetuses — have washed ashore on beaches and wetlands from Texas to Florida, or have been discovered floating in the Gulf’s murky waters.

Ohio sues BP for more than $33M in cleanup of storage tanks

Ohio is suing oil and gas company BP for more than $33 million, alleging it double dipped by taking state funds and money from insurers to clean up accidental leaks from underground storage tanks at hundreds of gas stations around the state.

The state’s attorney general and the Ohio Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Board filed the lawsuit Monday. The board administers a fund used as a last resort when tank owners lack coverage or don’t accept insurance money.

Federal oil lease sale of western Gulf tracts set for August

A federal lease sale offering 21 million acres in the western Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development is set for August.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Monday that the sale of leases for areas off the Texas coast will take place in New Orleans. It will include approximately 4,000 blocks, from nine to 250 miles offshore, in depths ranging from 16 to almost 11,000 feet.

Up to 1,500 gallons of oil has permeated 24 miles of waterways

Crews could spend weeks cleaning up as much as 1,500 gallons of used motor oil that has leaked into a series of irrigation drains emptying into the Yakima River and has created a sheen visible as far south as Prosser.

“It’s going to be awhile,” said Jeff Lewis, spill response team supervisor for the state Department of Ecology’s Yakima office.

Tank failure leads to oil spill on Yakima River

About 1,500 gallons of used motor oil flowed into Sulphur Creek and the Yakima River on Sunday after an above ground storage tank in Sunnyside failed.

The spill created an oil sheen on the two streams that was seen as far south as Prosser, said a release from the Washington Department of Ecology.

Alaska environmental officials investigating oil line leak

Investigators are reviewing the cause of an oil production pipeline breach on Alaska’s North Slope where upwards of 4,000 gallons (15,100 liters) of fluid spilled, state officials said on Monday.

The production facility is jointly owned by Hilcorp and BP Alaska, but it is operated by Hilcorp, which took over operations from BP in November when that company sold off some of its Alaska assets.

Nearly 4,000 gallons of fluid cleaned up after spill from hole in North Slope pipeline

State and federal regulators were hurrying to the North Slope on Monday in an effort to determine why a relatively new pipeline at a field owned by Hilcorp and BP ruptured over the weekend, spilling an unknown amount of crude oil, water and other fluids at a site about 25 miles from Deadhorse.

Hilcorp, a North Slope newcomer that began operating the Milne Point field in November, discovered the spill in the 6-year-old line early Saturday morning.

Colorado tightens flood-related oil spill rules

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission tightened rules for oil and gas operations in Colorado floodplains Monday.

While environmental advocates lauded the new regulations, industry representatives and Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer called them unnecessary.

Crews respond to oil spill near Johnstown, I-25

Emergency workers responded Monday morning to an oil spill near Johnstown and Interstate 25.

The spill happened at a site Synergy Resource Corp. operates just east of I-25, about one-quarter mile north of Colorado Highway 60. Synergy temporarily shutdown the site after the spill.

The company had crews working to clean up the area Monday. About a barrel of oil was spilled, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Why New Jersey Settled a Big Oil Spill Case for Only $250M

The Christie administration has settled a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil for $250 million, although the case had originally been about $8.9 billion in damages. Debbie Mans, executive director of New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, and David Sirota, author and senior writer with The International Business Times, explains what was at stake and why politics might have encouraged the low settlement, even though Exxon’s liability was no longer in dispute.

Striking BP oil workers in Indiana speak out

As the strike by US oil workers enters its second month, workers at the picket lines in Indiana expressed their determination to press ahead with the fight with the big oil corporations. On February 8, more than 1,000 workers at the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, joined the oil strike, which now involves 6,500 workers in Ohio, California, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Indiana and Washington state.

Senate bill would provide more pipeline information

After dealing with the oil spill that occurred at the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Sen. Matt Rosendale, R-Glendive, discovered how difficult it is to find information about pipelines.

“It gave me pause,” Rosendale told the State Senate while testifying for his bill, Senate Bill 368, Wednesday.

The bill, which passed the Montana Senate this week, would require certain pipeline information to be publicly available. “So you can see what actually is taking place above and below the pipeline,” Rosendale said.

Wash. Post “Fact Checker” Misstates The Facts On Keystone XL Exports

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler claimed that President Obama “appears to be purposely ignoring” the U.S. State Department’s conclusions on whether most of the refined oil products from the Keystone XL pipeline would be exported. However, the State Department did not find that the majority of the refined oil products from Keystone XL would be consumed in the U.S., as Kessler suggested, and groups opposing Keystone XL note that the coastal refineries Keystone XL would service currently ship more than half of their refined oil products overseas.

Lawsuit challenges Port of Seattle lease for Shell Arctic drilling fleet

An array of Washington-based environmental groups has sued the Port of Seattle over a leasing agreement to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fleet, claiming the deal was negotiated in secret and may pollute the port.

Shell contractor Foss Maritime received a two-year lease, announced in February, for 50 acres of waterfront property and the mooring of up to eight vessels. Port officials expected the lease to bring in at least $13 million in rent during the two-year period.

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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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