Environmental Must-Reads – March 4, 2014


Fracking Ban-memtum Builds On Both Sides Of The Pond

Local communities that are pushing for a ban on fracking will get a helping hand from the British green energy company Ecotricity, which is launching a new short film this Thursday to boost public awareness about negative impacts of the unconventional gas and oil drilling practice. Meanwhile, here at home the Los Angeles city council has just voted in a moratorium on fracking, and the city and county of Broomfield, Colorado announced that the results of a voter-approved moratorium have been upheld after a recount.

Court Upholds Imposing Fracking Ban in Colorado City

A Colorado judge has approved the results of a November 2013 vote approving a five-year ban on hydraulic fracturing in Broomfield, Colo.

The Feb. 27 ruling by Colorado District Court Judge Chris Melonakis of the 17th Judicial District means Broomfield’s five-year ban on fracking remains in effect, the city said in a statement.

The Real Reason Many Fracking Critics Will Never be Silenced

From deep in the heart of Texas comes a story that reminds us why so many people oppose fracking. The Wall Street Journal reported that a water utility is being sued in Denton County because it is building a 15-story water tower. Some oppose the fact that a portion of the tower’s water will be solid to energy companies to be used in fracking, though that’s not the core cause for the dispute. The main reasoning behind the lawsuit is that a 160-foot-tall water tower is being built in the backyard, so to speak, of a handful of families that don’t want that eyesore and its associated noise near their land.

Apache: Fracking firms need to recycle more water

Drilling and exploration companies have to start recycling more water used in hydraulic fracturing if they don’t want to draw environmental regulations, warned Rob Johnston, executive vice president of the central region for Apache Corp.

“If the EPA were to get involved this would impact us all pretty quickly,” Johnston said Monday at the DUG MidContinent energy conference at the Cox Business Center in Tulsa.

Drought Weary California Farmers Lobby For Fracking Ban

Despite several polls indicating that a majority of California residents are opposed to the “water-intensive extreme oil and gas extraction process” known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the state’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has continued to pledge his support for pro-fracking legislation.

As Brown gets closer to signing a piece of legislation that would allow for the expansion of fracking and other controversial forms of oil extraction in California’s Monterey Shale formation, located beneath California’s “most prized” farmland, opponents have boosted their work to ban fracking in the state.

As Bluegrass Pipeline Gets Attention, Competing Project Looms

Standing next to a herd of cows and their calves on his family’s farm in eastern Franklin County, Kevin Hockensmith pointed to a sinkhole — a visible sign, he said, that Kentucky’s underground limestone terrain isn’t suited for a pipeline.

Hockensmith, who tends more than 100 cattle on the 500 acres, said he recently turned down an offer of $190,000 for an easement to allow construction of the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline through his property, worried a leak could harm his cattle and his farm’s water.

Report: Marcellus growth not peaking any time soon

Natural gas from the booming Marcellus Shale will represent nearly a quarter of U.S. production by 2015, according to a new report published Monday by investment analyst Morningstar.

The report estimates that the Marcellus Shale, which traverses the Northeast from New York to West Virginia, will be the biggest driver of domestic dry gas production growth in the coming years, adding 3 billion cubic feet per day this year and another 2 billion cubic feed per day in 2015.

6 Reasons to Celebrate the Growth of the Ban Fracking Movement

It’s hard to recall a moment since last November’s election sweep in Colorado as indicative of both the breadth and growing power of the movement to protect communities from fracking. Through a series of outrageous developments, we’ve also seen recently, the hypocrisy of big oil and gas and the government officials that promote their interests. Following an amazing few weeks of activism, fractivists everywhere have plenty of reasons to celebrate these days.

Court Says BP’s Spill Agreement Is Binding

In a setback for BP as it deals with the aftermath of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a federal appeals court on Monday ruled that the company would have to stick to its agreement and pay some gulf businesses for economic damage without their having to prove it was caused by the spill.

BP had argued strenuously in court, and in newspaper advertisements, that the settlement had been unfairly misinterpreted and that it was being forced to pay for damage unrelated to the accident.

U.S. court rejects BP appeal over Gulf spill losses

A divided U.S. appeals court on Monday rejected BP Plc’s bid to block businesses from recovering money over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, even if they could not trace their economic losses to the disaster.

By a 2-1 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a December 24 ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, authorizing the payments on so-called business economic loss claims. It also said an injunction preventing payments should be lifted.

Dolphins exposed to Deepwater Horizon oil spill had more health problems than others

Researchers studying sea life in the aftermath of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico say that bottlenose dolphins in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay were suffering from a host of maladies, including lung disease and adrenal problems.

In particular, they say that the Barataria Bay dolphins were underweight and had low red blood cell counts, lung disease and pneumonia.

Sunken Great Lakes Oil Pipeline Raises Spill Fears

A freshwater channel that separates Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas is a premier Midwestern tourist attraction and a photographer’s delight, offering spectacular vistas of two Great Lakes, several islands and one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.

But nowadays the Straits of Mackinac is drawing attention for something that is out of sight and usually out of mind, and which some consider a symbol of the dangers lurking in the nation’s sprawling web of buried oil and natural gas pipelines

Variety of Projects Vying for Grants From $19.5 Million Oil Spill Fund

For decades, oil seeped from the refineries that once occupied parts of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and pooled under nearby homes and businesses, into a plume roughly the expanse of 50 football fields.

The total oil spill, estimated at 17 million to 30 million gallons, remains one of the largest in United States history, a distinction the neighborhood is not exactly proud of. But it is about to start receiving its consolation payments. The first grants from a $19.5 million fund, part of a settlement between ExxonMobil and the state, are about to be announced.

In Dakota Oil Patch, Trains Trump Pipelines

Moving North Dakota’s oil riches out of state on trains was supposed to be a stopgap solution until pipelines could be built.

But even as crude gushes from the state’s Bakken Shale at a rate of nearly 1 million barrels a day, some pipeline companies are abandoning proposed projects, and it is becoming clear that rail transport won’t be a temporary phenomenon.

Pipeline protesters arrested at White House

Police arrested hundreds of people who strapped themselves to the White House fence on Sunday to protest the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The protesters were mostly college students who participated in a peaceful march that began at Georgetown University and ended outside the White House. They chanted “climate justice now” and carried signs with slogans such as “don’t tarnish the earth” in an effort to persuade President Barack Obama to reject the pipeline. They say it will worsen global warming.

Could the Keystone pipeline give you cancer?

Last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, announced that she had some “dramatic new information” to share. The information: Heavy crude from tar sands isn’t just going to bring us back to the hot mess of the Cretaceous, it’s also going to make us sick. Or some of us, anyway.

Keystone XL Dissent: Scenes from a massive student protest

Somewhat lost amid the turmoil abroad and Academy Award fever in the U.S., the White House yesterday was the site of a major student protest against the Keystone XL pipeline. About a thousand people, mainly college students, turned up to urge President Obama not to approve the pipeline, which has become a symbol of the environmental movement against climate change.

Oil train terminal near Clatskanie violated state law by growing without required permit, DEQ says

When the bankrupted Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery took on a new life in 2012, the public had little way to know what was happening behind the scenes.

Instead of the failed venture — turning corn into ethanol fuel — owners of the industrial plant on the Oregon side of the Columbia River near Clatskanie got permission to do something different.

Jury to weigh billion-dollar pipeline case

A dozen jurors start Monday deliberating the billion-dollar dispute among three giant oil and gas companies over a joint effort to build a pipeline from Cushing, Okla. to the Gulf Coast.

Energy companies across Texas are closely watching the case as the verdict in state district court may determine the point at which a proposed joint venture becomes a legal partnership.

China’s CNOOC licensed to seek Arctic oil

China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), the country’s largest offshore oil and gas developer, has become the first Chinese firm licensed to look for oil in the Arctic, a landmark step for overseas energy exploration for the world’s second-largest economy, state media reported Tuesday.

Arctic oil exploration stills years away

Swedish explorer Lundin Petroleum AB (LUPE) has said there is little chance any new oil output will take place in the Arctic in the next 15 years because of logistical and technical challenges.

Ian Lundin, the chairman of the company that focuses on Norway, said he doesn’t think there’ll be any Arctic oil production in the near future, noting that the commercial challenges are simply too great.

Prosecutors drop charges over Fukushima nuclear disaster

Local residents and environmental groups have reacted angrily to the announcement that prosecutors have decided to drop the charges for responsibility for the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

As Japan nears the third anniversary of the March 11 earthquake that crippled the plant, no-one has been held accountable for the second-worst nuclear accident in history, despite the independent investigative committee set up by the government concluding in July 2012 that the accident was “man-made disaster” caused by shortcomings in Japanese corporate culture.

Chaos in Tokyo After Prosecutors Drop Charges Over Fukushima Nuclear Meltdowns

It was a blow to the lowest core. Three years after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, prosecutors in Japan decided to drop charges, essentially holding no one accountable for the disaster and its aftermath.

Although no one directly died following the radiation released when the Fukushima nuclear plant got crippled by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, the July 2012 results made by independent investigative committee set up by the Japanese government said the accident was “man-made disaster” due to shortcomings in the country’s corporate culture.

THREE YEARS AFTER: Frustration remains high over Fukushima cleanup, but radiation fears easing

Eighty-three percent of Fukushima Prefecture residents are disappointed with the handling of radioactive water leaks at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, while 62 percent feel let down by decontamination efforts, a survey showed.

Although the survey showed signs that radiation fears are easing among Fukushima residents, frustration and distrust of the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the nuclear plant, remain high.

Students seek out Bikini, Fukushima parallels

Sixty years have passed since the U.S. detonated a hydrogen bomb in a test on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1954, but for one former resident of a town near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the hardships the islanders faced are all too easy to imagine.

Keiko Takahashi, 21, and three other Japanese university students visited the Marshall Islands for the March 1 anniversary of the test. In the lead-up to the weeklong trip, they studied footage and interviewed experts in Japan about the nuclear tests.

Fukushima evacuee visits US-bombed Marshall Islands to study consequences of nuclear disaster recovery

Three years after the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan, a 21-year old student forced to evacuate her home because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster visited the Pacific Islands where a U.S. hydrogen bomb was detonated many years ago. Keiko Takahashi went to the site so she could learn things she can do to help rebuild Fukushima.

This Radiation Scanner Is Custom Built for Fukushima’s Babies

As you might expect, residents of Fukushima Prefecture have been concerned with radiation exposure since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami left the region’s soil contaminated with radioactive cesium. Thankfully, extensive body scans have found very, very low rates of exposure in the community at large—or at least on those who can fit into radiation scanners.

Because babies and small toddlers can’t reliably be scanned in adult-sized scanners, parents of Fukushima’s youngest remain worried that their little ones have been exposed to radiation. In response, a team of researchers from the University of Tokyo and an American radiation-scanner firm have developed a body scanner that small children can play inside. Naturally, it’s called BABYSCAN.

Cutting Through Fukushima Fog: Radiation in US?

Governments cite “national security” concerns and “official secrets” as their justification for withholding information from the public. Corporations rationalize their secrecy behind concerns about “patent infringement,” shielding their trademarked “proprietary” secrets from competitors. But most of the time, such obfuscation is really derived from the time-honored villains of systemic corruption and what is politely known as CYA in military and bureaucratic slang.

Which brings us to Fukushima.

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

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