Environmental Must-Reads – May 1, 2014


Environmentalists say state has withheld required fracking information

A prominent environmental group accused state oil regulators Wednesday of failing to comply with public disclosure rules contained in an interim version of California’s new fracking law.

The accusations are part of the Center for Biological Diversity’s efforts to build support for a proposed fracking moratorium that on Wednesday cleared the state Senate Environmental Quality Committee. The legislation, Senate Bill 1132, would disproportionately impact Kern, by far California’s top oil-producing county.

Republicans in Congress Are Trying to Gut Local Fracking Regulations

Capitol Hill on Tuesday was home to a rare sight: House Republicans preparing a bill they say will strengthen the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.

But a coalition of public health experts, environmentalists, and state officials argue that the bill, called the Chemicals in Commerce Act, is a Trojan horse that would kneecap state rules on toxic chemicals across the country without giving the Environmental Protection Agency any authority to pick up the slack. Opponents of the Chemicals in Commerce Act warn that the bill would weaken oversight of fracking fluids in particular, as these are almost exclusively regulated by state agencies.

Fracking-inspired moratorium on oil drilling to expire in Carson

An effort to extend a moratorium on all oil drilling in the city of Carson failed Tuesday night after the five-member City Council failed to reach the four-fifths supermajority needed to keep the ban in place.

The temporary ban, passed last month, was initially sought by the council to allow the city more time to study the potential effects of oil extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and acidization.

Go slow on fracking, scientists warn

Canadians face a Pandora’s box of potential environmental and health risks as the oil industry charges forward with hydraulic fracturing techniques that are needed to unlock vast natural gas and oil deposits across the country, says a new report for the federal government.

In a 260-page study to be released Thursday, the expert panel concluded that there simply isn’t enough known about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – to declare it safe, and that key elements of the provinces’ regulatory systems “are not based on strong science and remain untested” while there is virtually no federal regulation.

How Much Fracking Will Remain Unregulated in Illinois?

Fracking has begun in Illinois. Governor Pat Quinn’s Department of Natural Resources issued a permit for a test well at a site where oil fracking is planned. The well isn’t subject to Illinois fracking rules due to loopholes in the law passed last year.

Michigan proposes updates to “fracking” rules for oil and gas drillers

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to their rules for oil and gas drilling in the state.

MDEQ leaders say they’ve had a successful record regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state for more than five decades, but new practices by the oil and gas industry are leading to the rule changes.

Louisiana lawmakers challenge Colo. firm’s proposal to abandon gas pipeline

Several Louisiana lawmakers are calling for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to investigate a number of issues concerning plans by American Midstream Partners LP to abandon a natural gas pipeline that serves parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The company has filed an application with FERC to abandon the Midla pipeline, a 1920s-era line which provides natural gas to thousands of customers in both states. Ferriday and Vidalia, both in Concordia Parish, are among the municipalities served by the line.

2 killed, 9 hurt in Texas oil field explosion

A buildup of pressure caused an explosion as workers were changing a wellhead Wednesday at a West Texas oil field, killing two of them and injuring nine others, a sheriff said.

Loving County Sheriff Billy Hopper said authorities received an emergency call before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday about the explosion some 60 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M.

As New Shipping Rules Are Studied, Another Oil Train Derails

In the latest accident involving rail cars carrying crude oil, a CSX train derailed and erupted into black, smoky flames on Wednesday in downtown Lynchburg, Va., forcing scores of people to evacuate and causing a spill in the James River.

Hours later, the Transportation Department said that a long-awaited package of rules aimed at improving the safety of oil transport by rail had been sent Wednesday night to the White House for review.

Oil tanker train derails in Lynchburg, Va., triggering fire and spill

About 15 train tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed Wednesday afternoon in Lynchburg, Va., plunging several of them into the James River, sparking a massive fire and spilling oil.

The derailment prompted evacuations in the downtown district near the railway for hours until the massive fire that spewed black, acrid smoke was extinguished. There were no reports of injuries or damage to nearby buildings.

Crude Oil Train Derails, Catches Fire, Spills Into Virginia’s James River

A CSX freight train carrying crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia Wednesday afternoon around 2 p.m. according to local authorities, “causing extensive flames and dense black smoke” to reach into the air.

The City of Lynchburg said that between 12 and 14 crude oil tanker cars derailed next to the James River, though fortunately there have been no reported injuries. The cause “has not been determined” at this time, according to a statement posted on the city’s website.

US seeks reinstatement of charge in BP spill case

Prosecutors urged a federal appeals court panel Wednesday to reinstate a criminal charge alleging that a former BP executive obstructed a congressional investigation into the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The case before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals involves allegations that David Rainey failed to disclose information from BP indicating that the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon explosion could have been far higher than estimates then being made publicly.

Decision rescinding BP oil spill claimant’s award not likely to shift legal climate, experts say

A Tuesday court ruling ordering a BP oil spill claimant to repay more than $357,000 in payments amid findings of fraud adds fuel to the already fiery legal debate over how claims should be paid moving forward. But experts say the ruling is unlikely to propel BP’s argument that the multibillion-dollar settlement it agreed to in late 2012 is now riddled with misconduct.

BP Well Sprays Crude Oil Mist Over 27 Acres Of Alaskan Tundra

A large pipe attached to a BP-owned well pad on Alaska’s North Slope has sprayed an oily mist of natural gas, crude oil, and water over an area of tundra larger than 20 football fields, state officials confirmed Wednesday.

The discovery at BP’s Prudhoe Bay oil field operation comes one week after federal scientists released a report warning that the United States is woefully unprepared to handle oil spills in the Arctic.

Oil spill threatens SLC drinking water

A crash involving a pair of semis is threatening the drinking water for Salt Lake City.

Oil booms have been set up across a portion of Parley’s Creek to prevent crude oil that spilled in the wreck from reaching Mountain Dell Reservoir, a source of drinking water.

Michigan officials seek assurances from Enbridge on safety of Straits oil pipeline

In the the wake of growing concern about the risk to the Great Lakes from an oil spill, Michigan officials are seeking assurances that twin 61-year-old pipelines running under the Straits of Mackinac are being properly maintained by the Canadian company responsible for the 2010 Kalamazoo River spill.

Dutch arrest 30 Greenpeace activists blocking Russian Arctic oil tanker

Dutch police on Thursday arrested around 30 Greenpeace activists, including the captain of the lobby group’s ship Rainbow Warrior, as they tried to stop a Russian tanker delivering Arctic oil from docking.

“The captain has been arrested and the ship is being taken elsewhere else,” police spokesman Roland Eckers told AFP of the Rainbow Warrior.

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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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