Environmental Must-Reads – May 12, 2014


Louisiana Residents Gear Up for Fracking Fight Just Outside New Orleans

In mid-April, word started spreading like wildfire among Louisiana residents: Helis Oil & Gas LLC wants to drill a well in search of oil and gas on a 960-acre tract of land about 30 miles from New Orleans, in the Mandeville area.

Helis plans to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil and gas from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (PDF), which holds an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil beneath the Southern Hills aquifer, which extends from St.Tammany to beyond Baton Rouge and well into Mississippi.

Fracking effort in St. Tammany small part of exploration in large shale formation

After word got out that a New Orleans energy production company is planning to drill a “fracking” well in St. Tammany Parish, several industry experts said a successful well along the outer edge of the underlying Tuscaloosa Marine Shale formation would likely create interest in adding more rigs to the area. Most, however, hedged their bets about whether the well will actually produce much oil.

Fracking-like drilling near Everglades raises alarms

A Texas company has been caught using fracking-like blasting methods to drill for oil near the Everglades, raising alarms from state officials and inflaming a long-simmering controversy over energy exploration in the midst of a cherished ecosystem.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson urged federal officials to investigate. The state fined the company and demanded a temporary halt to five new exploratory wells.

There’s Now A Run On Quake Insurance In Fracking-Heavy Oklahoma

A warning from U.S. scientists that Oklahoma may be hit by a major earthquake has caused a run on insurance policies for tremors in the heartland state, adding to the woes of residents already in the firing line of devastating tornadoes.

Quakes have typically been infrequent in Oklahoma, yet not unheard of. But in the past year, minor tremors have hit the state hundreds of times, raising worries the big one may be just around the corner.

EPA Weighs Demanding Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals

The Environmental Protection Agency took a first step Friday toward possibly requiring disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The agency said it is soliciting comment on whether companies should publicly list the chemicals in the fluid used to extract oil and gas from rock formations deep underground. Obama administration officials said the announcement is preliminary and that the EPA isn’t committing to new regulations.

EPA may ask drillers for info on chemicals in fracking

The Obama administration began a process that may result in the first federal regulation of chemicals used in fracking, a drilling technique that has transformed energy production while eluding oversight sought by environmentalists.

After three years of delay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it’s considering rules requiring oilfield service companies such as Halliburton Co. to send it details on the health and safety of the chemicals used. The agency said it may decide to stop short of rules, and use incentives or voluntary steps.

Fed govt failed to inspect higher risk oil wells

The government has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination and other environmental damage, congressional investigators say.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press before its public release, highlights substantial gaps in oversight by the agency that manages oil and gas development on federal and Indian lands.

More proof that fracking is dirtier than advertised

I’ve written before about the biggest problem when it comes to fracking and climate change: methane leaks. Natural gas is a much cleaner fuel than coal, which theoretically could be useful in cleansing our electricity generation system of the worst pollutants, even if natural gas is not nearly enough by itself to stop climate change. But because it is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over the short term, the release of methane could cancel out any benefits natural gas might provide.

A new study is the latest to confirm that view. Absent regulation, fracking could very well be a net negative when it comes to climate change. But there are some new wrinkles to the story that suggest preventative regulation could be cheaper and easier than we think.

Fracking Well Leak Spills 1,600 Gallons Of Oil Drilling Lubricant Into An Ohio Tributary

About 1,600 gallons of oil-based lubricant leaked into an Ohio river tributary this week, after an equipment failure at an oil and gas well.

The rig site is located in southeastern Ohio near the town of Beverly, and is owned by PDC Energy Inc. One of the company’s contractors is handling the cleanup, under the supervision of Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency. A spokesperson for PDC told the Associated Press that workers at the site noticed a build up in high pressure in the well, but were unable to contain it thanks to malfunctioning equipment at the well head.

BP oil spill: methane persisted in sea after microbe cleanup

Scientists on Sunday said that methane which leaked from the 2010 oil-rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico persisted in the sea for months beyond a presumed cleanup of the gas by marine microbes.

As much as half a million tonnes of natural gas, 80 percent of it methane, leaked into the deep sea as a result of the blowout on April 20, 2010, on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig.

Study: Methane from Gulf oil spill lingered

Research by several universities has found that thousands of tons of methane gas released into the Gulf of Mexico by the epic 2010 oil spill lingered longer than expected.

The study by researchers from Texas A&M University at Galveston and other universities found that microbes expected to consume almost all of the gas released into the deep Gulf didn’t remove the gas as quickly and efficiently as expected. The natural process has eliminated much of the gas, but at a slower rate than expected.

Not in living colors: Six weeks after the Galveston Bay oil spill, haunting images linger

Six weeks after the Galveston Bay oil spill, after the booms were hauled in and the blockades removed, I put my boots on and went looking for what was left. Mother Nature. Left, alone, to recover after being hit with a double whammy.  168,000 gallons of oil and God knows how many gallons of PES-51 (cleaning agent) used to disperse it.

What I found was a natural world, sickened.

Colorado derailment: Six crude oil tankers jump track

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall says a Union Pacific derailment and oil spill in Weld County illustrates the importance of upgrading rail safety regulations.

Six of the 100 cars in a crude oil train derailed Friday west of LaSalle, about 45 miles north of Denver. One car leaked.

Colorado Oil Train Spill Put at 6,500 Gallons

The Union Pacific Railroad says 6,500 gallons of oil spilled when a train derailed in northern Colorado on Friday.

A railroad spokeswoman said cleanup operations were still underway Saturday. State officials say the spill was contained to a ditch and didn’t reach the nearby South Platte River.

Oil spill crews racing against wintry storm

Cleanup crews raced against rain and snow Saturday night to keep a wrecked oil train along the South Platte River from leaking into the river, pumping oil from 28,000-gallon tankers.

An estimated 6,500 gallons of Niobrara crude oil spilled from the New York-bound 100-car train into the sandy banks of the South Platte — west of La Salle, about 45 miles north of Denver.

Oregon not well prepared for oil-train catastrophe

Trains moved almost 500 million gallons of crude oil alongside Oregon waterways last year, but no state law requires railroad companies to plan for oil spills or contribute to a regional database that tracks caches of emergency response equipment.

The proliferation of oil trains in the Pacific Northwest has increased the risks of a catastrophic spill in the Columbia, Deschutes and Willamette rivers, as well as Upper Klamath Lake, but the state is not well-prepared to respond, the Oregonian reported.

Oil spill reported in St. Maarten; source unknown

Environmentalists in the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten are investigating an oil spill that occurred Friday near a popular tourist area.

The nonprofit St. Maarten Nature Foundation said the spill was reported near the Simpson Bay area. It is unclear what caused the spill or how much oil was released.

Democrats still divided over Keystone pipeline

With the Keystone XL oil pipeline exposing deep rifts in the Democratic Party, the White House remains tight-lipped on whether the president would sign or veto legislation approving the massive Canada-to-Texas project.

Keystone supporters in the Senate — including nearly a dozen Democrats — hoped to vote this week on legislation to approve the project and end more than five years of delays from the Obama administration. They first planned to attach the measure to an energy efficiency bill expected to come to the Senate floor as early as Monday.

Thousands of Canadians Protest Pipelines, Tankers, Tar Sands

A Vancouver beach was crowded Saturday with more than 1,000 demonstrators opposed to the Enbridge’s controversial C$6.5 billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline.

Held at Sunset Beach, the protest was one of nearly 100 demonstrations against pipelines, oil tankers tar sands development held in cities and towns across Canada, as part of a national day of action against climate change.

Oil companies warm to Canada’s chilly waters

Eastern Canadian provinces are promoting their cold offshore waters as a hot opportunity for finding new offshore oil plays.

One company that knows something about icy, remote waters — Norway’s Statoil — already has placed a multibillion-dollar bet on the Flemish Bay Basin off Newfoundland and Labrador.

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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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