Environmental Must-Reads – May 13, 2014


EPA Regulations Probably Won’t Tell Us Everything In Fracking Fluid

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a cautious step Friday towards requiring drilling companies to disclose what chemicals they pump into the earth in fracking operations. The agency is starting to look into asking drilling companies reveal some or all of the chemicals they pump into the ground as part of hydraulic fracturing, several years after the start of an oil and gas boom brought on by fracking. The whole system is likely to be voluntary and there are likely to be exceptions for chemicals the industry wants to keep secret, meaning real disclosure is still not on the table.

OIL AND GAS: Spills up 18 percent in U.S. in 2013

The number of spills reported at oil and gas production sites shot up nearly 18 percent last year, even as the rate of drilling activity leveled off.

There were at least 7,662 spills, blowouts, leaks and other mishaps in 2013 in 15 top states for onshore oil and gas activity, according to an EnergyWire analysis of state records. That’s up from 6,546 in the states where comparisons could be made.

NJ Senate approves bill that would ban fracking waste

Two years after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar measure, state lawmakers are advancing a bill that would ban the dumping of fracking waste in New Jersey.

The state Senate voted 33-4 today to pass bipartisan legislation that would prohibit companies from treating, discharging, disposing, and storing waste from hydraulic fracturing — the controversial practice of pumping water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to harvest natural gas.

Mandeville area meeting on fracking proposal

For the third time in the past few weeks, St. Tammany Parish residents are gathering tonight to learn more about fracking and discuss a proposed oil well north of Mandeville. St. Tammany Parish Councilman Jake Groby, who represents the district in which the drilling operation is proposed, called the meeting to provide information concerned constituents.

St. Tammany Parish Residents Worry Fracking Will Harm Their Water

St. Tammany Parish Councilman Jacob Groby, III says drinking water could be threatened if Helis Oil & Gas Co., LLC, based in New Orleans, is allowed to frack 960 acres of timberland near Mandeville and Abita Springs in southeast Louisiana. Helis wants to drill down 12,000 feet through the Southern Hills aquifer system, the parish’s chief water source. Last week, Parish President Pat Brister and Parish Council Chairman Reid Falconer pressured the firm to ask for a delay in the state’s May 13 hearing on the well’s boundaries.

Spill continues at oil well near Tioga

An oil well near the town of Tioga continued to leak oil, gas and fracking fluid on Monday, days after authorities learned about the problem, a local official said.

Williams County emergency coordinator Mike Hallesy said he was notified Friday evening of the spill in the western North Dakota’s oil patch and that the leak hadn’t stopped.

Regulators await new info before tackling tremors

The panel that regulates the Texas oil and gas industry is waiting for more information before will accept that there are any links between increased seismic activity and drilling activity — especially hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, its executive director told lawmakers on Monday.

Mayors: Texas Must Act Faster on Earthquake Study

More than six months after a series of earthquakes surprised parts of North Texas, the mayors of two shaken-up towns say that the state has moved too slowly in investigating what’s behind the phenomenon and whether local oil and gas activities are to blame.

“If I could sum up our experience in one word, it would be frustration,” Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett said Monday at the first meeting of the Texas House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity. “While everyone seemed genuinely concerned, there is a disconnect between various stakeholders.”

Western states worry decision on bird’s fate could cost billions in development

In the frozen chill of a high-desert morning, Tony Wasley, the director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, peers through a range finder down a dirt path and points out a group of birds strutting and preening among a low scrub brush. It’s mating season for the sage grouse, and dozens of males are descending upon breeding grounds, called leks, to show off their plumage to the hens.

Fracking Waste Could Increase Carcinogens in NC Drinking Water

Chemicals in water from deep underground in hydraulic fracturing wells have caused problems as they get to water treatment plants in other states. It’s a potential problem to consider as North Carolina moves closer to allowing fracking.

Why Are Fracking Hopefuls Suing a County in New Mexico?

Colonization is not a foreign concept in Mora County, New Mexico. First it was the Spaniards, in 1598, then Mexico in 1821 and finally, after the Battle of Mora in 1847, the United States laid claim. Now the fossil fuel industry wants a turn. But Mora’s people won’t have it.

Last spring Mora became the first county in the United States to strip the legal personhood of corporations involved in hydrocarbon extraction. Citizens spent years replacing every member of Mora’s county commission in an effort to protect the county’s water and environment, and finally, in April 2013, the commission passed the “Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance.” It not only outlaws corporate extraction of oil, gas and other hydrocarbons, but also introduces the right to water, the right to water for agriculture, the right to a sustainable energy future, the rights of natural communities, the rights of la Querencia de La Tierra—local indigenous people’s conception of homeland—and the right to local self-governance. Most subversively: these rights are elevated above corporate “rights,” should they ever conflict. The county has now been challenged.

Post-BP Oil Spill Gulf Restoration Projects So Far Lack Basis in Science

Some 160 kilometers of oyster reefs are being built along the Alabama coast to help mitigate effects of the 2010 BP oil spill. In front of one barrier island, concrete reef balls and bags filled with oyster shells now absorb wave action that had chewed a foot-high edge on the island’s marshy shoreline. Accumulating sediment is extending the marsh, and scientists report oyster recruitment and increased bird and fish activity around the sites.

EPA Fines Chevron $875,000 For Utah Spills of Oil, Diesel Fuel

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is levying an $875,000 penalty against Chevron Pipe Line Company, a division of Chevron Corp., for spills involving oil and diesel fuel in Utah. Cynthia Peterson, EPA community involvement coordinator, says the settlement is for the Red Butte Creek spill in 2010 in Salt Lake City, which involved 800 barrels of oil, and also for the 2013 spill of about 500 barrels of diesel fuel near Willard Bay in Box Elder County.

Amid Pipeline and Climate Debate, Energy-Efficiency Bill Is Derailed

A bipartisan bill to encourage energy efficiency in buildings died in the Senate on Monday, derailed by the contentious debate over the Keystone XL pipeline and President Obama’s plans to issue new climate change regulations.

The bill’s end came as the Senate voted 55 to 36 on a procedural motion, falling five votes short of the 60 required to bring the bill to a final vote.

Three Arrested Over Deadly Quebec Derailment

Three railroad employees were arrested Monday and will face charges of criminal negligence causing death in connection with July’s derailment of a crude-carrying train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec that killed 47 people.

Thomas Harding, Jean Demaître and Richard Labrie, all employees of the Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd., were arrested and will be formally charged Tuesday in Lac-Mégantic, said René Verret, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office.

Negligence Charges Brought in Quebec Derailment and Fire

The Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway and three of its employees have been charged with criminal negligence in connection with a derailment that killed 47 people and incinerated much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, last July, officials said on Monday.

In a brief statement, the office of Quebec’s director of criminal prosecutions said that Thomas Harding, the engineer and sole employee working on the train, was among those arrested.

Rocky Road for Canadian Oil

With TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline snarled in a regulatory and legal struggle south of the border, Canadian oil companies are proposing many new and expanded pipelines that would connect the oil sands fields with new markets in China and across the world.

The planned projects that would snake east and west as well as south, could break the virtual United States monopoly market for Canadian oil exports, and enable oil sands production to climb by more than 25 percent in the next decade even if the Keystone pipeline is ultimately blocked.

Years after call for replacement, rail bridge still carries millions of gallons of crude oil

Last week, an oil train derailed in Lynchubrg, Va., exploding and spilling 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the James River.

Last year, an oil train exploded in Quebec, killing 47 people.

And today, an oil train carrying millions of gallons of crude will cross a bridge over the south fork of Scappoose Creek – a bridge that’s in such bad shape, the Oregon Department of Transportation recommended it be replaced years ago.

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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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