Environmental Must-Reads – May 14, 2014


North Dakota Oil Well Still Leaking Crude, Gas And Fracking Fluid Days After Spill

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

The well is owned by Denver-based Emerald Oil.

A Confidential Fracking Well Named Ron Burgundy Is Leaking In North Dakota

An oil well near Tioga, ND hasn’t stopped leaking oil since local emergency officials were notified of the spill on Friday. But because the well is under a confidentiality agreement that makes some of the well’s information a secret, details such as the spill’s aren’t being released to the public.

The well, which is named Ron Burgundy (yes, really — specifically, Ron Burgundy 3-23-14H, as it’s one of three Ron Burgundy wells owned by the same company) is owned by Denver-based Emerald Oil. The spill has been contained with berms and, as the AP reports, trucks are bringing the excess spilled liquid to disposal sites.

In Fracking Hotbed, a Muted Approach to Regulation

Ohio annually processes thousands of tons of radioactive waste from hydraulic-fracturing, sending it through treatment facilities, injecting it into its old and unused gas wells and dumping it in landfills. Historically, the handling and disposal of that waste was barely regulated, with few requirements for how its potential contamination would be gauged, or how and where it could be transported and stored.

Ban on fracking waste proposed by Democrats

Shipping hydraulic fracturing waste product into the state for treatment or disposal would be banned under legislation introduced Tuesday by Democrats in the state Senate.

The four bill released by the minority conference Tuesday would also ban the waste from being used to melt ice off roads and bar treatment facilities and landfills from accepting the byproduct.

Community Confronts Controversial Fracking Operation In Greeley

Residents on Monday got their chance to confront oil and gas executives about a controversial fracking operation involving four wells just a few hundred feet from Northridge High School in Greeley.

Several executives with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) told CBS4 the fracking tower located near the school is perfectly safe. They said Colorado has some of the strongest emission standards in the country. But a lot of residents aren’t buying it.

EPA asked to regulate fracking’s toxic air emissions

Seeking to close what a lawyer called “serious gaps” in regulation, 64 environmental and community groups on Tuesday petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down on toxic air emissions from oil and gas operations.

The 112-page petition, filed by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, asks the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to develop “robust emission standards” limiting the amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals that can be released by wells and associated equipment.

“A spike in traffic fatalities” across the country from fracking

A recent AP article, “Deadly Side Effect to Fracking Boom,” details the dangers of heavy industrial fracking in the midst of what were once safe communities. Some of the most upsetting findings of the AP investigation

Boulder County Commissioners, fracking foes clash over home rule charter

Boulder County commissioners and fracking foes continue to disagree about whether a home rule charter could give the county any more legal clout if it attempts to prohibit that process of freeing up underground oil and gas deposits.

During a meeting Monday with three representatives of the Boulder County Community Rights Network, Commissioners Elise Jones and Deb Gardner said the advice they’ve gotten is that a home rule charter wouldn’t give the county any more authority to ban hydraulic fracturing in unincorporated areas — or any more of a legal basis to defend such a ban if it’s challenged in court.

Methane-eating microbes ate only half the gas released into the Gulf during BP oil spill, new research shows

Methane-eating bacteria believed to have quickly destroyed nearly all of the natural gas released in the Gulf of Mexico in the three months after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill were not as efficient as originally thought, according to a new, peer-reviewed paper in Nature Geoscience.

The bacteria explosion at the beginning of the spill in April 2010 likely ate only half the 500,000 tons of gas released in the first three months after the disaster, according to the new study by a team of researchers led by University of Georgia marine scientists.

Bacteria Left a Methane Mess after Gulf Oil Spill

When the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil well sent some 400,000 tonnes of methane into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, many scientists and others feared it would linger. So researchers were pleasantly surprised when studies suggested that methane-eating bacteria had consumed nearly all of it by August.

Chevron settles with EPA over Utah oil spills

Chevron Pipeline Line Co. agreed to pay close to $1 million to resolve issues stemming from two Utah oil spills, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

Nearly 800 barrels of oil spilled in 2010 into the Red Butte Creek in Salt Lake City, Utah, closing the city’s Liberty Lake for nearly a year.

Canada moves to tighten marine oil spill plan ahead of pipelines

Canada moved on Tuesday to strengthen its response plan for oil spills at sea ahead of the development of new pipelines that would sharply increase tanker traffic in Canadian waters if they are built.

Among the new measures, the federal government said it would remove a per-incident liability cap on a domestic clean-up fund, which means that all the money in the fund could be made available to clean up a single spill. It also pledged to cover spill costs if clean-up funds were exhausted.

Keystone Delays Fueling Push for Canada East Oil Pipeline

Delays by the U.S. in reviewing Keystone XL are helping build momentum for an oil pipeline to Canada’s East Coast.

TransCanada Corp. (TRP), the company proposing the $5.4 billion conduit to connect Alberta’s oil sands with U.S. Gulf Coast refiners, may have an easier path to approval with its alternative to the nation’s Atlantic Coast. The C$12 billion ($11 billion) Energy East would be North America’s largest oil line, with capacity to ship 1.1 million barrels a day.

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.

Hearing underway in battle over valuation of Alaska pipeline

Proceedings began this week on the latest dispute over the value of the 800-mile pipeline that helps bring Alaska’s oil to the Lower 48, part of a long-running war between Alaska’s major oil producers, the state and the local governments that depend on the line for property tax income.

Hoeven: Keystone Will Be Approved By Next Year

No matter which party wins control of the Senate in November, two of the most contentious issues in American energy will get the green light next year, North Dakota Republican John Hoeven asserted Tuesday.

“If we don’t get Keystone and the LNG exports and some of these key energy measures now, we’re going to get them next year,” he said at an event hosted by Politico Tuesday. “Even if Republicans don’t take the Senate – and then of course it’ll be harder – I think we’re going to pick up enough pro-energy votes that we’re going to move the legislation we’re talking about.”

Pro-Keystone XL Consulting Firm May Have Violated Ethics Laws

One of the many consulting firms retained to build support for the Keystone XL, a controversial pipeline to bring oil sands in Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, failed to disclose its activities as federal law appears to have required. Through a records request, Republic Report has found that the Alberta government hired a public relations company called Feverpress to promote the pipeline last year.

Keystone XL allies go back to drawing board

The collapse of a popular energy efficiency bill leaves Keystone XL advocates with few options to advance the proposed pipeline — at least until after the November elections.

But Keystone XL supporters vowed to keep looking for opportunities to force approval of the controversial project that would deliver Canada’s oil sands crude to Gulf Coast refineries.

Norway bets on global warming in Arctic oil and gas drive

Norway wants to let oil and gas companies drill in Arctic seas that were frozen as recently as the 1980s even though some climate experts say it is too early to trust global warming to keep the ice away.

Russia is also showing new interest in the Arctic despite high costs in a region where governments are struggling to set safety rules after BP’s 2010 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

Custom-built robot to probe Fukushima leaks

The push to plug the plumbing problem from hell at Fukushima Daiichi is about to get some help from a U.S.-built robot designed to search for leaks from one of the Japanese nuclear plant’s crippled reactors.

Built in Colorado by California-based nuclear cleanup contractor Kurion, the refrigerator-sized robot will stick a 15-foot mechanical arm through a hole in the main floor of the reactor building.

Post-Fukushima, Japan’s favorite monster may never go home again

He’s dark and lumbering, crashing through cities and destroying them with swipes of his massive tail and blasts of radioactive breath. Godzilla is back on the rampage, roaring and stomping, for the first time in ten years.

But the much-anticipated return of Japan’s most famous and beloved monster, 60 years and 28 movies after he first rose from the depths following a hydrogen bomb test, has been filmed not in the land of his birth but in the United States – and analysts say there is a chance he may never go back to his homeland.

Fukushima: no radiation deaths but ‘their souls are killed’

The UN’s expert panel on radiation risk has published its full verdict on the aftermath of the devastating Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan. On the one hand, it is good news.

“No radiation-related deaths or acute diseases have been observed among the workers and general public exposed to radiation from the accident,” the report reads. “No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants.”

Fukushima’s nuclear workers’ base to reopen as 2020 Olympics training facility

For the past three years, it has been used as a base camp for thousands of workers traipsing in and out of Japan’s crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant in a bid to keep it under control.

Now, the government has unexpectedly novel plans for the same site: it will be cleaned up and transformed into a sports practice facility for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

IAEA Chief says important lessons learned from Fukushima

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has expressed that an “independent and robust nuclear regulatory body for nuclear power plants is one of the most important lessons that we have learned from the Fukushima accident in Japan.”

Amano at joint press conference with Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, said that Fukushima was an accident resulting from human errors in the aftermath of a powerful tsunami and earthquake.

Kitty litter eyed as possible culprit in New Mexico radiation leak

Kitty litter used to absorb liquid in radioactive debris may have triggered a chemical reaction that caused a radiation leak at a below-ground U.S. nuclear waste storage site in New Mexico, a state environmental official said on Tuesday.

The waste disposal site, where drums of plutonium-tainted refuse from nuclear weapons factories and laboratories are buried in salt caverns 2,100 feet (640 meters) underground, has been shut down since unsafe radiation levels were first detected there on Feb. 14.

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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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