Environmental Must-Reads – May 14, 2015


Exclusive: Anti-Fracking Filmmaker Josh Fox Arrested In Finger Lakes Protest

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Josh Fox, who wrote and directed the acclaimed fracking film Gasland, was arrested this afternoon while engaging in a human barricade at a natural-gas storage facility in the Finger Lakes.

“People need to see what’s happening at Seneca Lake, and also understand that this isn’t isolated, it is happening everywhere,” Fox told The Daily Beast before the protest. “We need to educate people that our dependency on fossil fuels has got to change, and it has to change now.”

New York finally issues fracking report; next step is formal ban

After seven years of study and 260,000 public comments, New York has issued its environmental report on fracking.

Here’s the link to the study, which sets the stage for the state to issue a formal ban within 10 days. The commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Joseph Martens, said in December he planned to ban fracking until more information is known about its potential health effects.

Fracking may cause air pollution, respiratory issues

The explosion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the oil and natural gas industry as a method of extracting fuels from shale basins has raised dozens of environmental concerns including increased risk of air pollution and respiratory issues among them.

A new study found that contaminants in the air from fracking exceed levels deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency and may pose health risks to those exposed.

Canadian Aboriginal Group Rejects $1 Billion Fee for Natural Gas Project

A small aboriginal community in British Columbia has rejected a $1 billion payment for a natural gas project, the latest setback for the Canadian energy industry’s effort to bolster exports.

A group led by the Malaysian energy company Petronas had offered the money to the Lax Kw’alaams Band, to help push through a plan to build a liquefied natural gas ship terminal near their remote community. It is part of an overall pipeline and gas drilling project that the group, Pacific NorthWest LNG, values at 36 billion Canadian dollars.

Enviro groups protest BLM plans for increased fracking in Colorado

Environment groups are protesting federal plans that would allow increased oil and gas production through hydraulic fracturing on public lands in western Colorado.

They argue that the plans for up to 16,342 new wells across 2.5 millon acres would deplete scarce water and hurt wildlife.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups contend the Bureau of Land Management plans fail to address likely harm from water withdrawals for fracking, emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and inevitable toxic spills in the Colorado River Basin.

Portland mayor pulls support for fracked gas terminal amid protests

Portland’s mayor has all but killed off a plan to build a $500m terminal to ship fracked gas from Canada in the face of overwhelming popular opposition and fears about damage to the city’s progressive image.

The mayor, Charlie Hales, has cancelled a council hearing scheduled for next month to hear a planning application by a Canadian company, Pembina, to build one of the largest industrial facilities in Portland to deliver propane gas, mostly to Asia.

Waterless fracking test well isn’t doing so hot

While the oil and gas industry was excited about the idea of waterless fracking and the environmental and health benefits that it would bring, it is sad to say the Ohio well testing waterless fracking isn’t exactly that bright light at the end of tunnel.

The $22 million test well operated by EV Energy Partners LP, along with eight other companies, in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, has officially been producing for 90 days but didn’t quite meet expectations.  Nettles, the test well, produced half the amount of oil that its neighboring well that used water produced.  EV Energy Partners LP’s Chairman John Walker shared the information on Monday during an earning calls with analysts.  Walker also commented on the amount of work the company needs to do

Very low levels of oil near site of Gogama rail spill: CN

Conditions are improving at the site of a Canadian National Railway train derailment near Gogama, Ont., according to the rail company.

About a million litres of crude oil spilled on March 7 when 35 oil tankers derailed and burst into flames.

Over the weekend, a hands-on examination of the shorelines near the site was done to detect oil.

Derailed Amtrak Cars Nearly Hit ‘Bomb Train’

Photos of the Philadelphia crash show the wreckage near a train that carries explosive crude oil. How the deadly accident could have been even worse—and what the NTSB is investigating.

Iwina Washington was sitting on her porch in the Frankford section of Philadelphia on Tuesday evening when she saw a flash of light and heard a strange sound.

“It was this big boom and a light,” she said. “It looked like it was daytime down there, like the sun just came up.”

Suburbs file appeal to stop new oil train safety rules

What if the derailed Philadelphia Amtrak train had been carrying crude oil instead of people?

At 107 mph, if a train hauling explosive crude oil derailed around Chicago, the outcome would be catastrophic – certainly much worse than what happened in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

Oil Industry Goes to Court to Block Oil Train Safety Rules

A U.S. oil industry group has launched a legal challenge to federal rules aimed at tightening safety standards in oil-by-train transport, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The American Petroleum Institute on Monday petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block important provisions of the rules presented earlier this month by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the newspaper said.

BP oil spill: Judge rejects fight to delay environmental fines

A federal judge has denied a request to delay a decision on how much BP owes in environmental fines from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill until after the company pays all damage claims related to the disaster.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on Tuesday (May 12) rejected the motion from Texas lawyer Brent Coon, putting a swift end to his attempt to postpone the penalty ruling. Coon represents thousands of plaintiffs with claims under the massive oil spill settlement deal.

Drilling Begins 3 Miles From Epicenter of BP Oil Spill

Just 3 miles from the catastrophic BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a Louisiana company is seeking to unlock the same oil and natural gas that turned into a deadly disaster.

Drilling has begun in the closest work yet to the Macondo well, which blew wild on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and fouling the Gulf with as much as 172 million gallons of crude in the nation’s worst oil spill. Federal regulators gave their blessing last month to LLOG Exploration Offshore LLC. to drill the first new well in the same footprint where BP was digging before.

Enbridge to pay $75M settlement in ‘win’ for environment

Oil giant Enbridge will pay $75 million through a settlement with the State of Michigan for an 800,000 gallon oil spill in 2010 that impacted thousands of acres, officials announced today.

“This is a huge win for Michigan’s environment,” said Dan Wyant, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director in a news release. “This settlement will mean improved water quality, improved fish and wildlife habitat, and an improved experience for river users in the years to come.”

Oil spill settlement seems largest in Michigan history

State officials say the settlement reached with Enbridge Energy over 2010’s Kalamazoo River oil spill is the largest of its kind in Michigan history.

On Wednesday, however, the $75 million package of completed and pending restoration programs drew mixed reviews from members of the environmental community. For some, the agreement does what is necessary to restore and monitor the Kalamazoo River in the future.

Duke Energy ignored warnings before ash spill, court papers show

Duke Energy ignored repeated warnings before a broken pipe dumped tons of coal ash into the Dan River last year, according to court filings Thursday as the company faces a federal judge.

Duke refused to spend $20,000 on video inspections that could have prevented the spill, the filings show. Instead, the company is expected to plead guilty to nine criminal charges that it agreed to settle for $102 million.

Duke to provide water to NC residents with tainted wells

Duke Energy says it will begin delivering bottled water to homeowners living near its coal ash pits in North Carolina, even as the nation’s largest electricity company denies responsibility for its neighbors’ tainted wells.

So far, more than 150 residential wells tested near Duke’s dumps have failed to meet state groundwater standards, and residents have been advised not to use their water for drinking or cooking. Many of the results showed troublesome levels of toxic heavy metals like vanadium and hexavalent chromium — both of which can be contained in coal ash.

Gov’t: Boat owner owes $3.1 million for Penn Cove oil spill

The federal government says the owner of a derelict fishing vessel that burned and sank in 2012 off Whidbey Island and spilled more than 5,500 gallons of oil owes $2.8 million to cover the cost of the government response and clean-up.

Seattlepi.com reports Rory Westmoreland has also been fined $301,000 by the state of Washington for violations related to the spill. He also has been sentenced to time in jail related to the oil spill that damaged Penn Cove’s mussel beds.

Marshall Islands may stop registering oil rigs, says foreign minister

The Marshall Islands, the world’s third largest shipping registry, may stop registering oil rigs because of climate change, according to the Pacific nation’s foreign minister Tony de Brum.

The minister has advocated on the international stage for the survival of his islands, which are already suffering the effects of global warming. But he admitted that the 183 drill ships and platforms that reportedly sail under the Marshallese ensign were an uncomfortable reality as one of the tiny nation’s major sources of income.

UN climate official pans idea of Arctic drilling in subtle slap at Obama administration

The United Nations’ top climate official took a subtle poke at the Obama administration on Wednesday over its decision to conditionally allow oil exploration off Alaska’s coast, suggesting that the Arctic’s oil and gas should stay underground.

Despite the tentative green light given to Shell Gulf of Mexico earlier this week, both the environment and Shell’s stockholders would be best served if such projects are shelved, said Christiana Figueres, the executive director of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Shell: Drill rigs coming to Seattle despite pleas for delay

Royal Dutch Shell is forging ahead with plans to park two Arctic oil drilling rigs in Seattle, despite the city saying it could issue fines in the case and port commissioners asking Shell to wait.

Shell’s plan to move the two rigs to Seattle in coming days sets up a showdown between environmentalists and oil exploration advocates and touches off a wider debate about climate change and whether the nation should tap oil and gas reserves in the icy, remote Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s coast.

Arctic drilling for ‘extreme oil’ is risky – and letting Shell do the work is reckless

America’s Arctic Ocean belongs to all of us. The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas provide habitat for countless species of wildlife. This is one of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, home to the entire population of US polar bears. Many of America’s most beloved marine creatures thrive here, including whales, walrus, seals and countless birds.

Yet on Monday, the Interior Department decided to conditionally approve Shell’s risky and dangerous plans to drill in America’s Arctic Ocean. There are many reasons why this is a bad idea.

Lawmaker urges federal probe at N.Y. nuclear plant

A New York congresswoman has called for a federal investigation of Saturday’s transformer explosion at the Indian Point Energy Center that shut down one of two nuclear reactors.

Rep. Nita Lowey said on Wednesday federal authorities should also release information on the plant’s safety exemptions.

Handling radioactive waste at Fukushima plant could be improved: IAEA

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said the management of radioactive waste and contaminated water at Japan’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant could be improved despite “good progress” in cleaning up the site.

The operator of the plant said in February it had found a pool of highly contaminated water on the roof of a plant building and that it had probably leaked into the sea through a gutter when it rained.

Sellafield nuclear waste storage safety limit relaxed following accident

Safety limits on the storage of some of the world’s most dangerous nuclear wastes at Sellafield in Cumbria have been relaxed after an accident knocked out a treatment plant.

The government’s safety watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), has permitted the private company that runs Sellafield to breach legal restrictions on the amount of hot, high-level radioactive waste that can be kept in tanks. The limits are likely to be exceeded by up to 350 tonnes between April 2014 and July 2016.

Europe’s largest nuclear power station is storing waste in a ‘shocking’ way

Concerns have been raised by environmentalists and atomic power experts over the way waste is being stored at Europe’s largest nuclear power station, in crisis-ridden Ukraine.

More than 3,000 spent nuclear fuel rods are kept inside metal casks within towering concrete containers in an open-air yard close to a perimeter fence at Zaporizhia, the Guardian discovered on a recent visit to the plant, which is 124 miles (200km) from the current front line.

Berkeley Approves “Right to Know” Cell Phone Radiation Warning Ordinance

The Berkeley City Council late Tuesday voted unanimously to require retailers to warn customers of possible radiation exposure when purchasing cell phones.

The so-called “right to know ordinance” is expected to be challenged by a lawsuit from the cell phone industry.

Berkeley Says Cell Phones Cause Tumors

Cell phones. You can’t live without them, but can you live—and stay healthy—with them?

This week the question gained new urgency when Berkeley, California became the first city to pass an ordinance banning phone retailers from selling their products without a warning about potential exposure to radiation.

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This