Environmental Must-Reads – May 16, 2014


Fracking’s Air Pollution Drives Couple From Their Home of 23 Years

After 23 years living on the South Texas prairie, Lynn and Shelby Buehring are looking for a new home, far from the fumes, traffic and noise of the Eagle Ford Shale boom.

It will mean leaving the white house beneath the oak trees where they expected to live out their retirement. The decision, said Lynn, 58, was a measure of last resort, dictated by her deteriorating health and failed attempts to get help from state regulators.

Temporary restraining order filed to stop Northshore fracking

Attorneys for the group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany Parish have filed documents in federal court to stop Helis Oil & Gas from drilling between Mandeville and Abita Springs.

Helis proposed to drill down 13,000 feet to obtain data and samples and to analyze the findings over three to four months to determine whether further activities are economically feasible.

Fracking operation opposed by Covington Mayor Mike Cooper

Covington Mayor Mike Cooper has become the latest public official to come out against a local company’s plan to drill for oil in St. Tammany Parish. Cooper said he shares the concerns voiced by many citizens and is opposed to the project proposed by Helis Oil & Gas LLC of New Orleans.

The mayor expressed his “serious objections” despite assurances this week that the company will hold off on the use of the controversial fracking process to extract oil from the underground shale.

Attorney asks Corps to hold up Helis’ mitigation permit application

A group of St. Tammany Parish residents hoping to stop Helis Oil & Gas from drilling a fracking well in the parish has sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality urging them to halt consideration of Helis’ application for a wetlands-mitigation permit.

The two letters, sent Tuesday, allege that Helis failed to properly fill out parts of its permit application.

Pennsylvania rabbit breeder sues fracking support company over animal deaths

A show rabbit breeder in Pennsylvania is suing a French gas exploration company for using low-flying helicopters she said terrorized her prized animals, causing many to die and leaving survivors unable to breed.

Deafening noise from helicopters flying over Susan Knowlden’s mountain home in Trout Run, Pennsylvania, in search of shale gas deposits, sent her skittish rabbits into a frenzy, she told Reuters on Thursday.

NC fracking bill would clear way for exploratory drilling next spring

Energy legislation introduced Thursday in the N.C. Senate would pave the way for exploratory shale gas drilling this spring and includes an extra measure of protections for the state’s residents and environment.

The bill could receive its first public hearing as early as next week before the Senate Commerce Committee. It creates a legal framework for the 120 safety rules being completed by the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission that will require legislative approval to become final.

Longmont, Broomfield, Lafayette spend $100K defending fracking bans

Since residents of Longmont, Broomfield and Lafayette voted to ban fracking within their borders, the three cities have combined to spend $108,936 defending the measures from legal challenges, officials say.

And that is just a fraction of the money those towns, along with the city of Boulder, have invested in crafting regulations governing the controversial natural gas extraction process and attempting to exert local control over it.

Oil Creates New Demand In Water-Stressed New Mexico

In Southeast New Mexico water is scarce and oil is plentiful. Yet both are in high demand. A barrel of oil will fetch a handsome profit at today’s prices. But producing it takes plenty of water.

Drive down almost any rural highway in Southeast New Mexico and you’ll see a landscape dotted with pumpjacks.

Fracking Tie to Earthquakes Raises Question of Liability

Earthquakes like the one that woke residents from their beds on March 10 in Poland Township, Ohio, might become a more frequent occurrence in areas where fracking is becoming big business. Scientists are reporting mounting evidence that tremors can be tied to the much-debated drilling technique and related activities. What’s not clear is who might be held responsible for the quakes.

BLM acknowledges gaps in oil well inspections

The federal agency tasked with managing oil and gas development on Wednesday acknowledged it needed to do more to improve oversight of drilling, pointing to a lack of funding as reasons it failed to inspect oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination.

Jeff Krauss, a spokesman with the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, noted that his agency has worked hard to keep up with the nation’s energy boom, which has included the increased use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling technique that environmentalists fear could spread chemicals to water supplies.

Groundwater Depletion Is Destabilizing the San Andreas Fault and Increasing Earthquake Risk

Depletion of groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley is having wide-ranging effects not just on the agricultural industry and the environment, but also on the very earth beneath our feet. Massive changes in groundwater levels in the southern Central Valley are changing the stresses on the San Andreas Fault, according to research published today.

Researchers have known for some time that human activity can be linked to localized seismic effects. In particular, much of the debate about fracking in California in the past few years has centered on evidence that the process of injecting large volumes of liquid underground can lubricate fault lines and increase local earthquake risk.

What the Frack? Groups Slam Favorable Federal Review of LNG Export Terminal

Environmental and community groups are crying foul on Thursday following the release of a federal assessment stating that a proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal will cause no environmental harm.

Dominion, the energy company that has proposed the LNG export project in Cove Point, Maryland, foresees exporting 770 million cubic feet per day of gas, which would likely include gas obtained through fracking.

EPA Proposes New Rules to Curb Air Pollution From Oil Industry

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal aiming to curb air pollution and toxic chemical emissions discharged by oil refineries, according to an agency press release. If the regulations are adopted, the move would mark the first change to the oil industry’s emission standards in almost two decades.

EPA proposes new rule for refineries to prevent pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a new rule that would require a number of additional controls to prevent pollution from refineries including fenceline air monitoring for benzene, tighter controls on storage tanks and changes to flare operation.

In announcing the proposed new rule Thursday, EPA officials said it would have a “negligible impact” on the cost of petroleum products. Nationwide, EPA estimates the cost of the proposed rule would be about $240 million.

House approves bill restricting ‘legacy lawsuits’ against oil companies, returns it to Senate

The Louisiana House of Representatives Thursday approved legislation restricting so-called “legacy lawsuits” filed against oil and gas companies to get them to clean up oilfield waste pits and restore damaged property or pay damages.

Senate Bill 667, by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, would require courts to presume that environmental cleanup plans recommended by the state Department of Natural Resources are the most feasible solution, unless evidence can be presented in court proving otherwise. The bill was approved, 73-18, and now returns to the Senate for approval of changes made in the House before being forwarded to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature.

House OKs legacy lawsuit legislation

Debate over legislation affecting lawsuits that want oil and gas companies to clean up after themselves became so contentious Thursday that Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley threatened to send representatives to “time out.”

On a vote of 73-18, the House passed Senate Bill 667. Earlier in the day, the House approved another measure, House Bill 854. Both bills head to the Senate for consideration.

Rules for Environmental Damage Suits Advance

They’re called “legacy lawsuits”—when property owners sue oil and gas companies for environmental damage done in decades past. Thursday, Louisiana’s House spent hours hearing—and ultimately approving—two bills dealing with legacy lawsuits.

“When we get to court, we know there’s an issue,” explained Chalmette Representative Ray Garofalo, while introducing his bill, which would let parties on either side ask the Department of Natural Resources to come up with a remediation plan for the polluted or otherwise damaged property.

‘Extreme odor’ warning issued after Atwater Village crude-oil spill

Los Angeles County public health officials on Thursday issued an “extreme odor” advisory for Atwater Village after a 10,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a ruptured pipeline.

People living or working in the area could experience “mild, temporary health impacts,” including eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, dizziness or upset stomach, Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the Los Angeles County public health director, said in a statement.

L.A. River spared in 10,000-gallon Atwater Village oil spill

No crude oil from a 10,000-gallon spill in Atwater Village entered the L.A. River, officials said Thursday as they continued to clean up the slippery mess.

An L.A. County official said it could take a few days to clean up the spill, which occurred shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday in the 5100 block of West San Fernando Road. It sprayed black oil 20 feet into the air and onto the roof and walls of the neighboring Gentlemen’s Club.

10,000-gallon crude oil spill in Atwater Village looked ‘like a lake’

Firefighters have revised the size of a crude oil spill early Thursday in Atwater Village down to 10,000 gallons, after initial estimates put it at 50,000 gallons.

The spill occurred shortly after 1 a.m. after a 20-inch above-ground pipeline burst in an industrial area in the 5100 block of West San Fernando Road, sending a geyser 20 to 50 feet into the air, said Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jamie Moore.

OIL SANDS:  Beyond Keystone XL, more pipelines with more problems

Among the new conclusions the Obama administration added to the 1,000-plus pages of its final Keystone XL environmental review, one particular sentence carried a subtle but unmistakable air of portent.

Observing that limited transportation options have depressed the price of heavy Canadian crude in recent years, the administration outlined several projects that America’s neighbor to the north has pursued to open up new export markets for its ample oil sands fuel resources. Then, after repeating a warning from its draft KXL review about “significant opposition” to those pipelines, the State Department bureaucratically underlined the thought.

The Lakota vow to die rather than let the KXL pipeline pass

The Oglala Lakota and activists of the American Indian Movement have taken a vow that the only way the KXL Pipeline will pass through South Dakota is if they are dead or in prison. This vow was taken back on Feb. 27, Liberation Day, an event to commemorate the infamous 1890 massacre of Native people by U.S. soldiers.

A four-directions walk is held each year which ends at Wounded Knee to honor the murdered innocents and the Lakotas’ honored and continued history of  resistance.

Bankrupt Railroad in Quebec Derailment Sold

The sale of the Maine-based railroad blamed for a deadly oil train derailment in Quebec has been completed 10 months after the disaster that claimed 47 lives.

Chapter 11 trustee Robert Keach said the parties closed Thursday on the $15.85 million sale of bankrupt Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway. A separate, parallel Canadian proceeding will be completed at a later date.

MN lawmaker wants new oil train safety rules

A Minnesota legislator wants Congress to put teeth into requirements for railroads moving hazardous content tank cars. Representative Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) is Chair of the Transportation Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration issued a safety advisory earlier in May urging shippers and railroads to use newer, stronger tank cars to ship cargo like the highly flammable Bakken crude oil from North Dakota.

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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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