Environmental Must-Reads – May 18, 2015


Oil CEO Wanted University Quake Scientists Dismissed: Dean’s E-Mail

Oil tycoon Harold Hamm told a University of Oklahoma dean last year that he wanted certain scientists there dismissed who were studying links between oil and gas activity and the state’s nearly 400-fold increase in earthquakes, according to the dean’s e-mail recounting the conversation.

Hamm, the billionaire founder and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources, is a major donor to the university, which is the home of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. He has vigorously disputed the notion that he tried to pressure the survey’s scientists. “I’m very approachable, and don’t think I’m intimidating,” Hamm was quoted as saying in an interview with EnergyWire, an industry publication, that was published on May 11. “I don’t try to push anybody around.”

Disposal well near epicenter of Okla.’s biggest quake was too deep

The oil wastewater disposal well near the epicenter of Oklahoma’s largest recorded earthquake was drilled too deep, a mistake that some think can lead to earthquakes.

New Dominion LLC, the Tulsa-based producer that owns the well, recently sought and received state approval to make the well shallower by “plugging it back.”

Jewell Asked to Monitor Fracking near Chaco Canyon

New Mexico’s congressional delegation is asking U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to monitor a possible escalation of fracking in an area considered sacred by many Native Americans.

In a letter to Jewell, Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan stress the historic, cultural and ecological significance of Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

Why Did NY Ban Fracking? The Official Report Is Now Public

New York issued its long-awaited environmental assessment of fracking Wednesday detailing a wide range of health and climate concerns that underpinned Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision last December to impose a statewide ban on the practice.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing “raises new, significant, adverse impacts not studied” in the state’s last major analysis of oil and gas development in 1992, the 2,000-page report concludes.

Oil groups take aim at feds’ fracking rule

Oil industry groups are asking a federal judge to block the government from implementing new rules for hydraulic fracturing and drilling on public land.

The preliminary injunction request, filed Friday in a U.S. district court in Wyoming, came as part of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance’s ongoing challenge of those new mandates.

State ban on fracking takes big step forward

State regulators have released the final version of an environmental impact review of natural gas development that’s expected to lead to the nation’s first ban on a drilling process called fracking by a state with significant shale gas deposits.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in December that he would defer to the judgment of his health and environmental conservation commissioners, who said they’d recommend a ban on high-volume fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting large volumes of water with sand and hazardous chemicals underground to break apart rock. Under state law, a formal decision on whether to allow or ban fracking will come 10 days after the environmental review’s release on Wednesday.

US states seek to block city fracking bans

US cities that want to ban fracking are clashing with oil-friendly state governments trying to stop municipal policy makers from outlawing shale energy production.

While the US and Saudi Arabia vie for dominance in the global oil market, the fracking battles highlight American shale’s vulnerability to domestic political barriers that are inconceivable in Riyadh.

New rules for oil tank cars don’t offer enough fire protection, experts say

When a train hauling volatile crude oil derailed near Galena in March, witnesses said it took about only an hour for tank cars to explode, sending giant fireballs hundreds of feet into the sky.

Authorities said the tank cars survived the derailment intact, only to be engulfed in a flaming pool of oil that leaked from damaged cars and was ignited by a spark. The heat built up so much pressure within the cars that they blew up.

Environmental Groups File Lawsuit Objecting to Shortcomings, Loopholes in New Federal Oil Train Safety Standards

The battle over oil train regulation is heating up, as both the oil and gas industry and a coalition of environmental groups have now filed lawsuits challenging new Department of Transportation regulations this week.

The move to the courtroom comes following a string of oil train explosions in the U.S. and Canada so far this year and in a passenger train wreck in Philadelphia on Tuesday night that killed 8.

Cleanup continues at oil train wreck site in North Dakota

Cleanup efforts continue at the site of a recent oil train derailment in North Dakota.

Amy McBeth with BNSF Railway said crews in Heimdal are cleaning the tank cars, which will then be scrapped.

Protesters call for end to oil trains in Bergen County

The black cylinders roll through leafy neighborhoods in Teaneck and other Bergen County towns, passing schools, little league fields and houses.

The containers carry crude oil from North Dakota, on trains headed to refineries in New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Jeremy Brack Sr., a Bergenfield resident, said the trains are noisy and paralyze traffic when they pass through town. They can also be deadly when they explode.

Real-estate agents: Proposed pipeline already affecting sales

Business and landowners in the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline are worried about how their real estate and property values would be impacted by the Dominion Resources project that would run from West Virginia through Nelson County and into North Carolina.

Time after time, Dominion has dismissed these claims and said studies have been completed finding no evidence that the pipeline would result in decreased property values.

‘Not On My Land’: Southern Residents Fight Building Of Palmetto Pipeline

It’s called the Palmetto Pipeline, a billion-dollar energy project that would run 360 miles through Southern states South Carolina, Georgia, Florida. The energy company Kinder Morgan is pressing ahead with its plans even as other pipeline projects such as the Keystone XL face grassroots opposition and years of delays. Sarah McCammon of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports.

The Pipeline That Texans Are Freaking Out Over (Nope, Not Keystone)

Earlier this year a couple of billionaires landed a nearly $770 million contract to run a 143-mile-long natural gas pipeline through Texas’s pristine Big Bend region. As of May 11, rail shipments of pipe had begun to arrive in Big Bend’s Fort Stockton area. This recent progress on the pipeline project is fueling pushback from locals who’ve been concerned about this project since it was announced in November 2014. Big Bend is one of Texas’ last unspoiled wilderness areas and one of few remaining holdouts in a state riddled with energy transmission pipelines and large-scale oil and gas activity. Fearing potential land grabs, increased traffic, and environmental desecration, locals have been mobilizing through town hall meetings and launching activist campaigns to oppose it.

US: Gulf well could leak oil for 100 years

A decade-old oil leak where an offshore platform toppled during a hurricane could continue spilling crude into the Gulf of Mexico for a century or more if left unchecked, according to government estimates obtained by the Associated Press that provide new details about the scope of the problem.

Taylor Energy Co., which owned the platform and a cluster of oil wells, has played down the extent and environmental impact of the leak. The company also maintains that nothing can be done to completely eliminate the chronic oil slicks that often stretch for miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Turtle nesting season under scrutiny for signs of decline

The nesting season for the world’s most endangered sea turtle, and official sea turtle of Texas, begins amid fears that it may be facing a decline after a decadelong rally that had federal officials ready to take it off the endangered species list.

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nesting season this year could show whether drastic reductions in the number of nests in the two previous years will continue.

If oil industry is serious, it will help protect St. Charles Parish from rising water: John Barry

When the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed suit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies, industry spokesmen condemned it, saying that the industry wanted to cooperate but couldn’t and wouldn’t with a gun to its head. Now the industry has an opportunity to mdake good on its pledge of cooperation in St. Charles Parish, which has not sued.

St. Charles wants to build a $300 million levee to protect its west bank. The threat to this area has increased enormously because of the tremendous land loss in the Barataria Basin, land that once naturally protected the area against hurricane storm surge. And it is in the Barataria and Terrebonne basins where oil and gas industry activities have had more destructive impact than anywhere else in the state.

Oil lobby launches ads against EPA ozone rule

The oil industry is launching a multimedia advertising campaign tomorrow in opposition to the Obama administration’s attempt to restrict allowable concentrations of ozone pollution.

The campaign from the American Petroleum Institute (API) reinforces the industry’s belief that the current ozone standards, set in 2008, are sufficient to protect public health.

Just 38 miles apart, one Texas oil town is still booming and the other is dead

They are separated by just 38 miles on the remote plains of south Texas, really no more than a quick spin down old Highway 80.

And yet Karnes City and Smiley provide polar-opposite glimpses into what life in a U.S. oil boom town looks like in the wake of last year’s price collapse.

Duke Energy fined $102 million for polluting rivers with coal ash

Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electrical utility, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to nine criminal violations of the Clean Water Act for polluting four major rivers for several years with toxic coal ash from five power plants in North Carolina.

The $50.5-billion company was fined $102 million and placed on five years of probation for environmental crimes. All company compliance related to coal ash in five states will be overseen by a court-appointed monitor and reported to federal parole officers.

After Duke guilty verdict, fears and questions linger about coal ash

Duke Energy may have been hauled into federal court and smacked with a $102-million penalty for polluting North Carolina rivers with potentially toxic coal ash, but that didn’t do much for the tainted well water at Barbara Morales’ house.

Morales, 67, lives on fixed income in Belmont, just west of Charlotte. From her home, she can see Duke Energy’s Allen electric station on the Catawba River. Her well is a few hundred feet from two coal ash basins there.

Oil spill reported in Washington County

Washington County Emergency Management officials told FOX23 they are working on an oil spill reported in Washington County.

The spill is in Coon Creek and runs across Highway 75 between Bartlesville and Dewey.

Oil Spill In Vancouver Would Coat Beaches Within Hours: Analysis

Oil pipeline opponents have developed computer-animated models illustrating how rapidly Vancouver’s inlets and beaches could become coated in crude under a worst-case oil tanker spill scenario.

The analysis, which claims between 50 per cent and 90 per cent of spilled oil could spread to shorelines within 24 hours, will be submitted in a bid to block the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

2014 oil spill still mars nature preserve

Thirteen months after the crude oil pipeline near the Oak Glen Nature Preserve in Colerain Township was inspected, it ruptured and gushed 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the preserve in 2014. That came after two major spills in the same pipeline in this region in the last decade.

The government’s file on the leak remains open, more than a year after the incident. The preserve remains closed to the public. And Hamilton County hasn’t been compensated for the leak, although a spokesman for the pipeline’s owner said the company will restore the preserve.

Shell oil spill: Affected poor Nigerian farmers seek legal assistance

Farmers impacted by the April 15 oil leak from Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Kolo Creek Oil Fields in Otuasega, Bayelsa, have appealed to environmental right groups for legal assistance.

The farmers told News Agency of Nigeria in Otuasega on Sunday that they had decided to seek legal redress over damages they suffered from the incident.

Ecuador’s president urges Brad Pitt to scrap Amazon oil spill movie

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has asked Brad Pitt to abandon plans for a new film chronicling US oil giants’ victory in the face of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit for polluting the Amazon.

In an unprecedented move, the country’s socialist leader launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #braddotherightthing aimed at convincing the Oscar-winning producer and actor to walk away from the proposed movie.

Rick Perry pushes Keystone XL during Iowa GOP event

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry says American workers would benefit from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Speaking before roughly 1,300 people gathered Saturday night at an Iowa Republican Party dinner, Perry said the pipeline would drive down the cost of electricity and help lower taxes and boost wages.

Tesoro halts plans for Utah oil pipeline

Tesoro Corp. has put plans to build a 135-mile crude oil pipeline in Utah on permanent hold because of unfavorable market conditions, the San Antonio-based refiner announced recently.

Tesoro’s project, the Uinta Express Pipeline, was to have shipped thick waxy crude oil from Utah’s Uinta Basin to the company’s plant in Salt Lake City.

Canada Promises Emissions Cuts, but Tar Sands Still Full Speed Ahead

Canada’s federal government, in a pledge that skeptical climate campaigners called a triumph of hope over experience, promised on Friday to reverse years of emissions growth and get its global warming pollution back on a downward slope.

“This is a fair and ambitious target that is in line with other major industrialized countries and reflects our national circumstances,” said the government’s announcement of Canada’s contribution to the goals of a new climate treaty the world is struggling to complete in Paris at the end of the year.

Pipeline resistance thwarts Enbridge in Wisconsin

Pipeline giant Enbridge Inc. is in a standoff with a Wisconsin zoning committee over the company’s plans to vastly increase the amount of tar sands oil pumped through one of its lines.

In an unusual move, the Dane County Zoning and Land Regulation Committee slapped additional insurance requirements on Enbridge before letting it build a new high-capacity pump station along its Line 61.

Seattle ‘kayak-tivists’ take on Shell in battle over Arctic oil drilling

Hundreds of kayakers in Seattle were preparing to go and “shake their paddles” in protest at a newly arrived 400ft long, 355ft tall Royal Dutch Shell oil rig on Saturday, with hundreds – perhaps thousands – more scheduled to attend on dry land.

Kayakers, or “kayaktivists”, as they have sought to rebrand themselves, will be splashing their oars in Seattle’s port to protest against drilling and exploration for oil in the Arctic – something the giant rig they will be facing off with, Polar Pioneer, is meant to do for oil giant Shell starting this summer.

‘Paddle in Seattle’ protesters gather against Shell oil rig

Conrad Ely drove from Olympia with three friends, a double kayak and a canoe.

Amy McKendry arrived with her family and a canoe she’s had since she was 8.

Brandon Juhl came in from Snohomish without a boat, but was able to launch into Elliott Bay with an extra kayak another donated to the cause.

Shell’s Record Adds to the Anger of Those Opposing Arctic Drilling

When the Obama administration announced on Monday that it would let Shell drill for oil off the Alaskan coast this year if it met certain conditions, environmentalists were outraged — not just by the administration’s decision to allow drilling, but by its decision to give Shell, in particular, the green light.

They said that the company’s track record in the Arctic should rule out another chance for it. Shell tried to drill in the Arctic in 2012, and the company’s multibillion-dollar drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground. The operator of a drill ship hired by Shell also pleaded guilty to eight felony offenses and agreed to pay $12.2 million over shoddy record-keeping that covered up hazardous conditions and jury-rigged equipment that discharged polluted water.

Oil-drilling controversy here stirs old bitterness in Alaska

A month ago, the Alaska House of Representatives took time out from struggling to forge a state budget in the face of plummeting oil prices to talk about Washington state.

For nearly an hour, they debated the wording of a five-page resolution that blasted Evergreen State politicians for their opposition to Shell’s offshore oil exploration in the Arctic and mockingly called for a different tack on combating climate change.

New bill promises Alaska a share of Arctic oil revenue

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is trying once again to get Alaska a share of oil and gas revenue from federal waters off its coast.

Last week, she introduced the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale Act to the Senate. The Act has been referred to the Senate’s committee on energy and natural resources, which Murkowski chairs.

Shell’s Arctic voyage marks beginning of peak oil era

In his critically acclaimed 2005 book ‘Twilight in the Desert’, the prominent oil economist Matthew R. Simmons predicted that Saudi Arabia’s oil wells would soon run dry.

His argument was based on the age of the seven main fields, which the kingdom still to this day depends upon to pump the bulk of its 10m barrels per day (bpd) of crude. These fields in the main have been producing for over a generation and, despite official figures placing Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves at over 260bn barrels, Mr Simmons argued that the kingdom would struggle to increase its output to keep pace with the projected increases in the demand over the next half century marking the beginning of a period known as “peak oil”.

Fukushima may end free housing for voluntary nuclear evacuees in 2017

The Fukushima Prefectural Government may stop providing free accommodations at the end of March 2017 for people who voluntarily left areas in the prefecture not subject to nuclear evacuation advisories, sources said.

Officials hope to encourage people who evacuated on their own to return home, but the proposed end to the assistance will certainty draw objections from them.

Tepco May Need to Dump Fukushima Water Into Sea, UN Says

Tokyo Electric Power Co. should consider discharging water contaminated by the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdowns into the Pacific Ocean, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

More than four years after the nuclear power-plant disaster in Japan, the United Nations agency renewed pressure for an alternative to holding the tainted water in tanks and offered to help monitor for offshore radiation.

New lawsuit filed over 2011 radiation accident in Idaho lab

A new federal lawsuit has been filed involving a 2011 accident at an eastern Idaho nuclear facility that exposed 16 workers to plutonium.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of Ralph Stanton. It follows up on a 2013 whistleblower complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Labor by Stanton and then-colleague Brian Simmons.

Trident whistleblower: nuclear ‘disaster waiting to happen’

“Please make sure this information is released. I don’t want to be in prison without anyone knowing the truth. ”

These are the words of UK Royal Navy “Trident” nuclear weapons submariner William McNeilly, aged 25.

Mr McNeilly, who has been in communications with WikiLeaks since the beginning of May, has decided he wants to go public about the detailed nuclear safety problems he says he has been “gathering for over a year”.

City of Berkeley to require cellphone sellers to warn of possible radiation risks

Berkeley lawmakers voted this week to require cellphone retailers to provide customers with a notice on the potential health hazards of carrying their device too close to their bodies, making the progressive California city the first in the nation to have wireless warnings if the law is allowed to go into effect in July.

“It’s an important right-to-know issue,” said Berkeley mayor Tom Bates, who voted in favor of the measure. “It’s really just a note of caution.”

Berkeley cellphone law renews debate over potential health risks

A landmark decision in a U.S. city over cellphone use has triggered renewed concerns over the potential health risks associated with our mobile devices.

Last week, the city of Berkeley in California passed an ordinance law forcing phone retailers to place warnings on their products regarding potential exposure to radiation.

The warnings must encourage customers to keep the devices five to 25 millimetres away from their bodies.

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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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