Environmental Must-Reads – May 2, 2014


Analysis Finds 100 Violations of California Fracking Disclosure Rules

The Center for Biological Diversity called on Gov. Jerry Brown today to investigate more than 100 violations of California’s new public disclosure rules for fracking and other dangerous oil production methods. The violations were uncovered by a Center analysis of records from the state, the oil industry and South Coast air quality regulators.

Republicans in Congress Are Trying to Gut Local Fracking Regulations

Capitol Hill on Tuesday was home to a rare sight: House Republicans preparing a bill they say will strengthen the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.

But a coalition of public health experts, environmentalists, and state officials argue that the bill, called the Chemicals in Commerce Act, is a Trojan horse that would kneecap state rules on toxic chemicals across the country without giving the Environmental Protection Agency any authority to pick up the slack. Opponents of the Chemicals in Commerce Act warn that the bill would weaken oversight of fracking fluids in particular, as these are almost exclusively regulated by state agencies.

Fracking controversy visits Abita Springs

In Abita Springs, a north shore town whose website touts it as a place where nature performs miracles, folks apparently don’t take kindly to anyone messing with the underground wells that are the source and inspiration for its most famous exports – drinking water and beer. That was clearly evident by the crowd that turned out at a public meeting Thursday (May 1) night to discuss a New Orleans company’s proposal to drill for oil near the town.

Residents take stand on Northshore fracking proposal

The number of citizens, watchdog groups and lawmakers demanding information about the proposal for Helis Oil and Gas to drill on the Northshore is growing.

The St. Tammany Parish Council will address the proposal at its meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday during an agenda item to consider hiring oil and gas attorneys to weigh in on the project.

Energy Tycoon Dismisses Fracking Concerns, Says It ‘Isn’t Gonna Hurt Anybody’

Energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens dismissed environmental concerns about fracking this week, saying it is a long-term viable solution to America’s energy needs.

Fracking “isn’t gonna hurt anybody. The environmentalists, they moan and groan about it, but when you get down to it, fracking is two miles down below the surface, you’re not gonna damage anything,” Pickens said in an interview with The WorldPost at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California.

Colorado’s stunning indifference to fracking’s health hazards

It is hardly controversial to say that one of the big turnoffs about American politics is its disconnect with even the most grim human consequences. No matter how serious the issue, the political class seems pathologically determined to present everything as a fun-and-games, red-versus-blue battle whose only important consequences have to do with the next election. As politicians, operatives and reporters focus primarily on the horse-race discussion of ever-more-grave issues, the life-and-death human ramifications for millions of people are effectively written out of our democratic discourse.

Geophysicists link fracking boom to increase in earthquakes

The swarm of earthquakes went on for months in North Central Texas, rattling homes, with reports of broken water pipes and cracked walls and locals blaming the shudders on the fracking boom that’s led to skyrocketing oil and gas production around the nation.

Darlia Hobbs, who lives on Eagle Mountain Lake, about a dozen miles from Fort Worth, said that more than 30 quakes had hit from November to January.

Scientists: ‘Fracking’ should be part of assessing earthquake hazards

Researchers with the US Geological Survey are developing an estimate of earthquake hazards that for the first time includes hazards posed from earthquakes triggered or suspected to have been triggered by waste-water disposal wells used by the oil and gas industries.

The Seismic Link Between Fracking and Earthquakes

Ohio regulators did something last month that had never been done before: they drew a tentative link between shale gas fracking and an increase in local earthquakes. As fracking has grown in the U.S., so have the number of earthquakes—there were more than 100 recorded quakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger each year between 2010 and 2013, compared to an average of 21 per year over the preceding three decades.

Fracking disclosure dispute doesn’t clear the air about oil and gas production

Anti-fracking activists are complaining that disclosure requirements about well stimulation are failing, but regulators overseeing oil and gas production in California say those opponents to fracking are overreacting. The dispute points up the ongoing problems around what the public knows about oil and gas production in California.

At issue is what should be in reports oil and gas producers submit to DOGGR, the state’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, as a result of state law. The Center for Biological Diversity identifies more than 100 “violations” of S.B. 4, the law mandating such disclosures, in a letter to Governor Jerry Brown.

Less Than 24 Hours After Virginia Oil Train Spill, Same Company Derails Again In Maryland

Less than 24 hours after an oil train operated by CSX derailed and caught fire in Lynchburg, Virginia on Wednesday, another CSX train carrying 8,000 tons of coal derailed in Bowie, Maryland early Thursday morning.

CSX spokeswoman Kristin Seay said about 10 cars of the coal train went off the tracks, though the cars were all still upright and there are currently no safety or hazardous material concerns. According to the Baltimore Sun, however, it appears from initial photos that one coal train overturned, spilling its load of coal. CSX officials are currently investigating the scene of the derailment and don’t yet know the cause.

McAuliffe: Lynchburg oil spill’s downstream effects seen as ‘minimal or undetectable’

Impacts to drinking water and the environment downstream of the Lynchburg train wreck and oil spill should be “minimal or undetectable,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said.

“Local, state and federal entities are monitoring and sampling the James River for any impacts, and Virginia’s drinking water continues to be safe,” McAuliffe said in a statement Thursday evening.

In Virginia, what an oil spill on the Hudson River might look like

The oil that caught Virginia’s James River on fire and then shut down the city of Richmond water supply is the same type that is transported down the Hudson River millions of gallons at a time.

At least three rail cars plunged into the James on Wednesday when a CSX train carrying Bakken crude derailed and caught fire.

Oil lawsuit-killing bill advances

A state Senate panel forwarded legislation Thursday that would kill a New Orleans-area levee board’s lawsuit against the oil and gas industry.

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources approved the heavily amended Senate Bill 469 without objection, sending the measure to a vote by the full Senate as early as next week. Opponents complain that wholesale changes were dropped on them at the last minute.

BP cleaning up oil spill on Alaska’s North Slope

Work crews for BP Plc were clearing contaminated snow on Thursday on Alaska’s North Slope after a Prudhoe Bay well line ruptured, spraying a 34-acre area with crude oil and natural gas.

Just how much liquid escaped from the line remains under investigation by BP and Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Oil Company “Study” Finds Oil Spills Are Good For The Economy

In a section of the application dedicated to the risks and effects associated with oil tanker traffic and the possibility of oil spills, Kinder Morgan finds that “spills can have both positive and negative effects.” In particular, “spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and clean-up service providers.”

U.S. senators push to force approval of Keystone pipeline

In the latest effort by U.S. lawmakers to breathe life into the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Senator John Hoeven re-introduced legislation on Thursday that would force congressional approval of the controversial project.

Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, said he has 55 co-sponsors for a bill that would take the power to approve the TransCanada Corp’s pipeline out of the hands of the State Department and put it in the hands of Congress.

Sen. Landrieu: Time for Senate to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline

Legislation that would bypass the Obama administration and approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline will get a vote by the U.S. Senate as early as next week, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., a lead sponsor, said Thursday.

Train derailment ignites argument over Keystone pipeline

Train derailments with tank cars loaded with crude oil or chemicals are not only dangerous, but they feed the push for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The latest was the derailment of a train that sent about 15 tanker cars carrying crude oil into the James River in Lynchburg, Va., setting off a huge fire. The downtown area was evacuated.

Colombia to repair oil pipeline after deal with indigenous group

A Colombian oil pipeline owned by state-run Ecopetrol will be repaired after the government reached a deal with the U’wa indigenous community who blocked access to a damaged section for more than a month, the Energy Ministry said on Thursday.

The 780-km (485-mile) Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline has been offline since a bomb attack by leftist guerrillas on March 25. Engineers have been unable to access the site due to a blockade by the U’wa who demand the pipeline be re-routed away from their area and that a nearby hydrocarbons project be scrapped.

Concerns mount over dangers of transporting oil by rail

The Transportation Department proposed new rules Thursday to make rail tankers less likely to leak and explode after a derailment.

On Wednesday, 13 cars carrying crude oil exploded in Lynchburg, Va. It turns out the amount of crude moving by rail across the country is growing rapidly – but safety regulations are not.

Moratorium sought on ‘bomb trains’ in Albany after Lynchburg oil tanker fire

A day after a CSX crude oil train derailed and burned in downtown Lynchburg, Va., opponents of the burgeoning oil traffic at the Port of Albany called for a moratorium on what some called “bomb trains.”

California Doubles Oil-by-Rail Volumes as Canadian Imports Grow

California, the most-populous U.S. state and biggest gasoline market, more than doubled the volume of oil it received by train in the first quarter as deliveries from Canada surged.

The third-largest oil-refining state unloaded 1.41 million barrels in the first quarter, up from 693,457 a year ago, data on the state Energy Commission’s website showed yesterday. Canadian deliveries made up half the total and were eight times shipments a year earlier. Supplies from New Mexico jumped 71 percent to 173,081 barrels. Those from North Dakota slid 34 percent to 277,046.

The perilous space between an oil tanker and a harbour

This morning, one of the busiest harbours in the world was the backdrop for a citizen action to do what governments are seemingly unable or unwilling to; reject arctic oil drilling and stand up to the single-minded and ecologically harmful greed of corporate interests.

Dozens Arrested in Greenpeace Arctic Oil Protest

The Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, has been boarded by Dutch security agents in the port of Rotterdam, who broke down the door of the communications room and towed the ship to shore after it intercepted a Russian tanker carrying Arctic oil to Europe.

A total of 44 activists, including crewmembers onboard the Rainbow Warrior and activists in inflatables have been detained after they attempted to block the tanker from docking on the quayside. Greenpeace Captain Peter Willcox is among them.

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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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