Environmental Must-Reads – May 20, 2013


New Fracking Rules Proposed for U.S. Land

The Obama administration on Thursday issued a new set of proposed rules governing hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on public lands, moving further to address industry concerns about the costs and reporting burdens of federal regulation.

The new Interior Department proposal, which is subject to 30 days of public comment and further revision, disappointed environmental advocates, who had pushed for full disclosure of the chemicals used in the drilling process and tougher standards for groundwater protection and well integrity.

Insight: The fight for North Dakota’s fracking-water market

In towns across North Dakota, the wellhead of the North American energy boom, the locals have taken to quoting the adage: “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.”

It’s not that they lack water, like Texas and California. They are swimming in it, and it is free for the taking. Yet as the state’s Bakken shale fields have grown, so has the fight over who has the right to tap into the multimillion-dollar market to supply water to the energy sector.

Fracking and its effects on public health still debatable

It’s the biggest environmental debate in Colorado right now: fracking. But the effects on nearby residents are still unclear.

Fracking the Suburbs: An Explosive Combination?

As rural deposits of fossil fuel grow fewer and farther between, extractive industries are increasingly siting their operations over the next best location: suburban neighborhoods. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the Marcellus shale formation beneath parts of the Midwest and Appalachia contains literally trillions of cubic feet of natural gas—the most accessible of which often lies beneath residential neighborhoods.

US Government Releases New Fracking Regulations

Last year the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the Department of the Interior, released a draft rule to govern hydraulic fracturing on public lands, but it was so heavily criticised by Republicans and drilling companies that Obama’s administration had to withdraw the proposal and return to the drawing board.

Fracking is used for about 90% of all wells on public lands, so this set of regulations is due to affect a lot of companies. On Thursday a second draft was released, and to much more support from oil and gas industry representatives; although still not everyone is happy.

Review of DEP drilling records reveals water damage to at least 161 PA homes, farms, businesses; murky testing methods

Today, Laura Legere of the Times Tribune has published the first in an important two-part series on water contamination from Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania.  The series is based on data the Times had to go to court to wrestle from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, starting in 2011.  PA DEP repeatedly argued in court that it doesn’t doesn’t keep gas drilling-related water contamination records in an organized way, and should not be required to provide this vital information to the public. Due to DEP’s record-keeping problems, Legere points out, “there is no way to assess the completeness of the released documents.”

US Interior Department Weakens Fracking Rules

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed an updated set of rules governing hydraulic fracturing, on public lands today. The controversial oil and gas development technique—in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the earth to force oil and gas from underground deposits—has been linked to air and water pollution and public health problems.

DOE Approves Second Fracked Gas LNG Export Terminal

Friday is the proverbial “take out the trash day” for the release of bad news among public relations practitioners and this last Friday was no different.

In that vein, yesterday the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a conditional approval for the second-ever liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal.

Texas joins suits over BP oil spill

Texas has joined the crowd of Gulf of Mexico states filing suit against BP, Halliburton and others for their roles in one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history.

The complaint, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Beaumont, Texas, alleges that the companies and others “engaged in willful and wanton misconduct” for their role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

BP, Transocean Are Sued by Texas Over 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Texas sued BP Plc (BP/), Transocean Ltd. and others involved in the 2010 oil spill, calling it the “worst environmental disaster” in U.S. history and becoming the fifth Gulf of Mexico state to file claims.

The state accused the companies of violating Texas environmental laws, and is seeking damages for economic loss, including lost tax revenue, as well as for harm to natural resources. Texas asked for civil penalties for every day of oil discharge and every barrel that was dumped into the gulf.

Woman handed 57-month prison sentence for fraud during BP oil spill

A Belle Chasse woman was handed a 57-month prison sentence after hosting a fraudulent hazardous waste safety program in the wake of the BP oil spill.

Connie M. Knight, 47, also was ordered to pay $23,500 in restitution.

Secrecy still surrounds Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup: Please don’t look at those tar balls!

Editor’s Note: In 2010, Katie Oxford filed a series of riveting columns from the heart of the Gulf oil spill disaster. She recently returned to Louisiana. This is her sixth column in a series. It picks up from her Grand Isle journey.

GRAND ISLE, La. — After visiting with fisherman advocate Dean Blanchard in his office on Grand Isle, I headed for the beach.

Three years ago, I couldn’t see the beach much less get close to it. The shore was saturated with oil, swarming with officials and no telling how many traumatized, if not dead, wildlife.

Exxon still examining Arkansas oil spill

Exxon Mobil is still looking for the cause of the March rupture of the Pegasus pipeline in Arkansas before restating the line, a spokesman said.

A 22-foot rupture on the Pegasus oil pipeline spilled about 5,000 barrels of a diluted form of Canadian crude oil into an Arkansas neighborhood in late March. The state’s attorney general requested extensive information from the company and it was issued a corrective action order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Exxon: No Plans Yet To Reopen Ruptured Pipeline, and No Answers Why

The company has yet to release results of a sophisticated test of the 65-year-old pipeline’s interior, conducted in February.

Owner of fuel pipeline planning Ark. Changes

The owner of a pipeline that supplies diesel and jet fuel to three locations in Arkansas – El Dorado, North Little Rock and Jonesboro – has notified a federal agency that it plans to make changes in the pipeline.

The changes could affect the central Arkansas economy by as much as $100 million a year, according to businessmen in the area.

A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit

Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.

The Koch Brothers Have Buried An Area The Size Of A City Block Under 30 Feet Of Oil Sands Waste

Canada’s oil sand mines will eventually produce up to 2 trillion barrels of oil and what that could mean for the environment has been debated for years. What’s often overlooked though is a coke byproduct that results from refining the tar-like bitumen of the oil sands into oil.

‘Environmental genocide’: Native Americans quit talks over Keystone XL pipeline

Leaders from 11 Native American tribes stormed out of a meeting with US federal officials in Rapid City, South Dakota, to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which they say will lead to ‘environmental genocide.’

First Nations Chief Asks To Meet B.C. Premier Over Pipelines

A First Nations chief in northern B.C. is demanding a face-to-face meeting with the premier over pipeline projects.

Chief Martin Louie is a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance — a group of six nations living along the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route.

Leading climate scientist: Canada’s tar sands makes climate change ‘unsolvable’

Major international oil companies are buying off governments, according to the world’s most prominent climate scientist, Prof James Hansen. During a visit to London, he accused the Canadian government of acting as the industry’s tar sands salesman and “holding a club” over the UK and European nations to accept its “dirty” oil.

Obama’s Arctic strategy sets off a climate time bomb

One week ago, the Obama administration launched its National Strategy for the Arctic Region, outlining the government’s strategic priorities over the next 10 years. The release of the strategy came about a week after the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President at the White House Complex hosted a briefing with international Arctic scientists.

Coast Guard to take testimony on Shell’s Arctic grounding

The Coast Guard will kick off hearings Monday on how a Shell rig used for Arctic Ocean exploratory drilling ended up aground off a remote Alaska island.

The Kulluk was under tow and bound from the Aleutian Islands’ Dutch Harbor to a Seattle shipyard when it ran into rough Gulf of Alaska water. It broke from its towing vessel, and after four days of futile attempted hookups, ran aground New Year’s Eve in shallow water off Sitkalidak Island, near Kodiak Island.

NRC meets public after NC nuke plant shuttered

The sudden shutdown of a nuclear power plant outside North Carolina’s capital city because of year-old data is likely to prompt questions at a local meeting with federal regulators.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission employees hold an annual public meeting and question-and-answer session about the Shearon Harris nuclear plant on Monday. The meeting will be at the Holly Springs Cultural Center.

Fukushima photos focus on what can’t be seen

Photographer Tomoki Imai has been a blur of activity since we reached the lookout point halfway up 601-meter Mount Higakure in the Futaba district of Fukushima Prefecture. Despite it being late April, with cherry blossoms in the forests and hamlets lower down, snow flurries and freezing conditions in the mountains the day before made long-range shooting virtually impossible. So Imai was in a hurry to make up for lost frames.

5.9 earthquake strikes Japan off Fukushima coast

An earthquake with a magnitude measured at 5.9 by Japan’s Meteorological Agency has struck the northeast of the country. The epicenter was close to the Fukushima coast and only 200km from Tokyo, causing buildings in the capital to shake.

IAEA inspector backs pumping Fukushima groundwater into sea

A possible solution to the increasing amount of radioactive water inside the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant could be to pump groundwater into the sea before it flows into the reactor buildings, as planned by the plant operator, the head of international inspectors has said.

Rice seeds sown in former Fukushima evacuation zone

Farmers in Fukushima have started planting rice in the former radioactive no-go zone, as close as 15 km from the TEPCO plant which suffered a meltdown in March 2011. They intend to sell the grain for mass consumption.

Tepco Nuclear Restart Depends on Safety Call as Shares Surge

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) needs to assess whether its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant in northern Japan meets the country’s new safety requirements before applying for a restart of the nuclear facility.

Japan’s biggest power company by generation capacity, known as Tepco, denied that it will ask to restart the idled reactors in July, it said in a statement today, even as its shares surged on a report that it will make an application.

India may ban import of phones not displaying radiation level

India may ban import of mobile phones that don’t display their radiation emission levels from September. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) will shortly issue a notification calling for mandatory disclosure of specific absorption rate (SAR) as a pre-condition for future handset imports, according to documents reviewed by ET.

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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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