Environmental Must-Reads – May 21, 2014


Four Fatalities Linked to Used Fracking Fluid Exposure During ‘Flowback,’ NIOSH Reports

Initial government field studies on hydraulic fracturing operations suggest that workers could be exposed to hazardous levels of volatile hydrocarbons from used fracking fluids, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said May 19.

At least four workers have died since 2010, apparently from acute chemical exposures during flowback operations, which involve transferring, storing and measuring fluids that return to the surface after fracking, NIOSH said in a blog post.

Federal Safety Agency Investigates Oilfield Deaths Linked to Fracking

The Obama administration is investigating the health risks of hydraulic fracturing after at least four deaths among oilfield workers since 2010 in North Dakota and Montana.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said the workers were exposed to high levels of volatile hydrocarbons during the drilling process known as fracking.

Energy exec admits fracking has a methane problem

Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously,” which previously brought us the incredible moment in which a GOP climate denier was actually convinced to change his mind, has another miracle on its hands. In Monday night’s episode, Mark Boling, the executive vice president of Southwestern Energy — the fifth largest natural gas producer in the country — admitted that the fracking industry is leaking a worrisome amount of methane into the atmosphere.

As Steve Horn pointed out at DeSmogBlog, Boling may as well have admitted that fracking is contributing to climate change — methane being an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

U.S. officials cut estimate of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%

Federal energy authorities have slashed by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil buried in California’s vast Monterey Shale deposits, deflating its potential as a national “black gold mine” of petroleum.

Just 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, far below the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the jumbled layers of subterranean rock spread across much of Central California, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

Recall organizers wanted St. Tammany Parish officials to wage war against fracking

The citizens who started recall drives against St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister and all 14 members of the Parish Council said they did not feel their leaders were doing anything to fight a proposed fracking operation near Mandeville. “I want Pat Brister to have more courage and conviction in order to stand up against it, and if she won’t do it I want somebody else in there who will,” said Covington resident Robert Fielding, chairman of the recall effort against Brister.

Recall petitions filed by St. Tammany fracking foes may be invalid

In the latest move by opponents of a “fracking” oil well planned for St. Tammany Parish, two residents filed petitions late last week to recall all 14 Parish Council members. But because the two people filing the petitions don’t live in the districts of all of the officials they want to recall, the petitions could be derailed even before they are started, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Tuesday.

Last week, Leslie Guy and Alexander LeDoux, angry over what they see as the council’s lack of action in opposing Helis Oil & Gas’ oil well, filed paperwork to begin the process of recalling each council member.

Merriam-Webster adds fracking to the dictionary

Could the debate over fracking finally be settled?

Not the ongoing one about the environmental effects of the well completion technique where sand, water and chemicals are injected at high pressure to break up shale rock underground, releasing oil and gas molecules. I’m talking about the words frack and fracking themselves, which are short for hydraulic fracturing.

How to spell them has become a debate unto itself.

Fast-track ‘fracking’ bill moves quickly

A bill that would clear the way for natural gas drilling in North Carolina garnered quick approval from two key Senate committees Tuesday, moving swiftly through a process that would normally take two days or more.

“To use words to suggest that this has been rushed is just unfounded,” Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, told the Senate Commerce Committee. “We’ve been working on this for four years.”

North Carolina Bill Would Make Revealing Fracking Secrets a Felony

A bill introduced in the North Carolina Senate would charge individuals with a felony if they disclose trade secret-protected information about fracking chemicals, EnergyWire reported Thursday. The bill includes a provision that would allow emergency first responders like fire chiefs and doctors to obtain the chemical information in an emergency. But information disclosed outside of emergency settings could land an offender in prison for several months.

N.C. panel OKs criminalizing disclosure of chemicals in fracking

A bill that would make it a crime to publicly disclose the secret chemical mixtures that energy companies pump into the ground when fracking for natural gas is headed for a vote before the North Carolina Senate.

A pair of legislative committees on Tuesday quickly approved the bill, which could go to the full Senate floor as soon as Wednesday. The legislation aims to allow drilling to begin in the state next year, even if final rules and procedures are not yet in place.

NC Senate committees pass bill that would lift fracking moratorium

Two state Senate committees on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation that would lift the state’s fracking moratorium next summer, with a key legislator expressing confidence that the measure would come before the full Senate this week.

The bill would lift the moratorium on shale gas drilling on July 1, 2015, allowing the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to start issuing permits to energy companies for hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

Senate sends ‘legacy lawsuit’ bill to Jindal

The Louisiana Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would clarify how landowners could file “legacy lawsuits” seeking to clean up years-old environmental damage.

Senators voted 27-12 to send Senate Bill 667 to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature to turn it into law.

BP likely to ask Supreme Court to hear settlement issue, delaying claims, experts say

BP’s effort to reinterpret the multibillion-dollar 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill settlement hit another wall on Monday (May 19) after a federal appeals court affirmed businesses don’t have to prove they were directly harmed by the disaster in order to get paid.

At face value, the ruling gives the green light for claims to move forward after they were suspended following a December district court ruling.

On the gulf oil spill, BP has an 0-for-2 day in court

BP, the giant oil company that was responsible for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has been moving mountains to persuade the public that it’s being rooked by a lot of small businessmen filing claims related to the disaster. Adding to the irony, the company is claiming that settlement terms it agreed to are at fault.

Unfortunately for BP, there’s a whole category of people who aren’t buying its act: the federal judges hearing the oil firm’s complaints. On Monday, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled overwhelmingly — in two separate decisions — that BP doesn’t have a case.

Cancer Could Be One Long Term Effect Caused by BP Oil Spill [Video]

Cancer could be one of the long-term effects caused by the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill that occurred on the Louisiana Gulf Coast on April 20, 2010. Locals who came into contact with the oil dispersant, Corexit, have expressed concerns about the chemical’s effect on their health. Experts are surveying the health of the individuals that live in close proximity to the coast to assess whether BP should be held financially responsible.

Businesses impacted by Gulf oil spill get major victory

Businesses with Oil Spill claims won a major ruling Monday night when the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to re-hear BP’s appeals about how claims are paid under a multi-billion-dollar settlement agreement.

After an eight-month stop on business claims payments, the long-awaited decision brought hope to those who had been in a holding pattern.

James River Association pushes for reform after oil spill

“We absolutely dodged a bullet with this spill,” said Adrienne Kotula, policy specialist at the James River Association, about the derailment, explosion, and subsequent oil spilt into the James River three weeks ago in Lynchburg. The bullet dodged were the rail cars that didn’t explode.

On April 30th, a CSX train carrying crude oil in 105 cars departed North Dakota on its way to Yorktown, Virginia. Freight operator CSX took control when the train reached Chicago.

Opposition Growing Against Proposed N.Y.-N.J. Oil Pipeline

A battle is brewing in New Jersey as plans to build an oil pipeline right through the suburbs moves forward.

As CBS 2?s Tracee Carrasco reported, opposition is picking up steam as residents learn more about the proposed 178-mile oil pipeline.

The Keystone XL Pipeline Gets Some Canadian Competition

When TransCanada (TRP) first proposed the Keystone XL pipeline in 2008, the company hoped it would be done by 2012 and begin carrying heavy crude from the Alberta oil sands in Western Canada down to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Six years later the pipeline remains in limbo, stymied by Department of State reviews, route adjustments, lawsuits, environmental and economic studies, and (most important) an Obama administration that appears truly divided on the issue. Last month the State Department announced that no decision would come until after November’s midterm elections.

Wilmington oil pipeline rupture prompts federal legislation

A pipeline failure near Atwater Village in Northeast L.A. on May 15 spilled 10,000 gallons of crude oil. It wasn’t the first pipeline rupture in L.A. County this year. A smaller underground spill in Wilmington two months ago caught the attention of Capitol Hill.

In March, Democratic Congresswoman Janice Hahn toured the Wilmington neighborhood where 1,200 gallons of oil bubbled up through cracks in the sidewalks. “The smell of crude oil absolutely made me and my aide sick to our stomachs,” Hahn said Tuesday at a hearing she requested of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

Railroads, Pipeline Companies To Pay For Safety

A new Minnesota law aims to protect the state from hazards created by increasing amounts of oil passing through Minnesota by rail and pipeline.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill Tuesday. The law requires railroad and oil pipeline companies operating in Minnesota to help pay for training and emergency preparedness programs.

Nebraska becomes battlefield in fight over Keystone XL pipeline

The head of pipeline safety in the United States told Congress on Tuesday that 2013 was a banner year with deaths from accidents at a five-year low.

Construction of one major pipeline is tied up in a debate between jobs and safety.

Green groups to urge Clinton to take a side on Keystone pipeline

A coalition of 30 green groups will send a letter to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday, pressing her to publicly oppose the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Hill obtained an early copy of the letter and a press release, which asks Clinton if she will stand with them against the oil-sands pipeline.

Tar Sands Blockaders Shut Down Enbridge Work Site

Climate defenders in Canada have stopped work on a section of Enbridge’s controversial ‘Line 9’ pipeline in Burlington, Ontario Tuesday morning, as part of a rising tide of resistance against the proliferation of tar sands oil—dubbed “the dirtiest fuel in the world.”

The group—which is comprised of environmentalists, local residents, and members of First Nations—arrived at the road leading to the site at 7:00 AM and began turning away Enbridge Oil employees. The protesters say that Enbridge is undergoing construction to prepare the pipe to carry tar sands bitumen across Ontario eastward through Quebec into the United States through Vermont and on to the Maine coast for export.

Inside Fukushima Daiichi: Visiting one of the most dangerous places on earth

This is my first time visiting one of the most dangerous places on earth.

The devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is isolated from the rest of Japan by police checkpoints, security fences, and barricades.

Japan Fukushima operator starts diverting groundwater to sea

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said on Wednesday it has begun a bypass system that diverts groundwater into the sea in a bid to reduce the volume of contaminated water.

The move is an attempt to stop tonnes of unpolluted groundwater flowing under the battered plant and mixing with water already there and laced with radioactive isotopes.

Loveland Company Helps Japan With Robot Design For Fukushima Cleanup

Experts tangling with the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi facility were trying to figure out how to deal with one of the biggest problems they have; how to even look at how bad it is.

Three of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima had meltdowns in the 2011 earthquake and tidal wave.

Panicked workers abandoned Fukushima as the nuclear disaster unfolded, report reveals

As a nuclear disaster began to unfold at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, a full 650 of the 720 workers on hand panicked and abandoned the scene, a previously undisclosed report reveals.

That’s a very different version of events than the one put forward by TEPCO, the plant’s operator, which has said that it evacuated most of its workers, leaving a small, dedicated team behind to risk their lives fighting to contain the crisis.

Fukushima water decontamination system down

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday it had again suspended a trouble-plagued system used to clean radiation-tainted water, AFP reports.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) put its Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) on standby mode after it found processed water was cloudy instead of clear.

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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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