Environmental Must-Reads – May 23, 2013


Environmental Defense Fund scolded by other green organizations on ‘fracking’

In an unusually public dispute, about 70 environmental groups Wednesday scolded one of their larger brethren, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), for joining with a group of energy companies that support hydraulic fracturing.

The group of mostly small, local environmental organizations, joined by actors Mark Ruffalo and Debra Winger, as well as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., accused the EDF of “greenwashing” the practices of oil companies that engage in “fracking” of shale rock to extract oil and natural gas.

Grassroots Greens Challenge Environmental Defense Fund on Fracking

A coalition of grassroots environmental groups—plus a few professors and celebrities—issued a public message to the Environmental Defense Fund on Wednesday: You don’t speak for us on fracking.

Who Speaks for Illinois on Fracking? Dr. Sandra Steingraber or Sierra Club, Compromising Environmental Groups?

Before environmental lobbyists and legislators push a hydraulic fracking bill through the Illinois legislature, they need to sit down with farmers in Clinton County and learn how well regulations defended their water, farms and cankered lives from the contamination of coal slurry in the Pearl Aquifer.

Broomfield residents urge moratorium on fracking

Residents at a town hall meeting asked the City Council to enact a moratorium on fracking to examine potential health and environmental impacts.

Hundreds of residents filled the Broomfield Auditorium on Wednesday night to discuss the impact of oil and gas issues on the community.

Obama administration supports fracking and natural gas exports

Last Thursday, the US Department of the Interior released a draft proposal that would “establish common-sense safety standards for hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands.” Last Friday, the US Department of Energy (DOE) approved a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Freeport, Texas.

Fracking clean-up now a $30 billion business

Disposing of millions of tons of waste after hydraulic fracturing is a business now worth $20 billion to $30 billion a year, an executive from Wunderlich Securities estimated this week, according to this story in the New Orleans’ The Times-Picayune.

Fort Collins relaxes fracking ban for city’s only oil company

Prospect Energy LLC, the only oil and gas company working inside Fort Collins, will be able to drill new wells — and used hydraulic fracturing — under an operating agreement approved by the city council.

The agreement requires Prospect to adhere to stricter standards than those imposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which oversees industry operations in the state.

Fracking Not Currently in NY’s Economic Development Plans

Governor Cuomo, who still has not issued a decision on whether hydro fracking should be allowed in New York, is backing further away from the controversial gas drilling process in his economic development plans for the future.

Fracking roundtable: Congress must close loopholes for industry in protective laws

Tomorrow, I’m headed to the U.S. Senate for a forum on the environmental impacts of shale gas development before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I’ll be joined by members of the oil and gas industry, as well as representatives from other environmental groups and state government.

The event itself will look something like a congressional hearing. But the Senators have invited us to have more of a roundtable discussion. The hope is that what we discuss will help inform their actions on fracking moving forward.

Hundreds March for Ban on Fracking and End to Democratic Governors Taking Dirty Money

Today a coalition led by Americans Against Fracking, 350.org, Democracy for America and Food & Water Watch, among others marched at the Spring Policy Conference of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) calling for a ban on fracking and demanding that the organization “Stop Taking Dirty Money,” citing the more than $3.5 million the DGA has taken from companies in the oil and gas industry since 2008, according to analysis out this week by Food & Water Watch.

After One Arrest, Sit In Continues Demanding Moratorium on Fracking

After more than a hundred Illinoisans packed a hearing and rallied in the Capitol yesterday for a moratorium on fracking, they demanded a meeting with Gov. Quinn to voice their concerns about fracking. The residents from Southern Illinois and across the state pointed to how fracking will pollute the air, contaminate the water and put the health and well-being of their families at risk.

Gulf Coast refineries accidentally belch out a lot of chemical pollution


Gulf Coast oil refiners and chemical processors say that a lot, but regulators are doing precious little to rein in what the industry euphemistically calls “upset” emissions.

Upset emissions are inadvertent releases of chemicals by industrial operations when something goes awry. And things seem to go awry awfully frequently. An ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, La., was averaging two accidental releases every week during one grim stretch.

The impact of the BP oil spill on tourism

Tourism as one of the most economically important industries is also one of the most vulnerable to crises and disasters. When crises or disasters take place, tourism industries, the tourists they serve, and the local community are affected such events divert tourism flows away from not only a particular destination but also neighboring regions or countries. As argued in this article, there have been a growing number of crises and disasters affecting the tourism industries, giving rise to a need to better understand the impact of such events.

Gross Negligence the Focus of BP Oil Spill Post-Trial Briefing Order

After weeks of testimony, and dramatic “reveals” of newly discovered evidence that had been hiding in labs for years, the Phase One trial of the BP litigation finally came to an end late last month. Now the parties must submit their briefs and make their final arguments to the court by June 21, 2013.

Virginia’s Dem senators press for Atlantic offshore drilling

Virginia’s Democratic Senate duo is at odds with President Obama over offshore oil and gas drilling.

They’re pushing a new bill to open their state’s coastline to leasing, which would upend Interior Department plans that keep the Atlantic Coast off-limits until 2017 at the earliest.

BP protester settles suit alleging retaliation

A woman has reached a lawsuit settlement with a south Mississippi city where she says police arrested her for protesting the BP oil spill then arrested her again in retaliation for suing.

Analysis: Judge poses questions to better understand BP’s liability in Gulf oil disaster

Though Phase I of the BP trial may be complete, both parties have a mountain of follow-up work, analysis, and then preparation to do for Phase II, which starts in September.  Phase I of the trial covered the events leading up to the spill while Phase II will look at the explosion and response. When both phases are complete and after weighing all the evidence, Judge Carl Barbier will apportion liability between BP and its subcontractors, Halliburton and Transocean. Days after the conclusion of Phase I, Judge Barbier ordered the parties to submit post-trial briefs to help clarify some difficult questions in the case. The order, issued on April 24, asked the parties to address seven important questions before the court.

Maine pipeline eyes plan to ship Canada oil sands crude

The little-known operator of a pipeline linking Montreal and Maine is studying how to make the line the first route to get Canadian oil sands crude to an Atlantic deepwater port, but the plan relies on supplies that may not be available for years.

Alberta Oil Spills: A Look Over 37 Years By Global News

Alberta has had an average of two crude oil spills a day, every day, for the past 37 years, according to a report by Leslie Young at Global News.

The news agency dug up figures, deciphered trends and built an informative, and sometimes shocking, interactive online piece that puts Alberta’s pipeline reality in sharp and thought-provoking focus.

CP Railway reopens line, cleans up after oil spill

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd said on Wednesday it has repaired and reopened a rail line near Jansen, Saskatchewan, and continues to clean up after a derailment that spilled 575 barrels of crude oil on Tuesday.

Enbridge underestimates oil spill risk: report

Consultants for Enbridge Northern Gateway recently criticized a report we prepared identifying deficiencies in their oil spill risk assessment. They made a number of assertions about our report that are incorrect.

The purpose of our report was to use international best practice standards to evaluate Enbridge’s risk assessment. Our evaluation identified 28 major deficiencies in Enbridge’s analysis.

Are oil pipeline spills inevitable?

Talking points over pipelines are focused on economic and energy security interests on one side of the argument versus emissions and cleanup on the other. Given the legacy of pipeline spills since the Keystone XL debate began more than four years ago, the “real” issue may be the lack of debate over just why so many of these pipelines have burst open in the first place.

Louisiana Senate committee approves sinkhole bills

A Louisiana Senate panel backed two bills aimed at tightening regulations around the state’s salt domes and solution-mined caverns. The move comes two days after Gov. Bobby Jindal announced he has issued an executive order to review a brine producer’s permits after one of their caverns collapsed, forming a sinkhole in Assumption Parish.

Court approves sinkhole class-action suit

A federal court has approved a class-action lawsuit for people impacted by the giant Louisiana sinkhole.

It’s been almost a year since a massive sinkhole near Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou began causing problems. Bubbling in the bayou led to the now 15-acre sinkhole. About 350 people have been forced out of their homes since August.

Sinkhole bills advance

State Rep. Karen St. Germain punctuated her push Wednesday for bills stemming from an Assumption Parish sinkhole with a warning that Bayou Corne residents are mad as hell.

St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, was making the point to the Senate Natural Resources Committee that the state needs to implement safeguards in oil and gas drilling following the accident that forced hundreds of residents from their homes and created a 15.1-acre sinkhole.

U.S. House votes to force approval of Keystone pipeline

The House of Representatives approved a bill as expected on Wednesday declaring that a presidential permit was not needed to approve the Canada-to-Nebraska leg of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a move that would take a decision on the project away from the Obama administration.

House approves Keystone pipeline bill

House Republicans pushed through a bill Wednesday to bypass the president to speed approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Democrats criticized the legislation as a blatant attempt to allow a foreign company to avoid environmental review.

The bill was approved, 241-175, largely along party lines

Keystone pipeline: House votes to bypass Obama for approval

Congress has voted to shut Barack Obama out of the biggest environmental decision of his presidency – the fate of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline – and claimed the authority to approve the project.

The vote to approve the pipeline, which passed 241-175 in the Republican-controlled house, was pure political theatre.

Arctic States sign an agreement on Oil Pollution Preparedness

An agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response was signed, Wednesday 15 May, at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna, Sweden.

The chairmanship of the Arctic Council has now passed between all the Arctic Council member states and on that occasion a joint statement on “Vision for the Arctic” was issued, highlighting the stepping stones for future cooperation within the Council and stressing the importance of Arctic cooperation.

Risky business: How shareholders, pensions and councils are being exposed to the risks of Arctic oil

Drilling for oil in the Arctic – is it literally crazy?  Because it is driving some of the biggest companies in the world to exhibit what can only be described as irrational behaviour. The end of easily accessible oil from conventional sources is leading international oil companies (IOCs) to consider ever more extreme forms of oil and gas extraction – with the Arctic Ocean being among the last frontiers.

Arctic states open council to China, India, SKorea

Arctic states agreed Wednesday to let nations that are located nowhere near the Earth’s north to become observers to their diplomatic council, boosting rising economic powers China, India and South Korea, which are seeking to mine the region for its untapped energy and other natural resources.

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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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