Environmental Must-Reads – May 24, 2013


Energy-Rich Colorado Becomes Setting for Fracking Fight

Stan Dempsey, an oil and gas lobbyist, raced from one committee hearing to another in Colorado’s statehouse this spring, defending the industry against an onslaught of bills.

While only one of 10 measures passed, the flurry of activity is one of several worrying signs to Dempsey and others in the industry that Colorado, an oil-patch state long seen as friendly to energy producers, is becoming a battleground over hydraulic fracturing, the drilling process fueling the nation’s energy boom.

German Beer Purity Threatened by Fracking Say Brewers

German brewers called on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to block the tapping of shale gas by means of hydraulic fracturing, citing industry concerns that fracking could taint the purity of the country’s beer.

‘Gasland’ director dishes on sequel, fracking in Colorado

When Gasland Director Josh Fox started making what would become one of the most galvanizing forces in the national battle against hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” he thought it would just be a short educational clip for people around his home state of Pennsylvania.

Wyden calls industry-funded website ‘constructive’ as feds consider fracking rules

A website partially funded by the oil and gas industry could be a “constructive” tool for federal regulators as they consider requiring public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said Thursday.

Texas Cited by Democrat as Model for Less Flaring After Fracking

Texas should be the model for other states as officials seek to reduce the need to burn, or flare off, methane coming from oil and gas wells drilled by hydraulic fracturing, a top Senate Democrat said.

Senator Ron Wyden, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, praised Texas for a flaring rate of 0.5 percent of the gas it produces.

Water Protection Gets Shortchanged in Proposed Fracking Rules

Proposed standards that the U.S. Department of Interior announced last week for hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) on federal and Indian lands are hugely important, especially in the arid West where water is gold. Unfortunately, water protection gets short shrift in the rules that, once finalized, will apply to 750 million acres of public lands

Anti-Fracking Groups Campaign for Override of Fracking Waste Ban Bill

A coalition of environmental groups held a press conference on the State House steps today to kick off their campaign for the override of the fracking waste ban bill before the legislature breaks for the summer. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, says they have more than 100 volunteers and coalition members that plan to talk to legislators about the override. The bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support (Assembly 56-19 and Senate 30-5), but the governor vetoed it in September, so an override vote of 27 votes is needed to protect New Jersey against this drilling process.

Senators, green groups spar on fracking

The contentious debate on whether hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, contaminates drinking water bubbled to the surface Thursday during a Senate panel discussion.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) pressed environmentalists to name a specific site where fracking had polluted groundwater at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee natural gas roundtable.

Resistance in Ohio, Fracking’s Dumping Ground

The Ohio River valley is lush in the spring. The eastern Ohio River, one of America’s most economically vital waterways, winds through the rolling green foothills of Appalachia as it ambles past small towns and cities in Ohio and West Virginia. The valley has been heavily industrialized for decades. Coal-burning power plants, chemical processing facilities and mills dot the riverside. In 2012, the Ohio River was ranked the nation’s most polluted waterway, according to government data compiled by Environment America. Elisa Young is determined to keep the river from getting worse.

Why Citizens in Colorado Can’t Keep the Oil Industry Out of Their Backyards

Fracking in some neighborhoods means residents could expect heavy industrial activity out their back door for up to three or four months a year, 24/7, over half a decade.

Scientific Panel Will Examine Public Concerns Related To Shale Gas Drilling

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports a National Academy of Sciences committee will convene next week to scrutinize public concerns and potential risks of shale gas drilling.

The panel will examine a number of topics including air, water, and climate concerns, but they will not issue specific recommendations, according to the Post-Gazette

New Fracking Rules Leave Drought-Ridden States High and Dry

Proposed standards that the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) announced last week for hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands are hugely important, especially in the arid West where water is gold. Unfortunately, water protection gets short shrift in the rules that, once finalized, will apply to 750 million acres of public lands.

Fracking Economics Revealed as Shale Gas Bubble, Not Silver Bullet

With several bills pending in the New York legislature related to natural gas development in the state, elected officials were briefed today on research revealing its economic limitations.

Steingraber Calls Out Illinois Fracking Regulations

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.

Oil Rigs Make Bad Neighbors: Americans Harmed By Oil And Gas Drilling, Seek To Be Heard

A coalition of people who live and work near the drilling rigs that have allowed the U.S. to see incredible booms in oil and gas production is in Washington, D.C. this week demanding that both government and industry be held accountable when drilling causes health and environmental problems.

Congressional hearings look at fracking

Technological developments have led to the natural gas boom in Louisiana and many others states.

Federal lawmakers held several congressional hearings and meetings this week trying to get a handle on supporting the economic development while protecting the environment.

BP in Mexico Faces First Class Action Lawsuit

A group of Mexican citizens are preparing the first civil lawsuit in the Mexican courts against British oil company BP for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The plaintiffs are bringing the class action lawsuit under a 2011 reform of the Mexican constitution that allows a large number of people with a common interest in a matter to sue as a group.

Gulf restoration draft plan lacks required priority list, spending allocation plan

The federal-state body that will oversee the spending of billions of dollars in Clean Water Act fines resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Thursday released a “draft initial comprehensive plan” for spending the money on projects that will restore the coast’s natural resources and also benefit the Gulf Coast’s economy.

U.S. academics back BP in oil spill payouts battle

A group of U.S. accountancy professors is backing BP’s fight to rein in compensation it has to pay for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which is threatening to add billions of dollars to its growing bill for the disaster.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council releases Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council marked significant progress today with the public release of the Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy and accompanying Draft Environmental Assessment for formal public comment. The Draft Plan provides a framework to implement a coordinated region-wide restoration effort in a way that restores, protects, and revitalizes the Gulf Coast region following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Devices along La. 70 to monitor sinkhole activity

Monitors to detect earth subsidence or movement along a section of La. 70 South near the Assumption Parish sinkhole have been installed and are fully functional, state highway officials said Thursday.

Additional equipment that will allow automated, continuous monitoring of La. 70, a critical east-west link in Assumption, will be in place and operating by the end of June, highway officials said in a news release.

DOTD installs new equipment near sinkhole

Transportation officials said enhanced monitoring equipment has been installed near the giant sinkhole in southeast Louisiana to better detect any changes.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) said the new equipment was placed along LA 70 in Assumption Parish. According to DOTD, the improvements will provide broader observation and greater accuracy in measuring movement in the area.

Spying Oil Spills from Space

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is trialing the use of satellites to detect oil spills in Australian waters.

Satellite-based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SSAR) can identify potential oil spills directly from orbit.

Shipwreck Oil Spill Time Bombs Identified

The waters of the United States’ coast hide oil spill time bombs.

When a ship sinks, it may carry oil with it into the abyss. Storms, corrosion and other events can cause that oil to leak out and contaminate the sea, which kills marine life and poses a health risk to people.

Coast Guard continues to manage oil spill from sunken ship

The Canadian Coast Guard is continuing to work on managing an oil leak from a sunken bulk carrier that ran aground and sank off Fogo Island and Change Island in Notre Dame Bay in 1985

House Votes to Fast Track Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted 241-175 to fast track the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, voting in favor of H.R. 3, the Northern Pipeline Approval Act, which would exempt the Keystone XL pipeline from any further environmental review.

Why the Keystone XL Pipeline is Unnecessary and Dangerous

The situation in Washington continues to worsen.  We lack leadership in every legislative area.  Our President will not fight for what is necessary, and the Senate and House accomplish less than any Congress in history.  Today, the Republican led House is attempting to again change the rules and enrich the off-shore bank accounts of the wealthy.  All this is because of a single project, the Keystone XL pipeline.  Let’s explore some reasons why it is unnecessary and a danger to the environment.

Crude Landlocked as Canadians Join U.S. to Halt Pipelines

British Columbia, the Canadian province whose official slogan to its own beauty is “Super, Natural,” is invoking another saying: “No more supertankers.”

That’s potentially big trouble in a nation where oil exports amount to $73 billion annually and the industry employs more than 550,000 workers. It’s also a bad omen for nations, notably China, that have invested billions in Canadian oil projects with expectations that they will one day be able to buy vast quantities of heavy Canadian crude.

Texas Farmers Lose Another Bid to Block Keystone Pipeline

TransCanada Corp. (TRP) won another of the remaining Texas state-court challenges by landowners trying to block construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline across their property.

A state appeals court in Beaumont, Texas, denied a bid by David Holland and his partners in a southeast Texas rice farm to overturn a lower-court order that let TransCanada install its pipeline before the landowners’ appeals were completed.

Americans having their say on divisive Keystone pipeline plan

Jobs, say hundreds of thousands of people. Pollution, say hundreds of thousands of others.

They say that’s what a proposed oil pipeline would bring into the country, as it transports crude from massive deposits in Canadian tar sands to refineries and ports in the United States.

Environmental groups call for study of tar sands oil before allowing pipeline to transport it across Maine

While officials with the Portland Pipe Line Corporation have repeatedly stated they do not have any active applications pending which would seek to allow them to transport tar sands oil across Maine, environmentalists are calling for studies to be done on the issue before it becomes an issue.

ExxonMobil works to contain sulfur dioxide

Work to repair a combustor at the ExxonMobil Refinery in Baton Rouge could result in as much as 24 tons of additional sulfur dioxide releases a day until the repairs are completed, company officials said Thursday.

Todd Case, Kulluk Offshore Installation Manager, Testifies Over Shell Barge Grounding

After drifting toward shore on a floating drill rig tilted by 30-foot swells and 45-knot winds, then riding a basket up to a hovering Coast Guard helicopter, Todd Case said he would revise the towing plan for the vessel on a winter trip across the Gulf of Alaska.

Chief engineer says ‘slime’ shut down tug’s engines before Kulluk grounding

An unknown fuel additive that created a “slime” on the Aiviq’s fuel filters likely caused the ship’s engine failures, according to the Aiviq’s chief engineer.

Carl Broekhuis spoke about the failures of the ship’s engines Thursday morning before Coast Guard marine casualty investigators gathered for a hearing in Alaska’s largest city. The engine failures were part of the series of events that led to the grounding of the Kulluk conical drilling rig just hours before the beginning of 2013.

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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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