Environmental Must-Reads – May 29, 2013


A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water

In acting to protect what’s important to them, the 5,000 residents of poor Mora County make it the nation’s first to ban hydraulic fracturing for oil.

California Dems push anti-fracking bills, aim to curb potential oil bonanza

California is on the verge of a new gold rush. Expanded hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — at the Monterey Shale formation is sparking estimates that 15 billion barrels of oil could be accessed, along with millions of jobs and huge contributions to the domestic energy supply.

Even the state’s green-friendly Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, says “the potential is extraordinary.”

But standing in the way is a flurry of anti-fracking bills. At last count, 10 were on the table, all introduced by Democrats seeking tighter controls over the controversial technology.

APNewsBreak: Ill. high-volume ‘fracking’ under way

State records indicate that high-volume oil drilling already has begun in Illinois, where lawmakers and others are scrambling to pass a bill to establish regulations for a practice that has generated intense national debate as energy companies push into new territory.

Escalating Water Strains In Fracking Regions

It’s bad enough that Western farmers and ranchers are reeling from a three-year-old drought and record heat waves. Now they’re feeling the heat from the goliath energy industry – over water.

From Texas to Colorado, hydraulic fracturing energy production is using larger amounts of water. So much that farmers and other major users are getting increasingly nervous about running out of the precious resource, especially as more people move to these states.

Illinois edges closer to endorsing gas fracking

Lawmakers in Illinois could sign off on legalizing fracking as early as this week, but approval of the highly controversial drilling method won’t come without a fight.

Despite a last-ditch effort from opposition forces inside and outside the state, Illinois’ Democrat-dominated state government is poised to become the latest to embrace the fracking boom.

Interior faces pressure to slow down fracking rule

The Interior Department is coming under fresh pressure to slow down planned rules to govern oil-and-gas “fracking” on public lands.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) on Tuesday urged Interior to extend the public comment period on revised draft rules to regulate the process called hydraulic fracturing.

Known For Being ‘Green’, Allegheny College Weighs Fracking

PublicSource profiles the debate going on at Allegheny College, a private liberal-arts school in Western Pennsylvania, which is known nationally for its “green” initiatives. The college is now considering leasing land for natural gas drilling.

Railroad Commission adopts new rules for drilling, fracking

The Texas Railroad Commission adopted new drilling regulations designed to make drilling and hydraulic fracturing safer.

The rules, which go into effect in 2014, have received praise from the industry’s Texas Oil and Gas Association (TOGA) and the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter.

Nevada Fracking Bill Falls Short in Protecting Human Health, Environment

The Nevada Senate has sent a bill to the Assembly that would regulate fracking but falls far short of what would be necessary to protect Nevada’s air, water and wildlife from the controversial oil and gas extraction process that has recently arrived in the state. Senate Bill 390 would merely require the Division of Minerals and the Division of Environmental Protection to develop a “hydraulic fracking program” for the state. The approval and implementation would ultimately be left up to the Commission on Mineral Resources, a body heavily influenced by the mining and oil and gas industries.

China prepares for fracking campaigns

There are more than a dozen wells ready for hydraulic fracturing campaigns in mainland China, a country manager for Far East Energy Corp. said.

Far East Energy said it has started work on 23 conventional wells in China with the number of wells designated for fracking increased last week to 16.

Natural Gas Export Plan Unites Oregon Landowners Against It

A radical shift in the world energy picture is raising environmental concerns in the United States.

Until recently, the U.S. had been expected to import more natural gas. But now, because of controversial technologies like “fracking,” drillers are producing a lot more domestic natural gas; so much that prices are down along with industry profits. And drillers are looking overseas for new customers.

Gulf Coast States Get Creative With BP Oil Spill Money

Gulf Coast states are lining up to spend $1 billion from BP on coastal restoration. The money is part of BP’s legal responsibility to restore the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources in the aftermath of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.

But the nature of some of the state projects, including boat ramps and a beachfront hotel, is raising questions about just what counts as coastal restoration.

Plaquemines oystermen seeing oil spill recovery

The dredge hauls a load of oysters out of Bay Adams in Plaquemines Parish.

Or for third-generation oysterman Mitch Jurisich, just another day at the office.

“Our family heritage, pride is on raising the finest quality oysters,” Jurisich explains. “That’s what we look at. But three years ago, how worried were you? Oh I thought we were done.”

Community Impact Series: Boat People SOS Helping Communities Recover From Katrina And BP Oil Spill

Hurricanes Katrina and in Rita in 2005, followed just five years later by the BP oil spill, are often regarded as a one-two punch for residents along the Gulf Coast. But for many people in the region’s Vietnamese community, so many of whom make their living in the fishing industry, these catastrophes just piled fresh anguish and stress on mental wounds that may have been festering for decades.

Drift Cards Dropped In Gulf Can Reveal Ocean Current Data

Coming soon to a beach near you: a “drift card” washing up on Gulf of Mexico shores that is part of a research project at Texas A&M University to study ocean currents.

The brightly colored yellow cards have contact information requesting that finders report where they were found as one way of tracking currents in the Gulf, says Piers Chapman, head of oceanography at Texas A&M. The project is conducted with funding from oil giant BP as part of its Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.

Residents near giant Louisiana sinkhole not happy with buyout offers

Nine months after the sinkhole first appeared in Bayou Corne, Texas Brine has started making offers to buy out the residents living there. Some residents say the offers are not what they expected.

For residents of Bayou Corne, serene waterways are their backyards. People like Dennis Landry never imagined their piece of paradise would be interrupted by a bubbling in the bayou, followed by a now more than 15-acre sinkhole.

Sinkhole bills continue to sail through Louisiana Legislature

A pair of bills written in response to what is now a 15-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish won unanimous approval Tuesday from the Louisiana Senate. The two bills by Rep. Karen Gaudet St. Germain would make the state commissioner of conservation tighten regulations around the state’s salt domes and solution-mined caverns and require owners of homes up for sale to notify potential buyers of any nearby caverns.

Keystone pipeline foe awarded $100K prize

Prominent climate activist and Keystone XL oil sands pipeline opponent Bill McKibben has won a Norway-based prize awarded for environmental work.

McKibben received the Sophie Prize — which comes with a cash award of $100,000 — for his work with 350.org, the climate advocacy group he co-founded. McKibben said he would split the prize between his organization and his alma mater, Middlebury College, provided it divests from fossil fuels.

What Is the Keystone XL Pipeline? Many Americans Don’t Know

Despite the controversy on Capitol Hill swirling around the Keystone XL pipeline and a vocal grass-roots movement against the project, half of Americans have never even heard of the pipeline, a recent poll found.

Push on for petroleum coke study before Keystone pipeline gets OK

A U.S. congressman is calling for a complete health review of petroleum coke before Washington approves the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Michigan Representative Gary Peters claims that one third of the cheap, combustible carbon byproduct, used mainly in overseas power plants, comes from the Alberta oilsands.

He announced Tuesday in Detroit that he intends to introduce legislation next week calling for a complete and comprehensive study of the environmental and health effects of petroleum coke, also known as pet coke.

After Russia and US, China jumps on Arctic gold bandwagon

The Arctic is dying. The latest recognition of the fact that irreversible processes have begun in the region as a result of climate change has come from the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt. He spoke at a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in the Swedish town of Kiruna on May 15.

Back to Fukushima: “It was all very apocalyptic”

At 2:46 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in Fukushima, Japan, Andrew Dewar was sitting in his office at Sakura no Seibo Junior College. It was the day before graduation, and he could hear his students rehearsing above him in the third floor auditorium. Then, from nowhere, the room started shaking. It stopped after a few minutes, only to start again. The second time, it lasted five minutes.

Fukushima meltdown’s latest victims: American uranium jobs

In comic books, radioactive disasters make stuff be massive. But in the real world, the Fukushima meltdown of 2011 is having the opposite effect on the worldwide nuclear power sector.

The sector is rapidly shrinking from the Hulk that it used to be, leading the U.S. government to announce on Friday that it is jumping out of the unprofitable uranium enrichment business.

Tepco Leads Drop in Utilities After Fukushima Bill

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) led a plunge in Japanese utility shares after an upper house committee approved a bill to allow more compensation claims against the operator of the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactor.

Expand health survey beyond Fukushima: U.N.

Japan’s health survey on the effects of the March 2011 nuclear crisis should be expanded to include areas outside Fukushima Prefecture, a U.N. expert said.

The health management survey should be provided to residents in all affected areas by radiation exposure higher than 1 millisievert per year, Anand Grover, the U.N. special rapporteur on health, said in a report

Rezoning offers little hope for Fukushima evacuees

Masasuke Takadama hopes to someday place the ashes of his son, who died in the tsunami two years ago, in the family grave not far from the crippled nuclear plant.

His home in the Nakahama district of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, was also swept away by the tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.

Nuclear lab accident in Ibaraki exposes 30 people to leaked radiation

A nuclear laboratory accident at the state-run Japan Atomic Energy Agency lab in Ibaraki Prefecture last Thursday has exposed 30 of the 55 staff working on the project to leaked radioactive substances. The highest dose recorded was 1.7 millisieverts, with nuclear facility workers in Japan having a 50 millisieverts annual exposure limit.

Japan vows tighter nuclear safety after accident doses 33 with radiation

Japan pledged better safety practices for its troubled nuclear industry Tuesday after an accident at a government research facility that exposed 33 people to minor excess radiation and had not been immediately disclosed.

Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura, whose agency oversees research at the facility in Tokaimura, north of Tokyo, said the government will tighten oversight.

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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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