Environmental Must-Reads – May 3, 2013


Appeals Court Upholds Local Fracking Bans in NY

New York municipalities can use local zoning laws to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas, a mid-level state appeals court said Thursday.

State mining and drilling law doesn’t trump the authority of local governments to control land use, the four-judge appellate division panel ruled unanimously.

Ruling favors local control of fracking

With its ruling on Thursday, a New York appeals court delivered a key victory to environmentalists in their fight to keep fracking out of the state.

But the decision — affirming that local governments can ban the practice — may have been an even bigger gift to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, still waffling on whether to green-light fracking.

Fight Over Fracking Continues as Counties Begin to Ban Practice

While the nation’s so-called “Shale Gale” might be benefiting some communities in the United States, one county in New Mexico has said “no thanks” to a stronger oil and gas industry presence in its region.

Nearly half of fracking happens in places short on water

Fracking for oil and gas is a thirsty business.

Hydraulic fracturing uses large amounts of pressurized water — mixed with sand and chemicals — to crack subterranean rocks and release oil or natural gas. Up to 10 million gallons of water can go into a single well.

Fracking giant Halliburton nixes NC’s chemical disclosure rule

After more than six months of congenial meetings, the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission was set to approve its first fracking rule Friday, perhaps the most important of all the safety rules the commission will write to protect the public and safeguard the environment.

Colorado Democrats Push Fracking Rules After Towns Bar Drilling

Colorado, where hydraulic fracturing has helped push oil production to the highest level in 55 years, is considering legislation to rein in the practice, drawing threats from drillers who say they will flee the state if the restrictions become law.

As Fort Collins awaits similar fracking lawsuit, Longmont racks up $69,000 in legal fees

If you’re wondering what it might cost Fort Collins to defend itself in court if it is sued for banning fracking, the answer is a quickly moving target.

The only other city in Colorado to ban fracking and restrict energy development within city limits is Longmont, which has spent nearly $69,000 in legal fees through March 31 defending itself against two lawsuits challenging the city’s oil and gas regulations.

The Mines That Fracking Built

The bluffs rise up gently from the rolling hills and farmlands of Wisconsin’s Chippewa County. For years, the bluffs stood silent as small farming communities grew around them. The bluffs are too steep to farm and most of the trees in the area grow on the tops of bluffs and around their rolling slopes and steep faces. It’s unusually cold for April and trees stand as silhouettes against a layer of snow.

This scene is quickly interrupted at the intersection of two county roads in the small township of Cooks Valley. A large bluff behind a farm has disappeared. The bluff has been blasted, churned up and turned into giant piles of sand. The sand will soon be trucked off to a processing plant, loaded back into trucks or perhaps onto a waiting train and then shipped to oil and gas fields in other states.

Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania

More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington State and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded “the most contaminated place in the world.” As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the U.S. government agencies responsible.

Hydraulic Fracturing Faces Growing Competition for Water Supplies in Water-Stressed Regions

A new Ceres research paper on water use in hydraulic fracturing operations shows that a significant portion of this activity is happening in water stressed regions of the U.S., most prominently Texas and Colorado, which are both in the midst of prolonged drought conditions. It concludes that industry efforts underway, such as expanded use of recycled water and non-freshwater resources, need to be scaled up along with better water management planning if shale energy production is to grow as projected.

Study: Gulf oil spill is sickening fish vital to seafood industry

The seafood is safe to eat and the Gulf of Mexico tourism industry is recovering three years after the nation’s worst offshore oil spill spewed more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the waters off Louisiana. But despite that BP-sponsored commercial message, something appears to be amiss at the bottom of the Gulf’s food chain, according to new research.

Gulf Oil Spill Still Affecting Marine Ecosystem, Health Defects Found In Fish

Just over three years ago, the Gulf Coast, still recovering from the devastating effects of 2005?s Hurricane Katrina, awakened to the news their region was once again under imminent threat. The Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. Despite the feel good, BP-produced Gulf tourism commercials, the full effects of the spill will only be known thanks to the passage of time.

Gulf oil a heartbreaker for bellwether fish

Lingering oil residue at the bottom of Gulf Coast marshes caused heart defects and hindered reproduction in a small fish seen as an environmental bellwether, researchers said Thursday.

The Gulf killifish spends its whole life in the marshes of the Gulf Coast, with few in their lifetimes venturing more than a football field’s length from where they were born. Because of that, they’ve been the subject of several studies since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill erupted off Louisiana in April 2010.

BP to pay $18M for Texas Gulf restoration work

BP PLC has agreed to finance five Gulf restoration projects in Texas expected to cost a total of $18 million.

Interior Applauds Next Step in Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources Trustees-BP Agreement for $600 Million in Gulf Restoration Projects

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees (Trustees) and BP have reached a preliminary agreement identifying over $600 million in post-oil spill restoration projects.

The 28 projects, for implementation in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, will focus on restoration of marshes, barrier islands, dunes, near shore marine environments, and includes several projects to enhance access to recreational and other human-use opportunities across the Gulf.

Arkansas Oil Spill Shatters American Dream of Families Still Displaced From New Homes

Uprooted and anxious, Arkansans find themselves thrust into the debate about the Canadian oil that filled their streets and the safety of such pipelines.

Inside Report: Louisiana lawmakers ponder salt dome regulation

Proposals are zipping through the Louisiana Legislature to help residents who live near salt domes that are integral to the oil and gas industry.

Salt domes are natural formations prevalent along the Gulf Coast. Companies mine into the domes to extract brine that is piped to petrochemical companies. They also create caverns for the storage of natural gas, crude oil and other materials.

House backs 2 sinkhole bills to regulate salt mines and notify property buyers of locations

Two bills aimed at regulating salt dome operations were approved unanimously by the Louisiana House on Thursday, a day after some Bayou Corne residents were told an evacuation order will remain in place indefinitely due to the instability of a 15-acre sinkhole.

MDOT investigating I-94 roadway sinkage at site of Enbridge pipeline in western Washtenaw County

Officials have confirmed an investigation is underway into the source of a small sinkage in the westbound lanes of Intestate 94 in Lima Township at a site where a crude oil pipeline was recently installed.

Nebraska law officers discuss pipeline security

Nebraska law officers have been discussing security arrangements for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, even though it hasn’t been given a final federal blessing.

The Lincoln Journal reported that the Nebraska State Patrol invited county sheriffs and prosecutors along the pipeline’s Nebraska path to a meeting in Grand Island last week.

TransCanada to build $900 mln Alberta oil pipeline, terminal

TransCanada Corp, Canada’s No. 2 pipeline company, said it would spend an estimated $900 million to build and operate a 200-km (125-mile) oil pipeline and storage terminal to handle growing crude production in Alberta.

Keystone Kops: TransCanada Spent $280,000 Lobbying For Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline In First Quarter

TransCanada, the multinational corporation hoping to build the controversial northern half of the Keystone XL pipeline, spent over $280,000 on lobbying the U.S. government in the first quarter (Q1) of 2013, according to lobbying disclosure records.

Obama’s Former Communications Director’s Firm Does PR For Keystone XL Pipeline, Tar Sands Rail Transport

Double-dipping is a “no go” in the real world of eating chips and salsa with a circle of friends but an everyday reality in the world of lobbyists and PR professionals.

Enter double-dipper Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director for President Barack Obama who now runs the firm SKDKnickerbocker (Squier Knapp Dunn), a firm that “brings unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, political groups and candidates, non-profits, and labor organizations.”

New leadership for Shell’s Arctic operations

Four months after a Royal Dutch Shell drillship ran aground in Alaska, raising questions about the company’s offshore drilling operations, the oil giant has appointed a new executive in charge of Arctic operations.

IRN is launching the inaugural Arctic Oil & Gas 2013 Summit

The global summits organiser, IRN, is pleased to announce the launch of its inaugural Arctic Oil & Gas 2013 Summit that will take place on 18th-19th June, in Oslo, Norway. The summit will create a platform that will facilitate discussions amongst the major key players of the Arctic circle all the way through Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, bringing together senior level representatives from the international oil companies that are already involved and those that are looking to invest in the future developments.

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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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