Environmental Must-Reads – May 30, 2013


Survey: Many Americans Don’t Know What Fracking Is

Despite all the buzz about domestic natural gas and oil resources revolutionizing the nation’s global energy role, many Americans haven’t heard of the controversial technique used to extract those resources.

More than half of those surveyed by the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication said they knew little or nothing at all about hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. About 22 percent of people surveyed said they’ve heard “some” about fracking, and just 9 percent heard “a lot.”

New Mexico county first in nation to ban fracking to safeguard water

Sitting in the tidy living room of the home they built themselves, Sandra and Roger Alcon inventory what they see as the bounty of their lives: freedom, family, community, land, animals … and water.

“We’ve lived off the land for five generations,” said Roger Alcon, 63, looking out on a northern New Mexico landscape of high mesas, ponderosa pines and black Angus cattle. “We have what we need. We’ve been very happy, living in peace.”

Wells are the Alcons’ only source of water. The same is true for everyone else in Mora County, which is why last month this poor, conservative ranching region of energy-rich New Mexico became the first county in the nation to pass an ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking” that has compromised water quantity and quality in communities around the country.

New Mexico County Becomes First In Nation To Ban Fracking Over Concern For Water Supply

Mora County, a low-income ranching area in oil-rich New Mexico became the first county in the U.S. to ban hydraulic fracturing last month, the Los Angeles Times reports. Wells are the only source of water for the county’s 5,000 residents, so officials are wary of the oil and gas drilling technique that could compromise the groundwater.

Some in Europe Are Rethinking Opposition to Fracking

In oil-rich parts of Texas, hydraulic fracturing has almost become a way of life. Drilling rigs and pumping equipment pepper the landscape, and enormous trucks carrying oil field supplies rumble down narrow, dusty roads.

In Europe, things could hardly be more different. Opposition to hydraulic fracturing — the process of injecting water, sand and chemicals into the earth to blast apart rock and retrieve oil or natural gas — is widespread and entrenched. Some countries, including France, ban the practice, which is also known as fracking.

Chevron, Exxon investors sustain calls for fracking disclosure

About 30 percent of shareholders of both Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp on Wednesday backed calls for more disclosure surrounding their use of hydraulic fracturing, the top two U.S. oil companies said.

California’s Fracking Frenzy

California’s Gold Rush may have ended well over a century and a half ago, but there are new prospectors in town and these suits aren’t toting tattered tents and rusty old pans. Instead the new Golden State pioneers employ geologists and lease expensive extraction equipment. Yet, in many ways it is still the Wild West out here in the land of sun and sea, and many are hoping to strike it rich.

Fracking vs. food: N.Y.’s choice

As chefs and proprietors of New York City restaurants, we care a great deal about the ingredients going into the dishes we serve to our customers: where they come from, how they’re produced and any health or safety risks they might carry.

At the same time, we are committed to providing sustainable and ecologically friendly dining, which means buying seasonal ingredients, often from upstate New York. Whether it is fresh fruits and vegetables, grass-fed animals or dairy products, we love what this state has to offer.

For these reasons and many others, we are deeply concerned about the prospect of hydrofracking in New York. Fracking — a controversial method of extracting natural gas from deep underground — could do serious damage to our state’s agricultural industry and hurt businesses, like ours, that rely on safe, healthy, locally sourced foods.

A Heavyweight Fight Is About To Take Place To Decide Whether Fracking Will Be Allowed In California

Three separate bills to ban fracking in California have been introduced in Sacramento, as the state reckons with sitting on top of enormous shale energy deposits.

Huffington Post’s Aaron Sankin reports the bills call for separate conditional moratoriums on the practice, which involves shooting huge volumes of water down into rock formations to free up oil and gas

Fracking already took place in region

A somewhat scaled-down version of the high-volume hydraulic fracturing process under debate in Springfield has been tried at least once in Southern Illinois.

A well completion report submitted last year by Campbell Energy LLC shows the company used 640,000 gallons of water during fracking of a well in White County, according to a document shared with The Associated Press.

Website Would Show Fracking Chemicals

The Department of the Interior seeks comments on a proposed rule that would require drilling companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in fracking.

The rule would require drilling companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in fracking on the public website FracFocus.org, and it would require “flowback” fluids to be stored in closed containers. It also would expand evaluation methods used to assess whether cement may have adequately separated water sources from the fracking borehole, which is related to keeping ground water from being contaminated.

Anadarko Blew It With BP, Shareholder Says

Anadarko Petroleum paid $4 billion to settle litigation from the BP oil spill because its directors “performed virtually no due diligence” before buying a stake in BP’s “nightmare” Macondo well, a shareholder claims in court.

Lead plaintiff Michael Williams sued 12 current and former Anadarko directors in Harris County Court, in a 97-page shareholders derivative complaint.

BP, Shell, & Statoil in US lawsuit over alleged oil manipulation

BP, Shell and Statoil have been named in the first lawsuit to be filed following a European Commission antitrust investigation into alleged manipulation of oil prices and benchmarks, the Financial Times in London reported citing legal documents.

Gulf of Mexico shrimp subsidy case moves forward despite blow

After petitions from Gulf of Mexico shrimp processors, the U.S. Department of Commerce on Wednesday announced there is a reasonable indication that some foreign governments did in fact provide subsidies to foreign shrimpers and exporters. But while Commerce preliminarily found that China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam offered such subsidies, it found there was not enough evidence to include Ecuador and Indonesia.

Group of Ark. residents sue Exxon after oil spill

Dozens of residents and property owners are suing ExxonMobil Pipeline Company two months after a pipeline ruptured and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in the central Arkansas city of Mayflower.

Attorneys for a number of residents and property owners filed the lawsuit in Faulkner County on Tuesday seeking damages after the company’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured on March 29 and spilled the oil in Mayflower.

Mayflower Unified Command Says ‘Significant Progress’ Made in Oil Spill Cleanup

Mayflower Unified Command has issued the following news release regarding the cleanup process following the March 29 oil spill in the Northwoods subdivision

Interior moves ahead on offshore drilling safety institute

The Interior Department is taking steps toward implementing its years-long plan to create an “Ocean Energy Safety Institute,” which officials say will provide an independent forum for collaboration and research to improve offshore drilling safety.

It’s one of several initiatives since the 2010 BP oil spill that lead to the overhaul of the department’s long-troubled offshore branch and tougher regulations.

Chevron touts strong year, skeptics question company’s environmental record

During a contentious annual meeting Wednesday, Chevron executives touted the company’s $26 billion in annual profit and robust production efforts, but skeptics peppered management with pointed questions about its environmental practices.

Hazardous chemicals hidden in plants across U.S.

Until the local fertilizer company in West, Texas, blew up last month and demolished scores of homes, many in that town of 2,800 didn’t know what chemicals were stored alongside the railroad tracks or how dangerous they were. Even rescue workers didn’t know what they were up against.

State Department Inspector General Probing Keystone XL Contractor’s Conflicts of Interest

In yet another investigation into the Obama Administration’s activities, the State Department Inspector General is probing the conflicts of interest surrounding the contractor that performed the Keystone XL review.

The American public was supposed to get an honest look at the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline. Instead, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a fossil fuel contractor, hid its ties from the State Department so they could green light the project on behalf of its oil company clients.

Who’s who of Obama lobbyists pushes Keystone pipeline

TransCanada, the company hoping to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and the Canadian province of Alberta have hired a who’s who of lobbyists and communications professionals with links to the Obama administration – and to John Kerry in particular.

Protesters Call On Obama To Reject Keystone Pipeline, Stop Deportations

Environmentalists and comprehensive immigration reform advocates protested outside Chicago’s Downtown Hilton where President Barack Obama and other key political leaders attended a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser Wednesday evening.

Despite ‘heroic’ actions, grounding of Kulluk rig couldn’t be prevented

The Coast Guard captain who played a key role during attempts to control the ill-fated Kulluk conical drilling rig in December called the actions of those at sea “heroic” Wednesday.

Bubbles in bayou a year ago signaled sinkhole’s birth

A year ago, Dennis Landry noticed unusual bubbles in Assumption Parish’s Bayou Corne during a leisurely afternoon boat ride with his wife.

The bubbles in that one site, about 20 feet away from the path of an underwater pipeline, seemed to be surfacing a bit too steadily.

“I said, ‘Man, that doesn’t look right. This is unusual,’ ” Landry said Wednesday.

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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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