Environmental Must-Reads – May 30, 2014


Calif. Senate vote falls short for moratorium on oil fracking

The state Senate on Wednesday failed to muster the votes needed to set a moratorium on the oil drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, until a study determines that it does not pose a health risk for the public.

Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said her bill is needed because of public concern that the injection of water and chemicals into the ground to stimulate oil production may threaten health.

Southern Illinois lawmakers drop fracking bill; urge Quinn, state agency to issue rules soon

Lawmakers supporting hydraulic fracturing Wednesday abandoned proposed legislation to speed use of the practice in Illinois, and said they would instead urge a state agency to move more quickly writing rules to regulate it.

Rejected Pa. drilling waste brought to W.Va.

Two months ago, Range Resources trucked two small containers of waste from its natural gas drilling operations in Washington County, Pennsylvania, to a local landfill.

Officials from the Arden Landfill in Chartiers turned away the material, when their normal monitoring turned up higher levels of radioactivity than Pennsylvania deems acceptable for normal landfill disposal.

West Virginia won’t accept additional drilling waste tainted with radioactivity

Range Resources shipped 12 tons of drilling sludge containing higher than normal radioactivity 100 miles to a West Virginia landfill Tuesday afternoon, but for now won’t be able to use it to dispose of similar waste stored on well pads in Washington County.

West Virginia landfill bans drilling sludge

Marcellus Shale companies that need to eliminate drilling sludge won’t be heading to the mountain state – at least not to Bridgeport.

West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection cracked down on out-of-state waste disposals after sludge containing low levels of radiation were trucked to a Waste Management landfill in Bridgeport from a Smith Township well pad Tuesday.

Texas oil and gas regulator says it can’t link water contamination to gas drilling

The amount of explosive gas tainting a North Texas neighborhood’s water supply has increased in recent years, but the state’s oil and gas regulator says it can’t link the methane to drilling activity nearby, according to a report it released Wednesday.

State-owned forests already host plenty of gas drilling

Gov. Corbett has decided to prop up the state budget by milking the state’s public parks and forests for another $75 million worth of new leases for natural gas. It’s a short-sighted move that will force Pennsylvanians to endure more industrial activity when they take to the woods for hunting, fishing, and other ways of enjoying nature.

To make this new drilling in state conservation lands more palatable, Corbett says the new leases will prohibit further surface impacts. Any drilling would be done from patches of forest or fields that have already been cleared for gas operations.

Environmentalists ask judge to halt expansion of gas drilling

Governor Tom Corbett, eyeing an out of whack budget that’s due in a month, wants to expand gas drilling underneath state forests and parks to generate $75 million.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation and other environmental groups want to stop him and went to Commonwealth Court Wednesday seeking an injunction.

Court hears request to block drilling

As a state court considers a request to block a new round of drilling in the forests and state parks a former Rendell cabinet secretary testified Wednesday about his concerns with Marcellus Shale drilling in the state forests during 2009-10.

Fracking’s effects on San Diego discussed

With a legislative vote expected this week on an immediate state moratorium on fracking for natural gas and oil, San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts held a timely Fracking Forum on Wednesday to discuss its benefits and drawbacks.

While San Diego County does not have and doesn’t expect fracking sites, there are 1,235 oil wells in the Central Valley and more than 848 fracking sites in the Monterey Shale Formation in Northern California. But because the effects of these sites on water quality, water and energy prices, pollution and seismic activity extend to San Diego, Roberts, along with many citizens, wanted more information.

Environmental Health Advocates Rush to Examine Fracking Bill

In less than 24 hours, House lawmakers rushed approval of a bill that would put hydraulic fracturing on the fast track in North Carolina. Lawmakers accelerated the Energy Modernization Act through the legislative process, starting with an evening meeting Tuesday to review the bill sent over from the Senate, to an early-afternoon committee Wednesday with no amendments and to the House floor.

And as they did that, environmental-health experts scrambled to keep up with the bill that would remove the barriers to fracking in North Carolina.

North Carolina Republicans move quickly to advance fracking

There is already a moratorium in place that prevents hydraulic fracturing – also known as “fracking” – in North Carolina. Republican policymakers in the state are moving with remarkable speed, however, to change that.

Fracking industry avoids responsibility for flaming water

Rachel Maddow reports on the influence of the gas and oil industry in Texas politics and a town where the water has become flammable and yet the state has ruled that a connection cannot be made to nearby fracking activity.

No matter how you spell it, fracking stirs controversy

The word fracking was among 150 new terms added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this month. It’s defined as, “the injection of fluid into shale beds at high pressure in order to free up petroleum resources.”

Despite this official definition, both the spelling and meaning of fracking remain controversial.

BP oil spill administrator to begin paying business claims

Oil claims administrator Patrick Juneau said he will start paying businesses with signed releases on Monday.

It would be the first time since December that any of the remaining 30,000 business claimants will be able collect now that a federal judge has lifted an injunction.

Scalia ruling for BP could grant 6-month freeze on oil spill payouts

A favorable ruling from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could buy BP at least another six months to avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in disputed oil spill payments to businesses claiming damages from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, legal experts said Thursday.

The London oil company on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s order the same day dismantling an injunction that had frozen the bulk of BP’s oil spill payouts since December.

One high court justice has a big say in BP spill case

BP might be able to put off disputed oil spill damage payments for at least another six months if it can convince U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia of the merit in its allegation that some claims are bogus.

Scalia has jurisdiction over certain petitions coming from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which recently ruled on the spill claims issue. Legal experts said in interviews with the Chronicle on Thursday that his decision will depend on how much weight he gives competing factors.

Four years after oil spill, $5M BP gift to Texas unspent

Nearly four years after receiving $5 million from BP to help clean the Texas coast after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gov. Rick Perry’s office has not spent the money and only recently mentioned it to lawmakers in a budget plan.

The gift, which is separate from the tens of millions of dollars coming to Texas from a multi-state settlement with the company, came under scrutiny during a legislative committee hearing last week.

Louisiana House votes to kill levee board lawsuit

The Louisiana House on Thursday rejected the lawsuit filed against 97 oil and gas companies by a New Orleans levee board by approving legislation that would retroactively kill the litigation, which claims the companies caused environmental damage to the state’s wetlands.

The House voted 59 to 39 for Senate Bill 469, which would reach back and change the conditions under which the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, called SLFPA-E, could sue.

Gulf Oil Spill and Associated Health Risks

Crude oil spills affect the human health through their exposure to the inherent hazardous chemicals such as para-phenols and volatile benzene.

Human exposure to crude oil spills is associated with multiple adverse health effects including hematopoietic, hepatic, renal, and pulmonary abnormalities. In this study, we assessed the hematological and liver function indices among the subjects participated in the Gulf oil spill clean-up operations along the coast of Louisiana.

Master Naturalists: Oil spill damages invertebrate animals on Matagorda Island

Most of the residual fuel oil spilled in the Texas City Y Barge collision was washed into the Gulf and drifted along the coast, coming ashore on 12 miles of Matagorda Island beaches. In a monthlong cleanup, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, General Land Office, Kirby Marine, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and 470 contract companies removed 219,025 pounds of oiled material.

Oil spill hearing scheduled for next week

Lake Peigneur residents got a reprieve as a bill putting a two-year moratorium on expansion of salt dome storage caverns was approved Wednesday in the Louisiana Legislature.

Almost two weeks ago, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, sat with Save Lake Peigneur President Nara Crowley and AGL Resources lobbyist Robert Baumann to present the bill to the House Natural Resources Committee. The groups had met to hammer out an agreement that both adversaries approved.

Energy report omits mention of Keystone XL pipeline, other concerns

A White House report on its energy policy Thursday stressed good news but omitted any discussion of issues such as lifting a ban on oil exports, the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline or growing concern about crude oil in railroad tank cars.

Coming days before a White House proposal to crack down on carbon emissions at power plants, the administration’s report card touting its “all of the above” energy strategy was sharply criticized by green groups.

Desmond Tutu the latest high-profile Keystone XL critic to visit Fort McMurray

South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is expected to open a two-day conference on aboriginal treaties and the oilsands today by answering questions from reporters and taking an aerial tour of the massive industrial development.

He is scheduled to appear with industry, aboriginal and political leaders in Fort McMurray.

Tutu to tour oil sands developments near Fort McMurray

Renowned human rights activist and vocal oil sands critic Desmond Tutu will make a rare international public appearance in Fort McMurray, Alta., to speak at a First Nations treaty rights conference.

The Nobel laureate, who was at the forefront of the battle against South African apartheid, will tour the oil sands by helicopter Friday and give the keynote speech at the As Long As The Rivers Flow conference on treaty rights in Fort McMurray on Saturday.

CN Rail Sees U.S. Banning Older Rail Tank Cars for Oil in 3-5 Years

Canadian National Railway Chief Executive Claude Mongeau said on Thursday he expects U.S. regulators to phase out use of DOT-111 tank cars in three to five years, following a deadly explosion in Quebec last year.

Mongeau also expects U.S. authorities to decide no later than early 2015 on a new, safer design for cars to transport crude oil, he said in an interview.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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