Environmental Must-Reads – May 5, 2014


Radioactive water near fracking pond has Mount Pleasant residents worried

Kimberly Staub was worried Wednesday when a blue steel container of radioactive sludge as big as a truck roll-off box showed up near Range Resources’ Carter impoundment, just over the hill from her Mount Pleasant farm in Washington County.

And a little scared, too.

Oil drilling near Everglades prompts worries about fracking, water

The Florida Everglades has become the latest region to react against oil drillers and fracking, a technique that has spurred worries about earthquakes and water contamination across the country.

Concerns about an “enhanced extraction procedure” that conservationists in South Florida likened to fracking led an oil drilling firm to be slapped with a cease-and-desist order, face scrutiny from a U.S. senator and be questioned by residents about water supply safety. The company, however, contends that it is not using hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.

Texas company agrees to stop new drilling in Collier

A Texas drilling company has agreed to cease all new drilling activities in Florida until state environmental regulators can scrutinize groundwater tests.

In a statement Friday, the Dan A. Hughes Co. said it would hold off on all new operations until the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can review results of groundwater evaluations.

Democrats try for deal to avoid state fracking vote

Democrats in the state legislature are wrestling to craft a bill on fracking with the goal of fending off a statewide vote on the issue that could drive a wedge between members of their party.

State Rep. Su Ryden (D-Aurora) tells 9NEWS she hopes to find middle ground to grant more control over fracking to local governments, without empowering them to ban oil and gas extraction.

Fracking in trout country

The strike was solid and distinctive as a fat and brightly colored rainbow trout attacked a Pheasant Tail nymph bouncing across the rocky bottom of the Youghiogheny River during a recent float trip through parts of Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County.

The guided fishing adventure was part of a weekend-long Trout Unlimited media tour focused on potential impacts of shale gas extraction on trout fishing in Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains.

Fracking Ban Coming to Santa Barbara?

The Water Guardians, a new Santa Barbara-based anti-fracking group that started gathering real momentum in March, have become even more recognizable in recent weeks.

To Build A Pipeline, Or Not: N.E. Governors’ Push For More Gas Meets Opposition

A ship docks here twice a month, next to a scrap metal yard upstream from Boston Harbor. It pumps millions of gallons of supercooled liquid natural gas into two large white holding tanks.

From there, the terminal makes the liquid into a gas, which is pushed into a nearby power plant, and also into metro Boston’s distribution lines and New England’s interstate pipeline system. The facility has extra capacity, though, to send out far more fuel through the region’s constrained natural gas pipeline system.

Trenton-based environmental engineering company Sadat Associates to clean up after fracking

racking, or more formally hydraulic fracturing, has led a domestic energy revolution in the natural-gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, but has also been blamed for leaving behind a mess of contaminated streams and private water wells.

Sadat Associates, a Trenton-based environmental engineering company, wants to get in the business of cleaning up that mess, or preventing it from happening in the first place.

What a Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Could Mean for Fracking and Its Opponents

When a Dallas jury awarded a North Texas family $3 million for damages from natural gas drilling near their property last week, the Internet went wild. Opponents of hydraulic fracturing called it a landmark, a game changer, the first “anti-fracking” lawsuit to result in a jury award. In truth, the case involved not just fracking, but all the operations that go along with natural gas production.

Enhanced Levels of Fracking Possible in Kentucky’s Future, Gas Representative Says

The director of the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association believes hydraulic fracturing could eventually become a part of his industry’s work in the state.

Andrew McNeil says fracking is possible in Kentucky, but he admits it’s not likely to be as big as it is in other states.

Gulf’s bounty commands attention amid shale drilling boom

Seven decades after oil companies first bored wells beneath the Gulf of Mexico, it retains its allure, as recent discoveries tempt the industry with the prospect of pulling crude from 200-million-year-old rock buried miles below the seafloor.

The Gulf’s appeal is so strong that it anchors many oil companies’ portfolios, despite an onshore drilling boom that is putting rigs to work from North Dakota to West Texas.

Oil and gas operations “a death sentence for soil”

Today’s Denver Post has a very important story about the toll of oil and gas production on soil.

Soil sounds like a really boring topic. But, as the Soil Science Society of America says: “soils sustain life.” According to the Society, “soil supports and nourishes the plants that we eat” and that livestock eat, soil “filters and purifies much of the water we drink,” “soils teem with microorganisms that have given us many life-saving medications,” and “Protecting soil from erosion helps reduce the amount of air-borne dust we breathe.”

BP cries foul in massive oil spill settlement

The biggest accidental oil spill the world has ever seen began with the explosion, in 2010, of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. Thousands of businesses suffered along an oily arc from Texas to Florida. And BP, the company at fault, started paying them compensation right away. BP says it wanted to do the right thing and paying victims early bought the company some goodwill at the time that it was facing criminal charges and billions in federal fines. But now, four years later, BP says it’s the victim of Gulf Coast swindlers who have the oil giant over a barrel. BP says it is being forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to people who never saw oil anywhere but on TV.

Row between lawyers hits BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill deal

BP’s multibillion-dollar compensation settlement for its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been hit in a battle between lawyers over allegations of misconduct.

Two lawyers who were criticised for their roles in compensation awards have raised concerns about how hundreds of claims were pushed to the head of the queue by staff administering payments.

The truth behind the spin: What BP doesn’t want you to know about the Gulf oil spill

The best time to find tarballs on Louisiana’s shorelines is directly after a thunderstorm, when the waves churn up the oil carpeting the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and deposit its weathered remnants onto the beach.

That’s according to Jonathan Henderson, and he should know – he’s been tracking tar for four years now, ever since the day, back in April 2010, when he took his first flight over the Gulf of Mexico to survey the plume of oil shooting out from BP’s Macondo Prospect. He’s taken some 200 trips since. These days, he tends to travel to Grand Isle State Park and Elmer’s Island. The oil no longer covers those places, as it once did, but despite what you may have heard about the cleanup being complete, fresh tarballs keep reappearing. Especially after storms, Henderson’s liable to find them by the thousands.

Enbridge gets OK to pursue eminent domain for pipeline

The Illinois Commerce Commission has ruled Enbridge Pipelines can pursue eminent domain to get the remaining right-of-way it needs for a planned 167-mile pipeline from Flanagan to Patoka.

Enbridge wants to begin construction on the light crude oil pipeline this summer and have it operational by mid-2015, said Jennifer Smith, communication manager for Enbridge.

Keystone pipeline issue looms as Senate takes up energy bill

The impassioned debate over the Keystone XL pipeline could reach a tipping point this week on Capitol Hill, with this likely the last chance for the issue to be considered legislatively until after the November midterm elections. The outcome could complicate matters for the Obama administration, which is still reviewing whether to allow permits for sections of the pipeline.

Investigators narrow possible causes of oil train derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board says the crew’s actions, the train’s equipment or speed did not likely contribute to the fiery derailment of an oil train in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia.

During a Friday press conference, safety officials said the investigation and cleanup following Wednesday’s derailment are continuing.

Government must do more immediately to prevent oil spills from trains

YET ANOTHER train carrying tons of unrefined oil derailed last week, this time in Lynchburg, Va. Fifteen oil cars jumped their tracks, and three tumbled into an embankment of the James River. Some of the oil caught fire, releasing a black plume into the air and prompting local authorities to evacuate the area. Some of the crude leaked into the river, which supplies drinking water to Richmond.

Millions of gallons of crude oil pass through Bergen County daily, report says

Millions of gallons of highly combustible crude oil pass through Bergen County each day on trains, the Record reported.

The trains move through densely populated towns, close to schools, homes and environmentally sensitive areas like the Oradell Reservoir.

Trains carrying oil cause concern in North Jersey

Trains carrying millions of gallons of highly combustible crude oil are passing through neighborhoods in Bergen County every day, even as federal officials are questioning the safety of such rail shipments after a spate of explosive derailments.

The type of oil being moved across New Jersey has a lower flash point than standard crude and is often carried in tankers that don’t comply with modern safety standards. Concern about the shipments has increased with seven accidents the past year involving the trains, including a derailment and fire that killed 47 people and incinerated 30 buildings in a town in Canada last summer and an explosion that forced the evacuation of a town in Virginia last week.

Greenpeace Activists Detained, Arctic Oil Delivered

In Rotterdam on April 1, Dutch police raided a Greenpeace ship intended to block the delivery of oil coming from the Russian Arctic. The tanker was set to deliver the first shipment of oil from Russia’s newly operational Arctic oil platform. Greenpeace activists draped a “No Arctic Oil” banner from the Russian ship, and were detained by Dutch police.

Fukushima evacuation split 50% of families: survey

Nearly half of the families that fled from Fukushima Prefecture when the nuclear crisis began three years ago have been separated by housing problems, work requirements and children’s educational needs, according to a recent survey of the prefecture.

More experts challenge Tepco’s ‘Great Icewall’ for Fukushima No. 1

Experts on Friday heaped further criticism on a plan to build a costly underground frozen wall around the radiation-tainted Fukushima No. 1 power plant, a development that could delay the start of the experimental project.

The experts and nuclear regulatory officials said at a meeting in Tokyo on Friday that they weren’t convinced the project can resolve the serious problems involving contaminated water at the plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns following the 2011 megaquake and tsunami.

The New York Times Pens an “Epitaph” for Nuke Power

In support of the dying nuclear power industry, the New York Times Editorial Board has penned an inadvertent epitaph.

Appearing in the May 2 edition, The Right Lessons from Chernobyl twists and stumbles around the paper’s own reporting. Though unintended, it finally delivers a “prudent” message of essential abandonment.

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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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