Environmental Must-Reads – May 5, 2015


Fracking Chemicals Detected in Pennsylvania Drinking Water

An analysis of drinking water sampled from three homes in Bradford County, Pa., revealed traces of a compound commonly found in Marcellus Shale drilling fluids, according to a study published on Monday.

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, addresses a longstanding question about potential risks to underground drinking water from the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The authors suggested a chain of events by which the drilling chemical ended up in a homeowner’s water supply.

Study links foam in water wells to shale well sites

White foam in northeastern Pennsylvania water wells likely was caused by Marcellus Shale gas well sites that have already been blamed for causing natural gas to infiltrate residential water supplies, a paper published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported on Monday.

Environmental consultant Garth Llewellyn and biochemistry and geosciences researchers with Penn State University used a novel method to identify low levels of organic compounds that they said likely explain foaming from three water wells in Bradford County between 2010 and 2012. Test results from commercial laboratories during investigations at the sites had not picked up on what was causing the foaming — they reported no unsafe levels of compounds other than natural gas in the water, while other compounds, like glycols and surfactants, had appeared inconsistently or at barely detectable levels.

Texas Legislature Acts to Stop Cities From Limiting Drilling

Texas moved Monday to ban its own cities from imposing prohibitions on hydraulic fracturing and other potentially environmentally harmful oil and natural gas drilling activities within their boundaries — a major victory for industry groups and top conservatives who have decried rampant local “overregulation.”

Lawmakers in America’s largest oil-producing state scrambled to limit local energy exploration prohibitions after Denton, a university town near Dallas, passed an ordinance in November against hydraulic fracturing or fracking, attempting to keep encroaching drilling bonanzas outside their community.

“Denton Fracking Bill” Headed to Abbott’s Desk

The so-called Denton fracking bill is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The Senate on Monday approved House Bill 40, which would pre-empt local efforts to regulate a wide variety of oil and gas activities and has stirred concerns in some towns that have sought to blunt the effects of drilling close to homes, schools and businesses.

Fracking: Jerry Brown’s environmental blind spot

Gov. Jerry Brown may prove to be the greenest government official in American history — emphasis on “may.”

His announcement last week that California would up its target for reducing carbon emissions — to 40% by 2030 — puts him at the head of the pack among governors (admittedly, not a very high bar). His dramatic drive for climate progress has helped catalyze the state’s economy, which in turn will make the reductions easier. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk’s announcement that he’s now in the home battery business shows how well this symbiosis is working to grow the state’s economy even as it shrinks its carbon footprint.

Baldwin Hills resident concerned fracking may be causing earthquakes

After another earthquake rattled parts of the Southland on Sunday, some residents who live near Baldwin Hills are starting to question the cause of the shaking.

The magnitude-3.8 earthquake struck early Sunday morning and was the third in a month.

Gary Gless lives in Baldwin Hills and is concerned the earthquakes are somehow related to all the oil drilling that is going on in the area. He showed Eyewitness News a map of underground drilling that he said crisscrosses the community.

Rolls-Royce and Weir form joint venture in fracking

Rolls-Royce and Weir have signed a joint-venture agreement to develop equipment that will make drilling for oil by “fracking” more efficient.

Engineers at Rolls’ MTU business, which makes large diesel engines, and staff at Weir, which produces pumps, will work together to turn out a combined engine, transmission and pump system.

Clean Water for N.C. challenges fracking board’s authority

An environmental nonprofit and three North Carolina residents living in possible fracking destinations are legally challenging the authority of the appointed board that drafted the state’s drilling rules.

The complaint, which was filed Friday in Wake County Superior Court, comes from Clean Water for N.C., a group that has lobbied to ban fracking in North Carolina for several years. The legal challenge contends that the N.C. General Assembly violated the state constitution in giving the appointed N.C. Mining and Energy Commission the authority to pre-empt local ordinances in crafting fracking regulations.

The U.S. Is Getting Serious About Oil Train Explosions. Here’s How It Plans To Stop Them.

Oil is a global commodity, traversing vast distances by pipeline, tanker, and recently in the United States by rail car. A resurgence in domestic crude oil production due to technological advances in drilling has led to a transportation bottleneck between landlocked oil fields and coastal refineries and ports, and that bottleneck has opened up the door for more oil shipment via rail.

But increased shipment by rail has also led to an increase in accidents, and on Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation released long-awaited safety standards for train cars carrying oil and other flammable materials following a series of dangerous derailments.

Federal Officials Say Leaking Oil Train had Flawed Valves

Federal investigators say a leaking oil train that hauled crude oil from North Dakota to Washington in January had tank cars with faulty valves, which also are installed on thousands of tank cars nationwide.

A federal directive in March ordered tank car owners across the U.S. to replace the flawed valves, saying they were an “immediate safety issue.”

Schumer wants faster oil train changes than Obama

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is introducing legislation to require faster implementation of a series of regulations regarding the transportation of crude oil that were unveiled last week by the Obama administration.

Schumer’s legislation would require freight rail companies to phase out older rail cars that have been blamed for numerous high-profile disasters within two years, instead of the eight-year deadline that was set by the Obama administration.

EPA cites Plains’ California oil train terminal for violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cited Plains All American Pipeline LP’s Bakersfield crude by rail terminal with a series of violations, according to a notice made public on Monday.

The federal agency said in the notice the facility’s owner failed to obtain valid emissions permits, install best available control technologies or provide emissions offsets as required by the local air district, according to the notice.

EPA faults air district’s approval of oil train terminal near Taft

Federal officials say a new oil-by-rail terminal near Taft qualifies as a major air polluter that should have undergone a more rigorous environmental review.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in letters mailed Thursday that the facility was wrongly permitted by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and that Houston-based terminal owner Plains Marketing LP violated the Clean Air Act by failing to obtain proper permission to operate it.

Stung by derailments, U.S. and Canada rewrite crude-by-rail regs

U.S. and Canadian officials unveiled regulations today that would effectively overhaul the entire fleet of U.S. crude oil tank cars in five years.

The crude-by-rail safety rule — jointly developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Transport Canada — marks the most significant regulatory action since a runaway train hauling oil derailed and exploded killing 47 people two years ago in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

Pipeline poses hidden threat to trout in Pennsylvania

On the last weekend in April, Tyler A. Frantz, an elementary school teacher from Annville, Pennsylvania, drove about an hour into the Pocono Mountains to learn more about trout, an animal that tells the story of two energy booms in his state’s history.

The colorful fish, which need cold, clean freshwater to survive, were devastated in Pennsylvania during the coal boom of the early 20th century. For decades, old mines leached acidic poisons into thousands of streams. After many years of work and millions of dollars spent on stream rehabilitation, trout have returned to some of these waters, including Swatara Creek in Frantz’s eastern Pennsylvania hometown of Pine Grove, which when he was a boy ran barren and the color of rust.

Mexican states cannot sue over BP oil spill, judge rules

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that three Mexican states cannot sue BP and other companies over damages from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal upholds a 2013 district court ruling.

5th Circuit: Mexican states can’t sue over BP oil spill

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that three Mexican states cannot sue BP and other companies over damages from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The ruling by the  U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a 2013 district court ruling.

Jury trials for medical lawsuits over BP oil spill approved

Oil spill cleanup workers who sue BP for medical problems that surface later in life have the right to make their case before a jury, a federal judge has ruled.

The BP oil spill medical settlement reached in 2012 was set up to pay cleanup workers and others who experienced certain illnesses during the immediate aftermath of the April 2010 disaster.

NOAA announces new Deepwater Horizon oil spill searchable database web tool

A new online tool developed by NOAA  to manage and integrate the massive amounts of data collected by different sources during the five years following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, called DIVER for Data Integration, Visualization, Exploration, and Reporting, is now available for use by research teams and the public at https://dwhdiver.orr.noaa.gov.

The DIVER announcement plays a part in the Department of Commerce’s goal of unleashing its vast resources of environmental data and delivering on one of its key priorities – transforming data capabilities and supporting a data-driven economy. NOAA is a constituent agency of the Commerce Department.

Risk of a collision-related oil spill on the Gulf of Finland could up to quadruple in the future

A single oil spill can release 30,000 tonnes of oil into the ocean if two vessels collide. In grounding the high weight can lead to oil disaster, in the Baltic Sea up to 120 000 tonnes. This estimate does not include the new giant tankers.

The Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea is the riskiest of waterways in the world’s oceans due to the high frequency of crossing vessels between Helsinki and Tallinn. Oil tanker traffic to Russia in particular has continued to increase despite a bleak financial outlook.The Gulf of Finland is famously difficult for maritime traffic as it is shallow and narrow and requires navigation around the many islands along the Finnish coast.In winter, darkness and ice make navigation even more challenging.

Crews work to contain oil spill in Newport News harbor

A Newport News fire official says crews are working to contain a spill in the harbor.

Battalion chief Stephen C. Pincus says an adjacent business reported a potential oil spill around 11:12 a.m. Monday. Responders found a dense black film on the water.

Drenched in oil: Nigerians demand Shell spill clean-up

Pastor Christian Lekova Kpanddei wears his camera like a weapon, slung over a T-shirt telling oil giant Shell to “Own Up. Pay Up. Clean Up”.

He was a fish-farmer in the Ogoniland town of Bodo, in the oil-rich Niger Delta, before a rusty 55-year-old pipeline owned by Shell ruptured twice in 2008-2009, churning roughly 100,000 barrels of crude into the surrounding creeks.

Shell Reaches Nigerian Oil Spill Agreement

Shell has reached an agreement to clean up a local Nigerian community devastated by two oil spills in 2008. Representatives from the Amnesty International, United Nations Environment Program, the Dutch embassy met with Shell over the weekend to hash out a €134 to €446 ($149 to $497) million clean-up plan for Bodo, a Nigerian fishing town deeply affected by oil contamination. The agreement was reached Friday in Port Harcourt, the capital of River State Nigeria, and will see cleanup efforts beginning in July or August.

Canadian Crude Strengthens as Enbridge Fills Pipeline

Heavy Western Canadian Select crude’s discount to West Texas Intermediate shrank to the least since 2012 as a new pipeline started and production sites were shut for maintenance.

The discount to the U.S. benchmark narrowed 25 cents to $8.50 a barrel Monday, the smallest margin since September 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The grade’s absolute price rose 3 cents to $50.43, the highest since Dec. 4. WTI futures fell 22 cents to $58.93 in New York.

Seattle Mayor: Port Needs New Permit for Arctic Oil Fleet

Mayor Ed Murray threw a wrench into plans for a 400-foot oil-drilling rig to arrive in Seattle when he announced Monday that the Port of Seattle can’t host Shell’s offshore Arctic fleet until it gets a new land-use permit.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC has been planning to base its fleet — including a drill rig and two tug boats — at the port’s Terminal 5 for six months each year, when they’re not being used in the Arctic. Environmentalists have already sued over the plan, saying the port broke state law in February when it signed a two-year lease with Foss Maritime, whose client is Shell, without doing an environmental review.

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This