Environmental Must-Reads – May 6, 2014


Rare Earthquake Warning Issued for Oklahoma

Mile for mile, there are almost as many earthquakes rattling Oklahoma as California this year. This major increase in seismic shaking led to a rare earthquake warning today (May 5) from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

In a joint statement, the agencies said the risk of a damaging earthquake — one larger than magnitude 5.0 — has significantly increased in central Oklahoma.

Scientists Warn of Quake Risk From Fracking Operations

Underground disposal of wastewater from fracking may pose a much greater risk of causing dangerous earthquakes than previously believed, particularly in areas of the U.S. Southwest and Midwest where earthquake faults have not been mapped extensively, seismology researchers said at a conference Thursday.

Colorado faces oil boom “death sentence” for soil, eyes microbe fix

Colorado’s intensifying oil and gas boom is taking a toll on soil — 200 gallons spilled per day seeping into once-fertile ground — that experts say could be ruinous.

The state’s approach has been to try to compel companies to excavate and haul the worst muck to landfills.

ND may approve wider use of brine on roads

A North Dakota Health Department official says his office may give the green light for wider use of oil field-produced brine on roads for dust control this year.

Dave Glatt, the head of the Health Department’s Environmental Health Section, said that pilot projects and tests are underway to determine the environmental impact of brine’s use on roads as well as its effectiveness compared to commercially available products. He said the Health Department is also working to identify saltwater disposal wells that could be used as a source for brine.

CT Senate endorses moratorium on disposal of fracking waste

The Senate endorsed legislation Monday that imposes a three-year moratorium in Connecticut on the disposal of waste generated by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” a method of extracting natural gas that has opened some Northeastern states to a new energy boom.

The bill was placed on the Senate’s consent calendar for formal adoption later Monday night. It will then go to the House.

Clearing the Air In Houston

Houston, Texas, is home to the largest chemical hub in the Americas and is one of the smoggiest US cities. As the Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier reports, the city is working to clean up its air but still has a long way to go.

Traffic fatalities are deadly side effect to fracking boom

Booming production of oil and natural gas has exacted a little-known price on some of the nation’s roads, contributing to a spike in traffic fatalities in states where many streets and highways are choked with large trucks and heavy drilling equipment.

Exxon and Chevron trailing in U.S. fracking boom

What boom? While the United States enjoys a surge in oil and natural gas production, its two largest oil companies — ExxonMobil and Chevron — have so far missed the party.

Big Oil was slow to jump into the fracking business, which has transformed U.S. energy markets by extracting oil and gas from shale deposits. And its latest quarterly reports show how it’s struggling to get on board.

Colorado Fracking Fight to Light Up Senate Race

A statewide fight over fracking and a U.S. Senate race are set to collide between now and November, when Colorado voters will decide the fate of both.

Rep. Jared Polis (D., Colo.), one of the richest members of Congress, is bankrolling efforts to get an initiative on this year’s ballot in Colorado that would limit—and potentially ban– fracking in the state. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who is running for re-election, is in a political bind as he faces pressure from his GOP challenger Rep. Cory Gardner to oppose any ballot initiative and also from Mr. Polis—along with grassroots environmentalists—to support an initiative.

Environmental groups protest bill aimed at levee board lawsuits

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Russel Honoré, of the Green Army, an environmental group, criticized efforts by the energy industry to pass legislation that specifically targets environmental litigation filed by a New Orleans-area levee board.

Honoré spoke at an event protesting Senate Bill 469, which could be voted on later this week by the state Senate.

Gulf researchers spot deep-sea creatures living near Gulf spill site

Samatha Joye came back from a nearly month-long excursion to the Gulf of Mexico with a surprising discovery: Aquatic life appears to be flourishing again at the bottom of the ocean near the site of the massive 2010 oil spill.

Oil company claims oil spills can have ‘positive effects’

Once in a great while, climate deniers will shift their posture and try to put a positive spin on a dangerous crisis. Maybe the planet is warming in such a way as to put human life in jeopardy, they’ll say, but maybe there will be some “positive effects.”

It’s not a good argument. The climate crisis is a serious threat so looking for silver linings – fewer snowball-related injuries? – isn’t a good idea.

Congressman Griffin Proposes Empty Exxon Homes in Mayflower for Tornado Victims

Scores of families across Mayflower have no home tonight as a result of the tornado, and one local congressman says he has a perfect place for them to live — homes left empty after last year’s oil spill.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Emily McElroy whose parents live in the River Plantation neighborhood in Mayflower. “I think people need houses and there’s empty houses here in town”

Keystone Pipeline Backers, Opponents Spar Ahead Of Vote

Supporters and opponents of the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline jockeyed for position ahead of an expected Senate vote on legislation authorizing immediate construction of the project.

An oil industry group that supports the pipeline launched a five-state ad campaign aimed at wavering senators, while an environmental group mobilized activists to urge lawmakers to vote against any attempt to force President Barack Obama to decide the pipeline’s fate.

Why this could be make-or-break week for Keystone XL pipeline

Senators who support the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Canada to the US Gulf coast see this week as their best shot at forcing a decision to go forward with construction. If they can pass a bill, the Republican-controlled House would likely follow suit. Then the question would be whether the president – who once again recently put off a decision on the controversial pipeline – would veto it.

Lobbying Surges for Keystone Pipeline Before Senate Vote

Television ads sponsored by the oil industry’s main trade association are being broadcast in five states to pressure Democrats to back the Keystone XL pipeline, part of a flurry of last-minute lobbying before a Senate vote as soon as this week.

The American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based group that represents oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Chevron Corp. (CVX), said today that the ads will appear in Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, New Mexico and South Dakota and run until May 7.

Tar Sands Flowing to Gulf in Keystone XL South

TransCanada admitted for the first time that tar sands oil is now flowing through Keystone XL‘s southern leg, now rebranded the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project. The company confirmed the pipeline activity in its 2014 quarter one earnings call.

Asked by Argus Media reporter Iris Kuo how much of the current 530,000 barrels per day of oil flowing from the Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas pipeline is tar sands (“heavy crude,” in industry lingo), TransCanada CEO Russ Girling confirmed what many had already suspected.

Full set of tools needed for US Arctic spill response, NRC finds

A full slate of response tools will be needed to address crude oil spills in the US Arctic, but not all of those tools are readily available, the National Research Council said in a new report.

While much is known already about both the behavior of oil and response technologies in Arctic environments, there are areas where additional research would enable more informed decisions about the most effective responses for different Arctic spill situations, the Apr. 23 report added.

Another Arctic Spill Is Inevitable, and We Are in No Way Prepared

The relentless search for new oil sources and increasingly ice-free seas are setting the stage for a petroleum gold rush in the Arctic. And with expensive, risky deepwater drilling in harsh seas will come inevitable oil spills—spills that the industry and regulators aren’t ready to handle.

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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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