Environmental Must-Reads – May 6, 2015


Flawed Methane Monitor Underestimates Leaks at Oil and Gas Sites

A popular scientific instrument used to measure methane leaks from oil and gas operations severely underestimates emissions under certain conditions, a preliminary study found. The results could have major implications for federal policies as the Obama administration moves to regulate methane from the natural gas industry.

Texas Passes Ban on Fracking Bans (Yes, You Read that Right)

The Texas state legislature voted yesterday to ban fracking bans. Ever since the people of Denton, Texas voted to ban fracking last November, state lawmakers in cahoots with the oil and gas industry and the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, have attempted to strip municipalities like Denton of home rule authority to override the city’s ban.

In response, citizens banded together to form Frack Free Denton to fight for home rule. The group has put together a powerful film, which premieres on Friday, documenting their fight to ban fracking within city limits in the heart of oil and gas country. The vote comes despite recent findings by a team of researchers from Southern Methodist University that linked the earthquakes in one area of Texas, which did not have earthquakes prior to the fracking boom.

California Farmers Are Watering Their Crops With Oil Wastewater, And No One Knows What’s In It

As California farmers face a fourth year of the state’s historic drought, they’re finding water in unexpected places — like Chevron’s Kern River oil field, which has been selling recycled wastewater from oil production to farmers in California’s Kern County. Each day, Chevron recycles and sells 21 million gallons of wastewater to farmers, which is then applied on about 10 percent of Kern County’s farmland. And while some praise the program as a model for dealing with water shortages, environmental groups are raising concerns about the water’s safety, according to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

Poor in Pennsylvania? You’re fracked.

Fracking wells in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region are disproportionately located in poor rural communities, which bear the brunt of associated pollution, according to a new study.

The study bolsters concerns that poor people are more likely to deal with hydraulic fracturing in their community and raises concerns that such vulnerable populations will suffer the potential health impacts of air and water pollution associated with pulling gas from the ground.

Scientists Discover Fracking Chemicals In Pennsylvania Drinking Water

The “foaming” drinking water wells of a few rural Pennsylvania homes have been infiltrated by chemicals commonly used in fracking operations, according to new peer-reviewed research.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, the research showed three homes in Bradford County with water wells containing multiple compounds similar to the mix used by drilling companies. The amount of those compounds were small, however, and did not pose a health risk, the authors said.

The 10 scariest chemicals used in hydraulic fracking

Vast deposits of natural gas have driven a drilling boom across 32 states.

Although the boom is helping the US generate more energy on its own soil, a study published Monday, May 4 points out a potential health problem linked with the practice, known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

Idaho fracking activist files $1.5 million claim against Payette County for wrongful arrest

Alma Hasse alleges her arrest at a Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing and her subsequent incarceration were illegal, according to a tort claim filed with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.

During an Oct. 9 hearing pertaining to Alta Mesa Idaho natural gas facility’s permit, Hasse gave testimony critical the county and then later spoke out during a portion of the meeting when the public is not allowed speak. Planning Commission Chairman Chad Henggler called the Payette County Sheriff and told him to remove Hasse from the public hearing. She was charged with trespass and restricting and obstructing officers, both misdemeanors

Greenpeace anti-fracking advert banned

A Greenpeace advert opposing fracking has been banned for claiming experts agreed that the process would not cut energy bills.

The national press ad said: “Fracking threatens our climate, our countryside and our water. Yet experts agree – it won’t cut our energy bills.”

Rail Executive Blasts Oil-Train Rules

Norfolk Southern Corp.Chief Executive Charles W. “Wick” Moorman said that the rail industry will challenge the federal government’s new crude-by-rail rules, adding regulators have “made some serious mistakes in the regulations.”

The new safety rules could make shipping crude oil by train prohibitively expensive, Mr. Moorman said in an interview on Tuesday.

Bomb Squad #Fail: The new rules for oil trains are horrifyingly inadequate.

The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed new rules for trains carrying crude oil on Friday, and for good reason. The situation is dire. Both 2013 and 2014 set records for oil train accidents, and 2015 is off to a bad start. Each accident is a human and an environmental disaster. A July 2013 crash in Quebec, for example, killed 47 people and burned much of the town of Lac-Megantic to the ground. The November 2013 spill in Aliceville, Alabama, dumped more than 700,000 gallons of crude into a sensitive marshland. A month later, an oil train exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, spilling 400,000 gallons.

Firefighters’ Union Says New Oil-By-Rail Rules Fall Short

The largest union representing firefighters in North America said Tuesday that a new Department of Transportation rule for transporting oil by rail does not go far enough to enable firefighters to respond effectively in the case of an accident.

Released on Friday, the new rule from the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration covers trains carrying oil and other highly flammable liquids. It includes new standards for how tank cars used to transport those liquids must be constructed, and it changes requirements for routing and speed. The DOT’s description of the new rule also notes that it requires railroads to provide state, local and tribal governments with “a railroad point of contact for information related to the routing of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions.”

Critics Scoff at New Oil Train Speed Limits

New U.S. and Canadian speed limits for oil trains will do little to temper the likelihood and severity of explosive accidents that have grown in frequency over the past two years, critics of new regulations said on Friday.

Walking a line between increasing safety and keeping oil shipments moving at a clip on North American rails, regulators announced a 50 mile per hour (mph) speed limit for oil trains, a key component of new rules rolled out on Friday. But speed was not identified as a key factor in recent crashes, and slowing trains further may congest an already beleaguered rail system, some say.

2 workers dead, 10 hurt in Mexico oil rig accident

An accident on an oil well-maintenance platform killed two workers and injured 10 off Mexico’s coast on Tuesday, company officials reported, blaming the incident on the collapse of one of the rig’s legs.

State oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said the Troll Solution rig was maneuvering to perform offshore maintenance at the time of the accident in the Bay of Campeche, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dive into oil spill research

Hundreds of scientists from multiple government agencies and from universities and research centers have, for the past five years, been collecting data on the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.

Findings from some of that research has dribbled out piecemeal in scientific journals, or once validated through peer reviews, posted on the www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov website.

June 8 Last Day to File Claims Related to BP Oil Spill

June 8 is the last day one can file a claim for economic loss related to the BP/Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill from 2010. The Court Supervised Settlement Program, which has paid almost $5 billion in claims to more than 62,000 businesses and individuals in the region, will not accept any new claims moving forward from that day.

The claims that currently have yet to be processed are over 70,000, and are estimated to take two to three years for the CSSP to go through.

That is Not Where That Goes: Discarded Waste Oil Spill Discovered Near Elk River

Dammit. Monday evening, crews from multiple local agencies responded to a wooded area near a stream that feeds into Elk River on a call that some barrels had been discarded there and were potentially leaking hazardous material.

Yesterday, The Outpost had received an email from area resident Leroy Marsh who’d discovered three 55-gallon drums off the road near the intersection of Berta Road and Valley Drive. Marsh, who sent along the photo above taken at the scene of the dumping, said he’d called the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office to report the crime.

Kolo Creek oil spill incident worries farmers

No fewer than 50 farmers impacted by the April 15 oil leak incident from Shell’s Kolo Creek oil fields in Otuasega, Bayelsa have decried damages they suffered from the incident.

Meanwhile, Shell has reached an agreement with People of Bodo Community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, on the modalities and scope to clean up, remediate and the restoration of the environment affected by oil spills in the area.

TransCanada pipeline leak reported in Alberta

Federal regulators in Canada said they were responding to a leak from a natural gas transmission line operated by pipeline company TransCanada.

The National Energy Board said a leak was reported from the company’s Sieu Creek gas transmission line during planned maintenance operations.

Grass-Roots Push in the Plains to Block the Keystone Pipeline’s Path

In early 2010, the South Dakota government gave its blessing to a Canadian company seeking to move crude oil in a pipeline beneath the American heartland. Opposition had been minimal.

“We didn’t know about it,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, the chairwoman of the Yankton Sioux Tribe’s treaty council. “It was real swift and quiet.”

But in the years since, the proposed pipeline, known as Keystone XL, has become the object of a national debate, and Ms. Spotted Eagle has emerged as a leader of an increasingly organized coalition of Native Americans, landowners and grass-roots groups seeking to block its construction in this state and elsewhere. So much time has elapsed that the 2010 construction permit is now up for recertification, requiring a new round of hearings expected to pit South Dakota activists against pipeline supporters eager for construction to begin.

Photos of the People in the Path of the Keystone XL Pipeline

At 6 PM we took the turn onto Highway 12 toward Gascoyne, North Dakota. We’d been driving across the Midwest for a week.

“Do you think we’ll make it?”

“We’ll make it.”

The sun faded into the kind of gold prairie sunset you see in Marlboro ads or Reagan fan fiction. We would have found it beautiful if we weren’t worried about not seeing the Keystone XL Pipeline that day. Our phone signals died. I was hopeful; Pete was determined.

The Keystone XL Pipeline: What Do You Really Know?

The Keystone XL pipeline has been under review by the U.S. government for more than six years. President Barack Obama could make a decision on the project in the coming weeks, though he faces no deadline.

You’ve probably heard about this pipeline, but how much do you actually know about it? Take this quiz to find out.

Pipeline surveyors charged with trespassing in Screven

A Screven County Sheriff’s deputy ordered three Palmetto Pipeline surveyors off a private farm on Saturday and obtained criminal trespass warrants Monday for Emmett Horn, Darrell Alexander and Barry Kilgore, of SGC Engineering LLC, the survey company hired by pipeline giant Kinder Morgan.

The surveyors had traveled deep into the property before a Millhaven Company LLC employee spotted their truck, said Millhaven General Manager Brigham Sanders.

Enbridge appeals to Dane County Board to avoid spill insurance

Enbridge Energy pipeline company is asking the Dane County Board to overturn a zoning board decision requiring the company to purchase insurance guaranteeing a cleanup in the event of a spill of tar sands crude from a town of Medina pumping station.

The zoning panel last month included an insurance requirement when it approved a permit for increased pumping capacity, part of Enbridge’s program to triple the flow of heavy crude through Wisconsin.

Shell’s Arctic oil setback – unlawful use of Seattle Port

The Port of Seattle is violating its shoreline permit in allowing Shell to set up a ‘home port’ for its Arctic oil drilling fleet, according to Seattle officials. The finding could nix Shell’s oil drilling plans for the 2015 season.

Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean received what may prove a fatal blow yesterday when the City of Seattle issued its finding that the oil company’s use of the Port of Seattle violated planning laws.

Seattle ruling won’t derail Shell’s Arctic quest, executive vows

A ruling by the city of Seattle may throw a wrench into Shell’s Arctic drilling plans, but it won’t delay the company’s plans to bore two new wells in the Chukchi Sea this summer, a top executive vowed Tuesday.

Although “it’s not my preferred approach . . . we have backup plans,” said Ann Pickard, Royal Dutch Shell’s executive vice president for the Arctic. “I don’t think this will delay the program.”

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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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