Environmental Must-Reads – May 7, 2014


Louisiana Residents Gear Up For Fracking Fight Just Outside New Orleans

In mid-April, word started spreading like wildfire among Louisiana residents: Helis Oil & Gas LLC wants to drill a well in search of oil and gas on a 960-acre tract of land about 30 miles from New Orleans, in the Mandeville area.

Helis plans to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil and gas from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (PDF), which holds an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil beneath the Southern Hills aquifer, which extends from St.Tammany to beyond Baton Rouge and well into Mississippi.

NS residents warned about legislation possibly affecting future fracking fight

A warning was given Tuesday morning to fracking opponents in St. Tammany Parish that efforts to kill a coastal repair lawsuit could inadvertently affect their ability to sue for fracking damages in the future.

“They need to be upfront, they need to demonstrate that they are accountable, they need to demonstrate their responsibility,” said John Barry, with Restore Louisiana Now.

Actor, environmentalist Ian Somerhalder comments on ‘fracking’ debate in his hometown of Mandeville

In addition to his work as star of the popular television series “Vampire Diaries,” actor Ian Somerhalder spends his time on environmental causes. The Mandeville native commented recently on the controversial St. Tammany fracking debate happening over an oil and gas well proposed by Helis Oil & Gas, to be located just north of I-12 and east of Highway 1088 near Mandeville.

Beverly Hills becomes first in California to ban fracking

City leaders in celebrity-filled Beverly Hills voted on Tuesday to ban fracking, becoming the first municipality in California to prohibit the controversial technique for extracting natural gas and oil from underground rock deposits.

Environmentalists say chemicals used in the process pollute underground water supplies and cause other damage.

Scientists See Quake Risk Increasing in Oklahoma

A sharp rise in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma, apparently related to underground disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production, has significantly increased the chances that a damaging quake will occur there, federal and state scientists say.

USGS: Okla. At Increased Risk Of ‘Damaging Quake’

The U.S. Geological Survey says the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has gone up dramatically in recent months and that the surge in seismic activity has increased the danger of a damaging quake in the central part of the state.

The USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey , citing a dramatic spike in magnitude-3.0 temblors, especially since October 2013.

Fracking Insiders See No End To Boom

Despite official predictions that the U.S. energy boom will pop like a bubble in the next 20 years, people engaged in drilling for oil and gas—from the financiers to the frackers—see no end to boom times or low gas prices, industry insiders said in Chicago Friday.

Election battle looms over oil and gas local control in Colorado

A last-minute effort to provide a legislative fix to the question of more local control over regulating oil and gas companies came to a halt Monday, all but ensuring a vicious, costly and possibly game-changing election season in Colorado.

The potential legislation might have quelled about a dozen statewide ballot initiatives this November that would give Colorado towns and counties far more power over drilling.

Vermont Gas expects to start pipeline project June 1

Vermont’s natural gas utility has hired a contractor and plans to break ground June 1 on its pipeline extension down the western side of the state.

Vermont Gas Systems intends to build a 41-mile, $86.6 million natural gas pipeline extension through Addison County to connect service in Chittenden and Franklin counties to Middlebury. The company expects the project to be completed by next year.

Deal reached on Connecticut fracking waste bill

The state Senate on Monday endorsed a bipartisan compromise on how to handle the possibility of waste coming to Connecticut from hydraulic fracturing operations in other states.

The legislation creates a moratorium on the waste being stored or disposed in the state until the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection adopts regulations on the matter. Under the bill, DEEP would have until July 1, 2017, to submit its proposed regulations to the General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee.

Shale Gas Plagued By Unusual Methane Leaks

According to a spate of recent scientific studies from the United States and Australia, the shale gas industry has generated another formidable challenge: methane and radon leakage three times greater than expected.

Judge orders new ‘matching’ policy for some BP oil spill claims

A federal judge has approved a new method of calculating BP oil spill payments for certain types of businesses.

The change affects thousands of so-called variable profit businesses – mostly law firms, accountants, construction companies and farms that spend their money on an item or project but derive revenues from it at a wholly different time of year.

Post-Macondo regulations slow even Shell’s Mars B drilling

Royal Dutch Shell executives said Tuesday new regulations that require weekly testing of the emergency equipment that failed in the massive 2010 Gulf oil spill have added as much as a month to drilling time at its massive new offshore project.

Sponges made from wood waste may soak up oil spills

As the Deepwater Horizon incident showed us, oil spills can be huge environmental disasters. That said, there are also considerable challenges in dealing with the waste products generated by the forestry and agriculture industries. Now, scientists from Switzerland’s Empa research group have come up with a method of addressing the one problem with the other – they’ve developed sponges made from cellulose waste, that can soak up 50 times their own weight in oil.

Sen. Landrieu: Ukraine Instability Makes Case For Building Keystone Pipeline

The head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said Tuesday that instability in Ukraine makes the case for building the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the United States.

“Progress has been too slow,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. She said the proposed pipeline from Canada to the United States would contribute only marginally to air quality problems.

Energy group says Keystone XL pipeline could influence votes in Iowa U.S. Senate race

A special interest group did polling in Iowa that it says measures political fallout of President Barack Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Among Iowa general election voters who support building the pipeline, 49 percent said they’re less likely to vote for a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate if Obama denies the permit to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. Another 22 percent said more likely to vote for a Democrat, according to the survey paid for by the Consumer Energy Alliance.

How a Keystone XL loss in the Senate could be a win-win for Democrats

The long political battle over the Keystone XL pipeline could reach a pivotal moment this week if enough Democratic senators join Republicans to support a bill that would approve the project, all but guaranteeing a veto showdown with the White House.

And that is an outcome Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would like to avoid.

Can Senate Force Approval of Keystone Pipeline?

Can a group of U.S. senators really bypass the Obama administration and force approval of the controversial and long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline?

“The review process has been thorough,” said Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who introduced a bill to approve the pipeline with Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) last week. “The five studies that have been conducted, as required by law, are complete. It is time to stop studying and start building.”

Enbridge Opponents Prepare for ‘Show-Down’ on Gateway Pipeline

After a decade of saying ‘no’ to Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline, Canadian aboriginals are preparing to stop the project with protests in front of bulldozers and police barricades if needed.

With a decision by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper only weeks away, opponents of the 1,177-kilometer (731-mile) pipeline across British Columbia aim to send a message to Enbridge shareholders when they attend an annual meeting today.

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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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