Environmental Must-Reads – May 8, 2015


Journal Corrects Fracking Study Over Undisclosed Industry Funding

An influential science journal has issued a correction to a paper on fracking and water safety, after revelations that the authors did not disclose their financial ties to energy giant Chesapeake Energy. The correction was prompted by an article in InsideClimate News in April.

The paper, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, concluded that drinking water wells near natural gas sites are not at greater risk of methane contamination than those farther way. It was based on more than 11,000 water samples from Pennsylvania fracking country. Citing its breadth, the authors said the paper challenges smaller studies that link gas drilling to methane pollution.

Denton Fracking Future Unclear

After only six months it looks likely that Denton’s fracking ban is about to be undone, leaving many wondering what comes next.

On Monday, the State Senate passed HB 40, the bill many have come to know as the “Denton Fracking Bill.” Having passed the House already, the final bill is now in the hands of Governor Greg Abbott where most expect he will sign it into law.

Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Dumping of Fracking Waste Water into Aquifers

Two prominent environmental groups are now asking a court to order the State of California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to halt the practice “waste water re-injection.” It’s when the fracing industry injects billions of gallons of waste water into underground aquifers around the state.

The lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club in Alameda County Superior Court.

Environmental groups sue feds over natural gas export project

Environmental groups have sued the federal government in an attempt to block a new liquefied natural gas export facility in Maryland.

The groups, led by Earthjustice, sued the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over its decision to authorize Dominion Resources’ $3.8 billion Cove Point natural gas export project, arguing the commission did not consider whether it would hurt the environment or increase air and water pollution by encouraging new hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking, wastewater-injection wells raise Ohio’s quake risk, feds say

It wasn’t that long ago that Denison University professor Erik Klemetti added a caveat when he taught his students about earthquakes.

“When I used to show (seismicity) maps in my intro class, I’d say, ‘Ohio is about as earthquake-free as you get,’??” Klemetti said. “Now, it has a bull’s-eye on it, at least to some degree.”

We Are Eating Fracking & Drilling Waste

Unconventional drilling creates a huge amount of waste, some of which is being sprayed onto farmer’s fields. A 2005 report from New Zealand stated cows grazing on “dump farms” have elevated levels of hydrocarbons. “Cows are allowed to graze on land with high levels of hydrocarbons without any punishment and their food products are allowed to go to market without government testing,” a Green Party MP said last year. It is happening in Canada too. The field above is northwest of Calgary. Former energy consultant Jessica Ernst said, “We are eating the waste from drilling & fracking.”

President Obama’s pipeline safety agency waits for a leader

President Barack Obama has blown past the legal deadline to name a permanent boss for the agency that oversees the safety of the nation’s oil trains and fossil-fuel pipelines — while potentially life-or-death regulations continue to sit in limbo.

It’s part of a pattern for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, where an internal structure that gives deference to industry has helped stymie safety initiatives for years, even as pipeline accidents have caused more than 170 deaths, 670 injuries and $5 billion in property damage during the past decade. Critics say the agency is in dire need of an overhaul — and want Obama to appoint a leader who’s willing to carry one out.

Energy rich US states move to quash local limits on drilling

Lawmakers in Texas and energy producing states across the nation are rushing to stop local communities from imposing limits on oil and gas drilling despite growing public concern about the health and environmental toll of such activities in urban areas.

The slump in oil prices that has led to job losses in the oil patch has only added to the urgency of squelching local drilling bans and other restrictions the industry views as onerous. The number of jobs nationwide in the sector that includes energy production has fallen 3.5 percent since December, and Texas alone lost about 25,000 jobs in March, according to federal data.

North Dakota crash highlights lack of progress on oil train safety in Minnesota

Repercussions from yesterday’s oil train derailment in North Dakota. Don Davis of the Forum News Service reports, “A North Dakota oil train derailment reinforces the fact that Minnesota legislators have a week and a half left in their 2015 session but have not settled on what they would do to improve rail safety. … ‘I still believe the railroads are the best source to determine,’ what needs to happen, [House Transportation Chairman Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing] said, and legislators ‘do not have that expertise. We will end up with something this year,’ to improve rail safety, Kelly promised, with railroad cooperation.” In other words, let’s let the market decide.

Oil in North Dakota Derailment Was Treated to Cut Volatility

A shipment of oil involved in an explosive train derailment in North Dakota had been treated to reduce its volatility — a move that state officials suggested could have reduced the severity of the accident but won’t prevent others from occurring.

Hess Corporation spokesman John Roper said the oil complied with a state order requiring propane, butane and other volatile gases to be stripped out of crude before it’s transported. That conditioning process lowers the vapor pressure of the oil, reducing the chances of an explosive ignition during a crash.

Activists, Elected Officials Warn About Dangers Of Oil Trains

As politicians scramble to expedite laws addressing crude oil transport by rail, citizens gathered in Albany today to demand the trains be banned from rolling on New York tracks.

On May 1st,, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued long-awaited rules on oil train cars, which critics say are dangerous — prone to accidents and explosions near population centers. New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was in Menands Monday morning to unveil legislation that would tighten aspects of the DOT’s rules. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says stabilizing the crude would raise the bar of safety.  “They have the technology. It’s stabilized when it’s put through a pipeline. That same stabilization should be added before the materials are put into a tanker car.”

Judge Halts Work On Maryland Pipeline Due To Environmental Concerns

Construction on a natural gas pipeline set to run through Maryland has been halted after a judge found that the state hadn’t done enough to protect the environment and hadn’t given residents enough of a chance to weigh in on the project.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Judge Justin J. King ruled last week that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) must go back and revise the permit it issued for the 21-mile pipeline, which is being constructed by Columbia Pipeline Group and is slated to run through Baltimore and Harford counties. According to the judge’s ruling, the permit’s water safety requirements were too general, “rendering it impossible for this court to determine whether the permit complies with state and federal water quality regulations.”

VIDEO: The BP Oil Spill Killed This Louisiana Barrier Island

If you’ve visited Cat Island off the coast of Louisiana any time before April 20, 2010 you were probably greeted by lush island filled with mangroves that served as a nesting ground for pelicans and other birds.

That was before an oil rig exploded and sent about 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for almost three months straight, making the disaster known as the BP Oil Spill the worst in US history.

BP oil spill claims administrator Patrick Juneau granted subpoena power to track down fraud

A federal judge in New Orleans has granted BP oil spill claims administrator Patrick Juneau the ability to subpoena records to investigate fraudulent claims.

In a Wednesday (May 6) order, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier gave Juneau the ability to issue subpoenas for records needed to conduct investigations and “maintain the integrity” of the multibillion-dollar settlement agreement.

After Oil Spill, Unique Mangrove Forest Faces More Threats

On December 9, 2014, a wrecked tanker released approximately 94,000 gallons (78,271 Imperial gallons) of heavy fuel oil into the Shela River, which runs through the Sundarbans, the sprawling and remote mangrove forest shared between India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal.

Now another shipping disaster is unfolding, as a capsized cargo vessel, Jabalenoor, leaks 200 tonnes of potash fertilizer into the Sundarbans’ Bhola River, southeast of the earlier oil spill.

‘As I was running to get away from flames, fire engulfed around me,’ employee says of Geismar biofuel plant fire in April

Renewable Energy Group workers standing near the source of an April 2 fire at the Geismar biofuel complex reported hearing a noise, possibly a hissing sound, moments before a pump caught fire, broke out into a blaze that took five hours to extinguish and injured two men, a State Police report says.

The report, which troopers released Wednesday, provides a look at the dramatic moments immediately before and after the fire began, and describes the explosions inside the plant and the fireball that rapidly expanded from a leaking pump, sending workers racing to escape its path.

Christie administration won’t release details of Exxon deal, lawmakers say

State lawmakers investigating New Jersey’s controversial pollution settlement with Exxon Mobil say Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has stymied their quest for answers on what Exxon will get out of the deal.

“It’s been very difficult to get answers,” John McKeon (D-Essex), head of the assembly judiciary committee, told NJ Advance Media.

North Carolina residents near coal ash plants told not to drink water

Dozens of North Carolina residents protested Thursday outside the Duke Energy stockholders meeting in Charlotte to express anger at the utility following concerns with their wall water. The state recently told the residents their well water is unsafe to drink but Duke Energy says it’s not responsible.

The issue dates back to February 2014, when a closed Duke Energy plant caused a massive coal ash spill into the Dan River. Ever since, North Carolina’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) has been testing wells within 1,000 feet of coal ash ponds. The agency says 152 wells tested positive for toxins above state health department standards.

Bill banning toxic school sites advances in Louisiana House

The Louisiana House Education Committee unanimously advanced a bill Wednesday (May 6) to ban building schools on toxic waste sites.

The issue flared up after the Recovery School District unveiled a $55 million plan to rebuild Booker T. Washington High. The school opened at 2101 South Roman St. only a decade after the city stopped using the Silver City dump.

The Keystone Pipeline Just Lost Big in a Shocking Canadian Election

American environmentalists are frustrated that our adorable neighbor to the north is surprisingly retrograde on climate change. The reason is that Canada has a Conservative government. Right-leaning governments almost always have worse records on environmental protection, but this is especially so in present-day Canada because Prime Minister Stephen Harper hails from, and draws a lot of support in, the interior province of Alberta.

Oil-rich Alberta—home to notorious tar-sands operations—is just north of Idaho, and has the politics to match. The right-leaning party has been in power there for 44 years. But not anymore.

Georgia’s Governor says the state is against pipeline project

More problems for Kinder Morgan, the private company trying to build an oil pipeline through several counties in our area. Screven county deputies arrested three surveyors working for Kinder Morgan, charging them with trespassing on private property.

Investigators picked up Emmett Horn, Darrell Alexander, and Barry Kilgore. Their arrests come as Georgia’s governor speaks out against the plan, even threatening legal action against Kinder Morgan.

What Alberta’s shocking election results could mean for the oil sands

As a rule, provincial elections in Canada don’t attract a ton of attention in the United States. Why would they? It’s not like people in Canada are fixated every time there’s a governor’s race in Pennsylvania.

But then came Tuesday’s stunning election in Alberta — and, suddenly, the entire world was interested in the results.

Oil, gas pipeline info would become secret under bill

It’s a matter of national security, says state Rep. Kurt Heise: Keeping information about oil and gas pipelines, high-powered electrical lines and other critical energy infrastructure out of potential terrorists’ hands.

But critics say Heise’s House Bill 4540, introduced Tuesday, protects something else: oil and gas corporations, like Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge, from public disclosures about safety and other records.

Shell and high water: the climate battle of Seattle

IF you had to pick a logo for the campaign to wreak climate havoc, you could hardly do better than Shell’s Arctic drilling rig, the “Polar Pioneer.” Climate denial has reached its fullest expression when the melting of the Arctic ice cap is greeted as a signal to drill for more oil where the ice used to be.

This monument to hubris is on its way to Seattle’s waterfront, where Shell hopes to stage its Arctic drilling operations. It will loom large on the Emerald City’s horizon, posing a stark contrast to Seattle icons like Mount Rainier and the Space Needle. A battle begins.

Russia Plans Joint Arctic Shelf Oil, Gas Projects With India – Kremlin Aide

Moscow plans to invite companies from India to jointly extract oil and gas from Russia’s Arctic shelf deposits, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said Wednesday.

“There are plans to attract Indian companies to developing hydrocarbon deposits on Russia’s Arctic shelf,” he said.

Shell drillship expected to dock in Everett before heading to Seattle

The Noble Discoverer, the drillship that’s part of Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet, will arrive in Everett next week, according to the Port of Everett.

Shell confirmed Thursday that the ship will load and unload supplies in Everett before it heads to Seattle.

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