Environmental Must-Reads – May 9, 2013


The Increasingly Local Politics of Fracking

Voters in Youngstown, Ohio, yesterday rejected a proposal to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city. Resident of Dryden, New York, just had their ban of the practice upheld. One of the biggest environmental fights in America is increasingly happening at the country’s lowest political level, where councils and voters are deciding which is more important: jobs or the environment.

Interior Secretary: Fracking Regulations Will Be Based on Best Science

Secretary Sally Jewell told a Senate subcommittee that her department is “very close” to unveiling rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil on public lands

Another Spill in PA Town Where Fracking Just Resumed in April After 200,000+ Gallon Spill in March

A natural gas drilling rig operated by Carrizo Oil and Gas from Texas in Washington Township, PA has spilled thousands of gallons of fracking waste-fluid in the surrounding environment. If you’re experiencing any deja vu right now, it may be because the very same company was responsible for a fracking spill in the very same municipality in March. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had the company stop all fracking operations following the March spill, but then allowed them to resume less than a month later essentially “just because.” It turns out – surprise, surprise – giving a fracking company that prioritizes profit over the environment the benefit of the doubt regardless of the environmental threat they present wasn’t such a bright idea after all. This marks a monumental failure for PA DEP.

Interior’s fracking rules in cross hairs ahead of upcoming release

Lawmakers from both parties are pouncing on the federal government’s attempt to regulate hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas extraction method also known as fracking, even before the draft rules have been released.

Fracking Rule Draws Fire Before U.S. Issues New Version

Republican lawmakers and officials from states such as Wyoming faulted the U.S. Interior Department’s plans to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal land, even before the agency issues a revised version.

North Carolina Fracking Options Leave Looming Questions About Wastewater

State Sen. Bob Rucho wants to unlock North Carolina’s oil and gas resources — and soon. It’s hard to ignore the daily buzz about shale-rich states flush with cash, putting the U.S. on track to become the world’s largest oil producer by decade’s end.

Boulder enters fracking fray: City Council to consider moratorium in June

After months on the sidelines, Boulder is joining the statewide debate on fracking and local control with a possible moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

Small Texas town raises big questions about fracking wastewater wells

Some residents of Pearsall, Texas, population 9,240, have started paying much closer attention to the disposal wells that now dot their town in Frio County, according to this NPR report.

Many didn’t know anything about disposal wells until January 2012, when a welder’s spark allegedly ignited oil vapors from one at the edge of the town.

N.Y. Senate Fracking Backer Tied to Firm With Gas Lease

Senator Tom Libous, a champion of fracking in the New York Legislature, is blocking a bill that would delay drilling for natural gas for at least two years. Passage of the measure would harm the prospects of a real-estate company founded by Libous’s wife and run by a business partner and campaign donor.

Colorado: Strange dénouement to legislative oil and gas saga, as Hickenlooper orders COGCC to overhaul fines

After the Colorado General Assembly stumbled in its efforts to get a better regulatory handle on oil and gas drilling, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will get another bite at the apple.

Gov. John Hickenlooper this week ordered the commission to review its enforcement program, penalty structure and imposition of fines. The review was ordered state lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on a bill that would have revised Colorado’s outdated enforcement system.

SRBC Defends its Limited Role in Overseeing Water Quantity

When it comes to Marcellus Shale Gas development, the differences between the Delaware River Basin Commission and it’s central Pennsylvania counterpart, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, are stark. The DRBC has been the force behind a drilling moratorium in Northeast Pennsylvania and southern New York. But the Susquehanna River Basin Commission has not weighed in on shale gas regulations, aside from monitoring water withdrawals.

New Yorkers Call on Gov. Cuomo to Protect Thriving Tourism Industry from Fracking

On the day of Governor Cuomo’s tourism summit, New York bed-and-breakfasts, wineries and other tourism-related businesses highlighted fracking’s incompatibility with upstate tourism and called on the governor to protect the state’s tourism industry by banning fracking. New Yorkers Against Fracking also announced a radio ad running in Albany, emphasizing the risks that fracking poses to the state’s rural tourism industry. Dozens of citizens wore iconic “I (Heart) New York” t-shirts and handed out literature to participants as they entered the summit.

Community Group Launches Cutting-Edge Project to Test Air Quality for Fracking Chemicals

Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC) announced yesterday that it is launching a cutting-edge air quality sampling project. The project is designed to establish an air quality baseline for the Delta County region in Colorado by testing for toxic chemicals associated with natural gas drilling. Formed in 2009 by a group of concerned residents, CHC’s mission is to protect people and their environment from irresponsible oil and gas development in the Delta County region.

Conservative newspaper declares love for Obama’s fracker-friendly ways

Uber-conservative Beltway newspaper The Washington Examiner has revealed its secret crush on Barack Obama and his administration’s fracker-friendly ways.

Shell presses ahead with world’s deepest offshore oil well

Royal Dutch Shell is pressing ahead with the world’s deepest offshore oil and gas production facility by drilling almost two miles underwater in the politically sensitive Gulf of Mexico.

The move is being viewed in the oil industry as a demonstration of Shell’s confidence that its technology can deliver returns on expensive and risky offshore projects, despite a recent downturn in oil prices.

A Closer Look at Oil and Water

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, much has been written – in the popular press as well as scientific journals – regarding the potential impact the large volume of oil might have on the flora and fauna of the northern Gulf of Mexico.

But what about the oil’s impact on the water itself? In the months following the oil spill, researchers Wei-Jun Cai of the University of Delaware and Xinping Hu of Texas A & M University – Corpus Christi analyzed dissolved oxygen (DO) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the Gulf’s water column. In the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative funded study “Dynamics of Dissolved Inorganic Carbon and Dissolved Oxygen Following Natural or Manmade Petroleum Carbon Release into Marine Environments,” they will attempt to quantify their earlier observations and develop a protocol to measure this phenomenon in the future.

Environmental bridge over troubled waters

A breakthrough innovation designed to purify water through the rapid removal of oily pollutants, could have major environmental benefits in agriculture and manufacturing industries.

The application, developed at the School of Engineering in collaboration with the Mawson Institute, involves the deployment of surface engineered silica particles, which act as oil magnets in water, adsorbing oil, yet repelling water.

Exxon offers frustrate Arkansas attorney general

Mayflower, Ark., residents face compensation decisions from Exxon Mobil that are far more complex than they should be, the state’s attorney general said.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said a 38-page proposal from Exxon for homeowners was difficult for residents affected by a March oil spill to understand.

Consumer Alert Issued by Attorney General Over Oil Spill Proposal

The Arkansas Attorney General has issued a Consumer Alert regarding the proposal from ExxonMobil that has been sent to property owners affected by the Mayflower oil spill.

The 38-page document proposes either purchasing affected homes or providing some compensation as a result of the company’s Pegasus pipeline rupture and spill.

Mayflower Spill Victims Head To Protest Pipeline Construction in DC

A group of activists known as the “Remember Mayflower Coalition” are in Washington D.C. this week to deliver a message to top government officials about oil pipelines.

The visit comes in the wake of an oil pipeline rupture March 29th in Mayflower that dumped an estimated 5,000 barrels of crude into residential and environmentally sensitive areas.

Al Gore Dismisses ‘Ethical Oil’: ‘There’s Only Dirty Oil And Dirtier Oil’

Former U.S. vice president Al Gore has torn a strip off the “ethical oil” campaign favoured by some backers of Canada’s oil sands, telling an audience that it simply doesn’t exist.

“There’s no such thing as ethical oil,” he said at Toronto’s Ryerson University on Tuesday. “There’s only dirty oil and dirtier oil.”

Cavern operator hit with sixth lawsuit in sinkhole dispute

Crosstex Energy Services LP has sued the operator of a failed salt dome cavern suspected of causing a 15.1-acre sinkhole last year in Assumption Parish and forcing the permanent closure of a Crosstex natural gas pipeline.

Al Gore Tells Obama: Cancel Keystone XL

Love him or loath him, you can certainly say one thing about Al Gore: he is winding the Canadians up into a right-old rage.

Yesterday, I blogged how he called the tar sands an “open sewer.”

Gore then gave a public interview with The Globe and Mail, saying he wished that President Obama would cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

No Right to Info on Oil Dispersants

Environmental groups cannot sue the Environmental Protection Agency and intervenor defendant the American Petroleum Institute to find out where oil-dispersing chemicals are used and in what quantities, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge John Bates in the District of Columbia on Monday dismissed the complaint from the Alaska Community Action on Toxics et al.

Foes Suggest a Tradeoff if Pipeline Is Approved

President Obama’s first major environmental decision of his second term could be to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, profoundly disappointing environmental advocates who have made the project a symbolic test of the president’s seriousness on climate change.

Joe Biden kinda sorta maybe opposes Keystone XL pipeline

Vice President Joe Biden told an activist on Friday that he doesn’t support the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, according to a post on the Sierra Club website.

Documentary about trying to stop tar sands oil pipeline

John Fiege is seeking post-production funds to complete his documentary about a group of people trying to stop a tar sands oil pipeline from running through their property.

Mark Zuckerberg Makes Enemies of Some Liberal Groups, Supports Keystone Pipeline

Less than a year after Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg was criticized for the company’s botched IPO, he’s back in the hot seat again, this time for what some consider a political misstep.

The Animal That Stands to Lose the Most in the Keystone Pipeline Deal

Out of the many creatures that will suffer from pipeline construction and oil excavation, caribou are most vulnerable.

The towns and scenery along the proposed Keystone pipeline (PHOTOS)

Keystone’s potential path runs through large sections of rural landscape with few inhabitants

BLM releases plan to address abandoned Arctic oil wells

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management released a plan Wednesday identifying 50 abandoned wells in the Alaska arctic that it believes require clean-up by the agency.

Canadian Navy warship spills diesel into Halifax harbor

For the second time since 2011, a Royal Canadian Navy warship has spilled fuel into Halifax harbour.

Navy Capt. Angus Topshee says the spill is “significant,” but he wasn’t able to say how much diesel fuel ended up in the harbour on Wednesday from HMCS St. John’s.

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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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