Environmental Must-Reads – November 10, 2014


Battle Lines Drawn After Texas Town Bans Fracking

Residents of Denton, Texas, voted Tuesday to ban hydraulic fracturing in their city. It’s the first time a city in the state — where energy is king — has voted to ban fracking. State officials have already filed lawsuits to try and overturn the ban.

NC ponders offshore drilling for natural gas

Officials from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia met privately Thursday with federal regulators and groups funded by oil and gas companies to discuss plans for drilling off the Atlantic coast.

A coalition of environmental groups sought to be allowed inside the Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Five-Year Program meeting, which was held at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Illinois lawmakers approve fracking rules

Illinois lawmakers signed off Thursday on long-awaited rules regulating high-volume oil and gas drilling, clearing the way for companies to get “fracking” permits and unleash what they hope will be an energy boom in the southern part of the state.

But a number of key details were not disclosed including how the state plans to fund the hiring of new workers to oversee the practice, which uses high-pressure mixtures to crack open rocks and release trapped oil and gas.

Illinois Just Approved Fracking, But Will Not Yet Disclose Regulations

Illinois is now the latest state to officially approve hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after lawmakers on Thursday signed off on long-awaited rules governing the controversial oil and gas drilling technique.

However, it might be another week before Illinois residents know the details of those rules; while oil and gas drillers can now begin to apply for fracking permits, the final rule isn’t expected to be made public until November 15 at the latest.

The secrecy is sparking outrage from environmentalists.

Fracking in Lancashire ‘may affect mental health’, report finds

Living near fracking sites could affect mental health and wellbeing, according to a new report.

The report, by head of Public Health Lancashire Dr Sakti Karunanithi, looked into the potential health impacts if fracking was permitted in Preston.

Fingerprinting Frackwater

Determining the source of water contamination in the environment is tricky, as many industrial pollutants are similar to naturally occurring chemicals. A recently developed method of “water forensics” could help determine if a frackwater spill is the culprit. Robert Jackson of Stanford University explains this new method to Living on Earth’s Emmett Fitzgerald and describes why it’s important to pinpoint the source of environmental pollutants.

NC panel discusses revisions to fracking rules

The North Carolina panel developing rules on hydraulic fracturing agreed Thursday that regulators should have the explicit ability to halt work if there are violations at a drilling operation.

Three members of the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission who presided over public hearings on fracking had recommended in a report that the commission and state regulators have the authority to stop work.

Arsenic Released in Frackwater Spills

Frackwater contains many toxic elements and chemicals that contaminate groundwater if it spills. As the Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier reports that when it spills, microbes start to clean it up, but the process can release arsenic which also pollutes groundwater.

Another KY Hazardous Pipeline Project in the Works

The alarm is ringing again for Kentuckians who already stopped one potentially hazardous pipeline project.

Public backlash plugged plans for the Bluegrass Pipeline, which included building 180 miles of new pipeline to help transport natural-gas liquids from the Northeast to the Gulf Coast. Now, less than a year later, another pipeline for the fracking industry is in the works – this time to repurpose the Tennessee Gas Pipeline to move natural gas liquids.

Residents upset as exploratory drilling begins in Ark City on Monday

Residents in Ark City say they are upset over a deal that would put an oil well near homes.

The Ark City Commission approved a permit earlier this week that allows an oil company to build and operate an exploratory oil well.

On the western outskirts of Ark City, the discovery well will be built starting on Monday, but that isn’t stopping residents from voicing their concerns.

Oil pipeline builder starts bid to get state’s OK

The initial steps are underway to seek Iowa Utilities Board approval for an underground pipeline that would carry 320,000 barrels of North Dakota crude oil daily through 18 counties in Iowa.

Dakota Access LLC, a unit of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, filed documents with the state board last week showing plans to conduct public information meetings about the project next month in each of the 18 counties. The first meetings will be held Dec. 1 in Sioux Center and Inwood in northwest Iowa, and in Farmington and Fort Madison in southeast Iowa. The final meetings are set for Dec. 16 in Fort Dodge and Ottumwa.

Landowner rights vs. public need in battle over pipeline route

The dominant message, repeating like a song chorus, communicated this advice: Don’t sign anything without consulting a lawyer.

The speaker was longtime environmental lawyer, Joe Lovett, executive director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The setting was a church in Blacksburg, where a crowd of more than 225 people assembled Oct. 28 to talk about how to hamstring a mutual foe — Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC.

Broken pipeline spills 100k gallons of wastewater in N. Austin

About 100,000 gallons of wastewater were spilled in Northwest Austin on Friday evening after private contractors struck a pipeline 6 to 8 feet underground.

Austin Water spokesman Jason Hill said the contractors hit a pipeline at 7209 West Parmer Lane, causing the spill. He did not specify whether they were hired by the city.

Hill said Austin Water crews prevented the wastewater from entering any creeks in the area.

Dauphin Island whole 9 years after Katrina, thanks to BP oil spill funds

Nature and a multimillion dollar rock pile built in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill have healed a large barrier island nine years after it was sliced in two by Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina swamped Alabama’s narrow Dauphin Island in 2005, creating a pass that grew from a few dozen feet to about 1.5 miles wide by the time the oil spill occurred in 2010. The cut left more than 7 miles of pristine beach inaccessible by foot on the island’s uninhabited western end.

Federal agency undermines post oil-spill reforms, former chief claims

A training center touted as central to federal efforts to improve offshore drilling safety after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion failed to get off the ground, and its former director blames Gulf of Mexico regulators for undermining reforms.

Those reforms were enacted after the BP oil spill exposed systemic weakness and corruption in the U.S. Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service.

Shrimp safe after oil spill—Tulane study

Eating shrimp from an area of the Gulf of Mexico impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 poses no acute health risks or increased cancer risks, says a study by Tulane University scientists published in Environmental Health Perspectives. A team led by Mark Wilson, research assistant professor of Global Environmental Health Sciences in the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, analyzed shrimp for oil contaminants and surveyed Vietnamese-Americans working as commercial shrimpers in southeast Louisiana.

Judge critical of 3 lawyers in Gulf damage claims

Evidence clearly shows that a lawyer inside a court-supervised facility that handles damage claims over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and two outside attorneys lied about a system of payments set up to help speed claims through the process, a federal judge said Friday.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s comments came at the end of a day of testimony and arguments centered on allegations that Lionel Sutton III, a lawyer working for the center, got kickbacks in exchange for helping speed through a law firm’s client’s claims.

Lawyer accused of BP oil spill claims corruption defends payments, says he was hiding money from wife, not the law

An attorney at the center of an investigation into corruption in the BP oil spill settlement on Friday (Nov. 7) denied claims he got kickbacks from lawyers to push oil spill claims through the process faster while working for the program.

Rather, he says the basis for accusations against him are rooted in a much simpler, albeit embarrassing, explanation: he didn’t want his wife to spend his money.

Keystone pipeline back in spotlight with GOP win, looming court case

After dragging on for six years, the political football game that is the Keystone XL pipeline debate finally is entering the fourth quarter.

A confluence of events — a looming court decision in Nebraska and the GOP capturing full control of Congress in the midterm elections last week — will force President Obama’s hand on the massive Canada-to-Texas project, analysts say, and the pressure on this White House to say “yes” or “no” will grow significantly in the coming months.

Dane County may demand cleanup vow from tar sands pipeline

Dane County officials want Enbridge Energy to buy insurance or a performance bond that would guarantee availability of cleanup money in the event of a spill of the tar sands petroleum from its pipeline and pumping station near Marshall.

Officials are worried about a repeat of a 2010 spill that fouled 35 miles of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River and led to an ongoing cleanup effort with an estimated price tag of $1.21 billion.

Russian Arctic oil shipping ventures to struggle as sanctions bite

Shipping services that support Russia’s attempts to extract oil from remote parts of the Arctic will run into difficulties as banks scale back energy financing due to Western sanctions, increasing transport costs for the frontier sector.

Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and European Union over Ukraine have targeted the delivery of oil technology, goods and services, aiming to make it impossible for Moscow to access new oil sources.

NADL-Rosneft Arctic oil exploration deal put on hold

One of the main business deals to help Russia explore its Arctic oil prospects has been delayed and could be scrapped as western sanctions continue to bite.

A series of contracts between North Atlantic Drilling, the Norwegian subsidiary of the world’s biggest offshore rig company, and Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, should have been completed by this weekend but have been postponed until the end of May. If US sanctions are not eased by then the deal is likely to be ended, people familiar with the transaction said.

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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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