Environmental Must-Reads – November 11, 2014


Residents set up fracking shop ahead of public hearing

Right through the center of downtown Covington, you’ll find coffee shops, restaurants and studios.

But for the past month, a new tenant has joined the block to take advantage of the popular pedestrian area with a very different product and sales pitch.

“Cars, they’ll back up and say, ‘What is fracking? What about the health stuff, what about the cattle?’ or whatever and we just hand it through the window and give them information then, and as you can see people just wander in,” said Abita Springs resident Toni Eastham.

Judge denies stay in Fort Collins fracking lawsuit

The city of Fort Collins was dealt another blow — and the oil and gas industry another win — last week when a Larimer County judge denied the city’s request to stay his decision overturning the city’s 5-year fracking ban.

The motion to delay the decision was filed after Fort Collins City Council voted Sept. 23 to appeal 8th Judicial District Judge Gregory Lammons’ August ruling to overturn the city’s citizen-initiated and voter-supported fracking moratorium, saying it violated an act passed in 1951 that declares oil and gas activity a state priority in Colorado.

Are Fracking Workers Being Poisoned on the Job?

Last week’s Republican election victories will set the stage for more stagnation in Washington, but might also grease the skids for some of the most controversial energy ventures at ground zero in the climate change debate: the long-stalled Keystone XL Pipeline project, and the booming hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” industry. But one thing that might put the brakes on the dirty fuel rush is the mounting research evidence linking oil and gas extraction to massive health risks for workers and communities.

Fracking linked to Alberta earthquakes, study indicates

Carmen Langer had just left his bed to grab a drink of water when he felt his house northeast of Peace River, Alta., begin to shake.

“At first I thought I wasn’t feeling very good that day… and it was just my blood sugar, but no, it shook pretty good,” Langer said about the Nov. 2 incident.

Moments after the shaking stopped, his neighbours were calling, asking if he had felt what they just felt.

“After a few minutes, I realized it was an earthquake,” Langer said.

Tracking Frackers From the Sky

Ever since the natural gas boom took off in Pennsylvania in 2006, some people living near the drilling rigs have complained of headaches, gastrointestinal ailments, skin problems and asthma. They suspect that exposure to the chemicals used in the drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, triggers the symptoms. But there’s a hitch: the exact locations of many active fracking sites remain a closely guarded secret.

Brian Schwartz, an environmental epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and his colleagues have teamed up with Geisinger Health System, a health services organization in Pennsylvania, to analyze the digital medical records of more than 400,000 patients in the state in order to assess the impacts of fracking on neonatal and respiratory health.

Will falling oil prices kill the shale revolution?

About 20 miles from the iconic Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and just a couple away from the elephantine hills that artist Georgia O’Keeffe dubbed “The Black Place,” two rows of tanks and an assortment of pipes interrupt the high desert. They’re painted forest green, perhaps to blend in, though almost everything here is the color of ash or burnished clay.

This is Chaco 2408 32P #114H, one of dozens of oil wells drilled in the last few years in northern New Mexico’s Gallup Sandstone, one of the nation’s newest “tight oil” plays. Chaco #114H and thousands like it in North Dakota, northern Colorado and Texas exist because of high oil prices, driven by demand from China and the developing world.

Sapping the sweet spots: How long will US energy boom last?

In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. had a supply of natural gas “that can last America nearly 100 years.”

But that unbridled optimism, shared by the natural gas industry as well as politicians who want to see the U.S. become more energy independent, is worrying a growing group of activists and analysts who say U.S. oil and gas production may start declining in a matter of years as drillers run out of sweet spots in U.S. shale reserves and are forced to explore less productive — and less lucrative — regions.

Alaska’s Murkowski seeks more drilling, faster permits with energy plan

resumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to bring energy bills up for a vote in the next Congress, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is likely to become the next chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, isn’t waiting until January to get started.

Over the last year, the Alaska Republican has issued a blueprint for getting to energy independence and has released a series of white paper updates, detailing a goal to free the U.S. from oil imports from OPEC by 2020.

Protesters in Teaneck call for safer rail cars to transport oil

Three dozen protesters rallied Sunday on a bridge over CSX rail tracks that carry an estimated 30 million gallons of highly explosive North Dakota crude oil each week through Bergen County towns, demanding an end to the use of rusted-out tanker cars and calling for full disclosure of the cargo and its risks.

“We live two blocks from the railroad tracks and we hear them all the time,” said Paula Rogovin, a Teaneck resident who leads the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, one of two sponsoring organizations.

Sunoco declares all crude oil recovered from spill

Approximately 4,100 of the 4,500 barrels of crude oil spilled from a broken pipeline into a Caddo Parish bayou last month has been recovered, bringing an end to the first phase of operations, Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields said today in a news release.

The response has moved into the monitoring and maintenance phase that will have about 20 Sunoco personnel and contractors on site to monitor the area around Tete Bayou and continue protective measures, he said. At the height of the cleanup, more than 400 people were involved.

EPA: Oil spill hasn’t reached Caddo Lake

The Environmental Protection Agency official in charge of addressing an Oct. 13 oil spill into a bayou near Caddo Lake said Monday environmentalists who inspected the lake last week mistook a naturally occurring film on the water for oil.

EPA On-site Coordinator Bill Rhotenberry and Sunoco Logistics Partners spokesman Jeff Shields also said Monday crews had recovered as much of the 4,500-barrel spill as they can. Rhotenberry added that booms would remain in place and be checked regularly, including inside the lake.

Judge rejects BP’s effort to oust claims administrator

A federal judge on Monday shot down BP’s effort to oust the person responsible for paying claims under the oil giant’s multibillion-dollar Gulf oil spill settlement with private plaintiffs.

Judge Carl Barbier rejected BP’s arguments that Lafayette lawyer Patrick Juneau must be removed as claims administrator because he had previously worked for the state of Louisiana on issues relating to oil spill claims and, allegedly, failed to notify BP of this before the oil giant recommended him for the post.

Judge Calls BP’s Appeal ‘Not Persuasive,’ Won’t Oust Claims Administrator After 2-Year Battle

BP has had a terrible week in court.

A federal judge in New Orleans on Monday shot down the oil giant’s two-year attempt to oust Patrick Juneau, the claims administrator whom the company itself recommended to oversee payouts to victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Is BP a potential takeover target as oil spill penalties draw near? Platts report says yes

Falling oil prices and a final settlement related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill could make BP a prime candidate for acquisition by a competing major oil company, Platts reports.

The report, citing a note by Oppenheimer financial analysts, says the British oil giant’s sliding market value as well as overall industry consolidation amid weak oil prices makes the timing right for a potential purchase.

One Billion Dollars in BP Fines Creates Opportunity for Texas Gulf Coast Restoration

Fines paid by British oil giant BP in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will soon be flowing into Texas. Dozens of businesses and organizations say the state must focus the windfall on restoring wildlife habitat along the Gulf Coast.

Texas is expected to receive as much as one billion dollars through the federal Restore Act, signed into law in 2012.

Transocean to retire more rigs, execs say

Offshore rig contractor Transocean will likely shut down or retire more of its drilling rigs as falling oil prices deepen a glut in deep-water rig equipment, executives said Monday.

The current market is “incredibly challenging,” said Terry Bonno, senior vice president of marketing for Transocean, during a conference call with investors early Monday. In a better market, she added, Transocean’s newly built rigs, soon joining the business, would be welcome news. But an oversupply of drilling machines means it may have to cut back on older rigs — some of which have already been shut down, or “cold-stacked” — as lower oil prices constrain operators’ budgets.

Republicans Vow to Fight E.P.A. and Approve Keystone Pipeline

The new Republican Congress is headed for a clash with the White House over two ambitious Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are the heart of President Obama’s climate change agenda.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, has already vowed to fight the rules, which could curb planet-warming carbon pollution but ultimately shut down coal-fired power plants in his native Kentucky. Mr. McConnell and other Republicans are, in the meantime, stepping up their demands that the president approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Diesel found near Olympic Pipeline might be from 1988 spill

An investigation is underway after oil was discovered on the ground along the Olympic Pipeline outside Anacortes.

A spokeswoman at the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission told KIRO 7 indications are the pipeline is not actually leaking, and that the oil might have been on the ground for some time.

Environmentalists sue feds to protect Pacific walruses from oil drilling

Environmental groups on Monday sued the federal government over a rule that would allow Arctic oil exploration in areas that could hurt Pacific walruses, which already are struggling from the loss of sea ice.

Earthjustice brought the suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups that have long been opposed to Arctic drilling.

Fukushima Radiation Found in Pacific Off California’s Coast

Oceanographers have detected isotopes linked to Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant off California’s coast, though at levels far below those that could pose a measurable health risk.

Volunteer ocean monitors collected the samples that tested positive for trace amounts of the isotope cesium-134 about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Eureka, California, the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said yesterday on its website.

Fukushima radiation detected 100 miles off California coast

Traces of radioactivity believed to have come from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident were detected 100 miles off the coast of California, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) said Monday.

The group found traces of cesium-134, a radioactive element released by the power plant, 100 miles off the coast of Eureka, California.

TEPCO removes 2nd canopy panel covering Fukushima reactor building

In preparation for clearing debris and eventually removing nuclear fuel from inside, Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Nov. 10 temporarily removed another panel from the canopy covering a damaged reactor building at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The removal opened a large hole in the canopy covering the No. 1 reactor building. Debris inside the building were visible from the opening, which is 40 meters long and 14 meters wide, equivalent to one-third the size of the entire roof.

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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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