Environmental Must-Reads – November 13, 2013


Top climate scientists call for fracking ban in letter to Gov. Jerry Brown

Twenty of the nation’s top climate scientists have sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, telling him that his plans supporting increased use of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” will increase pollution and run counter to his efforts to cut California’s global warming emissions.

Tiny Minnesota City Draws a Line in the Frac Sand Boom

A college town in southern Minnesota is taking action against the frac sand industry that’s booming amid America’s drilling revolution.

Winona, Minn. will become the first local government in the nation to monitor air pollution that may be escaping from mounds of sand being trucked through town for delivery to fracking fields in North Dakota and elsewhere.

Fracking Boom Gives Banks Mortgage Headaches

An East Coast oil boom has promised potential riches to lucky landowners. But the oil rush may cause big headaches for some unlucky banks.

At least three institutions — Tompkins Financial (TMP) in Ithaca, N.Y., Spain’s Santander Bank and State Employees’ Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C. — are refusing to make mortgages on land where oil or gas rights have been sold to an energy company.

Do Wisconsin’s Frac Sand Mines Endanger Groundwater?

A global hot spot for mining frac sand; Wisconsin could have its groundwater contaminated by this process, critics say.

Frac sand is “quartz sand of a specific grain size and shape” that is suspended in the fluid that gets injected into oil and gas wells, according to a report by the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, a University of Wisconsin program.

Students Witness the Fracking Frontlines

Last Friday night I went to the supermarket to buy several five gallon jugs of water. Being a longtime environmental advocate, it felt wrong to be buying bottled water.  But more than that, it felt strange to be buying water to meet the drinking needs of fellow Americans. Many assume that in the wealthiest country in the world, everyone has access to all of the potable water they could ever need. But that’s not necessarily true for many people living in shale country. The next day, I and 30 New York college students would be visiting Pennsylvania to see how fracking is threatening American communities and, more immediately, to deliver clean drinking water to people that have been living without it for some time.

Oklahomans Claim Fracking Waste Polluted Their Water

The battle over a toxic Oklahoma dumpsite has taken a remarkable turn. Three years ago, 6 Investigates told you about pollution problems in Bokoshe, in LeFlore County. People there claim they are being poisoned by a coal ash disposal site. The local power plant, AES Shady Point, has dumped enough coal ash there to build a 20-acre mountain less than a mile from town. It’s loaded with chemicals like arsenic, mercury, chromium and lead, all of which are known to cause cancer.

Test to check water supply for gas leaks

A test to check for contamination of drinking water from gas extraction processes is being developed.

The move could help monitor the safety of unconventional techniques, such as shale gas and coal bed methane extraction, which have sparked debate owing to perceived health risks.

 Jefferson, Plaquemines file coastal erosion lawsuits against oil, gas companies

Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes have filed a set of nearly 30 lawsuits alleging dozens of energy companies and their contractors destroyed and polluted the parishes’ coastal areas, mirroring the philosophy, if not the exact tactics, of a suit a local levee district filed this summer seeking to bring the oil and gas industry to account.

Study: Tar balls found in Gulf teeming with ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria

The number of people contracting the warm-water bacteria that can cause illnesses ranging from tummy upsets to potentially fatal skin lesions has increased in recent years, according to federal data.

Records kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the number of cases of Vibriosis nearly doubled between 2008 and 2012 – rising from 588 to 1,111.

Safety Culture Aboard Exploded Offshore Rig: “Poor at Best”

Offshore drilling remains deadly and dangerous years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The picture above is from a massive explosion on an offshore drilling rig owned by Black Elk Inc., which killed three workers, injured multiple others, and created a large oily sheen on the ocean’s surface in November 2012. A new investigation from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) found

Our Response Plan For Oil Spills Isn’t Working

More than 2.6 million miles of oil and gas pipelines currently snake through the U.S., overseen by only 135 inspectors from the Transportation Department’s regulatory agency—a safety system the top pipeline safety official recently described as “kind of dying.” That’s particularly alarming considering plans for new pipelines such as the Keystone XL, which, if approved, will increase the mileage of oil-bearing pipes in the U.S. by 1,700 miles and carry millions of gallons of particularly toxic tar sands oil right through the heartland of America. A spate of U.S. pipeline ruptures in recent years underscores how ill-prepared we are to address the health needs of residents following oil spills, and how poorly we document the health impacts so as to develop better responses to future spills.

Alaskan Residents Outraged Over Attempts To Justify Chemical Dispersant Use

EPA/Coast Guard Planned Meetings re Chemical Dispersant Use Being ‘Safe’, Outrages Alaskan Residents and Tribal Governments

Alaska Change Oil Spill Response Alliance condemns planned federal agency-sponsored community meetings being held this week as a deceptive attempt to gain public support for ‘poisoning Alaskan waters’ and a move to erode the power of the Clean Water Act.

Federal regulators fine ExxonMobil for Arkansas oil leak

Federal regulators have fined ExxonMobil $2.6 million for spilling 210,000 gallons of oil into an Arkansas subdivision and lake in  March, citing a string of safety lapses by the oil giant going back more than a decade.

The penalty levied by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration last week spotlights the damage caused by a spill at a time when the Obama administration weighs allowing construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. The fine also comes after a pipeline leak in North Dakota gushed at least 20,600 barrels of oil into a wheat field.

Exxon to Demolish Third House in Arkansas Town Stricken by Oil Spill

ExxonMobil plans to demolish another home in the Northwoods neighborhood of Mayflower, where an Exxon pipeline ruptured on March 29, spilling thousands of gallons of tar sands crude that polluted the neighborhood, surrounding wetlands and a cove of Lake Conway. The home at 44 N. Starlite had never been cleared for re-entry by the Mayflower Unified Command, a collection of local, state and federal officials and Exxon, and is scheduled to be demolished late this morning, Exxon spokesman Aaron Stryk said.

East Texans Seek Shutdown of Pegasus Pipeline

For nearly 83 years, Jim Howell was hardly one to cause a political ruckus. But this spring, he realized that a crude oil superhighway ran through his backyard — just two feet below his patchy lawn and seven feet beyond a newly built porch displaying a sign declaring “cowpokes welcome.”

“At first I felt guilty and stupid,” Howell said about not knowing that a 20-inch-wide pipeline passed so close to his compact brick house. Guilt turned to alarm as he read more about it, and as representatives from ExxonMobil, its operator, showed up to add a row of yellow- and black-striped warning markers. The pipeline, named Pegasus, was the same one that ruptured about 320 miles northeast of here in March, spewing at least 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude into neighborhood streets in Mayflower, Ark.

New warnings of potential problems with Keystone pipeline

CBS News has found evidence of construction problems on the most controversial pipeline project in a generation. The Keystone XL is designed to bring crude oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. Supporters say it will create thousands of jobs and help energy independence. But opponents worry about damage to the environment.

Keystone XL Study Warns of Defective Segments on Pipeline’s Southern Leg

A group of environmental advocates and Texas landowners is urging federal regulators to block TransCanada from starting the southern leg of its Keystone XL pipeline, while new tests and inspections are conducted and the company’s construction and safety practices are investigated. The Oklahoma-to-Texas oil pipeline is nearly completed.

TransCanada Has Already Had To Fix 125 Dents And Sags In Southern Keystone Pipeline

Synthetic crude oil hasn’t yet entered the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, but a report released Tuesday by non-profit consumer rights group Public Citizen says the pipes are already bending, sagging and peeling to the point of a possible spill or leakage of toxic tar sands.

Canadian oil giant faces fresh protest in bid for new pipeline

Oil giant TransCanada has struggled to get its Keystone XL pipeline built in the US and is facing fresh protest in Canada where activists fear a new pipeline could ultimately worsen climate change.

Enbridge wants to move part of proposed pipeline route in NE Minn. after residents object

Enbridge Energy officials said Tuesday they want to drop part of a proposed new pipeline route in northeastern Minnesota after farmers and residents objected.

Company officials say they will ask the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to throw out about 1.5 miles of a possible route for their Sandpiper pipeline that would have crossed undisturbed farm and woods in Carlton County.

First Nation children heavily contaminated with banned chemicals

Mothers and children of a First Nations tribe living in one of Canada’s most industrialized regions are highly exposed to estrogen-blocking chemicals, according to a new study.

The research is the first to confirm the Aamjiwnaang community’s fears of elevated exposure to pollutants, and it may help shed some light on why the tribe has an unusually low percentage of baby boys.

Analysis: As Alabama derailment flames fade, new oil-by-rail questions arise

The second explosive oil-train derailment this year, which has finally burned out in rural Alabama, may raise new questions about the safety of the crude-by-rail boom, pointing to problems beyond those that surfaced following the earlier tragedy in Quebec.

Rail’s risky business

Since 2008, an important policy debate has been developing in the United States on risk in the transportation of dangerous goods. The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) bankruptcy protection following the Lac-Mégantic disaster last summer provides an opportune time to launch the debate here. Should government continue to act as a backstop when corporations can’t pay to clean up in the wake of major disasters? And is Canada – a global leader in resource shipment – ensuring its safe shipment? In the wake of the disastrous recent derailments in Quebec and Alberta, these and other questions deserve a fresh look. Last month’s derailments of anhydrous ammonia and crude oil in Alberta make the question urgent in the Canadian context.

Tankers, barges and trains, oh my: The growing fossil-fuel threats in Washington

The Bakken shale formation in North Dakota, is being transported by rail throughout the United State and Canada. Eleven rail terminals are in various stages of completion in Washington state in anticipation of receiving this “shale on rail.”

The Vancouver Sun recently reported on 10 oil train accidents in Canada since May, including the tragic explosion resulting in 47 deaths outside Quebec in July. Despite this troubling record, the New York Times reported that Canada is poised to quadruple its rail terminal capacity over the next few years.

Chevron ordered to pay Ecuador $9.51 bn on appeal

An Ecuadoran court upheld a ruling that US oil giant Chevron was liable for environmental damage in its Amazon basin region by sister company Texaco, but ordered it to pay a reduced $9.51 billion.

The Supreme Court upheld a 2012 ruling against Texaco, which operated in the South American nation from 1964-1990, but dramatically reduced the amount to be paid in damages to $9.51 billion from $19 billion, the ruling said.

Verdict due in Spain Prestige oil disaster

A Spanish court will Wednesday deliver a verdict on one of Europe’s worst oil spills, 11 years after the tanker Prestige spilled 50,000 tonnes of fuel off the Spanish coast.

Plaintiffs have called for prison sentences of between five and 12 years for the Greek captain, Apostolos Mangouras, 78, his Greek chief engineer Nikolaos Argyropoulos and the head of the Spanish merchant navy at the time, Jose Luis Lopez-Sors.

Fukushima: now for the tough part

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will as early as this week begin removing 400 tonnes of highly irradiated spent fuel in a hugely delicate and unprecedented operation fraught with risk.

Carefully plucking more than 1,500 brittle and potentially damaged fuel assemblies from the plant’s unstable Reactor No. 4 is expected to take about a year, and will be seen as a test of Tokyo Electric Power Co’s ability to move ahead with decommissioning the whole facility – a task likely to take decades and cost tens of billions of dollars.

Should the West Coast be concerned about Fukushima?

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit, the strongest ever recorded in Japan. And then from our televisions, we watched a monstrous tsunami annihilate the most prepared country in the world.

KABC reporter David Ono saw, firsthand, the enormous devastation: Entire towns wiped out, and piles of rubble 30 feet high.

But the third part of this disaster has the potential to be the worst of all, yet the damage is almost invisible. The Fukushima nuclear power plant continues to spew radiation. It’s 5,300 miles from Los Angeles — and still not far enough.

Fukushima residents may never go home, say Japanese officials

Japanese officials have admitted for the first time that thousands of people evacuated from areas near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may never be able to return home.

A report by members of the governing Liberal Democratic party [LDP] and its junior coalition partner urges the government to abandon its promise to all 160,000 evacuees that their irradiated homes will be fit to live in again.

The staggering costs to clean up Fukushima

More than two years since the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, the Fukushima power plant meltdown is still a major, global environmental problem. And the staggering price tag for cleaning it up continues to rise.

More suspected and confirmed cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed in Fukushima children

Fifteen more young people in Fukushima Prefecture have received definitive or suspected diagnoses of thyroid cancer, which is often associated with radiation exposure, prefectural officials said Nov. 12.

That raises to 59 the total number of young people who have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having thyroid cancer.

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