Environmental Must-Reads – November 19, 2014


Water is the biggest output of U.S. oil and gas wells

The biggest product of the U.S. petroleum industry is not oil, gas or condensate but water — billions and billions of gallons containing dissolved salts, grease and even naturally occurring radioactive materials.

In 2007, when the shale revolution was still in its infant stages, the U.S. oil and gas industry was already producing more than 20 billion barrels of waste water per year, according to researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory (“Produced water volumes and management practices in the United States”, 2009).

In Compromise Plan, Limited Fracking Is Approved for National Forest in Virginia

Drilling for oil and natural gas will be mostly off-limits in the largest national forest in the East, whose streams bring drinking water to Washington and Richmond, Va., the federal government said Tuesday.

But in a reversal of an earlier proposal to ban hydraulic fracturing throughout the forest, the controversial technique can go forward on privately controlled land in the George Washington National Forest, which rises in the mountains west of Charlottesville, Va.

U.S. to limit energy development in George Washington forest in Virginia

Oil and gas development will be limited in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, the U.S. Forest Service said Tuesday in a long-awaited decision over an area that’s home to the headwaters of rivers that provide drinking water for the 4 million people in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

The million-acre national forest in western Virginia sits on the eastern edge of the Marcellus shale formation, whose vast deposits of natural gas have touched off a drilling bonanza in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Energy companies have tapped the Marcellus gas through high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which entails blasting rock formations with water mixed with sand and chemicals to unlock oil and gas deposits.

Forest Service praised for drilling restrictions in G.W. National Forest

Environmental groups and officials praised the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday for restricting future oil and gas drilling to a small portion of the George Washington National Forest, while some expressed disappointment that any fracking could be allowed.

A final plan released Tuesday allows all forms of drilling — including the controversial high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — in about 16 percent of the popular national forest, which comprises 1.1 million acres in Virginia and West Virginia.

Ban faces challenges

The Denton City Council is expected to canvass the results of the Nov. 4 election during tonight’s regular meeting, starting the two-week countdown until the city’s ban on hydraulic fracturing begins.

Political pundits around the state and the nation have speculated about the ban’s survival, given the swiftness of the legal actions against it. Both the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association filed suit to block the citizen’s initiative on Nov. 5.

As fracking booms, waste spills rise — and so do arsenic levels in groundwater

“Our well water is so good,” says the resident of Cecil Township, a Pennsylvania town just south of Pittsburgh. “I mean, it’s delicious, it’s cold, and there are no water bills.”

But she’s worried it may not stay that way for long. Dumont lives near a potentially leaky “impoundment,” a site where energy companies store the waste from hydraulic fracturing.

The Hip-Hop Battle on Fracking and Climate Change

“We’re in the studio, and we’re talking about how bad the water is and this drought in Southern California where you’ve got the reservoirs drying up. We’re looking at pictures online and we’re saying, ‘We’re in trouble,'” said producer Malik Yusef. “When we talked about some of the obvious problems, he said, ‘This is real.’ It’s one of these situations where you have to ask what we can do.”

The result was “Trouble in the Water,” one of four new original songs on an album executive-produced by Yusef titled HOME (Heal Our Mother Earth). Besides Common, the Grammy-winning rapper, the album includes contributions from Ne-Yo (the R&B singer behind “She Knows”), Elle Varner, Choklate, and Aaron Fresh.

Fracking the Poor

It was supposed to be a good day. It was the first day of school and Johanna Romo, 12, had just woken up. It was already hot, and if she had looked out the window, she would have seen smog hugging the valley floor, obscuring the mountains, as it has almost every day this year. But she didn’t have a chance to look out the window.

As Johanna sat up and prepared to put on her school uniform—a blue shirt and khaki pants—her body lurched backward onto the floor, violently shaking.

She would never make it to class that mid-August morning, the first day of seventh grade. A few weeks later, another seizure followed, and Johanna was hospitalized for three days while doctors ran tests and scanned her brain.

Concerns, protests over Ohio fracking

An update on lawmaker action and other activities at the Ohio Statehouse related to horizontal hydraulic fracturing:

Protest: About a half-dozen members of Radioactive Waste Alert and Food & Water Watch protested outside a downtown Columbus hotel where Gov. John Kasich offered a pre-election speech. The environmental advocates are seeking a ban on horizontal hydraulic fracturing-related activities in the state.

Cleaning up the fracking mess

It was Dale Carnegie who made popular the phrase, “If you have a lemon, make lemonade.” And that’s the kind of transformation a couple of smarty pants brothers are hoping to make in an industry that’s taking a bit of a drubbing these days. The problem: leftovers from fracking.

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. It’s a technique used to extract natural gas and petroleum from the rock way below the earth’s surface.  The way it works is a fluid – a mixture of toxic chemicals, water and sand – is pumped down a pipe into the ground under enormous pressure, cracking the rock and allowing the gas and oil to flow back up the pipe. The gas and oil are separated from the water. Then the left over water, or frack waste water is trucked to another site and pumped into even deeper underground holding wells called injection or disposal wells.

BP fights on to oust oil spill claims chief

BP is heading to a federal appeals court in its effort to oust the administrator of damage settlement claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The company filed notice Tuesday that it plans to file with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

BP has long complained about Patrick Juneau’s administration of claims. It sought his removal by a federal judge in motions claiming that he had a conflict of interest because he once represented Louisiana in talks setting up the claims process and had pushed for favorable terms for those with claims.

Experts: Oil spill may have set back Texas sea turtles’ recovery

For two decades, Texas’ official sea turtle made what scientists considered a remarkable comeback from the verge of extinction, as Kemp’s ridley nests increased amid broad efforts to save the species.

Then in 2010, a fiery explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform dumped an estimated 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico just as the turtle’s nesting season was getting underway. Oil fouled the area near Louisiana where female turtles normally forage after nesting at the main grounds in Mexico or along the Texas Gulf Coast. Scientists found scores of dead Kemp’s ridley juveniles in oil scum in the deep sea among clumps of seaweed.

Shell Nigeria denies it lied to Dutch court

Shell Nigeria denies it lied to a Dutch court in The Hague about oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

The multinational company, half owned by Nigeria’s government and with significant Dutch shareholding, says sabotage, not negligence, caused spills in 2004 along the Trans-Niger pipeline that destroyed several hectares of mangrove forests and the livelihoods of residents of Goi village.

Some Property Owners Fearful of New Oil Pipeline

On the same day the US senate voted “no” on the Keystone XL pipeline that would stretch across the US.

Some Arkansans are concerned about another proposed pipeline that will be built across the Natural State.

The so-called Diamond Pipeline will enter the state just south of Fort Smith and travel east across Arkansas to a refinery in Memphis.

Federal regulator warns reversing pipeline flow to handle new oil, gas could result in spill, website reports

Even as the U.S. Senate considers a vote on building the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S., the federal agency that regulates pipelines is warning that a new money-saving trend of reversing the flow of oil and natural gas in existing pipelines or changing the product they carry could threaten the pipelines’ safety, according to InsideClimate News.

Senate Defeats Bill on Keystone XL Pipeline in Narrow Vote

Senate Democrats, by a single vote, stopped legislation that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, one of the most fractious and expensive battles of the Obama presidency.

The vote represented a victory for the environmental movement, but the fight had taken on larger dimensions as a proxy war between Republicans, who argued that the project was vital for job creation, and President Obama, who had delayed a decision on building it.

The Other Canadian Tar Sands Pipeline Quietly Snaking Into the U.S. Without a Permit

While the country focuses on the pending Senate vote to approve or reject the Keystone XL pipeline, another Canadian company is quietly pressing ahead on a pipeline project that will significantly raise the volume of tar sands oil transported through the U.S. The company is pressing ahead without a permit, and environmental groups say it is flouting the law.

The company, Enbridge, is the same firm that spilled more than one million gallons of thick, sticky tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010.

See Who Voted For the Keystone Pipeline, and Who Didn’t

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 2nd Session
as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise detained in Spain

The Greenpeace protest ship Arctic Sunrise has been taken into custody by the Spanish government in waters off the Canary Islands, just months after it was released by the Russian government.

Spain’s Ministry of public works and transportation detained the vessel on Tuesday night pending an investigation against the captain for an “infringement against marine traffic rules”. The maximum fine for the offence is €300,000 (£240,000).

New study links wireless phone use and malignant brain cancer

The link between cell phones and brain cancer could ring true after all.

Swedes who talked on cell or cordless phones for more than 25 years had three times the risk of one type of brain cancer, compared with people who used those phones for under a year, a new study in the journal Pathophysiology suggests.

The longer someone talked on their phone — in terms of hours and years — the more likely they were to develop glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer

Cell Antennas Slated for School’s Roof Raise Radiation Concerns

A so-called “wireless communication facility” with more than a dozen antennas could soon be installed on top of a local school, right in the middle of a San Diego neighborhood.

Parents and administrators at the English-French elementary and preschool La Petite Ecole in Clairemont are protesting a proposal by Verizon Wireless to install 16 antennas and a microwave dish on the property.

Japan’s Fukushima cleanup 3 years on: little key work done

More than three years into the massive cleanup of Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the broken reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods.

Instead, nearly all the workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are devoted to an enormously distracting problem: a still-growing amount of contaminated water used to keep the damaged reactors from overheating. The amount has been swelled further by groundwater entering the reactor buildings.

NRC Chair: Work Needed to Finish Fukushima Changes

The outgoing chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday the industry must finish making the safety changes required after a nuclear disaster in Japan, and it faces unresolved questions over how to store nuclear waste as existing plants close.

Allison Macfarlane became the agency’s leader in July 2012 after the stormy tenure of former chair Gregory Jaczko, whose management style was described as bullying by fellow commissioners and staffers. A geologist, Macfarlane will start teaching Jan. 1 at George Washington University.

The Long Haul for Fukushima

News of further difficulties at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has been coming out this week, as the cleanup being led by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) continues to struggle with the challenge of dealing with huge volumes of contaminated water, while slowly implementing the actual removal of nuclear material. These dual problems don’t show any sign of abating in the near future however, as most of TEPCO’s efforts to stem the tide of contaminated water have not been successful.

Tepco unable to halt tainted water flowing into tunnels at Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co. appears unable to stem the flow of radioactive water from the No. 2 reactor building to underground tunnels at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, officials said.

Tepco has injected cement into the joints that connect the tunnels, which are used to run cables, and the building to halt the flow of contaminated water and remove accumulations from the tunnels.

Contaminated water swamps Fukushima No. 1 cleanup

More than three years into the massive cleanup of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the wrecked reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods.

Instead, nearly all the workers at Fukushima No. 1 are devoted to a single, enormously distracting problem: coping with the vast amount of contaminated water, a mixture of groundwater running into recycled water that becomes contaminated and leaks after being pumped into the reactors to keep their melted cores from overheating.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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