Environmental Must-Reads – November 20, 2012


Ohioans Protest Fracking Wastewater Injection Well

A group of Athens County residents wearing hazmat style suits and respirators gathered in front of the Hazel Ginsburg fracking wastewater injection well site on Ladd Ridge Road in Alexander Twp. demanding that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) shut down the well do to safety concerns.

Gas drilling panel may require pollution insurance

A state panel that is devising rules for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in western Maryland may require drillers to have pollution insurance.

SUNY Closes Industry-Backed Fracking Institute

State University of New York at Buffalo is shutting down a research institute opened seven months ago to study natural-gas fracking after potential conflicts of interest raised what the college’s president called a “cloud of uncertainty” over its work.

University gives ‘frackademics’ the boot

SUNY Buffalo has shuttered its Shale Resources and Society Institute, aka a pro-fracking, on-campus think tank with big energy connections and a record of shilling for junk science.

SUNY Buffalo Shuts Down Its Institute on Drilling

The State University of New York at Buffalo announced Monday that it was closing down its newly formed Shale Resources and Society Institute, which was devoted to the study of hydraulic fracturing, citing “a cloud of uncertainty over its work.”

Fracking Industry Moves to Recycling Wastewater

The fracking boom happened so quickly that nobody had any time to deal with the consequences. Not only did politicians not anticipate regulations, allowing the industry to operate in a kind of free-fire zone, but the industry didn’t recognize the massive amounts of limited resources they would need to continue fracking in the future. Specifically, they didn’t estimate the water needs.

New analysis shows companies use secret fracking chemicals in most wells

A recent investigation by EnergyWire found that when companies provide information on the chemicals they use to frack wells, most of the time they keep at least one chemical secret.  Sixty-five percent of disclosures made by oil and gas companies leave out information about one or more fracking chemicals that the company claims to be confidential, according to the article.

Op-ed column: Fracking flowback is costly

Here’s an an op-ed column that ran in the Charleston Gazette written by S. Thomas Bond, a retired chemistry professor at Salem College in West Virginia:

“Flowback” is the liquid that returns to the surface when a shale well is fractured. Figures for the amount of water required to fracture a shale well usually range from 3 million gallons to 5 million. Likewise, figures for the amount returning to the surface vary, but 20 percent seems reasonable.

Gas Companies Prevented From Forcing Sixty-Five New York Landowners to Extend Expired Leases: Federal Judge Says Companies Cannot Invoke Force Majeure.

Last week, federal Judge David Hurd ruled, in two separate decisions, that sixty-five New York landowners will not be forced to extend the terms of their lease agreements with gas drilling companies against their will.  The decisions are the first to interpret the so-called force majeure clauses in drilling leases in light of the state’s current de facto moratorium on fracking, and set a precedent for landowners statewide who were convinced to sign leases long before anyone had heard about “high volume hydraulic fracturing.”

Contractor of Gulf oil platform was cited by OSHA after 2007 fatal accident, records show

The federal Labor Department in 2008 issued a finding of a “serious violation” and fined the Lafourche Parish oil contractor that employed many of the workers onboard the Black Elk Energy platform that caught fire and exploded Friday off the coast of Louisiana.

Filipino ex-employees say Grand Isle Shipyard pressed them into ‘involuntary servitude’

Former skilled laborers imported from the Philippines to work for Grand Isle Shipyard Inc. filed a class-action lawsuit against the company a year ago charging it with abusive and exploitative working conditions, including requiring them to pay between $2,000 and $3,500 a month to live in 10-foot by 10-foot rooms, six to a room, on a work barge and in a Galliano bunkhouse that had been converted from a bowling alley.

Despite investigations spreading blame around, 2 workers shoulder blame for BP oil disaster

NEW ORLEANS — The manslaughter charges brought against two relatively low-ranking BP rig workers in the deadly Gulf of Mexico disaster may be as far as federal prosecutors are willing to go. Or maybe they intend to use the two men to work their way up the corporate ladder.

Opinion: BP settlement on Gulf oil spill flows from its own deep pockets

When BP and the federal government reached a $4.5 billion deal to settle the oil giant’s wrongdoing in the 2010 “Deepwater Horizon” disaster (“BP fined, charged in Gulf oil spill — Official: Firm valued ‘profit over prudence’” (Nov. 16), Americans had more than one reason to take note.

BP’s US Criminal Settlement Over Oil Spill is Credit Positive -Moody’s

BP PLC’s (BP.LN) $4.5 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission over criminal charges and claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster are credit positive for the company because they clarify the level of the criminal penalties, Moody’s said Monday.

BP oil spill affects Tallahassee business owners

Oil giant BP has agreed to pay $4.5 billion dollars in criminal fees stemming from the oil spill in the gulf and plead guilty to criminal misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In addition to it being the largest criminal fine in the history of the United States, it comes as a relief for many Americans seeing the London-based Corporation take responsibility for the disaster.

Crimes Against Nature: BP Pays Small Price for the Deepwater Disaster

“I hear comments that large oil companies are greedy companies, or don’t care, but that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people.” –BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, June 16, 2010

On April 20, 2010, eleven men were sacrificed in the name of profit.

This is no exaggeration.

Co. Looks for Worker After Oil Rig Fire in Gulf

The owner of an oil platform that caught fire after an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last week said Sunday that it has expanded its search for a missing worker, and doctors said one of four men burned in the blaze is improving and is now in fair condition.

Dead, missing oil rig workers identified

GRAND ISLE, La., Nov. 19 (UPI) — One worker killed and another still missing in last week’s fire aboard an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico were from the Philippines, officials said Monday.

Platform fire puts focus on company’s use of Filipino workers

NEW ORLEANS — The most seriously injured workers in Friday’s oil platform fire in the Gulf of Mexico were Filipino guest laborers at a Galliano oilfield construction company.

1 Dead, 1 Missing in Fire on Gulf Coast Oil Rig

At least one person has been killed and another is feared dead after a massive fire erupted Friday on an oil platform in the Gulf Coast. Another four workers have been hospitalized, two in critical condition. The rig’s operator, Black Elk Energy, says only a small amount of oil was spilled as a result of the blast. It came just one day after the oil giant BP agreed to pay a $4.5 billion fine for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 people and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Deadly oil rig explosion puts spotlight back on embattled Gulf drillers

A day after BP agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion criminal fine for its role in the deadly Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster in 2010, another Gulf of Mexico oil rig exploded, killing at least two workers and injuring as many as 11 on Friday.

Federal officials intensify platform inquiry

Federal officials deepened their probes Monday into the safety and procedures aboard a Gulf of Mexico oil platform where an explosion and fire last week left one worker dead and another missing.

Federal investigators subpoena Black Elk records

Federal investigators today issued a broad subpoena to Black Elk Energy in connection with the lethal fire Friday on one of the company’s oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Energy safety bureau inspectors interviewing witnesses on Black Elk platform

Offshore oil and gas regulators are investigating what went wrong on board one of Black Elk Energy’s production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico when it exploded on Friday, seriously injuring four workers, killing another and leaving one more missing.

Keystone pipeline protesters arrested in Texas

The fight to block construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline through east Texas stepped up Monday as protesters locked themselves to machinery.

Oil pipeline planned for Texas refineries

Two U.S. energy companies announced plans to build a 400-mile pipeline in Texas to deliver 300,000 barrels of oil per day to the Gulf Coast region.

Cuba’s Oil Quest to Continue, Despite Deepwater Disappointment

An unusual high-tech oil-drilling rig that’s been at work off the coast of Cuba departed last week, headed for either Africa or Brazil. With it went the island nation’s best hope, at least in the short term, for reaping a share of the energy treasure beneath the sea that separates it from its longtime ideological foe.

TEPCO, Japanese government denying Fukushima radiation reaching ocean fish

n what must the most dumbfounding state of denial seen in modern times, both the Japanese government and utility Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are disputing the recent study that showed radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking into the ocean. 18 months after the March 2011 nuclear disaster, the U.S.’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a respected research group, reported that 40% of the fish caught off the coast of Fukushima were still testing positive for radioactive contamination above the government’s safety own limits.

Thyroid gland tests on kids in Nagasaki to be compared with Fukushima findings

The Environment Ministry has begun thyroid gland tests on children in faraway Nagasaki Prefecture as part of efforts to gauge the effects of radiation fallout from last year’s nuclear disaster

TEPCO adds missing radiation data to online archive

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Nov. 19 that previously missing radiation monitoring data taken during the early phase of last year’s nuclear disaster is now available from the utility’s online database.

Naturally derived cleaning agent helps decontaminate Fukushima

Chemical manufacturer Kaneka Corp. said on Nov. 19 it has developed a natural cleaning agent for eliminating radioactive contamination.

The cleaning agent–the first of its kind in the industry to use a natural surfactant free of chemical derivatives, according to company officials–is already being shipped to a major construction company decontaminating areas affected by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster.

Delays looming for victims’ housing units

Only 60 per cent of public “restoration housing” units for victims of last year’s disaster living in temporary housing are expected to be built by the end of fiscal 2014, the time when most temporary units are to be vacated, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

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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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