Environmental Must-Reads – November 20, 2013


House Plans To Roadblock Federal Fracking Oversight On Wednesday

The federal government would have no authority over hydraulic fracturing in states that have their own fracking laws, if legislation set to be heard by the House this week is passed into law.

On Wednesday, lawmakers will consider HR 2728, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act. Proposed by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), the bill would made fracking a states-only game. Unless a state has not passed any laws regarding fracking, the U.S. Department of Interior — the agency responsible for conservation of most federal land and natural resources — would have no say in whether companies disclose chemicals in fracking fluid; whether water that comes back up from fracked wells is polluted; or whether people can request public hearings on fracking permit applications.

Anti-Fracking Groups Call on NC Governor to Protect Homeowners’ Property Rights

Today the No Toxic Trespass—No Fracking Way tour rolled into Sanford, NC. At a press conference at the Lee County Courthouse, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League called upon Gov. McCrory (R-NC) to defend the state’s rural and suburban communities from the fracking industry’s seizure of landowners’ rights.

House Energy Bills Would Unleash Fracking Free-for-All on Public Lands

Now that House Republicans have moved beyond closing national parks, stalling environmental safeguards and canceling research in places like Antarctica with the government shutdown, they’re scheduled to pass three wildly misguided energy bills.

These bills, H.R. 1900, H.R. 1965 and H.R. 2728, would give industry complete control over federal lands, and shut down the public’s voice. Worse yet, they would actually force development on precious lands in such places as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Already the White House has threatened to veto two of the bills.

Polis, Hickenlooper disagree on Colorado’s fracking regulations

On the U.S. House of Representatives floor Tuesday, Rep. Jared Polis ripped Colorado’s state regulations involving hydraulic fracturing, saying the growth of fracking in the state “without common-sense federal guidelines, without common-sense state guidelines” has caused friction for his constituents.

Celebrities Demand Obama, State Officials Ban Fracking Now

The campaign to end fracking just got star-studded.

In a series of videos calling for an end to fracking, celebrity environmental advocates demanded several elected officials explain “what the frack” they’re thinking by supporting the controversial gas- and oil-extracting process.

In Oklahoma, water, fracking – and a swarm of quakes

Seismologist Austin Holland wants to start an earthquake.

From his office a few feet below the earth’s surface – a basement at the University of Oklahoma in Norman – Holland, who tracks quakes for the Oklahoma Geological Survey, is digging into a complex riddle: Is a dramatic rise in the size and number of quakes in his state related to oil and gas production activity? And, if so, what can be done to stop it?

White House waves veto pen at GOP fracking, energy bills

The White House is threatening to veto House GOP bills that would thwart Interior Department hydraulic fracturing rules and force regulators to speed up oil and gas drilling permits.

In a pair of statements Tuesday morning, the White House slammed two GOP energy bills slated for votes this week, arguing that they would dismantle important environmental protections.

Fracking Illinois: Two or Three Things We Know for Sure

In this age of climate destabilization, including record bouts of drought, flooding and severe storms in the heartland, it seems almost unreal that the Democrat-controlled state of Illinois is leading the charge for a fracking and coal mining rush.

And this week, as central and southern Illinois folks pick up the pieces from a horrific series of tornadoes, environmentalists and citizens groups are scurrying to respond to the unmitigated disaster of the state’s newly released fracking rules.

Botswana says no fracking in premier wildlife park

Botswana’s government Tuesday said environmental protection was key in its search for natural gas, rejecting claims that fracking was already under way in the country’s top wildlife park.

“There are currently no fracking operations going on in the country except exploration drilling by various exploration companies,” said a statement from the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources.

Fracking Lobby ANGA’s Tax Forms: Big Bucks to Media Outlets, “Other ALECs”

America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) – the public relations arm of the oil and gas fracking industry – has released its 2012 Internal Revenue Services (IRS) 990 form, and it’s rich with eye-opening revelations, some of which we report here for the first time.

Incorporated as American Natural Gas Alliance, Inc., ANGA received $76.7 million from its dues-paying members for fiscal year 2012. Not strictly a lobbying force alone at the state-level and federal-level, ANGA has pumped millions of dollars into public relations and advertising efforts around the country and hundreds of thousands more into other influence-peddling avenues.

It’s Time to Set the Record Straight on Fracking

Earlier this month, just days after voters in Colorado and Ohio went to the ballot box to protect their communities against the demonstrably dangerous oil and gas drilling process known as fracking, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell delivered a proclamation that only served to highlight just how much misguided faith the Obama administration has invested in the oil and gas industry and its quest to keep the American public hooked on fossil fuels.

Natural gas drillers seek Coast Guard OK to transport fracking wastewater by barge

Natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania are producing so much wastewater from fracking that they’re asking the U.S. Coast Guard to allow it to be transported via barges. However, the Coast Guard won’t approve that request it if it doesn’t know what’s in the wastewater.

Not all fracking waste is created equal. It tends to change depending on the recipe a driller uses to frack a well.

Lawmakers to visit Arkansas to study fracking operations

A dozen state lawmakers and legislative staff are taking a three-day field trip to Arkansas this week to look at fracking operations outside Little Rock.

Sen. Bob Rucho, a Charlotte Republican, is leading the trip as co-chairman of the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy. He said the trip is important to give lawmakers a first-hand look at hydraulic fracturing operations as North Carolina drafts regulations to allow fracking.

Colorado fracking companies admit to major air pollution problem, emissions rules proposed

With approval from major drilling and fracking companies, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has proposed a set of regulations to reduce pollution from methane and other dangerous gases leaked by the oil and gas industry. The rules are focused on fracking wells, a mostly unregulated drilling technology that has allowed an unprecedented increase in fossil fuel extraction in Colorado and across the nation.

Colorado to crack down on methane emissions from fracking

Colorado health officials announced new rules on Monday that would work to cut the air pollution produced by oil and gas operations in the state. The rules would force companies to capture 95 percent of all toxic pollutants and volatile organic compounds they emit. In addition, the rules include a requirement that companies control emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane, marking the first time a state has drafted rules to directly address the methane emitted by oil and gas operations, according to The Denver Post.

Schools install pricey filters to protect kids from frac sand

Kids should play in sand, not breathe it in.

Wisconsin’s New Auburn school district is upgrading air filters to prevent sand fragments from floating in from nearby frac-sand mines and getting into children’s lungs.

Ousted levee authority member John Barry forms organization to support suit against energy companies

Deposed Southeast Flood Protection Authority East vice president John Barry on Tuesday announced the creation of Restore Louisiana Now, a nonprofit organization that will lobby on behalf of a controversial lawsuit filed by the authority in July against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies that seeks to get them to repair damage to wetlands or compensate the authority for damage that can’t be repaired, with the money to be used for levee improvements.

Louisiana Sinkhole Still a Danger

The Louisiana sinkhole known as the Bayou Corne sinkhole continues to expand, and brings new fears of mini-earthquakes and explosions.  Scientists who have been studying the collapsed area since it opened in August of 2012 now say they will need to continue monitoring it for decades.

BP Releases Oil Spill Cleanup Environmental Data

BP has released environmental data used in its efforts to clean up the Gulf of Mexico where its Macondo well spilled millions of barrels of oil in 2010.

Since the oil spill, federal and state agencies, as well as BP, have collected more than 2.3 million lines of water chemistry data, published yesterday in the first release.

Oil spill damages exceed $70 million, Exxon says

A new report says the March oil spill in Mayflower has caused an estimated $70.5 million in damages for ExxonMobil.

The figures were reported in an updated accident report submitted late last month to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Exxon’s pipeline ruptured March 29, spilling thousands of barrels of oil in the community about 30 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Regional oil-spill response team considers looser dispersant policy in Alaska

A large swath of marine waters off Alaska would be preauthorized for dispersant use, under a proposal being considered by the Alaska Regional Response Team, the federal-state multiagency cooperative that plans oil-spill responses and snaps into action when marine oil spills occur.

Arctic oil spill is certain if drilling goes ahead, says top scientist

A serious oil spill in the Arctic is a “dead cert” if drilling goes ahead, with potentially devastating consequences for the pristine region, according to a leading marine scientist who played a key role in analysis of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The warning came as Russia filed court orders this week to have Greenpeace activists and journalists kept in prison for a further three months in prison before their trial over a protest at Arctic oil dirlling.

Greenpeace Captain Held In Russia Granted Bail; 15 Activists Released So Far

A Russian court granted bail on Wednesday to the American captain of a Greenpeace ship that was used in a protest against Arctic oil drilling in which 30 people were detained.

Courts in the city of St Petersburg, where the 28 activists and two journalists were taken last week, have so far granted bail to 15 people.

2 more oil spills reported in N.D.

Two more oil spills have been reported in the state.

The state Health Department is monitoring a crude oil spill of approximately 500 barrels in Williams County, at a rail transfer facility near Trenton.

Suncor To Pay $1.9M To Settle Sand Creek Oil Spill Lawsuit

Suncor oil refinery operators have agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle a lawsuit by federal and state authorities over an oil spill that contaminated Sand Creek and the South Platte River.

Before the agreement can become official, a consent decree filed in U.S. District Court requires court approval after at least 30 days for public notice and comment, the Denver Post reported Tuesday.

TransCanada Pushes Keystone XL Pipeline Start to 2016

TransCanada Corp. (TRP) pushed the start date for its $5.4 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline into 2016, the second delay this year as the company awaits U.S. approval for the project.

The pipeline, which would stretch from Alberta’s oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, can begin operating no sooner than two years after it gets a U.S. presidential permit, Chief Executive Officer Russ Girling said in an interview today. With the permit expected early next year, “there’s no way we can get it done faster than two years,” Girling said.

Enbridge pipeline construction to continue into next year after permit delays

About 30 hard hat-clad work crews have been mucking through mud throughout Northwest Indiana over the past few months while installing a $1.5 billion pipeline that will carry crude oil from Canada and the Dakotas to Midwestern refineries, including the BP facility in Whiting.

An estimated 650 workers — including roving contractors and hires from local union halls — have been drilling tunnels underneath roads, marshland, interstates, stores and the Turkey Creek Golf Course in Merrillville. They are burying a 36-inch steel pipeline that is big enough for a man to crawl into and made up of 80-foot-long segments that weigh more than a car.

Upgrading Existing Pipelines Would Create More Jobs Than Building Keystone XL, Report Argues

Replacing infrastructure on existing water and natural gas pipelines could provide more short- and long-term jobs than building Keystone XL would, according to a new report.

The report, published by the E3 Network and the Labor Network for Sustainability, found that improving water, sewer, and gas infrastructure in the fiver states along the proposed route of Keystone XL — Montana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas — would create 362,998 total jobs — five times more than the total (short- and long-term) jobs projected to be created by Keystone XL. The report used State Department projections of about 42,000 total jobs created by Keystone XL, but since the State Department’s analysis was only for Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, the report used the costs per mile and number of jobs created per mile in the three states analyzed by the State Department to estimate the additional jobs in Texas and Oklahoma. The report found that, using those estimation techniques, Keystone XL would create a total of 67,672 jobs in the five states (excluding Kansas) it travels through.

Pipelines Carry out Their Own Health Checks

Long pipelines crammed with electronics are being tested in the waters of Orkanger harbour in Norway. They are the first in the world able to report their technical condition to personnel onshore.

The SmartPipe project has been ongoing since 2006 when the Research Council of Norway and a group of oil companies provided about 25 million to fund the research programme. As oil production moves into increasingly deeper waters and more environmentally-sensitive areas, the pipelines carrying the hot well stream to the production platform must be in good condition. The aim of the SmartPipe project is real-time monitoring.

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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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