Environmental Must-Reads – November 20, 2014


‘Monster’ Fracking Wells Guzzled 3.3 Billion Gallons Of Water In Drought-Stricken Areas, Environmental Report Finds

Hundreds of massive oil and gas wells in the United States guzzled 10 million to 25 million gallons of water each through the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process, a study found. Many of those wells were drilled in Texas, where large swaths of the state are suffering exceptional or extreme drought.

More than 3.3 billion gallons of water was used to drill 261 “monster wells” in the 3 1/2-year period from April 2010 to December 2013, according to the Tuesday report by Environmental Working Group, a Washington research and advocacy group. About two-thirds of those fracking operations were in drought-stricken areas in Texas, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Water outreach should be a priority for drillers, report says

Oil and gas producers need to do more than look at their own operations to address water supply problems in the areas where they drill, according to a report from consulting group Deloitte.

Outlining the financial and political risks of the industry’s growing use of water, the report suggests that the problems are often bigger than one single producer; Will Sarni, a director and practice leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP, said in the report that oil companies should look to work with residential water users and other industry in the same watershed.

Waterless fracking comes to Tuscarawas County

A Canadian company that specializes in waterless fracking is putting its technology to use in the Utica Shale play in Tuscarawas County.

Besides saving water, the new technology has the potential to give energy companies access to the oil trapped deep underground in the Utica play.

GasFrac Energy Services uses liquid butane and mineral oil to fracture wells, instead of water — which is how all previous wells have been fracked in the Utica play. It generally takes more than 2 million gallons of fresh water to frack a well.

Community groups press for studies on fracking, especially near schools

Several community groups say they have data showing a lot of California kids go to schools near oil wells that are being “fracked,” and they want more studies of possible health impacts.

An oil industry spokesman says hydraulic fracturing is safe, and more environmental reports are coming next year reviewing that practice.

But, Tuesday FracTracker Alliance released the numbers they’ve analyzed of where oil wells are located within a mile of schools, and called for action. They talked about the data, standing near Sequoia Elementary School in Shafter, where they say three oil wells within a half mile have been fracked.

Agency backtracks on frack ban in Va. forest, is roundly praised

After years of controversy over whether the George Washington National Forest would become the nation’s first to ban hydraulic fracturing, the Obama administration appears to have found a politically safe middle ground.

The Forest Service today scrapped plans to ban fracking in one of the East Coast’s largest and most popular national forests, drawing praise from the oil and gas industry as well as environmentalists and community leaders who have fought drilling in a forest that supplies water to 2.7 million downstream users, including in Washington, D.C.

Shale Oil Fuels Indigenous Conflict in Argentina

The boom in unconventional fossil fuels has revived indigenous conflicts in southwest Argentina. Twenty-two Mapuche communities who live on top of Vaca Muerta, the geological formation where the reserves are located, complain that they were not consulted about the use of their ancestral lands, both “above and below ground.”

Albino Campo, ”logko” or chief of the Campo Maripe Mapuche community, is critical of the term “superficiary” – one to whom a right of surface occupation is granted – which was used in the oil contracts to describe the people living on the land, with whom the oil companies are negotiating.

Halliburton lobbies White House on fracking rules

Officials from oil and gas drilling services giant Halliburton Co. lobbied White House officials this month on the Obama administration’s proposed hydraulic fracturing rules.

The Halliburton representatives complained that the Interior Department’s proposed rules for fracking on federal land do not go far enough in allowing Halliburton to keep secret the chemicals it uses in fracking.

Judge hears arguments in fracking rule request

A judge began weighing Tuesday a request from a group of landowners to at least delay Illinois’ new rules for high-volume oil and gas drilling from taking effect.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder’s decision to take the matter under advisement came after more than two hours of debate between the landowners’ attorneys — who argued the state’s rules were procedurally flawed — and state attorneys, who countered the public had sufficient input.

Commission extends longer setbacks from drill rigs

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted Tuesday to recommend an increase to the minimum allowable distance between oil and gas drilling rigs and dwellings.

The commission, which includes Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, voted Tuesday to propose a new rule that would extend the setback distance between homes and oil and gas wells from the current 350 feet up to 500 feet. The staff of the commission had recommended the 500-foot setback.

NRC says Algonquin Pipeline no risk to Indian Point

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded that a new 42-inch natural gas pipeline crossing the property of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan will not add significant risks to the safety of the reactors.

The new section of the Algonquin Pipeline will come across the Hudson River from Rockland County and cross the Indian Point property about a quarter-mile south of the reactors. The new pipeline is part of a multi-state project to increase the amount of gas to New England.

Canadian Claiming Fracking Contaminated Water Can Sue Government, Court Rules

A Canadian woman who claims hydraulic fracturing contaminated her groundwater can sue the Alberta government for allegedly failing to properly investigate her claims and fix any issues, a superior court judge ruled.

An Alberta court Nov. 7 ruled that Jessica Ernst—who said she could set fire to her natural gas-contaminated water—could proceed with her C$33 million ($29.1 million) lawsuit against Alberta’s Ministry of Environment.

20 November 1980: The Lake Peigneur disaster

How do you turn a ten-foot deep freshwater lake into a saltwater one over a thousand feet deep? The residents of Lake Peigneur in Louisiana found out on 20 November 1980.

That day, oil giant Texaco had been drilling in the lake, when it pierced the bottom. Directly below the water was a salt mine operated by The Diamond Crystal Salt Company, which yielded around 100,000 tons of salt a year.

After Gulf oil spill, filmmaker returns to see what happened when the cameras had gone

Now: the continuing effects of the Gulf Coast oil spill.

It may not be in the headlines as much as it once was, but some communities are still coping with its aftermath.

A new documentary showing in select theaters around the country returns to — the spotlight to those issues.

BP Oil Spill and Sea Turtle’s Declining Population Link Revealed in Study

A research revealing the link between the 2010 BP oil spill and the decline of the world’s most endangered sea turtle was presented at the Second International Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Symposium.

The study researchers said that they have found oil in the shell of 29 sea turtles that returned to feed in the area where the spill took place in 2011 and 2012. In the study, it has been cleared that traces of oil were found in the carapace.

State seeks $77M in oil spill money for watersheds

The state is seeking $77 million of RESTORE Act funding on five proposals made up of 20 projects aimed at addressing high priority restoration needs in 10 major watersheds from Perdido Bay to Tampa Bay.

Gov. Rick Scott said the proposals were submitted to the to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council for consideration under what’s called pot 2 of RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act of 2012) money.

Seafood workers to get second $500 million round of oil spill payments

A federal judge in New Orleans has approved a second $500 million round of oil spill payments to seafood workers. BP had fought to delay the payments, pointing to what it sees as problems within the compensation program.

In Tuesday’s (Nov. 18) ruling, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier rejected BP’s effort to block the funds until the seafood program has paid all eligible claims filed during the first round of payments.

Judge okays $500 million disbursement into oil spill fund that is marked by fraud

A federal judge has decided to release a second disbursement of settlement money to fishermen seeking damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, despite protests from BP and a growing body of evidence of fraud.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, taking a cue from a legal advisory panel known as the “seafood neutrals,” agreed to make another $500 million available in the settlement program. Both Barbier and the seafood neutrals acknowledged that while fraud does exist in the program, mechanisms are in place to weed out those making fraudulent claims.

NOAA releases Alaska oil spill risk report, Southeast and Aleutians most at risk

NOAA assessed the risk for oil spills in Alaska currently and all the way to 2025.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report that analyzed Alaska’s oil spill risks.

Shell Knew of Pipeline Problems Long Before 2008 Oil Spill in Bodo

Oil giant Shell was warned by its own staff that the Trans Niger Pipeline had a “risk and likelihood of rupture” years before two spills in 2008 spewed as much as 500,000 barrels of oil in the town of Bodo in Ogoniland, Rivers State.

The BBC reported these revelations after viewing internal company documents submitted to a court in London, where some 15,000 Nigerians are suing Shell over a separate spill from the same pipeline.

Could Obama cut deal on Keystone pipeline? Don’t rule it out

President Barack Obama might be open to using the Keystone pipeline as leverage with Republicans if they cooperate on other aspects of his long-stalled domestic agenda, such as investing in infrastructure, closing tax loopholes or reducing carbon emissions.

After years of fighting over TransCanada’s crude oil pipeline from Canada, a Keystone deal is not entirely out of the question, sources inside the administration and others close to the White House told Reuters on Tuesday.

Why the Keystone XL Pipeline May Not Be Built

When viewed as a political grudge match, the ongoing battle over the Keystone XL pipeline remains one of the hottest fights in Washington. Proof of that can be seen by looking at yesterday’s vote in the Senate on the project, which failed to get the 60 votes needed for filibuster-proof passage.

But when considered solely on its economic merits, Keystone XL may end up being the pipeline equivalent of a jilted bride left waiting at the altar.

Canadian Industry, Government Look to Future for Keystone XL Pipeline

Canadian industry and government officials expressed disappointment after a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline failed to get the needed backing in the U.S. Senate, but the pipeline’s operator said it remains committed to the project.

The Senate’s vote was an effort to force the hand of U.S. President Barack Obama , whose administration has yet to rule on the TransCanada Corp. project. The project has been in limbo for more than six years amid a debate over the potential economic benefits and possible environmental consequences.

TransCanada Has Bigger Problems Than Keystone XL Pipeline

A sparring match with an activist is a bigger deal for TransCanada than the company’s troubled Keystone XL pipeline.

The proposed $8 billion conduit of tar-sands oil from Alberta to Texas failed to muster enough votes in the Senate on Tuesday night. But even if the long-delayed project dies, the lost value could pale next to the extra lucre a New York hedge fund thinks shareholders would reap from a breakup of the $35 billion company.

Oil boom, pipeline safety put Enbridge on the spot

Plans for a new oil pipeline across northern Minnesota are bringing increased scrutiny to Enbridge, the company that wants to build it.

The Canadian-based company has more than 1,800 miles of pipeline in the state. It wants to build more than 600 miles more across North Dakota and northern Minnesota to deliver light crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to eastern refineries.

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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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