Environmental Must-Reads – November 21, 2013


Fracking Industry Campaign Contributions At Record Levels, Report Shows

Fracking industry contributions to congressional campaigns spiked 231 percent between 2004 and 2012 in districts and states with fracking activity, according to a report released Wednesday.

Compiled by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and based on MapLight’s collection of federal campaign contribution data, the report showed a smaller, 131-percent uptick in fracking industry contributions to candidates outside of fracking areas. The fracking industry’s level of contributions increased steadily from $4.3 million to just under $12 million between 2004 and 2012, according to the report, just as fracking’s importance to the U.S. energy industry grew.

CHART: These Members of Congress Are Bankrolled by the Fracking Industry

The growing fracking industry is “yielding gushers” of campaign donations for congressional candidates—particularly Republicans from districts with fracking activity—according to a new report from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The report, “Natural Cash: How the Fracking Industry Fuels Congress,” examines a period spanning from 2004 to 2012. In that time, CREW finds, contributions from companies that operate hydraulic fracturing wells and fracking-related industry groups rose 180 percent, from $4.3 million nine years ago to about $12 million in the last election cycle.

House votes to block federal fracking rules

The House passed legislation Wednesday evening that would block the Department of the Interior from regulating hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — in states that already have their own regulations in place.

Members passed the bill 235-187 with the help of 12 Democrats; two Republicans voted against it.

California Congresswoman Seeks Offshore Fracking Moratorium

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) called for a moratorium on offshore fracking in federal waters on Tuesday, requesting a comprehensive study of its environmental and public health impacts.

“I have been seriously concerned about offshore fracking since recent reports first brought it to light,” Capps said in a statement.

Wyo. court hears fracking chemical disclosure case

The state Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday over whether a trade secrets exemption in Wyoming’s public records law may be invoked to shield from disclosure many of the chemicals the petroleum industry uses in hydraulic fracturing.

The landowner group Powder River Basin Resource Council and environmentalists including the Wyoming Outdoor Council argued that individual ingredients in the various chemical products used during hydraulic fracturing can’t be considered trade secrets. Therefore, they say, the information on file with the state must be disclosed to the public.

Heritage, Koch Brothers Pressure Lawmakers To Support Fracking Oversight Bill

The House is likely to vote Wednesday on HR 2728, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, which would prevent the federal government from having control over hydraulic fracturing in states that have their own fracking regulations.

Explosive Growth of Fracking in Colorado Sparks Revisions to Air Pollution Rules

With approval from major drilling and frackring companies, Gov. Hickenlooper (D-CO) 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.

Big step forward to tackle methane pollution from Colorado’s oil and gas industry

On Monday, Governor Hickenlooper proposed new, first-of-their-kind standards that represent a promising start to reduce methane and air pollution from Colorado’s booming oil and gas industry.

This action is a significant development in a couple of ways. First, it would directly target methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, which has never been proposed before anywhere in the country. Second, it would go much further than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently established standards (which we have argued should be significantly improved), in terms of reducing harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hazardous air pollutants and methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Those are big steps forward in reducing air pollution from oil and gas development in the state, although we think that the standards can and should be further strengthened.

North Texans Wondering About Cause Of Recent Quakes

Around the small town of Azle all the talk on Wednesday centered around the recent earthquakes.

Eleven earthquakes have now rattled Parker County in the last 15 days. There were at least three in Azle and in Reno, near Eagle Mountain Lake on Tuesday.

Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Revises Hydro Fracking Regs

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has revised their proposed hydraulic fracking regulations again.

Some of the new rules aimed to give the public more information about the chemicals used in the controversial oil and gas extraction method.

 Is BP ‘trolling’ its Facebook critics?

BP has been accused of hiring internet “trolls” to purposefully attack, harass, and sometimes threaten people who have been critical of how the oil giant has handled its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil firm hired the international PR company Ogilvy & Mather to run the BP America Facebook page during the oil disaster, which released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in what is to date the single largest environmental disaster in US history.

BP accused of harassing oil spill critics on Facebook

BP is embroiled in a new controversy after accusations that the British corporation hired a public relations firm to harass and intimidate Facebook users who condemned the company for its handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Could Artificial Reefs Help Restore the Gulf After Years of Damage From BP Oil Spill?

Over the past few decades the five Gulf States (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) have built artificial reefs both inshore and offshore with the aim of enhancing recreational fishing and diving opportunities. State and local governments on the Gulf Coast have expressed interest in creating additional artificial reefs with some of the money from the federal funds resulting from the BP oil disaster.

BP Dips Back Into The Gulf With Its Largest-Ever Oil Fleet

BP has added two new drilling rigs to its offshore Gulf of Mexico operations, the company announced Tuesday, bringing the company’s total number of Gulf rigs to nine. It is now the largest fleet BP has ever had in the region.

The company’s announcement comes just three and a half years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 crewmen and resulted in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

BP’s recovery from Deepwater Horizon disaster gathers pace

BP has a record number of drilling rigs operating in the US deepwater Gulf of Mexico, in a sign that its recovery from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster is gathering pace.

BP announced on Tuesday that it had added two rigs to the Gulf, one of the world’s most prolific oil regions, bringing its total fleet to a company record of nine.

Emergency Responders Prepare For Increased Risk Of Oil Spills In The Northwest

Northwest emergency responders met in Portland Tuesday to discuss the increased potential for oil spills in the region.

Several oil-by-rail projects have been proposed in Washington state. The largest of those would be built at the Port of Vancouver if it is approved. Captain Sean MacKenzie is a deputy sector commander for the U.S. Coast Guard. He says those projects represent a significant increase in the amount of crude oil traveling by rail through the region.

Enbridge oil pipeline project in Ind. delayed

Enbridge Energy’s $300 million project to replace 60 miles of oil pipeline across northern Indiana won’t be completed until at least February, months later than planned, due to delays in obtaining needed permits, a company official said.

Keystone Foes Try to Stop Canadian Oil Sands Exports by Rail

Environmentalists opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline are expanding their fight against imports of Canadian heavy crude oil by trying to block rail projects that offer another way for it to enter the U.S.

“Debating rail or pipelines is like debating which kind of poison you want,” Daniel Kessler, a spokesman for 350.org, an environmental group, said in an interview. “There is a substantive effort under way in many places to block rail.”

Canada Orders More Disclosure On Hazardous Rail Cargoes

Canada will require railways to start telling municipalities what goods they have been transporting through their jurisdictions, but the government acknowledged that such data would not have prevented the July derailment that demolished the heart of a Quebec town, killing 47 people.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said on Wednesday her directive on railway disclosure met a request made by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities after a runaway train carrying crude oil exploded in the center of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July.

Release of Interior’s Arctic standards for offshore oil development delayed

Arctic-specific standards to guide offshore oil operations — rules crafted in response to Shell’s trouble-plagued 2012 drilling season — will be issued later than expected, the head of a key federal agency said on Wednesday.

A draft version of the new standards, initially expected by the end of the year, is now expected in early 2014, said Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and acting assistant Interior secretary for lands and minerals.

As 17 of Arctic 30 Granted Bail, Greenpeace Chief Calls Fossil Fuel CEOs “The Real Hooligans”

A Russian court has granted bail to nine more people detained in a Greenpeace action against Russian oil drilling in the Arctic. They are among 28 activists and two journalists who have been jailed for two months. “With 30 of my colleagues facing as much as seven years in prison in Russia for a peaceful action to protest arctic oil drilling, and are being accused of hooligans, let’s be very clear: The real hooligans are those CEOs and other leaders of the fossil fuel industry who are not prepared to accept that they have to change,” says Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International. The Arctic 30 face charges of “hooliganism” which could carry up to seven years in prison. With the latest rulings, 17 of the group have been granted bail so far.

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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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