Environmental Must-Reads – November 24, 2014


Monster Wells: Hundreds Of Fracking Wells Using 10-25 Million Gallons of Water Each

While the oil and gas industry likes to claim that fracking is not an especially water intensive process, a new report has found that there are more than 250 wells across the country that each require anywhere from 10 to 25 million gallons of water.

The American Petroleum Institute suggests that the typical fracked well uses “the equivalent of the volume of three to six Olympic sized swimming pools,” which works out to 2-4 million gallons of water.

The Downside of the Boom

In early August 2013, Arlene Skurupey of Blacksburg, Va., got an animated call from the normally taciturn farmer who rents her family land in Billings County, N.D. There had been an accident at the Skurupey 1-9H oil well. “Oh, my gosh, the gold is blowing,” she said he told her. “Bakken gold.”

It was the 11th blowout since 2006 at a North Dakota well operated by Continental Resources, the most prolific producer in the booming Bakken oil patch. Spewing some 173,250 gallons of potential pollutants, the eruption, undisclosed at the time, was serious enough to bring the Oklahoma-based company’s chairman and chief executive, Harold G. Hamm, to the remote scene.

Where Oil and Politics Mix

In late June, as black and gold balloons bobbed above black and gold tables with oil-rig centerpieces, the theme song from “Dallas” warmed up the crowd for the “One Million Barrels, One Million Thanks” celebration.

The mood was giddy. Halliburton served barbecued crawfish from Louisiana. A commemorative firearms dealer hawked a “one-million barrel” shotgun emblazoned with the slogan “Oil Can!” Mrs. North Dakota, in banner and crown, posed for pictures. The Texas Flying Legends performed an airshow backlit by a leaping flare of burning gas. And Gov. Jack Dalrymple was the featured guest.

It’s David vs. Two Goliaths in Texas Fracking Fight

“Don’t mess with Texas,” says the advertising slogan that has grown into a defiant unofficial state motto.

After a recent historic vote to ban fracking in the college town of Denton—and industry’s lightning-fast response—the new refrain might read: “Don’t Mess With Big Oil and Gas.”

That’s the bottom line for business and legal experts who surveyed the landscape after 59 percent of Denton’s voters approved the ban.

Small quake shakes Dallas area, stirring fracking critics

A light earthquake shook the Dallas-Ft. Worth area of North Texas on Saturday night, leaving no known damage or casualties but stirring concern about the potential of the area’s oil and gas fracking industry to generate seismic activity.

The magnitude 3.3 earthquake struck about 9:15 p.m. Central time on Saturday, said Dale Grant, an geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Fracking industry suing over drilling bans

As fracking spreads in the United States, voters in more and more cities are banning drilling, waste disposal and other practices associated with deep-shale oil and gas wells.

But those bans have prompted lawsuits filed by state governments or the oil and gas industry raising a legal question: Who gets to say where fracking can happen?

Bipartisan House members see LNG exports as prelude to lifting crude ban

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) yesterday said he’s considering crafting a bill to ease restrictions on crude exports on the heels of what he and his colleagues see as bipartisan success in ensuring faster approvals of domestic liquefied gas exports.

Boustany, whose home state is rich in oil and gas, said during an interview following an event hosted by the National Bureau of Asian Research that he’s reviewing current laws and statutes surrounding the U.S. crude export ban, and weighing his options.

TCEQ memo proves toxic chemicals are being released in the Eagle Ford Shale

When Lynn Buehring and her husband Shelby bought their modest home in Karnes county, they were planning on living out their lives there. But Lynn said those years may be much shorter than she expected.

She believes the oil industry is killing her.

Since the fracking boom, Buehring said she has developed respiratory problems and often feels other effects when dark clouds of smoke belch from oil & gas facility flares. It’s so bad, she said, at times she has to run inside and put on a gas mask to prevent the smells from literally taking her breath away.

Fate of fracking in New York still unclear weeks after Election Day

The 2014 election was seen as a key watershed in the debate over fracking in New York.

Conventional wisdom held that after the election, Gov. Andrew Cuomo would finally make a decision bound to be unpopular with somebody. There has been no announcement yet, and the state moratorium on fracking imposed in 2008 remains in effect.

Colorado oil, gas task force begins outlining key issues in land use conflict

The state’s oil and gas task force, seeking to reduce land-use conflicts between oil and gas development and Front Range communities, on Friday began outlining the key issues it will seek to address.

The task force, created by Gov. John Hickenlooper, is trying to come up with a legislative recommendation by the end of February.

W.Va. to Open Bids on Wildlife Land Fracking

West Virginia officials are unveiling offers to frack under wildlife conservation land in Tyler County.

On Friday in Charleston, the state Department of Commerce will publicly open bids for oil and natural gas rights under Conaway Run Wildlife Management Area.

Report: Grouse needs 3-mile buffer from drilling

A government report with significant implications for the U.S. energy industry says a struggling bird species needs a 3-mile buffer between its breeding grounds and oil and gas drilling, wind farms and solar projects.

The study comes as the Obama administration weighs new protections for the greater sage grouse. The ground-dwelling, chicken-sized birds range across 11 western states and two Canadian provinces.

State approves latest oil shale project, even though its technology is still being tested

State mining regulators have given “tentative” approval to a British energy company’s plans to process oil shale in the Uinta Basin.

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining last month signed off on TomCo Energy’s proposal to use an unproven “underground capsule technology” to superheat eastern Utah’s oil shale — one of three active proposals aimed at mining Utah’s bounty of an unconventional and yet-to-be-tapped resource.

Judge denies bid to halt Ill. fracking rules

A southwestern Illinois judge has denied a bid by landowners group to put Illinois’ new rules for high-volume oil and gas drilling on hold.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder rejected the request for a preliminary injunction on Friday. That was three days after she heard arguments about the rules meant to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Bill alters reporting of fracking chemicals in Ohio

The way companies report the fracking chemicals they use in Ohio could change under a bill moving through the Statehouse.

Environmental activists say the legislation would make it more difficult for firefighters and people who live near fracking sites to get information about what chemicals they could be exposed to during an emergency, such as an explosion or spill.

Louisiana Bucket Brigade releases report on La. refinery accidents

The number of accidents reported by ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge was lower in 2013 than in 2012, but environmental groups said Saturday that doesn’t mean much because the numbers depend on self-reporting from the company itself.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the Green Army met Saturday morning to release refinery accident numbers for 2013, the most recent numbers that are available, and to call for action to ensure safety of air and water.

Oil Boom Returns to Gulf After Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, giant new oil projects are returning to the Gulf—bigger and more expensive than ever.

This platform, owned by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, is a floating hive of human activity, 130 miles off the Louisiana coast. Larger than a New York City block and weighing more than an aircraft carrier, Olympus is among roughly a dozen new multibillion-dollar platforms that are or will be pumping oil in the deep waters of the Gulf by the end of next year.

Everything We Know So Far About The Oil Rig Explosion In The Gulf Of Mexico

On Thursday afternoon, an offshore oil rig owned by Houston-based Fieldwood Energy experienced an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, killing one contracted worker. The rig was not producing oil at the time, and no oil spilled into the Gulf, according to the company and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

“This was an isolated incident that has been fully contained,” Fieldwood Energy CEO Matt McCarroll said in a statement on Friday. “The facility was not damaged and there was no pollution that resulted from the incident.”

Latest fatality offshore re-ignites safety debate

More details are emerging as investigations continue into a fatal accident on a dormant oil platform off the tip of South Pass, recharging a debate over offshore worker safety.

24-year-old Jerrel Hancock, who worked for Lafayette-based Turnkey Cleaning Services, was killed and three more were injured Thursday while cleaning a heater treater, the equipment that pulls oil out of produced water on oil and gas platforms.

Fatal explosion came during maintenance work

The explosion at an offshore oil platform that killed one worker and injured three others Thursday happened during maintenance work at the site, according to new details disclosed Friday.

Although it is not clear precisely what triggered the blast at the platform 12 miles from the Louisiana coast, Houston-based Fieldwood Energy said contractors with Turnkey Cleaning Services were cleaning a heater treater at the time of the incident. Heater treaters are designed to separate oil from water and other materials.

Researchers to study oil spill impact

A research consortia led by the University of Southern Mississippi will use $11 million in funding to study the impact of oil, dispersed oil and dispersant on the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem and public health.

The funds came from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. The research will be conducted from 2015-17. Eleven other research consortia got money. The GMRI gave out $140 million to the 12 groups.

Enbridge mulls 120,000-barrel-per-day rail terminal in Oklahoma to handle Canadian crude shipments

Enbridge Energy Partners is considering building a 120,000-barrel-per-day rail terminal at the oil storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, a company official said Friday, the latest sign that rail is being integrated into key oil infrastructure.

The company is gauging shipper interest and will move forward if it gets enough commitments, said Bryan Boaz, who helps oversee the company’s rail portfolio.

B.C. First Nations Crowdfund Over $200K To Oppose Northern Gateway

Some of the strongest legal challenges against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline come from B.C.’s First Nations, and supporters from across B.C. are digging into their pockets to help ensure those are a success.

Pull Together, a grassroots campaign to raise funds for the legal challenges of six First Nations, has been so successful that organizers are bumping their goal from $250,000 up to $300,000 by December 31.

Two paths, diverged

Even as Gazprom officials were seeing off the third shipment of oil from its Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Kara Sea this week, cementing Russia’s successful entry into in the world of Arctic energy, Moscow has begun to express concern that slumping oil prices may derail the nation’s economy.

Anton Siluanov, the finance minister, told Bloomberg this week that if the decline, which has seen the price of Brent crude, an industry benchmark, tumble from $115 in June to around $80 today, continues, the economy of the world’s largest energy exporter would head into recession.

Dozens of Hudson Valley schools along oil train tracks

An analysis released Thursday by a group of environmental and education groups reveals that 101 public and private schools and BOCES facilities from Rockland to Albany are located within a mile of rail lines used to haul the oil from the Midwest.

Most of the schools are near CSX’s River Line, which carries as many as 30 oil trains weekly. Each train typically has about 100 tank cars, collectively carrying millions of gallons of the crude oil south to refineries.

Inslee says state will act on oil trains

The number of oil trains running across Washington is unacceptable, and the Legislature will consider bills in the upcoming session that mandate advance notification of oil shipments by rail as well as more funding for railroad crossings and emergency response training, Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday.

King County Executive Dow Constantine added that oil companies are raking in profits while “the rest of us are picking up the costs.”

“Those who are profiting should shoulder the financial burden,” Constantine said.

Tepco fails to halt toxic water inflow at Fukushima No. 1 trenches

Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted failure Friday in its bid to halt the flow of toxic water into underground tunnels alongside the ocean at the Fukushima No. 1 plant and said that it will try using a specially developed cement instead.

Some 11,000 tons of highly radioactive water have accumulated in the tunnels, trenches dug to house pipes and cables that are connected to the reactor 2 and 3 turbine buildings of the wrecked facility, according to Tepco.

Fukushima village holds N-crisis drill

An evacuation drill took place in the Fukushima Prefecture village of Kawauchi on Saturday, based on the scenario of a serious accident occurring at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

It was the first such exercise in the prefecture since the plant’s triple meltdown in March 2011.

Scotland Nuclear Radiation Leak: Fire at Dounreay Reactor Caused by Staff Error

A fire caused by staff error at a Scottish nuclear reactor site in October 2014 led to an “unauthorised release” of radioactivity admits Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL), the company licensed and responsible for the clean-up and demolition of the site.

DSRL said the fire at the sodium tank farm in Dounreay on 7 October was caused by “unacceptable behaviours and practices” from staff that “fell well short of our values and standards.”

Kitty litter mix-up at fed lab contributed to costly nuclear radiation leak, report says

A Department of Energy nuclear lab used the wrong kind of kitty litter in its haste to dispose of hazardous waste last year, leading to a radiation leak that sickened at least 20 workers and caused a shutdown of a federal disposal plant to the tune of $500 million.

The report from the Santa Fe New Mexican characterizes the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and its private operator, Los Alamos National Security LLC, as being so careless with the hazardous material that they inadvertently created what one chemist called a potential bomb. The LANL is a federal laboratory that works on nuclear technology and other national security projects.

Cellphone radiation brain cancer risk

A new study has found that intensive use of cellphones could triple the chances of getting certain types of brain cancer.

The study, conducted by Swedish doctors and published online in the peer-reviewed journal, International Journal of Oncology, assessed the association between mobile phone use and brain cancer risk.

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This