Environmental Must-Reads – November 26, 2014


O’Malley says he is ready to allow ‘fracking’ in Western Maryland, with strict safeguards

Outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley says he is ready to allow drilling for natural gas in Western Maryland, but only if energy companies adhere to some of the most restrictive public health and environmental safeguards in the country.

O’Malley (D) will propose regulations next month that start with the “best practices” of other states and nations where hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is permitted, administration officials said. The regulations will include additional restrictions on drilling locations and efforts to limit the risks of drinking-water contamination and air pollution.

Maryland Governor Is Officially Ready To Allow Fracking In The State

Maryland’s outgoing Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley announced on Tuesday that he will soon release proposed regulations for fracking — regulations that when finalized will officially allow natural gas drilling in the western part of the state.

The historically environmentally-friendly governor said the regulations when issued would be strict, going above and beyond to restrict drilling in certain locations and including strong protections from drinking-water contamination and air pollution.

Texas takes over greenhouse gas permitting from EPA

Texas’ environmental agency this month started issuing greenhouse gas permits – a move that’s expected to help speed the build-out of needed pipelines in the oil field.

EPA had been issuing the permits since 2011 because the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had initially refused to do so.

Timeline slips for some oil and gas regulations

From offshore drilling to methane emissions, the Obama administration is delaying some planned rules that will affect the oil and gas industry, while announcing new measures on the horizon.

The update came courtesy of the Fall 2014 “Unified Agenda,” which is a rough outline of the rules federal agencies are drafting and their plans for putting those new regulations in place.

Amherst rejects fracking wastewater deal

Amherst has decided against taking in 30 million litres of treated fracking wastewater, the bulk of it from shale gas operations in New Brunswick.

The company that treats the water offered the town half a million dollars to dump it in their sewage system. Officials initially said yes to the plan, but changed their minds after hearing opposition from residents.

Amherst says no to fracking wastewater

Amherst is walking away from talks with a Debert company about accepting treated wastewater used in hydraulic fracturing in Hants County several years ago.

During a closed door meeting on Sunday, staff provided an update on the negotiations. At the end of that discussion, council opted to end the process rather than move forward with a public meeting next month with Environment Minister Randy Delorey and a potential vote in mid-December.

‘Routine’ planning hearing raises questions about L.A.’s oversight on oil drilling

A City of Los Angeles zoning administrator will consider approval for expanded oil drilling work at the Freeport McMoRan-owned Jefferson Drill Site tomorrow, in what has historically been a routine hearing.

West Adams neighbors who seek full environmental review of operations there say the hearing is anything but.

The dispute draws attention to a not-so-simple question: What’s LA’s role in regulating oil and gas operations?

Gas line opponents get tips in West Wyoming

People opposed to natural gas pipelines crossing through Luzerne County received some tips Monday night from opponents who have been fighting pipelines outside Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The local Gas Drillers Awareness Coalition, which has joined with organizations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to try to keep five proposed pipelines out, brought in speakers from four groups to the West Wyoming Hose Company for the presentation. They told the crowd of about 50 people about the safety hazards, environmental damage and loss of property value they believe the additional gas lines and accompanying compressor stations would cause and how to fight them.

Public comments sought on ET Rover pipeline at FERC meeting

Federal officials will host a meeting on proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through western Washtenaw County.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at the George Prizing auditorium at the Washington Street Education center in Chelsea. The focus of the meeting will be on the ET Rover pipeline project that proposes laying pipe from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia through Ohio and Michigan before crossing into Canada around Port Huron.

Two draft proposals hope to keep Florida from becoming fracking’s new frontier

Could Florida become the next frontier for hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”)? Environmentalists, who are already concerned about the state’s fragile water supply, fear that it could, and this week they’re trying to get out ahead of the situation before the 2015 Legislative session begins in Tallahassee.

Last week, two independent efforts to draft legislation to regulate fracking in Florida were unveiled in Orlando. One, drafted by state Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, would ban the practice outright, declaring that “a person may not engage in hydraulic fracturing in this state.” The other, drafted by students at the Barry University School of Law and the League of Women Voters of Orange County, is a comprehensive proposal that would limit where, when and how fracking could take place in the state.

Fracking ban extended in Boulder County, newspaper reports

Commissions in Boulder County, Colo., have extended the county’s moratorium on new oil and gas development for 3 ½ years, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. The moratorium applies to new applications for drilling and operating oil and gas wells in unincorporated parts of the county, which is near Denver.

The ban has been extended several times since it was first imposed in February 2012, the newspaper reported. It was set to expire Jan. 1, 2015.

Oil Trains Have Made Life Miserable In A North Dakota Town

After her shift at the TraXside Cafe in the southeast North Dakota hamlet of Enderlin, all Karla Souer wants to do is go home. Unfortunately for the 38-year-old waitress the commute, which should only last a minute or two, can take a half-an-hour. That’s because, chances are, there’s a Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd <cp.to> train blocking the tracks somewhere on her route.

Gov’t Data Sharpens Focus on Crude-Oil Train Routes

The oil boom underway in North Dakota has delivered jobs to local economies and helped bring the United States to the brink of being a net energy exporter for the first time in generations.

But moving that oil to the few refineries with the capacity to process it is presenting a new danger to towns and cities nationwide — a danger many appear only dimly aware of and are ill-equipped to handle.

Railroad cars derail near Feather River in Plumas Co.

Crews are cleaning up corn that spilled down a canyon and into a river when a freight train derailed in rural Northern California, near Highway 70.

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Aaron Hunt said 11 or 12 of the train’s 106 cars came off the tracks a little past 3 a.m. Tuesday in the Feather River Canyon, near the town of Belden in Plumas County.

Leaked: The Oil Lobby’s Conspiracy to Kill Off California’s Climate Law

You remember Fillmore. He’s the resident hippie of Radiator Springs in the Pixar blockbuster Cars. Much to the chagrin of his neighbor, Sarge the Army Jeep, Fillmore greets each new day with Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock rendition of A Star Spangled Banner—“respect the classics, man”—and is quick with a conspiracy theory about why biofuels never stood a chance at America’s gas pumps. Perfectly voiced by the late, great George Carlin, Fillmore has a slight paranoiac edge, as if his intake of marijuana may exceed what’s medically indicated.

Well, as they say, it’s not paranoia if they really are out to delay, rewrite, or kill off a meaningful effort to reduce the build-up of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. A Powerpoint (MSFT) deck now being circulated by climate activists—a copy of which was sent to Bloomberg Businessweek—suggests that there is a conspiracy. Or, if you prefer, a highly coordinated, multistate coalition that does not want California to succeed at moving off fossil fuels because that might set a nasty precedent for everyone else.

Audit: Vast majority of BP oil spill claims payments are correct

Results of a third-party audit of the oil spill settlement program released Tuesday (Nov. 25) by claims administrator Patrick Juneau show the settlement program has correctly processed 99.5 percent of claims. The audit concluded the program is “well-designed and appropriate” and made no major recommendations for improvement.

The audit, conducted by Chicago-based McGladrey LLP, has become a focal point for BP in its fight to remove Juneau and challenge the settlement program, which it claims is riddled with fraud and errors.

Federal review suppressed safety concerns with BP Atlantis oil platform, lawmaker says

A Democratic lawmaker this month accused federal investigators of suppressing concerns about the structural safety of BP’s Atlantis offshore oil platform, a facility similar to the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded four years ago.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) said in a Nov. 6 letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that the Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management, Regulation and Enforcement failed to disclose key details about its investigation of the Atlantis, which is located about 150 miles south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fraudster’s 15-year-sentence in BP oil spill case stands, website reports

A federal appeals court upheld the 15-year prison sentence for a Michigan man who filed a false claim for losses in BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Law Journal reports.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday refused to undo Duane Montgomery’s sentence, which is the lengthiest prison term to date of anyone convicted of filing a fraudulent claim in the 2010 BP oil spill. Montgomery got a $43,900 payout and tried to get another $2.5 million after falsely claiming that tar balls destroyed the engines of his boat while he was doing environmental work, leaving him adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for 15 days.

With All Eyes on Keystone, Another Tar Sands Pipeline Just Crossed the Border

The Keystone XL pipeline may be in political limbo, but that hasn’t stopped another Canadian company from quietly pressing ahead on a pipeline project that will ramp up the volume of tar sands oil transported through the U.S. What’s more, the company, Enbridge, is making those changes without a permit, and environmental groups say it is flouting the law.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge is the same company that spilled more than 1 million gallons of thick, sticky tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010. The spill was the largest of its kind in the U.S. and took four years to clean up.

Enbridge Search for an Indian Whisperer Is a Pipeline Dream

“The Enbridge Corporation has some difficult moccasins to fill.”

Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth was explaining the Calgary-based Canadian oil company’s recent advert in rural Minnesota newspapers for a “Tribal Relations Specialist.” You can view the cached job description here and decide whether you want to laugh or cry regarding Enbridge’s misconceptions about Native American culture. Read between the lines and discover an all-out effort to educate all of those uninformed Indians about the benefits of having pipelines snaking across sacred lands, pristine waterways, and ancient wild rice beds.

Canadian protesters defy authorities over Trans Mountain pipeline

A proposed pipeline expansion that would transport tar sands oil through a park in British Columbia has unified Canadians from all walks of life in their opposition to the project — which they said does not respect public opinion and could endanger both land and sea.

“I’ve never seen in my 30 years of being environmentally active an issue that so galvanizes so many people,” said John Bennet, executive director of Sierra Club Canada. “It’s absolutely clear that the public, not just a handful of crazies willing to get arrested, don’t want it.”

Enbridge announces Line 3 replacement project open houses

Enbridge is proposing a Line 3 replacement project, which will replace the existing 34-inch pipe with new 36-inch pipe, including 12 miles in North Dakota, 338 miles in Minnesota and 14 miles in Wisconsin.

As part of Enbridge’s public outreach for the project, Enbridge will host open houses along the pipeline’s proposed route. Interested residents, landowners and other stakeholders are invited to attend, where they will have the opportunity to view maps and displays, meet project team members and ask questions.

Russia’s Gazprom Neft partners with Petrovietnam to tap Arctic oil

Russia’s Gazprom Neft , the oil arm of the world’s top gas producer Gazprom , agreed on Tuesday to develop Russia’s Dolginskoye offshore Arctic oil field jointly with Vietnamese state energy company Petrovietnam.

A Reuters correspondent at the signing ceremony also said the companies signed a deal under which Gazprom Neft will supply ESPO-blend crude oil to Vietnam.

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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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