Environmental Must-Reads – November 30, 2012


Fracked Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner?

From a tainted water supply in Wyoming to toxic air pollution in Colorado, there are concerns aplenty about the public health effects of hydraulic fracturing. While many communities investigate what we drink and breathe for answers, one new report from The Nation and the Food & Environment Reporting Network highlights a key yet overlooked complication—fracking chemicals could affect our food.

Revised ‘fracking’ regulations released in NY

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York environmental officials have released a revised set of proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing natural gas and will begin taking public comment on them in December.

Livestock falling ill in fracking regions

In the midst of the domestic energy boom, livestock on farms near oil- and gas-drilling operations nationwide have been quietly falling sick and dying. While scientists have yet to isolate cause and effect, many suspect chemicals used in drilling and hydrofracking (or “fracking”) operations are poisoning animals through the air, water or soil.

Protecting Michigan Citizens and Communities from the Hazards of Fracking

We are glad to see that Governor Snyder, in his recent message Ensuring our Future: Energy and the Environment, acknowledges the significant public concerns around the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) for natural gas and oil on the environment and public health. We agree with Governor Snyder that scientific analysis should drive the treatment of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan, and look forward to working with the state and the University of Michigan in their evaluation of fracking.

Frack Secrets by Thousands Keep U.S. Clueless on Wells

A subsidiary of Nabors Industries Ltd. (NBR) pumped a mixture of chemicals identified only as “EXP- F0173-11” into a half-dozen oil wells in rural Karnes County, Texas, in July.

Few people outside Nabors, the largest onshore drilling contractor by revenue, know exactly what’s in that blend. This much is clear: One ingredient, an unidentified solvent, can cause damage to the kidney and liver, according to safety information about the product that Michigan state regulators have on file.

On Our Radar: New York State Delays Fracking Rules

The administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the deadline for its pending regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial technique used to extract natural gas from shale formations. The governor said the delay would allow time for completion of a state-authorized health study. [WNYC]

Fracking Our Food Supply

In a Brooklyn winery on a sultry July evening, an elegant crowd sips rosé and nibbles trout plucked from the gin-clear streams of upstate New York. The diners are here, with their checkbooks, to support a group called Chefs for the Marcellus, which works to protect the foodshed upon which hundreds of regional farm-to-fork restaurants depend. The foodshed is coincident with the Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation that arcs northeast from West Virginia through Pennsylvania and into New York State. As everyone invited here knows, the region is both agriculturally and energy rich, with vast quantities of natural gas sequestered deep below its fertile fields and forests.

Say No to Fracking

Elizabeth Royte’s major new investigative report in The Nation gives voice to the urgent cries of farmers and ranchers raising alarms about the risks of fracking to human health. As her reporting makes clear, the early evidence from heavily fracked regions suggests that drilling and fracking operations represent a serious threat to the nation’s food security.

‘Gasland’ filmmaker to speak at local anti-fracking event

Josh Fox, the creator of Gasland, the documentary film that helped catalyze national activism against hydraulic fracturing, will be the guest speaker at an anti-fracking fundraiser in Boulder on Dec. 2.

Oil Companies May Shift from Recycled Water to Saltwater

A drilling project already consumes 6 million gallons of drinkable water that are just disposed into underground wells. This huge waste of potable water put pressure to oil companies in cutting down fresh water by replacing it with recycled water.

Rubber Stamping the Exporting of Fracked Gas Poses Significant Risk to Human Health and the Environment

Today Sierra Club released a new report highlighting the significant risks of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG), and calling on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to take a careful look at the dangerous effects of increased fracking on Americans’ water, air, land and health.

Faculty Speaks Out Against Fracking Training Center at Community College of Philadelphia

Faculty of the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) were “shocked and appalled” to learn that the college was collaborating with the shale gas industry in establishing an “Energy Training Center.”

Frac-Sand Mining: Is British Columbia the Gas Industry’s Next Wisconsin?

Stikine Gold Mining Corp. will provide unconventional gas producers with British Columbian silica sand for fracking operations if the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations approves the company’s open pit frac-sand mine project application. According to the Ministry’s website the project, located 90 kilometers north of Prince George, is in pre-application status with the Environmental Assessment Office.

Senator Landrieu: “…we have to be a lot smarter about where we drill and how we drill”

Yesterday, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) spoke at a policy briefing on natural gas and energy issues. The oil and gas industry is a large presence in her state and a big contributor to the Louisiana economy. She mentioned that Louisiana is one of the largest producers of natural gas, while also being a big consumer. Senator Landrieu spoke about what she sees as the benefits of natural gas, including the boon to manufacturers, more energy security, and local revenues. She also spoke of the need for more energy efficiency measures in transportation and buildings.

Obama signs Staten Island Rep Michael Grimm’s pipeline bill into law

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Democratic President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed into law a bill sponsored by GOP Rep. Michael Grimm to allow the construction of a natural gas pipeline that the congressman said will create close to 300 jobs and bring clean energy to New York City.

Houston Residents Worry about Burden of Keystone XL Pipeline on Local Neighborhood

“We are part of America. We are a major city in America, but we do not need to be the sacrifice zone for the nation,” states Houston resident Juan Parras (pictured).

Parras joins a growing contingent of Houston residents concerned about the overburdening of minority and low-income communities in the area with the ill effects of energy production.

Activists Arrested, Launch Hunger Strike in Protest of Keystone XL Pipeline

Longtime Gulf Coast activists Diane Wilson and Bob Lindsey Jr., locked their necks to oil tanker trucks destined for Valero’s Houston Refinery in solidarity with Tar Sands Blockade’s protests of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Valero Energy Corp. is among the largest investors in TransCanada’s toxic tar sands pipeline that will terminate near the community of Manchester, located in the shadow of Valero’s refinery. Not only did Wilson and Lindsey blockaded the Valero refinery, the two lifelong friends have vowed to begin a sustained hunger strike demanding that Valero divest from Keystone XL and invest that money into the health and well-being of the people of Manchester.

Stake in Keystone Pipeline Is Potential Conflict for Susan Rice

Should Susan E. Rice, the United Nations ambassador, be nominated for Secretary of State, one issue likely to arise during confirmation hearings, aside from the lethal attack on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya, is her large stock holdings in TransCanada, the company seeking an American permit to build the proposed the Keystone XL pipeline.

Mike Bishop, Texas Landowner, Sues State Agency Over Keystone Pipeline

A Texas landowner is asking a court to overturn a permit granted by a state agency to a Canadian company to build a pipeline meant to eventually connect to a larger cross-border project.

New Documentary Highlights Ecological and Cultural Impacts of Enbridge’s Proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline

British Columbian filmmakers Nicolas Teichrob and Anthony Bonello are leading a grassroots campaign to protect BC’s waters from Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. In an effort to bring awareness to all sides of the pipeline battle, the duo documented the tanker route destined to carry diluted tar sands bitumen along rugged coastal shores if the pipeline is approved.

BP Caught Off Guard

When U.S. authorities said they were temporarily suspending BP BP.LN +0.38% from new contracts with the Federal government due to a “lack of business integrity” demonstrated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there were strong indications that BP had been caught off guard.

Detecting oil spills

AN OIL WELL suffers a blowout, causing a fatal explosion on an offshore platform. Oil spews into the water at an estimated rate of 53,000 barrels a day. Company executives and government officials blame each other as they try to find a way to stop the flow of oil. The Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 was a tragedy in many respects, but in one detail, BP—the operator of the well, which is now facing a bill of as much as $50 billion—was lucky. At least it could find the oil.

Oil spills likely in the Arctic, admits Shell executive

Oil will probably be spilt by companies drilling in the Arctic, Royal Dutch Shell’s executive in charge of the company’s Alaskan operations has admitted.

Gulf oil lease sale bids $134 million

WASHINGTON — The federal government took in nearly $134 million in high bids Wednesday during a Gulf of Mexico oil-and-gas lease sale that did not include any bids from BP.

Louisiana lining up major restoration projects to build with BP oil spill fine money

Louisiana officials are scrambling to prepare plans for dozens of coastal restoration projects in anticipation of the arrival of billions of dollars in BP oil spill fine money, the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority was told Wednesday.

Coast Guard approves underwater inspection of BP well, Deepwater Horizon wreckage for oil

The Coast Guard announced Thursday that it has approved another investigation of the BP Macondo wellhead and nearby wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon drillship to determine if they may be the source of a recurring sheen at the site. The plan by BP and Transocean, owner of the ship, was submitted by the companies on Nov. 9, after the sheen was reported to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center by Bonny Schumaker, founder of the California-based non-profit On Wings of Care, after she flew over the area.

Plan OKd to look into sheen near 2010 blowout site

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The Coast Guard says it has approved plans to investigate another oil sheen spotted near the site of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Contract Ban, Civil Litigation Add To BP’s Woes

BP has been banned from seeking new contracts with the federal government. It’s the latest blow, with the company set to appear in a New Orleans federal court next month to work out its guilty pleas to criminal charges in connection with the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The oil giant has agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion in a criminal settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. But far more money could be at stake in civil litigation stemming from the oil disaster.

USA: Coast Guard Approves Deepwater Horizon Investigation

Investigation of the BP Macondo wellhead and Deepwater Horizon drillship has been approved by the Coast Guard, to determine whether they are the source of the sheen at the site in Gulf of Mexico.

BP’s Dispersant Allowed Oil To Penetrate Beaches More Deeply

In an attempt to deal with the 206 million gallons of light crude oil erupting from the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010 BP unleashed about 2.6 million gallons of Corexit dispersants (Corexit 9500A and Corexit EC9527) in surface waters and at the wellhead on the seafloor. From the beginning the wisdom of that decision was questioned. I wrote extensively about those concerns in BP’s Deep Secrets.

BP engineer says government records should exonerate him in spill case

NEW ORLEANS – When federal prosecutors investigated BP for lying about how much oil was coming out of its ruptured Gulf well in April 2010, the first person they charged with obstruction was BP engineer Kurt Mix.

U.S. scientists search for lessons in Fukushima to improve nuclear safety

American scientists met in Tokyo this week to study the Fukushima nuclear crisis in hopes of finding lessons to improve the safety of U.S. atomic power reactors.

Lack of Humility and Fear of Public Misunderstandings Led to Fukushima Accident

TOKYO—Speaking to a visiting committee of American experts, a Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) official conceded that the root causes of the Fukushima nuclear disaster stemmed from a lack of humility in anticipating the full effects of natural disasters and a reluctance to share internal concerns about nuclear power risks with regulators and the public. Company officials feared such openness would “make people worry about the safety” of nuclear power, he said.

Fukushima governor accepts surveys for radioactive waste storage facility

Despite local objections, Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato on Nov. 28 made the “agonizing” decision to allow surveys at 12 candidate sites for interim storage of soil contaminated with radiation from the nuclear accident.

Taking iodine before fallout hits is key: NRC

The Nuclear Regulation Authority released Friday the results of a computer simulation on how the use of iodine tablets by people around nuclear plants can protect their thyroids from excessive exposure to radiation in the event of a severe catastrophe.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Weekly Review

A bumped valve accidentally increased the amount of water injected into unit 3 at Fukushima Daiichi this week, while Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced its response center will be used as a formal reconstruction headquarters.

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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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