Environmental Must-Reads – November 4, 2013


Could fracking boom peter out sooner than DOE expects?

Surging oil and gas production is nudging the nation closer to energy independence. But new research suggests the boom could peter out long before the United States reaches this decades-old goal.

Many wells behind the energy gush are quickly losing productivity, and some areas could hit peak levels sooner than the U.S. government expects, according to analyses presented last week at a Geological Society of America meeting in Denver.

Tesoro’s pipeline restarts in North Dakota, no plan to remediate massive oil spill

A month after over 865,200 gallons of oil spilled from Tesoro Logistics’ 6-inch pipeline near Tioga, North Dakota, the cause of the leak is still largely unknown to anyone but Tesoro. The pipeline resumed operations today.

Carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the controversial horizontial drilling method used to capture oil and gas found embedded in shale rock basins worldwide, the Bakken Shale pipeline spill on September 29 was the largest fracked oil spill in U.S. history. Oil spill experts say the spill may be even bigger than originally estimated.

This Week In Natural Gas Leaks and Explosions

Every month natural gas leaks and explosions do serious damage, with more often than not fatal consequences. October 2013 was no exception.

Protesters set up mock fracking rig outside Premier Christy Clark’s home

Anti-fracking protesters briefly set up a mock rig at Premier Christy Clark’s Mount Pleasant home Sunday morning, saying they wanted to bring the controversial extraction process from the hinterland to her front lawn.

Videos Feature Wes Wilson and Tony Ingraffea to Combat Fracking Industry’s Misinformation Campaign

Colorado is the midst of a David vs. Goliath fight, in which four municipalities will be voting this Tuesday on ballot initiatives to protect their communities from fracking. The gas and oil industry has already spent $600,000 on misleading ads and mailers to fight local residents’ rights to home rule. By next week it may well be more than $1,000,000.

‘Frack Check’ Videos Blast Claims Made By Colorado Oil And Gas Industry

An anti-fracking group in Colorado has released a series of ads blasting claims made by the oil and gas industry in the state as four communities prepare to vote on bans or moratoriums on drilling and fracking in their regions.

New Texas Law Encourages Recycling of Wastewater From Oil and Gas Operations by Clarifying Ownership and Limiting Tort Liability

House Bill 2767, which took effect on September 1, 2013, was enacted to encourage recycling of the wastewater produced in hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) and other oil and gas operations.

Some see barges as best option for fracking waste

Barges have a safety record that environmentalists and gas drillers can both point to as supporting their opposing views about a Coast Guard proposal to allow fracking waste to be shipped along the nation’s rivers to disposal sites.

Barges average seven large spills a year on waterways that are a source of drinking water for some communities, an argument for environmentalists. For supporters of the plan, that number is better than the trucking industry’s, although it lags behind the railroad’s.

Fracking Boom Leading to Fracking Bust: Scientists

More than 1,500 barrels of crude oil per day gushed from the “Jake” oil well when EOG Resources drilled and fracked the well into the Niobrara shale in northern Colorado in the fall of 2009. That gusher marked the beginning of one of the biggest oil booms in the state’s history, part of a larger shale oil rush playing out in Colorado, Texas, North Dakota and elsewhere today making the U.S. the world’s leader in oil production this year.

New Scientific Evidence on Fracking’s Risks Shows Cuomo Should Stand Firm on Moratorium

NRDC and a coalition of environmental and public health advocacy groups today sent a memo to Governor Cuomo outlining a variety of new scientific evidence showing the magnitude of potential risks from fracking has grown significantly. In light of this new evidence, we are urging the Governor to stand firm in maintaining New York’s moratorium on the controversial practice while the state thoroughly evaluates the science around risks to public health and the environment.

Fracking probe expands in Central Valley

Near almond orchards and the city of Shafter, state water authorities tested suspicious fluid in an oilfield sump — at a well named for the 1930s cartoon character Betty Boop.

They found the fluid laced with boron, salts and a cocktail of notorious chemicals related to gasoline and diesel. It came from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil.

How Fracking Can Harm Your Family

I was driving along Interstate 40, determined to reach Memphis before dark for a hot dinner and visit with relatives. My daughters were both restless in their booster seats, my youngest feeling ill. “Mommy, my head hurts, my ear hurts,” cried my 4-year-old baby girl. Thankfully, her vomiting had subsided and she was sipping liquids after our visit to Arkansas. I was feeling like the worst mother in the world!

It seemed innocent enough to plan a Spring Break trip with the girls when my husband couldn’t get away from work. The girls had loads of fun on this trip, until our stop in rural Arkansas. We had planned to spend the better part of the day touring Faulkner and Van Buren Counties, a nearby area north of Little Rock with residents from Arkansas Fracking. I was interviewing a woman for my blog who had air quality concerns ever since her pasture had turned into a natural gas hydraulic fracturing site.

5 Reasons Fracking Is a Death Sentence For Arid States

As we move into a time of unprecedented climate change, many are worried about where we’ll find enough food and energy to sustain nearly 10 billion people. Food and energy are big demands, yes, but few seem to realize that without an adequate supply of drinking water, neither will matter. Water is the new oil, and there are parts of the world that have already run dry.

In August, The Guardian reported that the town of Barnhart, Texas had completely run out of water after a fracking boom in the region sucked away every last drop of groundwater. Thanks to rampant fracking, 30 more Texas cities are teetering on the edge of a similar disaster.

James Gill: Environmental abyss still growing

Another crack has appeared in the berm, which is supposed to contain the toxic goo sloshing around the great Bayou Corne sinkhole.

Meanwhile, Texas Brine, the company that visited this disaster upon us when its salt-dome mine caused a cavern to collapse, says the sinkhole, which now covers 26 acres, will double in size. Since environmental bandits will always tend to low-ball the damage, there is no telling how much longer the landscape will continue to slide into the abyss.

New seismic activity at huge sinkhole tied to Houston company

Two cracks have appeared in a containment berm around a huge Louisiana sinkhole tied to a Houston-based company.

The cracks, reported Oct. 30, have halted activity at five or six wells that were put on the berm to help ventilate the sinkhole and provide observation spots, said John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Bad News for the Bayou Corne Sinkhole

The Bayou Corne Sinkhole, which started last year, is expected to double in size.

The sinkhole, which opened up after a salt cavern collapsed in August last year, has caused many nearby homeowners to worry about their homes. The sinkhole, which currently covers about 26 acres, is expected to grow to 50 acres, but homeowners can breath a sigh of relief. It is reportedly moving in a southwestern pattern away from a neighborhood in that area. The state of Louisiana has announced that it will be suing Texas Brine, the company behind the failed cavern, for damages caused by the sinkhole, reports WebProNews.

A trial lawyer web entangles the BP settlement: James Varney

While no one wants to see BP walk away from the lethal and environmentally calamitous Deepwater Horizon well blowout, it’s hard sometimes to see what’s unfolded as anything more than another trial lawyer feeding frenzy. Perhaps that will calm soon.

Appeals court to hear BP’s objections to oil spill settlement

A year ago, lawyers for BP and Gulf Coast residents and businesses took turns urging a federal judge to approve their settlement for compensating victims of the company’s massive 2010 oil spill.

On Monday, however, the one-time allies will be at odds when an appeals court hears objections to the multibillion-dollar deal. That’s because several months after U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier approved the settlement, BP started complaining that the judge and court-appointed claims administrator were misinterpreting it. The London-based oil giant is worried it could be forced to pay billions of dollars more for bogus or inflated claims by businesses.

BP Oil-Spill Settlement Objectors Ask Court to Rescind Approval

Opponents of BP Plc (BP/)’s $9.2 billion partial settlement of private-party claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill are set to ask a U.S. appeals court to reverse a judge’s approval of the agreement.

The agreement is unfair and can’t be approved because it inconsistently compensates victims with the same types of economic injuries, opponents of the settlement told the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans in court filings. They will be arguing today for a reversal of U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s December approval of the accord.

Is the Oil Spill Affecting the Gulf’s Sperm Whales?

A sick and severely emaciated adolescent female sperm whale was found beached on the Florida coast near Tampa on Halloween. After the necropsy, officials said there were indications of an infection in the abdominal cavity and a large of amount of fluid around the whale’s heart. Lab results will be completed in a few weeks.

Dangers face immigrant, contractor workforce in Gulf

The death of a welder who fell from an offshore platform last week highlights the dangers facing the large immigrant and contractor workforce employed to maintain and decommission decades-old oil and gas facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Four Filipino workers have died in the past year during welding and other physical work on shallow Gulf facilities, prompting concern from Manila to Washington, D.C.

State, Federal Lawsuit Against Exxon for Arkansas Oil Spill Gets Trial Date

U.S. District Judge James Moody has scheduled the trial date for the joint complaint brought by the state of Arkansas and the U.S. government against ExxonMobil Pipeline Company and Mobil Pipeline Company. A pre-trial conference will happen Feb. 13, 2014, with the trial scheduled to begin the following day.

Montana Seeks New Fines From Exxon For Damages From 2011 Yellowstone Oil Spill

Two years after an ExxonMobil pipeline spilled 63,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River, Montana and federal officials are seeking new fines based on a review of natural resources damages. Officials have charged the oil and the clean-up process left long-term damage to the area, leaving fish, birds, and wildlife dead or injured and interrupting environmental studies, recreation, and fishing.

People Who Live Downwind Of Alberta’s Oil And Tar Sands Operations Are Getting Blood Cancer

A new study has found that levels of air pollution downwind of the largest tar sands, oil and gas producing region in Canada rival levels found in the world’s most polluted cities. And that pollution isn’t just dirtying the air — it also could be tied increased incidence of blood cancers in men that live in the area.

Det Norske Confident Arctic Gohta Oil Find Will Be Developed

Det Norske Oljeselskap ASA (DETNOR), which has a stake in Norway’s biggest oil discovery in decades, is confident its Gohta find in the Barents Sea will be developed.

“There’s a good probability it will be commercialized,” Chief Operating Officer Oeyvind Bratsberg said today.

Shell Still Wants To Drill For Oil In The Arctic Ocean In 2014

Shell announced on Thursday that it intends to submit plans to resume exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea in the 2014 season. Drilling in Shell’s other Arctic interest, the Beaufort Sea, however, will not be pursued.

The news came as Shell reported disappointing third-quarter earnings that were nearly a third lower than in 2012. Shell cited lower demand for fuel and a drop in output, particularly in Nigeria, where security issues have forced shutdowns, as the primary reasons for the falling numbers.

Japan’s Fukushima operator mulls overhaul to counter break-up plans

The operator of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant is working on a reorganization plan to fend off more drastic proposals, including possibly dragging the company through bankruptcy in return for a publicly funded clean-up and shutdown of the reactors.

Japan to remove nuclear fuel from Fukushima plant

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant’s operator has gained permission to move forward with a plan that would transfer over 1,000 fuel rods to a new location on the site, potentially preventing massive radiation leaks in the future, reports The Wall Street Journal. Around 1,300 spent fuel rods and 200 new fuel rods have been sitting in a pool inside one of the plant’s reactors, Unit 4, since it was damaged in March 2011. The four-meter-long rods (around 13 feet) will be pulled out of the plant one at a time by a crane that still needs to be constructed.

U.S. Says Japan Signing Liability Pact Would Aid Nuclear Cleanup

Japan will receive international help with the cleanup at the Fukushima atomic station once it joins an existing treaty that defines liability for accidents at nuclear plants, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

Japan ruling party questions plan to let Fukushima evacuees go home

A Japanese ruling party official has called into question a government plan to let people who fled from the Fukushima nuclear disaster go home, saying the government should identify areas that will never be habitable.

TEPCO accepts US offer to aid dangerous Fukushima cleanup

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has accepted Washington’s offer to help with the cleanup and decommissioning of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The move comes as TEPCO prepares for the major operation of removing fuel rods from Unit 4.

State to spend over ¥1 trillion of taxpayer money for Fukushima decontamination work

In a major policy shift, the government will use more than ¥1 trillion in public funds to clean up contaminated areas around the Fukushima No. 1 plant, according to sources.

The plan revealed Friday to alleviate the financial burden Tokyo Electric Power Co. was supposed to shoulder is in line with a ruling Liberal Democratic Party proposal compiled Thursday on ways to accelerate the sluggish recovery from one of the world’s worst nuclear crises.

IAEA team to probe Fukushima plant’s water woes

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said its mission will visit the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant for fact-finding on problems including leakages of radioactive water.

TEPCO eyes new division for decommissioning Fukushima plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has started discussions on setting up a division dedicated to decommissioning its stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in an apparent attempt to fend off pressure for spinning off such functions, which would effectively split up the utility.

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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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