Environmental Must-Reads – November 4, 2014


Mystery of Oil Field Fugitives Closer to Being Solved

Fugitives are escaping oil and gas fields across the country.

It’s well known who the fugitives are, but exactly where they come from and how many there are has long been murky.

The oil field fugitives aren’t people, of course, but gases — methane, benzene, toluene, xylene and other volatile organic compounds. Some of them cause cancer. Methane, like carbon dioxide, is a greenhouse gas that meddles with the climate, forcing a lot of warming in the atmosphere.

Fracking Threatens to Crack Politics

The city of Boulder wants to block fracking in the Rocky Mountain state. The liberal enclave has banned the combination of directional drilling and cracking subterranean rock with high-pressure fluids known as fracking within its city limits. And local Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis wanted to enable other communities in Colorado to follow suit. He began collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would have vested authority in municipalities to enact their own fracking regulations, no matter what the state as a whole decides, to control the controversial practice that frees more oil and gas. For good measure, the Democrat also wanted to add another ballot measure that would have required a more than 600-meter buffer zone between drilling rigs and any residences.

In Texas, an Unlikely Battleground Over Fracking

From a distance, this city’s fight over hydraulic fracturing looks like the same ideological debate that has divided Americans for the last five years: Is fracking a force for good or evil?

But on the ground in Denton, where voters will decide Tuesday whether to ban fracking, the battle sounds quite different—and possibly more troublesome for the energy industry as it keeps moving closer to where people live.

Fracking ban divides Denton

As Election Day nears in this small city 30 miles north of Dallas, a wary unease has settled over the early voting on a local referendum of national significance. If passed, the proposition would be the first to completely ban the petroleum extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing in one small corner of the great oil and gas boom state of Texas.

Reporter Michael Brick spent some time in this college town talking to residents on both sides of the issue.

Falling Oil Prices Make Fracking Less Lucrative

Oil prices are down than more than 25 percent since June and are staying low for now. Drivers may appreciate that, but for oil companies, it’s making some of the most controversial methods of producing oil less profitable — and in a few cases, unprofitable.

Most of the world’s oil is selling for about $80 to $85 a barrel now. But not all oil is created equal. In the Middle East, it’s cheaper to produce, at a cost of less than $30 a barrel on average, according to the Norwegian firm Rystad Energy.

Midterm election: Ohio governor promises more taxes on fracking

With U.S. midterm elections just days away, one Republican state governor is coasting to re-election despite promising to aggressively push for higher taxes on the oil and gas industry.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio has overseen a rapid expansion of drilling in his state, with oil and gas production quickly rising. Drillers have been targeting the Marcellus Shale in Ohio, and increasingly, the deeper Utica Shale. The same geology that has made Pennsylvania a major energy producer stretches across the border into Ohio. In fact, Ohio tends to hold a greater preponderance of petroleum liquids instead of dry gas, which can provide a much better return for drillers.

Faces of Fracking: Rebecca Claassen

A block from Rebecca Claassen’s home is a sliver of paradise. Mountains stoop nearly to the water’s edge. Lanky palm trees pitch gently in the breeze. Herons stand statue-still in the dunes. Rebecca has stolen a few moments with her daughter here at Carpinteria State Beach, 12 miles south of Santa Barbara.

Down time with family is a rarity for her in the last four months. Today, three-year-old Hazel takes advantage, giggling as she tacks up and down the beach, stopping to inspect a dead bird, get a feel for a fistful of sand, and cart rocks from one pile to another.

Soon Rebecca will drop Hazel at day care and Rebecca will be on to the office. She’ll respond to a flood of emails, rally volunteers for weekend activities, and phone bank to get the vote out for what has become an all-consuming cause: Measure P.

Pennsylvania’s gas lines will take decades to replace, cost billions

Pennsylvania’s natural gas utilities say replacing cast iron and uncoated steel lines in their distribution systems that carry gas to homes and businesses will take decades and cost billions of dollars, a newspaper reported.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review cites documents filed with the state Public Utility Commission, which relies on utilities to monitor lines for links.

Pipeline foes: Oil reached Caddo

Pipeline watchdogs are crying foul over an oil producer’s claim that oil spilled from a ruptured pipeline did not reach Caddo Lake.

The company, Sunoco Logistics Partners, has said since the Oct. 13 spill that none of the 4,000 barrels of crude oil bleeding from a 20-inch pipeline from Longview had reached the state’s largest natural lake.

Sunoco’s Louisiana Oil Spill Revised Up to 189,000 Gallons

Oil is flowing again through a 1,000-mile pipeline that broke in northwest Louisiana nearly four weeks ago.

Sunoco Logistics Partners LP spokesman Jeff Shields tells The Times of Shreveport that the total spill is now estimated at 189,000 gallons. That’s up 21,000 gallons from the previous estimate. Sheilds says the partnership got a more accurate estimate after refilling the Mid-Valley Pipeline.

Sunoco: Revised estimate of oil spilled is now up to 4,500 barrels

Sunoco Logistics has revised their estimate of how much oil has spilled in Mooringsport since a pipeline break in mid-October.

As cleanup of the oil spill continues, the company now says about 4,500 barrels spilled along the Tete Bayou in Caddo Parish on October 13. That’s 500 barrels more than originally estimated.

Enbridge estimates oil spill cleanup at $1.2 billion

Enbridge estimates the total cost of cleanup from the 2010 oil spill into the Kalamazoo River at $1.21 billion.

This is an increase of $85.9 million compared to Enbridge’s estimate in December 2013.

The $1.21 billion was split into three categories: $551.6 million for response personnel and equipment, $227 million for environmental consultants, $429.4 million in professional, regulatory, and other.

This Tea Partier Wants to Turn a 30-Acre Sinkhole Into a Campaign Issue

Tea party Senate candidate Rob Maness has found an issue he believes will resonate with Louisiana voters: a 30-acre, oil-burping sinkhole. During a debate with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu on Tuesday, Maness was asked about a lawsuit over coastal erosion filed against 100 oil and gas companies last spring by a local flood protection board. For too long, the retired Air Force colonel warned, oil, gas, and chemical companies had had their way with Louisiana, with little government oversight and often at great cost to residents: “The families of Bayou Corne—it’s been over 600 days since they’ve been under evacuation.”

Alberta Premier: Canadian Oil Sands Crude Will Reach US Gulf Coast With Or Without Keystone XL Pipeline

Canadian oil companies don’t need the Keystone XL pipeline to get crude to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, says the head of Canada’s largest oil-producing province. Developers in Canada’s oil sands region can take a handful of alternative routes if President Barack Obama rejects the Texas-bound project, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice told Bloomberg News.

“The debate about Keystone is not a debate about whether … Canadian crude can make its way to the Gulf Coast,” which is the world’s largest refining market, he said in the interview.

Oil Sands Crude Seen Reaching Gulf Without Keystone XL

Oil-sands crude will supply Gulf Coast refineries regardless of how President Barack Obama rules on the Keystone XL pipeline, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said.

Developers of Alberta’s oil sands can use trains to reach the world’s largest refining market or the Energy East conduit to Canada’s Atlantic coast that TransCanada Corp. (TRP) is also proposing, Prentice said in an Oct. 31 interview at Bloomberg’s Calgary office.

Marathon’s pipeline reversal would reduce need for Keystone XL

Marathon Petroleum Corp. is considering a potential reversal of a major U.S. pipeline that could dramatically boost exports of Alberta’s heavy oil to the Louisiana Gulf Coast, as the energy industry moves beyond the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project.

Marathon, BP PLC and Plains All American LP are assessing “potential commercial opportunities” for their Capline pipeline system from Louisiana to the U.S. Midwest that could see the line repurposed to ship fast-growing production from North Dakota’s shale patch and the Alberta oil sands to the eastern Gulf Coast region.

Statoil projects big returns from massive North Sea oil field

The giant Johan Sverdrup oil field in the North Sea could generate as much as $200 billion in revenue over the next 50 years, Norway oil conglomerate Statoil ASA estimated  Monday.

At peak production,  the field could produce up to 650,000 barrels of oil per day, equaling nearly half of Norway’s current output, Statoil said in a news release. But development of the field will also come with a hefty price tag — $32.5 billion, which would make the project the most expensive European oil and gas project ever. Statoil, with partners Lundin Norway and Maersk Oil, will submit development plans to the Norwegian government in 2015. The company expects to start up production in late 2019.

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

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