Environmental Must-Reads – November 5, 2014


Denton voters say no to fracking, becoming first Texas city to ban it

Hydraulic fracking will be prohibited in the city Denton as of Dec. 2 after voters approved the first ban on the process in the state of Texas.

With 14 of the city’s 39 precincts reporting, the ban was passing with 60 percent of the votes. Supporters gathered at a Denton bar Tuesday to watch the returns and celebrate the win.

San Benito County’s Measure J: Voters back anti-fracking plan

San Benito County voters on Tuesday approved a groundbreaking ballot measure that outlaws the controversial oil extraction technique known as fracking.

San Benito County residents heavily supported Measure J, overcoming the oil industry’s well-funded opposition campaign. A similar measure in Santa Barbara County, backed by environmentalists there, appeared to be heading to defeat.

Leaked Transcript Gives Oil Lobbyist Taste of His Own Medicine

The public got a rare glimpse into the covert and hardball strategies used by some oil and gas companies when a lobbyist’s candid remarks were leaked to the New York Times and Bloomberg News last week. The leak made the lobbyist the victim of his own tactics.

The man was Richard Berman, president of the consulting firm Berman and Company, who pitched a roomful of energy executives in June to invest $2 to $3 million in an “offensive” campaign in Colorado called Big Green Radicals that seeks to discredit anti-fracking advocates.

Stone Energy to pay $177,500 in EPA deal

A Louisiana company will pay $177,500 to resolve environmental violations cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at two natural gas operations in West Virginia, the EPA announced Tuesday.

Stone Energy Corp. agreed to the penalty settlement after EPA had cited the company for Clean Water Act violations that occurred during construction of two Marcellus Shale well pads and access roads.

First Air Monitor in Heart of Texas Fracking Boom Gets Delayed

The installation of the first air monitor in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale region of south Texas has been delayed following a review of the proposed site by the Texas Historical Commission.

The location selected for the air monitor is on the grounds of the 90-year-old Karnes County courthouse of Karnes City, a community of slightly more than 3,000 in the center of the drilling hotbed. It was supposed to begin operating by the end of October.

DEP: September Drilling Accident Contaminated Water in Doddridge County

In September, drilling for shale gas in Doddridge Country went wrong when operators accidentally drilled into one of their own wells that was engaged in production. West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection confirmed late last week that the accident contaminated water wells.

FERC faces heightened scrutiny as gas projects proliferate

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission these days is drawing a crowd of companies promoting projects linked to the U.S. natural gas boom and protesters who say the agency blithely greenlights too many pipelines, export terminals and other gas infrastructure.

Foes of a FERC-approved export terminal at Cove Point, Md., recently rallied at FERC’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, wearing matching shirts and waving signs mocking the panel’s handling of gas projects. Activists are staging similar protests this week at the agency’s headquarters.

Fracking wastewater proposal studied by Amherst and Dieppe

A second Maritime community is now in talks with a Nova Scotia company to take in 30 million litres of treated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations.

About 100 people turned out to a public meeting in Amherst, N.S., on Monday night for more information about a possible deal with Atlantic Industrial Services of Debert, N.S.

Opposition to offshore L.N.G. facility gears up

By the end of this year, developers of a controversial offshore liquefied natural gas plant are expected to release an environmental impact statement for the project, starting the clock for federal approval and the potential veto of governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo.

Opponents on Long Island and in New York City and New Jersey are already planning their attack.

Company to build small power plants in Marcellus region

A Pennsylvania company is advancing plans to build a dozen small power plants in the Marcellus Shale region, producing electricity for the grid directly from nearby gas wells.

IMG Midstream L.L.C. on Friday presented plans to the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission in Wellsboro to build nine 20-megawatt power stations in Bradford, Tioga, Susquehanna, and Wyoming Counties.

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.

Communities find little success in resisting fracking infrastructure

Amy Nassif thought petitioning her Pennsylvania school board to vote against drilling near her two children’s school would be enough — but even without the board’s approval, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved the permits.

“I was completely shocked at the total disregard for the safety of the community,” she said. “They have active-shooter drills at the school, they have drug free zones, but we can’t protect our kids from this.”

Rotten odors rouse citizen sleuths in Pennsylvania gas patch

The badges cost $14 apiece. Rebecca Roter walked around the perimeter of the fences surrounding the natural gas compressor facility in her Pennsylvania community, flipping their switches to “on.” The badges had been designed to measure formaldehyde levels in the workplace, so they had a clip at the top that could be attached to a pocket or a shirt collar. The landscape around her offered neither of these, so Roter just clipped them to whatever was nearby: trees, fences. Inside the station, someone — a security guard, maybe? — stood and watched her.

‘The Great Invisible’: What Happened to BP Oil Spill Victims After the News Crews Left?

Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Margaret Brown returns to her Alabama home to film the aftermath of the BP oil spill that transfixed the nation in the spring of 2010 in her new documentary,The Great Invisible, now in theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

For four years, she followed a wide array of characters, ranging from crew members who survived the initial blas, to local residents whose livelihoods were altered to the lawyer (Kenneth Feinberg) responsible for distributing $20 billion in compensation to victims, to a group of oil executives who share their frank insights over cigars and whiskey.

The result is a complex portrait of the region that THR praised for its “willingness to dwell in the margins instead of cramming in as many eyewitnesses and experts as [Brown] can find.”

Guardians of life: The indigenous women fighting oil exploitation in the Amazon

On Oct. 12, 2013, a group of nearly 300 women from seven indigenous nationalities marched to Quito, Ecuador, arriving in the capital four days later with their children in their arms, the sharp angles of their faces — young and old — decorated with vegetable ink designs, covered in the same strength and determination with which they began their journey. They were marching to Quito to ask the central government to respect their ancestral lands, to refrain from exploiting the oil that lies beneath his Kawsak Sacha, a living jungle. In November of that same year, a smaller delegation of women peacefully protested during the 11th Oil Licensing Round, an auction of 6 million acres of ancestral indigenous land for oil exploitation. The protests, however, turned sour when oil executive and politicians scolded protesters, and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa subsequently demanded the closing of the NGO Fundación Pachamama and indicted 10 indigenous leaders on charges of terrorism.

Tar-sands industry loses $17.1 billion thanks to public opposition

Here’s some good news for your tar-sands blues: Grassroots activism makes a difference! $17.1 billion of difference, in fact. According to a new report produced by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and Oil Change International, oil companies and investors looking to gain from Alberta’s tar sands lost a whopping $30.9 billion between 2010 and 2013.

While part of that is chalked up to fluctuating American oil markets, $17.1 billion is claimed to be a direct result of all those pesky tar-sands protesters and their pesky legal challenges.

As Oil Prices Erode, Tar Sands Become Riskier Investments

As oil prices sagged again on Monday to a four-year low, the Carbon Tracker Initiative said the recent downward spiral “changes the whole dynamic” for Canada’s tar sands production.

The “vast majority” of potential capital expenditures on tar sands projects that are still in the earliest phases of development would require such high oil prices that they are “particularly risky,” the group said.

Landowners upset about delays in property restoration as new Enbridge pipeline opens

Oil is flowing through Enbridge’s new pipeline in southern Michigan, but people who live along the pipeline say the job isn’t done yet.

Enbridge’s new Line 6B pipeline is in the ground and in service.  It runs for 285 miles across the state from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan.

The company installed this new pipeline after their old pipeline burst and caused a massive oil spill in 2010.

GOP Chairman: Keystone XL will get approval if Republicans win Senate

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus predicted Tuesday that the GOP regaining control of the Senate would mean a signature from President Barack Obama on a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Getting approval for TransCanada’s pipeline, which has been waiting six years to break ground on the project, would be among the top priorities for a Republican-controlled Senate, Priebus told MSNBC’s Daily Rundown.

Senate Now Has Enough Votes To Pass Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Bill

The new Senate Republican majority creates an opportunity for likely Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to force a vote on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline he’s been waiting years to hold.

By The Huffington Post’s count, the new Senate will have at least 61 votes in favor of a measure forcing the pipeline’s approval — a filibuster-proof majority.

TransCanada to Expand Pipelines, Even as Keystone Costs Soar

TransCanada Corp. said Tuesday it will spend up to 2.7 billion Canadian dollars ($2.38 billion) to expand its largest gas pipeline system in Western Canada to meet surging growth in shale gas supplies and will spend another C$475 million to expand a gas pipeline project in southern Ontario.

The plans came alongside the Canadian pipeline operator’s third-quarter financial results, in which it revealed estimated costs for its long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline have ballooned to about $8 billion from $5.4 billion, and followed its filing last week of plans for a new, C$12 billion cross-Canada pipeline.

BOEM Revises Analysis for Arctic Oil, Gas Lease

In response to a federal court order, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193. BOEM prepared the draft SEIS using the best available science, and working in close consultation with Alaska Native tribes, federal partner agencies, state and local governments, stakeholders and the public.

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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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