Environmental Must-Reads – November 6, 2014


Midterm Elections Pass Four New Anti-Fracking Bans

A record number of proposed bans to the controversial oil and gas drilling technique known as fracking were included on local ballots countrywide Tuesday. Out of eight proposed bans, four passed, in Ohio, Texas and California.

Perhaps the unlikeliest victory for anti-fracking activists was in Denton, Texas, a town north of Dallas situated in what one activist called the “cradle” of the U.S. oil and gas boom. The ban, which forbids the process of setting off large explosions underground in oil and gas drilling operations, passed with nearly 59% of the vote.

‘Just the Beginning’: Communities Across Nation Ban Fracking

Opponents of fracking scored a handful of victories Tuesday, with voters choosing bans on the extraction process in communities in Texas, Ohio and California.

One of these wins was in the birthplace of fracking—Denton, Texas.

The ordinance prohibiting fracking within the city limits passed 58.64% to 41.36%, making Denton the first city in the state to enact such a ban.

Split Decision by Voters on Local Fracking Bans

The small city of Denton, Tex., voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in Tuesday’s election after a hard-fought battle between environmentalists and local oil companies in the heart of natural gas country.

But nationwide, local initiatives to ban or restrict the oil and gas production process lost as many elections as were won. Voters in Youngstown, Ohio, a Rust Belt city sitting atop vast deposits of natural gas, sent a proposed ban to a landslide defeat.

Texas Town Leans Toward Ban on Fracking at Its Birthplace

Voters approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing in the North Texas town of Denton on Tuesday, making it the first city in the Lone Star State to outlaw the oil and gas extraction technique behind the U.S. energy boom. The vote in the city of 123,000 was highly symbolic because hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is widely used in Texas, the top crude producer in the United States.

Denton Bans Fracking, But Challenges Almost Certain

A North Texas town on Tuesday became the state’s first to ban hydraulic fracturing, setting up a high-profile property rights clash likely to be fought in courtrooms and the Legislature.

Nearly 59 percent of voters in Denton, which sits on the edge of gas-rich Barnett Shale, approved a measure banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the method of oil and gas extraction that has led to a domestic energy boom.

Texas Energy Group Asks Court to Halt Fracking Ban

A North Texas city that sits atop a natural gas reserve is preparing for an extended court battle after voters made it the first in the state to ban further hydraulic fracturing — a fight that cities nationwide considering similar laws will likely be watching closely.

An industry group and the state’s little-known but powerful General Land Office responded quickly to the measure Denton approved Tuesday night, seeking an injunction in District Court to stop it from being enforced.

Industry Lashes Out With Lawsuit Hours After Landmark Fracking Ban

Mere hours after voters in Denton, Texas made history by enacting the state’s first ban on fracking, the oil and gas industry has challenged that move with a lawsuit.

Supporters say the ban, which passed with the support of nearly 59 percent of voters, said it was necessary to protect the city from the polluting and dangerous process.

California Voters Deal A Major Blow To Fracking

In a victory for proponents of clean energy, two out of three California counties voted to ban fracking Tuesday despite a lobbying campaign by oil and gas corporations for the opposite.

Voters in San Benito and Mendocino counties approved measures that prohibit the controversial practice, which involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground in order to extract natural gas. Both counties lie on the Monterey Shale, a gigantic rock formation beneath the earth’s surface that’s estimated to contain more than 10 billion barrels of oil. Voters in Santa Barbara county, where oil and gas companies spent $5.7 million in support of fracking, defeated a similar initiative.

Athens votes to ban fracking

Athens became Ohio’s fifth city to ban fracking Tuesday when voters approved a local ordinance to keep the controversial practice outside the city limits.

Similar measures were voted down yesterday in Youngstown, Kent and Gates Mills, a village outside Cleveland.

Drilling companies flood BLM with proposals to burn, vent gas

Oil and gas companies are seeking a major increase in permits to vent or burn natural gas from wells on federal lands without paying royalties, according to data obtained by Greenwire.

The data suggest a growing amount of taxpayer-owned natural gas is literally going up in flames as companies focus development in oil plays, particularly in New Mexico and North Dakota.

Fracking near Marshall chemical plant on hold

A Houston company’s plans to hydraulically fracture natural gas wells near a Marshall County chemical plant are on hold, pending a full hearing before a local judge.

Late last week, Marshall County Circuit Judge David Hummel Jr. issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the “fracking” by Gastar Exploration Inc. of wells located near Axiall Corp.’s chemical manufacturing plant at Natrium.

New Oil Shipment Shows Cracks in U.S. Export Ban

A major energy company will soon sell U.S. oil abroad without explicit permission from the government, another sign that the decades-old federal ban on crude exports is crumbling.

BHP Billiton ’s deal to sell about $50 million of ultralight oil from Texas to foreign buyers without formal government approval is likely to be only the first of many such moves as energy companies seek new markets and higher prices for the surge of crude now pumped in the U.S.

Acid mine drainage: Could it be used for fracking?

From the road, it looks like any other waste water treatment plant tucked into a remote hillside in southeastern Butler County.

But a closer look reveals it’s bringing in not sewage but bright-orange groundwater from an abandoned coal mine nearby. With fracking as an impetus, it could be the next step in solving one of the state’s biggest contamination problems.

Federal judge set to hear challenges to corruption claims in oil spill settlement program

A federal judge in New Orleans will hear testimony later this week from a group of lawyers at the center of an investigation into claims of fraud in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill settlement program.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who ordered the investigation last year, will consider arguments challenging its findings at a Friday (Nov. 7) hearing. The hearing is expected to last a full day.

Oil Import Decline to U.S. Revealed by Louisiana as Truth

Things are slowing down at the U.S.’s largest oil-import hub.

Just six years after importing more than 1 million barrels a day from countries including Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Iraq, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port is receiving just half of that from overseas, highlighting a nationwide trend at harbors from Mississippi to Pennsylvania. What’s more, with U.S. output soaring to a 31-year high, neighboring Texas has become the port’s second-biggest supplier.

Clashes in Chile as fishermen demand action following oil spill

Hundreds of fishermen took to the streets to protest an alleged breach of agreement on behalf of Chile’s national oil company Wednesday.

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.

Refinery Restarts Boost Oil Demand by Most in Two Months

Refinery use of crude oil increased last week by the most in more than two months as U.S. plants restarted after maintenance, helping boost oil prices from a three-year low.

Crude consumption climbed 319,000 barrels a day to 15.7 million in the week ended Oct. 31, the first increase in six weeks, the Energy Information Administration said today. Refiners schedule maintenance for September and October as they transition to winter from summer fuels. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark crude, rose for the first time in five days.

In the Path of the Pipeline

In the six years since it was unveiled, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline has become a centerpiece of the national political debate over energy and the environment. But while much of the attention has focused on Washington’s fight over whether to approve the pipeline, less attention has been paid to the people whose lives will be most affected: those who live , and make their livings, on the land through which the pipeline would cross.

In September, Jeff Jacobson, a New York-based photographer, traveled along the proposed route in Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota, where he went to cattle auctions, feed lots and protest camps to capture the landscape and the people on it. Along the way, he met environmentalists, ranchers and Native American activists—all of whom find themselves in the middle of one of country’s biggest political fights.

Emboldened Republicans to strike early on Keystone pipeline approval

Senate Republicans will charge ahead early in 2015 with a bill to approve the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, a move that would back President Barack Obama into a corner and set the tone for how the party taking control of Congress will govern the next two years.

The $8 billion project would deliver heavy Canadian oil sands crude from Alberta to Nebraska and make it easier to deliver oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region to the U.S. Gulf Coast. It has languished for six years awaiting presidential approval, which is needed because the pipeline crosses a national border.

Keystone pipeline moves front and center after midterms

Now that Republicans control both the House and the Senate, President Obama is a man with some very difficult decisions ahead of him. One of the toughest choices may be whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project, a decision his administration has been putting off for months. Although the White House was originally supposed to have a definitive answer by May 7, the Obama administration announced in April that it would be delaying its answer until after the midterms.

NEB right to question safety of Line 9, Enbridge CEO says

The federal energy watchdog was right to question safety measures on the Line 9 oil pipeline, which weren’t explained as well as they could have been, Enbridge Inc. CEO Al Monaco said Wednesday.

If all went according to plan, the pipeline between southern Ontario and Montreal would have been starting up right about now.

Enbridge Southern Access pipeline start date pushed back to late-2015

Canada’s largest pipeline company Enbridge Inc said on Thursday its 300,000 barrel per day Southern Access Extension pipeline from Flanagan to Patoka, Illinois, is now expected to be in service late in 2015.

The new in-service date is later than previously announced.

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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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