Environmental Must-Reads – November 8, 2013


Exxon, BP Among Explorers Urged to Disclose More Fracking Data

North American shale explorers led by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and BP Plc (BP/) are failing to disclose enough data on how they’re reducing risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, according to a study.

“Hydraulic fracturing operations are under intense scrutiny for potential harm to neighboring communities and the environment — from air and water pollution to increased noise, traffic and crime,” Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow Foundation, a non-profit focused on environmental and corporate responsibility, said in a statement today.

The federal government needs to ensure that harmful methane leakage is reduced from natural gas supply chain

The federal government needs to do more to limit the release of methane and other pollutants from the production and distribution of natural gas.  Absent such steps, the increased use of natural gas will aggravate smog, expose the public to more carcinogenic chemicals and worsen climate change.  The good news is that the technologies to reduce the release of these pollutants exist today, and the oil and gas industry can actually make more money by using them.  Failure to employ these health- and environment-protecting technologies is a classic market failure.”

Oil and Gas Regulations Fail to Protect Communities’ Water

A report was released today identifying and examining the dangers to water quality posed by oil and gas production in the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

The report, Watered Down, shows how regulatory systems fail to protect residents and communities from the harmful effects of oil and gas development.

Colorado’s fracking bans could fall before courts

For environmentalists, votes this week to ban fracking in three Colorado cities may prove symbolic victories at best, as two decades of legal precedent suggests drillers can successfully contest the bans in court, experts say.

In elections on Tuesday, the cities of Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins voted to suspend or ban fracking, which environmentalists hoped would strengthen opposition to the drilling process.

Recount Could Determine Broomfield Fracking Vote

The results of Broomfield’s fracking vote won’t be known until later this month, at the earliest, and will likely be determined by a recount.

The proposed five-year hydraulic fracturing ban fell 13 votes short of passing in Tuesday night’s initial count. The tally won’t be official until officials have counted all overseas and military ballots, provisional ballots and other ballots with problems like missing signatures.

Results Mixed on Colorado and Ohio Fracking Ban Initiatives

Voters in three Colorado cities and one in Ohio on Tuesday passed ballot measures banning or temporarily halting fracking within their borders.

But in the Denver suburb of Broomfield—a location viewed as an active prospect for exploration—a decision hangs in the balance, as the unofficial tally has voters rejecting a moratorium by a razor-thin margin. Broomfield spokeswoman Rosann Doran said a recount is likely, but the results will not be certified for at least a week after overseas ballots are tallied and signatures verified.

As Canadian Province Puts Fracking on Hold, Will Others Follow?

As an energized First Nations fracking resistance movement continues to rage across New Brunswick, Canada, environmentalists are celebrating in the neighboring province of Newfoundland and Labrador where government officials announced Monday a moratorium on the dangerous and polluting gas drilling process.

Fracking Victim Steve Lipsky’s Flaming Water is No Joke

Weatherford, Texas, homeowner Steve Lipsky has nothing to hide. He is not trying to take down Range Resources, a large oil and gas company with a reputation for bullying its critics, nor is he trying to defame the company as it has accused him of in a defamation lawsuit demanding over $3 million.

Could California’s Shale Oil Boom Be Just a Mirage?

Since the shale rush took off starting in 2005 in Texas, drillers have sprinted from one state to the next, chasing the promise of cheaper, easier, more productive wells. This land rush was fueled by a wild spike in natural gas prices that helped make shale gas drilling attractive even though the costs of fracking were high.

Water Risks on the Rise for Three Global Energy Production Hot Spots

Energy runs on water. In fact, among industries, the global energy sector is the world’s largest water user. Almost all forms of energy production and power generation depend upon water for their operations. This tension causes stress in both the energy and water worlds. Three-quarters of energy respondents to a 2012 CDP Global Water Survey confirmed that they experienced water-related operational risks, while half experienced water-related detrimental business impacts in the past five years.

New crude pipeline provides more access to Gulf Coast for Eagle Ford

Energy Transfer Partners and Trafigura Beheer BV announced plans for a new 82-mile crude oil and condensate pipeline from the Eagle Ford to Corpus Christi, the company said Thursday.

The two companies signed an agreement for the pipeline, which will extend from McMullen County to the Gulf Coast and will include converting  already existing natural gas pipelines owned by Energy Transfer.

 Flesh Eating Bacteria Tied to BP Oil Spill Tar Balls

The Alabama Gulf Coast attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, and since the 2010 BP Oil Spill, tens of thousands of tar balls.

A couple hundred miles away at Auburn University, Dr. Cova Arias, a professor of aquatic microbiology, conducts research on the often-deadly and sometimes flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio Vulnificus. Arias’ research at Auburn, and through the school’s lab at Dauphin Island, has focused on Vibrio’s impact on the oyster industry which was brought to a standstill three years ago by the BP Oil Spill. In 2010, out of curiosity, Arias set out to discover if Vibrio were present in the post-spill tar balls washing up on the Alabama and Mississippi coasts. She was highly surprised by what she found.

Texas Brine Sued by Liberty Insurance over Louisiana Sinkhole

One of the insurers for Texas Brine Co. has filed a lawsuit accusing Texas Brine of ignoring warnings about the potential for disaster if it continued mining an Assumption Parish, La., salt dome cavern.

The suit arises from the massive sinkhole created after the cavern collapsed in 2012.

State response costs for sinkhole reach $11M

Louisiana agencies have spent $11 million so far on response efforts to the massive sinkhole in Assumption Parish.

The Legislative Fiscal Office released the updated figure this week, saying most of the money was spent by the Department of Natural Resources on an outside contractor that is doing testing and drilling at the site.

New concerns arise at Assumption sinkhole

New cracks formed in the containment berm around the Assumption Parish sinkhole as seismic activity increased for a prolonged period.

Because of that increase in activity, which typically precipitates a “burp” where more land is swallowed, work has been at a standstill at the site.

Exxon fined for Arkansas spill, sued over Yellowstone spill, and still just keeps making piles of money

The federal government wants to fine Exxon $2.7 million for the March oil spill from its 70-year-old pipeline in Mayflower, Ark. The ruptured pipe spewed 5,000 gallons of tar-sands oil and triggered the evacuation of 22 houses, some of which had to be bulldozed.

Exxon could be fined $2.66 million for Arkansas oil spill

More than seven months after a ruptured Exxon Mobil pipeline dumped vast quantities of corrosive tar sands oil into the middle of a small Arkansas town, a federal regulatory agency has concluded that the energy company may be at fault. On Wednesday, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transporation, issued a Notice of Probable Violation [PDF] proposing that the company be fined as punishment for allegedly violating federal safety regulations.

Truth elusive in Nigeria oil spill probes

Oil spills have had a disastrous impact on people in Goi, in Nigeria’s Gokana area.

Rivers State, where Gokana is located, is one of the richest oil producing areas in the country. In 2008, however, an oil spill caused major pollution, devastating villagers’ land, and shattering the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people. The oil giant Shell admitted responsibility for the disaster, community members tell us.

But, they say, Shell underplayed the scale of the spill.

Train derailment causes fire and crude oil spill near Aliceville

Crews are working at the scene of train derailment that caused explosions and a crude oil spill.

It happened near Highway 14 in Aliceville in Pickens County. Nelda Hudgins, who lives nearby, says her husband Bart woke her up around 1 a.m. on Friday after he saw the fire. Nelda reports hearing explosions and says 6 or 7 train cars were on fire.

Keystone XL horror film finally makes the pipeline look as creepy as it really is

A family moves to a new place, and their kid’s health starts to deteriorate. Viscous substances drip out of places they’re not supposed to. Government officials show up in hazmat suits. These are staples of horror movies — and also places where pollution and oil spills haunt residents. 350.org recruited a few actors to demonstrate that, yah, you should be as frightened of the KXL pipeline as you are of that serial killer.

Keystone ‘not in Canada’s best interests,’ NDP says

Federal New Democrats staked their ground in opposition to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, provoked a debate Thursday in the Commons with a motion Thursday that opposes the project on the grounds that it will send oil-industry processing jobs to the U.S. and therefore “is not in Canada’s best interests.”

Statoil Sees Chance of Arctic Oil Finds Increased by OMV Success

Statoil ASA sees chances of finding oil in the northernmost area drilled in Norway’s Arctic rising with a recent nearby discovery of crude by OMV AG. (OMV)

“It was really fantastic news for us, being a partner in that license and that of course also increased the probability of oil” to the north, Gro Haatvedt, Norway exploration chief, said today in an interview in Oslo. “The whole area there could then hold a very high potential of oil resources and it would be easier to get commerciality than in gas only.”

Shell Oil Works To Revive Arctic Drilling Program

Shell Oil is taking measures to revive its troubled Arctic drilling program.

On Wednesday, the company filed an updated Arctic exploration plan with the Alaska office of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

More charges against Arctic oil rig protestors

Russia is to press additional charges against several Greenpeace personnel who were arrested for a protest at an offshore Arctic oil rig.

Russia has drawn international criticism over the arrest of 30 people after attempts were made to scale a Gazprom oil platform.

 Fukushima’s nuclear power mess: Five big questions

The meltdowns of three reactors at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant may have happened more than two years ago, but the disaster remains a giant, unresolved mess.

An earthquake in 2011 triggered a tsunami which slammed into the plant, disabling it. The threat of radiation forced neighbors to evacuate and many still can’t return to their homes. Authorities face many challenges before they can make the facility safe again for the long term.

Journey to the heart of Fukushima’s crippled nuclear plant

After talking about spent nuclear fuel rods at Fukushima for more than two years, it is slightly disconcerting to suddenly be a few meters from them.

Some 1,500 fuel units to be exact, rest in a cooling pool within the damaged Reactor 4 building.

Fukushima’s fuel rod removal plan

Engineers at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant are preparing to extract the first of thousands of fuel rods from the wrecked reactor-four building. This delicate task is a major step on the long road to making the site safe, reports the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes.

Fukushima nuclear clean-up enters critical phase

Gazing down at the glassy surface of the spent fuel pool inside the No 4 reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi, it is easy to underestimate the danger posed by the highly toxic contents of its murky depths.

But this lofty, isolated corner of the wrecked nuclear power plant is now the focus of global attention as Japan enters the most critical stage yet in its attempt to clean up after the worst nuclear accident in the country’s history.

Tepco Strives for Milestone at Fukushima With Fuel Removal

Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans this month to begin removing spent fuel from the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear facility, the most significant test to date of its ability to contain the threat stemming from the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Big quake near Fukushima would ‘decimate Japan, lead to US West Coast evacuation’

The stricken nuclear plant at Fukushima in northern Japan is in such a delicate condition that a future earthquake could trigger a disaster that would decimate Japan and affect the entire West Coast of North America, a prominent scientist has warned.

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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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