Environmental Must-Reads – October 1, 2014


Pa. Official Admits Errors In Investigation Of Whether Fracking Waste Spoiled Drinking Water

A Pennsylvania official has admitted that he may have used faulty information to determine that fracking waste was not poisoning the drinking water supply at a man’s property in Washington County, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report.

During his sworn testimony at a trial before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, Department of Environmental Protection water quality specialist Vincent Yantko said that his 2011 investigation of landowner Loren Kiskadden’s contaminated drinking water “did not follow its regulations to determine whether [chemical] leaks had occurred” at a nearby fracking site, the Post reported. Kiskadden is one of three landowners who say they have experienced health problems due to water pollution from the waste pit at the Yeager drilling site, owned by Range Resources Corporation.

Fracking Emission Carcinogens Found in Denton Playgrounds

A new report published by ShaleTest, an independent environmental research agency in Denton, found levels of benzene in several Denton parks that exceed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s long-term exposure limitations. Benzene is a carcinogen found in cigarettes, gasoline and is a common byproduct of oil and gas drilling sites.

McKenna Park is one of the playgrounds where unsafe levels of the chemical were found. The playground is located next to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Denton, within a neighborhood, next to several churches and across the street from one of Denton’s many Rayzor Ranch gas wells.

City Of Denton Sued Over Fracking Moratorium

A group of mineral royalty owners has sued the city of Denton over its temporary ban on hydraulic fracturing, claiming the ban violates property rights.

City leaders halted fracking as they consider making their city the first in the state to permanently ban the practice.

San Benito County Divided Over Fracking Measure On November Ballot

Voters in San Benito County will become the first in California to decide on a measure about fracking in November. Measure J would ban the practice, and that vote has a county divided.

Vegetable rancher Richard Bianchi is a life-long resident of San Benito County, and a strong “no” vote on the proposed fracking ban. “I live here, I farm here, I raise my family here. Why would I want to do something that I think would cause harm to 1) my livelihood, 2) my family or 3) my future?” Bianchi said.

Fracking water tanker wrecks historic Pennsylvania bridge

Water wrecked a historic Pennsylvania bridge in stunning fashion.

A 136-year-old truss bridge in Greene County was no match for a water tanker truck used by a natural gas driller, which partially collapsed the roadway on Sunday.

Frac Sand Rush Threatens American Towns, Advocates Warn

Victoria Trinko hasn’t opened the windows of her Wisconsin home in two years — for fear of the dust clouds billowing from a frac sand mine a half-mile away.

“This blowing of silica sand has not abated since the inception of the mine in 2011,” Trinko, a farmer and the town clerk for Cooks Valley, Wisconsin, said during a media call on Thursday highlighting an industry proliferating alongside horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Frac sand is an essential ingredient in the process of natural gas drilling.

Natural Gas Nation: One fracking day

The fracking day begins in the dead of night.

At 3:15 a.m., Paul Formby wakes up, has a coffee, maybe a protein shake, then works out and waits for the text from his boss, usually around 4 a.m. He heads to his swamping shop.

Once there, the truck is started to warm it up – most of the work usually happens in winter. They get the hoses washed off, then after determining what their job will be today, they start driving, usually about two and a half hours, to their next work sites.

These sites are the fracking wells that will play a large part in the northeastern B.C. economy.

Cove Point gas liquefaction plant in Calvert County approved

Federal regulators gave final approval Monday for energy company Dominion to build the East Coast’s first natural gas liquefaction plant at its Cove Point site in Calvert County, a project that has raised concerns from neighbors and environmentalists.

The $3.8 billion project would allow Dominion to export liquefied natural gas through the facility on the Chesapeake Bay. It plans to complete the project and begin exporting by June 2017, adding about 75 jobs to the approximately 100 already at the site.

NY bills to curb fracking waste suggested

The New York League of Conservation Voters and state Sen. Ted O’Brien, D-Irondequoit, announced a series of proposals Monday to rein in the handling and disposal of gas and oil drilling waste in New York.

At a news conference, O’Brien and the league president, Marcia Bystryn, said legislation would be introduced in Albany that would bar the disposal of drilling wastes in New York landfills and restrict the treatment of liquid wastes from drilling in municipal wastewater plants. Another bill would require that drilling waste be treated as hazardous wastes, requiring a more robust response if the waste is spilled.

Crude Oil Rail Shipments To Worsen Traffic, Congestion In Communities Nationwide, New Report Finds

Life is slowing down in Bozeman, a small city in southern Montana near a major railroad. More shipments of Bakken Shale oil and local coal are passing through, and it’s taking drivers more time to cross the tracks and get around town. Fire trucks, ambulances and police cars have to wait while carload after carload chugs along. “It takes longer for those public safety services to get to us,” says Beth Kaeding, a Bozeman resident and conservationist.

The U.S. shale boom and a rise in coal exports is having a similar effect nationwide, according to a federal transportation report released late last week. If freight flows continue to rise as expected, it could “exacerbate congestion issues” and raise new safety concerns in communities near train tracks, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent agency, said in its investigation.

Firefighters need to know where all oil trains move, Sens. Boxer, Feinstein say, joining Wyden, Merkley

On a hot summer day in Oklahoma in 2008, a train mostly carrying general freight – oats, corn, beer, lumber and grain – ran off the rails near Luther, northeast of Oklahoma City.

Eight cars filled with crude oil and one with methanol derailed, erupted in a fiery mushroom cloud and burned for 21 hours, forcing 35 people to evacuate.

Four years later in Columbus, Ohio, three ethanol cars derailed in an accident that caused a blaze that injured one person and forced 100 to evacuate.

Oil, rail industries want 7 years to fix tank cars

A top oil industry official says the oil and railroad industries are urging federal regulators to allow them as long as seven years to retrofit existing tank cars that transport highly volatile crude oil.

The cars have ruptured and spilled oil during collisions, leading to intense fires.

Exxon Fracking Report Responds to Shareholders

Exxon Mobil issued a report Tuesday that acknowledges the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing but also defends the practice as being better for the environment than other types of energy production and generation.

Under pressure from the corporate responsibility group As You Sow, as well as New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and other shareholders, Exxon agreed earlier this year to reveal more about how it manages the risks involved with the drilling technique, known as fracking.

The Explosive Debate Over A New Natural Gas Pipeline Through The Northeast

New York resident Bruce Shenker didn’t used to be concerned about the three underground natural gas pipelines running through his property. He’s grown to appreciate the path created by their construction as a running and cross-country skiing route, and besides, two of them were there before he moved in, a fixture of the landscape just like the trees and eight-acre field.

But after learning about Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct, a natural gas pipeline that’s proposed to run through his land, Shenker started getting worried. The pipeline would be under more pressure than the ones already running through his land and would carry more gas — 800 million to 2.2 billion cubic feet per day — prompting concern about explosions.

Anadarko pushes to avoid spill-related fines

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. says it shouldn’t pay pollution fines for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill because crude gushed from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and not from the Macondo subsea well in which it had a 25 percent stake.

Andarko said in a court filing that the entire 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should give it another chance to argue against potential liabilities linked to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill after a district judge’s recent findings contradicted an appellate panel’s “erroneous” assumptions about where the spill began.

BP cleanup workers await settlement fate

Mark Mead and two buddies were fishing fewer than 20 miles away when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burst into flames and lit up the night sky.

The trio rushed toward the floating inferno to help pull bodies out of the water. And as oil continued to gush out of BP’s broken well over the next four months, Mead helped again as a part of BP’s cleanup effort, picking up contaminated boom in the waters off Perdido Key.

2010 BP oil spill still having an impact on commercial fishing

Commercial catches for several varieties of seafood have decreased since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officials said.

Since the oil spill, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has paid close attention to the possible depletion of natural resources such as fish, crabs and shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico so a restoration plan can be put in place, said spokeswoman Ashley Roth.

Ship Channel Oil Spill Clean-Up Almost Complete

The Coast Guard reports a spill in the ship channel is mostly cleaned up as of Tuesday night.

The spill was reported near the Harbor Bridge Monday morning around 7 a.m.

NuStar has accepted responsibility for the spill. A spokesman with the Coast Guard said there was a spill at the facility and the oil was collected into a containment ditch. A valve that would normally be used to drain rainwater failed, causing oil to leak into the ship channel.

Training exercise aims to prepare responders for Mississippi oil spill

A coalition of federal, state and local emergency responders will conduct three days of training later this week to prepare for a large-scale train incident with crude oil spilling from tank cars into Mississippi river.

Training will begin Thursday, Oct. 2, at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in Onalaska and will expand Friday and Saturday onto the Mississippi River, with equipment being launched from the La Crosse Municipal Boat Harbor.

Arctic support vessel to feature advanced oil spill detection

Aptomar will provide its SECurus oil spill detection and combat technology to a vessel operating off the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

The equipment will be deployed from Icelandic offshore service company Fafnir Offshore’s Polarsyssel vessel, which was recently delivered from Havyard Ship Technology’s yard in Leirvik, Norway.

Texas energy company releases more details on pipeline

The Texas energy company that hopes to build a crude oil pipeline through Iowa released new information detailing the proposed project’s economic benefits, including a more than $1.35 billion capital investment in the state.

But before construction can begin, the pipeline still has many hurdles to clear.

Enbridge Delays Pipeline For At Least A Year

A Canadian company that wants to build the largest oil pipeline yet from western North Dakota’s booming oil patch is delaying the project for at least a year due to permitting problems in Minnesota.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Energy Partners LP disclosed the delay of the $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Enbridge Sees One-Year Delay in U.S. Approval for Cross-Border Oil Pipeline

Enbridge Inc. said it doesn’t expect U.S. approval for an expansion of a cross-border pipeline until mid-2015, a year later than it previously planned.

The Calgary-based company’s project to nearly double capacity of its Alberta Clipper pipeline to 800,000 barrels per day is awaiting a decision from the U.S. State Department, which is reviewing the application. The delay comes as rival TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL cross-border pipeline project has been in limbo for six years.

Enbridge eyes Mainline oil pipe expansion if demand strong

Enbridge Inc, Canada’s largest pipeline operator, said on Tuesday it may have to build new pipeline capacity from its Superior, Wisconsin, storage hub if oil shipments from Canada and the Bakken shale field of North Dakota keep expanding.

Speaking at the company’s annual investor day in Toronto, Guy Jarvis, head of the oil pipeline unit, said Enbridge could handle up to 500,000 more barrels per day (bpd) on its 2.5 million bpd system once it completes rebuilding its Line 3 pipeline from Alberta to Superior and finishes its Sandpiper pipeline serving the Bakken in 2017.

Enbridge to start filling reversed 9B pipeline with crude Nov. 1

Enbridge’s plan to start filling its reversed 9B pipeline in Eastern Canada will provide a much-needed option for refineries in Quebec to source competitively priced crude, Guy Jarvis, the company’s president for liquids pipelines, said Tuesday.

“The pipeline will provide access to light crude [from Western Canada and the Canadian Bakken] and also an alternative for the more expensive rail option,” he said on a webcast at the company’s Investor Day in Toronto.

U.S. sanctions against Russia stymie Western oil companies’ Arctic aspirations

The latest U.S. sanctions against Russia over Ukraine are starting to crimp not only the Russian economy but also major Western oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp., companies that have invested heavily in helping Russia tap into huge stores of oil buried offshore in remote Arctic waters and under the vast wilderness in eastern Siberia.

Under a joint venture with Rosneft, Russia’s sanctioned oil company, Exxon last month discovered what may be an oil field in the Kara Sea containing 750 million barrels.

Russian authorities terminate investigation into ‘Arctic 30’ protest after twelve months

Russia’s Investigative Committee (IC) has ended a year-long investigation into a peaceful protest at an Arctic oil rig last year which led to the imprisonment of 28 activists and two freelance journalists who became known as the ‘Arctic 30’.

Greenpeace lawyers were informed of the decision by telephone yesterday. The investigation had continued for over eight months after the activists were released from prison under the terms of an official amnesty in December 2013. Their ship, the icebreaker Arctic Sunrise, was subsequently released in June this year.

U.S. could press for international Arctic drilling standards

The United States may use its role heading the Arctic Council to push for standards governing oil drilling and development throughout the region, the Obama administration’s top Arctic envoy said Tuesday.

Retired Adm. Robert Papp Jr., who became the first U.S. special representative for the Arctic in July, said forthcoming Interior Department regulations governing Arctic drilling could be a model for other nations seeking to tap the region’s potential oil and gas riches.

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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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