Environmental Must-Reads – October 10, 2013


Builders secretly hoard mineral rights under property

Robert and Julie Davidson fell hard for the gleaming new house at the Valencia Golf and Country Club in Naples, Florida. They loved the way the palm-fringed, Spanish-style home backed up to the fifth-hole fairway. And they were taken with the three-bedroom’s high ceilings and open plan. Plus the neighborhood—with its power-washed driveways, blooming hibiscus and guarded gatehouse—seemed all “dressed up.”

But when the Davidsons paid $255,385 in 2011 for the house on Birdie Drive, they didn’t know that they had, in essence, bought only from the ground up, and that their homebuilder, D.R. Horton, had kept everything underneath.

How Tens of Thousands of Americans Got Cheated Out of Their Mineral Rights

What if a gas company wanted to set up a fracking rig on your property? What if you found out that you couldn’t say no? A new report from Reuters explains how tens of thousands of homeowners across America suddenly found themselves vulnerable to this nightmare scenario, as they discovered that their deeds cover their surface land but not the rights to the minerals beneath it. And as the American energy boom opens new land to extraction, homeowners from Florida to California to Washington to North Carolina have discovered that they unknowingly signed away the rights to what’s under their property. And they might not be able to do anything about it.

Pipeline explosion shoots flames into Oklahoma sky

Authorities say no one was injured when a natural gas pipeline exploded in northwest Oklahoma, shooting flames into the sky that were visible from up to 50 miles away.

Fire out, no service impact from Oklahoma pipeline blast

A natural gas pipeline fire in rural northwest Oklahoma was extinguished on Wednesday morning with no injuries reported, and the company that owns it, Northern Natural Gas, is working to determine the cause of the blast, a company spokesman said.

Europe Votes to Tighten Rules on Drilling Method

European Union lawmakers voted narrowly on Wednesday to force energy companies to carry out in-depth environmental audits before they deploy a technique known as fracking to recover natural gas from shale rock.

EU red tape threatens future of fracking

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted for new EU laws requiring that exploration for potential deposits of shale gas to face the same environmental regulation as a full-scale oil drilling.

Struan Stevenson, a Conservative MEP who sits on the European Parliament’s environment committee, warned that the plan could strangle the nascent fracking industry in Britain.

Natural gas ‘fracking’ has flipped US energy map, study says

Natural gas pipelines that for a half century sent natural gas flowing northward from energy-rich Gulf Coast states to heat and power the megacities of the chilly Northeast are seeing a role reversal. Northeast shale-gas discoveries are now being pumped in the opposite direction to meet rising industrial demand in the Southeast.

Duke Study: Fracking Is Leaving Radioactive Pollution In Pennsylvania Rivers

Residents near the Marcellus Shale Gas Field have long been wondering whether their water is safe to drink.

A new study from Duke University is likely to further stoke fears.

Geochemists have found dangerous levels of radioactivity and salinity at a fracking disposal site near Blacklick Creek, which feeds into water sources for Pittsburgh and other western Pennsylvania cities.

Fracking panel member wants stronger NY health review

A Southern Tier assemblywoman is asking the state to put an immediate pause on the Health Department’s review of hydraulic fracturing, instead calling for a more-comprehensive analysis that is “transparent and thorough.”

In a letter Wednesday to state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, knocked the state’s current review of fracking’s health impacts.

Reports: Range Resource admits it doesn’t know makeup of fracking fluid

EnergyWire reports a Pennsylvania judge has ordered a major drilling operator to disclose the full chemical composition of its fracking fluid.

Turns out, that’s not an easy task, according to court documents that show Range Resources does not know the makeup of the products it uses to extract natural gas from shale.

Despite abundant supply, natural gas slow to catch on as transportation fuel

The most recent Marcellus shale production numbers were record-breaking.  If Pennsylvania keeps up this pace, it will be producing enough gas to supply more than 10 percent of what the entire country uses in a year.

And with this glut, there are efforts to find new markets for the gas— especially in transportation.

Compressed natural gas (CNG) can be used as an alternative fuel to power cars and trucks, but it isn’t catching on everywhere.

Key fracking panelist calls for health study do-over

A Binghamton Assemblywoman who is on the Cuomo’s Administration’s hydro fracking advisory panel is asking for a do-over of an ongoing heath review, saying the secretive process has compromised public confidence.

Space View of Natural Gas Flaring Darkened by Budget Woes

Flaring, the deliberate open-air burning of natural gas, is a global air pollution and energy waste problem that is now growing along with U.S. oil production. (See related, “U.S. Edges Saudi Arabia, Russia in Oil and Gas.”) But the U.S. government’s budget mess has delayed a project to provide a new and more accurate measure of the extent of global flaring.

Justice Department rests in second phase of BP oil spill trial

Justice Department attorneys rested their case Wednesday in the federal civil trial of BP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., as the firms and the government continued to argue over how much oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico in the 87 days following the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP’s Macondo well.

Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council seeks public’s ideas on how oil spill money should be spent

The Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council has released its Draft Restoration Project Information Sheet for public comment per the organization.

Chairman of AGCRC Governor Robert Bentley says public input is a necessity.

Official: Demand rising for offshore service vessels

Even though spending on new offshore service and supply vessels has been increasing, the spike in output is not expected to be enough to keep up with demand in the Gulf of Mexico over the coming years, a top executive of Harvey Gulf International Marine, of New Orleans, said Wednesday.

Feds seek stay in lawsuit over Arkansas oil spill

Federal prosecutors in Arkansas asked a judge on Wednesday to stay proceedings in their lawsuit against ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. because of the federal government shutdown.

Soil Samples Show More Cleanup Needed in Mayflower

Apart from the boom that floats on top of the water, Lake Conway appears to be back to normal.

But part of the lake, especially in the area that’s become known as the cove, tests show trouble sits at the bottom.

Soil samples were taken at dozens of spots in and around Lake Conway and the neighborhood where the spill happened.

More Oil And Gas Wastewater Spills Found In Colorado After Flooding

The amount of released wastewater from oil and gas drilling sites being tracked in Colorado increased again, after floodwaters inundated one of the most densely drilled regions in the United States last month.

A total of 17 “produced water” releases — or 26,385 gallons of wastewater collected at the surface of an oil and gas drilling well — are now being monitored by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as of Tuesday. That’s up from last week’s 13 sites with a total of 18,060 gallons.

Oil spill off Mumbai worse than estimated

The oil spill on the Uran coast close to Mumbai is larger than what was estimated, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has said. The admission came two days after the leak of crude oil from an ONGC pipeline. It took 12 hours to cap.

Initially the MPCB estimated that 1,000 litres of oil had washed into the sea. On Wednesday, it said the figure could be thrice more. “The leakage started at 8.30 p.m. on Sunday and it was arrested around 11 a.m. the following day. This means that a lot of oil has seeped into the sea. It is definitely more than thrice the amount the ONGC estimated,” said Dr. Y.B. Sontakke, MPCB’s regional officer for Navi Mumbai.

One Thing Obama Can Do: Decide The Fate Of The KeystonePipeline

Journalist Ryan Lizza says there’s one far-reaching, controversial issue President Obama will soon get to decide all by himself, without having to ask Congress. He alone can approve or reject construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to take heavy crude oil extracted from Alberta, Canada, through America’s heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Some Environmentalists Worry Keystone XL Pipeline Could Become Bargaining Chip In Budget Talks

With Republicans trying to capitalize during a budget showdown that has shut down the government, some environmentalists are concerned the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could become a bargaining chip.

Groups lose bid to stop Gulf Coast pipeline

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower-court ruling to deny a preliminary injunction to stop construction of an oil pipeline running from Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Enbridge stumps for pipeline reversal in Canada

Canadian energy company Enbridge said reversing an oil pipeline for eastern provinces has commercial support though spill concerns were clear above the din.

Flowing Fuels: New Pipeline Carries Oil, Brings Lawsuits

Construction is underway on a new oil pipeline that will carry Canadian oil across several states. The line will begin in Illinois.

In this report, you’ll hear about the potential benefits and concerns with the project.

Russia sees Wrangel Island oil and gas potential; Greenpeace eyes an eastern Arctic front

A remote island off northeast Russia has been swept into that nation’s campaign to capitalize on the Arctic’s potential for untold oil and gas resources. Long a safe haven for an immense variety of Arctic species, the island hosted the last woolly mammoths to ever walk the earth. The idea that the area could be opened to oil exploration has environmentalists up in arms.

‘Hard drugs found’ on Greenpeace ship seized by Russia

Russian investigators say they have found what appear to be hard drugs on board the Greenpeace ship seized during a protest in the Arctic last month.

Greenpeace Director Kumi Naidoo Offers Himself in Exchange for Release of Arctic 30

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo has written to President Vladimir Putin offering to travel to Moscow as early as possible to meet with the Russian President, in an effort to end the continued incarceration of 28 peaceful activists and two freelance journalists.

Broken lives of Fukushima

Residents evacuated from the area after the March 2011 disaster are permitted to visit their homes once a month, but they are not allowed to stay overnight. Commercial fishing in the area has been banned, and the World Health Organization says children in Fukushima may have a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer.

Newest Fukushima leak contaminates 6 workers

Six workers at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were exposed to leaking radioactive water after one of them mistakenly removed a pipe to a water treatment system, the plant’s operator said Wednesday.

Fukushima Workers Exposed to Radiation in Filter System Leak

Six cleanup workers at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant were exposed to radiation after a hose piping contaminated water was mistakenly detached leaking seven metric tons, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) said.

Nuclear Power Through the Fukushima Perspective

It started this June in California. Speaking about the problems at the troubled San Onofre nuclear plants through the perspective of the Fukushima nuclear complex catastrophe was a panel of Naoto Kan, prime minister of Japan when the disaster began; Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the time; Peter Bradford, an NRC member when the Three Mile Island accident happened; and nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive Arne Gundersen.

Fukushima Radiation: Is it Safe to Eat the Fish?

Following Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, fear spread about risks of leaked radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant—for the health of those living in or near Fukushima or involved in cleanup efforts, and for the planet and the potential impacts on our complex marine food web.

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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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