Environmental Must-Reads – October 16, 2014


Frac sand mine may have contaminated drinking water

There is concern over the safety of drinking water in part of Trempealeau County. This comes after a frac sand mine near Independence was shut down and is now being investigated for three different violations that go against its permit with the county.

One of the violations refers to a dangerous chemical that may have gotten into the soil.

This New Study Explains Why Fracking Won’t Solve Climate Change

For President Obama, fracking is a key weapon against global warming. Abundant natural gas, he said in his State of the Union address this year, is a “bridge fuel” to ubiquitous renewable energy—the key to securing economic growth “with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”

Not everyone agrees. In fact, the debate over whether natural gas is the antidote to our deadly addiction to coal, or a faux climate change solution that will stall the clean energy revolution, is one of the most hotly contested environmental questions of the day. It has produced a host of recent studies examining complex questions about global energy markets and the specific chemistry of various greenhouse gases. The latest volley in that debate is out today in a new paper in Nature.

Fracking boom will not tackle global warming, analysis warns

An unrestrained global fracking boom that unleashes plentiful and cheap gas will not tackle global warming by replacing coal and cutting carbon emissions, according to a comprehensive analysis that takes into account the impact on the rest of the energy supply.

Burning natural gas produces half the carbon dioxide released by coal, and shale gas proponents argue that gas can therefore be a “bridge” fuel, curbing emissions while very low carbon sources such as renewable and nuclear energy are ramped up.

Fracking In Ohio Triggered 400 Tiny Earthquakes Over 3-Month Period, Scientists Say

The controversial oil and gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, triggered 400 small earthquakes in Ohio over a three-month period in 2013, according to new peer-reviewed research published Tuesday.

Conducted by seismologists Paul Friberg, Ilya Dricker, and Glenda Besana-Ostman, the research reveals a previously undiscovered fault line approximately two miles below three horizontal gas wells near the town of Uhrichsville, Ohio. In one instance, the researchers say they detected 190 tiny earthquakes below one of those wells during a 39-hour period starting just after that well was fracked.

Fracking Poisons California’s Water

Nearly 3 billion gallons (or the equivalent of 454 Olympic swimming pools) of oil industry wastewater were illegally dumped into central California’s aquifer supplying drinking water and irrigation to farmers.

Documents obtained by The Center for Biological Diversity also revealed that Central Valley Water Board tests found high levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates in water supply wells near nine of the hydraulic fracking wastewater disposal operations. Sullying fresh water contravenes both California’s state law and the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, which protects aquifers.

Fracking Boom Has Had Devastating Consequences For Motorists

A joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and Houston Public Media shines a light on one of the fracking boom’s lesser known impacts: traffic deaths.

With several shale fields in play—including Eagle Ford and Permian Basin, which together are pumping out over 3.2 million barrels per day—Texas has contributed heavily to the fracked oil boom. Apparently, motorists have paid a heavy price for that oil.

Firm seeks state OK for gas pipeline

A Columbus-based natural-gas pipeline operator is seeking state permission to build a 22-mile pipeline from Maumee to Oregon to supply a gas-fueled electric power plant planned for the North Lallendorf Road area.

The Oregon Lateral pipeline would pass through eight communities in Wood and Lucas counties along a route that will take it under the Maumee River, east across both I-75 and I-280, and then north before reaching its connecting point in Oregon.

Concern growing over proposed gas pipeline

Concern is growing about a proposed gas pipeline. Officials say the pipeline will bring cheaper gas but many residents aren’t buying it. Delaware Township, New Jersey recently passed an anti pipeline resolution. Now some in a Bucks County Township are wanting to do the same..but will it make a difference?

Montgomery County supervisors comment on pipeline after hearing from large crowd

On the day after a large turnout at a meeting Tuesday night, Gary Creed expressed concern about the explosion and fire that might erupt from a natural gas pipeline. He also wondered how much of the natural gas moving through a proposed pipeline would end up being exported to other countries.

Creed, a member of Montgomery County’s Board of Supervisors, said he worried about the consequences if something went awry with a buried pipeline transporting natural gas at high pressure through the county in a large-diameter steel pipe.

Residents get look at proposed natural gas pipeline

County residents got their first look Wednesday at a proposed 250-mile natural gas pipeline route that would run through Sandusky County, as developers look to start a $1.5 billion project in 2017 that stretches across northern Ohio and into southeastern Michigan.

Officials for NEXUS Gas Transmission, LLC, were on hand at Terra State Community College to talk to residents within the pipeline’s proposed route about preliminary plans for the project and a 600-foot study corridor where surveys will be conducted on possible environmental impacts and civil, engineering and wetlands concerns.

Landowners can’t fight pipeline

Bill Goldman, an eminent-domain attorney from Columbus, struck a glum tone on a rainy Tuesday evening as he spoke to a roomful of landowners about an imminent natural gas pipeline planned for Richland and Crawford counties.

“I, honest to God, don’t know of any way to stop it,” Goldman said, speaking of Energy Transfer’s proposed Rover pipeline, which would transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale gas plays in Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio through this region.

Aerial views of gas pipeline posted online

Aerial views of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline are now posted online.

The maps show the 400 foot-wide corridor of the proposed pipeline that would run through Nelson County. Two thin red lines show the route and every parcel of property and road that would be impacted.

Plaintiffs urge courts to reject BP’s push to oust oil spill claims program head

Plaintiffs’ lawyers on Wednesday (Oct. 15) urged a federal judge to block BP’s request to remove Patrick Juneau as head of 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill claim payments, painting the move as an example of the company’s “fundamental and recurring mischaracterization” of the settlement deal.

In a filing in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, plaintiffs’ lawyers representing thousands of oil spill claimants said BP “meticulously” vetted Juneau prior to approving him as claims administrator in 2012.

Oil spill claims boss rebuts BP’s bid to remove him

The Louisiana lawyer in charge of dispensing BP’s oil spill settlement money struck back Wednesday against BP’s attempt to oust him, calling it a “revisionist” argument.

It was his most significant counterattack in the year-long fight over the multibillion-dollar 2012 pact.

Gulf spill claims chief responds to BP complaints

Plaintiffs’ lawyers Wednesday questioned whether BP was leveling “outrageous and unfounded accusations” against a claims administrator for the the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in hopes that a judge would sanction BP and open new avenues for the oil giant to appeal.

BP CEO Bob Dudley has accused claims administrator Patrick Juneau of “hijacking” and “willfully misinterpreting” the settlement. Last month BP filed a motion to have Juneau removed because he had a contract with the state of Louisiana advising the government about the claims payment process of Ken Feinberg, the man in charge of compensation before the 2012 court settlement.

Gulf Coast chambers right to fight BP’s attempt to erode settlement

The oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s broken well for 87 days in 2010 did enormous damage to coastal businesses and residents. The chambers of commerce in the region understand that well, as do thousands of business owners in the communities they represent. Unfortunately, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is clueless.

The national chamber filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court siding with BP, which is trying to renege on the terms in a 2012 court settlement for economic damages from the spill. The company is unhappy that claimants are not required to show a direct link to the spill for their losses.

Oil spill fines head to state, parishes

State and parish governments are now clear to apply for an estimated $56 million in oil spill fine money to help stem coastal erosion.

Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes are in line to receive more than $1 million apiece.

Claims Flowing Again in BP Oil Spill Case

The current television publicity blitz by oil giant BP PLC touts how its operations in Alaska provide American jobs throughout the nation.

But a Sarasota law firm said this week the British energy multinational is doing everything it can to delay paying American businesses with legitimate claims for losses due to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Slidell man pleads guilty to wire fraud in BP oil spill claim scam

A Slidell man at the center of an investigation into fraud in the BP oil spill settlement pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Oct. 10) to two counts of wire fraud.

Casey Thonn, 35, admitted in court that he submitted fake tax return forms to support a shrimping claim he filed after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Harris County Seeks Accounting for Decades of Pollution

Laced with the poisons of many years of industrial activity, waterways around Houston are considered toxic enough that adults are cautioned not to eat more than 8 ounces of fish or blue crabs taken from them. Pregnant women and children are warned to eat none at all.

For more than half a century, parts of the San Jacinto River, Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay have suffered devastating environmental contamination. And for decades, nobody knew for sure who was responsible for dumping what. But in recent years, at least some of the most noxious pollution has been traced to wastewater from a paper mill that was dumped into Houston area waters beginning in 1965.

Fuel pipeline will go from Mexico to U.S.

Just two months after Mexico opened its energy industry to foreign investment, NuStar Energy said Wednesday it plans to develop a pipeline in partnership with an arm of state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

San Antonio-based NuStar and Pemex affiliate PMI said the pipeline will transport liquefied petroleum gases and refined fuels such as gasoline from the United States into northern Mexico.

Enbridge request denied: A small victory for ‘No Line 9’

On Monday, October 6, the National Energy Board (NEB) released a letter temporarily denying Enbridge’s “Leave to Open” submission on Line 9 based on the inadequacy of the valve safety standards on the pipeline.

The NEB is requiring that Enbridge install valves on both sides of all Major Water Crossings and other significant areas in order to “limit damage from accidental discharge” and provide “automatic blockage of the pipeline”. Last month, the NEB rejected Enbridge’s petition to cancel over 100 “Integrity Digs” on Line 9, requiring Enbridge to complete at least one additional dig.

Enbridge Sandpiper faces more environmental concerns at PUC, EQB

Four Minnesota House and Senate Chairs for environment and natural resources, transportation and energy policy committees wrote a letter to the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) Sept. 23 thanking them for taking a lead in “an inter-agency effort to better understand the impacts of projected oil pipeline expansions in Minnesota.”

The letter to William Seuffert, executive director of the EQB, is authored by Reps. Frank Hornstein, Jean Wagenius, Sen. Scott Dibble and John Marty and notes “there is significant public concern with Enbridge Energy’s Sandpiper and Alberta Clipper projects . . . [and] we are recommending that the EQB white paper on pipelines examine three specific areas of concern with regard to Minnesota’s pipeline industry: spill response, lessons from the Enbridge Kalamazoo River disaster and spill history, and safety violations involving the pipeline industry.”

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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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