Environmental Must-Reads – October 17, 2014


Trucks Hauling Frac Sand Not a Source of Lung-Disease Dust, Data Shows

Trucks hauling mounds of sand into the southern Minnesota town of Winona for delivery to drilling sites across the nation’s shale regions are not spewing dangerous dust emissions into the air, preliminary data shows.

This data was released early this month, from a monitor for crystalline silica dust, or frac sand, a known trigger of lung disease. The instrument was placed along Winona’s busy truck route at the start of the year in response to local concern.

New York court rejects bid to revive fracking ban case

New York’s highest court has rejected an attempt by the oil and gas industry to revive its fight against local fracking bans.

In a precedent-setting decision last June, the Court of Appeals ruled that communities have the right to use local land-use authority to prohibit oil and gas operations within their borders. On Thursday, the court denied a motion by the trustee for bankrupt Norse Energy to reargue its case against the town of Dryden.

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.

Fighting the good fight against fracking in S.Africa

Fracking could be the 100 billion US dollar energy game changer that Africa needs at the risk of destroying the Karoo. It’s has sparked conflict before a drill has touched the earth.

Like his fellow 3,000 farmers, Dickie Ogilvie won’t let fracking vie without a fight. Ogilvie gave up teaching to help his wife, Colleen, take over her brother’s farm, Doorndraai, 100 kilometers south west of Graaff Reinet. His fears have led him to pledge 3 rand for every hectare on his 14,000 hectare farm to fight fracking in court. Most farmers across the Karoo are as trenchant as him.

Last gasp for Eden: Creating a peaceful buffer against fracking

It’s a small corner of the Karoo: a corridor of private land that stretches 300,000 hectares from the Camdeboo National Park, in Graaff Reinet, east to the Mountain Zebra National Park. It took 66 farmers over three years to buy into this project that promises a Garden of Eden teeming with wildlife. It could become known as the last piece of untouched land in the Karoo if fracking begins.

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.

‘Hot under the collar’

Several months after signing what he thought was a petition to have a ballot initiative on hydraulic fracturing, Denton resident Elvis Stephens says he was contacted about using his name in a newspaper advertisement campaigning against the proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing. Stephens said that he did not want his name in the ad, but his name ended up among a list of those opposed to a fracking ban which ran as part of a full-page ad in Wednesday’s edition of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Wis. city’s land grab to attract frac-sand mine is overruled by state agency

A western Wisconsin city that annexed land from neighboring townships in an effort to entice a large frac-sand mine could see its gambit reversed by state officials in a case that has the potential to discourage the spread of similar mining projects across the state.

The so-called “balloon-on-a-string’’ annexation — in which the city of Independence claimed authority over a long, narrow strip of land to extend its boundary to a large mining site miles away — was too arbitrary and irregular to meet state legal tests, the Wisconsin Department of Administration concluded. The annexation, which was designed in connection with a project by Texas-based Superior Silica Sands, would have placed the mine under city jurisdiction and exempted it from environmental regulation by Trempealeau County.

Landowners sue over fracking delay

Amy Pollard is one of thousands of landowners in southern Illinois who leased land to oil drillers two years ago for horizontal hydraulic fracturing. By now, she thought the money and the oil would be flowing.

But on Tuesday, Marc Miller, head of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, testified that the agency would not issue fracking permits until rules governing fracking are codified.

Fracking Diaries

The headline should have read, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Representative Jared Polis deny public vote on fracking with last minute deal giving backyard fracking the continued green light in Colorado.

Instead Lynn Bartels, reporting in the hedge fund-owned Denver Post, gushed that a grand compromise had been struck.  We were to believe from her front-page story that while the negotiating might not have been fully worthy of Talleyrand (a man once described as a turd wrapped in silk), it was surely ballpark, for all the political rainmakers in the state agreed.  Something great had happened.  The nasty, unwashed public with its concerns about backyard fracking had been silenced once again.

Army corps eyes impact of pipeline on environment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has raised new concerns about the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Constitution Pipeline, and is directing the project’s planners to complete provide more data.

The federal agency listed its concerns in a letter to the Constitution Pipeline Co. LLC that was released this week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the panel of White House-appointed regulators that will decide whether the proposed $700-million project is licensed.

South Carolina could get about 100 miles of new pipeline

Plans are in the works for a billion-dollar pipeline that would extend from Belton, South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida.

The plan is to carry gas, diesel and ethanol from Louisiana to Florida. There is already a pipeline in place for some of this area, but 360 miles of new pipeline would be built starting in Belton. About 100 miles of the 360 would be in South Carolina.

Feds settle Gulf pollution case

A subsidiary of Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas will pay a $1 million fine to settle government charges alleging it illegally dumped oil and chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico.

Under the settlement agreement reached between ATP Infrastructure Partners LP and the United States, the company will also be forced to remove a pipe from its Innovator platform that the government says allowed the firm to inject chemical dispersants into the water and mask illegally discharged oil.

Feds move ahead with central Gulf auction

The Obama administration is moving ahead with plans to sell offshore drilling rights in the central Gulf of Mexico.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Thursday issued a formal “notice of sale” for the oil and gas lease auction planned for March 18.

About 7,477 blocks spanning 43.5 million acres off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama will be up for grabs in the auction, though the sealed bids oil companies give the government generally cover only a small sliver of that territory.

Mooringsport residents concerned over oil spill on their property

A massive clean up is underway in Mooringsport and the owner of the property believes there’s far more to the story than what’s being publicized.

“My biggest concern is that it’s much worse than people realize, and that the long term effects are going to be much worse” says a local family.

Oil spill claims administrator says BP ‘not completely candid’ in bid to remove him

Lafayette attorney Patrick Juneau is fighting back against BP’s bid to remove him as head of oil spill claim payments, arguing the company’s accusations against him are “utterly meritless” and “not completely candid.”

In a Wednesday (Oct. 15) filing in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, Juneau asked a federal judge to block BP’s request, arguing that his track record in the job proves he has been fair and competent in administering the oil spill claims program over more than two years.

Oil spill plaintiff’s lawyers contest BP’s move to oust economic claims chief

A move by oil giant BP to have a court fire the administrator of a damage claims settlement arising from the 2010 BP oil spill was opposed Wednesday by the administrator as well as by lawyers for Gulf Coast interests claiming harm from the disaster.

BP had filed a federal court motion in September saying Patrick Juneau should be removed. Among the reasons: They said Juneau once represented Louisiana in talks setting up the claims process and had pushed for favorable terms for those with claims. According to BP’s motion, Juneau worked for the state from July 2010 until July 21, 2011.

Texas law firm target of BP lawsuit

Three Mississippi businessmen argue in a federal lawsuit that Texas attorneys owe them $7.9 million for steering to them thousands of people seeking to resolve claims against BP from the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Gulf Coast businessmen Scott Walker, Kirk Ladner and Steve Seymour, who is also a Hancock County supervisor, filed the lawsuit this past week in U.S. District Court in Gulfport, Mississippi.

La. shrimper pleads guilty to oil spill claims fraud

Slidell shrimper Casey Thonn pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of wire fraud for collecting more than $355,000 under the BP oil spill claims settlement, according to documents filed in federal court.

Thonn admitted guilt after U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office charged him with oil spill claims fraud. Prosecutors said Thonn filed a false income tax return in 2009 showing he made $156,000 from shrimping in 2009. He then showed a loss of income in 2010, the year of the BP oil spill that shut down Gulf shrimping, and falsely increased his compensation from $885 to more than $190,000, prosecutors said.

This proposed pipeline would be even bigger than Keystone XL

Meet Energy East: It will be 2,858-miles long, putting it right up there with some of the longest pipelines in the world. It would pump about a third more crude than Keystone XL was intended to. It’ll be bigger than the Druzhba pipeline, which carries oil 2,500 miles from Southeast Russia to the rest of Europe.

“Bigger” is the point. There’s no sense in extracting crude from Canada’s tar sands if you can’t sell it in extreme bulk, and a big part of selling it is figuring out how to get it to people. The fight against Keystone XL complicated plans to sell it to the U.S., so the crude had to be moved through preexisting channels instead.

Identifying the Zeitgeist of Canada’s Proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

731. This is the length in miles of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline that will carry bitumen oil products extracted from the oil sands of northern Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. From there the oil will be exported by oil tankers to a demanding global market.

For the next nine months, I will travel slowly along these 731 miles, following this invisible oil trail that has come to symbolize the divergent concerns of these two Canadian provinces regarding the management and future of their respective natural resources. I will listen to and record the stories of the people and places I visit using photography, video and audio recording. I will also map my surroundings using the weather-balloon-and-kite-mapping kits developed by Public Lab, a citizen science nonprofit, and teach community workshops on how to use these tools.

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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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