Environmental Must-Reads – October 20, 2014


Fracking ban on the ballot in tiny San Benito County has big statewide implications

When President Ronald Reagan was pushing for offshore oil drilling on the edges of Monterey Bay in the mid-1980s, Santa Cruz voters fought back, approving a ballot measure that banned construction of all storage tanks, pipelines and other oil equipment in the city.

The small protest vote was soon copied by 25 other coastal communities, from San Diego to Fort Bragg, helping to kill the oil industry’s drilling plans.

State studies on shale-site air emissions incomplete, according to court documents

Three widely cited state studies of air emissions at Marcellus Shale gas development sites in Pennsylvania omit measurements of key air toxics and calculate the health risks of just two of more than two dozen pollutants.

State regulators and the shale gas drilling industry over the past four years have repeatedly used the regional studies to support their positions that air emissions from drilling, fracking wastewater impoundments and compressor stations don’t pose a public health risk.

Can an oil and gas superpower lead on climate change?

A day before President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations to declare the nation is “stepping up to the plate” to tackle climate change, nearly 400,000 protesters jammed New York City streets in a climate change march. Many held signs calling for an end to fracking.

Environmental activists see the U.S. natural gas and oil production boom, spurred by fracking, as a major contributor to global warming. Obama has lauded the country’s shale boom as an economic boon and a geopolitical lever.

Energy companies, environmentalists fund Denton fracking fight

The battle over Denton’s proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing is the latest showdown between environmentalists and oil and gas companies.

The companies have been pumping big money into the campaign against the November ballot measure, collecting five times as much as the group that called for the measure. According to the latest reports filed with the state, more than half of the donations to the ban-supporting group came as in-kind contributions from Earthworks, an environmental group based in Washington.

Frack check

Mailers, fliers and door hangers about the proposition to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city limits have papered Denton homes in recent weeks.

Through Sept. 25, opponents to the proposition, funded primarily by energy companies, spent about $186,000 against the so-called frack ban, according to campaign finance reports.

Earthquake data underscore fracking risk

It was either an ironic coincidence or a portent of things to come that nearly 200,000 North Carolinians last week participated in Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills just a few days after a geological study linked hydraulic fracking to more than 400 tremors last year in Ohio.

The report, which appeared in the journal Seismological Research Letters, identified nearly 400 small quakes on a previously unmapped fault between Oct. 1 and Dec. 13, 2013. Similar research studies have linked the dramatic increase of earthquakes in Oklahoma to fracking.

Fracking Boom Town Wary Of Pastor’s ‘Overnighters’

Jesse Moss tells NPR’s Scott Simon about his documentary, The Overnighters. It follows a pastor in a North Dakota oil boom town whose life is upended when he opens the church to down-and-out workers.

New rules could limit methane emissions’ effects on the atmosphere

THE OBAMA administration spent all summer mulling new measures to cut air pollution from the booming natural gas industry . Now federal officials are nearing a decision on whether and how to limit emissions from wells, storage tanks and other places from which gas can leak. Whether you believe that the country’s fracking boom is an economic godsend or an environmental disaster — or both — you should favor measures to limit the industry’s effects on the atmosphere.

Seliger stands on oil industry being proactive regarding groundwater

During one of the morning panels about water for the Permian Basin Petroleum Association’s 52nd Annual Meeting, state Sen. Kel Seliger weighed in on the issue of oil companies applying for groundwater well permits.

He said that, although the oil and gas industry represents less than 1 percent of the total water used in the state, the main point is that anyone who uses water has a responsibility to conserve it.

Fracking Growth Moves Too Rapidly for Environmental Caution

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a popular method for extracting natural gas, has been increasingly controversial. And the speed of its expansion is now outpacing our understanding of environmental concerns.

First, there was the June 28 explosion and fire at a fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio, which caused thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals to spill into a tributary of the Ohio River, killing over 70,000 fish . Then there was the study released in July that implicated fracking in an increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma. Namely, researchers found that four fracking wells in the Oklahoma City area were accountable for more than 100 earthquakes that reached a magnitude 3 or greater between 2008 and 2013.

Candidates’ frustrations on display in final Md. gubernatorial debate

Meeting for the final time before Maryland’s election, the two leading candidates for governor sparred in a wide-ranging debate Saturday over improving the state’s business climate and their respective abilities to lead the heavily Democratic state.

Anthony G. Brown (D) and Larry Hogan (R) appeared to grow exasperated with each other at several points during the hour-long face-off, as they highlighted differences in their approaches to educational disparities, transportation investments and hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas.

Methane Hotspot Seen from Space

Using satellite data, scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan found a spike of methane over the Four Corners region of the United States. Host Steve Curwood talks with Christian Frankenberg of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory about the unexpected finding and its likely source.

Cincinnati joins worldwide day of action calling for ban on fracking

A coalition of four organizations gathered at Fountain Square last weekend to call for a ban on fracking and to ask Ohio’s governor to be a major part of making that happen.

The event in downtown Cincinnati was one of more than 200 that took place around the world Saturday, Oct. 11 as part of the third annual Global Frackdown , a worldwide day of action against fracking and related oil and gas infrastructure.

Onshore rigs could flee La. as oil prices go down

Falling oil prices could speed the departure of onshore drilling rigs from the state, particularly in the still-developing Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, which underlies parts of southeast Louisiana.

But experts say it will take a longer downturn to slow deepwater activity in the Gulf of Mexico, where the rig count is expected to jump 50 percent by 2016.

Feds to offer 40 million acres in Gulf of Mexico for oil, gas drilling

The federal government will offer more than 40 million acres off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for oil and gas exploration, the seventh sale in the Gulf of Mexico under its five-year leasing program.

The lease sale, which will be held in March 2015 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, will cover all the available unleased areas in the central Gulf of Mexico, more than 7,000 lease blocks spanning 40.5 million acres.

Chevron drillship arrives deep in the Gulf of Mexico

A fifth Chevron drillship has arrived in a region deep in the Gulf of Mexico, the company announced Friday.

The Pacific Sharav, built to Chevron’s specifications, will work in the Keathley Canyon under a five-year contract with Pacific Drilling, a Houston-based ultra-deepwater drilling contractor.

‘Major’ Oil Spill Strikes Louisiana, Threatens Waterways

Officials on Sunday are continuing work to contain what an EPA representative called a major oil spill in northwestern Louisiana that could take months to clean up.

The rupture of Sunoco Logistics’ Mid-Valley pipeline near Mooringsport in Caddo Parish on Monday released an estimated 4,000 barrels of crude oil.

That amount makes it one of this year’s largest spills, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing federal records.

Officials say oil spill has not reached Caddo Lake

Cleanup crews continue to mop up a 4,000-barrell oil spill into a four-mile stretch of Tete Bayou northwest of Shreveport.

Officials said Saturday that the oil has been contained without reaching Caddo Lake, which straddles the Texas-Louisiana state line and provides drinking water for some water systems.

Thousands of barrels of crude oil spill into Louisiana wild in pipeline burst requiring months of clean-up 

Dozens of fish and reptiles have been killed by a toxic spill that will have Louisiana cleanup crews busy for months to come.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials confirmed that it was the result of an oil leak in the Caddo Parish from Mid-Valley Pipeline.

‘I would call it a significant size spill,’ said EPA on-scene coordinator Bill Rhotenberry.

Mooringsport oil spill update, 2,400 barrels recovered so far

Five collection points have not been set up along Tete Bayou after access roads were built in cooperation with local landowners. About 270 people, including Sunoco Logistics, contractors and government agencies are onsite to help with the cleanup. Officials say their primary focus is on public safety and protection of the environment through recovery of the released product.

State hosts webinar on oil spill restoration projects

The public is invited to join a webinar next week focusing on projects the state wants to submit for oil spill fine money.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is presenting the webinar 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Wisconsin Man Pedals for Pipeline Awareness

An 80-year old Wisconsin man is boarding his bike and traveling across 16 counties in Wisconsin to raise awareness to what he sees as the threats Enbridge pipelines could have on public safety and the environment.

The 16 counties that he plans to ride through are counties that could see an Enbridge Pipeline 61 pass through them. The pipeline would start in Superior, Wis., making it way into Illinois.

Voters Could Stop Keystone XL Pipeline through South Dakota Senate Race

As Democrat Senator Tim Johnson prepares to retire, three candidates are making a run for his seat in the senate.  Only one has made a positive impression in South Dakota’s Indian country, which makes up approximately 9 percent of the state’s voters.

It’s a tight race between the three candidates, with Governor Mike Rounds and Independent Larry Pressler counting only on the mainstream. All of South Dakota’s tribes are endorsing “Nobody’s Bought Me” Democrat Rick Weiland, which could tip the scales heavily in his favor if Natives get out and vote. “Not 50 percent, we need 80 percent of the tribal members to vote,” Rick Weiland said in an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network.

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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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