Environmental Must-Reads – October 21, 2014


Drilling/fracking project in St. Tammany receives support of Northshore Business Council

Helis Oil’s proposed drilling and fracking project near Mandeville has picked up the support of the Northshore Business Council, an organization made up of business leaders in St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes. The organization twice issued news releases since late July touting its general support of the oil and gas industry and the economic benefits it provides to the local area and state, but didn’t specifically say that it was backing Helis’ project.

Pennsylvania Parents Want to Keep Fracking at a Distance

As natural gas drilling pads, pipelines and compressor stations spring up around the state, groups of parents calling themselves Protect Our Children are hoping for at least a one-mile buffer between infrastructure and schools and playgrounds.

Penni Lechner, a mother in Summit Township, says her family has experienced a number of health problems since fracking arrived in the area, especially with nosebleeds, headaches and rashes. A well pad is located just 900 feet from the local school, and 500 feet from the playground.

Berkeley Earthquake Expert Links Fracking To Quakes On The ‘Tectonic Timebomb’

As the Bay Area marked the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake on Friday, there was no shortage of reminders of the power of Mother Nature and the promise of other big quakes to come.

But along with trying to predict Mother Nature’s timing of quakes, researchers are also looking into how hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can impact geological events.

The drilling industry’s explosion problem

Temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit froze the valve on the back of Greg Bish’s frack truck. To thaw it, he fetched a blowtorch and put the 4-inch flame to the metal.

The explosion blew him 75 feet, over a 7-foot-tall barbed-wire fence, and killed him.

It might seem dangerous to apply a propane torch to the back of a large metal tank holding natural gas production waste, as Bish did that morning in 2010 just outside Elderton, Pa. But in the oil and gas industry, it’s not unusual.

A year after N.D. oil spill, cleanup goes on

One year after a pipeline rupture flooded a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota with more than 20,000 barrels of crude, Tesoro Corp. is still working around the clock cleaning up the oil spill — one of the largest to happen onshore in U.S. history.

Cleanup costs have soared from the company’s original estimate of $4 million to a forecast of more than $20 million, and it may be at least another year before the work is completed, the company and state officials said. The oil-sopped parcel of land, about the size of seven football fields, is not usable for planting now.

Duke researchers identify tracking tool for fracking fluids

Duke University researchers said they have identified a new method to trace leaks and spills of fracking fluids by using a novel geochemical fingerprinting technology.

In a study published Monday, the six scientists write that they are the first to describe the tracer method, which can pinpoint highly diluted remnants of the industrial fluids in waterways and other drinking water sources.

Land records show many state parks could see mining, drilling

About 40 percent of Ohio’s natural treasures — its state parks, forests and wildlife and nature preserves — could be undermined in the quest to remove valuable coal, oil, natural gas and other minerals.

Mineral rights owned by other parties could permit mining or drilling in parts of 18 state forests, 24 state parks and 53 natural areas, according to an analysis of state land records by The Dispatch.

Finding Fracking Fluids In The Environment

New geochemical tracers can identify any hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids that could have spilled into the environment, according to field tests at a spill site in West Virginia and downstream from an oil and gas brine wastewater treatment plant in Pennsylvania.

Using boron and lithium tracers, scientists can determine if fracking fluid contamination has been released into the environment, which will help identify ways to improve disposal and treatment of shale gas wastewater.

Eastern Cherokee Band Forbids Fracking on Its Sovereign Lands

Invoking tribal health and cultural survival, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has declared a ban on fracking on its sovereign land in what is today North Carolina.

“The Eastern Band of Cherokees will not permit or authorize any person, corporation or other legal entity to engage in hydraulic fracturing on Tribal trust lands,” reads part of the text of a resolution passed unanimously by the Tribal Council last month and signed into law by Principal Chief Mitchell Hicks on September 10. “The State of North Carolina is without legal authority to permit hydraulic fracturing on Tribal trust lands.”

La Habra Heights group racing to place oil drilling, fracking ban on March 3 ballot

As an anti-oil group races against time to place an initiative, which would ban new oil wells and fracking, on the March 3 City Council ballot, the City Council has taken steps to help speed up the process.

The City Council last week voted unanimously to authorize City Manager Shauna Clark to prepare a report on the effects of an initiative aimed at stopping Matrix Oil Company’s plan to drill for oil on an 18-acre parcel owned by Southern California Gas Co. at 2490 Las Palomas Drive.

Oil spill cleanup reaches 2,550 of 4,000 barrels

Contractors have mopped up another 650 barrels of crude oil that spilled from a broken pipeline near Mooringsport Monday, bringing the total recovery to about 2,550 barrels.

Pipeline owner Sunoco Logistics put the total loss at about 4,000 barrels before the broken line was shut down. The estimate is based on how much was flowing through it and the topography in the area. The exact loss has yet to be calculated.

2,550 barrels of crude recovered from oil spill

Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. says it has recovered 2,550 barrels of crude oil that spilled into a Louisiana bayou last week from its Mid-Valley Pipeline. The pipeline remains out of service indefinitely until repairs can be done.

The Philadelphia company estimated last week that as much as 4,000 barrels – 168,000 gallons – spilled from a break in the underground pipeline. The Mid-Valley system, which transports crude oil from Texas to Midwestern refineries, terminates near Detroit.

Pipeline Spills ‘Significant’ Amount Of Oil Into Louisiana Bayou

Pipeline workers discovered a 4,000-barrel crude oil spill in Louisiana last week, and say that mopping up the spill will likely keep cleanup crews and regulatory agencies in the sparsely-populated area for months.

The oil spilled into Tete Bayou, and though it’s been contained enough to prevent it from entering Caddo Lake, which is a source of drinking water, the spill has killed 84 animals — mostly fish and reptiles — as of Sunday morning. Though no evacuations were ordered, strong fumes from the oil spill caused three families who lived nearby to voluntarily leave. Sunoco Logistics, which owns the pipeline, is paying for the families’ living expenses while they’re away from their homes.

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Louisiana Lawsuit Appeal In BP Oil Spill

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from 11 Louisiana parishes that wanted to revive their lawsuits over wildlife damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill. A rupture of BP’s Macondo well and the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers.

Justices won’t revive Louisiana parish claims

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from 11 Louisiana parishes that wanted to revive their lawsuits over wildlife damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill. A rupture of BP’s Macondo well and the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers.

Oil and gas backs Democrat’s bid to keep Louisiana U.S. Senate seat

Oil and gas interests are pouring money into a tight U.S. Senate race in Louisiana, giving twice as much to the Senate campaign of incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu than her Republican challenger even though the industry backs the Republican push to regain control of the Senate.

Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, is struggling to fend off Republican Representative Bill Cassidy and Tea Party favorite Rob Maness on Nov. 4 in one of a handful of races that could determine which party holds a Senate majority.

Exxon Valdez oil spill restoration plan taking longer than expected

Government attorneys say a restoration plan for addressing lingering effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill is taking longer than expected to complete.

The six-step plan includes testing of possible bioremediation technologies.

Kinder Morgan Canada pipeline plans hits a mountain of opposition

A Western Canadian pipeline once seen as the best near-term hope for sending more of the country’s controversial tar sands crude to Asia has hit another snag: aboriginal communities intent on using the courts to block the proposed expansion.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners’ C$5.4 billion ($4.8 billion) Trans Mountain expansion would twin a 60-year-old line running from the oil-rich province of Alberta to the coastal city of Vancouver, tripling its capacity.

Enbridge oil pipeline project delayed by spill concerns

Citing water-safety concerns, the Canada National Energy Board denied the application for an oil pipeline project proposed by Enbridge Pipelines of Calgary that would carry crude oil across the watersheds of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River — a move praised by Clayton environmental advocacy group Save the River, which opposed to the project.

The denial of the application, made Oct. 6 by the energy board, will delay a project that would reverse the direction of oil shipped through a 639-kilometer section of Enbridge’s Line 9B pipe that runs from North Westover, Ontario, to Montreal, crossing numerous tributaries of the St. Lawrence River.

Environmental panel informs residents of pipeline pitfalls

Local and regional environmentalists held a public forum Monday evening at Northampton Community College educating a group of over 100 area residents about the dangers of the proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline. The 105-mile long route is mapped to run through Northampton, Carbon, and Bucks counties in eastern Pennsylvania.

Arctic cultures could be under threat as mining and oil come to their lands

Chukotka is the most northeasterly region of Russia. It’s so far east, in fact, that it’s actually the only part of Russia that crosses the International Date Line into the Western Hemisphere. It may be remote, but it’s a perfect place for a test of traditional hunting and survival skills among Artic peoples.

Fukushima film shows reality sinking in for ‘nuclear refugees’

Before the Fukushima nuclear crisis forced them from their homes, residents of Futaba had praised the Daiichi power plant as a “godsend” that brought jobs and money to the Japanese coastal town.

Now, more than three years after the disaster, they remain stuck in cramped emergency housing facing the reality they will likely never go home, with Futaba set to become a storage site for contaminated soil, a new documentary film shows.

Harsh working conditions persist at Fukushima plant

Workers trying to bring the situation under control at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant continue to work in a severe environment 3½ years after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

To promote reactor decommissioning, which is expected to take 30 to 40 years, it is essential to improve that environment by addressing the workers’ dissatisfaction concerning issues such as decreased work efficiency due to the use of masks and the lack of space in resting rooms.

ASAHI POLL: 27% of Fukushima voters want immediate end to nuclear power

Twenty-seven percent of voters in Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, want Japan to immediately abolish nuclear energy, around double the national average, an Asahi Shimbun survey found.

About 55 percent of voters in the prefecture support a break away from nuclear power in the near future, according to the telephone survey conducted on Oct. 18-19.

Nuclear watchdog orders anti-radiation pills for Ontarians near power plants

Hundreds of thousands of people who live near Ontario’s nuclear power plants will have to be given supplies of anti-radiation pills under new orders from Canada’s nuclear regulator.

Currently, stockpiles of potassium iodide (KI) pills are kept in pharmacies and community centres for people who live within 10 kilometres of the Pickering, Darlington, and Bruce nuclear stations.

South Korean Court Ruling Could Spur Nuclear-Power Plant Suits

A South Korean court for the first time has ruled in favor of a plaintiff claiming a link between radiation from a nuclear power plant and cancer—a verdict that could trigger similar lawsuits in a country that depends heavily on nuclear power.

The Busan District Court ruled Friday in favor of a claim by Park Geum-sun, age 48, that her thyroid cancer was caused by radiation from six nuclear power plants located 7.7 kilometers from her house in Ichon-ri, Kijang County on the nation’s southeastern coast.

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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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