Environmental Must-Reads – October 22, 2014


Scientists Just Discovered How To Determine If Water Contamination Comes From Fracking

A team of U.S. and French scientists say they have developed a new tool that can specifically tell when environmental contamination comes from waste produced by hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.

In peer-reviewed research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on Monday, the researchers say their new forensic tool can distinguish fracking wastewater pollution from other contamination that results from other industrial processes — such as conventional oil and gas drilling. Fracking is a controversial oil and gas well stimulation technique that uses a great deal of water, mixed with chemicals, to extract oil and gas from miles deep underground. Once the rock is fractured by the high pressure fluid, fossil fuels follow the fracking fluid to the surface. The disposal of this often-radioactive water mixture, known as “fracking fluid,” is widely considered to be one of the biggest environmental threats that fracking poses, along with the emissions of greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

Santa Barbara fracking ban proposal draws millions in oil and gas industry spending

A local ballot initiative in Santa Barbara that would prohibit some forms of energy extraction, including hydraulic fracturing, has attracted the attention of the oil and gas industry — making it one of the most expensive local ballot initiatives in history.

The initiative, Measure P, would ban what it dubs “high-intensity petroleum operations,” including practices like fracking and acid well stimulation treatments, from unincorporated land inside Santa Barbara County. It has backing from environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Community Environmental Council, unions and the Democratic Party.

More than 5 million in state live near oil or gas well, report says

More than 5 million Californians — most of them in Los Angeles and Kern counties — live near an oil or gas well, and expanding drilling in the state could increase their exposure to health risks, according to a report released Wednesday by a national environmental group.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, analyzing state environmental data, identified 5.4 million people who live within a mile of at least one of the state’s 84,000 active or new wells. They are the most likely to be affected by potential air and water pollution caused by oil and gas production if advanced extraction methods such as fracking, acidizing and horizontal drilling expand in California, according to the report.

Burden of the Boom: Who Will Pay the Price for Fracking in California?

From polluted skies to contaminated drinking water and hazardous waste, communities of color in California get way more than their fair share.  If the oil and gas industry gets their way, drilling – and the environmental and health threats from fracking, acidizing, and other technologies – will be piled onto communities already staggering under smoggy skies and unsafe water.

Former Environment Agency head to lead industry-funded fracking task force

The risks and benefits of fracking for the UK are to be examined by a “independent” task force, led by the former head of the Environment Agency, Lord Chris Smith, and funded by shale gas companies.

“We will assess the existing evidence, ask for new contributions and lead a national conversation around this vitally important issue,” said Smith, who as chair of the Environment Agency oversaw key fracking regulation. “The Task Force on Shale Gas will provide impartial opinions on the impacts, good and bad, that the exploitation of shale gas will have on the UK.”

Green groups say EPA underestimates methane leaks from fracking

D.J. Parker has been selling methane-trapping systems to oil and gas producers for over 30 years, and as unconventional drilling technologies like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have skyrocketed across the U.S., particularly under Barack Obama’s administration, Parker’s business has grown.

“Over the last 15 years we’ve seen a marked increase in voluntarily capturing emissions,” said Parker, the vice president of operations at Tescorp. “Then in 2012 inquiries really increased … There are two things driving it. One’s economic. The other’s the [Environmental Protection Agency].”

Landowner Speaks Out About Fracking Lawsuit

A group from Wayne County says they’re fed up with state leaders, so they’ll take them to court to get fracking.

Illinois approved hydraulic fracturing more than a year ago. Lawmakers have spent months going over public comments on proposed rules for the industry, but so far they haven’t approved anything.

Hill City Area Mine Tabbed for Fracking-Sand Production

A Colorado-based company is hoping to tap into the oil-and-gas boom by supplying fracking sand mined near Deerfield Reservoir in the Black Hills to energy fields in nearby states.
Executives for South Dakota Proppants, which is based in Evergreen, Colorado, hold claims on an abandoned mine and surrounding groups 20 miles west of Hill City; The old mine that was used for silica-sand production in the 1950s. The sand, which must be the right size, shape and hardness fof fracking, has been used for other purposes, including glass making.

New Mexico rule changing fracking water reuse eyed

State environmental regulators are considering a proposed rule that would allow the reuse of produced water in oilfield drilling operations.

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary David Martin told Hobbs News-Sun (http://goo.gl/6dyY6f) this week that the department is working with the Oil Conservation Commission on the new rule that could help cut fresh water consumption by industry.

The helicopter industry is one casualty of the fracking boom

Environmentalists aren’t the only group complaining about the recent boom in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in the U.S.

United Technologies Corp.’s Chief Financial Officer Gregory Hayes said in the industrial conglomerate’s post-earnings conference call with analysts that the company’s Sikorsky Aircraft unit is seeing some pressure in its helicopter business, given the impact that fracking has had on the offshore oil business.

Rare victory for BP in Gulf of Mexico legal battles

BP has won a rare victory in its legal battles over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, after the US Supreme Court said a group of Louisiana parishes would not be able to sue the company for damaging wildlife.

The oil giant has already paid more than $27bn (£17bn) to clean up after the 2010 disaster and compensate local businesses for the damage caused. It is also fighting a civil suit under America’s Clean Water Act, which could see BP fined up to $18bn.

BP takes another shot in bid to delay seafood claims payments

BP has asked a federal judge to delay a second round of oil spill payments to seafood workers, arguing that there are still problems within the compensation program.

In a Monday (Oct. 20) filing in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, the British oil giant said “at some point” there should be a second round of up to $500 million in payments to workers hurt by the spill. But the company said those payments cannot start now.

‘It Will Never Be The Same’: North Dakota’s 840,000-Gallon Oil Spill One Year Later

One year ago, when more than 20,000 barrels (840,000 gallons) of crude oil spilled from a pipeline and soaked a wheat field in Tioga, North Dakota, the public almost never knew about it. After the spill was discovered by a lone farmer, it was not reported for nearly two weeks, and only after reporters from the The Associated Press asked about it specifically.

Now, a year later, environmentalists say North Dakota’s oil spill reporting process has improved, but that more needs to be done to prevent those types of spills from happening in the first place. In North Dakota’s Bakken shale, more than 1.2 million barrels of oil are produced every day, and spills from wells and pipelines happen frequently.

Officials: Caddo Lake Not Threatened by Louisiana Oil Spill

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

Officials said 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.

UNH hosts oil spill response forum Oct. 28-29

It’s been 25 years since the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, and nearly five years since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico gushed 200 million gallons of crude oil. On Oct. 28 – 29, 2014, nearly 40 experts and eyewitnesses from science, government, industry and NGOs will gather at the University of New Hampshire to look back – and forward – at oil spill response.

Multiple Agencies Train for Oil Spill on Hudson

In recent months, concern over a potential spill in the Port of Albany has been raised by people living at the Ezra Prentice Apartments and officials at the city and county level. Tuesday’s training exercise aimed to prepare for the worst.

If there were a massive spill it would trigger a response from many agencies including The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Canadian Pacific railroad and the Albany Fire Department.

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.

Pipeline opponents launch monitoring project

If construction starts on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, opponents have their own plan to make sure the environmental rules are followed. Members of the Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance, which consists of 22 different groups in Virginia and West Virginia, announced the creation this week of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition. The goal of the project, members say, is to monitor construction through volunteers both on the ground and in the air.

One Year After Sabal Trail Announces Pipeline Plans, Activists Begin Monthly Protests

It’s been one year since Sabal Trail announced its plans to build a natural gas pipeline that would go through South Georgia and parts of Florida.

Tuesday, protestors began revamping their efforts to keep that pipeline out of their communities.

Craft brewers join the fight against natural gas pipelines

On a recent afternoon, visitors packed into Blue Mountain Brewery, one of three craft breweries in Virginia’s idyllic Rockfish Valley. Couples and families spilled out of the restaurant onto patios and into gardens, sipping Full Nelson Pale Ale, Kölsch 151, Original Nitro Porter, and more.

Above them, the low-hanging clouds that obscured Afton Mountain’s upper ridges couldn’t mute the bright reds, oranges, and yellows exploding on its slopes. The brewery is just four miles below Rockfish Gap — the mountain pass that marks the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park, the passage of the Appalachian Trail, and the point where Skyline Drive becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway.

But there’s a storm brewing in this autumnal paradise, as evidenced by a sign in front of the brewery that’s become quite common in the Blue Ridge Mountains of late: “No pipeline.”

Russia prepares for ice-cold war with show of military force in the Arctic

Yaya is a very small Arctic island, barely one metre above sea level and covering only 500 square metres. Russian pilots discovered it at the beginning of October. With the Admiral Vladimirsky research ship having confirmed its presence in the Laptev Sea, Yaya will soon be added to the map of the Arctic Ocean and will become part of Russian territory, the RIA Novosti state news agency announced. In its determination to defend its interests in this icy waste, Russia is no longer content to leave its mark, as it did in 2007 when it planted a Russian flag, in a titanium capsule, 4,200 metres below the north pole. Now it is engaging in large-scale militarisation of the Arctic, a vast area coveted by itself and its four neighbours: Canada, the United States, Norway and Denmark.

U.S. needs to invest in Arctic ships, technology to prepare for climate change – envoy

The United States needs billions of dollars of new equipment including ice-breaking ships, better satellite service and fiber-optic networks as it prepares for climate change and melting ice in the Arctic, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The total cost will not be clear until the U.S. government inventories its investment needs, former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp, who became the first U.S. special representative for the Arctic Region in July, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

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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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