Environmental Must-Reads – October 24, 2013


Fracking Fight Focuses on a New York Town’s Ban

This town in the Finger Lakes region is not the kind of place where one would expect a grass-roots uprising. Even its promotional brochure makes it sound sleepy, listing the main attractions as “a few large dairy farms, some crop farms and several horse ranches.”

But Dryden could soon be synonymous with something more than animals and agriculture. In August 2011, the town passed a zoning ordinance effectively forbidding hydraulic fracturing, the controversial gas extraction method also known as fracking. The ordinance, passed after a feisty local lobbying effort, prompted a lawsuit now being mulled by New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, whose ruling could settle the long-simmering issue of whether the state’s municipalities can ban the drilling process.

The update on fracking is there is no update

Asked Wednesday whether there was anything new on a Department of Health review of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was concise.

“Nothing new,” Cuomo told a pack of reporters.

Fracking puts U.S. first in shale gas production

The United States, followed by Canada, leads the world in producing natural gas from shale formations as the controversial practice of fracking spreads, the U.S. government reports Wednesday.

Shale gas accounted for 39% of all natural gas produced last year in the United States, compared to 15% of that in Canada and less than 1% in China, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy.

Maps And Graphs Explain Why The US Is World’s Largest Producer Of Hydrocarbons

The U.S. petroleum production boom is taking place across several regions where the use of hydraulic fracturing in combination with horizontal drilling is allowing the U.S. to overtake Russia and even oil-rich Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of hydrocarbons, according to a recent report by Pira Energy Group.

America’s natural gas revolution isn’t all it’s ‘fracked’ up to be

Americans are being subjected to a massive public relations assault attempting to persuade them that “fracking” for natural gas and oil is the key to America’s energy future and that this change will free them forever from the bondage of oil imports.

Agency policy could allow fracking on protected land

The state agency tasked with preserving land through conservation easements has adopted a policy that could allow a controversial method of oil and gas exploration known as “fracking” on protected land.

But the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which has more than 675,000 acres of conserved land throughout the state, is quick to point out that any fracking must meet certain conditions to get approved.

Fracking moratorium carries uncertain legal consequences

The outcome of the Nov. 5 election on a proposed five-year moratorium on fracking in Fort Collins is not likely to put the issue to rest.

If voters approve Issue 2A, the city could be sued by representatives of the oil and gas industry, the state and mineral rights owners because of the moratorium’s impact on their interests, opponents of the proposal say.

The Product Of An Oil Boom: Violence, Addiction, And STDs

An oil boom is short-term and transient. Crews of outsiders and heavy equipment plop down in often-rural areas to suck out all the fuel they can as quickly as possible, then leave.

And while fracking’s disastrous effects on climate change and health are well-established, its social effects on the people and communities around drilling operations is less-discussed. But several recent studies on the social consequences of fracking show that the same disregard for consequences applies to the social well-being of workers and communities that turn into fracking boomtowns.

Firm drops plan for gas drilling Pennsylvania amid opposition

A Michigan-based energy company has given up a six-year battle to drill for natural gas in southeastern Pennsylvania’s upper Bucks County, citing opposition from local government.

Fire extinguished at suburban Chicago oil refinery

Officials are monitoring air quality near a suburban Chicago oil refinery after a fire lit up the evening sky.

Authorities say the blaze at the Citgo oil refinery in Lemont has been extinguished. No one was injured and authorities say no nearby homes were evacuated.

Methanex, Entergy agree on power contract for plant

Entergy Gulf States Louisiana L.L.C. will supply up to 30 megawatts of power to Methanex’s new methanol plant in Geismar under an agreement announced Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Shell seeks public input on proposed Ascension plant

Shell kicked off what company officials say will be an intensive effort to solicit public feedback on plans under consideration for a massive natural gas complex in Ascension Parish.

In the first of three open houses this week, more than 25 Shell employees in khakis and light blue shirts with the yellow-and-red Shell logo chatted up more than 200 public officials, job seekers and the just plain curious Tuesday in one of the warehouse-like buildings at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

North Dakota pipeline spill raises questions amid state’s oil boom

About sundown one Sunday in September, North Dakota farmer Steven Jensen noticed that his combine was running over wet, squishy earth in a wheat field he was harvesting. When he took a closer look, he saw that oil had coated the wheels and that it was bubbling up about 6 inches high in spots.

That was Sept. 29; Jensen contacted authorities immediately. At least 20,600 barrels of oil leaked onto the Jensens’ land from a pipeline owned by Tesoro Logistics, one of the largest land-based spills in recent history. Neither the pipeline company nor the state informed the public of the spill for 11 days.

Oil Spill in North Dakota Raises Detection Concerns

For several days last month, Steven Jensen smelled the oil, wafting up over his rolling wheat farm near Tioga. But in that part of northwestern North Dakota, where the rush to tap the Bakken shale field is roaring, the scent of crude is hardly uncommon. It was not until Sept. 29 that Mr. Jensen came across a six-inch spurt of oil gurgling up from his land and reported a spill.

Documents Raise Important Questions About Tesoro’s Pipeline Spill in North Dakota

North Dakota, long known for its cattle ranches and open spaces, has recently become one of the oil and gas industry’s most prized (and profitable) possessions, thanks to the advent of fracking. However, the price of oil and gas industry development is paid in destruction to the environment and strains to the regulatory framework meant to protect the public from a reckless industry, as Tesoro’s massive oil spill attests.

As pipeline concerns mount, focus returns to the Great Lakes

When a ruptured pipeline spilled 20,000 barrels of oil into a North Dakota wheat field last month, a state health official said it was “the best place it could’ve occurred” — far from population centers and water supplies.

But what if a similar spill occurs in the worst place?

Is US Crude Oil Pipeline Safety Compromised? How Federal Workers Spend More Time And Money On Conferences Than Regulating

U.S. federal pipeline safety workers spend more time schmoozing at industry events and conferences than taking care of the millions of miles of pipeline laid across the U.S., according to records released Tuesday by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Enbridge Energy replacing oil pipeline in New Carlisle

Enbridge Energy Partners are in the middle of replacing an oil pipeline that ruptured in 2010 in New Carlisle. Even though the construction of the new pipeline is disruptive, neighbors say they’re happy with how the company has handled it.

After Keystone XL, what’s next for the climate movement?

In August, Bill McKibben wrote about why the climate movement should be leaderless. Instead, McKibben argued, the movement needed to function more like a distributed energy grid, with many people providing and dispersing the power, so it can be more fluid and nimble in the event of sudden changes.

Today at Earth Island Journal (cross-posted at Grist), four activists representing groups from across the US and Canada, argue that the climate movement needs to move beyond its preoccupation with oil pipeline projects, such as Keystone XL, and instead challenge the expansion of fossil fuel projects wherever they appear.

Fiery derailments shift oil debate

On a warm Saturday night in July, Canada’s energy debate changed irrevocably.

The explosion of an oil-loaded freight train in the picturesque Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic transformed what had been a fairly straightforward clash between environmentalists and pipeline promoters into the bewildered weighing of the dangers of moving fossil fuels.

Russia drops piracy charges against Greenpeace group

Russia has dropped piracy charges against 30 Greenpeace activists, replacing them with hooliganism charges, according to officials.

The new charge has a maximum penalty of seven years rather than 15. Greenpeace says it is still “wildly disproportionate”.

Piracy charges against Arctic oil protestors dropped

Russia has dropped piracy charges against 30 Greenpeace activists involved in a protest against Arctic oil drilling.

The charges against activists who protested at a Gazprom oil platform off Russia’s northern coast last month have been changed from piracy to hooliganism, the federal Investigative Committee said in a statement, cutting the maximum jail sentence they face to seven years from 15.

Gazprom Drilling for Arctic Oil With Second-Hand Rig, Environmentalist Say

Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform, the advance guard of the coming expansion of Russia’s state energy corporations into the Arctic, is a cobbled together bric-a-brac of second-hand parts, some of which date to 1984, environmentalists said.

Fukushima moves radioactive water as it braces for Typhoon Francisco

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant is bracing itself for Typhoon Francisco, set to hit the country this weekend, by quickly securing new storage space for contaminated rainwater that has already taken up the facility’s entire storage tank capacity.

Highest radiation level detected in water found in drainage ditch at Fukushima nuclear plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it has found the highest radiation levels recorded since it began checking water in drainage ditches in August at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Fukushima’s Radiation Gusher

Distracting the public from the 300 tons of highly radioactive water (80,000 gallons) spreading into the Pacific Ocean every day from the triple reactor melt-through at Fukushima-Daiichi, is news of the plan to build an underground “ice wall” to damn up the poisoned water before it leaks to the sea. The project is reportedly a better plan than the failed concrete wall that Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) first decided to build.

Fukushima water crisis threatens TEPCO’s plan to restart reactors in Niigata

The growing problem of radioactive water at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is stymieing attempts by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to reactivate an idled nuclear power plant here and return to profit.

Fukushima readies for dangerous operation to remove 400 tons of spent fuel

Fukushima operator TEPCO is getting ready for its toughest and the most dangerous clean-up operation. In November it will try to remove 400 tons of spent fuel from plant’s Reactor No. 4. But even a little mistake may result in a new nuclear disaster.

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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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