Environmental Must-Reads – October 28, 2013


More Than 15 Million Americans Now Live Within One Mile Of A Fracking Well

The natural gas boom has led to an “unprecedented industrialization” of many Americans’ backyards, an analysis from the Wall Street Journal has found.

The WSJ looked at census and natural gas well data from more than 700 counties in 11 major natural-gas producing states, and found that at least 15.3 million Americans have a natural gas well within one mile of their home that has been drilled since 2000. That’s more than the population of Michigan or New York.

Pipeline Drilling Mud Enters Creek

An infiltration of more than 6,000 gallons of “drilling mud” into a Valley Grove home Thursday appears to be part of a larger natural gas pipeline problem, as the fluid also seeped into nearby Little Wheeling Creek twice last week.

Drilling spill damages house, enters W.Va. creek

State regulators are investigating spills from a drilling operation in Ohio County that damaged a house and entered a creek.

More than 6,000 gallons of water and a non-toxic clay mixture called drilling mud from a MarkWest operation entered the basement of Becky and John Wieczorkowski’s house in Valley Grove last week, media outlets reported.

Romanian farmers choose subsistence over shale gas

The small hilly town of Pungesti in eastern Romania could be sitting on vast reserves of shale gas and U.S. energy major Chevron wants to find it.

But the people of Pungesti want nothing to do with it.

Fracking alert: New York switches to shale gas

The US shale revolution has reached the Big Apple, where on Nov. 1 the first gas pipeline in 40 years will be completed in its meatpacking district. While politicians and firms are hungry for cheap gas, residents fear fracking and eco-damage.

The cheaper gas will run from the Marcellus shale field in Pennsylvania to about 2 million homes in Manhattan.

Democratic Lawmakers Urge Administration to Speed Up Fracking Regulations

Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., sent a letter Friday to the White House asking for faster processing of fracking regulations set to be released by the administration, The Hill reports.

Fracking Headaches: Homeowners Battle Developers for Mineral Rights

Colorado homeowners are learning a rude fact about the process of buying and owning a home these days: you can own the land you stand on, but not the final say as to whether companies can drill on it.

Home Heating Costs Expected to Rise This Winter Despite Gas Fracking Boom

Don’t expect fracking to keep you warm this winter.

Thanks to the fracking boom, the United States is expected to surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top natural gas producer this year, but the federal government expects the average cost of heating a home with gas over the winter season will be 13 percent higher than last winter.

Local residents air concerns about silica mining

North Mankato resident Paul Linfors came to a public open house aimed at gathering opinions on silica sand mining, not with any specific ideas on mining, but plenty of bigger-picture questions.

“We should be more interested in these issues (of oil extraction) rather than the profits of a few corporations,” said Linfors, a retired Minnesota State University professor who worked for Standard Oil California years ago.

Oil Company Demands Right to Inject Waste

A Texas oil and gas company claims an Oklahoma county is unconstitutionally regulating its injection of wastewater into the ground.

Overflow Energy sued the Roger Mills County Board of Commissioners in Federal Court.

Blowout Exposes Gaps in Federal and State Oversight of Fracking

A New Mexico oil well owned by Parko Oil LLC recently experienced a blowout, resulting in a spill of more than 8,400 gallons of fracturing fluid, oil, and water. The blowout occurred when a nearby well owned by Encana was being hydraulically fractured and the fracturing fluids intersected the Parko well. According to a news report, the two wells are about half a mile apart. Both wells are located on federal land, meaning that both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (NMOCD) are responsible for regulating these wells.

Gas plant near Douglas could reduce flaring, but residents are wary

Residents of Douglas, who have lived with natural gas flaring from oil wells, stopped short of saying they opposed a new gas plant outside of town that could reduce flaring with promises of making the gas marketable at a public hearing Wednesday with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. But they believe the proposed air permit doesn’t do enough to curtail emissions.

Gulf Oil-Spill Fraud Accusations Hit Alabama Official’s Family

Ever since its deep-sea well in the Gulf of Mexico blew up in April 2010, killing 11 rig workers and sullying the region’s coastline, BP has said it would pay billions to clean up the mess and make victims whole. So far, those payouts total more than $25 billion, with much more to come. Even with all that money floating around, though, some gulf state residents have viewed the calamity and the company’s response as a chance to grab more than their share of BP spill bucks–including a new case involving relatives of a top Alabama law enforcement official.

From Big Foot to Bluto, Gulf of Mexico set for record oil supply surge

The Gulf of Mexico, stung by the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history in 2010 and then overshadowed by the onshore fracking boom, is on the verge of its biggest supply surge ever, adding to the American oil renaissance.

Over the next three years, the Gulf is poised to deliver a slug of more than 700,000 barrels per day of new crude, reversing a decline in production and potentially rivaling shale hot spots like Texas’s Eagle Ford formation in terms of growth.

BP’s bill for Gulf of Mexico spill set to hit $43bn

BP is expected to reveal this week that its total bill for the Gulf of Mexico disaster has increased to more than $43bn, as it reports that low refining margins have caused profits to slump as much as 37pc.

100s of U.S. state’s oil spills not publicized

North Dakota, the No. 2 oil producing state behind Texas, recorded nearly 300 oil pipeline spills in less than two years, state documents show. None of them were reported to the public, officials said.

Nearly 300 Oil Spills Went Unreported In North Dakota In Less Than Two Years

Nearly 300 oil spills and 750 “oil field incidents” have occurred in North Dakota since January 2012 and none were reported to the public, according to a report released Friday by the Associated Press.

The investigation was spurred by a pipeline that spewed over 20,000 barrels of crude oil into a North Dakota wheat field earlier this month and went unreported for 11 days until it was discovered by a farmer harvesting his wheat.

North Dakota Keeps its Oil Spills Nice and Quiet

North Dakota isn’t required by state law to disclose oil spills to the public. As it turns out, the state has opted to keep hundreds of pipeline spills quiet over the past two years, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press. The state produces nearly a million barrels of oil daily, second in oil production in the U.S. behind only Texas.

Battle of the Billionaires Erupts Over Keystone Pipeline

Billionaire investors love fighting with each other over the markets, safely out of public view in sleek Greenwich or Manhattan offices. But a new political fight is pushing them into a high-profile debate over the future of energy consumption in the U.S. and they are literally taking to the streets of Washington to make their views heard.

Environmentalists criticize pipeline regulators’ spending

Environmentalists are using government data to argue that pipeline regulators spend more time and money connecting with industry groups than they do inspecting problems.

The data was gathered by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and said that regulators from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration attended 850 conferences and events hosted by industry groups between 2007 and 2012. But regulators from the agency responded to just 159 incidents in that time frame, the group said.

Landowner fights pipeline project in rural Collin County

The 500-mile pipeline that crosses Freddy Davenport’s land was designed 37 years ago to siphon crude from the Gulf Coast and transport it to Oklahoma. Since May 2012, it has been moving oil the other way around.

Now, the Seaway pipeline owners are working on a twin structure that will more than double the system’s capacity to 850,000 barrels per day by next year. That surpasses the volume of the southern leg of the contentious Keystone pipeline designed to ship tar-sands oil from Canada to Texas.

Enbridge rests its Line 9 case amid staunch opposition

Enbridge Inc. has given closing arguments in support of the reversal project for its Line 9 oil pipeline between Ontario and Quebec, and in a show of how rancorous the regulatory proceedings became, it was forced to do so in writing.

That is because the National Energy Board shut down the final oral portion of the hearing into the project in Toronto on Oct. 18, fearing for participants’ safety as protesters became disruptive.

First Nations aren’t swayed by vague promises

Until the shale gas exploration protests by members of the Elsipogtog First Nation took a nasty turn recently, the country was paying little attention to aboriginal concerns about resource activity in New Brunswick. Now Elsipogtog is Burnt Church redux, another example of angry clashes over First Nations rights.

Illinois Biggest Atomic Dump as U.S. Fails to Pick Site

U.S. lawmakers have debated for decades where to put all the spent fuel generated by the nation’s nuclear power plants. The dithering means that an unintended site has emerged: Illinois.

About 13 percent of America’s 70,000 metric tons of the radioactive waste is stashed in pools of water or in special casks at the atomic plants in Illinois that produced it, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based industry group. That’s the most held in any state.

Magnitude 7.3 earthquake hits off Japan’s Fukushima

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck off Japan’s east coast early Saturday local time, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake prompted Japan’s emergency agencies to issue a tsunami advisory for the region that includes the crippled Fukushima nuclear site. Tsunamis of up to 15 inches were reported at four areas along the coast minutes after the quake.

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant undamaged after quake

The operator of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said on Saturday there was no damage or spike in radiation levels at the station after a large earthquake struck in the ocean east of Japan, triggering a small tsunami.

At Fukushima, ‘nuclear gypsies’ struggle with low wages and steep risks

The massive 2011 earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan catalyzed meltdowns, explosions, and dangerous radiation leaks at the country’s Fukushima power plant complex. More than two years later, the process of cleaning up that mess has become something of a disaster itself: an estimated 50,000 “nuclear gypsies” employed by the project are now grappling with poor wages, risky working conditions, and rampant labor violations.

Fukushima horse breeder braves high radiation levels to care for animals

Until March 2011, Tokue Hosokawa had only to peer through the window of his home in Iitate village to confirm that all was well with his 100-year-old family business.

The 130 or so horses that once roamed this sprawling farm in Fukushima prefecture have sustained three generations of Hosokawa’s family. Some were sold for their meat – a local delicacy – but his animals were better known for their appearances in commercials, period TV dramas and films, and local festivals celebrating the region’s samurai heritage.

Japan Nuke Agency Urges Drastic Steps at Fukushima

In their first meeting since Japan created a new, more independent nuclear agency 13 months ago, the top regulator urged the head of the utility that runs the crippled Fukushima power plant on Monday to take “drastic steps” to mitigate a spate of mishaps at the complex.

NRA, Tepco heads discuss Fukushima No. 1 water woes

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka held a rare meeting Monday with Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose to discuss ways to get a grip on the radioactive water spilling from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

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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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