Environmental Must-Reads – October 29, 2013


Water, wealth and whites – South Africa’s potent anti-fracking mix

Stretching across the heart of South Africa, the Karoo has stirred emotions for centuries, a stunning semi-desert wilderness that draws artists, hunters and the toughest of farmers.

It is now rousing less romantic passions.

If energy companies and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) get their way, it will soon be home to scientists and geologists mapping out shale gas fields touted as game-changers for Africa’s biggest economy, and working out whether fracking will work here.

West Virginia’s Ghosts Haunt Fracking Boom

The natural-gas boom has West Virginia thinking big, with state officials betting on fracking to reverse the fortunes of one of the nation’s poorest states. But this isn’t the Mountain State’s first energy boom—it has been swimming in coal money for a century—and if West Virginia is going to turn resources into riches this time around, it will have to learn from its past mistakes.

California Fracking Study May Take 18 Months, Brown Says

Governor Jerry Brown said it may take as long as 18 months for California, the third-largest oil-producing state, to complete an environmental review of the oil and gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

Technological advancements have ignited a boom in the development of fields that were once deemed uneconomical, particularly in shale formations. California lawmakers approved regulations for state oversight of fracking in September.

Local government would lose control over sand fracking

The state Capitol’s hearing room overflowed Thursday morning as Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, held a public hearing for a bill that would prevent local governments from regulating air and water quality in their own regions.

Gas worker residency data missing from Tomblin report

Last week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration told state lawmakers that the boom in natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale field “continues to have a positive impact on West Virginia’s economy.”

Employment in oil and gas industries grew by just more than 20 percent in 2012, according to a report from the Department of Commerce’s Workforce West Virginia division. Average wages also increased, from about $70,000 to $75,600, the reports said.

But the annual report left out some important information: How many of the jobs created by the Marcellus rush are going to West Virginia residents, and how many to out-of-state workers?

Environmental group sues company over waste dumped into Allegheny River

An industrial treatment plant near Allegheny National Forest is dumping illegal amounts of salty, contaminant-laden wastewater from drillers into the Allegheny River in violation of state and federal laws, an environmental group charges in a federal lawsuit.

OSHA Extends the Comment Deadline for Proposed Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has extended the public comment period for an additional forty-seven days on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica.

We had previously blogged on the significant OSHA proposal that is intended to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica, which it claims “kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more each year.” The proposal is aimed at curbing lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease in America’s workers.

Drilling Spill Damages House, Enters West Virginia 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.

Lawsuit: Treatment plant polluting river

A Warren County wastewater treatment plant is violating federal and state laws by discharging improperly treated oil and gas waste fluids into the Allegheny River, an environmental organization claimed in a federal lawsuit filed today.

Clean Water Action filed the case against Waste Treatment Corp. in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania after alerting the company in July about its intention to sue.

Plans for new gas pipeline watched by local property owners

Natural gas is all the energy rage these days.  It burns cleaner, and is relatively cheap and abundant– thanks in large part to the controversial extraction practice called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Now property owners in three local counties are carefully watching plans for a new natural gas pipeline, currently in permitting stages.

Calif., Oregon, Washington, British Columbia sign climate change pact

Saying that the West Coast must lead the way in battling climate change, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington, along with the premier of British Columbia, signed an agreement Monday committing the Canadian province and the three states to coordinate global-warming policies.

Each state and the Canadian province promised to take roughly a dozen actions, including streamlining permits for solar and wind projects, better integrating the electric power grid, supporting more research on ocean acidification and expanding government purchases of electric vehicles.

Crack develops on berm at giant sinkhole site

There has been more activity at the site of the giant sinkhole in southeast Louisiana, including the development of a crack on one of the berms.

According to the Assumption Parish Police Jury, the crack developed this weekend on the south berm, which is located south/southwest of pad three.

BP Sold $38bn in Assets to Pay for 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

BP has revealed in its latest financial results that it sold $38bn worth of assets to pay for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill which resulted in one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

An explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig on 20 April 2010, which killed 11 workers and sent more than 4 million barrels of oil into the sea, has led to multiple lawsuits, billions of dollars to be paid in compensation and a sell-off in assets to pay for the fallout.

Valero says Louisiana oil spill cleanup is complete

Valero Energy Corp. said Monday that it has completed cleaning up a spill of 200 barrels of oil that were released from a crude unit Friday at its Meraux refinery in Louisiana.

A lot of the oil spilled “was droplets or spray,” Valero spokesman Bill Day said. High winds that day blew droplets of oil onto a nearby roadway and onto some cars.

North Dakota Oil Spill Spotlights Obama Delay on Rules

Three years after an oil pipeline rupture in Michigan spilled 843,000 gallons of sludge, government regulators still have not produced promised rules to compel operators to detect leaks.

An oil spill in North Dakota last month and the continued debate over construction of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL Pipeline have led to renewed criticism about the government’s inaction on pipeline safety.

Greenpeace defends oil spill estimates

Greenpeace NZ is defending its controversial oil spill predictions.

Last week, Greenpeace released a report estimating the impact a deep sea well blow out could have on the country’s coastline. It said oil could reach as far as Northland.

Enbridge files application to run pipeline across northern Minnesota; opponents gird for fight

Canadian pipeline builder Enbridge will file applications this week to build a $2.5 billion oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. Opponents, though, are organizing already for a fight.

The 610-mile “Sandpiper” line would carry more than 200,000 barrels per day from western North Dakota’s Bakken fields to the company’s terminal in Superior, Wis. The web of pipelines that transport Bakken oil now is straining to keep up with supply, so a new line is crucial, company officials say.

Rural Collin County landowner fighting Seaway oil pipeline project

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.

Pipeline incident rate doubled in Canada in last decade-CBC

The rate of safety-related incidents on federally regulated pipelines in Canada doubled over the last decade, while the rate of reported spills and leaks was up threefold, according to an investigative report by Canada’s national broadcaster.

Need for Building and Retrofitting Critical Pipelines in the U.S.

Four years ago, America’s energy infrastructure system earned a “D+” and the water infrastructure system earned a “D” on its report card, issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Unfortunately, not much has changed. The professional society gave energy and water infrastructure a D+ for 2013.

On Keystone XL, will Obama stand up to big oil?

As the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has worn on – and it’s now well over two years old – it’s illuminated the Obama presidency like no other issue. It offers the president not just a choice of policies, but a choice of friends, worldviews, and styles. It’s become an x-ray for a flagging presidency. The stakes are sky-high, and not just for Obama. I’m writing these words from Pittsburgh, amid 7,000 enthusiastic and committed young people gathering to fight global warming, and my guess is that his choice will do much to determine how they see politics in this country.

Industry & gov’t not listening to those most impacted by oil sands expansion

A new report released today show that despite efforts to muzzle the voices of communities resisting oil sands expansion in Alberta and the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, resistance is alive and well—and being led, in many cases, by women.  Breaking Ground: Women, Oil and Climate Change in Alberta and British Columbia delivers findings from a delegation organized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative to the region.

Would a bike path make the Keystone pipeline less terrible?

No one seems to be sure whether we should be taking SWA group and its proposed plans to build a bike path along the 1,300-mile Keystone XL pipeline seriously. The Houston-based architectural firm itself admitted that its illustrations, of guileless bikers cavorting past fields of sunflowers, environmental protestors and Native American teepees, are “somewhat tongue-in-cheek.” But just to be safe, Bloomberg asked TransCanada what they thought.

Trains Gain Steam In Race To Transport Crude Oil In The U.S.

On a quiet fall morning in the Delaware countryside, a lone sustained whistle pierces the air. Within moments, a train sweeps around a broad curve, its two heavy locomotives hauling dozens of white, cylindrical rail cars, loaded with 70,000 barrels of crude oil.

It’s a scene playing out with growing frequency across the United States and Canada. The U.S. is awash in oil, due in large part to advances in drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. U.S. production hit a 24-year-high in September. Yet there is a challenge getting the crude from the field to the refinery.

Coast Guard tests oil spill technologies in Operation Arctic Shield

The Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) led a team of engineers and scientists from multiple Coast Guard units, other federal agencies, and universities in evaluating methods to detect, track and respond to simulated oil spills off the North Slope of Alaska as part of Operation Arctic Shield 2013, Sept. 9-14, 2013.

Uganda: Slippery Justice for Oil Spill Victims

In a stunning and dramatic legal ruling that echoed from the serene court chambers in the Netherlands to the heart of rural Niger Delta in Nigeria, the District Court of The Hague dismissed all but one of the lawsuits brought against Royal Dutch Shell, an Anglo-Dutch oil and gas company, by a group of farmers seeking compensation for the environmental damage caused by the company. The lawsuit was filed in 2008 by four fishermen and farmers accusing Shell of ruining their livelihoods through environmental degradation.

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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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