Environmental Must-Reads – October 3, 2014


Major Drilling Services Company Will Now Disclose All Fracking Chemicals

Drilling services company Baker Hughes will from now on disclose all the chemicals they use in fracking, under a new policy announced Tuesday.

Baker Hughes, which is one of the world’s largest companies providing drilling and other services to oil companies, pledged Tuesday that it would disclose 100 percent of the chemical makeup in the fluid it uses for fracking, “without the use of any trade secret designations.” The company said in a statement that it hopes its decision to disclose its chemical mix will help instill more public trust in the fracking process.

Baker Hughes starts disclosing frack chemicals

Baker Hughes Inc. this month will start disclosing all the chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing — the first of the major oil field service companies to adopt a policy of transparency.

The Houston-based company said it will not make any trade secret claims in the information it posts on the industry website FracFocus.org, starting with wells fractured on or after Oct. 1.

Cracks seen in fracking-disclosure report process

A recent California law that requires oil companies to disclose key details of fracking operations has so far failed to ensure that all the required information reaches the public.

Under the law, an oil company that fracks a well in California must tell state regulators within 60 days the amount of water used and the chemicals involved. Fracking involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to crack rocks, and many environmentalists fear it could taint precious water supplies.

Open Pits Offer Cheap Disposal for Fracking Sludge, but Health Worries Mount

School Superintendent Kevin Wilson tugged at his oversized belt buckle and gestured toward a field less than a mile from Nordheim School, where 180 children attend kindergarten through 12th grade.

A commercial waste facility that will receive millions of barrels of toxic sludge from oil and gas production for disposal in enormous open-air pits is taking shape there, and Wilson worries that the ever-present Texas wind will carry traces of dangerous chemicals, including benzene, to the school.

Fire at offshore gas platform prompts evacuation

A fire Thursday at an offshore natural gas platform in Alaska’s Cook Inlet destroyed the crew’s living quarters and forced four workers to evacuate, but no one was injured and the environmental risk was considered minimal, responders said.

The blaze broke out at about 7:30 a.m. By evening, the unified command set up for the incident said the fire was fully contained. An earlier Coast Guard report that the fire flared up again was incorrect.

Fracking threatens U.S. clean energy investment -experts

The rapid rise of fracking, while lowering energy costs in the United States, threatens to starve renewable energy of funding and limit efforts to curb climate change, experts say.

Rapid growth of renewable energy and the rise of hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas – known as fracking – are the two biggest developments in energy over the last decade, the experts said.

Fracking in wintry areas linked to high ozone pollution

Emissions wafting out of oil and gas operations can trigger “extreme” ozone pollution events that rival those seen in congested cities such as Los Angeles, according to an international study.

Extraordinary levels of ozone, which can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory problems, have been seen in rural areas of Utah and Wyoming where oil extraction and fracking have taken off.

Oil Spill Task Force Braces For More Crude By Rail

A regional oil spill task force met in Portland Wednesday to discuss the risks of crude oil traveling by rail.

The Pacific States British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force coordinates oil spill response plans among five U.S. states and B.C. A lot of its members have noticed the same worrisome trend: more crude oil is traveling by rail cars instead of arriving on ships, and many agencies aren’t prepared for oil spills along rail lines.

Ohio fracking waste issues go beyond chemical disclosure

While a recent federal study singles out Ohio for limited information requirements in permitting for fracking wastewater disposal, advocates in the state say the issue is much broader.

Ohio requires fewer details about the liquid fracking wastes going into its underground wells than other states do, says the General Accounting Office. Environmental groups say the situation is even worse because the state’s inspection and enforcement practices are lax.

Study: More gas wells in area leads to more hospitalizations

The more natural gas wells in an area, the more of its residents end up in the hospital.

So indicate the results of an unreleased study that was revealed at a state Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing at King’s College on Wednesday on the subject of tracking, reporting and acting on public health concerns related to natural gas drilling.

Pennsylvania man faces sentencing for falsifying abandoned oil well plugging reports

A man who falsely certified that he had properly plugged abandoned oil wells in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest faces sentencing in federal court in December.

The Environmental Protection Agency relied on the falsified certificates in issuing permits for injection wells under the Safe Water Drinking Act, a law intended to safeguard underground sources of drinking water, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh.

Well Water Contamination Possible After Drilling Mishap

Drilling for shale gas went wrong last week when operators accidentally drilled into one of their own wells that was engaged in production. The result is possibly contaminated drinking water from at least 12 homes.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued citations to Antero Resources for breaching of their own wells. The incident occurred at Anteors five-well Primm Pad in Doddridge County, WV near West Union last week. The DEPs citation indicates that the rupture happened at a drilling depth of 641 feet, and that several water wells, an existing gas well, and an abandoned well in the area appear to be affected. Antero was given until October 1st to get the situation under control.

DeWitt County town fears effects from fracking waste site

In the heart of the Eagleford Shale deposit sits Nordheim, Texas with a population of 307 residents.

There is one school serving kindergartners through 12th grade, and less than a half-mile down the road from the school is the proposed site for a fracking solid waste pit.

Insurance fight over cost of 37-acre sinkhole

The operator of a collapsed brine mine that apparently created a 37-acre sinkhole in south Louisiana has asked the state insurance commissioner to make an insurance company pay on a $50 million policy.

New York-based Liberty Insurance Underwriters Inc. has asked the federal court in Houston to rule that it owes nothing because Texas Brine LLC ignored warnings of possible disaster if it kept mining.

BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill didn’t shrink number, size of Louisiana shrimp, study says

Looking at the abundance and size of Louisiana white and brown shrimp before and after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a scientific paper published Wednesday said the amount of shrimp actually increased in local estuaries through 2011 and that the size of that shrimp remained unaffected.

By 2012, the authors wrote, the amount of shrimp in the once heavily-oiled areas they monitored had returned to normal levels.

BP asks court to reconsider ‘gross negligence’ ruling

BP has asked a US court to reconsider its ruling of “gross negligence” over a 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which boosted its potential fines to around $18bn (£11.1bn).

BP said that Judge Barbier’s ruling in Louisiana was based on evidence he had said he would not consider in court.

For this reason, the oil company said the ruling should either be amended or there should be a new trial.

BP Seeks Revised Verdict or New Trial on Spill Negligence

BP Plc (BP/) asked the U.S. judge in charge of thousands of oil-spill damage lawsuits to review a ruling that exposes the company to as much as $18 billion in fines, saying it was based on evidence he said he wouldn’t consider.

BP claims the Sept. 4 ruling that the company was grossly negligent in causing the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was based on expert testimony that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans said he would exclude from the 2013 trial over who caused the disaster. BP asked Barbier to change his finding or grant a new trial.

Oil spill crew did not find source of tar balls

Frequent reports of tar balls at the National Seashore’s Johnson Beach led to the activation of a U.S. Coast Guard-led cleanup crew to canvass about 2 miles of shoreline Wednesday looking for more and the possible source.

Their efforts came up with about 1.7-pounds worth of weathered oil, less than expected, said Lt. Commander Natalie Murphy, spokeswoman from the Deepwater Horizon Response, Eastern states field office.

Crews work to clean up oil spill on Mill River

Clean-ups crews are working to mop up an oil spill on the Mill River in New Haven.

The Coast Guard says it’s leaking from the former English Station power plant, a facility along the river, that’s been closed for several years. Clean up crews, dressed in clothing to protect them from hazardous conditions, were hard at work outside the former English Station power plant in New Haven. Last month when slick plumes were spotted in the nearby Mill River, the Coast Guard began investigating.

Beck Energy files complaint against Munroe Falls after oil spill

A Ravenna-based energy firm has filed a civil complaint claiming that the city has illegally interfered with efforts to clean up a small oil spill at a North River Road well the company operates.

In its complaint, filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court Wednesday, Beck Energy said the spill, which was less than three barrels, occurred in September. The company immediately contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources about the spill on private property at 60 North River Road because under state law, “ODNR has complete oversight of the remediation process.”

With Keystone XL delay, Alberta, Canada looks North

Keystone XL, the $5 billion, 1,176-mile pipeline that would transport crude oil from the Alberta tar sands across the border through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, has been debated for six years.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper proclaimed last week,”I think its eventual approval under the right circumstances is inevitable.”

Enbridge could use a Gateway Plan B

Al Monaco was in New York this week speaking to investors about all the good things Enbridge is doing. The pipeline company’s CEO says the next five years look extremely bright, with a capital spending program totalling $44-billion.

“Over the next three to four years, we’re going to open up 1.7 million barrels per day of new markets in North America,” Mr. Monaco told me from the Big Apple.

State, BLM schedule back-to-back Arctic oil lease sales in November

Federal and state agencies have teamed up for a fourth time to hold jointly scheduled oil and gas lease sales next month for territory across Arctic Alaska.

The Alaska Division of Oil and Gas and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management have scheduled lease sales for Nov. 19, the agencies said in separate statements. The Alaska sales — for state territory on the central North Slope, in the Brooks Range foothills and in near-shore waters of the Beaufort Sea — will be in the morning, officials said in their announcement. The BLM’s sale, offering leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on the western North Slope, will be in the afternoon.

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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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