Environmental Must-Reads – October 31, 2014


Hard-Nosed Advice From Veteran Lobbyist: ‘Win Ugly or Lose Pretty’: Richard Berman Energy Industry Talk Secretly Taped

If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives in a speech that was secretly recorded.

The blunt advice from the consultant, Richard Berman, the founder and chief executive of the Washington-based Berman & Company consulting firm, came as Mr. Berman solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives to finance an advertising and public relations campaign called Big Green Radicals.

Fracking Advocates Urged to Win Ugly by Discrediting Foes

As he took the floor at the tony Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, the veteran Washington public relations guru had an uncompromising message for oil and gas drillers facing an anti-fracking backlash.

“You can either win ugly or lose pretty. You figure out where you want to be,” Rick Berman told the Western Energy Alliance, according to a recording. “Hardball is something that I’m a big fan of, applied appropriately.”

Offshore fracking: Questions about its extent, oversight

Fracking, the drilling technique that’s driven a boom in land-based shale gas production, has sparked environmental concerns and public outcry, from Pennsylvania to St. Tammany Parish, La.

But fracking is also expanding offshore, in the Gulf of Mexico, with hardly anyone noticing.

In Pa.’s Governor Race, It’s Drill, Baby, Drill…and Tax, Maybe, Tax

Fracking has become a prominent issue in this year’s Pennsylvania gubernatorial election, energizing ads, debates and campaign appearances.

The argument isn’t about whether to frack the state’s abundant natural gas reserves or even how to do it safely—but how to make money doing it.

In Denton, tension mounts ahead of fracking ban vote

Voters filed in and out of the civic center with typical small-town friendliness, trading greetings before heading home to dinner.

But in the parking lot a man wearing wraparound sunglasses and a T-shirt urging residents to vote down a fracking ban was irate. He pointed to a group of women in lawn chairs 30 feet away, chatting happily in sun hats and handing out fliers to voters.

“One of their friends just came over here and demanded to know where I live,” the man, who would identify himself only as Joseph, said last week.

New York State Allows Water Grab

Barely a football field away from John Marvin’s modest house, 42 black railcars full of water sit waiting for the signal to begin rolling south to supply fracking drill pads across the Pennsylvania border. When the water train lurches and clanks through the village — often at pre-dawn hours — it sounds ear-splitting whistles at each street crossing.

“How is everybody supposed to sleep at night?” asked Marvin, who tends his stroke-slowed wife in the family living room. “And what happens if they deplete our water supply? Do we go to water rationing?”

Fracking emits more formaldehyde than medical students experience from dead bodies

Fracking can pollute the air with carcinogenic formaldehyde at levels twice as high as medical students experience when dissecting dead bodies, a new report has found.

Tests around shale gas wells in the US also found that levels of benzene were up to 770,000 higher than usual background quantities.

The quantities were up to 33 times the concentration that drivers can smell when filling up with fuel at a petrol station.

Md. gubernatorial candidates differ starkly on key environmental issues

The two men competing to become Maryland governor have starkly different views on key environmental issues in a state that is weighing fracking and wind farm projects and an off-shore natural gas pipeline, and where costly efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay have generated heated debate.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the Democratic nominee, says he will continue to embrace the $15 billion plan put in place by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to restore the bay’s health by 2025.

Keep On Drillin’? Santa Barbara Prepares To Vote On Oil Future

Think of California’s Santa Barbara County and you might picture the area’s famous beaches or resorts and wineries. But in the northern reaches of the vast county, oil production has been a major contributor to the economy for almost a century.

So it’s no surprise that the oil industry there is feverishly organizing to fight a local ballot initiative — Measure P — that would ban controversial drilling methods such as hydraulic fracturing. What is turning heads, however, is the sheer volume of money flooding into this local race, mainly from large oil companies.

Hearing on Disposal Well Rules Exposes Gaps in State’s Earthquake Response

Oklahoma’s earthquake surge is unrelenting. The shaking is rattling residents and cracking the foundations of homes.

The quakes have also strained state agencies, which are struggling to keep up with the ongoing swarm while simultaneously developing a longer-term plan to analyze and address factors that might be triggering the earthquakes.

New set of rail safety rules announced in wake of Lac-Megantic report

The latest set of rail safety measures announced in the wake of the deadly Lac Megantic derailment of 2013 do not come with any additional financial resources for the federal regulator, Transport Canada.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says her department has the resources to ensure rail safety — notwithstanding an auditor general’s report that points to critical training deficiencies and staff shortages.

BP brings new evidence in bid to oust oil spill claims administrator

BP is pushing harder in its campaign to remove Patrick Juneau from his post overseeing oil spill claims payments, presenting records the oil giant says prove the Lafayette attorney is not fit to run the program.

In a memo filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans late Wednesday (Oct. 29), the British oil giant submitted copies of emails and billing records it says show Juneau worked against BP prior to being selected to oversee oil spill claims as a neutral administrator.

NOAA establishes 10 priorities for restoring Gulf of Mexico

From the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has come a funding source to plan for longterm survival of the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem and communities that depend upon it.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, known as NOAA, on Thursday released its Draft Science Plan to establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem restoration program. Public comment will be accepted through Dec. 15.

Superior Crude to pay $1.6M oil spill penalty

Federal regulators say Superior Crude Gathering Inc. has agreed to pay a $1.6 million civil penalty over a 2010 oil storage tanks spill in South Texas.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice say the consent decree was filed Wednesday.

The Next Oil Spill

For a film that takes on the big question of what the post-Deepwater Horizon oil industry means to the people of the bayou and beyond, The Great Invisible, which opens in limited release on October 29, is remarkably short on denunciation of Big Oil. Rather, the film explores not only the cost of the spill, but why a similar disaster is likely to happen again: because of us.

“There’s a whole factory under the Gulf of Mexico that powers a lot of our lives, and we’re all connected to it, and we don’t realize it,” Margaret Brown, the film’s director, said in March at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival, where The Great Invisible took top prize among documentaries. As the film shows, 3,500 oil platforms currently stand off the Gulf Coast, some connected to 20 wells each. None of them are any safer, necessarily, than Deepwater Horizon.

Keystone XL Developer TransCanada Corporation Applies To Build Even Larger Pipeline Across Canada

With its controversial Keystone XL pipeline project no closer to getting built, TransCanada Corporation is advancing plans for a separate route with fewer political roadblocks. The Canadian energy firm on Thursday said it filed a formal application for its proposed Energy East pipeline project, which would ferry oil across Canada from the western tar sands patch to Atlantic Coast refineries.

The $12 billion project would serve as an alternative to the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL. TransCanada has been waiting for six years to receive a construction permit from U.S. President Barack Obama, who has a final say because the pipeline crosses international borders. Since the Energy East project stays within Canadian borders, it doesn’t need Obama’s approval.

Environmental groups question refinery benefits of Energy East in new report

A new report released by environmental groups questions whether the proposed Energy East pipeline is necessary to supplant Eastern Canada’s oil imports from the foreign suppliers frequently mentioned by TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP), the company proposing the $12-billion project.

In making the case for the massive cross-Canada project, TransCanada has said repeatedly that eastern Canadian refiners rely on imports for 86 per cent of their daily needs. It often lists Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela and Algeria as the top suppliers to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

A Pipeline to Somewhere

Canada’s hopes of securing an outlet for its landlocked oil wealth and pulling an end run around the eternally deadlocked Keystone XL project took a big step forward Thursday with the release of formal plans to build a U.S. $11 billion pipeline to the Atlantic.

TransCanada, the biggest Canadian pipeline company, submitted its application to Canadian energy regulators for a nearly 3,000-mile-long, million-barrel-a-day pipe running from oil-rich western Canada to refineries and shipping terminals in the east. The so-called Energy East Pipeline Project,which TransCanada officials hope could be in operation as soon as 2018, would provide an export outlet for huge volumes of current and future oil production that right now has no easy way to get to market.

Oil Giant Shell Wants The U.S. Government To Give It Another Five Years In The Arctic

Royal Dutch Shell wants the U.S. government to give it another five-year crack at drilling in the Arctic.

Back in July, the oil giant sent a letter to the Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), requesting that its leases — which will expire in 2017 — be paused for five years while the company regroups its attempts to start drilling operations. The letter was made public on Monday by the environmental group Oceana, after they obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request. According to Bloomberg, Shell has already spent eight years and $6 billion in its current efforts to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas north of Alaska, with no oil production to show for it so far.

Russia lays claim to billions of tons of Arctic oil and gas

Russia is to renew its claim to a huge swathe of the Arctic in the hope it can secure the rights to billions of tons of oil and gas.

Moscow has long seen the seabed off its northern coastline as a mine of valuable hydrocarbons and is keen to fend off rival bids for control over the region’s resources.

Russia Planning to Claim Arctic Territory With UN in 2015

Russia intends to lay claim to more than a million square kilometers of Arctic shelf by filing a formal application with the United Nations next spring, a senior official said Wednesday.

Moscow expects the area to contain some 5 billion tons of oil and gas resources, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sergei Donskoi said, Interfax reported.

The Arctic Ocean is neutral territory, but any country can claim portions as an exclusive economic zone if those portions are part of the country’s continental shelf.

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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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