Environmental Must-Reads – October 7, 2013


Fracking produces annual toxic waste water enough to flood Washington DC

Fracking in America generated 280bn US gallons of toxic waste water last year – enough to flood all of Washington DC beneath a 22ft deep toxic lagoon, a new report out on Thursday found.

The report from campaign group Environment America said America’s transformation into an energy superpower was exacting growing costs on the environment.

US Fracking Industry has Used 250 Billion Gallons of Water Since 2005

The fracking boom has been applauded by many as the saviour of the US, dragging its economy out of recession, and bringing in a new era of oil and gas production that could see the country become energy independent in the coming years.

San Carlos Declares State of Emergency Over PG&E Pipeline

San Carlos city officials have declared a State of Emergency over safety concerns with a natural gas line that runs through the city.

City leaders on Friday also requested PG&E shut down the pipeline until a hearing could be conducted with CPUC to address the issue. PG&E declined the request, according to city officials.

NY Times’ Joe Nocera Overlooks Key Flaws in EDF Fracking Climate Change Study

Yesterday, New York Times’ columnist Joe Nocera weighed in on the study by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and University of Texas-Austin (UT-Austin) on the climate change impacts of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). DeSmogBlog got a special mention in Nocera’s op-ed titled, “A Fracking Rorschach Test.”

Shut It All Down: Report Calls for Nationwide Ban on Fracking

The explosion of hydraulic fracturing in the last several years, according to a new report, is creating a previously ‘unimaginable’ situation in which hundreds of billions of gallons of the nation’s fresh water supply are being annually transformed into unusable—sometimes radioactive—cancer-causing wastewater.

Is NY fracking a good idea? Look at Pennsylvania

First was Texas. Next came Pennsylvania and North Dakota. Could New York become the next U.S. shale hotspot?

It’s a tantalizing prospect for some, given that the Empire State sits atop not one but two prolific shale formations, the Marcellus and the Utica. According to the most recent data from the United States Geological Survey, both have more than a combined 100 trillion cubic feet of estimated natural gas reserves.

Quebec Fracking Ban Lawsuit Shows Perils of Free Trade Deals

If you read our latest Truthdigger column, you know that certain existing and potential future international trade deals (including the wildly underreported Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is a subject of secretive, ongoing negotiations) allow private corporations to sue governments for profits they claim to have lost as a result of a nation’s laws. Here’s an example of such a suit currently filed against Canada.

Fracking Water: It’s Just So Hard to Clean

Another crack in the “fracking is safe” story for the industry to address.

You know that fracking thing? For the uninitiated, hydraulic fracturing (a k a fracking) is the technique of injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressures into shale and other tight rock formations to release the fuel trapped inside. Combined with horizontal drilling, fracking has allowed us to access huge amounts of heretofore unrecoverable natural gas.

Ohio will soon authorize fracking wastewater pools

Ohio regulators will soon approve and permit large, exposed centralized impoundments that hold fracking flowback water.

These are used widely by oil and gas companies in other states to recycle the waste and serve multiple wells near one another .

More Bad News For Fracking: IPCC Warns Methane Traps More Heat

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that methane (CH4) is far more potent a greenhouse gas than we had previously realized.

This matters to the fracking debate because methane leaks throughout the lifecycle of unconventional gas. Natural gas is, after all, mostly methane (CH4).

Fracking poses ‘serious threat’ of water contamination, says report

Fracking poses a “serious threat” of water contamination, including in drinking water, according to a report that also claims that 280 billion gallons of radioactive waste water was produced in the US in 2012.

Cuadrilla Abandons Lancashire Fracking Site to Protect Migratory Birds

Oil companies have a reputation, whether fully warranted or not, of caring little for the environment in their quest to discover and extract more hydrocarbons in order to increase profits and keep their investors happy. It may be quite choking to know then that Cuadrilla, the company that is trying to lead the development of the UK fracking industry, has decided to scrap plans to drill for shale gas at a site in Lancashire due to the potential harm it could cause to the large number of migrating birds that use the area every year.

Frac sand health fears rise as mining booms in Wisconsin

Frances Sayles is cleaning her counters and vacuuming her home more often in an attempt to keep a never-ending stream of sand at bay. But it is not just the cleaning that concerns her. She also worries about her health.

“It bothers me because I have asthma and I have trouble breathing at night, especially,” said Sayles, a retired certified nursing assistant. “I’m a very healthy person other than that.”

Gas Storage Sets Spain Up for a ‘Significant’ Earthquake

You probably shouldn’t be able to pump 100 million cubic meters of gas into an undersea reservoir next door to a fault line and just be OK. That’s sort of like trying to lift weights with a semi-healed broken arm. Pockets in the Earth’s crust might make a handy vessel for extracted gas in ideal circumstances, but even not very active fault lines, such as the recently reawakened one under Spain’s Gulf of Valencia, are still geological weaknesses by definition. Nonetheless, a Spanish firm has been injecting gas 1.7 kilometers under the Mediterranean Sea all summer with the result being, according to the Spanish government, some 400 smallish earthquakes and the slight but real possibility of a big one.

California – Federal Government Urged to Halt Offshore Oil Fracking in California Coastal Waters, Analyze Dangers to Whales, Sea Turtles

The federal government is violating a key national environmental law by allowing offshore fracking in waters off California’s coast without analyzing risks to human health and endangered marine species, according to a notice letter filed today by the Center for Biological Diversity. The notice was filed with two federal agencies in charge of regulating offshore oil development; if the government fails to act, the Center plans legal action.

Gulf Oil Spill Trial: Focus Put on Scientists’ Spill Estimates

A federal judge was set to begin hearing three weeks of testimony Monday about how much oil made it into the ocean during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Experts for BP and the federal government will provide U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier with very different estimates when the second phase of a trial resumes for litigation spawned by the spill.

BP trial to focus on spill data

When BP used a capping stack to seal its blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico, the device didn’t just shut the source of the nation’s worst offshore oil spill. Its pressure gauge also provided scientists with crucial data about the rate that crude that was spewing from the well when engineers finally killed it in July 2010.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil work starts to ramp up after storm falters

Oil and gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico was starting to ramp up toward normal on Sunday after Tropical Storm Karen lost potency off the Gulf Coast, officials cancelled evacuation orders, and energy companies started to restaff offshore platforms.

Chevron resuming GoM operations as Karen weakens

Chevron began returning workers to shuttered Gulf of Mexico operations and Anadarko Petroleum said it expected to follow suit as Tropical Storm Karen weakened off Louisiana.

Chevron, which produces oil and gas from the Tahiti and Blind Faith fields and has a stake in the Perdido development, said on its website that it would be resuming normal operations. It didn’t say how long that would would take.

Enbridge To Argue For Pipeline Reversal

Under fields, past homes and across waterways, a pipeline has run through one of Canada’s most populous corridors for nearly four decades, quietly pumping oil between southern Ontario and Montreal.

While it hasn’t generated much national attention in the past, Line 9 is now being thrust into the spotlight as the company that operates it seeks approval to reverse its flow and increase its capacity.

Citizen activists urge Cedar Creek Lake residents to ‘make noise’ about pipeline

About 60 people showed up for a town hall meeting about the failed 65-year-old Pegasus Pipeline running through Cedar Creek Lake.

Public Citizen and Safe Community Alliance sponsored the forum on Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Seven Points Recreation Center. It featured speakers who warned residents about the risk of a local environmental catastrophe if the pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil transporting diluted tar sands bitumen is allowed to resume operation after it is repaired from a disastrous rupture in Arkansas six months ago.

Keystone Pipeline Looks Worse With Each Study

With the recent release of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report concluding that the climate is still changing and humans are almost definitely culpable, debate over the construction of the Keystone Pipeline has returned to the limelight.

In addition to the IPCC report, anti-pipeline activists have leverage with the release of reports by the Center for Biological Diversity and Cornell University finding that building the pipeline could likely have negative consequences not only for the environment, but the economy.

Mideast Unrest as Foil to Promote Keystone Pipeline

TransCanada, the company trying to build the Keystone XL pipeline, is distributing a new round of ads in support of its stalled project.

Though a final decision on the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry crude from Canada’s oil sands to American refineries, will not come for months, both supporters and opponents of the project have been amplifying their messages as the State Department nears completion of an assessment of the pipeline’s environmental impact.

Quebec Calls Out Russia Over Greenpeace Arrests

Quebec is wading into international waters, calling out the Russian government in the case of Greenpeace activists arrested during a protest last month.

Jean-Francois Lisee, the Parti Quebecois government’s minister of international relations, is asking for clemency in the case of a Quebec resident held in Russian prison.

Concern for health of Greenpeace activists detained in Russia

Some of the 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists being detained in Russia while awaiting piracy charges are being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, while others are held in “extremely cold” cells, according to the head of Greenpeace.

Russia’s Arctic offshore oil platform defended

A senior employee of the state-owned Russian oil company Gazprom has spoken up in defence of the detention of Greenpeace activists who attempted to board an Arctic oil rig.

Shell chief: Arctic return timeline uncertain

Peter Voser, the outgoing chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, said the company hasn’t decided when it may attempt to re-launch oil exploration in Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast.

Fukushima worker accidentally switches off cooling pumps, backup kicks in

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said on Monday that pumps used to inject water to cool damaged reactors were hit by a power failure, but a backup system kicked in.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said a worker conducting system inspections mistakenly pushed a button turning off power to some of the systems in the four reactor buildings at the Fukushima plant.

Fukushima Reactor’s Cooling System Briefly Stalls

The operator of Japan’s wrecked nuclear plant said Monday that a pump used to cool one of the damaged reactors had stopped, possibly because of human error, in the latest mishap at the problem-plagued facility.

Japan asks for world’s help on Fukushima leaks

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that Japan is open to receiving overseas help to contain widening disaster at the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima, where radioactive water leaks and other mishaps are now reported almost daily.

Fukushima food featured at London fair

A Japanese group has promoted the safety of agricultural products grown in Fukushima Prefecture at an annual cultural event at Trafalgar Square in London.

The group, comprising people from Fukushima Prefecture living in London, set up a booth at the event, Japan Matsuri, and sold products from the prefecture such as rice, peaches, apple juice and Kitakata Ramen noodles in cooperation with Japan’s National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations on Saturday.

4 New Fukushima-Related Disasters

This week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe delivered a statement to reassure his people: “Some may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you the situation is under control.”

Unfortunately, that’s patently untrue. It’s been two and a half years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but the destruction continues. Here are four recent troubling stories that show the ongoing damage from the nuclear fallout:

Images of evacuated Fukushima communities reminiscent of Chernobyl

The latest in The Atlantic’s wonderful In Focus photo essay series explores the lost communities around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl when it was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. A 20-kilometer exclusion zone set around the facility remains in place, and last month Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj joined a group of residents visiting their lost homes to capture the state of the largely-abandoned area. Even after just two years, the images are all-too-similar to the ghostly shots from Chernobyl.

U.N. nuclear agency sends new Fukushima expert mission

The U.N. nuclear agency said on Friday it would send an international team of experts to Japan later this month to look into efforts to clean up affected areas around the crippled Fukushima atomic power plant.

Robbie the robot in a Japanese adventure: British firm’s creation sent to Fukushima

The Y-1000 might sound like a cyborg from The Terminator films – Arnold Schwarzenegger played the bloodthirsty T-1000 – but this robot looks a lot more like the kindly Johnny Five from the Short Circuit comedies.

Not only does the Y-1000 share Johnny’s tank-track base and one of his long arms, he also has a similar nickname: Robbie.

For “zombie” Fukushima operator, fresh financing masks long-term woes

Its stock price has nearly trebled this year, its near-term debt trades at par, banks have extended credit, and an enterprise value of $83 billion – a rough guide to how much it could cost to buy – makes it Asia’s biggest listed electricity utility.

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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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