Environmental Must-Reads – October 8, 2013


Solvay is paying up to tap into fracking.

The $13 billion Belgian chemicals company is staking $1.3 billion on Chemlogics, an American specialist in compounds for extracting oil and natural gas. The price looks high, but there should be tax savings, a sales increase and a chance to ride the shale revolution.

Now They’re Fracking California’s Oceans?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, California’s coast faces a new threat. Oil companies are fracking the ocean floor just offshore — and state and federal officials seem unconcerned or out of the loop about the danger to the Golden State’s sensitive coastal waters.

Some Anti-Fracking Activists Change Tactics, Tone

For years, activists have warned that fracking can have disastrous consequences — ruined water and air, sickened people and animals, a ceaseless parade of truck traffic.

Now some critics are doing what was once unthinkable: working with the industry. Some are even signing lucrative gas leases and speaking about the environmental benefits of gas.

Americans Deserve a Better Fracking Debate (Op-Ed)

Last month, a Colorado man braved the floods to take pictures of swamped oil and gas drilling sites. Why did he put himself in danger? He didn’t trust the companies that operate the sites — or the media — to document the damage at the state’s oil and gas facilities.

His actions are symptomatic of a broader problem with the national debate over fracking. Citizens are hungry for reliable information about new unconventional oil and gas development, but they aren’t receiving it. Interference in the science, weak or non-existent laws and misinformation from industry and activists have clouded the conversation.

Environmentalists Press For Fracking Ban In Massachusetts

Environmental activists in Massachusetts are trying to launch a preemptive strike against hydraulic fracturing. While the controversial gas drilling practice has been the subject of fierce debate in New York for years it has drawn little attention in Massachusetts.

Illinois Begins Registering Companies for Fracking Operations

Illinois has taken the first cautious steps to allow hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to be used in the search for natural gas supplies. Whether that’s good or bad news depends on whom you ask.

Duke study finds radium and elevated salinity in treated oil and gas wastewater; highlights need for revised water quality regulations

This weekend I spoke with Dr. Avner Vengosh, one of the researchers from Duke University that published results of a study looking at wastewater quality from “fracking” operations in Pennsylvania. Their study, “Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania”, was published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Global Frackdown 2 Calls for a Worldwide Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing

On Oct. 19, people from around the world will unite for a day of action to protest fracking. A project of Food & Water Watch, the second annual Global Frackdown will bring thousands of people together that are calling for an international ban on fracking.

Filmmaker Josh Fox calls on concerned citizens around the world to join together for the Global Frackdown event in the video below.

California company will now sell drivers gas that came from landfills

We feel kind of the same way about liquified natural gas as Regina George felt about “fetch” – everyone just needs to stop trying to make it happen.

But people more powerful than us, like T. Boone Pickens, won’t give it up, so we’re probably not going to switch over to 100 percent algae fuel or something anytime soon. Given those circumstances, we’re not mad that a Pickens-backed company in California is selling fuel made from methane that originated at landfills and other waste sources. Beats fracking!

The striking challenge of fracking: Who does it benefit and who gets hurt

Fracking is now a flashpoint in debates about climate change, energy policy, and inequality.

AlterNet has partnered with the Nathan Cummings Foundation to produce Summits on Tenth, a new video series featuring conversations that challenge conventional thinking on the issues you care about. In our second installment, “The Striking Challenge of Fracking: Who Does it Benefit and Who Gets Hurt?” Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute and Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council present strong — and sometimes opposing — points of view on this complicated topic.

Ashtabula to be site of $300 million shale processing plant

Ashtabula is about to benefit from the Utica shale boom, as a Texas energy company and a technology firm from Columbus plan to build a gas-to-liquids processing plant in the city.

Houston-based Pinto Energy said it will spend about $300 million to build the plant, which is expected to be completed and online in early 2016. The plant would take processed natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale plays and convert it into diesel fuel, high-end lubricants and industrial waxes used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and other products.

Full Extent Of Oil And Gas Spills From Colorado Floods Remains Unknown

Last month’s widespread and unprecedented flooding in Colorado caused the release of more than 43,000 gallons of oil and more than 18,000 gallons of so-called “produced water” that flows back during the oil and gas development process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Those totals are likely to rise, as state oil and gas commission inspectors have yet to evaluate about a fifth of the areas affected by flooding. “I think if we have another week of good weather we’ll be able to say we’ve been through all of it,” said Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

State funds seismic monitors for fracking disposal wells

A spending oversight panel approved a $257,287 contract yesterday for the purchase of additional seismic equipment designed to monitor activity near fracking-waste disposal wells.

San Carlos wants gas pipeline to remain shut until PG&E proves it’s not dangerous

Now that PG&E has shut down a nearly 4-mile section of a natural gas pipeline that runs beneath San Carlos between Highway 101 and Interstate 280, city officials said Monday they will insist it stays that way until the utility holds public hearings to ensure no one is in danger.

Although some PG&E officials might think that’s unnecessary, City Manager Jeff Maltbie suggested there is nothing wrong with being overly cautious.

Alaska natural gas pipeline project site selection advances

The companies seeking to advance a multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline project in Alaska have a leading contender for the terminal site where gas would be liquefied and shipped to Asia, signaling that a decades-old dream could become a reality even though major hurdles remain.

Jurors to start deliberations Tuesday in BP refinery case

Jurors should set an example for other companies that put profit ahead of safety by punishing BP with a multibillion dollar fine for spewing toxic gases from its former Texas City refinery, an attorney said Monday at the end of a month-long trial.

BP Did Its Best Given Magnitude of Oil Spill Unknowns, Witnesses Say

After spending a week on how BP tried to seal the Macondo Prospect after the well broke in 2010, the trial today turns to the total amount of oil spilled.

Concluding the second phase of a three-part trial, the Department of Justice and BP will each argue their case for how much oil ultimately made its way into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP accused of well-kill missteps as trial resumes

Phase Two of the spill trial over the April 2010 Macondo well blowout resumed Monday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, with Judge Carl Barbier presiding. BP contractors Transocean and Halliburton, defendants in the trial’s first phase, are aligned in the second phase with the plaintiffs, including Louisiana and Alabama, against BP. Co-defendants and plaintiffs contend BP was grossly negligent in its response to the spill. They claim the well could have been capped in May 2010, instead of the following July.

Judge Hears Conflicting Estimates of BP Oil Spill

For weeks after BP’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, people across the globe were captivated by a live video feed from underwater cameras that showed the company’s blown-out well belching plumes of black crude into the water.

BP fights fed’s oil spill estimates in court

Attorneys for BP and the Justice Department squared off in federal court Monday over how much oil ended up in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a pivotal dispute in the trial over the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Fines for the British oil giant could balloon to $18 billion if U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier agrees with Justice Department calculations on the amount of oil that flowed into the Gulf after the April 20, 2010 disaster on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 people.

Exxon tears down two Arkansas houses damaged by oil spill

More than six months after Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus Pipeline ruptured and spilled 5,000 – 7,000 barrels of diluted bitumen or tar sands oil into a Mayflower, Arkansas neighborhood, clean-up is still underway, as two homes have just been leveled by Exxon in order to remove oil that was found under their foundations.

Trumped by Federal Authority Over Pipeline Safety, Ark. Lawmakers Settle for Symbolism

Arkansas state legislators leery of lax federal oversight of oil pipelines have attempted to beef up safety standards to try to prevent another disastrous spill in their own backyard.

They’re aware, however, that their efforts are largely symbolic.

Michigan business, labor leaders call for Keystone pipeline OK

Michigan’s business and labor leaders are calling on the Obama administration to approve the Keystone pipeline.

The long-delayed project to carry oil from Canada’s oil sands to Texas Gulf Coast refineries has become a flashpoint in the climate change debate.

36 Risk Arrest Protesting Keystone XL at Boston Rally

Thirty-six people risked arrest today while staging a peaceful sit-in at the State Department’s office in Secretary Kerry’s hometown of Boston in opposition to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. More than 200 supporters also rallied at Monday’s event in support of those risking arrest.

Arctic Oil Discovery Heralds More Finds in Norway’s Barents

Norway may see a series of Arctic oil finds after a well produced crude from a previously unproductive layer of rock, explorer Lundin Petroleum AB (LUPE) said.

The Gohta discovery in the Barents Sea announced by Lundin last month was Norway’s first in Permian rocks, formed more than 250 million years ago, the company’s Norway head Torstein Sanness said in an interview. Holding as much as 145 million barrels of oil, Gohta opens as many as 10 possible drilling targets in the surrounding area, he said.

On Russia’s controversial Arctic oil rig Prirazlomnaya

Remote and buffeted by icy waves, the Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Arctic is the focus of a bitter dispute between Greenpeace and the Russian government – now an international court case.

Tepco’s Claim Radiation Leaks Confined to Coast Called ‘Silly’

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (9501) claim that radioactive water leaking into the sea from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant is confined to the coast doesn’t make scientific sense, according to a U.S. researcher who surveyed waters off the site last month.

Japan seeks international help on Fukushima leaks

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan is open to receiving overseas help to contain widening radioactive water leaks at the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima, with leaks and mishaps reported almost daily.

Fukushima Radiation Now A Global Disaster: Japan Finally Asks World For Help, Two Years Too Late

The March 2011 crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, but it took two and a half years after the fact for the Japanese government to ask the world for help.

Report raises fresh concerns about radiation levels in Japanese fish

Two and a half years after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, concerns are again being raised about radiation levels in fish caught in the Pacific Ocean.

A report by the Vancouver weekly newspaper, The Georgia Straight, suggests at least 800 people worldwide could develop cancer from eating fish caught in Japan’s waters – and about half of those cases will be fatal.

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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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