Environmental Must-Reads – October 9, 2014


Fracking company teams up with Susan G. Komen, introduces pink drill bits “for the cure”

In a statement to the IB Times, a Komen spokeswoman said that the partnership “grew from Baker Hughes’ involvement in our Houston Race for the Cure” and that “the issue is personal to them and their employees,” adding that “the evidence to this point does not establish a connection between fracking and breast cancer.”

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the foundation known for painting everything pink and, in one extremely controversial decision, pulling its grants from Planned Parenthood, has found a partner in Baker Hughes, a major drilling services company. The result: Baker Hughes is rolling out one thousand pink drill bits this October. Seriously.

In Texas, a Fight Over Fracking

Many Texans have long held the oil and gas industry as dear to their hearts as a prairie range full of feeding cattle. Now suddenly that love is being tested here in a local election, where a grass-roots campaign against gas producers has pushed the industry into a corner.

The battle is over a proposed city ban on hydraulic fracturing — the technique of blasting shale rock with water, sand and chemicals to dislodge oil and gas, often called fracking — in a referendum on Nov. 4. No city in Texas has ever come close to passing such a measure.

Group pushes for more chemical disclosure at fracking sites

Disclosure of complete chemical information before oil and gas companies break ground on a fracking site could better prepare emergency-response teams for the worst fires, a Cleveland-based environmental and consumer organization said yesterday.

Based on its study of a Monroe County well-pad fire in June, the nonprofit Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund, which opposes fracking, came up with recommendations for state government to clarify chemical-disclosure laws for oil and gas companies working in Ohio.

Cuomo: ‘I don’t know’ why state edited fracking study

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said he was not sure why his administration helped shape a federal study on water quality in the gas-rich Southern Tier.

On Monday, Capital reported that officials from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority weighed in on a federal water quality study that is a necessary first step to prepare for fracking. State officials have claimed that their frequent communications with the U.S. Geological Survey were a normal back-and-forth between federal and state agencies.

Report: Fracking study changed after intervention by NY State officials

A 2013 federal water study was edited to play down the negative effects of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” following a flurry of email exchanges between the authors and New York state officials, according to a report published this week by local political news website Capital New York.

The study, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), had examined naturally occurring methane in water wells across the gas-rich Southern Tier, a group of counties located on New York’s border with Pennsylvania.

In the U.S., a Turning Point in the Flow of Oil

The Singapore-flagged tanker BW Zambesi set sail with little fanfare from the port of Galveston, Tex., on July 30, loaded with crude oil destined for South Korea. But though it left inauspiciously, the ship’s launch was another critical turning point in what has been a half-decade of tectonic change for the American oil industry.

Canada to badly miss 2020 emissions-cut target -official watchdog

Canada is set to badly miss a 2020 target for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, in part because of its failure to regulate the booming oil and gas sector, Parliament’s environmental watchdog said on Tuesday.

The scathing report by Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand will add to the political challenges faced by the right-leaning Conservative government, which polls show could lose power in an election set for 2015.

DEP seeks $4.5 million record fine against EQT for impoundment leak

State regulators are aiming to levy a record fine against another shale gas company for leaks in its wastewater ponds.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection announced Tuesday that it has filed a civil complaint, seeking to fine Pittsburgh-based EQT Production Co. a record $4.5 million for a 2012 impoundment leak in Tioga County. If the state Environmental Hearing Board approves the fine, it would be the largest given to a shale gas driller in the state.

Will they drill Rolling Hills? Residents worry about drilling plans in their Wyoming town

Orvie Stoneking was 65, retired from the railroad after 38 years, when the letter arrived. It bore the letterhead of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and informed Stoneking the land beneath his home was to be auctioned off in an oil and gas lease.

Development could result in physical alterations to his property, the letter said, though it noted that land leased to oil companies is not always drilled.

Pioneer Energy has a mobile solution to oil field problem

The spewing of flash gases from wells is one of the biggest environmental concerns sparked by the oil and gas shale drilling boom — and Lakewood-based Pioneer Energy says it has a solution.

The startup, which opened its factory Tuesday, plans to compress that gas, dry it, chill it and spin it until it turns into a stream of usable gases and liquids.

Fracking debate draws cash

The first round of campaign finance reports show the proposition against hydraulic fracturing inside the city is already the most expensive campaign in Denton’s history, with both sides vying for the right to call themselves “grass roots.”

Two specific-purpose committees, one formed for and another against the ban, filed reports with the city secretary showing more than $280,000 raised since the City Council voted to put the proposition on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Pipeline growth points to shale boom’s infrastructure demands

More oil is flowing through the nation’s network of pipelines as it expands to accommodate a flood of crude coming out of U.S. wells today.

Some 192,400 miles of pipelines ferried crude oil, refined petroleum products and natural gas liquids across the country in 2013, marking a 9.3 percent increase in overall mileage from 2008, according to a new report from the Association of Oil Pipe Lines and the American Petroleum Institute.

Affiliates Split With National Chamber on BP Settlement

Gulf Coast chambers of commerce told the U.S. Supreme Court this week that their mothership, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, does not represent them in its support of BP PLC’s challenge to the class action settlement stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In an unusual public display of disagreement with the national chamber, the local affiliates, said:

“The Chamber did not seek the input nor approval of the amici affiliates, nor to our knowledge any Gulf Coast area affiliate, prior to filing its amicus brief in support of petitioner’s petition for a writ of certiorari.”

New study examines role of government in Deepwater Horizon oil spill

A recent ruling by a federal judge that BP was “grossly negligent” in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico placed the majority of blame on the multinational oil and gas company. Although not on trial in this case, the federal government was also culpable in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, according to a new paper by Christopher Koliba, professor in Community Development and Applied Economics, and one of his former students.

BP has “buyer’s remorse” over spill deal, opponents tell Supreme Court

BP’s request for the Supreme Court to take a look at its multibillion-dollar 2012 oil spill settlement with Gulf Coast businesses is driven by buyer’s remorse over a contract it wishes it hadn’t signed, plaintiffs’ lawyers allege.

Two months ago, after lower courts turned it down, BP asked the high court to intervene in a months-long dispute, which centered on whether claimants for oil spill damages under the settlement have to prove their financial losses arose from the 2010 disaster. BP asked whether a district court can certify a class in which some members were not harmed financially by a defendant’s actions.

Freeh says Alabama man should return Gulf claim money

The former FBI chief appointed to investigate the BP oil spill claims process is seeking the return of nearly $240,000 from an Alabama man and his maritime business.

Louis Freeh, in a federal court filing this week, says the man claimed to have made the bulk of his 2009 income for himself and his business from shrimping — revenue that was shut off by the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Crews end efforts into cleaning up oil spill in Hawaii waters

Response crews on Wedensday ended their efforts into cleaning up an oil spill off Hawaii waters after noticing that the oily water sheen had disappeared and found no signs of oil on West Oahu beaches.

Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Hawaii State Department of Health and Hawaii Independent Energy noticed during an overflight of the area on Wednesday that the oily water had dissolved into a silver sheen about five miles off the coast of West Oahu.

The Tar Sands Bubble

The Canadian tar sands industry has seen better days. Energy giant Statoil announced last week that it would postpone a major mining project in Alberta for at least three years. It was just the latest in a string of major setbacks for tar sands oil, which has become nearly as bad for corporate profits as it is for the environment.

High labor costs and the falling price of crude oil have contributed to the industry’s dark days, but environmental activists can also take a bow. By delaying the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would ship tar sands oil across the Midwest to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, they have helped make digging up Alberta’s boreal forest an increasingly bad investment.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission works to strengthen pipeline rules

Commissioners and staff at the newly empowered Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Wednesday began studying how best to boost pipeline safety throughout the state.

Armed with new authority to regulate third-party contractors who work on or near pipelines, the commissioners and staff are considering other pipeline regulations that need strengthening.

No Keystone XL Pipeline? No Problem, Says Canadian Firm Planning To Send Crude East Instead Of South

Momentum is building for an all-Canadian oil pipeline that would serve as an alternative to the proposed Keystone XL project, which is on indefinite hold. The proposed north-of-the-border pipeline would be North America’s largest and comes as U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian oil companies attempt to heed the concerns of farmers and environmentalists.

Nebraska farmers don’t want Canadian heavy crude piped over their watersheds on its way to the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists are against the oil being taken out of the ground at all.

New Enbridge pipeline could give Alberta crude another conduit to world markets

A surge of Alberta heavy oil may soon hit global markets as new pipelines help companies bypass a contentious ban on U.S. crude exports.

With major export conduits such as Northern Gateway and Keystone XL stalled, some companies have sought U.S. government licences to re-export Canadian crude from U.S. shores. The shipments are rare but permitted under U.S. rules so long as the oil is not mixed with that country’s crude.

Environment commissioner takes aim at Arctic, oilsands

The Federal government isn’t doing enough to combat climate change or to reduce pollution from Alberta’s oilsands, says a scathing new report by the environment commissioner.

But environment commissioner Julie Gelfand’s most biting remarks are on the government’s lack of preparation for increasing marine traffic in the Arctic. She warns there are outdated maps and surveys, inadequate navigational aids and icebreaking services that are stretched to the limit.

Lukoil commissions arctic oil field

The start of operations at an oil field in West Siberia is a sign the Russian energy sector remains competitive, Russia’s deputy prime minister said.

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich joined Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov for the commissioning of the Imilorskoye in West Siberia.

Lego ends Shell partnership following Greenpeace campaign

Lego will not renew its marketing contract with Shell after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace to end a partnership that dates to the 1960s.

The environmental campaign group, protesting about the oil giant’s plans to drill in the Arctic, had targeted the world’s biggest toy maker with a YouTube video that attracted nearly 6m views for its depiction of a pristine Arctic, built from 120kg of Lego, being covered in oil.

As Trains Move Oil Bonanza, Delays Mount for Other Goods and Passengers

An energy boom that has created a sharp increase in rail freight traffic nationwide is causing major delays for Amtrak passenger trains and is holding up the transport of vital consumer and industrial goods, including chemicals, coal and hundreds of thousands of new American cars, rail officials and federal and state regulators say.

Pennsylvania releases crude oil train reports

As many as 60 trains a week carry large volumes of Bakken crude oil cross Pennsylvania, according to documents released Wedensday by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

That makes the Keystone State the largest single destination on the East Coast for the oil shipments from North Dakota. The Bakken oil saved Philadelphia-area refineries from closure, but it also raised questions about whether the communities the trains pass through could respond to derailments that resulted in large fires and spills.

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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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