Environmental Must-Reads – September 11, 2014


DEP releases updated details on water contamination near drilling sites

Pennsylvania regulators found an array of contaminants in the roughly 240 private water supplies they said were damaged by oil and gas operations during the past seven years.

Most were the usual culprits: methane, metals and salt that had apparently seeped from well sites or been stirred up by the activity of extracting fossil fuels from the earth.

Residents near gas wells twice as likely to report symptoms, study finds

People who live closest to natural gas wells were twice as likely to report skin problems and upper respiratory symptoms, according to a study published Wednesday examining the possible link between public health and gas extraction.

Researchers from Yale and the University of Washington randomly surveyed nearly 500 residents in the heart of the Marcellus Shale in southwestern Pennsylvania, one of the region’s most intensely drilled areas. They limited the survey to residents with ground-fed water wells because of concerns in some quarters that hydraulic fracturing can contaminate water supplies.

Fracking project permits sought by Helis for drilling operation near Mandeville

Helis Oil and Gas on Wednesday said it filed three permit applications, including a drilling permit, with agencies that have jurisdiction over the controversial fracking project the company has proposed northeast of Mandeville. In addition to the application for a drilling permit from the Louisiana Office of Conservation, the company applied for a revised wetlands permit as required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a revised water quality permit application filed with the state Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

VIDEOS: How Fracking is Affecting Real Californians’ Lives

Fracking and other risky oil extraction techniques are a hot topic around the state, as the industry pushes for expansion from NorCal to SoCal. As more and more Californians express concern over these heavy industrial processes moving into their communities, many of our neighbors are already living with the impacts—and their stories shed light on the kinds of threats we all need protection against.

We’ve been saying for a while now that California needs a time-out on fracking to allow the state to study the risks and how to protect against them. But don’t just take our word for it—listen to your neighbors. NRDC has created a new trio of new narrated slideshows that will help you do just that.

Battle for Democracy in Fracking Fight Continues in Colorado

The battle between citizens concerned about health, safety and the environment and corporate fossil fuel interests continues to escalate in Colorado. Increasingly the battle is also about how much control citizens can exercise through the democratic process over what goes on in their own communities.

California Replaces Oil by Rail From Canada With Domestic

California, the nation’s largest gasoline market, has cut its oil-by-rail volumes from Canada by 86 percent this year while buying more crude made in America.

The most populous U.S. state received 3,142 barrels a day by rail from Canada in July, down from 6,669 in June and a peak of 22,871 in December, California Energy Commission data show. Meanwhile, it more than doubled the oil delivered by rail from Colorado, took a record amount from Utah and brought in more barrels from New Mexico and North Dakota.

House hearing examines volatility of Bakken crude oil

A Republican lawmaker accused the Obama administration Tuesday of using “global warming theory” to advance new safety regulations for transporting Bakken crude oil.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California said the administration was pursuing its effort to reduce use of fossil fuels when it proposed new safety standards for freight rail tankers transporting Bakken crude from North Dakota to coastal refineries.

Cuomo: Fracking protesters are ‘everywhere’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was greeted by a familiar sight as he entered the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco to cast his primary ballot Tuesday: anti-fracking protesters.

Cuomo on Tuesday made his most extensive public comments on hydraulic fracturing in recent months after he was asked about the small group of protesters outside his Westchester County polling place.

Township leaders, residents protest drilling in residential areas

A group of 50 people gathered on the front steps of the capitol on Tuesday afternoon, advocating for more local control over where gas and oil companies could locate drilling sites.

In Scio Township, West of Ann Arbor, a citizen’s group has formed in opposition to a well drilled in that area.

“It’s a big deal. It’s not safe, and we’re not overreacting,” said Laura Robinson of Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards.

Vaughan: Lawmakers Should Reexamine Disposal Well Regulations

At an interim hearing at the state Capitol Tuesday, a state representative from north-central Oklahoma questioned whether the state was properly inspecting oil and gas wells and had the rules necessary to prevent contamination of water supplies.

State Rep. Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City) conducted the interim study and held the hearing. He’s concerned about saltwater pollution in Kay and Noble Counties, which has had large-scale fish-kills for three years in a row.

Local resident Jack Klinger, who has lived near the river for more than 70 years, spoke at the hearing and said his water wells have been contaminated.

Hickenlooper: Land-use conflicts over drilling a key Colorado problem

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday issued an executive order outlining land-use subjects that he wants his new task force to address — from how far oil and gas drilling rigs can be from homes to floodplain restrictions.

The goal of the 21-member oil and gas task force is to develop recommendations that can be translated into legislation and regulations.

First Nations protesters shut down northern B.C. drilling site

After a summer of protests aimed at mining companies, members of the Tahltan Nation in northern B.C. say they have shut down an exploratory drilling operation by taking over the site.

“HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!!!!” states a Monday night posting on the Facebook page for Tahltan elders. “The Klabona Keeper members are occupying a black hawk drill pad above Ealue Lake!!!”

Activists want Columbus to have environmental ‘bill of rights’

No one is fracking in Columbus, and no one is injecting fracking wastewater into the ground here.

But some grass-roots environmental activists are taking no chances.

A group is collecting signatures to get a Community Bill of Rights on the Columbus ballot in May.

Nova Scotia Opts for High Taxes Rather Than Fracking

From the fur trade to fisheries and forests, Canada was built on the toil and sweat of those who wanted to prosper. But these days, it’s harder to create opportunity. And sometimes, government is to blame.

The latest example comes from Nova Scotia. There, the provincial government just imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing used to produce both oil and natural gas. Some people will be quite happy, asserting fracking is dangerous.

Tempers flare over fracking rules

Representatives of the oil and gas industry in Illinois expressed outrage Wednesday about the latest draft of rules that would govern fracking in the state, saying its doubtful “anyone will even bother” to apply for a permit to drill here if the regulations move forward.

Congressman Thinks Oil Train Regulations Are A ‘Facade’ To Control America’s Oil Use

Since the start of 2013, North America has seen a string of disasters involving oil-laden trains. But at least one federal lawmaker thinks government efforts to address the issue are “a facade” to cut Americans’ fossil fuel use.

The Transportation Department has begun implementing new rules to slow down trains and improve safety methodology in response to the incidents. So on Tuesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) suggested at a House Science Committee hearing that the new rules are “perhaps a facade to obtain what we clearly have as a goal of this administration, which is to reduce America’s use of fossil fuel, even though it is now being presented to us as something about safety.”

Bayou Corne sinkhole: Texas Brine seeks permit to discharge wastewater at site, residents speak out

Two years after the nation’s eyes turned toward the Bayou Corne sinkhole, residents gathered Tuesday (Sept. 9) to opine on whether or not the oil company authorities say caused the sinkhole should receive a permit it’s requested at the site.

The permit allows Texas Brine to deposit wastewater back into the sinkhole as part of a process to remedy the damage caused.

Texas Brine’s plans to discharge water into sinkhole draws concerns

Texas Brine Co.’s push for a five-year state permit to discharge salty groundwater with traces of benzene and toluene into the Bayou Corne-area sinkhole has drawn concerns from environmentalists and landowners near the swampland hole in Assumption Parish.

The process has been underway for a year through short-term permits to help remove potentially dangerous methane gas collecting beneath the Bayou Corne community.

The Gulf Is Still So Far From Recovering. Just Ask This Oyster Farmer.

John Tesvich is a fourth-generation oyster farmer in Empire, a tiny Gulf Coast enclave south of New Orleans. He’s spent his life working in the rich oyster beds here, the most productive in the nation, and has weathered his share of storms: During Hurricane Katrina, his house ended up under 17 feet of water. But last week, as he navigated his 40-foot oyster boat out into open water, he admitted that the turmoil this region has faced in the last decade was beginning to wear him down.

“A lot has changed over the years,” he said. “It seems like one crisis after another sometimes.”

Region unprepared for Great Lakes crude oil spill, water quality advocates warn

Driven by capacity constraints in the existing pipeline system, energy companies are eyeing the Great Lakes as a highway for transporting heavy crude oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries in the Midwest.

That traffic carries an inherent risk of an oil spill. Unfortunately, regional authorities are ill prepared for such a disaster, environmental advocates warn.

Oil spill clean-up could take five years: study

As crews head out on the water today to simulate an oil spill on Burrard Inlet, we’re learning more about what would happen if there was ever a pipeline rupture into the Fraser River.

A new study from Kinder Morgan, the company behind the $5.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline project, suggests the environmental damage would be great.

ExxonMobil to Property Owners: ‘No Obligation’ to Maintain Pegasus Pipeline

Lawyers say an upcoming ruling in a class action lawsuit filed in the wake of the oil spill here could have broad-ranging impacts for property owners across the state.

“It was a really strong odor,” said Mayflower resident Terri Riggs of March 29, 2013, the day an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured spilling more than 200,000 gallons of oil.

The pipeline is part of the northern section of a line called Pegasus — more than 600 miles long — that runs from Illinois to Texas.

Making Healthy People and Healthy Communities Part of Our Energy Future

Public health is the oil industry’s Achilles’ Heel. The industry and government do not want us to know that people across the nation are getting sick from petrochemical exposure. Especially in areas of oil and gas activities, our air and water are laced with dangerous chemicals from transportation accidents, fracking activities, tar sands mining, and oil spills. As reserves of conventional crude diminish, more and more of these oil activities occur near people’s homes.

Chemical illnesses are the hidden cost of industry’s rapid expansion across America. The medical community knows with certainty that people get sick when exposed to oil and petrochemicals, yet nothing is being done to protect our health.

Koch’s Invista says new nylon pipe an alternative for oil industry

A unit of Koch Industries said on Wednesday it was introducing a new type of pipe made from nylon, as surging oil and gas output drives demand for new pipelines and concerns mount about the safety of older ones across North America.

Koch’s Invista unit said the nylon pipe was designed to withstand tough oilfield conditions, including corrosive liquids, abrasions, considerable pressure and high temperatures.

Environmental groups may oppose $5B pipeline to N.C.

Opposition appears to be gathering in the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia to the proposed route of the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline planned for eastern North Carolina.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and 21 environmental groups in Virginia and West Virginia have formed a coalition raise to raise alarms about the proposed path through the Appalachians and the Shenandoah Valley.

McAuliffe defends pipeline support at climate-change meeting

During the first meeting of Virginia’s newly reconstituted climate change commission, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) defended his support for a proposed natural gas pipeline, despite concerns from the environmental community.

The group met Wednesday, about a week after McAuliffe, amid great fanfare, announced that a consortium of companies led by energy giant Dominion Resources wants to build a 550-mile pipeline through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

In Hartley Bay, sunken B.C. ferry fuels distrust of Enbridge pipeline proposal

Hartley Bay, a tiny northern B.C. village, feels like a place from another era. In this village of under 200 people, no SUVs or highways are to be seen — only boats and quads rolling gently on wooden boardwalks. People banter casually on the dock with strangers, overlooking the sea.

Mention the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, however, and the chatter quickly turns into a chorus of “no” and shaking heads.

“Not gonna happen,” Nicole Robinson, a mother and member of the Gitga’at Nation, said firmly. “For my children and future grandchildren, I’m prepared to die to stop it. Ask anyone here.”

Blocked On All Other Sides, Tar Sands Could Cross The Arctic

With routes to the east, west, and south currently blocked, tar sands producers are considering shipping oil north, across the Arctic. A new study (PDF) commissioned by the the oil company Canatec and the Canadian province of Alberta says it would be “feasible” to build a 2,400-kilometer “Arctic Gateway Pipeline.” The pipeline would take advantage of the “unprecedented retreat of Arctic sea-ice” caused by climate change to make shipping easier in the Arctic, while also contributing to more climate change by helping spur more tar sands development.

Putin Oil Deals With Exxon, Shell Imperiled by Sanctions

The U.S. and European Union are poised to halt billions of dollars in oil exploration in Russia by the world’s largest energy companies in sanctions that would cut deeper than previously disclosed.

The new sanctions over Ukraine would prohibit U.S. and European cooperation in searching Russia’s Arctic, deep seas or shale formations for crude, according to three U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the measures haven’t been made public. If implemented, they would affect companies from Dallas to London, including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and BP Plc. (BP/)

Three Years After Fukushima, Japan Approves a Nuclear Plant

For the first time since the Fukushima disaster three and a half years ago, Japan’s new nuclear regulatory agency declared Wednesday that an atomic power plant was safe to operate, in a widely watched move that brings Japan a step closer to restarting its idled nuclear industry.

The two reactors at the Sendai power plant on the southern island of Kyushu are the first to be certified as safe enough to restart by the Nuclear Regulation Authority since the agency was created two years ago to restore public confidence in nuclear oversight. All of Japan’s 48 operable commercial nuclear reactors were shut down after the March 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station created serious public doubts about the safety of atomic power in earthquake-prone Japan.

Fukushima nuclear disaster: three years on 120,000 evacuees remain uprooted

More than three years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster more than 120,000 people from the region are living in nuclear limbo with once close-knit families forced to live apart.

Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday gave the green light for two nuclear reactors at Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai plant in south-west Japan to restart, but communities are anxious over the safety aspects. The nuclear industry in Japan has been mothballed since the meltdown.

International Symposium in Fukushima Comes Up with Recommendations to Government

The Nippon Foundation held an International Expert Symposium on September 8 and 9, 2014, in Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture, on the theme “Beyond Radiation and Health Risk – Toward Resilience and Recovery,” putting together a group of international and Japanese experts to examine the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident on the health of local residents and to discuss recovery measures in the future.

Yoshida transcripts on Fukushima nuclear crisis released

Masao Yoshida, chief of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant, had lost hope and was exhausted on the night on March 14, 2011, three days into the nuclear meltdown crisis.

When he saw workers from companies cooperating with Tokyo Electric Power Co. at the plant’s emergency headquarters, Yoshida just muttered: “Everyone, please just go home. Just go back home.”

Workers enter dangerous ‘Atomic Man’ room at Hanford Nuclear Reservation

Workers have entered one of the most dangerous rooms at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The so-called McCluskey Room in the Plutonium Finishing Plant is named after worker Harold McCluskey.

He was covered with radioactive material in 1976 when a glove box exploded. McCluskey, who was 64 at the time, lived for 11 more years and died from causes not related to the accident. He became known as the Atomic Man.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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