Environmental Must-Reads – September 12, 2013


California Legislature passes fracking regulation bill

A heavily lobbied bill that would give California the nation’s toughest regulation of a controversial oil drilling technique won easy passage Wednesday from the Legislature.

The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who said Wednesday that he would sign it into law.

California’s Fracking Bill Passes Assembly with Flawed Amendments

The only remaining California bill this term to address fracking (SB 4) passed through the Assembly this morning with new amendments by the oil and gas industry that undermine the bill’s original intent. The Natural Resources Defense Council, California League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action and Environmental Working Group no longer support SB4 due to these amendments.

Flawed Fracking Bill Passes California Assembly

Senate Bill 4, which undermines existing environmental law and leaves Californians unprotected from fracking and other dangerous and extreme fossil fuel extraction techniques, passed the California Assembly today and will likely head to Governor Brown’s desk after a concurrent vote in the Senate.

We don’t need no stinking permits: California frackers get their way

Until last week, the days of unbridled fracking in California appeared to be drawing to a close. But then legislation that would require drillers to obtain permits before work could begin was abruptly watered down, potentially handing the oil and gas industry a significant lobbying victory.

Exxon Mobil unit charged for Pennsylvania fracking waste spill

An Exxon Mobil Corp subsidiary is being charged by the Pennsylvania attorney general for spilling more than 50,000 gallons of wastewater at a natural gas well site in 2010.

Charged With Illegally Dumping Polluted Fracking Fluid, Exxon Claims ‘No Lasting Environmental Impact’

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General has filed criminal charges against ExxonMobil for illegally dumping tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste at a drilling site in 2010. The Exxon subsidiary, XTO Energy, had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil.

Secrets of Fracking Fluids Pave Way for Cleaner Recipe

The myriad liquid concoctions used in hydraulic fracturing make for quite a recipe book. Since January 2011, FracFocus, an online chemical-disclosure registry, has assembled a list of the mixtures used at more than 52,000 oil and gas wells across the United States. In these data, geochemist Brian Ellis sees opportunity. He plans to mix different chemicals into oil- and gas-rich shale rock inside a pair of high-pressure chambers that he is building. This will allow him to explore the reactions that occur when these ‘fracking’ fluids are injected deep underground.

Environmental Groups Set Stage for Litigation Challenging BLM’s Proposed Hydraulic Fracturing Rulemaking with Claim That BLM Is Violating NEPA

Eighteen environmental organizations – lead by the Sierra Club – are claiming that the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) will violate the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) if it finalizes its proposed rulemaking related to hydraulic fracturing on federal lands without preparing a full-scale Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”).

Hundreds of natural gas pipeline opponents in Addison County dominate PSB hearing

About 600 Vermonters thronged to the Middlebury Union Middle School on Tuesday night to oppose a natural gas pipeline proposed for Addison County.

Dominion Gets OK To Expand Natural Gas Exports

The Energy Department on Wednesday gave Dominion Resources permission to export liquefied natural gas from its southern Maryland terminal to countries that don’t have free trade agreements with the United States.

Breaking: First Marcellus Fracked Gas Export Permit Approved by Energy Dept

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has granted the first ever LNG export permit license to Dominion Resources, Inc. to export gas obtained from the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process in the Marcellus Shale basin.

Why we need a strong BLM fracking rule that covers every state with federal oil and gas leases

North Dakota’s senators have sent a letter to the BLM asking that their state be exempted from any new federal fracking rules. They said that “North Dakota’s successful record in managing its energy development is becoming a model for the nation.”

Yet last week it was reported that North Dakota had 23 well blowouts in the past 12 months. That’s not a model that should be replicated anywhere else. After two big blowouts last year, North Dakota oil companies promised to develop a list of best practices to improve well safety that might be the basis for new regulations. The industry has not yet concluded this work, even though the oil and gas industry has already published dozens of best practices for well safety.

Trial begins against BP over Texas refinery emissions

Trial began on Wednesday in the first four of 48,000 civil lawsuits filed against BP Plc for pollution from the 460,196 barrel per day (bpd) refinery it owned in Texas City, Texas until early this year, according to court documents.

BP Poisoned Neighbors in Toxin Release, Texas Jury Told

BP Plc (BP/) deliberately exposed neighbors of a Texas refinery to tons of cancer-causing gases for weeks without warning in 2010, a lawyer told a Texas jury.

The lawsuits by four residents are the first of almost 48,000 toxic-exposure claims to come to trial. The plaintiffs seek as much as $200,000 each in actual damages, plus $10 billion in punitive damages which, they said in court papers, they would donate to charity.

BP objects to settlement claims office’s quarterly budget again, demands $25.5 million cut

BP asked a federal judge on Wednesday to cut by $25.5 million the proposed fourth quarter budget for the Court Supervised Settlement Program that administers private economic and medical claims stemming from the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

Feds oppose bid to delay BP rig supervisors’ trial

Justice Department prosecutors have urged a federal judge to reject a request to postpone the manslaughter trial of two BP supervisors who worked on the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Honore Backs Louisiana Lawsuit Against Oil Companies

The Army general who won acclaim for helping restore order in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina is backing a flood control board’s lawsuit against oil and gas companies.

Retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore (AHN’-ur-ay) endorsed the lawsuit in a full-page advertisement in Monday editions of The Advocate newspaper. The lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East seeks to hold 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies responsible for much of the continuing loss of wetlands that protect New Orleans from hurricanes.

Five Years After Devastating Oil Spills In Nigeria, Shell May Finally Cough Up Millions

It has been five years since two massive oil spills polluted the swampy, oil-rich region of southern Nigeria. But, to this day, dull gray water with a rainbow sheen still courses through streams and rivers. Fish still die. Fumes still fill the air.

After this week, some of the people most affected by the spills may finally get their due. Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A), the company whose burst pipelines created this mess in 2008 and 2009, is meeting with leaders of Nigeria’s Bodo community in order to reach a settlement.

Shell considers payouts for Nigeria spills

Officials of Royal Dutch Shell have held talks in Nigeria’s southern city of Port Harcourt with representatives for the Bodo community on compensation and clean-up five years after major oil spills devastated parts of the Niger Delta.

The two oil spills that started in 2008 led to the largest loss of a mangrove habitat ever caused by a spill, affecting about 30,000 people in the Niger Delta area since then, according to London-based law firm Leigh Day.

Molasses Spill In Honolulu Harbor Is Suspected Cause Of Mass Fish Deaths (UPDATED)

KITV reports that 1,400 tons of molasses spilled from Matson’s faulty pipe at Honolulu Harbor. As the molasses sank to the bottom of the ocean, fish were forced to swim to the surface causing Monday’s dramatic scene. The Department of Health has warned people to stay out of the water by the Honolulu Harbor and the Keehi Lagoon because the dead fish could attract sharks and barracudas.

Pipeline Safety Chief Says Regulatory Process Is ‘Kind of Dying’

Jeffrey Wiese, the nation’s top oil and gas pipeline safety official, recently strode to a dais beneath crystal chandeliers at a New Orleans hotel to let his audience in on an open secret: the regulatory process he oversees is “kind of dying.”

Billionaire investor, environmentalist to join Keystone XL opponents for Neb. barn dedication

A billionaire investor who has spent more than $2 million fighting the Keystone XL pipeline is traveling to Nebraska to meet with local opponents of the project.

Coast Guard, Partners Complete Arctic Oil Recovery Exercise

Members of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, under the guidance of the Coast Guard’s recently released Arctic Strategy, worked with partner federal agencies and scientific organizations to successfully complete a simulated spilled oil response and recovery exercise aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy on the Arctic ice field Tuesday.

Oil in Quebec Train Disaster Was Mislabeled

The oil carried by a freight train that derailed and exploded in Quebec this year had been misclassified as a less dangerous type of crude, Canadian officials said Wednesday, and they urged U.S. and Canadian regulators to ensure dangerous goods are accurately labeled.

Canada Regulator Says Oil Mislabeled in Quebec Rail Disaster

Canadian transportation safety investigators said Wednesday the oil carried in rail cars that derailed in a small Quebec town in early July was more hazardous than indicated, helping explain why the accident sparked a massive explosion that led to 47 deaths.

Japan anger over French Fukushima cartoon

Japan will formally protest about a cartoon in a French satirical weekly of sumo wrestlers with extra limbs at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

Fukushima Fallout Not Affecting U.S.-Caught Fish

In recent weeks, there has been a significant uptick in news from Fukushima, Japan. Officials from the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, admitted that radioactive water is still leaking from the nuclear plant crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Fukushima tritium levels spike 15-fold in three days

In just three days, readings of tritium in groundwater near the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant have soared more than 15 times, the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant admitted.

Results of recently tested water taken from the well some 20 meters south from a number of storage tanks have showed that levels of tritium have now reached 64,000 becquerels per liter.

Fukushima plant could remain a hazard for at least 30 years

The radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant broadly falls into two types of potentially harmful emissions. The first is the weakly penetrating beta-radiation from radionuclides such as iodine-131 and strontium-90, which pose a health risk if they come into contact with the skin or get ingested or inhaled into the body.

Japan’s Food, Water Safe Despite Radioactive Water Leak At Fukushima: Govt.

With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) selecting Tokyo as the venue for the 2020 Olympic games, the Japanese government says the country’s water and food are safe despite leaks of radioactive water at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant northeast of the Japanese capital.

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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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