Environmental Must-Reads – September 12, 2014


Fracking workers exposed to dangerous amounts of benzene, study says

Some workers at oil and gas sites where fracking occurs are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene, a colorless gas that can cause cancer, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.

The agency, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that people limit their benzene exposure to an average of 0.1 of a part per million during their shift. But when NIOSH researchers measured the amount of airborne benzene that oil and gas workers were exposed to when they opened hatches atop tanks at well sites, 15 out of 17 samples were over that amount.

Evidence mounting to suggest earthquakes are man made

Oklahoma residents are fed up with what they’re calling a daily occurrence of earthquakes and a lack of action by the state.

Their complaints are backed up by these alarming numbers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

From 1978-2008, Oklahoma would average two earthquakes a year that were greater than a 3.0 magnitude.

The USGS says just during the past two weeks, the state has experienced 21 earthquakes above a 3.0 magnitude.

Yale, Penn State studies offer conflicting views of fracking

Two academic studies exploring health and water issues in the gas drilling industry on Wednesday painted very different pictures of its potential impact and brought rebukes from advocates on both sides.

A Yale University survey supported by environmental groups including The Heinz Endowments found increased reporting of certain health issues by people who live within a kilometer of working wells in Washington County.

Natural gas exports set to take off as Energy Department approves two new projects

U.S. regulators have approved construction of two plants for exporting natural gas, potentially to lucrative markets in Europe, Japan, Taiwan and other parts of Asia.

The permits, awarded to Cameron, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, for a Louisiana facility, and Carib Energy’s smaller plant in Florida, represent a significant milestone for the industry. They are only the second and third facilities approved to export liquified natural gas, or LNG, to nations without free trade agreements with the United States.

Study: North Texas Drilling Adds $11.8B To Economy

Production from the natural gas-rich Barnett Shale in North Texas has risen even as drilling activity and natural gas prices have fallen, according to a study commissioned by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce released Wednesday.

The Waco, Texas-based Perryman Group analysis shows that oil and gas drilling in the Barnett Shale is contributing $11.8 billion annually to the North Texas economy, up from $11.1 billion per year in 2011. Drilling adds $480.6 million in taxes to local cities, counties and school districts, the study says.

U.S. shale squeezing out Saudi oil imports, boosting gasoline exports

North America’s shale oil boom has started to squeeze Saudi Arabian oil out of the U.S. market in the same way it did with West African crude, the West’s energy agency said on Thursday.

The International Energy Agency also predicted a flood of U.S. gasoline exports to world market.

Fracking supporters frustrated with proposed drilling rules

Even though it could further delay the launch of fracking in Illinois, a coalition of business and labor groups wants the Quinn administration to redraft rules regulating the controversial oil and gas drilling process.

Representatives of the GROW-IL coalition said Tuesday that the recently released rules written by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stray too far from the original law regulating hydraulic fracturing, potentially limiting the success of companies seeking to extract oil and gas from beneath the ground.

Legislature study focuses on drilling and water quality

A legislative interim study on Tuesday took a look at the impact drilling has on water.

The study was requested by Rep. Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, and held before the House Agriculture and Wildlife Committee. Vaughan said he was concerned that drilling activities have contaminated water wells for his constituents or caused the wells to go dry.

Industry to seek changes in ‘fracking’ rules

Supporters of high-volume oil and gas extraction said Wednesday that they’ll seek dozens of changes in proposed rules governing the practice in Illinois that they believe violate a hard-won compromise between industry and environmentalists.

A coalition of industry groups will outline more than 65 areas of concern to a legislative panel that must decide whether the rules – written by the Department of Natural Resources to implement a new hydraulic fracturing law – can take effect as written, said Mark Denzler vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association.

Demands for more local control over oil drilling reach the state capitol

State lawmakers got an earful today from people who want townships to have the ability to say no to oil and gas companies.

A 2011 amendment to the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act specifically bars townships from preventing conventional drilling.

Environmental groups sue U.S. Department of Transportation over oil train safety

Environmental groups sued the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday over the shipment of volatile crude oil in older railroad tank cars.

Accident investigators have complained for decades that the cars are too easily punctured or ruptured when derailed, leading to spills.

Neighborhood filling up after evacuation

Bill and Virginia Ausbrooks of Mayflower were the first ones to move into the previously evacuated part of the Northwoods subdivision when it reopened earlier this summer.

The subdivision was partially evacuated after the oil spill that occurred when an Exxon pipeline ruptured in March 2013.

Minnesota regulators order a broader look at pipeline route

Minnesota regulators on Thursday ordered a broader search for the best pathway to build a major new crude oil pipeline across the state.

The 3-2 decision by the state Public Utilities Commission was a setback for Enbridge Energy, which wants to build the $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline through northern Minnesota to carry North Dakota oil to a terminal in Superior, Wis., that feeds refineries across the Midwest.

Enviro Groups Decry Enbridge Tar Sands Workaround

Conservation groups are outraged by the State Department’s acceptance of Enbridge’s move to increase shipment of Canadian oil derived from Alberta bituminous sand by moving heavy crude to another line to cross the border from Canada – but unlike with the Keystone XL Pipeline, there does not appear to be much recourse.

“We’re here to express our outrage and opposition,” Sierra Club Director Michael Brune said on a call with reporters Thursday, leveling disfavor at both the company and the State Department.

TransCanada rep helped Nebraska senator shape new law favouring pipeline

A Republican state senator from Nebraska who introduced a law that could help TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal get approval says his bill was drafted after “numerous conversations” with representatives from the Canadian company.

“TransCanada was in Nebraska, as they were in other states, continuously,” Sen. Jim Smith told the Star in an interview.

Public schools cash in on Keystone XL pipeline

Despite the less-than-certain future of the Keystone XL pipeline — mired for six years in regulatory red tape — TransCanada is showing its commitment to the project with its wallet.

The company has spent $2.4 billion on the project that has become an environmental cause célèbre, including paying $638,000 this summer to secure a 4-mile-long stretch of public right of way in three northern Nebraska counties. The land is part of a trust to make money for the state’s public schools.

TransCanada Secures Easements For Oil Pipeline Route

The Canada-based developer of the Keystone XL pipeline has paid $474,000 to secure easements for the pipeline through state-owned school land. The land is a part of a trust to make money for the state’s public schools.

TransCanada has also agreed to pay $164,000 to farmers and ranchers who rent the public schools trust land to cover loss of crops and forage over three years. In total, the company is spending $638,000.

Japanese Newspaper Retracts Fukushima Disaster Report and Fires Editor

The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest daily newspaper, retracted an influential news report on the Fukushima nuclear disaster on Thursday after weeks of criticism from other news organizations.

The move, which included an apology, came a month after the newspaper retracted a series of articles on another hot-button issue: the women from Korea and elsewhere who were forced by Japan to serve in military brothels during World War II. The articles used reports about the practice by one Japanese man whose particular accusations have been widely discredited.

Asahi retracts article about Yoshida testimony that reported ‘workers withdrew against order’

Tadakazu Kimura, president of The Asahi Shimbun, held a Sept. 11 news conference at which he retracted an article (English translation at AJW) that appeared in the morning edition of May 20, 2014, reporting on the testimony provided by Masao Yoshida, the plant manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The testimony was compiled by the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Kimura also apologized to readers and individuals with ties to TEPCO.


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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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