Environmental Must-Reads – September 13, 2013


Groundwater Contamination May End the Gas-Fracking Boom

In Pennsylvania, the closer you live to a well used to hydraulically fracture underground shale for natural gas, the more likely it is that your drinking water is contaminated with methane. This conclusion, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA in July, is a first step in determining whether fracking in the Marcellus Shale underlying much of Pennsylvania is responsible for tainted drinking water in that region.

New research: more than half of landowners report problems with shale gas development on their land

Earlier this year, researchers from West Virginia University surveyed West Virginia land owners with shale wells on their property. They surveyed a sample of 481 landowners with a total of 680 wells on their properties (some had more than one). The survey asked about the use of the land prior to drilling, type of drilling, type of agreement, overall satisfaction with outcome, problems encountered, and other factors. The survey response rate was 43%. Of those who responsed, 61.5% were split estate landowners and 38.5% owned some or all of the minerals beneath their land.

New Maryland Coalition Urges Governor O’Malley to Cease the Drafting of Fracking Regulations

State and national groups concerned by Governor O’Malley’s imminent plans to begin drafting fracking regulations launched the Marylanders Against Fracking coalition today to call on the governor to cease any further work to allow fracking in the state. Representatives from Food & Water Watch, Potomac Riverkeeper, Patuxtent Riverkeeper, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Progressive Democrats of America – MD Chapter and Maryland Delegate Shane Robinson held a press conference at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore to introduce the coalition and urge Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to prohibit fracking throughout the state.

Washington Throws Chemical Safety Standards Out the Window,Are Fracking Chemicals Next?

As our elected officials in Washington attempt to sell us on the idea that we need to go to war against anyone who uses chemical weapons, they are working to remove safety standards that protect citizens from corporate America’s ongoing chemical assault.

In recent weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rolled back safety regulations for the chemical industry, while the U.S. House of Representatives has prepared to take aim at the government’s ability to monitor chemicals and other safety hazards posed by fracking.

California Poised to Enact Dangerous Fracking Bill

Senate Bill 4, a controversial bill sponsored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) that opponents say would clear a path to increased fracking, passed the California Legislature on Wednesday, September 11 and is now headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

The Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 53 to 18 in the morning. The bill then moved to the Senate for concurrence and was approved by the Senate late yesterday.

Environmental Groups Bail On California Fracking Bill

California passed what is arguably the toughest bill regulating hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the country on Wednesday, and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is expected to sign it into law. But he’ll be doing so without the support of the country’s biggest environmental groups.

A fracking bill gone bad

Some level of regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is preferable to none. Except if the helpful aspects are canceled out by more problematic ones. That is the case with SB 4, passed by the Assembly on Wednesday. It goes back to the state Senate for final vote, and we hope it’s stopped there. If not, Gov. Jerry Brown should veto it.

Should North Dakota be exempt from federal fracking rules?

Draft federal fracking rules unveiled in May were awfully fracker-friendly, but North Dakota lawmakers are still arguing that they would stifle the industry in their state. They are asking the Interior Department to exempt the drilling bonanza in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields from the new federal rules.

ExxonMobil company charged with fracking-related crimes

ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy is being prosecuted for alleged environmental crimes after it spilled fracking wastewater into a Pennsylvania river in 2010.

The company’s response? It claims the criminal charges could harm the environment.

DOE Approves LNG Exports from Dominion Cove Point to Non-FTA Countries

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced yesterday it has conditionally authorized Dominion Cove Point LNG, to export domestically produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) over seas to countries that do not have a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S.

Frackers fired up by criminal charges in 2010 spill

Oil and gas advocates are afraid recent criminal charges filed against a company working in western Pennsylvania will dampen the booming industry in the state.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane this week announced criminal charges against XTO Energy, accusing the oil and gas company of multiple counts of unlawful conduct under the state’s Clean Stream Laws and the Solid Waste Management Act.

Smithsonian’s Story Map Examines the Shale Gas Boom

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is transforming communities across the US above shale rock layers that trap natural gas and oil. Fracking involves the injection of millions of gallons of water and other fluids into shale deposits under high pressure, causing fracturing of the surrounding rock and the release of gas through nearby wells. The extraction technique is controversial, and the resulting changes to nearby communities are argued as both good and bad.

Shale criminal charges stun drilling industry

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill has sent shock waves through the industry.

But environmentalists Wednesday hailed the prosecution of the Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary as a departure from the soft treatment they say the industry has received from Pennsylvania regulators.

In Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley,’ huge sinkhole creates more concerns

To live in southern Louisiana today is to know the pain of displacement and fear of a disappearing coast. We traveled to the southern bayous to visit homes in Bayou Corne, recently evacuated after a sinkhole opened up less than a mile from their doors. We were moved by what we saw in this beautiful community, about an hour southwest of Baton Rouge. We went to an organizing meeting at a library, and heard from residents who spoke of “scars on top of scars” from both the loss of their homes and the health risks they face in an area known as “Cancer Alley.”

NOAA launches website holding millions of chemical analyses from Deepwater Horizon oil spill

NOAA announced the release yesterday of a comprehensive, quality-controlled dataset  that gives ready access to millions of chemical analyses and other data on the massive Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The dataset, collected to support oil removal activities and assess the presence of dispersants, wraps up a three year process that began with the gathering of water samples and measurements by ships in the Gulf of Mexico during and after the oil release in 2010.

BP takes heat for ads run on Sept. 11

BP is taking heat for running full-page ads in New York and Washington, D.C. newspapers on the anniversary of 9/11 asserting that fraud has plagued the victims claims process following the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

BP wants oil spill settlement program’s budget cut

BP has urged a federal judge to reject a $111 million budget request by the court-supervised administrator of the company’s multibillion-dollar settlement with Gulf Coast businesses and residents following its 2010 Gulf oil spill.

BP drills at ‘giant’ Gulf field after setback due to spill

BP Plc (BP.L) has begun appraisal drilling in its highly touted Tiber oil prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, the company said on Thursday, more than three years after its massive Macondo blowout and crude spill set back drilling in the basin.

BP urges judge to reject $111M budget request by administrator of Gulf oil spill settlement

BP has urged a federal judge to reject a $111 million budget request by the court-supervised administrator of the company’s multibillion-dollar settlement with Gulf Coast businesses and residents following its 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Fifth Circuit asks Texas high court for clarification in BP oil spill insurance case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has filed a ruling withdrawing a previous opinion on a lawsuit against insurance companies that provided coverage to companies at the center of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill.

Texas Supreme Court to Rule on BP-Transocean Coverage Dispute

The Texas Supreme Court announced Friday that it would enter the fight over $750 million in insurance coverage for the catastrophic BP oil spill that occurred in April 2010.

Danger Lurking: Above & Below the Surface

Feds issue Interim Guidelines for reefing old rigs at the same time that NOAA identifies myriad potentially polluting shipwrecks. Salvage opportunities abound.

Sticky Situation: Hawaii Molasses Spill Killing Thousands of Fish

A massive spill of thick molasses has turned Honolulu Harbor into a watery wasteland, with divers reporting that thousands of fish have been suffocated and environmentalists calling it a disaster.

Canada touts carbon pollution cuts as Keystone XL pressure builds

Pressure is building on Canada to find ways to lower its climate pollution in a bid to smooth the way for the Obama administration’s approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Hoeven demands that the Senate take a position on Keystone pipeline

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) pushed his amendment to an energy efficiency bill Thursday that would force the Senate to take a position on the Keystone XL pipeline.

If passed, his amendment would state that the Senate believes it is in the nation’s interest to build the Keystone pipeline.

Even a Railway Line Can’t Dodge the Keystone XL Controversy

U.S. oil refiners hoping railway lines would help them dodge the controversy that has engulfed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project, take note: that train has left the station.

Valero Energy Corp. is delaying the planned opening of a rail terminal at its refinery in Benicia, Calif., until the beginning of 2015 because of the city’s decision last month that the project required an environmental impact report.

Keystone XL—A Prisoner of the Worst in Politics

The Obama Administration has been reviewing the permit application to build the Keystone pipeline for over 5 years.  There is now a report that the President is unlikely to make a decision until 2014.

Pirates of the Colder Meridians

The Arctic is melting, and conservationists (and companies) are racing to stake their territory.

Oil Companies Cool to Drilling Off Alaska’s Arctic Shores

So far, Shell has spent $5 billion on its Arctic offshore drilling program. That investment has yet to turn up any oil, or deliver any returns to its investors. It’s also not likely to deliver anything in the near future as the oil exploration company currently has its exploration program on pause after enduring a number of equipment problems. In fact, neither Shell nor its industry peers currently have much interest in pursuing oil off Alaska’s arctic shores.

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.

Tritium levels reach new high at wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant

The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said on Friday it found elevated readings of tritium in groundwater near tanks that are holding hundreds of metric tons of contaminated water at the site.

Website map tracks path of ocean pollution, Fukushima radiation plume

A website map from the University of New South Wales models how pollution moves across oceans, and predicts that the radioactive plume from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown will make its way across the Pacific to the U.S. West Coast in 2014.

Ex-US Regulator: Fukushima Cleanup Complicated

A former U.S. nuclear regulator says cleaning up Japan’s wrecked Fukushima plant is a bigger challenge than the work he led at Three Mile Island and that ongoing radioactive water leaks are a minor part of that task.

Does U.S. Advice on Disposing Fukushima Waste Apply Back Home?

A presentation the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made to Japanese officials dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima power plant disaster is adding to critics’ concerns that the federal government may be looking to relax disposal rules for the type of radioactive waste a nuclear attack or accident in the United States could generate.

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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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