Environmental Must-Reads – September 16, 2013


Colorado flooding: Evacuations, broken oil pipeline in Weld County

As Front Range floodwaters continued to drain into the swelling South Platte River Saturday, authorities scrambled to evacuate stranded residents from homes and deal with a broken oil and gas industry pipeline.

Boulder County activists concerned about flooded oil, gas wells

Inundated along with roads, bridges, houses and farms are thousands of oil and gas wells and associated condensate tanks and ponds in northeast Boulder County and southwest Weld County.

Colorado Floods Break Pipeline and Engulf Gas Wells

The rain pummeling Colorado this past week caused epic flooding. Photos show miles of devastation: homes lost, crops underwater, surviving livestock on flooded pastures, people in shelters.

In addition to rescuing stranded people, emergency crews have also had to contend with broken oil and gas pipelines – and those that haven’t broken yet are exposed due to eroded ground.

Environmentalists want fracking air quality regulated

An environmental group is calling on the state Environmental Management Commission to regulate air emissions from fracking.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League with residents of Alamance, Lee and Anson counties announced their request at a news conference last week in front of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources headquarters in downtown Raleigh, festooned with black balloons.

Ground Contamination at Fracking Sites

Utica Shale fracking firm Gulfport Energy paid a $250,000 fine after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) discovered “ground contamination” at seven local natural gas well pads

Arkansas is Fracked: Residents Sue for Fracking-related Quake Damage

The controversial methods of extracting natural gas know as hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, has been linked to earthquakes. Now, people affected by those quakes in Arkansas have filed a suit. These lawsuits are some of the first of their kind in the United States and are aimed at two companies, Chesapeake Energy’s operating subsidiary and BHP Billiton, and it’s claimed that a number of earthquakes that hit central Arkansas in 2010 and 2011 and damaged their homes and businesses were directly caused by the injection of wastewater into deep wells.

PA county shows possible dangers of fracking

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo sends Health Commissioner Nirav Shah around the country to look at the health impacts of fracking, we hope he is looking at Washington County, Pa. Early results from an on-the-ground public health assessment indicate that environmental contamination is occurring near natural gas drilling sites and is the likely cause of associated illnesses.

Exxon Mobil Caught Dumping Fracking Wastewater in PA

Remember the pop quiz? When you were a kid, one of your biggest fears was the pop quiz – an unannounced, spur-of-the-moment test that your teacher decided to lob your way. If you’d studied closely, you might be fine. If you hadn’t, this was your moment of reckoning. Pop quizzes exist in the corporate world, too, in the form of unannounced visits and meetings and audits and, in some cases, visits from regulating authorities. Earlier this week, news is coming out about an Exxon Mobil fracking company called “XTO Energy, Inc.” that got a pop quiz in the form of a visit from the EPA back in November of 2010. They failed.

UT pauses fracking project, environmentalists cautious

Fracking was a big topic on the UT campus Saturday evening, just a day after the school revealed it would put on hold controversial plans to possibly frack some of its land.

The Sierra Club, and numerous other groups, held Day 2 of the “2013 Fractivist Conference” at UT.

Fracking Affecting Our Drinking Water

Do fracking operations increase the risk of polluting drinking water? In the United States, fracking is a controlled activity, and if regulators struggle to control this can you imagine what will happen when fracking reaches the South African shores?

Fracking decision due on gas drilling in forest

George Washington National Forest is more than just one of the largest expanses of pristine land in the East. It is the leafy cradle for the Shenandoah, James, and Potomac rivers, a source of drinking water for millions of people in greater Washington.

Vacuum system alleviates methane buildup

Kathryn Brown says her New Orleans upbringing instilled in her a responsibility to take care of her property.

While many residents have evacuated and 65 property owners have agreed to buyouts from Texas Brine Co., Kathryn and Tim Brown have not left their home of 14 years on the bayou despite the 25-acre Assumption Parish sinkhole just to the east and fears of rising methane gas.

Court Asked to Speed Up Lawsuit Seeking Public Disclosure of Pollutants From BP’s Gulf Spill

The Center for Biological Diversity today asked a federal court to accelerate consideration of its lawsuit seeking immediate, full disclosure of the names and amounts of toxic chemicals that were spewed into the Gulf of Mexico during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010. The Center filed legal paperwork asking that its disclosure lawsuit, filed three years ago, be separated from the hundreds of other cases involving the spill in order to allow it to move forward.

5-month trial delay ordered in Gulf oil spill manslaughter case

A federal judge Friday ordered a five-month trial delay in the case of two BP rig supervisors charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 workers who were killed when an undersea well owned by the British oil giant blew out in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Judge urged to accept Halliburton’s guilty plea in oil spill

Halliburton Energy Services and Justice Department prosecutors have urged a federal judge to approve a plea deal that calls for the Houston-based company to pay a $200,000 fine for destroying evidence after BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf’s $1.5 trillion oil wildcat play marks post-spill drilling ‘renaissance’

Deep below the Gulf of Mexico lies a structure called the Lower Tertiary, long thought by academics to be basically barren of oil. Today, oil company geologists claim the peculiar geologic dome holds a $1.5 trillion oil treasure.

Largely thanks to a risky play by a consortium of major oil companies in the mid-1990s, a Gulf region thought to be largely tapped out, it turns out, hadn’t even begun to give up its real spoils, leading an oil boom that has turned the US from a net gasoline importer to a net exporter for the first time in 50 years.

Lawsuits against Exxon Mobil mount over big oil pipeline spills

Six months ago, 200,000 gallons of oil came rushing through the streets here, winding past homes and a shopping plaza before eventually ending up in a popular fishing lake.

The culprit would later be determined to be a 65-year-old oil pipeline owned by Exxon Mobil Corp., of the type that federal pipeline officials had warned for two decades posed a higher risk of failure because of an old manufacturing flaw. Two years earlier, another Exxon pipeline had ruptured on Montana’s Yellowstone River despite government warnings about high floodwaters.

Ruling to Send Lawsuit Against Exxon Back to Faulkner County Seen as Win for Mayflower Families

U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson on Friday sent a class action lawsuit against ExxonMobil over the Pegasus pipeline spill back to Faulkner County Circuit Court, where it was originally filed. The case, Duncan et al v ExxonMobil Corporation, also names David L. Raulston, who it describes as an Arkansas-based maintenance and operations technician for the pipeline.

Anti-Keystone XL billionaire targets Arkansas oil spill in new ad

California billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer is continuing his ad campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline, this time appearing in Mayflower, Arkansas, where an underground oil pipeline burst open.

Court Ruling Victory For Families Affected By Mayflower Oil Spill

A small victory for families affected by the Mayflower oil spill.

A judge rules one of the lawsuits against ExxonMobil must be handled  in Faulkner County Circuit Court.

Congress turns on the pressure over Keystone pipeline

Congress is poised to resume debate on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, hailed by supporters as a huge source of new jobs and criticized by opponents as an environmental disaster in the making.

Climate Change Worries Slow Keystone XL Pipeline Debate

Five years ago, a Canadian company proposed building a pipeline to connect Canada’s tar sands oil development with the big U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. The southern stretch of this pipeline is nearly finished, but the northern stretch is still being studied. Politicians in Washington and Canada are ramping up the pressure for approval while environmentalists are pushing hard against it.

Where Keystone’s oil will go

If the proposed Keystone pipeline expansion gets built, oil will flow from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. But will it stay in the United States, or get shipped elsewhere?

Niger delta oil spill victims reject ‘derisory’ Shell compensation offer

Niger delta communities devastated by giant oil spills from rusting Shell pipelines have unanimously rejected a compensation offer from the company, calling it an insult, and cruel and derisory.

Nigerian villagers reject Shell oil spill compensation offer

Nigerian villagers on Friday rejected an offer of compensation from Royal Dutch Shell for damage done to their livelihoods by oil spills from pipelines operated by the company, their lawyers said.

Staten Island oil spill fouls waters along Bayonne shoreline

An oil spill in Staten Island last night released thousands of gallons of oil into area waters, and currents have brought the oil to the Newark Bay shore of Bayonne, according to the Hudson Regional Health Commission.

What’s Worse Than an Oil Spill? A Molasses Spill

Thousands of fish — gasping desperately, then floating lifelessly — surfaced in Honolulu Harbor this week, suffering from oxygen deprivation caused by a massive molasses spill. This strange case of sugary suffocation was brought on by the Matson Shipping Company, which was loading one of its vessels with 1,600 tons of molasses through a pipeline in the harbor early Monday morning when a leak sprung. Matson reported that up to 1,400 tons of the sludgy syrup may have escaped into the harbor and nearby Ke’ehi Lagoon.

Honolulu Molasses Spill Highlights Lack Of Regulation

On Saturday, a gaggle of cameramen and reporters boarded a tug boat at Pier 9 behind Aloha Tower to go on a tour of what’s being called the largest marine disaster in the state’s history — a massive molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor.

The event was organized by the Hawaii Department of Health and aimed to give the journalists a sense of the magnitude of the disaster as well as clear up any misconceptions about the spill and the subsequent response efforts.

As Arctic Melts, a Race to Test Oil Spill Cleanup Technology

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy—one of two working icebreakers in the nation’s fleet—concluded a sobering mission Tuesday in the ice-strewn waters north of Barrow, Alaska. The crew’s task was to practice deploying equipment they hoped they would never use: new, high-tech gear for responding to a massive oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.

Steel piece rides oil stream down trans-Alaska pipeline

Something weird happened with the trans-Alaska pipeline recently.

Crews in Valdez, at the end of the 800-mile line, on Sept. 8 discovered a random hunk of steel inside what’s known as a backpressure control valve.

Typhoon stokes fears for Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant

TYPHOON Man-yi has hit central Japan and officials have issued a “special warning” of heavy rain, amid fears the storm could go on to hit the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

The typhoon made landfall this morning in Toyohashi, Aichi prefecture, packing gusts of up to 162km/h, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Steam Spotted at Fukushima Nuclear Reactor

Water vapor is once again emanating from a reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the site operator said Friday.

Japan ‘to measure cesium levels’ off crippled Fukushima to assess sea damage

Japan’s nuclear authority is to conduct radiation surveys to measure the long-term effect on marine resources on the seabed off the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant that has been leaking toxic water since 2011, the Japanese media reports.

Fukushima plant admits radioactive water leaked to sea

A Japanese utility has said its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is likely to have leaked contaminated water into sea, acknowledging for the first time a problem long suspected by experts.

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.

Analysis: High Costs Keep Japan Focus on Nuclear

Japan will once again be without atomic energy as its only operating nuclear reactor goes offline Sunday for refueling and maintenance, and other plants remain closed for intensified safety checks following the 2011 meltdowns at the tsunami-stricken plant in Fukushima

Japan’s Nuclear Migraine: A Never-Ending Disaster at Fukushima

Japan is stumbling helplessly from one crisis to the next as it battles the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. US nuclear inspector Dale Klein is demanding the intervention of foreign experts, but a quick solution is unlikely.

Endless Fukushima catastrophe: 2020 Olympics under contamination threat

As the escape of radiation at Fukushima seems virtually unstoppable, there are still steps that governments all over the world should take to prevent worst case consequences. One of them would be canceling the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

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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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