Environmental Must-Reads – September 16, 2014


Well Leaks, Not Fracking, Are Linked to Fouled Water

A study of tainted drinking water in areas where natural gas is produced from shale shows that the contamination is most likely caused by leaky wells rather than the process of hydraulic fracturing used to release the gas from the rock.

The study looked at seven cases in Pennsylvania and one in Texas where water wells had been contaminated by methane and other hydrocarbon gases. Both states have extensive deposits of gas-bearing shale that have been exploited in recent years as part of a surge in domestic energy production. Some environmental groups have suggested that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could cause the gas to migrate into drinking water aquifers.

Fracking Report Cites Bad Wells for Tainted Water

Natural gas is contaminating some aquifers not from hydraulic fracturing but from faulty well preparation, according to a new paper.

Poorly built and cemented gas wells, rather than fracking itself, have allowed contaminants to flow into shallow drinking-water sources, according to a report published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences.

Study Links Increased Drilling With Earthquakes

A magnitude-5.3 earthquake that hit Colorado in 2011 was likely caused by the injection of wastewater into the ground, a process used in natural-gas drilling, according to new research to be released Tuesday.

The new study, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, adds more detail to a growing body of work seeking to establish and explain the connection between human activity and seismic events, known as induced quakes.

Texas drinking water tainted by natural gas operations, scientists find

The shale-gas boom of recent years has contaminated drinking-water wells in North Texas’ Barnett Shale and the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, a study published Monday concludes.

The study, by researchers from five universities, concludes that neither drilling itself nor the hydraulic fracturing that follows it is directly to blame.

President Obama has a huge gas problem

Later this month, hundreds of delegates will gather inside the U.N. to talk about climate change. President Barack Obama plans to attend the climate summit and reportedly wants work on a deal with other world leaders to “name and shame” countries that aren’t actively pursuing serious climate action.

But outside the U.N., thousands of activists will be protesting with one message: Whatever Obama accomplishes at the U.N., it won’t be enough to save his climate legacy.

Lawmakers Say State Needs More Disposal Well Field Inspectors

If a resident has a well water problem and they think it’s related to oil and gas pollution, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) sends an inspector to check it out. But one lawmaker says there aren’t enough inspectors to keep up with the level of activity.

Jack Klinger said the well water on his property in Tonkawa is pretty much worthless. “It’s just a mess and you don’t know what to do, you know?”

Bad news for fracked gas in Vermont

The news has been nearly all bad for Vermont Gas recently as the company fights for approval to build a massive new pipeline to carry fracked gas through Vermont, under Lake Champlain and over to International Paper in Ticonderoga, New York.

After months of sitting on information the company had about cost overruns, corporate officials ultimately disclosed that “Phase 1” of the project was already 40 percent over budget. That’s more than $35 million off the mark and they’ve just begun to turn over dirt on the project. The cost increase is so big that the Public Service Board has just announced it will essentially reconsider whether the project should be allowed to continue at all. In addition, “Phase 2” of the project, which has not been approved yet, is already 50 percent more expensive than original estimates.

UF helps assess the economic hit taken from BP oil spill

Fishing boat captain Troy Frady of Orange Beach, Alabama, lost a summer of fishing tours after the Deepwater Horizon blowout of April 2010 killed 11 workers, spewed 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and forced the shutdown of lucrative fishing areas.

Frady canceled between 38 and 42 fishing trips in the six months following the largest oil spill disaster in U.S. history.

“They shut down fishing from the middle of June until October,” Frady said. “Everybody was locked out.”

University of Florida study says BP oil spill led to $585 million in recreational fishing losses, newspaper reports

A new study by researchers at the University of Florida and several other partners estimates Gulf Coast states lost about $585 million in recreational fishing opportunities during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun reports.

The report says the study, one of the first to try to evaluate the spill’s impact on the recreational fishing industry, used interviews and fishing data from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration to calculate the losses.

Minnesota may receive a portion of BP oil spill fines

The American white pelican, which spends its summers on Minnesota lakes and in other northern areas, faced threats for decades. The species has been recovering in recently, but it’s now facing a new problem — contamination from the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Joint research from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and North Dakota State University has found evidence of BP petroleum and the chemical dispersant Corexit in the white pelicans’ blood, beaks and eggs. The contamination rate among Minnesota’s pelicans may be as high as 90 percent. The presence of both oil and Corexit in pelican eggs may cause developmental abnormalities and reproductive problems in the birds for generations to come.

Coast Guard, Enbridge, and EPA to conduct simulated oil spill exercise in Michigan

More than 200 participants from the U.S. Coast Guard 9th District, Enbridge, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others, will take part in an exercise on Wednesday that simulates a ‘worst-case scenario’ oil spill.

According to a press release from the Coast Guard, the exercise will focus on how to respond to a breach in Enbridge’s Line 5, and a discharge of light crude oil.

Crews making progress on Tyler Co. oil spill

Clean-up crews in Tyler County are using a variety of methods in three different areas along a creek to clean up a mixture of oil, gas, water, and mud that resulted from a spill at an oil well that occurred on Sept. 1.

“Friday, the conditions were much better,” said Dale Freeman, Tyler County’s emergency management coordinator. “I will continue monitoring this operation until complete. The company is acting very responsibly in their efforts to clean up this accidental spill.”

Mystery Oil Spill Leaves Adelaide Beach Blackened

THE Ministry of Transport and Aviation has pledged that determining the source of an ongoing oil leak in the Clifton Pier area is a “priority” for the Christie administration.

This comes days after residents of Adelaide said that waves of “smelly black oil” that appeared on the Adelaide Beach last week might have been the result of ongoing oil leak problems from the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s Clifton Pier plant.

Residents Move Back Into Arkansas Subdivision After Spill

People are starting to move back into the part of an Arkansas subdivision evacuated last year after a 2013 pipeline accident.

About 22 of 63 homes in the Northwoods subdivision of Mayflower were evacuated after ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured last year, spilling about 210,000 gallons of oil in the neighborhood 30 miles northwest of Little Rock, the Log Cabin Democrat reported.

Cost of South Dakota Portion of Keystone Pipeline More than Doubled

The cost of the South Dakota portion of TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline has more than doubled to $1.974 billion in the last four years the project has awaited federal approval, the company said in a petition filed with the state Public Utilities Commission on Monday.

The leap in costs from the previous 2010 estimate of $921.4 million is due to factors including the protracted regulatory process, inflation, currency changes, labor cost increases and materials storage, TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said.

Landowner issues surface at pipeline hearing

Tulsa, Okla.-based Oneok was on the hot seat Monday when rancher Terry Watson took it to task during a North Dakota Public Service Commission public hearing on a proposed pipeline in western North Dakota.

Watson said he’s been trying to get an answer from Oneok since last fall about a sinkhole on his ranch, exposing at least 10 feet of an existing natural gas pipeline.

Environmentalists educate residents on how to fight major pipeline project in Mercer, Hunterdon

About 150 people crowded into the Pittore Justice Center in Lambertville Monday night to hear environmental activists explain how residents can use their rights to fight a $1 billion pipeline project proposed for Hopewell Valley and Hunterdon County.

Representatives from the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network spoke about the impact the proposed PennEast pipeline could have on the local landscape.

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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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