Environmental Must-Reads – September 17, 2014


$2.9 Million Fracking Verdict Against Texas Oil Company Survives Another Challenge

The stage has been set for an appeal of a high profile verdict against a Texas oil and gas company after a judge refused to grant a new trial in the case of a family sickened by noxious air emissions.

Judge Mark Greenberg has denied a motion by Aruba Petroleum for a new trial, letting stand the $2.9 million jury award to Lisa and Bob Parr who sued the company after gas and oil wells surrounded their once rural ranch south of Dallas.

Need a fracking supporter? Hire a homeless person.

In bizarre energy industry news of the day, the North Carolina Energy Coalition seems to have brought in some homeless men to stand in as fracking supporters at a state hearing on developing fracking operations in the state.

The men were bussed 200 miles from Winston-Salem to Cullowhee, N.C., where the hearing took place, for the day.

Gas production blamed for rise in Colorado, New Mexico quakes

The deep injection of wastewater underground by energy companies during methane gas extraction has caused a dramatic rise in the number of earthquakes in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001, U.S. government scientists said in a study released on Monday.

The study by U.S. Geological Survey researchers is the latest to link energy production methods to an increase in quakes in regions where those techniques are used.

Scientists Find ‘Direct Link’ Between Earthquakes And Process Used For Oil And Gas Drilling

A team of scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have found evidence “directly linking” the uptick in Colorado and New Mexico earthquakes since 2001 to wastewater injection, a process widely used in the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and conventional drilling.

In a study to be published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America on Tuesday, the scientists presented “several lines of evidence [that] suggest the earthquakes in the area are directly related to the disposal of wastewater” deep underground, according to a BSSA press release. Fracking and conventional natural gas companies routinely dispose of large amounts of wastewater underground after drilling. During fracking, the water is mixed with chemicals and sand, to “fracture” underground shale rock formations and make gas easier to extract.

Fracking Wells Tainting Drinking Water in Texas and Pennsylvania, Study Finds

In 2012, Steve Lipsky began appearing in photos and videos with a lighter in hand, igniting the water that flowed out of his family’s tap. So much methane had built up in the well that supplied his Parker County, Texas home, that the water bubbled like champagne, and, it appeared, could be lit on fire. He and his wife Shyla sued oil and gas company Range Resources for $6.5 million, alleging that the company’s nearby hydraulic fracturing well had caused the contamination.

Mark Ruffalo calls on Obama to ban fracking ahead of UN climate summit

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo called on US president Barack Obama to ban fracking and make the US the renewable energy capital of the world on Tuesday.

Ruffalo made the plea in a press call hosted by Food & Water Watch, which released a report on Tuesday tying the controversial practice of fracking to climate change. The report comes days ahead of next week’s UN climate summit in New York.

Fair Lawn to consider 3-year moratorium on fracking

The borough council will consider a three-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and related activities at its meeting next week.

The resolution was unanimously approved Tuesday night after the council’s Republican majority shut down a plan to look into an ordinance that would ban fracking in the borough indefinitely.

Homes Near Gas Wells in Texas Face Worsening Water Issues

Homes in a Texas community face worsening water contamination caused by nearby gas production, according to a study released today.

The findings from an analysis by independent academics counter statements by driller Range Resources Corp. (RRC) and state regulators, who have said their evidence shows gas drilling wasn’t responsible for the presence of explosive methane in the homeowners’ water wells. Separate testing that found evidence of contamination from drilling at seven areas in Pennsylvania also was included in the study.

Drinking water contaminated by shale gas boom in Texas and Pennsylvania

The natural gas boom resulting from fracking has contaminated drinking water in Texas and Pennsylvania, a new study said on Monday.

However, the researchers said the gas leaks were due to defective gas well production – and were not a direct result of horizontal drilling, or fracking.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences validated some of the concerns raised by homeowners in the Barnett Shale of Texas and the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania about natural gas leaking into their water supply.

Split On Fracking: NY Gov. Will Tour PA

A Yale University study has found people living within the shadows of natural gas wells and hydrofracking pads exhibit higher instances of health problems. The study of Pennsylvania residents comes days after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to visit a gas drilling site in the Keystone State.

The Yale study of people in southwestern Pennsylvania found a greater prevalence of health symptoms reported among residents living close to natural gas wells, including those drilled via hydraulic fracturing.

Alberta woman loses fracking case appeal, wants to take case to Supreme Court

An Alberta woman has lost her appeal to sue the province’s energy regulator over hydraulic fracturing on her property.

Jessica Ernst launched a $33-million lawsuit against the Alberta government, the province’s energy regulator and energy company Encana

Overflow crowd hears how to fight PennEast plan for ‘virgin’ gas pipeline

There’s strength in numbers and recent court rulings will help residents opposed to a natural gas pipeline proposed to cut a wide “virgin” path along the entire western edge of the county, environmental groups and other opponents told an overflow crowd on Sept. 15.

The meeting organized by NJ Sierra Club and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network was attended by hundreds of residents from both side of the Delaware River, including some who have received notice that their property is in PennEast’s sights.

Evacuation order over after pipeline rupture in Berrien County

After a long day of waiting, just moments ago people started allowing 500 people from rural Berrien County, evacuated after a gas pipeline ruptured, back into their homes. The line is owned by Trans Canada and runs from Canada to Texas.

People waited 10 to 12 hours to return home and police say they have conducted air quality testing in the area and so far everything is coming back okay.

BP Lawyers Use Old-School Trick; Judge Not Amused

Back in school, did you ever fudge the spacing on a report to meet the teacher’s page-length requirement? Lawyers representing oil company BP tried something similar in a recent court filing connected to the company’s 2010 drilling rig accident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier was not amused. In his ruling Monday, Barbier issued an order and then reminded BP’s lawyers that their brief was supposed to be limited to 35 pages, double-spaced:

Minn. DNR Requests Compensation From BP Gulf Oil Spill

In a clear, blue autumn sky, hundreds of American white pelicans soar in a circulating pattern above the Mississippi River flyway.

The majestic birds with the eight-foot wingspan are slowly meandering their way along the annual fall migration to the Gulf of Mexico.

BP Hopes Missing Comma Triggers $750 Million Transocean Spill Insurance

BP Plc, which already has paid more than $28 billion for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, seeks to get a $750 million chunk of that back by convincing a Texas court that a missing comma may give the oil company access to Transocean Ltd.’s insurance policies on the Deepwater Horizon.

BP filed claims with Transocean’s carriers in 2010, seeking to tap a $50 million primary policy issued by Ranger Insurance and $700 million in excess coverage from Lloyd’s of London and other underwriters. The carriers asked the court overseeing the spill litigation to rule that BP wasn’t entitled to unlimited access to Transocean’s insurance.

Enbridge plans to bring more tar sands oil into Great Lakes region

There’s been a lot of controversy over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. But there’s another company working to bring more tar sands oil into the U.S.

Enbridge Energy wants to increase the amount of heavy crude oil crossing the border from the Alberta tar sands into the Great Lakes region.

Great Lakes racing to prepare for a new kind of oil spill

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Ninth District is in charge of protecting the maritime interests of the Great Lakes. Those interests include industries like shipping, fishing, and tourism that create billions of dollars in revenue for the Great Lakes basin each year. And so, the agency is always thinking about oil spills. It conducts dozens of tabletop and real world preparation exercises every year to prepare.

Shell Oil, Motiva to pay $4.5 million in back wages to nearly 2,700 workers

Shell Oil Co. and Motiva Enterprises have agreed to pay nearly $4.5 million in overtime back wages to 2,677 current and former chemical and refinery employees after federal regulators found violations of federal labor law.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s wage and hour division conducted investigations at eight Shell and Motiva facilities in five states including Texas, Alabama, California, Louisiana and Washington and found that the companies failed to pay the workers for the time they spent at mandatory pre-shift meetings. Investigators also found that the companies failed to record the time that the workers spent at the meetings.

Feds reveal details on Shell’s Arctic ambitions

More details came to light Tuesday on Shell’s plans for exploratory oil drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska, as federal regulators released a copy of the company’s broad Arctic drilling blueprint.

Shell filed the document with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last month, a milestone in its quest to resume drilling in the region after its previous, attempt two years ago was marred by mishaps.

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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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