Environmental Must-Reads – September 18, 2013


Measuring Methane Leaks from Natural Gas Drilling

There has been a lot of cross-talk over the last couple of years about how much methane leaks from the natural gas production and distribution system. Most of what has been said and written was based on analyzing and reanalyzing a very limited data set. Yesterday a team of scientists led by David Allen at the University of Texas expanded the available data with the publication of their study of methane emission measurements made at 190 onshore natural gas sites in the United States. The results of this study are important and interesting, but don’t expect them to settle the controversy over the environmental consequences of natural gas production and use.

Fracking study downgrades methane worries, escalates enviro infighting

The latest research on methane emissions at fracking sites is dividing environmentalists.

A study of 190 natural gas fracking sites, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that methane leaks at the sites were notably lower than fracking critics have warned.

Gas Leaks in Fracking Disputed in Study

Drilling for shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, appears to cause smaller leaks of the greenhouse gas methane than the federal government had estimated, and considerably smaller than some critics of shale gas had feared, according to a peer-reviewed study released on Monday.

Colorado Floodwaters Cover Fracking And Oil Projects: ‘We Have No Idea What Those Wells Are Leaking’

Colorado flooding has not only overwhelmed roads and homes, but also the oil and gas infrastructure stationed in one of the most densely drilled areas in the U.S. Although oil companies have shut down much of their operations in Weld County due to flooding, nearby locals say an unknown amount of chemicals has leaked out and possibly contaminated waters, mixing fracking fluids and oil along with sewage, gasoline, and agriculture pesticides.

Colorado floods spur fracking concerns

The devastating flooding that pummeled Colorado the past week, also inundated a main center of the state’s drilling industry, temporarily bringing production of natural gas to a halt.

The mix of floodwaters and drilling operations has also spurred environmental and health concerns that industry and government officials say they are closely monitoring, and that activists have seized on as another demonstration of the dangers posed by hydraulic-fracturing.

Does A Fracking Disaster Lurk Under Colorado’s Floodwaters?

As the sky finally clears in flood-devastated Colorado and official damage estimates continue to come out, questions remain about the stability of the state’s fracking sites in one of the most densely drilled areas in the United States, many of which have been completely covered by floodwaters.

Pennsylvania farmers disappointed with fracking returns

Rural Pennsylvanians welcomed fracking onto their lands assuming the financial benefits would outweigh any negatives. The good times came, but only until gas companies started taking larger cuts of the profits. Now farmers and their families are left to wonder whether it’s all worth it.

This video explains almost everything you want to know about fracking

Still trying to figure out what the big deal with fracking is? Hydraulic fracturing — fracking for short — is the controversial process that has fueled the new energy boom in the U.S., making it possible to tap reserves that had previously been too difficult and expensive to extract. It works by pumping millions of gallons of pressurized water, with sand and a cocktail of chemicals, into rock formations to create tiny cracks and release trapped oil and gas. It’s been tied to earthquakes and has led to a number of lawsuits, including one that resulted in a settlement agreement that barred a 7-year-old from ever talking about it. At the same time, fracking has also created a glut of cheap energy and is helping to push coal, and coal-fired power plants, out of the market.

Fracking for gas and oil poses serious risk to livestock, warns expert

Fracking for gas and oil in the British countryside poses such a significant risk to livestock that a moratorium should be imposed on the industry until its impact on food safety can be assessed, a leading researcher has warned.

The world’s next fracking hot spots

Energy consultant IHS has identified 23 locations around the world — from Argentina to West Siberia — that could together hold roughly 175 billion barrels in recoverable oil, far surpassing the 43 billion barrels estimated to be sitting in North America.

OSHA Proposes Crystalline Silica Rule, Could Affect Hydraulic Fracturing Operations

In late August, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed a long-awaited rule that is intended to limit workers’ exposure to crystalline silica. OSHA claims that exposure to crystalline silica kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more each year through lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

Sierra Club sues state for records on fracking waste

The Ohio Sierra Club is suing the Ohio Department of Natural Resources over access to public records.

It’s the second suit filed by the group against the state agency in two years.

BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Are At Higher Risk Of Sickness, Cancer

The people who worked to clean up the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are at an increased risk of getting cancer, leukemia, and a host of other illnesses, according to a new study released Tuesday in the American Journal of Medicine.

BP ad in New York Times repeats allegations of misconduct in oil spill claims office

BP bought a full-page advertisement in the New York Times on Tuesday, repeating charges that the program for paying private claims under a multibillion-dollar settlement of economic and medical damages resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill is riddled with fraud and misconduct.

Gulf oil spill claims administrator charges BP is trying to ‘slow walk’ claims payments

The court-appointed administrator of the multibillion-dollar settlement of private economic and medical claims stemming from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill charged Tuesday that BP’s attempts to cut his budget are part of a company strategy to halt the payment of valid claims.

Bobby Jindal to axe officials who took on Big Oil

We told you last month that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) doesn’t want Big Oil to be forced to spend billions of dollars to repair the marshes that once protected his state from floods.

Now comes news of the extreme steps Jindal is willing to take to ensure that the gas and oil industry, which has paid more than $1 million into his election campaigns, is protected from a lawsuit filed in July by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

BP Wants Spill Settlement Rejected, Victims Claim

Victims appealing BP Plc (BP/)’s $9.6 billion settlement of most economic-damage claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill said the company also wants approval of the agreement reversed.

Treasury Plans Oversight for Gulf Restoration

The Treasury Department proposed a rule detailing its oversight and investment in the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund, which was established in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Expert: Deep gas sources feeding Assumption aquifer

A state seismic expert has found two likely existing “deep” sources continuing to feed methane gas under the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities and more than 90 bubbles sites in the area of northern Assumption Parish.

Community briefing planned for those affected by giant sinkhole

People living near the giant sinkhole in southeast Louisiana were told Tuesday morning about a community briefing scheduled for later in the evening.

One fight won but the battle continues

Those with the group Save Lake Peigneur are celebrating, after a judge agreed to move their lawsuit forward.

If you recall that group filed a lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) alleging they violated the Louisiana constitution by issuing a coastal use permit for a project to create two new natural gas storage caverns in the Jefferson Island salt dome, underneath Lake Peigneur.

Hawaii Molasses Spill: Better or Worse Than Oil?

A dark, viscous liquid seeps through the ocean.

An oil spill? No, it’s molasses—and it has created an environmental catastrophe that so far has killed thousands of fish that dwelled in Honolulu Harbor.

Controversy Over Shell’s Oil Exploration in Arctic Continues

Rapidly thawing sea ice in the Arctic Circle has threatened polar wildlife and contributed to global changes in weather and climate. It has also opened the polar region for industrialization and resulted in new shipping lanes and a chance to drill for precious offshore oil reserves.


It’s been another spill-filled summer in the spill-prone province of Alberta.

With Alberta averaging over 2-oil spills a day over the past 37 years, there are many spills that we don’t know about. However we do know about some and what we know is alarming. Here is a recap of just 5 of the spills to hit Alberta this summer.

Drilling might be required to treat contaminated groundwater from 1989 gas spill

The water table in Napoleon Township didn’t behave the way officials had hoped during a pilot test to treat groundwater contaminated from a 1989 gasoline spill.

As a result, additional testing will most likely be required.

Fukushima Watch: Seeking Unified View on Marine Contamination

Recent decisions by two local fishing cooperatives to delay a resumption of fishing near the Fukushima nuclear plant highlight the confusion over ocean contamination. The cooperatives decided not to fish in the area because they have no hope of selling their catch, not because marine life in the area is unsafe to eat.

Experts at IAEA meet criticize Japan for ongoing problems at Fukushima

The government Monday came under criticism from some nuclear experts at a briefing held on the sidelines of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s annual assembly over its attempt to stem the leak of radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Tepco Drains 1,130 Tons of Rainwater at Fukushima After Typhoon

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) revised down the amount of rainwater it drained into the soil and Pacific Ocean at the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant after a typhoon lashed the area.

Life Inside the Bubble: Two Years After Fukushima, the Lines Between Safety and Danger Are Still Unclear

Japan’s massive tsunami in 2011 triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daichii nuclear power plant, releasing uncontrolled amounts of radiation into the air, water and soil. Many areas are left contaminated and quarantined, while others are deemed safe for life — at least officially. The considerable gray area of what’s safe and not safe for the people who live there is the focus of Bad Dreams?, a photo series by photographers Guillaume Bression and Carlos Ayesta.

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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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