Environmental Must-Reads – September 18, 2014


3 people injured after gas pipeline explosion near Goshen, Ky.

A gas explosion on US 42 in Oldham County sent two workers to the hospital and forced the evacuation of nearby neighborhoods.

LG&E said they were contract workers finishing up their day when the explosion happened. One of two workers transported to the hospital is reported to have serious injuries. A third worker suffered relatively minor injuries and was treated at the scene. All are expected to survive.

Leaky Wells Spur Call for Stricter Rules on Gas Drilling

A study that blamed natural gas drilling for water pollution in two states has spurred calls for stricter regulations to keep wells from leaking methane into aquifers.

The study backed the oil and gas industry in one respect: It discounted hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as the source for harmful methane in water. Some environmentalists contend that by blasting rock with a mixture of water, chemicals and sand, producers can force the gas into drinking water near the surface.

Fracking absolved of blame elsewhere, but in Pavillion it’s not so simple

A pair of national studies concluding fracking did not contaminate drinking water supplies in Pennsylvania and Texas have little bearing on an ongoing investigation into the dirty water found near Pavillion, according to industry experts.

One study, done by the U.S. Department of Energy in western Pennsylvania, found chemicals used to fracture gas-bearing rock remained 5,000 feet below aquifers used for drinking water.

Leaky gas wells — not fracking itself — are polluting water in Pennsylvania and Texas

One of the big, contentious questions about the fracking boom in the United States is whether all that new drilling can contaminate nearby drinking water with natural gas (methane) or other chemicals.

In recent years, as energy companies have used hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from shale rock in Pennsylvania and Texas, a number of homeowners have complained that their drinking water is getting contaminated. Since 2008, Pennsylvania has seen more than 20,000 new wells drilled and 243 reported cases of water contamination.

Deep Inside the Wild World of China’s Fracking Boom

n a hazy morning last September, 144 American and Chinese government officials and high-ranking oil executives filed into a vaulted meeting room in a cloistered campus in south Xi’an, a city famous for its terra-cotta warriors and lethal smog. The Communist Party built this compound, called the Shaanxi Guesthouse, in 1958. It was part of the lead-up to Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward, in which, to surpass the industrial achievements of the West, the government built steelworks, coal mines, power stations, and cement factories—displacing hundreds of thousands and clearcutting a tenth of China’s forests in the process. Despite its quaint name, the guesthouse is a cluster of immense concrete structures jutting out of expansive, manicured lawns and man-made lakes dotted with stone bridges and pagodas. It also features a karaoke lounge, spa, tennis stadium, shopping center, and beauty salon.

The guests at the compound that week were gearing up for another great leap: a push to export the United States’ fracking boom to China’s vast shale fields—and beyond.

Shale Industry Resorts to Conspiracy Theories to Explain Opposition to Fracking

As evidence mounts concerning the hazards of fracking, the oil and gas industry is increasingly trying to redirect public discussion of the topic, focusing instead on the funding behind the environmental groups rather than the actual science of the matter.

Aside from showing a certain desperation, the tactic is especially disingenuous since this industry has no small experience with astro-turf campaigns and buying faux research to promote its interests.

Donegal Township families fight driller to get clean water

From January to June, Ken and Mildred Geary had to use bottled water to cook, clean and shower because a leak from a gas drilling company’s pond contaminated their underground well water.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has ruled their well was contaminated by a nearby fracking operation.

What’s Pa. hiding on fracking contamination?

The history behind the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s recent revelation of at least 243 confirmed cases of water contamination from fracking [hydraulic fracturing, the procedure used to extract natural gas, Ed.] illustrates how that disturbing number is just the tip of the iceberg in the disaster that has been fracking in Pennsylvania.

Buried deep within the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s website is the long-awaited list of letters of determination telling property owners that their water wells have been contaminated as a result of fracking.

Kinder Morgan begins FERC filing process

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. made its proposed Northeast Energy Direct Project official Monday, with a “pre-filing” to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The 36-inch diameter pipeline, which would include 167 miles in Pennsylvania and New York and another 177 miles between Wright, N.Y., and Dracut, north of Lowell, would cross nine Franklin County towns — Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield, Warwick and Orange — and provide 2.2 billion cubic feet a day of additional natural gas to the region to meet what it says is a growing demand for natural gas.

Future of fracking will influence November election for governor

Hydrofracking played a role in the recent Democratic primary for governor in New York. Opponents of gas drilling hope it will influence the general election as well.

Governor Cuomo, once on a fast track to begin the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing in New York, has put his decision on hold while his administration conducts a health review that began two years ago. Cuomo, asked about the future of fracking in the state one day after the Democratic primary, said he’s still reserving judgment. “I have said I want the science to dictate, not the politics or the emotion,” Cuomo said. “We’re waiting on a report, and when we get the report we’ll make a decision.”

Lawmaker panel delays decision on Illinois fracking rules

A legislative panel said Tuesday that it wants more time to decide whether rules written by the Department of Natural Resources to govern hydraulic fracturing in Illinois can take effect.

The legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules received proposed rules for high-volume oil and gas extraction from the DNR on Aug. 29, after the agency reworded some rules based on more than 30,000 comments on it original draft. But industry and environmental groups said they would ask JCAR to seek dozens of changes.

Question of the day: Is BP run by children?

Federal Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans already has ruled that BP is guilty of “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. His Sept. 4 finding exposed the British oil firm to as much as $18 billion in penalties.

Given that further proceedings on the case are still scheduled before Judge Barbier, it probably have been wise of BP not to tick him off any further.

The ALERT Project: Why It Matters and Why You Should Care

Imagine if you were one of the people in Greeley, Colorado, on September 12 who had been stuck in traffic for hours, because unknown chemicals that had “something to do with fracking” had been spilled in the road. What sort of questions might have run through your mind?

First responders included Greeley’s Fire and Police Departments and Colorado’s State Patrol and Transportation Department. Everyone was trained in hazardous material spills-but no one knew what had been spilled. How can first responders protect themselves and the public if they don’t know what they are dealing with? Should people have been evacuated from the vicinity instead of sitting around for hours breathing unknown chemicals?

Study: East Coast states could cash in on offshore drilling

The economic benefits that would flow from offshore oil drilling in U.S. Atlantic waters outweigh the potential environmental costs of the activity, according to a study released Wednesday.

The report, commissioned by the Interstate Policy Alliance and South Carolina’s Palmetto Policy Forum, says oil and gas drilling from Delaware to Georgia would generate $10.8 billion to $60 billion in added economic value for those states, plus $2.1 billion to $11.6 billion in tax revenues.

State launches user-friendly oil spill project map

Trying to keep track of the projects funded by Deepwater Horizon oil spill funds is not an easy task even for government officials close to the action, let alone the public.

With a goal of more transparency, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, launched an interactive map complete with photos and descriptions of projects that have been completed, and those in the works or approved for funding, in the wake of the April 2010 oil spill disaster.

Mock oil spill tests response plan

It wasn’t the real thing, but federal and state agencies joined with local groups to respond to a mock oil spill in northern Michigan today.

“That boom is to keep out any oil from coming on this side,” one of the coordinators told reporters, as he pointed at crews lowering pillow-like yellow floaters into the Indian River.

Biden mum on Keystone

Vice President Biden has conveyed his opinion on the Keystone XL pipeline to President Obama, but doesn’t want to “step on the president’s lines” by stating it publicly, he told a woman who asked him about the controversial construction project Wednesday in Iowa.

“I am vice-president,” Biden said, emphasizing the “vice,” according to The Guardian. “So what I’ve learned to do, is not step on the president’s lines. I do have an opinion. I’ve made it clear to the president what my opinion is. But I am vice-president.”

Report: More needed to improve oil train safety in Seattle

With increasing numbers of volatile crude oil trains moving through Seattle’s “antiquated” downtown rail tunnel, city emergency planners say more must be done to lower the risk of an oil train accident and improve the city’s ability to respond.

In a report to the Seattle City Council, emergency managers warned that an oil train accident resulting in fire, explosion or spill “would be a catastrophe for our community in terms of risk to life, property and environment.”

TransCanada sees itself in oil train business regardless of Keystone: CEO

Pipeline operator TransCanada Corp. is likely to haul Canadian oil sands crude by rail whether or not its embattled Keystone XL pipeline project is finally approved by Washington, the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

TransCanada is in its sixth year of waiting for the United States to approve or reject its plan for a 2,700 km cross-border pipeline that could carry at least 730,000 barrels a day of oil sands from Western Canada to Texas refineries.

U.S. oil trains must be drained of explosive gas, mayors say

Dangerous gas should be removed from oil train shipments to prevent a future disaster on the tracks, U.S. mayors and safety officials will tell regulators in comments on a sweeping federal safety plan.

The Department of Transportation in July proposed measures meant to end a string of fiery accidents as more trains carrying oil from North Dakota wind across the United States.

Kurion to Sign Contract Over Fukushima Cleanup

Kurion Inc. said it would sign a contract as soon as this month with the Japanese government to study scaling up technology for removing tritium from wastewater, trying to address a Fukushima nuclear-cleanup bottleneck.

The U.S. radioactive-waste management company is one of several that sees opportunity in dealing with hundreds of thousands of tons of wastewater at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Kurion’s technology captures radioactive tritium in water and separates it.

Dump trucks eyed for moving tainted soil to hot storage in Fukushima

The Environment Ministry plans to use 10-ton dump trucks to transport soil tainted with radiation released by the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s wrecked Fukushima No. 1 power station to interim storage facilities in the prefecture.

The plan is part of a program for transport operations the ministry presented to a panel on Thursday.

Developing world revives nuclear power prospects, but yet to commit

Developing nations are leading a revival of interest in nuclear power, say atomic plant builders, but orders remain elusive as more safety features post-Fukushima have inflated investment costs.

Three-and-a-half years after Japan’s reactor accident shook confidence, around 25 countries are thinking of turning nuclear to sustain strong growth and provide cleaner and reliable power.

Nadav Kander: Radioactive ruins of secret Soviet towns

In the silent landscape, a low crackle accompanied the shutter clicks of Nadav Kander’s camera. It was an urgent sound, one he couldn’t ignore: it signalled the ghostly presence of radiation. For his latest project Dust, now on display at the Flowers Gallery in London, the photographer travelled to an area on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan. Until 2006, it was off the map. “Google Earth discovered these secret cities that the maps had never shown,” says Kander. “They had been closed for many years.”

Long-lasting, water-based nuclear battery developed

Researchers working at the University of Missouri (MU) claim to have produced a prototype of a nuclear-powered, water-based battery that is said to be both longer-lasting and more efficient than current battery technologies and may eventually be used as a dependable power supply in vehicles, spacecraft, and other applications where longevity, reliability, and efficiency are paramount.

“Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s,” said associate professor Jae W. Kwon, of the College of Engineering at MU. “Controlled nuclear technologies are not inherently dangerous. We already have many commercial uses of nuclear technologies in our lives including fire detectors in bedrooms and emergency exit signs in buildings.”

LANL identifies second nuclear waste drum like container that was breached at WIPP

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have identified another nuclear waste drum similar to the drum that caused the February’s radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Terry Wallace Jr., the LANL WIPP recovery leader and principal associate director for global security, testified that the chemical reaction was likely caused by a discarded glovebox glove on Tuesday in front of the New Mexico Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee in Carlsbad.

Are Cell Phones Really Giving Us Cancer?

Chris Moore spoke with Dr. Devra Davis about the dangers of cell phone radiation over the weekend.

Dr. Davis is the author of “The Secret History of the War on Cancer” and “Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation.”

One of the first pieces of information she shared was that Apple products actually do have a warning in their general settings about the microwaves phones give off. Dr. Davis also said that iPads and other laptops are tested 20 cm away from an adult male body, which means that they were not made for small children to hold for an extended period of time.

Cellphone radiation project: Nokia withdrew funding, scientist says

A Finland based scientist said he has observed that human cells change their structure when exposed to radiation from mobile phones, but could not conclude whether it is harmful or not because funding for the study stopped.

The scientist Dariusz Leszczynski said that he was working on a research for which funding was promised by a Finnish organization Tekes, where about 70% fund for research is public money and rest comes from industry.

Smartphone users at a higher risk of radiation exposure

This is not a good news for the smartphone lovers. An expert has said that the radiation exposure from smartphones is much higher because of data traffic. ‘Smartphone radiation exposures are much higher because of the data traffic. Even though one may not be using the phone all the time, there is continuous data flowing from Facebook and other apps such as weather, news update and so on that people have on their phones,’ Dariusz Leszczynski said.

The member of the expert committee at World Health Organization/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 2011, was speaking at an event here Monday evening. Speaking about ‘Mobile tower and cell phone radiation – its threat and perception’ at India International Centre (IIC) organised by Syenergy Environics, Leszcznski said there was lot of ‘misinformation’ about health risk of cellphone radiation.

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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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