Environmental Must-Reads – September 19, 2014


After Worker Dies Chevron Drains Natural Gas Pipeline Off Louisiana Coast

Authorities said that a Chevron Corp. subsidiary was still releasing natural gas on Sept. 14 from a pipeline off the Louisiana coast where an incident killed a maintenance worker.

Col. Mike Edmonson, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, said his agency and the U.S. Coast Guard intend to send a joint team to the platform to start an investigation.

If Natural Gas Wells Used In Fracking Are Contaminating Water, Why Isn’t Fracking To Blame?

Big news came out this week about fracking: Duke scientists have found that natural gas wells used in fracking caused contamination in eight drinking water wells in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Many of you might have seen the videos of people living near gas exploration sites who can light their tap water on fire, because there’s so much methane in it. But the energy industry has solidly defended its position that the gas could be naturally occurring. There’s no evidence fracking caused the contamination.

Controversial nominee who became issue in Louisiana Senate race will take top job at environmental group

Opponents of Rhea Suh’s nomination for secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks have prevailed. The Natural Resources Defense Council announced Wednesday that Suh, criticized by Republicans as hostile to oil and gas development, will be its new president, starting in January.

In March, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to send the nomination of Suh, currently assistant secretary for policy, management and budget at the Department of Interior, to the full Senate with a positive recommendation.

Elizabeth mayor says state won’t ban fracking so towns, counties should

Mayor Christian Bollwage is recommending that municipal and county governments move to block fracking and the disposal of fracking waste, saying the state government will not act on the controversial practice.

“If we had to wait for the state, hell would freeze over first,” Bollwage said in a press teleconference this week.

Kinder Morgan signals flexibility on gas pipeline route in Berkshires, elsewhere

A day after their first official filing with federal regulators, a team of Kinder Morgan officials told about 100 listeners during a public informational forum that the route of their proposed high-pressure gas pipeline could undergo significant change.

As panelists representing Lenox town government and three environmental groups critical of the project voiced their concerns, the energy company representatives emphasized that the 250-mile pipeline proposal from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, through parts of eight Berkshire County communities, faces multiple hurdles from state and federal regulators over the next two years.

Putting a cap on water loss

As oil and natural gas companies continue to expand production during the ongoing drought, companies have increased their efforts to reduce water demand and protect the water they use.

Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp. last year began experimenting in west Texas with covering the large pits it uses to collect water for use in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process typically uses about 4 million gallons of water per well.

Jane Lew Meeting Leaves Some Wondering, and Some Concerned, About Future Drilling

Outside the building, a line of about 200 people wait their turn to talk to CONSOL. Many who came here Tuesday own land or royalties in Lewis County.

Jackie Smith is one of them. “I think it’s time. We need gas. So therefore we don’t have to depend on other countries.”

Pennsylvania parents call for buffers zones between fracking facilities and schools

On the front lines of the fracking wars in western Pennsylvania, a group called Protect Our Children is fighting for a one mile buffer between schools and natural gas infrastructure; another group is even calling for a two-mile buffer. Meanwhile gas wells, compressor stations and processing plants proliferate all around them. And two studies just released draw opposite conclusions about the safety of living near the industry. Melinda Tuhus reports from Butler County, Pennsylvania.

Beauchamp: How fracking contributes to climate change

New York will host the People’s Climate March on Sunday — a globally coordinated effort to demand action to confront climate change. It is fitting that it will happen in New York, a state that understands the threats of climate change better than most.

Just a couple years removed from superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers — particularly Long Islanders — know all too well that we’re already seeing the effects of climate disruption. Weeks without electricity. Homes flooded or washed away. Lives lost. And many scientists and experts insist that without immediate action, the worst is yet to come.

Alec Baldwin, passionate about green energy, speaks out against fracking

Alec Baldwin says he is passionate about green energy and is hoping next week’s U.N. climate summit brings home to Americans that the United States has fallen behind other countries in promoting wind and solar power.

The Emmy award-winning actor who has appeared on film, stage and television spoke at a reception Thursday night to celebrate the launch of a book entitled “Addressing Climate Change” featuring the work of award-winning English photographer Henry Dallal, who has often photographed Queen Elizabeth II. Its contributors include U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres, who attended the launch.

The Sand Mining Industry Could Be The Big Winner Of The Natural Gas Boom In America

Sand miner U.S. Silica Holdings Inc said demand could triple over the next five years as energy companies use increasing amounts of sand in hydraulic fracturing to extract more oil and gas from shale fields.

“We are seeing customers that are using 10,000 tons of sand for one well, and just to put it in perspective, that’s a mile long train of sand, to just frac one well,” Chief Executive Bryan Shinn told Reuters.

War of the words

If you want a taste of just how confusing it can be to navigate the debate over oil and gas development’s environmental effects, look no further than recent news coverage:

From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog: “Study: Bad fracking techniques let methane flow into drinking water.”

And from The New York Times: “Well Leaks, Not Fracking, Are Linked to Fouled Water.”

Reading those headlines, you might think: Well, jeez! Which scientists should I believe? Except that both stories describe the same study.

2014 already a nasty year for Wyoming oil spills

An oil boom in Wyoming is having a filthy side effect.

A string of accidents, ranging in geography from a remote gulley in the Powder River Basin to a refinery in downtown Cheyenne, already has made this year the state’s worst for oil spills since at least 2009, state records show.

Almost 220,000 gallons of oil already has spilled in Wyoming this year, more than double the 90,000 gallons all last year. About 165,000 gallons spilled in 2010, the previous worst year since the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality began tracking spills in a database that year.

Agency can look at rig owner’s role in oil spill

A federal appeals court in New Orleans has upheld a federal safety board’s right to investigate the role of Transocean Deepwater Drilling Corp. in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that was drilling for BP PLC at its Macondo well, about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast when an explosion killed 11 workers and led to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

Former Deepwater Horizon claims administrator asks Supreme Court to review case

The former Deepwater Horizon claims chief has filed a brief asking the nation’s highest court to weigh in on the question of whether oil spill claimants should be required to show proof of damage from the Gulf oil spill before collecting settlements from oil giant BP PLC.

In an amicus brief filed with U.S. Supreme Court, Kenneth Feinberg, the former special master of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), said not only should claimants be able to show proof they were directly affected by the 2010 oil spill, but that requiring them to do so is vital to maintaining the integrity of the settlement process.

Study: Oil spill caused $585 million in losses for recreational fishermen

The dollar figure recreational fishermen lost as a result of canceled trips after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is around $585 million, according to a report by the Gainesville Sun.

The article details the findings of a study conducted by researchers from a number of universities, including the University of Florida. Scientists used data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as location preferences to put a dollar amount on the combined loss.

Mayflower oil spill homes cost more

The Mayflower homes that were evacuated after last year’s oil spill and bought by ExxonMobil have been back on the market for several months, but the cost of the homes are now higher than before the spill.

On Thursday, another ‘sale pending’ sign went up in front of a home on Starlite Road in Mayflower. 22 of 63 homes in the Northwoods subdivision were evacuated after ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured last year, spilling 210,000 gallons of oil in the neighborhood.

Keystone Pipeline Cost Expected to Double, TransCanada CEO Says

TransCanada Corp.’s chief executive said the cost to build the Keystone XL pipeline, currently estimated at $5.4 billion, is expected to double by the time the U.S. government completes its review of the largest part of the project.

Russ Girling, chief executive of the Calgary, Alberta,-based company, in an interview this week said he expects the project’s cost could increase to a “number that gets you into the high single digits to a 10 number.” He was hesitant to say the project’s cost could double. “I was actually trying to avoid saying those words,” Mr. Girling said. “Obviously, the costs have increased significantly.”

TransCanada CEO ‘Frustrated’ by Linkage of Keystone Pipeline to Climate Change

TransCanada Corp. chief executive officer Russ Girling told reporters Sept. 16 he is “frustrated” by critics of the Keystone pipeline who have cast the project as a symbol of increased greenhouse gas emissions and warming.

It’s been caught up in this debate it has nothing to do with,” Girling said. “Actual people that are impacted by this project are supportive and willing to move forward with it,” Girling said during a meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill.”

Mich. Pipeline Leak Is Political Fodder in Heated House Race

If opponents of incumbent Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich) have their way, a natural gas pipeline leak that displaced 500 people earlier this week could take center stage in one of the nation’s most heated Congressional races.

The contest for Michigan’s 6th congressional district pins fossil fuel champion Upton, a 14-term U.S. Representative and chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, against Democratic newcomer Paul Clements, a political science professor at Western Michigan University and an advocate for climate action.

Enbridge talks Sandpiper pipeline safety

Officials from Enbridge Energy Company presented information on pipeline safety to two area water organizations Thursday.

The boards of directors of the Whitefish Area Property Owners’ Association (WAPOA) and the Pine River Watershed Alliance (PRWA) hosted the energy company at the Ideal Town Hall. Enbridge has proposed building an oil pipeline, known as the Sandpiper, across northern Minnesota to transport crude from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to Superior, Wis. The route proposed by the company would cross Cass, Crow Wing and Aitkin counties along the way.

Enbridge’s internal problems that contributed to 2010 oil spill have changed, company says

Federal, state, and local agencies took part in a mock oil spill Wednesday in northern Michigan along the Indian River.

The emergency drill conjured memories of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill. About a million gallons of crude oil have been cleaned up from that spill. There’s some concern about whether Enbridge has made important internal changes to avoid future pipeline problems.

Kinder Morgan looks to Maine to fill proposed pipeline capacity

Kinder Morgan has submitted a bid to sell pipeline capacity on one of its newest expansions to the state of Maine.

The project, the Northeast Energy Direct Project, is a massive push to put as much as 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas capacity per day in a New England market that has been starved of fuel. If Maine bites, the state could become one of the project’s major supporters, drawing in as much as 200 million cubic feet of gas capacity per day.

‘We’re going to fight’: Residents against construction of massive gas pipeline

Plans are underway for construction of a massive natural gas pipeline that would cut across six counties in Northeast Ohio, and people living along its path are worried about the potential impact.

“You feel like you got a punch right in the stomach,” said Mario Pascolini, who has lived in Guilford Township in Medina County for 35 years.

Exxon Said to Halt Arctic Oil Well Drilling on Sanctions

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and OAO Rosneft halted drilling on an offshore oil well intended as the first step in unlocking billions of barrels of crude in Russia’s remote Arctic, according to people familiar with the project.

Work stopped just a few days after the U.S. and European Union barred companies from helping Russia exploit Arctic, deep-water or shale-oil fields, said three people with knowledge of the rig’s operations who asked not to be named since they weren’t authorized to speak about the project. The U.S. sanctions, meant to punish Russia for escalating tensions in Ukraine, gave American companies until Sept. 26 to stop all restricted drilling and testing services.

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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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