Environmental Must-Reads – September 2, 2013


Fracking: 98 more quakes linked to well

A fracking waste disposal well linked to 11 earthquakes that rocked the Youngstown area was the likely source of at least 98 additional temblors that were too weak for people to notice, according to new research.

Chevron Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks in Gulf of Mexico: NRC Report

Chevron Corp. (CVX) leaked an unknown quantity of natural gas from a pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico near Pascagoula, Mississippi, according to a report filed Aug. 30 with the U.S. National Response Center.

Fracking Wastewater Cited In Blackside Dace Die-Off, Probably

If you’ve never heard of Blackside dace before, now’s your chance. Blackside dace is a federally listed threatened species of minnow found only in the Cumberland Basin part of Tennessee and Kentucky.  We suddenly find them quite interesting because the US Geological Survey has partnered with the Fish and Wildlife Service in a newly released report that cites a fracking wastewater spill in Kentucky’s Acorn Fork as the probable cause of a mass die-off of Blackside dace and other species back in 2007.

The report is significant because, although it doesn’t get to the 100 percent certainty point, its degree of near certainty is quite an achievement given that a gaping trade secrets loophole makes fracking related water contamination almost impossible to prove.

Fracking in paradise

Big oil is ready to fight California’s attempts to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

New uproar erupted among environmentalists after an investigation by news-site Truthout revealed that oil companies have been fracking off the coast of Santa Barbara, for more than a decade. While the Golden State may be sitting on an oil fortune, the California coast is all too familiar with offshore drilling catastrophes.

Assembly Committee Approves ‘Woefully Inadequate’ Fracking Bill

Fracking opponents described Senator Fran Pavley’s legislation as “woefully inadequate,” “faulty,” and “weak” – and argue that the bill will actually allow the oil industry to expand fracking in Kern County and coastal areas.

‘Acidizing’ could rival hydraulic fracturing in oil exploration

Fracking hasn’t unleashed an oil production boom in California, at least not yet.

Could acid?

Companies trying to pry oil from a vast shale formation beneath Central California have been pumping powerful acids underground to dissolve the rock and free the petroleum within.

Gas Wells, Schools Just Don’t Seem to Mix Very Well

In school, sometimes real life trumps academics. That’s what happened one day recently in my classroom when a senior student asked: “Mrs. Shalaway, do you think it is worth staying and fighting for this area, or do you think we should just get out now?”

Oh no, one of those too-frequent moments when I can’t say what I really think.

“Your home is always worth fighting for.”

Pain in the Gas

It’s now been five years since New York placed a moratorium on fracking.

It’s been a year since the state Health Department announced its review of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s blueprint for regulating hydraulic fracturing.

Can You Silence a Child? Inside the Hallowich Case

A Pennsylvania family made national headlines when it was alleged that fracking companies put their young children under a gag order. Could it really be? Caitlin Dickson digs into the case.

WVU Professor Wants Air Emissions Regulated

Levels of carcinogenic benzene in the air 625 feet away from one natural gas drill site were so bad that a West Virginia University professor said he would recommend “respiratory protection.”

When It Comes To Natural Gas, Whose Backyard Is My Backyard, Really?

As New York State’s highest court agrees to hear arguments over whether or not towns have the authority to ban fracking within their city limits, North Carolina landowners are learning that they may be forced to permit fracking on their property even against their wishes.

Surprise Inspections Examine Safety Of Shipping Bakken Crude By Rail

The feds are calling it the “Bakken Blitz.”

Inspectors with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have begun surprise inspections of rail cars carrying fracked oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

It’s the same crude that is being hauled on trains to a refinery complex Philadelphia and that was on a train that derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec earlier this summer, killing 47 people and leveling parts of the town.

OSHA Will Issue A Rule on Crystalline Silica

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a proposed rule aimed at curbing silica-related disease.  After publication, the public will have 90 days to submit written comments, followed by public hearings.

PA Public Health Assessment Finds Fracking Makes People Sick

Two doctors, along with biologist and writer Sandra Steingraber, put this week’s big story, “Pennsylvania Fracking Study Preliminary Results Released,” into its proper context as the tip of a health impacts iceberg. The short article below by Sandra Steingraber, PhD; Larysa Dyrszka, MD; and Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL, is a must-read.

House Dems Call On Interior Department To Put Public Health Before Profit Of Fracking Companies

This week, the public comment period closed on the Obama Administration’s draft rules to establish consistent standards and environmental protections for the use of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ techniques to extract gas and oil from federal and Indian lands — a total of 600 million acres.

Activist Delivers 70,000 Signatures Against Fracking in California

On Thursday, August 29th, Dorothy Reik, a MoveOn.org member from Topanga, to delivered over 70,000 petition signatures from from MoveOn, CREDO, and Friends of the Earth to State Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (CA-43) and Assembly Speaker John Pérez’s (CA-53) offices, urging them to add an immediate moratorium on fracking to State Sen. Fran Pavley’s regulatory bill (SB4). The bill originally contained a moratorium on fracking, but it was stripped out in the Senate due to industry pressure. MoveOn member

How Oil and Gas Drillers Avoid Paying Royalties to Landowners

Don Feusner ran dairy cattle on his 370-acre slice of northern Pennsylvania until he could no longer turn a profit by farming. Then, at age 60, he sold all but a few Angus and aimed for a comfortable retirement on money from drilling his land for natural gas instead.

BP accuses Louisiana leaders of ‘political grandstanding’ over oil spill

BP has become embroiled in an acrimonious slanging match with one of the US Gulf states most affected by pollution from the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010 with the two sides trading blows over the oil company’s cleanup record.

A senior BP executive has accused the leaders of Louisiana of “political grandstanding” and making “patently false assertions” about the environmental record of the group since the spill.

Bobby Jindal Takes a Shot at BP’s Gulf Oil Spill PR Campaign (Updated)

Bobby Jindal isn’t happy with BP’s faltering response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and he isn’t shy about letting them hear about it. At an event on Wednesday, the Governor of Louisiana blasted the company for spending “more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted.” Three years after the spill, in which a drilling rig blowout killed 11 men and poured 4 million barrels into the gulf, BP has started to push back on damages claims, and Jindal seems determined to make the company pay for it.

BP Expands Challenge to Gulf Spill Settlement

BP is trying to persuade a federal appeals court that it should throw out a judge’s approval of the company’s multibillion-dollar settlement related to the Gulf oil spill if a separate appeal is unsuccessful.

BP asks 5th Circuit to throw out claims settlement unless separate appeal on claims process is granted

BP asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday to throw out a massive settlement of private claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill if the appeal judges don’t reverse a lower court’s decision upholding how large business claims are being paid.

BP finds unlikely ally in fight over spill payments

BP has found an unlikely ally in its fight to cut what it is paying out under last year’s multibillion-dollar class-action Gulf of Mexico oil spill settlement: people who say they aren’t getting enough money.

Bacteria’s Nitrogen-Rich Diet Helped Clean Up Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill

Releasing 210 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been described as one of the greatest man-made ecological disasters to ever impact the region.

However, the native bacteria on gulf beaches were able to metabolize the contamination from the spill by supplementing their diet with nitrogen, according to research being presented today at the European Association of Geochemistry’s Goldschmidt 2013 conference in Florence, Italy.

2002 Oil Spill May Shed Light on Health Problems for Deepwater Workers

The fate of fishermen involved in cleaning up a massive oil spill off the northwest coast of Spain in 2002 could shed light on potential health problems facing workers involved in the recent Deepwater disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Recent accidents highlight shallow water dangers, departing regulator says

Recent accidents at offshore oil and gas facilities highlight the risks of producing energy on the shallow continental shelf as well as the Gulf of Mexico’s deepest frontiers, said a departing top U.S. regulator.

Panel says Louisiana gas, oil industries neglected wetlands, files lawsuit

The lawsuit argues the companies unlawfully neglected to fix decades’ worth of damage they caused to the state’s wetlands. But politicians were quick to side with the gas and oil industries, which provide thousands of jobs and a hefty chunk of state revenue.

Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline crosses 18 watersheds for Arkansas drinking water sources

Following the March 29 rupture of the Exxon Mobil Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, some Mayflower residents were unaware the pipeline ran beneath their homes.

The Arkansas Times’ Sam Eifling, David Koon and Elizabeth McGowan recently followed the path of the pipeline across Arkansas to see what sorts of environments and communities could have potentially been affected by a rupture that occurred in Mayflower.

Trial date proposed for Ark. oil spill lawsuit

A trial date has been proposed for a federal lawsuit about a central Arkansas oil spill.

An online record filed Thursday in Little Rock federal court proposes a trial that would start sometime during the week of June 16.

Chevron donates $2 million to LSU’s College of Engineering

Chevron committed $2 million Wednesday to LSU in support of an ongoing renovation of Patrick F. Taylor Hall, which houses the university’s College of Engineering. The company also announced it will donate an additional $700,000 to LSU’s College of Science.

Undercover at the Tar Sands: What It’s Really Like Working for Big Oil

An anonymous worker reveals conditions at ground zero for Canada’s controversial pipelines

U.S. oil worries predated Lac-Mégantic disaster

New information from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows authorities were worried prior the Lac-Mégantic disaster about the transport of oil from North Dakota on trains.

Pipeline running through Valley stirs controversy in Kentucky

Land owners joined environmental activists at the state Capitol in August to oppose a pipeline that would carry flammable liquids through several counties in northern Kentucky.

First Keystone pipeline pumped little into retail sales numbers

TransCanada has pointed to the economic benefits that will accrue for Nebraska towns and counties along the path of its Keystone XL pipeline, but a check of retail sales figures for the 10 counties crossed by its first pipeline doesn’t show a consistent economic boost.

Halting Keystone will curb emissions by stalling oil-sands growth, U.S. environmentalists’ report says

Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline could put a chokehold on Canada’s energy sector and ultimately slow oil-sands growth, American climate groups argue in a new report.

Keystone XL And The Alaska Pipeline: Environmentalists Vs. Oil Industry; What Obama Can Learn From Nixon

In his much-anticipated climate change speech in June, President Obama’s description of planet Earth was eloquent: “Beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.”

Aerial photos show Keystone XL behind schedule, research firm says

The southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is running behind schedule, according to an aerial analysis by market research firm Genscape.

Genscape said its photos from flyovers of the construction area on August 18, along with other research place its estimated date of service for the pipeline in the first quarter of next year.

Enbridge crude oil pipeline across Minnesota faces fresh opposition

Another battle is brewing over piping heavy Canadian crude oil across Minnesota.

Anti-pipeline activists who in July disrupted the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission as it approved a cross-state pipeline expansion say they’ll be back this week, demanding to be heard on another upgrade.

Greenpeace protests Shell’s Arctic drilling with bear suits and break-in

On August 25, Greenpeace activists made a bold attempt to “rebrand” Shell at the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix. The demonstration protested the oil company’s exploration activities and plans to drill in the Arctic.

Penguins face serious risk if oil spill occurs

Phillip Island’s famous fairy penguins and other precious wildlife in Western Port would face serious threat from an oil spill at the Port of Hastings – set to become Australia’s next major container dock under state government plans.

Fukushima radiation levels 18 times higher than previously thought

Radiation levels 18 times higher than previously reported have been found near a water storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing fresh concern about the safety of the wrecked facility.

Fukushima: Japan promises swift action on nuclear cleanup

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has promised to act quickly to address the buildup of huge quantities of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Abe, who recently suggested that the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), was incapable of overseeing the operation on its own, said the government would soon announce a comprehensive plan to deal with the world’s largest nuclear cleanup.

Fukushima open air fission? Radiation surge can’t be blamed just on random leaks

The latest surge in radiation at Fukushima nuclear plant may suggest not only additional water leaks at the site, but could also mean fission is occurring outside the crippled reactor, explains Chris Busby from the European Committee on Radiation Risk.

The increase in radiation reading is too significant to be blamed on random water leaks, believes Busby.

Fukushima radioactive leak ‘patched up with tape’

The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, which confirmed radiation readings are 18 times higher than previously measured, said yesterday that it found highly radioactive water dripping from a pipe connecting two coolant tanks, and patched it up with tape.

Japan government abandons hands-off approach to Fukushima clean-up

Japan’s government is moving to take a more direct role in the clean-up of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, as concerns grow over the ability of embattled operator Tokyo Electric to handle the legacy of the worst atomic disaster in a quarter century.

Radiocative Water Leak At Fukushima Worse Than First Thought

Radiation surrounding Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has increased 18 fold following a report last month that radioactive water had leaked into the ground around the plant, which was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

New radiation hotspots found at Fukushima nuclear plant

The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant says it has found new radiation hotspots, one with levels so high it could kill a person within a few hours.

Leaks, elevated radiation plague Fukushima nuclear plant

Japan’s top nuclear regulator raised safety concerns Monday about hastily built storage tanks and their foundations after signs of more leaks of radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.

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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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