Environmental Must-Reads – September 2, 2014


State approves Helis Oil’s request to establish drilling and production unit near Mandeville

The state Office of Conservation has approved Helis Oil & Gas Co.’s request to establish a 960-acre production unit near Mandeville, clearing the way for the company to seek a drilling permit for its controversial drilling and fracking proposal. The approval, announced Friday (Aug. 29) afternoon, came despite St. Tammany Parish’s pending lawsuit against the office and citizens’ passionate pleas to deny the request.

“It doesn’t permit to drill. It doesn’t permit to set up,” said Patrick Courreges, communications director for the state Department of Natural Resources. “It says if the well is drilled and is successful, this is who gets a piece of it.”

DEP finds 243 water sources contaminated by gas exploration

The state Department of Environmental Protection has released a final tally of the number of water sources damaged by natural gas drilling since 2008.

According to the tally, the department found that 243 water sources have been contaminated.

Colorado Town to Ask Higher Court to Uphold Its Fracking Ban

Leaders of a Boulder, Colo. suburb on the front lines of the fight against gas drilling recently voted 7-0 to appeal last month’s court ruling that overturned the city’s ban on fracking.

The city council’s unanimous vote not only brings the high-profile anti-fracking case back to court, but also guarantees the town of Longmont a few more years free of fracking. That’s because of the last few sentences in the court ruling, which says the judge would agree to uphold the ban during the appeal if the town asked for it.

Fracked off – natural gas victims flee Colorado’s toxic air

Natural gas is widely touted as a ‘green fuel’. But as Paul Thacker found in Colorado, fracking’s national ‘ground zero’, it’s anything but. Lives and health are being ruined by pollution from taxpayer-subsidized gas wells, flaring and refining plants, while property values collapse. Now a mass of environmental refugees are fleeing the ravaged state.

Amid oil and gas boom, Colorado continues role as earthquake lab

From the living room chair where he sat reading around half past 9 on a May evening, Ron Baker heard the boom and felt his century-old Greeley farmhouse shudder, sending a menagerie of plastic horses toppling from a bedroom shelf.

He stepped out the back door and aimed a flashlight at the thick, ancient cottonwood that leans over the roof, expecting to reveal a snapped limb as the culprit. But he circled the house and found nothing amiss.

About a half-mile down the county road, Judy Dunn had been sitting in bed watching TV when she felt her brick ranch house shake and heard the windows rattle, making her wonder if an oil or gas well had blown.

Colorado fracking ban scorecard: 3 ruled illegal, 2 remain

Three out of five Front Range cities’ bans on hydraulic fracturing in the last few years have been struck down by district court judges in recent weeks, and two others still stand.

Both Boulder and Broomfield still have fracking bans in place.

Alarming find

University of Texas at Arlington researchers have unveiled a study that found potentially unhealthy levels of arsenic in water wells scattered throughout North Texas.

The study, conducted last year, involved 100 water wells across the Barnett Shale, 10 of them in Denton County. An 11-member team of UTA scientists found that 30 percent of wells within 1.8 miles of active natural gas drilling showed an increase in heavy metals, including arsenic.

Fracking fire points out failings

Phillip Keevert, the only paid firefighter in Monroe County, was working a diesel spill on the morning of June 28 when a 911 dispatcher called his cellphone about another emergency.

Keevert was out of range of the county’s radio system, so he got in his truck and drove toward town. As he got closer, the radio static gave way to snippets of conversation.

He heard the word “well.” More static. Then the word “fire.”

Utah fracking fine highlights wastewater pond threat

When fracking causes controversy, it’s often because of wells — either the ones used to inject chemicals and water into the ground to break up gas-rich shale rock or the ones used to dispose of all the waste and water left over from the injection process.

Often overlooked is a another way to dispose of that waste: massive surface ponds in which fracking water is stored until it can be recycled or buried or is left to slowly evaporate. Those ponds, which can grow to several acres in size, dot the landscapes of virtually every state that produces natural gas.

Iowa Counties Stick To Home To Win Fights Over Frac Sand Mining

A group of northeast Iowans effectively is keeping large frac sand mine companies from mining silica-rich sand in their county by building a consortium that set aside politics and focused on dealing with the matter locally, instead of with state intervention.

Allamakee County — a rural county in the northeast corner of Iowa bounded north by Minnesota and east by the Mississippi River and Wisconsin — enacted this year a countywide ordinance restricting mining the silica sand used in other states to extract natural gas and oil in a process called hydraulic fracturing.

Shale drillers’ landfill records don’t match those of Pennsylvania DEP

EQT Corp. told the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that it sent 21 tons of drill cuttings from its Marcellus Shale wells to area landfills in 2013.

But landfills in southwestern Pennsylvania told a different story.

Six facilities in this part of the state reported receiving nearly 95,000 tons of drill cuttings and fracking fluid from the Downtown-based oil and gas operator last year.

Commission adopts fracking regulations for Nevada

A state panel has approved regulations guiding oil and gas exploration companies’ use of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, in Nevada.

The Commission on Mineral Resources’ unanimous decision Thursday in Elko drew criticism from opponents, who say fracking could lead to water contamination, excessive water consumption and earthquake activity.

Fracking poses little risk of air and water pollution, report finds; BLM to restart oil and gas leases

The Bureau of Land Management has announced plans to resume oil and gas leasing for fracking in California at the same time it has released an independently produced report finding that current fracking methods aren’t fouling air and water and don’t raise the risk of earthquakes in the state.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources issues long-awaited fracking rules

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources released a long-awaited plan Friday to regulate high-volume oil and gas drilling that supporters hope could bring an economic boost to southern Illinois but environmentalists fear may be too lenient.

The lengthy report follows months of delays and complaints over the process to draft rules governing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Illinois. Industry officials say southern Illinois has rich deposits of natural gas, but a final draft of the rules — initially touted as a national model of both sides working together — has taken months for the agency to produce as industry groups warned the state was losing business.

Study finds more arsenic in wells near drilling

North Texas water wells within two miles of active gas drilling sites contain higher concentrations of arsenic and other carcinogens, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

In the study, University of Texas at Arlington biochemists measured 100 wells across the Barnett Shale, believed to hold one of the largest natural gas reserves in the U.S., and compared the results to a similar study undertaken before hydraulic fracturing technology and higher natural gas prices opened the area to drilling.

America’s shale gas boom brought Rajasthan farmers a fortune, but now it is being taken away

When shale gas companies in the United States hiked their production six-fold in the last six years, it brought untold prosperity to farmers living 21,000 km away in Rajasthan, the Indian desert state with poor economic and social indicators.

The source of that new prosperity was a processed powder called guar gum, which is used in fracking, a method of extracting shale gas that involves pumping pressurised gas into the ground. Guar gum is derived from a crop called guar. India is the world’s largest producer of guar.

Drinking or fracking? Report finds top shale plays globally are in places with scarce water

As fracking is set to go global, one research organization warns that some of the best plays around the world are in areas that are already facing water shortages.

Fresh water has always been a big part of fracking operations, but as it expands beyond North America to other parts of the world, researchers say it will increasing be competing for water in places that don’t have much. This could set up difficult choices for countries between drilling for oil and gas or ensuring a fresh supply of H20 to their parched citizens.

Earthquake hazard linked with deep well injection in Alberta

Rural Albertans have been saying for years they can feel tremors under their feet near oil and gas activity, especially around areas of hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking.

While the movements are small, and don’t cause damage, they have been cause for concern.

The U.S Geological Survey has said in the past there is a connection between oil and gas production and seismic activity. While the science in Alberta isn’t settled, researchers say there is a growing correlation.

Van Buren landfill seeks tenfold increase in radiation allowances

A hazardous waste landfill near Belleville that has gained the attention of Michigan lawmakers for accepting low-activity radioactive oil and gas fracking waste from other states is seeking approval for a tenfold increase in allowable radiation levels in the materials it receives.

The owners of the Wayne Disposal landfill, between I-94 and Willow Run Airport in Van Buren Township, filed an application with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality last October, seeking a hike in the radiation limit of materials it accepts and stores from the current 50 picocuries per gram up to 500 picocuries per gram.

Three counties take different approaches to frac sand mining

A group of northeast Iowans effectively has kept large frac sand mine companies from mining silica-rich sand in their county by building a consortium that set aside politics and focused on dealing with the matter locally, instead of with state intervention.

Allamakee County enacted this year a countywide ordinance restricting mining the silica sand used in other states to extract natural gas and oil in a process called hydraulic fracturing.

Researchers at work on using liquid nitrogen instead of water in fracturing

Petroleum engineers in Colorado are working on a process called cryogenic fracturing, which replaces water with searing cold liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide.

And natural gas fields in the state may serve as a laboratory for testing this different way to fracture shale rock formations – one that doesn’t pump millions of gallons of water underground or result in contaminated wastewater.

Large ‘dead zone’ signals more problems for Chesapeake Bay

It began forming in May, when heavy spring rains loaded the rivers and creeks with fertilizer washed from farms and suburban lawns. It grew rapidly over the summer, as a broth of chemicals, animal waste and microbes simmered in the warm, slow-moving waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

By early August, the “dead zone” was back: more than a cubic mile of oxygen-depleted water in which nothing — fish, crab nor shrimp — can survive.

As BP Pays For Oil Spill Impact, Some People Aren’t Seeing The Cash

BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico disrupted business all along the coastline. Through the end of July, the oil giant paid more than $13 billion to compensate people, businesses and communities affected. The company is disputing some of those claims in court battles that could drag on for years.

But there’s another group of people who lost money after the spill and never received compensation. That’s because their claims are tied to a six-month government moratorium on drilling put in place after the spill.

Isle shrimpers fight to keep Gulf Coast tradition alive

There’s something idyllic about watching shrimp boats drag their nets in the Gulf of Mexico or wedge through the nickel-gray waters of Galveston harbor, pelicans perched regally on their bows, circled by seagulls, trailed by dolphins. Trawlers at docks or in sunset silhouettes give visitors a sense of the place they may have imagined when they booked their seaside escapes. The boats also offer glimpses of a traditional way of life and an industry built largely by European immigrants; the last traces of it, perhaps.

Oil spill drill report withheld by DEC

Ten months after a high-profile oil spill drill was held in New Windsor, the state has yet to release a report evaluating the effectiveness of the exercise.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has repeatedly delayed an open-records request submitted by the Poughkeepsie Journal for the report, known as an after-action review.

Oil spill on water and shoreline in Cape Porpoise

The Coast Guard says it is cleaning up an oil spill near Cape Porpoise. Crews worked through the night Monday to clean up the spill on both the water and shoreline of Bickford Island.

A boom was placed in the water to keep the spill from spreading.

Ballard oil spill

Diesel oil spilled near Ballard Locks. It didn’t take long to find it at the Ballard Mill Marina: a smelly mess of oil collecting around the boats moored here. “I just smelled an overwhelming sense of diesel.” Jeff Johnston noticed it when he returned home at about two2 this morning.

But it wasn’t until daylight that he and others who live aboard their boats could see it. “There was just this sludge of, I don’t know probably two millimeters of sludge, just, like all over the water,” said Johnston. So they called the U-S.S. Coast Guard. Their investigators estimate the spill is 50-60 gallons of diesel and an oily mixture from inside a ship’s hull.

Small fuel spill disrupts Edmonds-Kingston ferry

A fuel spill of less than 15 gallons halted the Edmonds-Kingston ferries for six hours Monday morning, because officials feared boat movement would churn the diesel.

Fuel was being transferred between tanks in the ferry Walla Walla, docked at Kingston, when the crew discovered the spill. The Coast Guard received a report of the spill at about 4:30 a.m., said Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Katelyn Shearer.

Oil spill in Oklahoma creek causes concern more than a year after cleanup

A broken pipeline dumps oil into a metro creek, but more than a year later the landowners say they are still fighting to get it cleaned up.  The spill happened in an abandoned pipeline on the edge of Spencer’s Kringlen Park.

“Nobody picked up the phone except for the landowners it affected,” said Spencer city councilwoman Tonni Canaday who told Fox 25 the town was not notified oil was spilled in Spencer Creek.

Grenloch Lake oil spill: New report shows impact on insects, crustaceans two years later

More than two and a half years after 26,000 gallons of diesel fuel poured into Grenloch Lake and Big Timber Creek, a final report from the South Jersey Land and Water Trust shows lasting effects the spill had on the waterways’ biodiversity.

Specifically, the report focuses on the impact of the oil on macroinvertebrate life such as insects, crustaceans, mollusks and any organism without a spine but large enough to be seen by the naked eye in Big Timber Creek and was compiled by SJLWT Coordinator and photographer Michael Hogan.

State looking for input on oil spill fine money

State coastal restoration officials are asking for the public’s input on how fine money from the 2010 BP oil spill should be spent.

A public meeting is being held Sept. 11 in Houma to discuss the state’s plans for the money.

Keystone Ads Mislead on Canada’s Deep Cuts to Environmental Monitoring

The ads were hard to miss for anyone taking the subway in Washington, D.C.—particularly someone working at the White House, the State Department or Congress.

They included images of children waving the American and Canadian flags, a green mountain with a river running through it, and construction workers building a new pipeline in Texas.

Gov. Heineman voices opinion on Keystone XL pipeline’s slow process

Later this week the Nebraska Supreme Court will hear arguments about the Keystone XL pipeline.

Landowners backed by environmental groups challenged the state law. It would have had the Nebraska Public Service Commission decide on pipeline placement.

Ruling on Keystone XL pipeline could come down to two key points

The nearly six-year odyssey of the Keystone XL pipeline could turn this week in 30 minutes.

The Nebraska Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Friday morning on a constitutional challenge involving one of the most bitterly fought environmental battles in a generation. President Barack Obama is awaiting a ruling from Nebraska before moving closer to deciding the fate of the massive oil pipeline.

Wis. DNR: Pipeline work could kill rare species

Wisconsin wildlife officials say a pipeline construction project could kill members of several threatened and endangered species.

Wisconsin Gas LLC wants to construct a new 74-mile natural gas lateral that would run from an existing pipeline in Eau Claire or Clark County to Tomah. The Department of Natural Resources says the project could result in incidental taking of the threatened prairie leafhopper; the endangered phlox moth; the threatened frosted elfin, a type of butterfly; and the threatened wood turtle.

Michigan Task Force Begins Oil Pipeline Review

State officials have begun a safety review of Michigan’s network of oil pipelines.

The Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force held its first meeting Thursday. Officials say the initial focus is on Enbridge Energy Partners LP’s Line 5. It includes two lines that run beneath the Straits of Mackinac separating the state’s two peninsulas where Lakes Huron and Michigan converge.

Labor Day News Dump: FERC Hands Enbridge Permit for Tar Sands by Rail Facility

On the Friday before Labor Day — in the form of an age-old “Friday News Dump“ — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) handed a permit to Enbridge, the tar sands-carrying corporate pipeline giant, to open a tar sands-by-rail facility in Flanagan, Ill. by early-2016.

With the capacity to accept 140,000 barrels of tar sands product per day, the company’s rail facility serves as another step in the direction towards Enbridge’s quiet creation of a “Keystone XL Clone.” That is, like TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline System sets out to do, sending Alberta’s tar sands all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico’s refinery row — and perhaps to the global export market.

Return to the Arctic: Shell Looks Set To Take Another Run

Shell could be returning to the Arctic after a two-year hiatus.

The company submitted a drilling plan to the U.S. Department of Interior on Aug. 28, which suggests it is considering returning to the icy waters in the far north to look for oil. While no final decision has been made, Shell’s submission puts the company on track to drill in the summer of 2015.

As Shell gears up to drill the Arctic, investors must ask serious questions

Shell gave its clearest signal to date that the company will seek to resurrect its hitherto ill-fated US offshore Arctic drilling programme. In filing a new multi-year exploration plan last Thursday for the Alaskan Chukchi Sea with US regulators, the company keeps open the possibility of a return to the region as soon as summer 2015.

However, the matter is far from certain. Obstacles remain including the completion by regulators of a new environmental impact assessment required after a US appeals court decision halted drilling activity for 2014.

As more oil travels along rail, safety concerns come up

Six days a week, bumping through the scrub, oil trucks pull up to the rail stations at Muleshoe or Kermit, Dimmit or Roy, Whiteface, Seagraves or Wellman, any of the flyspeck boomtowns of the Permian Basin. By the tracks, roustabouts and railroaders meet for a transfer as old as their industries. Pumping crude into tank cars, they step back as the locomotives lurch off toward the transfer stations of BNSF and Union Pacific, the two big lines that crisscross the state on their way to Houston, where 800 miles of track wind through the city toward the petroleum barges and refineries of the Gulf Coast.

Crude oil rides Texas’ rails with little tracking

Nationwide, rail transit of crude oil faces intense scrutiny. As traffic surged, a series of accidents, including a spectacular derailment that killed dozens of people last summer in Canada, has led to outcry from fire marshals and assurances from rail industry officials. Federal officials have issued a safety warning and emergency orders.

But in Texas, home of the country’s most prolific production and most expansive refining capacity, crude oil rides the rails with little oversight, energy reporter Michael Brick writes.

Canada and Russia Twitter Spat Comes Amidst Rising Tensions Over Arctic Oil

‘This is Russia, this is not Russia,’ tweeted the Canadian Nato delegation, with a map demarcating Russian and Ukrainian territories, after Moscow claims that Russian paratroopers arrested in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday had got lost and wandered into the country accidentally.

‘Geography can be tough,’ they added.

Hours later, after the Canadian map had gone viral on Twitter, Russia’s Nato delegation responded with a tweet of their own.

Too eager to drill for Arctic oil

Greenpeace’s ship, the Esperanza, is still on station in the Arctic to expose renewed Norwegian efforts to drill for oil in this pristine environment.

Last week we successfully headed off attempts by an oil company to complete controversial seismic testing, commissioned by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate in the absence of any political discussion, by revealing it in prime time TV news.

Workers At Japan’s Downed Fukushima Nuclear Plant Are Suing For ‘Danger’ Pay

Workers employed in decommissioning the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant are to sue operator Tokyo Electric Power and some subcontractors, demanding millions of yen in unpaid danger money, their lawyer said on Tuesday.

The four men, of whom two are still working at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, will demand the companies pay a total of 65 million yen ($620,000), mostly in hazard allowances.

Workers grappled with darkness at start of Fukushima nuclear crisis

Four days after the magnitude-9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant chief Masao Yoshida was at his wit’s end.

“Who will be willing to die with me?” the 56-year-old Yoshida wondered as the situation, which was getting worse day by day, developed into one of the world’s worst nuclear crises. The No. 1 and No. 3 reactor buildings had been ripped apart by explosions and the No. 2 reactor was in a critical condition.

Three years later, Fukushima radiation leaves towns eerily empty

Every time Shuichi Saito goes home, he has to suit up to protect himself from radiation.

“We’re allowed in 15 times a year,” Saito told CBS News, on a trip back to his home near where a typhoon caused the Fukishima nuclear plant to leak dangerous amounts of radiation three years ago. “But, as my home and grounds deteriorate, as the weeds take over, it’s depressing.”

Fukushima fallout: Resentment grows in nearby Japanese city

Like many of her neighbours, Satomi Inokoshi worries that her gritty hometown is being spoiled by the newcomers and the money that have rolled into Iwaki since the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost three and a half years ago.

“Iwaki is changing – and not for the good,” said Inokoshi, 55, who echoes a sentiment widely heard in this town of almost 300,000 where the economic boom that followed the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl has brought its own disruption.

Fukushima to Store Soil Tainted After Nuclear Plant Meltdown

Soil contaminated after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown will be stored in a facility straddling two small towns within the hard-hit region, the government announced Monday. The radioactive waste promised to be a “major burden” for residents, Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato said as he announced the decision. “In order for Fukushima’s speedy recovery, I have made the painful decision to allow for the construction work,” Sato said. Soil now collected from various cleanup sites is now stored in black bags in more than 600 temporary lots outside the evacuation zones, raising health and safety concerns.

Fukushima gov.: Tainted soil site decision ‘painful’

The Saturday announcement by Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato that he will allow the construction of an interim storage facility in the prefecture for radioactively contaminated soil and other waste is a significant step toward the start of transporting waste to the facility in January next year.

One factor in Sato’s decision was the harsh reality that more than three years after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Fukushima Prefecture is dotted with large piles of contaminated soil.

Experts clash on Fukushima radiation effects

In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March 2011, the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima was badly wrecked in a series of meltdowns and explosions that severely damaged three reactors and one spent-fuel pool.

The accident released enormous quantities of radionuclides (radioactive material) into the atmosphere and the sea. This led to the government setting up exclusion zones in regions around the plant and the evacuation of over 155,000 residents.

Fukushima No. 1 chief feared nuclear doom for eastern Japan

The chief of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant said in testimony before his death that he feared the core meltdowns he was trying to contain in March 2011 would cause catastrophic damage to eastern Japan, government documents show.

“Our image was a catastrophe for eastern Japan,” Masao Yoshida told a government panel probing the Fukushima nuclear crisis. “I thought we were really dead.”

Add comment

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This