Environmental Must-Reads – September 24, 2013


Fracking Main Street: New Report Shows Social Costs for Rural Communities

What’s it like living in a small town that’s gone from rust belt farmland to fracking boomtown?

First, residents often say, there’s the traffic.  Communities have been unexpectedly flooded with heavy tractor trailers that locals say turn 10 minute commutes into hour-long ordeals, choke back roads and decimate pavement so badly that in some areas, drilling companies are barred from entering until they agree to pay for road repairs. “The traffic here is horrendous,” Towanda, PA resident Joe Benjamin told NPR.

Balcombe Cuadrilla test drilling for oil reveals ‘hydrocarbons’

Energy firm Cuadrilla has confirmed it found “hydrocarbons” during drilling at a West Sussex site which has been the focus of anti-fracking protests.

Fracking protests restart after Cuadrilla seeks new drilling rights

The company at the heart of the anti-fracking protests in West Sussex on Monday confirmed that its exploratory drilling outside a village had discovered the presence of hydrocarbons, which can be used for fuel, and said further testing would be needed to ascertain flow rates.

Sites sought for region’s fracking residue

Battelle scientists are leading a search for sites where companies can pump fracking waste underground in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The two-year project, funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, is a response to the growing amount of polluted wastewater that bubbles out of fracked shale wells. Millions of barrels of the waste are pumped into disposal wells, many of which are in Ohio.

Eco-Investigators Say Fracking Air Pollution Is Poisoning Families in Texas

Cameron Cerny moved with his mother and father to Karnes County in southern Texas 10 years ago. The 15-year-old boy used to take long bike rides through the country with his mother, Myra, but they don’t take rides together much anymore. Karnes County is in the heart of the oil-rich Eagle Ford Shale formation, which has become a relatively new hotspot for intensive oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Since 2010, 18 oil wells were drilled or fracked within a mile from the Cernys’ home, and a total of 37 existing wells, along with processing facilities and a wastewater injection well, operate within two miles of their home.

Even without wells, fracking has big impact on Delaware River watershed

Regardless of the Delaware River Basin Commission’s long delay in voting on rules for natural gas well hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — in the agency’s huge watershed, the industry is continuing to put down roots along the Delaware River and across the region.

Alaska fracking rules would boost public notice, disclosure

New regulations to oversee hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells in Alaska could be issued later this year by state regulators, officials said at a public hearing on Monday.

In Parker County, Regulators Forced to Revisit Allegations that Drilling Caused Contaminated Water

Last year, we brought you the story of Steve Lipsky, whose little slice of paradise in Parker County became a proxy in the war between the EPA and state regulators. It wasn’t long after Range Resources began stimulating a nearby natural gas well by hydraulic fracturing that Lipsky noticed his water was bubbling, and that his well was vapor-locking.

Weakened fracking law signed in California

Fracking will finally be regulated in California after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill that annoyed drillers but also left environmentalists despondent over its mediocrity.

NRDC wins Gulf Dead Zone lawsuit against EPA

The federal district court for the Eastern District of Louisiana late Friday afternoon handed a victory to NRDC and its coalition partners in our challenge to EPA’s refusal to address the pollution-fueled “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.  The court agreed with us that EPA’s response to our plea for federal intervention in this ecological crisis was a squishy non-answer rather than the clear yes or no that the Clean Water Act requires.  The court gave EPA 180 days to respond to the question we asked in our petition – which is whether EPA needs to step in and put limits on the algae-fueling pollution that is causing the dead zone and choking waterways around the nation with green sludge.

Will Court Decision on Gulf Dead Zone Reduce Dangerous Algae Growth in American Waters?

The U.S. District Court in Eastern Louisiana ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday to determine within six months whether to set new limits on the pollution that is fueling the dangerous algae growth choking the waters throughout the Mississippi River basin, the Gulf of Mexico and waters across the country.

Federal judge orders EPA to determine ‘necessity’ of regulating nutrients entering Mississippi River

A federal judge in New Orleans has handed environmental groups what amounts to half a loaf in their push for federal regulations on the flow of pollutants into the Mississippi River that fuels the annual spring low-oxygen “Dead Zone” along Louisiana’s Gulf coast.

BP again asks federal judge to suspend Deepwater Horizon oil spill private claims payments

BP has asked a federal judge in New Orleans to suspend payment of private claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill until new anti-fraud measures are implemented in the claims process.

BP seeks to have Gulf Coast oil spill settlement payments suspended

BP on Monday renewed its request for a federal judge to temporarily suspend settlement payments to Gulf Coast residents and businesses affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, citing a scathing report on alleged misconduct within the court-supervised program.

7 plead guilty in Gulf oil spill settlement fraud

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has announced that seven people have pleaded guilty to stealing money from an oil spill settlement fund.

Q&A: Oil Spill Expert Puts Crude-By-Rail Boom In Perspective

Philadelphia is at the center of a new industrial boom: trains are snaking through the city, bringing light, sweet crude oil from North Dakota to the city’s revived refineries. They’re the same type of train that derailed and exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic in July, leaving 47 people dead.

2 more oil spills caused by flooding in Colorado

A total of 27,000 gallons of oil—the equivalent of about two storage tanks—have been spilled into the South Platte River from flood-damaged tanks as of Monday.

The latest spills are a 36 barrel release at a Noble Energy location between Evans and LaSalle and a 26 barrel spill at an Anadarko Petroleum site near Johnstown, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said.

Colorado oil and gas field flooding: A tally of oil spills so far

More than 17,000 acres were swamped in the Colorado floods that swept through the Denver-Julesburg Basin — one of the most intensively drilled fields in the U.S. — leaving oils spills dotting the area.

Gov. Hickenlooper tours site of flood-caused oil spill

Governor John Hickenlooper said Sunday that while the oil spills during the recent floods were unfortunate, the situation could have been much, much worse.

“Given the power of this flood, the fact that there hasn’t been that much leakage, I think, is incredible,” Hickenlooper said. He made the remarks during the a tour of a damaged Anadarko Petroleum facility near Milliken. Five thousand gallons of oil spilled at that site, among the 26,000 gallons the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission estimates were dumped into fields and rivers along the Front Range.

Barn goes up in pipeline’s path

It was a windy day  Sunday for an outdoor event, but Terri Harrington wasn’t complaining.

“I think God is trying to tell us to do something with the wind,” Harrington said as she celebrated the completion of a barn-raising on her land 65 miles west of Lincoln that features both wind and solar energy generation.

Another attraction of the new barn, as she sees it, is that it’s directly in the path of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Solar-Powered Barn Obstructing Keystone XL’s Proposed Path Celebrated By Pipeline Opponents

Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline celebrated the completion of a barn built in Nebraska in the project’s expected path on Sunday while U.S. officials continue to weigh whether to approve the pipeline.

Pipeline opponents planned several events to thank volunteers and mark the completion of the solar- and wind-powered barn.

Maine-Quebec pipeline change needs permit, Vermont says

If the owner of an oil pipeline that runs between Quebec and Maine wants to move tar sands oil from Montreal to Portland it would need a new state land-use permit, a regional environmental official ruled Monday.

Federal standards needed for safe Arctic drilling, Pew says

Hunting for offshore oil in remote and unforgiving Arctic waters requires vessels capable of withstanding crushing blows from icebergs, a nearby stash of emergency equipment and other specialized resources, according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts.

Standards proposed for risky Arctic oil drilling

Hunting for offshore oil in remote and unforgiving Arctic waters requires vessels capable of withstanding crushing blows from icebergs, a nearby supply of emergency equipment and other specialized resources, according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts.

Statoil finds natural gas but no oil in the Arctic Ice Crystal well

NORWEGIAN energy explorer Statoil found only natural gas and no oil at the Ice Crystal prospect in the Arctic Barents Sea, the company and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said yesterday.

“Our main goal was to find oil… but unfortunately it did not materialise,” said Gro Haatvedt, senior vice president for exploration in Norway. “We still believe we can prove more oil resources in the Johan Castberg area and will continue our exploration effort with two more wells.”

Chevron scores legal and PR victories in Ecuador pollution case

Between 1964 and 1990, Texaco drilled for oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon and left an outrageous mess, dumping 18.5 billion gallons of toxic sludge and wastewater into local waterways. Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001, was ordered by an Ecuadorian judge in 2011 to pay $19 billion for the damage. Chevron said, to paraphrase, “Eff you,” and has been fighting the judgment ever since.

JAEA finally tracks contamination in immediate vicinity of Fukushima plant

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency used an unmanned helicopter to crack a missing piece of the puzzle regarding radiation contamination close to the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Ex-US Nuke Regulator: Japan Slow on Fukushima Leak

A former U.S. nuclear regulatory chief said Tuesday that leaks of contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima plant had been known since early in the crisis and have worsened because Japan acted too slowly.

Fukushima clean-up may be doomed

Across much of Fukushima’s rolling green countryside they descend on homes like antibodies around a virus, men wielding low-tech tools against a very modern enemy: radiation. Power hoses, shovels and mechanical diggers are used to scour toxins that rained down from the sky 30 months ago. The job is exhausting, expensive and, say some, doomed to failure.

Fukushima town protests Abe’s global promise on crippled plant

A Japanese town abandoned after the Fukushima nuclear accident has protested Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s global promise that the situation of the crippled plant was “under control”, papers reported Saturday.

The town assembly of Namie, half of which sits within the 20-kilometre (12-mile) zone around the nuclear plant, unanimously adopted a statement of protest against Abe’s remarks on Friday, saying his comments went against facts on the ground, the Asahi and the Mainichi papers said.

Fukushima Operator Dumps 1,000 Tons Of Polluted Water In Sea

The operator of the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday that it dumped more than 1,000 tons of polluted water into the sea after a typhoon raked the facility.

Typhoon Man-yi smashed into Japan on Monday, bringing with it heavy rain that caused flooding in some parts of the country, including the ancient city of Kyoto.

Risky repair of Fukushima could spill 15,000x radiation of Hiroshima, create 85 Chernobyls

Does the planned November 2013 removal of the spent fuel rods stored at Fukushima’s heavily damaged Reactor 4 need a global intervention, or should TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co., a for-profit company) be allowed to go it alone?

So far, the Japanese government is allowing TEPCO to handle it. Why should you care? Read on.

Children’s Health Expert Panel: Cell Phones & Wi-Fi?Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk?

“It may take some sort of catastrophe to get people’s attention,” said Frank Clegg, former president of Microsoft Canada and founder of Canadians 4 Safe Technology, referring to the increasing saturation of Wi-Fi technologies on the public at large, and especially, children.

Leading experts from top universities recently convened at a program organized by ElectromagneticHealth.org in Connecticut to discuss the reality that such a catastrophe is already brewing and, as the panel warned, is now already negatively impacting children, fetuses and fertility. But the majority of parents are not connecting the dots by linking symptoms in their children to the radiation.

Environmental Health Trust Reminds Women to Make the Bra a “No Phone” Zone

For many young women today, tucking cellphones in the bra has become a cool, hip way to have easy access to these electronic devices. Women can jog, drive, shop or sit in darkened movie theaters, quickly responding to tingly vibrations at their breast. Most women have no idea that cellphones are two-way microwave radios that should not be kept directly on the body warns Environmental Health Trust (EHT), a group promoting safer phone use especially for non-adult users and for pregnant users.

White Coat Notes: Just how much radiation do smart phones give off, anyway?

Ah, the annual Apple release date is upon us.

For those of us who feel that unwrapping a freshly minted piece of technology is like unearthing the holy grail, this is Christmas in September.

As I pen this column, somewhere in California, tech geeks swarm Apple Computer headquarters awaiting the birth of technology’s newest offspring — the latest iPhone.

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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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