Environmental Must-Reads – September 25, 2013


North Carolina returns EPA grant for fracking study

North Carolina’s environment agency has taken the unusual step of returning a federal grant to study streams and wetlands that could be harmed by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources had itself recommended last year that baseline water-quality data be collected where drilling might occur. The information would help document any problems linked to drilling.

State Agency Responds to Report Criticizing Eagle Ford Shale Fracking Regulation

A “toxic mix of irresponsible industry operators and negligent regulators,” as well as suffering families, marks hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in the Eagle Ford Shale, according to a newly released critical report by national environmental non-profit group, Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project.

Alaska’s New Fracking Regulations Could Be Issued Later This Year, Officials Say

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.

The regulations, proposed by the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, would require the approval of regulators before fracturing is conducted, notification of landowners and testing of water wells within a half-mile radius, and the full disclosure of chemicals in the hydraulic-fracturing liquids

In France, Fracking Ban Faces Constitutional Test

Forever is a long time.

Definitely way too long for opponents of France’s first-in-the-world ban on hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking.”

Back when it was passed in 2011, many thought the ban would be the final word on fracking in France. The controversial method of injecting water, chemicals and sand deep underground to produce shale gas and oil would never be used here.

Instead, shale gas, or gaz de schiste, is still a hot topic, in large part because an American drilling company is challenging the ban in France’s Constitutional Council. Hearings began on Tuesday on whether parts of the law that bans fracking are unconstitutional.

Dave Matthews, Neil Young, Pete Seeger knock fracking at Farm Aid

New York’s anti-fracking movement got a nod from folk and rock royalty on Saturday, with Neil Young, Pete Seeger and Dave Matthews all speaking out against the controversial technique at Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid fundraiser.

Senator Ferlo Announces Fracking Moratorium Legislation

Recently Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) announced the introduction of Senate Bill 1100: a moratorium on issuing new permits for hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” in Pennsylvania. While there are over 14,000 permits issued for unconventional wells in various stages of operation, the legislation would stop the granting of new permits for fracking while an appointed study commission analyzes the agricultural, economic, environmental, and social impacts of oil and gas drilling.

PennEnvironment report tells PA why it must stop fracking

PennEnvironment is calling on the state to establish a moratorium on further hydraulic fracturing activity until the natural gas industry can prove that unconventional gas extraction can be done safely.

The plea comes as part of a report issued Tuesday called “The Spreading Shadow of the Gas Boom: Fracking’s growing proximity to day cares, schools and hospitals,” and also calls on New York and Maryland to maintain their existing bans.

Salt mine issues resurface

Akzo-Nobel, operator of the desalinization plant in the hamlet of Cuylerville, is seeking permission from state authorities to shut down what it concludes has been a costly and ineffective experiment to keep salt water out of the aquifer above the now-flooded Retsof mine.

Fracking and Flooding in Colorado: The More We Know the Worse It Gets 

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) reported three new spills today from damaged oil and gas wells caused by the torrential rains and subsequent flooding that continues to batter the state of Colorado.

Fracking Impacts in Delaware River Watershed, Now and When

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.

Wait for research before allowing fracking, scientist says

An environmental scientist from Alberta says Newfoundland and Labrador should wait for more research before allowing hydraulic fracturing in this province.

Jessica Ernst, who said the drinking water in her home was contaminated by nearby fracking, was in Stephenville over the weekend to give a lecture on the process.

Shell announces Gulf Coast site for potential multibillion-dollar plant

Royal Dutch Shell has picked a site in Louisiana for a plant costing at least $12.5 billion that would turn natural gas into diesel, jet fuel and other liquids, the Louisiana governor’s office announced Tuesday.

Shell could build plant in Ascension

Shell is considering building a $12.5 billion gas-to-liquids facility in Ascension Parish that would create 740 new direct jobs with an expected average salary of $100,000, plus benefits.

Levee board’s lawsuit against oil companies to be topic of public forum

The East Bank levee board’s lawsuit accusing nearly 100 oil and gas companies of destroying coastal wetlands, and the political controversy surrounding it, will be discussed at a forum Wednesday night in New Orleans.

BP renews request to halt Gulf oil spill settlement payments

BP renewed its request Monday that a federal judge temporarily suspend all payments from its multibillion-dollar Gulf oil spill settlement.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has rejected all previous requests from the British oil giant for a preliminary injunction. A federal appeals court that is currently weighing BP’s challenge of the way the claims administrator is calculating some payouts also denied an injunction request while it makes its decision.

Decades Needed for Recovery of Tiny Life on Gulf Seabed after BP Oil Spill

It will take decades to repair the damage from the 2010 BP oil spill to communities of tiny organisms living in and on the soft sediment on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico surrounding the well, according to a new study published on Tuesday.

The study, published in the online scientific journal PLOS One, was conducted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), BP and university researchers.

Alberta Issues CNRL Primrose Environmental Protection Order Over Ongoing Oil Spill

The Primrose oilsands project in northern Alberta has been issued an environmental protection order.

The Alberta government said Tuesday that Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) must remove most of the water from one of its bitumen leak sites — a small lake — before it freezes.

Republicans See Keystone Pipeline as a Card to Play in Last-Minute Fiscal Talks

As a possible government shutdown looms, environmental activists who oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline say they are increasingly alarmed that the project might become a bargaining chip in last-minute negotiations between Republicans and President Obama to avert a fiscal crisis.

Environmental Leaders To Obama: ‘No Deal’ On Keystone XL Pipeline

The leaders of 25 environmental and climate action groups sent an open letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, urging him to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and avoid any “deal-making” with the Canadian government.

Judge to hear arguments Friday in Keystone XL pipeline suit

Three landowners say Nebraska lawmakers cut an illegal deal with a Canadian pipeline company in 2012.

The state’s attorneys couldn’t disagree more. They say the law created to route the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Nebraska is constitutionally solid.

SaveCanada: Using TransCanada’s Playbook to Fight the Energy East Pipeline

As their proposed Keystone XL pipeline faces ever-increasing opposition — and as the State Department continues to push back official decisions on whether to approve the pipeline’s permit — TransCanada has turned at least some of their attention east. The Canadian company has proposed and is now seeking permission to build out their so-called Energy East pipeline system (which DeSmogBlog has covered here), which would funnel tar sands crude from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in Saint John, New Brunswick, on a point of land jutting out into the Bay of Fundy. The project would involve converting roughly 1,864 miles of natural gas to handle diluted bitumen and constructing roughly 870 miles of new pipeline from the Ontario-Quebec border to the coastal refinery. In all, Energy East would travel over 2,700 miles across Canada, through hundreds of cities and townships and across hundreds of rivers and streams.

Russia to prosecute Greenpeace Arctic oil rig activists

Environmental activists who protested at an offshore oil platform in the Russian Arctic last week will be prosecuted, possibly for piracy which is punishable by up to 15 years’ jail, Russian investigators said on Tuesday.

Greenpeace insists arrested Arctic Sunrise activists acted peacefully at Russian oil rig

Investigators are continuing to question environmentalists arrested after trying to climb onto a Russian oil rig. Thirty activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise were detained over “the protest“

Arctic leaders talk tapping riches without ruining environment

Finding a way to extract the vast riches of the Arctic region without subjecting it to technological disasters is what leaders of Arctic countries, businessmen, scientists and environmentalists are to discuss at a forum in Russia.

Fukushima Fisherman Return to Sea Amid Tainted Water Concerns

A fleet of more than 20 boats set out today from north of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant after fishermen lifted a suspension imposed in late August amid concerns about contaminated water.

Japan agrees to foreign help with Fukushima

Japan has finally accepted international help to sort out the mess at the Fukushima nuclear plant, agreeing to let the French help decommission and dismantle it. The World Today’s North Asia correspondent says it’s a climbdown that signals how little success Japan has had in stopping the spread of contaminant since the earthquake two-and-a-half years ago.

Russian state-owned nuclear company offers help to TEPCO with Fukushima plant

As TEPCO seems open to foreign assistance, with its adviser a former director of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the Three Mile Island, Russia is once again offering help to resolve problems bombarding the defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant. According to a unit head of Rusatom, a state-owned nuclear company in Russia, they are hoping to cooperate with Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Tepco vows to push ahead with restart of Niigata nuclear station

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), operator of the crisis-ridden Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station, vowed to press ahead with plans to restart another atomic plant in Niigata prefecture that’s key to its return to profitability.

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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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