Environmental Must-Reads – September 3, 2013


Britain’s debate over fracking ignites popular resistance

This might seem a bizarre place for a battle over energy policy in Britain.

A quaint village with a single pub, a well-attended tearoom and a population of about 2,000, Balcombe has become the focal point of a heated debate over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Prime Minister David Cameron hopes fracking will revolutionize the country’s energy industry.

Gas Flaring: The Burning Issue

Global gas flaring–the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction processes–remains stubbornly high. We examine the determinants of gas flaring in three prominent cases: Russia and Nigeria as the two largest emitters of flare gas, and the United States as a rapidly expanding newcomer to the club.

‘Blue Gold’ emerges as precious resource in oil boom

As the climate continues to change, making some regions much more prone to drought, water — or what many are calling “blue gold — will become an increasingly scarce and valuable resource. It already has become valuable commodity in Eddy County.

Why Oil Companies Want to Drop Acid in California

No, it’s not the brown acid passed around at a 1960s rock concerts. Hydrofluoric acid is the most dangerous chemical you’ve never heard of, and it’s being trucked around California’s back roads and injected into oil wells, with virtually no oversight.

How bad is it? HF acid is extremely toxic; it can immediately and permanently damage lungs if inhaled, and a spill on skin is easily absorbed deep into the body’s tissues and changes bone calcium atoms to fluorine atoms.

Caspian Sea could become natural gas hub

The Caspian Sea is an ancient oil producer, but its future may be in natural gas.

The commodity that fuels electric power is becoming a much more prominent driver of energy production in the large body of water north of Iran and south of Russia, a region that produced 3.4 percent of the world’s oil supply last year, according to a recent report from the Energy Information Administration.

Boomtown USA: 10 Photos from the Oilfields of North Dakota’s Bakken Shale

The Bakken Shale is a subsurface rock formation in the Williston Basin that encompasses large swathes of western North Dakota, spilling into Montana and Saskatchewa. Drillers hit oil in the Bakken in 1951 and it has been long known to hold vast reserves, but it wasn’t until a decade ago that drillers had the technical means to extract it in large volumes — horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing opened up the gusher. While the shale contains oil and gas, drillers in the Bakken are after the oil. As for the gas, it just gets burned off in fiery flares that can be seen for miles.

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.

Sinkhole fears spur La. 70 realignment plans

In Assumption Parish, you “make the round,” as people here say, only if you must.

The “round” is the long, long way between Pierre Part and Napoleonville when La. 70 is closed in the wrong spot.

In the Path of Exxon’s Pegasus Pipeline across Arkansas: People, Water, Farms (Part 1)

The oil that erupted in the town of Mayflower back in March began its trip in an Illinois hamlet named Patoka, 90 minutes east of St. Louis. It shot down ExxonMobil’s 20-inch Pegasus pipeline, under farms and forests, over the Mississippi River via a state highway bridge, through the Missouri Ozarks, across the Arkansas state line and, a few miles later, near the workplace of one Glenda Jones, whom you can find on a summer Saturday at her bar job, watching the Cardinals thump the Cubs.

Decades of ruptures from defect show perils of old pipe

Cristobal Sustaita didn’t know about the pipeline running underground near his West Texas home until it erupted into a fireball in 1976, burning to death five people including his wife and 20-month old son.

The explosion was one of the first to focus attention on a lethal welding flaw in U.S. pipelines built before 1970. In the decades since, this type of pipe has continued to leak, rupture and explode, killing more people, despite repeated warnings to the industry from federal investigators and private consultants.

Keystone delays seen giving time for climate concessions

A decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline may slip into next year, giving opponents time to marshal efforts against it while offering President Barack Obama a chance to wring concessions from Canada.

Japan to spend $470 million in effort to deal with toxic water at Fukushima plant

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has waded deep into the effort to deal with the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear accident in a quarter century.

His government said Tuesday it would spend the equivalent of $470 million to try to tackle the alarming toxic water crisis at the country’s tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant.

Fukushima nuclear plant still ‘unstable’, regulator says

The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant “has not ended”, the country’s nuclear watchdog has warned, saying the situation there is “unstable”.

Japan to fund ice wall to stop reactor leaks

The Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will spend $470 million on a subterranean ice wall and other steps in a desperate bid to stop leaks of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear station after repeated failures by the plant’s operator.

Japan to Freeze Fukushima Water Leaks

Tokyo on Tuesday unveiled a half-billion dollar plan to stem radioactive water leaks at Fukushima, creating a wall of ice underneath the stricken plant, as the government elbowed the operator aside.

Acknowledging global concerns over a so-far “haphazard” management of the crisis by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his administration will step in with public money to get the job done.

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

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