Environmental Must-Reads – September 30, 2014


Dark side of the boom

Tribal police Sgt. Dawn White is racing down a dusty two-lane road — siren blaring, police radio crackling — as she attempts to get to the latest 911 call on a reservation that is a blur of oil rigs and bright-orange gas flares.

“Move! C’mon, get out of the fricking way!” White yells as she hits 102 mph and weaves in and out of a line of slow-moving tractor-trailers that stretches for miles.

In just five years, the Bakken formation in North Dakota has gone from producing about 200,000 barrels to 1.1 million barrels of oil a day, making North Dakota the No. 2 oil-producing state, behind Texas, and luring thousands of workers from around the country.

Chemical Makers, Energy Companies Tell EPA Not to Mandate Fracking Fluid Disclosure

Chemical makers and energy companies have told the Environmental Protection Agency there is no need for it to require them to report information about the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing fluids.

“The American Petroleum Institute does not think that this Toxic Substances Control Act rulemaking is necessary in light of the extensive information already available to EPA and the public, and the scope and purpose of TSCA,” API said in comments submitted to the agency Sept. 18.

Pennsylvania DEP admits drilling probe error in Range inquiry

The state Department of Environmental Protection might have used incomplete and inaccurate test information to decide whether chemicals leaking from a Marcellus Shale wastewater impoundment and a drill cuttings pit contaminated a water well and springs in Washington County.

The disclosures came last week during sworn testimony by Vincent Yantko, a DEP water quality specialist and supervisor of the department’s investigation at Range Resources’ Yeager farm drill site in rural Amwell Township, as part of a case before the state Environmental Hearing Board in Pittsburgh.

Fracking opponents want Cuomo to visit Pennsylvania

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make good on a promise to visit fracking sites in other states, sending him a letter last week urging him to travel to Pennsylvania.

In a letter dated Sept. 25, the advocacy group New Yorkers Against Fracking offered to organize a tour of gas country in the neighboring state, asking him to “see, hear and smell what it is like to live with fracking.”

NY bills to curb fracking waste suggested

The New York League of Conservation Voters and state Sen. Ted O’Brien, D-Irondequoit, announced a series of proposals Monday to rein in the handling and disposal of gas and oil drilling waste in New York.

At a news conference, O’Brien and the league president, Marcia Bystryn, said legislation would be introduced in Albany that would bar the disposal of drilling waste in New York landfills and restrict the treatment of liquid waste from drilling in municipal wastewater plants. Another bill would require that drilling waste be treated as hazardous waste, requiring a more robust response if the waste is spilled.

Polarization in New York state over fracking

On Sept. 18, The Earth Institute hosted Tanya Heikkila and Chris Weible of the University of Colorado Denver for a seminar on “The Political Landscape of Shale Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing in New York.” The seminar was attended by students, faculty and staff from across Columbia, and members of the local community. Professors Heikkila and Weible presented the results of their study, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, looking at fracking perceptions in three study sites: New York, Texas and Colorado. The following is an overview of the results.

Water Use for Fracking Oil Resembles Use for Conventional Production

Producing oil through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses similar amounts of water on average as producing oil by conventional means, according to a new study by The University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

Bridget Scanlon, a senior research scientist at the bureau and lead researcher on the study, said the findings are important because of the current debate about the amount of water used to produce energy.

“This analysis of water demand for hydraulic fracturing is critical for assessing the adequacy of water resources to support unconventional energy production,” Scanlon said. “Results of this study can be used in future economic and policy studies about environmental impacts of unconventional energy production.”

Judge reconsiders ruling as oil spill workers await fate

Mark Mead and two buddies were fishing less than 20 miles away when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burst into flames and lit up the night sky.

The trio rushed toward the floating inferno to help pull bodies out of the water. And as oil continued to gush out of BP’s broken well over the next four months, Mead helped again as a part of BP’s cleanup effort, picking up contaminated boom in the waters off Perdido Key at the Florida-Alabama line.

It’s not too late to recoup losses from BP oil spill

It’s not too late to make a claim for financial losses from the 2010 BP oil spill.

One Tampa attorney estimates that, if every eligible enterprise got around to claim its loss, Lee County could see a $1.7 billion infusion of BP money.

Economically, “west-central and the southwest coast of Florida was impacted more than any other area, even the Panhandle and Mobile,” said Tom Young, a Tampa-based attorney who is focusing exclusively on BP spill-related compensation claims.

A 13-Year-Old Has Invented A Completely New Approach To Cleaning Up Oil Spills

This 13-year-old is trying to save the world one ecosystem at a time.

Chythanya Murali, an eighth grader from Arkansas, has created a safe, effective, non-conventional method to clean oil spills, by harnessing the cleaning properties of bacteria — specifically the enzymes they use to break down oil particles. These enzymes disassemble oil molecules, making way for the bacteria to convert it into harmless compounds.

Nebraskans Raise Their Voices in Fight Against Keystone XL Pipeline

From the edge of a rye field teeming with grasshoppers, Willie Nelson and Neil Young sang on Saturday in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL project, warning through lyrics that a “company wants to build a tar sand pipeline where it don’t belong.”

The site of the concert — a patch of farmland where 26 acres of corn were harvested early to create a makeshift parking lot — was as unlikely as the coalition of Nebraskans who have united against Keystone XL and made this state the legal and emotional center of the pipeline opposition.

Russia Finds Oil In The Arctic But Now It Probably Can’t Keep Looking For More

Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft just found oil in the Arctic.

Rosneft announced on Saturday that it discovered oil in the Universitetskaya structure — a 1,200 square kilometer area in the Kara Sea inside the Arctic Circle.

The announcement states that the entire resource base is estimated to be 87 billion barrels (or 13 billions tonnes of oil), larger than the Gulf of Mexico and potentially comparable to the resource base of Saudi Arabia.

Crude Oil Rail Shipments To Worsen Traffic, Congestion In Communities Nationwide, New Report Finds

Life is slowing down in Bozeman, a small city in southern Montana near a major railroad. More shipments of Bakken Shale oil and local coal are passing through, and it’s taking drivers more time to cross the tracks and get around town. Fire trucks, ambulances and police cars have to wait while carload after carload chugs along. “It takes longer for those public safety services to get to us,” says Beth Kaeding, a Bozeman resident and conservationist.

The U.S. shale boom and a rise in coal exports is having a similar effect nationwide, according to a federal transportation report released late last week. If freight flows continue to rise as expected, it could “exacerbate congestion issues” and raise new safety concerns in communities near train tracks, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent agency, said in its investigation.

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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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