Environmental Must-Reads – September 4, 2013


Safety inspectors target oil-hauling trains

All that combustible fuel being produced by America’s fracking boom has federal transportation safety officials on edge.

Inspectors have started scrutinizing train manifests and tank car placards on trains departing from North Dakota’s Bakken region. The region is producing copious quantities of fracked oil, which is being carried to refineries in railway cars — many of them in a railcar model that’s prone to explode.

Gas driller freezes plans in rural Britain after fracking protests

Oil exploration at a site in rural England that sparked anti-fracking protests two weeks ago will be put on hold later this month and reconsidered next year with the freeze hailed a “cautious victory” by campaigners.

Company at heart of fracking protests applies for new drilling licences

The company at the heart of the anti-fracking protests in Sussex is applying for new licences to drill for oil in the local area, to the fury of campaigners, and is planning to reopen its Lancashire operations within weeks.

Fracking Explained: A Balanced Look at a Complicated Problem

The debate over fracking has been thundering on for years now, but despite constantly hearing murmur of the many dangers and benefits the natural-gas-harvesting method presents, a disconcerting number of people are still relatively ignorant as to what fracking actually is. This video produced by YouTube channel Kurzgesagt wants to fix that.

‘Fracking’ moratorium proposed by two L.A. City Council members

Los Angeles City Council members Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin are calling for a moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which is used by energy companies to extract hard-to-reach oil.

North Dakota to Feds: We’ve Got Fracking Under Control

The story of North Dakota’s oil boom from the Bakken shale — and how important it is to the state — can be told in one picture.

Obama admin praises fracking

Is natural gas the Obama administration’s new tool for tackling global warming?

Trillions of cubic feet of shale gas have been safely extracted using hydraulic fracturing all while reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Gas flaring on the rise despite environmental and health concerns

Canada’s oil and gas industry is burning off an increasing amount of natural gas into the atmosphere, a controversial practice known as flaring, driven by a drop in natural gas prices and an increase in unconventional and remote drilling.

Russia’s New Fracking Tax Breaks Will Fuel the Search for Siberian Oil

Russia’s huge push into Arctic oil continues with new tax breaks on “tight” oil. More commonly referred to in the US as shale oil, tight oil is hard to exploit without advanced drilling technologies like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Russia thus hopes that the tax breaks announced September 1 will help fuel a fracking boom that can rival that of the United States’.

Lithuania grants Chevron right to explore for shale gas

U.S. energy major Chevron has won a tender to explore for shale gas in western Lithuania, the government said on its Twitter feed on Tuesday, as the Baltic state tries to wean itself from its dependence from Russian gas.

Fish and Wildlife Populations at Risk With Even Small Fracking Spills

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently published a peer-reviewed journal article that discusses the results of the investigation into a 2007 fracking wastewater spill in Kentucky. Fracking wastewater that was being stored in open air pits (a practice that NRDC opposes because, among other reasons, it can lead to toxic spills) overflowed into Kentucky’s Acorn Fork Creek and left an orange-red substance, contaminating the creek with hydrochloric acid, dissolved minerals and metals, and other contaminants.

Concerns about Gulf spill settlement are irrelevant, plaintiffs lawyers say

The lead plaintiffs attorneys who negotiated last year’s multibillion-dollar class-action civil settlement in the litigation over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to reject a challenge to the deal filed by more than a dozen individuals and businesses.

BP Says Accord Can’t Be Approved Unless Dispute Is Fixed

BP Plc (BP/) told an appeals court that its $9.6 billion settlement of economic damages from the 2010 oil spill can’t be approved if a dispute over claim payments isn’t resolved in the company’s favor.

Angler Involvement with Gulf Restoration Plan

Three years after the Deepwater horizon oil spill, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has announced the recently released recovery effort plan to the public. And the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership along with other sport fishing and conservation groups are working to make sure there is a focus on habitat renewal.

Kinder Morgan, Valero complete Gulf Coast pipeline

Valero Energy Corp. and its joint venture partner, Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, have completed a $250 million, 141-mile pipeline that will transport refined petroleum products from plants just west of New Orleans, including Valero’s St. Charles refinery, to a petroleum transportation hub in Collins, Miss.

Exxon cutting housing aid for Arkansas oil spill victims

Five months after Exxon’s Pegasus oil pipeline ruptured, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of tar sands oil into a small residential area, most of the residents that were forced to evacuate have not returned to their homes, due to health concerns over air quality and evidence that oil is still present underneath some of the homes. This has, shockingly, not stopped Exxon from announcing in early August that they are cutting off housing assistance for these displaced residents.

Five Months After Oil Spill, Sickened Mayflower Residents Offered Free Health Assessments

Is it too little, too late?

That’s the question Mayflower residents are asking now that the state is finally offering them access to free health assessments five months after a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline emptied 210,000 gallons of heavy crude into their city 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Did Canadian oil poison this town?

Last spring, a pipeline carrying diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands ruptured in a small Arkansas town. People began to get sick. And now they want answers.

1,000 Liters of Oil Spills in St. Lawrence River Caused by Human Error

A significant oil spill at a plant producing iron ore pellets in Sept-Îles was reported. Cliffs Natural Resources said that approximately 1,000 liters of oil ended up in the St. Lawrence River as a result of human error. A total of 450,000 liters actually spilled but on-site containment mechanisms meant that all but 1,000 liters of the product was quickly contained in a large retention basin. A representative from the department has been sent to the site to monitor the cleanup.

NH files lawsuit against Shell Oil over $2.4 million used for cleanup costs at stations, including 4 in Nashua

The state is suing Shell Oil Co. for allegedly taking money that it wasn’t entitled to for oil spill cleanups and then suing its own insurance company for costs the state already had paid.

Sierra Club Report Claims Keystone XL Pipeline Fails Obama’s Climate Test

President Obama is still deciding whether to approve the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would unlock vast supplies of Canadian tar sands oil for the U.S. and global markets.

Arctic Drilling Risks Threaten Inupiat Traditions

Earlier this summer, I walked along the spit of land where the Chukchi Sea meets the Beaufort Sea at the top of Alaska. As our group looked out at pack-ice sculpted by wind and water currents, our local guide told us about the Inupiat whaling crew captained by his grandmother. Such crews use small sealskin boats, and when he was a young boy, he sat at the back, but as he grew in seniority, he moved up toward the front where he could shoot the harpoon. The community hosts games to strengthen people’s hunting skills, and whenever one of the 40 whaling crews gets a bowhead, they work together to pull the whale ashore and share the riches.

Moving Beyond Keystone XL

On the morning of June 20th a group of people walked onto the Canadian energy corporation Enbridge’s North Westover pumping station and occupied the facility. They called this blockade “Swamp Line 9”. The facility is part of what is called Line 9, a pipeline that moves oil west towards Sarnia and the refining facilities there. However, the industry has been engaged in an effort to slowly gain regulatory approval to reverse the pipeline, allowing it to carry tar sands oil east for refining or to the Atlantic coast for export. The pumping station for Line 9 had been shut down for work and remained shut down during the occupation as Enbridge employees were unable to access the site. The direct action effectively stopped all activity at the pumping station until June 26th when the Canadian authorities raided the occupation and arrested twenty people

Deep sea oil and gas drilling: not in New Zealand, not anywhere

Like the Arctic, the deep waters off the coast of New Zealand are under threat as oil and gas companies feverishly line up to start exploratory drilling operations in search of climate-destroying carbon fuel deposits.

How Japan’s ice barrier will seal off Fukushima’s nuclear ruins

Japan’s government gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create a underground barrier of frozen earth around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. It’s a seemingly crazy idea that’s based on solid engineering — but this wall of ice would have to be built on an unprecedented scale, and would require tremendous energy to stay frosty.

Record radiation readings near Fukushima contaminated water tanks

Radiation readings around tanks holding contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have spiked by more than a fifth to their highest levels, Japan’s nuclear regulator said, heightening concerns about the clean-up of the worst atomic disaster in almost three decades.

Radiation levels hit new high near Fukushima water tanks

Radiation levels around tanks storing contaminated water at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have risen by a fifth to a new high, officials say.

Fukushima leak raises questions over Olympic bid

There are continuing concerns about the Fukushima nuclear power plant where radiation levels have reached a new high.

Increased global concern over contaminated waste water from storage tanks at the plant leaking into the sea has led to questions about safety in Japan.

Some fear that the crisis may hamper Japan’s bid to host the Olympic games in 2020 with the announcement taking place this month.

Toxic Leaks At Fukushima Reach Lethal Levels of Radioactivity

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority reported that new radiation readings at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant spiked more than 20% on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The nuclear regulator said readings had risen as high as 2,200 millisieverts, which is powerful enough to kill a person within hours.

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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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