Environmental Must-Reads – September 5, 2013


Fracking, or Hydraulic Fracturing, Has Led Sasol, A South African Energy And Chemical Giant,To Pick Louisiana For Its Gas-To-Liquid Plant

South Africa-based energy and chemical giant Sasol Limited (NYSE:SSL) plans to spend as much as $14 billion to build the first commercial plant in the U.S. that will turn natural gas produced from shale rock into low-emission diesel and other transportation fuels.

Confirmed: Fracking practices to blame for Ohio earthquakes

Wastewater from the controversial practice of fracking appears to be linked to all the earthquakes in a town in Ohio that had no known past quakes, research now reveals.

More Fracking Headaches As Earthquake Evidence Grows

It looks like more trouble is looming ahead for communities that host fracking operations. Two new studies have linked fracking-related operations to earthquakes in Texas and Ohio, and a recently settled lawsuit in Arkansas indicates that swarms of tiny earthquakes can damage surface structures. Add earthquakes to a list that already includes water contamination and air pollution risks, and it becomes clear that a more effective regulatory platform is needed to protect existing communities from the impacts of fracking.

2 L.A. City Council members propose ban on fracking for oil

The environmental risks of fracking, or fracturing underground rock formations to reach oil reserves, are too great and should be banned, two Los Angeles City Council members said Wednesday.

Time is running out for sensible action on fracking regulations

California may be on the brink of another great oil boom. It consequently could be heading into an environmental disaster.

A state senator from Agoura Hills is trying to allow the first while heading off the second.

Neigbhors Call For Notice When Fracking Moves In Next Door

The practice of hydraulic fracturing is something typically associated with fields and open land. But it’s not uncommon in Colorado and other states for a residential neighborhood to become the site of oil and gas activity.

Fracking Boom Seen Raising Household Incomes by $1,200

Surging oil and natural gas production brought on by hydraulic fracturing is lifting the U.S. economy by lowering energy costs for consumers and manufacturers, according an industry-funded report.

No Free Pass For Fracking In California

We are (regrettably) used to seeing end-of-session hijinks in Sacramento when “gut and amend” bills and other special interest tricks get rolled out.  But today we’re seeing a new one:  an entire industry that wants a free pass to pollute by evading the protections of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Mongolia Joins Shale Revolution, But at What Cost?

This spring, Genie Energy signed an agreement with the government of Mongolia, under which its subsidiary will explore oil shale over a five year period. Statements to the press have spun the agreement as a way for the country to achieve energy independence from Russia, as Mongolia currently imports 90 percent of its petroleum needs from its neighbor. Estimates have put Mongolia’s oil shale reserves at 800 billion tons or more.

Chesapeake New York gas lease deal expected next week

Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N) will finalize an agreement next week to drop about 12,000 acres of land leased for energy drilling in New York state, as a moratorium on fracking continues into its sixth year.

How horizontal drilling brings fracking to town (VIDEO)

For the past month, Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic has been running a good series on energy called, The User’s Guide to Energy.

In this video, Madrigal explains the two main technologies that have made the recent natural gas boom possible: hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling. As he notes, these two technologies are often lumped together under the single term fracking, but it is important to understand how they differ.

For Natural Gas-Fueled Cars, Long Road Looms Ahead

The natural gas boom that fracking wrought has shaken up the global energy landscape. Now its effects are rippling toward the fuel tanks of U.S. cars and trucks, although a few leaps may be required for natural gas vehicles to go mainstream.

BP oil spill victims ask appeals court to uphold approval of multibillion-dollar settlement

Plaintiffs’ attorneys who brokered a multibillion-dollar settlement with BP following the company’s 2010 Gulf oil spill have asked a federal appeals court to uphold a judge’s approval of the deal.

Oil and gas association want Caldwell to reverse lawsuit approval

A major energy industry association has demanded state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell withdraw his approval of an agreement between a New Orleans-area levee board and lawyers who have filed a lawsuit accusing about 100 oil and gas companies of destroying coastal wetlands.

Why Jindal is so reluctant to make Big Oil pay for ravaging Louisiana’s coast

Does the flag of Texaco still fly over the Louisiana State Capitol? That’s the question writer John Barry posed to Lens readers recently. Barry is the vice chairman of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, which is suing oil, gas and pipeline companies for accelerating the erosion of our coast.

Commentary: Oil Spill Mitigation Failure and the Impact on the Insurance Industry

Governments and the oil spill industry cannot effectively and ethically mitigate oil spills on the ocean, and this fact has a strong negative impact on the insurance industry. Significant oil spills are still common in the U.S. even though they occur less frequently than they did twenty years ago. Double-hull vessels are part of the solution, but offer only limited protection from oil spills: Barring a few exceptions, single-hull vessels over 5,000 gross tons may not operate in U.S. waters after January 1, 2010. This new regulation helped reduce the incidence of oil spills. Nevertheless, on April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) exploded. The cleanup operation cost more than $10 billion and recovered only 3 percent of the spilled oil.  Based on new finds of oil and tar balls on Gulf of Mexico beaches more than 3 years after the initial event, the clean-up is likely not yet complete.

Gulf Refineries Don’t Care About the Keystone XL Pipeline, But Here’s Why it Still Matters.

US refineries on the Gulf that had been anticipating a boom from Canada’s Alberta tar sands via the planned Keystone XL pipeline are becoming apathetic about the mired pipeline’s future, according to Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. As the domestic US oil boom has kept refineries busy and rail and new pipelines have filled the shipping gap that Keystone would have filled, the refineries on the Gulf that had been waiting to process the Canadian heavy crude “increasingly doubt that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline expansion will ever be built” and “don’t particularly care.” But does that mean that the 830,000 barrels of heavy crude that would have streamed through the XL pipeline have become irrelevant? Not quite.

Keystone XL Oil Pipeline 5th environmental study complete

The fifth environmental review regarding the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and we will once again enter a national comment period. Michael Whatley with the Consumer Energy Alliance says at the end of the day this is called a “presidential permit” meaning President Obama’s decision will be delivered to the Secretary of State office where the decision will be announced. He has analyzed the situation and believes in the end it will be a go.

Where Keystone XL ends, cancer rates are 15% higher and mortality rate is 40% higher than average

If the Keystone XL pipeline is built, it will start in the tar sands fields of Alberta, Canada and end in Port Arthur, Texas, a city already overrun with oil refineries.

Ted Genoways at On Earth has an excellent report on the health effects the oil and gas refineries have had on Port Arthur residents.

Kentucky Gas Pipeline Won’t Cross Nuns’ Land

A spokesman for a company building a pipeline through Kentucky says the line as it is currently proposed will not pass through land owned by a group of Catholic nuns that has been outspokenly opposed.

Minnesota PUC to review Engridge oil pipeline expansion

A major expansion of a pipeline that carries Canadian heavy crude oil across Minnesota will get a closer look by state regulators.

As more than 40 anti-pipeline activists sat quietly in the audience, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to authorize a contested-case review — similar to a trial — of the need to expand the carrying capacity of the 1,000-mile “Alberta Clipper” pipeline.

The Questionable Arctic Bonanza – Exaggerated Hopes and False Images of the Arctic as “Prime Real Estate”

Analyses, political statements and media stories about the Arctic are full of the high hopes of politicians and industry representatives concerning the economic potential of an increasingly ice-free Arctic. The common story about the changing Arctic is one of the expectation or even assuredness that the region will turn into an ‘economic bonanza,’ with “hungry eyes of economic powerhouses migrat[ing] north towards the lush prospects as the polar ice caps thaw.”[1] The concrete expectations usually stay as vague as this:

Gazprom subsidiary publishes oil spill response plan for Russian Arctic operations

Gazprom Neft Shelf LLC, a Gazprom subsidiary with a license to develop the Prirazlomnoye offshore oilfield in the Pechora Sea, has published its summary plan on the prevention of oil spills and spill response. The oilfield, between the north coast of continental Russia and Novaya Zemlya, has forecast recoverable reserves of more than 70 million tonnes.

U.S. may require stronger tank cars for hazmat and crude

Rail tank cars, which are moving an increasing volume of crude oil and other hazardous materials, may have to be stronger and better able to withstand a crash, U.S. regulators said.

Texas Drivers not Chemical Plants Required to Have Liability Insurance

It’s been almost five months since a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas, and it remains unclear whether anyone will push for a law requiring companies that handle explosive materials to carry liability insurance.

Even though motorists in Texas are required to purchase liability insurance, companies that handle tons of explosive ammonium nitrate are not.

Texas Fertilizer Plants Say No Thanks To Fire Inspections, Fire Marshal Sorry To Have Bothered Them

As we all know, Texas is wide open for business, just waiting for your hot throbbing business to come and spray money all over the Lone Star State. And don’t worry about no stupid regulations! If your roller coaster kills someone, go ahead and investigate it your own self. Or if you’re into fracking, come on down and the guys who “regulate” oil and gas will run help you drill and pump as fast as you can. If you want to run a potentially explosive fertilizer plant, you don’t need to worry too much about the state fire code, because there isn’t one. And if you don’t want the state fire marshal’s office seeing anything iffy, NO PROBLEM

Japan’s Fukushima crisis: How did we get to this point?

More than two years on from the worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century, the situation at Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains toxic, prompting the Japanese government to announce new measures to attempt to deal with radioactive leaks.

Fukushima N-Plant Will Be Surrounded by a Wall of Ice

At first glance Japan’s plan to surround the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant with a mile-long subterranean wall of ice seems like a crazy, last-ditch gambit by a Tepco employee turning to Game of Thrones for inspiration. But the technique isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. Engineers have been building underground ice walls for over a century, and using one to contain radioactive waste makes a lot of sense, though building it won’t be easy.

Fukushima radiation leaks reach deadly new high

The crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has radiation leaks strong enough to deliver a fatal dose within hours, Japanese authorities have revealed, as the government prepares to step in to help contain leaks of highly toxic water at the site.

Measuring Radiation in Fukushima With Pocket Geigers and bGeigies

Japan’s wrecked nuclear power plant, Fukushima Daiichi, has been back in the headlines over the past weeks, reminding the world that the crisis isn’t over. With radioactive cooling water leaking from tanks and contaminated groundwater seeping through the soil, the Japanese government has just committed to building a subterranean ice wall to contain tainted water and keep it from reaching the sea.

What if the Fukushima Ice Wall Defrosts? Looking at Risks of Japan’s Experiment

The Japanese government is planning to build an ice wall around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant to try to stop radioactive water leaks. Jeffrey Brown examines the risks and potential political fallout with Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environment Research and Kenji Kushida of Stanford University.

Solving The Fukushima Radioactivity Problem: Dump It All Into The Ocean

I’m reading with mounting incredulity the increasingly frenzied reports about the radiation problems at the site of the crippled reactors at Fukushima. The idea seems to be gathering speed that there is some major problem at the site, one that’s going to have regional or even global implications for health and the environment. I’m afraid this simply isn’t true. We do have a very expensive problem and there are also highly local problems at the plant. But in the larger scheme of things the dangers are somewhere between vanishingly trivial and non-existent. Indeed, an entirely reasonable and sensible solution to the radioactive water at the plant would be to simply dump it all into the ocean.

Fukushima’s $470 Million Ice Wall Could Actually Work

Japan this week announced its intentions to build an ice wall surrounding the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. The hope is that this frozen barricade will keep leaking radioactive water from finding its way into the surrounding environment and the Pacific Ocean.

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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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