News Round-Up: April 13, 2011


Essential reads


Fracking for Natural Gas With Diesel Violated Law, EPA Says

Oil and gas drillers who injected diesel fuel during hydraulic fracturing without a permit broke the law, a U.S. EPA official said today. The assertion by Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe means some companies that have acknowledged injecting diesel could be subject to sanctions under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It is a technical but politically charged question in the ongoing debate about regulation of the fracturing process.

Some Water Treatment Plants Refuse to Take Fracking Fluid

Environmental Protection Agency deputy administrator Robert Perciasepe was asked about a recent flap over stream contamination related to wastewater treatment plants…Mr. Perciasepe testified that some wastewater plants are ill-suited to treat the fluid, which is mostly water but also includes a cocktail of chemicals that would be dangerous in drinking water. The state has demanded additional and frequent testing for harmful contaminates at facilities that treat fracking fluids and public water suppliers downstream from them, though its tests last fall showed no abnormal radioactivity.

Shale Gas is Not a Credible ‘New Green Message’

It’s confusing as to how shale gas extraction offers the oil industry “a new green message”, as it was suggested last week in an interview with Shell’s outgoing chairman. Look a little closer at shale gas and it comes with all the type of problems we’re coming to expect from extracting unconventional hydrocarbons. Now that we’ve got much of the easy stuff out of the ground, it’s all getting a bit more complicated, leading to the use of new technologies to get to previously inaccessible reserves, and in so doing, creating new environmental problems we hadn’t previously envisaged. Tar sands developments in Alberta, Canada, are the obvious case in point.

Oil Company Document Instructs Agents to Mislead Landowners About Drilling Dangers

It appears that increased community awareness is making it harder for oil and gas companies to convince people to let them drill on their land — so the industry is pushing ahead and trying to secure as many rights as quickly as possible.Through a tipster, TreeHugger has obtained a document that appears to be an oil company’s ‘talking points’ guide for its salesman to use in order to convince landowners that they should let said corporation drill on their land. Entitled ‘Talking Points for Selling and Gas Lease Rights’, the document implores its ‘Field Agents’ to mislead people about the risks of drilling, to omit important facts, and even, on occasion, to outright lie.


Report: Effects of spill will unfold over years

The effects of the BP oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico and the animals that live in it will take place over years, if not decades, a new report by a prominent environmental group says. The National Wildlife Federation said it is much too soon to make snap judgments about how much harm has been done. “Other oil spill disasters have taken years to reveal their full effects and often recovery is still not complete after decades,” the report said.

BP Spill’s Next Major Phase: Wrangling Over Toll on Gulf

Scientists say it’s far too soon to make definitive conclusions about the scale and scope of the marine disturbances. This uncertainty, which may not be resolved for years, is paving the way for the next phase of the Deepwater Horizon disaster: an intense debate over the actual damage caused by the spill and who, if anyone, should pay.

Oil & gas industry spills happen “all the time”

A CBS News investigation has found that dangerous spills and leaks by the U.S. oil and gas industry are happening all the time across the country.

“Everyday there’s numerous releases happening throughout just this country,” said oil and gas safety expert Mike Sawyer. “Sometimes every couple of hours there’s a new incident.”

Science and the BP Spill: Lack of Available Data Doesn’t Equal Lack of Harm

Because the government is assembling a legal case against BP, it keeps its scientific findings under wraps until the matter is settled or goes to court. This makes sense from a litigator’s stand point, but it can confuse the public. It’s easy to assume that if we don’t see a lot of headlines about ecological damage, then there mustn’t be any. When the government releases its evidence, we will likely get a very different picture.

Socially Responsible Investor Coalition to BP: Your Annual Report Is Incomplete

Less than a week before the one year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the oil giant will be holding its annual meeting. The MMA Praxis Mutual Funds, a “socially responsible” investor group that owns shares of BP, is advocating that shareholders abstain or vote against the company’s annual report and directors who are members of BP’s Safety, Ethics and Environmental Assurance Committee.


Japan Nuclear Crisis on Same Level as Chernobyl

Japan raised the severity level of the crisis at its crippled nuclear plant Tuesday to rank it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing cumulative radiation leaks that have contaminated the air, tap water, vegetables and seawater. Japanese nuclear regulators said the rating was being raised from 5 to 7 — the highest level on an international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency — after new assessments of radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since it was disabled by the March 11 tsunami.

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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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