Environmental Must-Reads – June 18, 2014


St. Tammany fracking opponents plead their case at Baton Rouge hearing

A group of citizens opposed to fracking in St. Tammany Parish trekked to Baton Rouge on Tuesday, where they made passionate pleas to state officials to deny Helis Oil & Gas’s request to create a 960-acre drilling and production unit near Mandeville. Several dozen citizens attended the hearing at the state Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation.

Conservation Commissioner James Welsh is expected to render a decision in 30 to 60 days.

New California Fracking Rules Let Oil Industry Hide Dangerous Chemical Use

Proposed regulations meant to permanently govern fracking and other dangerous oil production techniques in California would do little to protect the state’s air, water and public health. Draft rules unveiled today by Gov. Jerry Brown’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources also allow regulators to rubber-stamp multiple fracks and include a “well maintenance” loophole permitting oil companies to conceal dangerous chemical use.

California Oil Regulators Enhance Fracking Regulations; Environmentalists Aren’t Satisfied

California oil regulators have released updated rules governing well stimulation jobs including hydraulic fracturing.

The revisions announced Tuesday are a continuation of the draft rules released last year.

Officials: ‘Fracking’ odors don’t pose risks

Strong odors emanating from a Conway Township well are not posing health risks and will continue fading as a hydraulic fracturing operation is completed, state environmental officials said.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has fielded numerous complaints over a rotten-egg-type odor over the past several days from residents and motorists driving by the Fowlerville Road well. There, nearly a combined 438,000 gallons of water, an acid gel and related additives were injected into the ground from May 28 to June 3.

Water restrictions don’t apply to fracking operations in most North Texas cities

A gallon of water is getting to be a precious commodity in North Texas.

People across North Texas have been living through years of drought and water restrictions, but not the oil and gas industry.

German beermakers look like winning their battle to stop fracking

“Germany is a beer nation: if their beer has no flavour, people will mount the barricades,” says Friederike Borchert. At her family’s brewery in Lünne, Lower Saxony, about 800,000 litres of beer are produced a year: a light pilsner, a dark beer and a buckwheat brew. Borchert, 27, dreams of one day making her own India pale ale, though now fears she may have to put her aspirations on hold.

In spring 2011, US energy group ExxonMobil made a horizontal test drill into shale rock under a field down the road, so far the only one of its kind in Germany.

Fracking Fracas in Loveland

Loveland, Colo., has been best known nationally for its romantic name; each February, more than 100,000 letter-writers send notes through the city to their sweethearts. Loveland relies on volunteers to hand-stamp the mail with a love poem and forward the letters on to their intended valentines.

But next week, Loveland might well be the site of an epic break-up between Colorado’s environmentalist liberals and its Democratic establishment. The city’s 70,000 residents will vote on a highly divisive fracking moratorium, becoming the latest in a series of Front Range communities to weigh restrictions on this technique for extracting underground natural gas and oil.

N.D. oil production tops 1 million-barrels-a-day milestone

North Dakota has joined the big leagues of crude oil production, surpassing 1 million barrels per day — an output second only to Texas in the U.S.

State officials said Tuesday that North Dakota yielded 1,001,149 barrels daily in April from a record 10,658 wells. Jubilant oil industry officials hailed the benchmark as another sign that the United States is freeing itself from the grip of foreign oil.

Oklahoma coming to terms with unprecedented surge in earthquakes

When Austin Holland was being considered for his job as the sole seismologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey in 2009, his interviewer posed a wry question: “Are you going to be able to entertain yourself as a seismologist in Oklahoma?”

Back then, the state had a 30-year average of only two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher per year. As it turns out, though, boredom has been the least of Holland’s concerns. Over the last five years, the state has had thousands of earthquakes — an unprecedented increase that has made it the second-most seismically active state in the continental United States, behind California.

Fracking California: The view from Kern County

In the farming town of Shafter, in Kern County, kids are playing outside Sequoia elementary school. On the other side of the playground is an organic community garden where some people are picking vegetables.

“We are just cutting little zucchinis because the season is coming to pick them,” says Shafter resident Rodrigo Romo.

Anabel Marquez adds, “It is time to take them out. We are using them to make food, to cook.”

Romo says many people in Shafter are farmworkers who know how to grow vegetables. But they don’t have their own yards to make a garden. Marquez says having this space has been great, but they were surprised – and unhappy – when oil wells were drilled barely 100 yards away.

Feds want time to decide on retrial for BP oil spill

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge for additional time to decide whether they should appeal an order throwing out the conviction of a former BP engineer in connection with the 2010 Gulf oil spill investigation.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval ruled last week that Kurt Mix was entitled to a new trial on an obstruction-of-justice charge because of misconduct by a juror in his 2013 trial.

Oil spill practice brings together Atlantic coast guard

Members of the Canadian Coast Guard from across the Atlantic region are on Prince Edward Island this week training for dealing with oil spills. The training will include a simulated oil spill to test the coast guard’s preparedness.

Other groups involved include the Department of Fisheries, Parks Canada and Health and Safety Canada.

Gov. Jindal yet to sign anti-drilling bill

On June 21st, the bill that would prevent the issuance of any drilling permits for salt dome expansion at Lake Peigneur until January 2016 will become law; with or without Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature.

Though he does have the power to veto the bill.

Despite Protests, Canada Approves Northern Gateway Oil Pipeline

The Canadian government’s approval of a major pipeline running from the Alberta oil sands to a new port on the coast of British Columbia has intensified opposition from aboriginal groups, environmentalists and community advocates.

The Northern Gateway project, which the government approved on Tuesday as expected, would send heavy, oil-bearing bitumen to Asia, giving Canadian producers better access to the world markets. The pipeline, being built by Enbridge, has been championed by the federal government as a way to diversify Canada’s energy industry from its current dependence on exports to the United States.

Canadian Government Approves Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline

The push to expand pipeline links from Alberta’s landlocked oil sands to Canada’s Pacific coast got a boost on Tuesday when the federal government approved Enbridge Inc. ‘s Northern Gateway project.

Enbridge faces other hurdles before it can start construction on the 7.9 billion Canadian dollar (US$7.3 billion) project. Like TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S., Northern Gateway has come up against opposition, from politicians in British Columbia to environmentalists and aboriginal groups who have vowed to stop the project.

Canadian Government Conditionally Approves 731-Mile Northern Gateway Tar Sands Pipeline

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper conditionally approved the Northern Gateway Pipeline Tuesday, a major hurdle for the 731-mile twin pipeline system that will carry tar sands oil from Alberta to the west coast of Canada.

The approval is contingent on Enbridge meeting the 209 conditions for the pipeline — some of which addressed environmental concerns but none of which addressed climate change — set forth by the National Energy Board in December. If Enbridge meets those conditions, Northern Gateway will transport up to 525,000 barrels of oil per day from Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia.

Energy Committee vote on Sen. Landrieu’s Keystone pipeline bill draws GOP cynicism

arely does a committee meeting get this kind of advance attention — especially with Republicans suggesting the key vote Wednesday on legislation to approve the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline is meaningless.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, the new chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has scheduled the vote, and is likely to prevail with Republican support.

Pipeline Companies Paying More to Cross Private Land

A natural gas pipeline company argued earlier this year that it should pay about $80,000 for the right to lay pipe across a mile of vacant land south of Fort Worth. The landowner countered, and a Johnson County jury agreed, that the price should be higher.

A lot higher. In March, the jury awarded about $1.6 million, plus interest, to the landowner, more than 20 times the amount that Midland-based Peregrine Pipeline Co. had offered.

A tale of two pipelines: comparing Northern Gateway and Keystone XL

With the Conservative government giving a green light to Northern Gateway, here’s a look at the controversial pipeline project and how it shapes up against its cross-border cousin, Keystone XL:

Like Keystone in the U.S., Canada’s Pipeline to Pacific Is High-Voltage Politics

The Canadian government’s decision Tuesday to approve the $7 billion Northern Gateway pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the coast of British Columbia does not guarantee that the pipeline will be built in the end—or that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will find it any easier to advance his Conservative party’s energy agenda, which also includes getting the Keystone XL pipeline approved in the United States.

Politically, Canada’s Northern Gateway debate has eerie parallels with the U.S. debate over the Keystone—but with some of the roles reversed.

Gazprom Neft readies for arctic drilling

Russian energy company Gazprom Neft said it plans to conduct drilling operations in the northern Pechora Sea during the ice-free months of 2014.

The company said a drilling platform was delivered to the Dolginskoye field in the arctic waters of the Pechora Sea.

The new oil crisis: Exploding trains

Communities throughout the U.S. and Canada are waking up to the dark side of North America’s energy boom: Trains hauling crude oil are crashing, exploding and spilling in record numbers as a fast-growing industry outpaces the federal government’s oversight.

In the 11 months since a runaway oil train derailed in the middle of a small town in Quebec, incinerating 47 people, the rolling virtual pipelines have unleashed crude oil into an Alabama swamp, forced more than 1,000 North Dakota residents to evacuate, dangled from a bridge in Philadelphia and smashed into an industrial building near Pittsburgh. The latest serious accident was April’s fiery crash in Lynchburg, Virginia, where even the mayor had been unaware oil was rolling through his city.

Oil train safety raises concern

Residents of Eastern Washington expressed concern and skepticism Tuesday to state lawmakers working on a bill that would regulate an expected boom in trains carrying crude oil across the state.

Members of the state Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Telecommunications heard from industry sources and members of the public on the safety of transporting oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to refineries in Western Washington and Oregon.

Report minimizes risk from oil trains through Roseville, Sacramento

A much-anticipated report released Tuesday offered new details and some controversial safety conclusions about a Bay Area oil company’s plan to run crude-oil trains daily through Roseville and Sacramento to Benicia.

Valero Refining Co., which operates a sweeping plant on a hillside overlooking Suisun Bay, plans to transport crude oil from undisclosed North American oil fields on two 50-car trains every 24 hours through the Sacramento region to the Benicia site. One would run at night and the other in the middle of the day to minimize conflicts with Capitol Corridor passenger trains, which share the same line.

Oregon subsidizing Rainier rail safety project allowing 14 more oil trains a month

In downtown Rainier, a small Columbia River town where oil trains carried more than 300 million gallons of volatile crude last year, trains and traffic today share the road, creating a hazard the state soon plans to fix.

An $8.9 million project would install curbs, reconfigure parking and add designated pedestrian and vehicle crossings on A Street, allowing trains to speed up from 10 mph to 25 mph and blow their horns fewer times.

Assessing Fukushima Damage Without Eyes on the Inside

A particle that barely ranks as a footnote in a physics text may be about to lift the cleanup of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan over a crucial obstacle.

Inside the complex, there are three wrecked reactor cores, twisted masses of hundreds of tons of highly radioactive uranium, plutonium, cesium and strontium. After the meltdown, which followed a tsunami and earthquake in 2011, most of the material in the plant’s reactors resolidified, in difficult shapes and in confined spaces, wrapped around and through the structural parts of the reactors and the buildings.

Two earthquakes hit Japanese coast near Fukushima as giant ice wall hits a snag

Two moderate earthquakes have struck off Japan’s eastern coast near Fukushima, as the operator of the nuclear plant said the company’s efforts to freeze radioactive water in the facility had hit a glitch and may take longer than expected.

Officials said there was no immediate risk to the stricken power plant after the quakes. The first, with a magnitude measuring 5.7, occurred 91 kilometres off the coast of Honshu at 3.00am local time on Monday night. A second quake, measuring 5.6, struck two hours later closer to shore. Cities nearest to the epicentre included Iwaki, Kitaibaraki, Namie and Hitachi.

Fukushima operator struggles to build ice wall to contain radioactive water

The operator of Japan’s battered Fukushima nuclear power plant has said it is having trouble with the early stages of an ice wall being built under broken reactors to contain radioactive water.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has begun digging the trenches for a huge network of pipes under the plant through which it intends to pass refrigerant.

Environment minister suggests Fukushima residents can be bought

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara apologized on June 17 for suggesting that payments to residents in Fukushima Prefecture would resolve the problem of selecting a site to temporarily store radiation-contaminated soil.

“I would like to express my heartfelt apology to those who experienced unpleasant emotions due to a comment lacking character that I made,” Ishihara said.

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This