Weekend Environmental Must-Reads – February 16-17, 2013


84,000 gallons of fracking fluid sprays from Fort Collins oil well

An estimated 84,000 gallons of fracking fluid sprayed from a Fort Collins oil well over 30 hours, state officials said in a statement released Friday.

State officials said PDC Energy estimates 84,000 gallons of fracking flowback water sprayed out from one of its oil wells after a mechanical problem this week.

Who’s recycling wastewater from ‘fracking’?

More and more, oil and gas drilling companies are turning to businesses that recycle the millions of gallons of fresh water needed to break up shale during the “fracking” process.

But what happens to the toxic metals, dangerous chemicals and even radium that is removed from the water but comes back up to the surface and is recycled?

Ohio Fracking CEO Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Toxic Waste-Dumping Case

Ben Lupo, owner of D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating, pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal felony charges under the Clean Water Act.

Lupo is accused of ordering the dumping of thousands of gallons of chemical-laced fracking waste into streams in Youngstown, Ohio.

State regulators resist more federal fracking oversight

Harold Fitch, the man charged with overseeing Michigan’s 15,000 oil and gas wells, told a House subcommittee Friday that growing hydraulic fracturing operations in his state have not caused any groundwater contamination or any other serious environmental risks.

While issues have arisen over flowback water and increased water withdrawals for drilling operations, Michigan has addressed these with new state regulations, such as new requirements for monitoring water withdrawals, said Fitch, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s office of oil, gas and minerals.

Michigan ‘fracking’ opponents plan to begin voter signature collection effort in April

A group that wants to ban horizontal hydraulic fracturing for gas and oil wells in Michigan is trying to revive an effort that potentially could result in a proposal on the November 2014 statewide ballot.

Conservancy district OKs lease to allow fracking

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District might reduce the tax it levies on landowners after completing a mineral rights deal worth $41.5 million upfront.

Vermont – New York natural gas pipeline stirs debate

At a public meeting in Hinesburg, Vt. last month, residents crowded into the town hall to ask questions about a natural gas pipeline that might be going through their community.

Mark Ames wasn’t too happy. “I’m not interested in having a gas line either through in front of my house, 20 feet in front of my house, or behind my house, through my fields,” he said.

Gas worker killed in EQT well pad blast

State regulators say a worker was killed Friday morning in an explosion at an EQT natural gas well pad near Flemington in rural Taylor County.

Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said the unidentified victim was working alone at the time.

Emotions run high as fracking divides neighbors

An anti-fracking hunter no longer hunts in the woods he’s trod for decades. He says he was made to feel so uncomfortable by the pro-fracking hunting friends who own the land, he just doesn’t feel like he’s wanted there.

A pro-fracking volunteer at a public radio station quits the station. She feels ostracized because of what she says is the anti-fracking atmosphere.

Eagle Ford pay is high, but work can be fatal

The last time derrickman Julio Barrera spoke to his wife, he was worried and told her he didn’t know what to do.

It was Sept. 1, 2009, and Barrera and his rig crew were having trouble in Webb County erecting and stabilizing a derrick, according to his wife, Claudia Hernandez, and inspection records on file with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency that oversees worker safety.

WV Legislative Review Committee Approves Fracking Rules, But …

A set of legislative rules crafted to regulate the horizontal gas well industry cleared an important committee hurdle Monday afternoon. But legislators and stakeholders said changes are on the horizon as the full Legislature takes up the package. The joint Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee gave its qualified blessing to the WV Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) rules governing horizontal well development, as mandated by 2011’s Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act.

Fracking is the only way to achieve Obama climate change goals, says senior scientist

America will only achieve the ambitious climate change goals outlined by President Barack Obama last week by encouraging wide-scale fracking for natural gas over the next few years. That is the advice of one of the nation’s senior scientists, Professor William Press, a member of the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Environmental groups deliver more than 133,000 petitions to Justice Department demanding BP be held accountable for Gulf oil spill

A coalition of national and Louisiana environmental groups delivered 133,501 petitions to the Justice Department office in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday demanding that federal attorneys “hold BP accountable to the fullest extent of the law” for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Gulf Oil Spill Deal OKs Fla. For Millions In Natural Resource Restoration

Florida has been approved for its share of a $150 million settlement from Transocean Deepwater, Inc.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said Thursday it will manage the distribution of the funds, which will go toward environmental restoration following a judge’s acceptance of a plea agreement.

Gulf oil spill: another record settlement

Transocean pleaded guilty for violating the U.S. Clean Water Act and agreed to pay $400 million in criminal penalties for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The overall settlement, which includes the $400 million criminal fines and $1 billion in civil penalties that has yet to be approved by a federal judge, is the second-largest environmental crime recovery in U.S. history.

Oil Spill reported off Pinder’s Point, Grand Bahama

The public is advised that on Saturday, 16th February, 2013 at approximately 1:15 p.m., officials from BORCO reported that an oil spill had occurred in the vicinity of Pinder’s Point, Grand Bahama. In response to the spill a team comprising officials from BORCO, the Port Department and the Department of Environmental Health Services immediately mobilized to commence clean-up operations and assess the extent of the oil spill. The clean-up operation is on-going with constant monitoring from BORCO and the National Oil Spill Advisory Committee. The oil slick has now diminished and is not visible.

Gas removal at sinkhole reaches 940,000 barrels

Crosstex Energy LP of Dallas has removed 940,000 barrels of liquid butane in a gas storage cavern inside the Napoleonville Dome in northern Assumption Parish, while removal continues in the only other cavern holding natural gas in the salt dome, a parish official said Friday.

Texas Brine shows off sinkhole mapping device

Texas Brine unveiled a new device Saturday they say will help paint a clearer picture of what’s underneath the Assumption Parish sinkhole.

In a meeting with Bayou Core residents, Texas Brine spokesman Sonny Cranch demonstrated how the 3D seismic activity tests will work. Small devices will be installed in the ground around the community, then a vibro-seismic truck will send sound waves deep underground. The devices will record the activity below and create a 3D picture based on the results.

3 companies detail 800-mile Alaska pipeline plan

Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM -0.18% , ConocoPhillips COP -1.55% , BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) and TransCanada Corp. TRP -1.11% said Friday they plan to develop a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to a port where the gas would be prepared for export as part of a project expected to cost $45 billion to $65 billion.

Keystone XL pipeline foes say they’re gaining momentum

Nebraskans fighting to stop the Keystone XL pipeline are feeling optimistic.

President Barack Obama made a high-profile State of the Union pledge Tuesday to address climate change through executive action. More than 20,000 people are expected to show up at the White House today for a major protest against the pipeline.

Apache moves to kill gas well after uncontrolled flow

Apache Corp. evacuated 15 nonessential workers from a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico and hired specialists Boots & Coots to kill the well after tests found natural gas migrating below the seabed.

A drilling rig is heading for the site in case it’s needed to bore a relief well to intercept the one being plugged. The natural gas well is located in 218 feet of water about 50 miles east of Venice, La.

Oil spills after barge collision on lower Mississippi River

A collision involving two barges on Thursday night resulted in a small oil spill near Baton Rouge, Louisiana on the Mississippi River, the United States Coast Guard said.

Oil Aboard! Tar Sands Industry Eyes Nexen Rail Alternative to Stalled Pipelines

Facing enormous opposition to the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, Canada’s tar sands industry is taking to the tracks to get its sticky bitumen to China. Canadian and Chinese oil companies have explored the “pipeline by rail” option for years now, but over the past month, the prospect of tar sands trains has taken a few big steps closer toward reality.

Companies release new details on Alaska pipeline

The companies pursuing a major natural gas project in Alaska released new details of the effort Friday, satisfying the first in a series of benchmarks laid out by Gov. Sean Parnell.

“So the good news today, and it’s very good news, it’s the first time in our state’s natural gas history that the companies who can build, fill and operate a large diameter pipeline have together selected a pipeline concept,” he told a group in Fairbanks.

Texans join activists at Keystone XL rally in D.C.

Thousands of environmental activists are descending on the nation’s capital today for a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline that would ferry oil sands crude from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Just the facts: Climate Impacts from the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

A key issue in the debate over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is about the impact it would have on climate.  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a fundamental element in the oil industry’s plan to triple production of tar sands oil from 2 million barrels per day (bpd) to 6 million bpd by 2030, and in the longer term to hike production to more than 9 million bpd.  A backgrounder on the climate impacts from Keystone XL released by the Natural Resources Defense Council details how the U.S. decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline will have a direct bearing on whether the tar sands industry can attain those goals, with their attendant increases in carbon pollution. Keystone XL would lock the U.S. into a long-term commitment to an energy infrastructure that relies on dirty oil.

Why the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline is a Climate Catastrophe

A key issue in the debate over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is about the impact it would have on climate. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a fundamental element in the oil industry’s plan to triple production of tar sands oil from 2 million barrels per day (bpd) to 6 million bpd by 2030, and in the longer term to hike production to more than 9 million bpd.

EPA comments on St. Bernard Parish sulphur dioxide emission overages

Citing levels of sulphur dioxide in St. Bernard Parish above the Environmental Protection Agency’s limits, the agency has told Gov. Bobby Jindal that it intends to formally designate the parish as being out of compliance with the standard. Such a designation, referred to as “nonattainment,” means the state will have to develop a remedy, likely requiring the parish’s three main emitters to cut back on such releases by creating more restrictive permits.

Fukushima radiation threatens to wreak woodland havoc

For Yuji Hoshino, mushrooms were a way of life. The 50-year-old farmer grew up watching his father raise shiitake mushrooms on their land at the foot of the mountains in Sanno, southern Tochigi Prefecture.

Later, he became the one to yearly cut about 15,000 logs, each about a meter long and the diameter of a coffee saucer, from oak forests near his home. He would stud these logs with specially inoculated spore pegs and then stack them in forests and greenhouses for the crop to mature. Three to eight years later, hundreds of thousands of fleshy, white-and-brown mushrooms would be ready to pick.

Revisiting Fukushima’s Ghost Towns

Two years after the record-setting earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 11, 2011, Iitate-mura, a town in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture that had more than 6,800 residents, remains devastated. Radioactive contamination from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant left the area uninhabitable, though decontamination efforts began in the past year. Photographer James Whitlow Delano has been documenting the area, located about 22 miles from the damaged Daiichi nuclear reactors.

Dry ice vacuum cleaner robot bound for Fukushima

A remote controlled robot that uses dry ice to vacuum up radiation was unveiled by Japanese researchers on Friday, the latest innovation to help the clean-up at Fukushima.

The caterpillar-tracked device blasts dry ice — frozen CO2 — against floors and walls, evaporating and carrying radioactive substances with it, engineers said. The nozzle also sucks up the resulting gases.

Fukushima official angrily bolts meeting when restart of nuke plants mentioned

A Fukushima prefectural assembly chairman stormed out of a Liberal Democratic Party meeting on Feb. 15 after the discussion turned toward the possible restart of idle nuclear reactors in Japan.

“I am walking out if the government plans to restart (nuclear power plants) without acting responsibly in dealing with the (Fukushima) accident,” said Kenji Saito at an LDP Research Commission on Oil, Resources and Energy meeting in Tokyo to exchange views on energy policy. “I cannot possibly join such a discussion.”

Tank at Hanford nuclear site leaking radioactive liquids, Washington governor says

A tank that holds radioactive liquids is leaking at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday, raising concerns about the integrity of other storage facilities at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Hanford nuclear waste tank is leaking

The long-delayed cleanup of the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site became the subject of more bad news Friday, when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that a radioactive waste tank there is leaking.

The news raises concerns about the integrity of similar tanks at Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation and puts added pressure on the federal government to clean up the site.

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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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