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A Quick Whirl Around The Fracking World: 22 Aug 2014


*NE to rock. Willie Nelson and Neil Young will be performing at “Harvest the Hope Concert,” a benefit for Bold Nebraska and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance in their continued opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline. Date: September 27th, a tad over 27 years since Nelson and Young performed together at Farm Aid-3 in 1987. Hosts: Landowners Art and Helen Tanderup who live near Neligh, NE and have stood up to TransCanada by refusing to grant easement for the pipeline. Update: Aw, shucks, tickets already sold out!

*Fracking USA. The FracTracker Alliance provides a cool interactive map (among many others), showing fracking activity state-by-state.

*Safer oil railcars, for real? The US Department of Transportation wants to phase out the old, dangerous DOT-111 railcars, but “the oil industry and leasing firms,” who own almost all the cars, reportedly are slow-going the process  (costs too much, doncha know). In sharp contrast, environmentalists and others are demanding existing cars be banned straightaway in order to protect the public.

*Gulf of Mexico oil and gas exploration should be getting underway right quick like, with the feds selling “more than 400,000 acres in the Gulf . . . off the Texas coast for oil and gas exploration and development.” While adding $110 million to US coffers (yep, a paltry $110 million), and letting BP get back into the game, this sale also accelerates use of fracking which is needed to penetrate the ancient Lower Tertiary that is packed with dense rock.

*Los Angeles, CA City Councilmember Paul Koretz, noting the huge amounts of water fracking requires, the transformation of that water by fracking into “toxic sludge” which can contaminate the water supply, has called on Gov. Jerry Brown to declare an immediate moratorium on fracking. Particularly urgent during the state’s continuing historic drought.

*Over in Richmond, CAChevron looms large and is supplying a largesse of $1.6 million to put its candidates on the City Council and in the Mayor’s office. That’s $15 and some small change for each of the city’s 106,516+ residents. But there is a catch: candidates taking the money have to publicly acknowledge that fact–and not everybody in Richmond digs being a “company town.”

*NC’s Mining and Energy Commission is beginning public hearings on fracking. In June, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill legalizing fracking after a bitter two-year fight, but opposition continues—“State officials have fielded hundreds of safety concerns, ranging from water supply contamination to waste management.” Touted as a big boon for the state budget and jobs, turns out “the expected economic impact . . . is relatively small.” Ah, NC, “A Better Place To Be”?

*NY’s Albany County, home of the Port of Albany, has just engaged the services of Mintz Levin, environmental law firm of Boston, to help “battle against a Fortune 500 company that’s bringing in millions of gallons of crude oil every day.” That would be Global Partners, which wants to expand its facilities so it can accommodate Canadian oilsands crude oil but doesn’t want to share information that the county considers pertinent. Albany County also wants to more effectively communicate with the US Department of Transportation about safer oil railcars since Global Partners wants to continue to use the older, dangerous ones. And, as if on cue, approximately “100 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pipeline” at the Global Partners’s facility at the Port Wednesday–but didn’t make it to the Hudson River.

*NY anti-fracking rally held on Governor’s Day at the State Fair in Geddes. A spokesperson said “Ban fracking now and let’s build an energy system that protects the things we love,” including agriculture which requires clean water. Gov Andrew Cuomo (D), in attendance at the fair, is deferring his decision on fracking until NY’s Departments of Environmental Conservation and of Health provide input.

*Uh-oh in OH: Putting up religiously-themed billboards against fracking in OH could get you sued. That’s what Michael Boals of Coshocton, OH did and that’s how Buckeye Brine of Austin, TX responded. “DEATH may come”, “POISONED WATERS” and other warnings on two Route 36 billboards led to the suit. But Boals, who paid more than $1,000 for the billboards, is standing his (apparently, non-fracked) ground.

*Brightest spot in fracking news of the week comes from Clatskanie OR, on the Columbia River, where “the operators of an oil train terminal . . . promised to only accept crude delivered in tank cars that met the latest industry safety standards.” Claim is “oil companies shipping through its terminal near Clatskanie have almost always complied.” The Oregonian newspaper was able to verify that seems to be the case.

*PA’s Department of Health reacted to criticism that citizens’ letters of complaint about health impacts of fracking were simply being ignored. Not to worry, for the Department has now held many meetings (imagine that!) about the sitch, promises to send a letter acknowledging receipt of each complaint, will improve their website and work more closely with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

*Lac-Mégantic, Quebec report. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board this week released its report on the 6 Jun 2013 conflagration in Lac-Mégantic.   Jennifer Quaid (University of Ottawa law faculty) reacted, “the report shines a harsh light on the current approach to regulation and risk management”,  specifically the failure to enforce regulations. Major, underlying question: “To what ends will we go to protect human life from risky activity?” The Star’s coverage included two excellent videos, while CBC Canada focused on the “weak safety culture” theme, and the Ottawa Citizen opined the “Federal government tiptoes on response to Lac-Mégantic rail-disaster report.”

*Chilling, simply chilling. In case you haven’t heard or read them, here’s a link to the phone conversations between the train engineer and Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway dispatch on the night of the Lac-Megantic conflagration.

*O CanadaWhen acid rain- and smog-causing sulphur dioxide and nitrous dioxide levels “hit three on a scale where four is the maximum”, the Alberta government is “required to take action.” Those levels were achieved at the Alberta oil sands, particularly in the area between Fort McMurray and Fort McKay. Action? Well, that’s consisted of “further investigations” by the government—for the past 18 months.

*Arctic Circle, CanadaFrackers are lining up to exploit Canada’s Arctic. Conoco-Phillips has two test wells in the Sahtu, Northwest Territories, and others are busily cutting roads and testing. The Canol Shale “extends from the mountains along the Yukon border several hundred miles east towards Colville and Great Bear lakes,” estimated at 2 – 3 billion barrels of oil, rivaling ND’s Bakken. Transporting the stuff? No prob, for the National Energy Board has ok’d Trans Canada “to build a $16 billion natural gas pipeline from the Arctic coast to Alberta.” Water pollution? Difficult to say, since “ground aquifers have not been mapped.” Council of Yukon First Nations? Hotly opposed.

*Mexican officials say Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, as well as Puebla, Oaxaca and Veracruz “are ripe for fracking.” Already there’s fracking on the TX side of the Eagle Ford oil field, and Pemex is drilling exploratory wells on the Mexican side. Since Mexico ended Pemex’s monopoly on oil last year, the usual suspects (Exxon, Shell and Chevron) have been eagerly amassing at the border.

*England. Protesters occupied the Blackpool Chamber of Commerce building which houses the offices of energy firm Cuadrilla (Cuadrilla?). Under the rubric No Dash for Gas,  protesters inside also locked their arms together while others outside sang “Hit the Road, Jack” and danced around. Protesters in London super-glued themselves to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and others gathered in  protest at iGas company. BTW, here’s a map of UK fracking sites.

*China’s having problems meeting shale gas production goals, despite all the earlier hoop-la, with the National Energy Administration cutting its 2020 target from 60-80 billion cubic meters to only 30. Although China “has by far the world’s largest shale reserves,” producing the gas is “about four times more expensive” than in the USA.

*Neil Young, Crazy Horse & Willie Nelson at Farm Aid-1994. Enjoy your weekend.

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