Environment: Feds face pipeline safety lawsuit

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Workers try to contain an oil spill from a ruptured pipeline in the Yellowstone River in January, 2015.

Lacksadaiscal enforcement is a recipe for disaster

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a series of disastrous pipeline breaks, the National Wildlife Federation says it’s time to hold the federal government accountable for its failure to enforce basic requirements like regular inspections and update safety response plans for pipeline accidents.

This week, the nonprofit group said it will sue the  U.S Department of Transportation in an action that has nationwide implications, since nearly every pipeline that crosses a navigable water is operating illegally. In its formal notice of intent to sue, the National Wildlife Federation is asking the Department of Transportation to issue regulations for oil pipelines in water, and require every owner and operator of an oil pipeline in a navigable water to submit a safety response plan that needs to be approved. Continue reading

EU wind power growing by leaps and bounds

Global capacity grew to 370 gigawatts in 2014

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Got wind?

Staff Report

FRISCO — Europe is now generating about 8 percent of its total energy usage from wind power, according to an annual report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

If that doesn’t sound like a lot, here’s another way to look at it: Windpower generated enough electricity to cover the combined annual consumption of Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Ireland. Thanks to the ever-decreasing costs of building new windpower facilities, the EU could be producing at least 12 percent of its annual power needs with turbines by 2020.

The report confirms that wind power has been the most widely deployed form of renewable energy in the past two decades, with the global cumulative capacity growing to 370 gigawatts in 2014. Last year represented an annual record with 52.8 GW of wind turbines capacity installed worldwide, a 48% percent increase compared to 2013 and 17 percent over the 2012 record of 45.2GW. Continue reading

Watchdogs say voluntary methane cuts aren’t enough

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‘To fight global warming, we need real methane rules …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A slew of recent studies showing how heat-trapping methane emissions have been consistently underestimated apparently didn’t have a big impact on the EPA, which has proposed a voluntary program to try and cut atmospheric methane buildup, with some mandatory regulations still in the works.

The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program (“Methane Challenge”) (PDF) (18 pp, 512K, About PDF) would provide a new mechanism enabling oil and gas companies cto track ambitious commitments to reduce methane emissions. According to the EPA, the program is based on extensive stakeholder outreach and reflects a revision of EPA’s previously proposed Gas STAR Gold framework. Continue reading

Shell gets federal greenlight for exploratory Arctic drilling

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Shell gets OK for exploratory drilling in the Arctic Sea.

Conditional permits limit operations and set protections for marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — Shell’s Arctic drill plans got a green light from federal regulators today, as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a pair of conditions permits for limited exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Alaska.

The permits limit Shell to drilling in the top sections of wells. The company won’t be allowed to probe deep in into the oil-bearing zones until well-capping equipment is on hand and deployable within 24 hours — which still leaves enough time for thousands of gallons of crude to leak into the sensitive and pristine Arctic Ocean. Continue reading

BLM finalizes new management plan for huge tracts of public land in north-central Colorado

Greater sage-grouse get special protection

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A new BLM resource management plan in place for public lands in Grand, Summit, Larimer, Jackson and Eagle counties.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Bureau of Land Management has finalized a new plan for about 378,000 acres of public lands in Grand, Jackson, Summit, Larimer and Eagle counties, managed by the agency’s Kremmling office. The plan also covers management of 653,500 acres of subsurface mineral rights. Continue reading

Environment: Proposed new federal regulations would reduce water quality impacts of mountaintop coal mining

Changes would slow decades of environmental destruction

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The scale of mountaintop mining in West Virginia is visible in this NASA Earth Observatory Satellite image, taken in 1984.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After decades of environmental degradation, the federal government has tentatively moved to reduce impacts to surface water and groundwater from coal mining.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement released the proposed regulations after several rounds of stakeholder sessions. Agency leaders said the new rule would protect about 6,500 miles of streams nationwide over a period of 20 years, “preserving community health and economic opportunities while meeting the nation’s energy needs.”

Guided by the best-available science and utilizing modern technologies, the proposed rule would require companies to avoid mining practices that permanently pollute streams, destroy drinking water sources, increase flood risk, and threaten forests. Continue reading

Study tracks spike in fracking zone health problems

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Study shows fracking health risks. @bberwyn photo.

Hydraulic fracturing linked to increases in hospitalization rates in  Marcellus Shale

Staff Report

FRISCO — People living near active fracking sites in northeastern Pennsylvania are much more likely to be hospitalized for heart conditions and neurological illness, according to a new study.

Hospitalizations for skin conditions, cancer, and urologic problems were also associated with the proximity of dwellings to active wells, as well as to the density of wells.

“This study captured the collective response of residents to hydraulic fracturing in zip codes within the counties with higher well densities,” said senior author Dr. Reynold Panettieri, Jr., a professor of medicine and deputy director of the  Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Continue reading

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