Environment: Activists ramp up campaign against seismic airguns

Oil-probing technology could harm marine mammals, affect fisheries

Oceana projection on National Postal Museum (Credit: Oceana/Melissa Forsyth)

Oceana projection on National Postal Museum (Credit: Oceana/Melissa Forsyth)

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tourism and fishing-dependent communities along the East Coast of the U.S. are banding together to voice concerns about seismic airgun testing. According to Oceana, an ocean conservation group, 110 local elected officials and 155 conservation and animal welfare organizations all say the use of airguns to conduct these seismic tests threatens fish populations and profitable fisheries.

Six coastal towns have also passed local resolutions opposing the use of airguns. (Cocoa Beach, FL, Carolina Beach, NC, Caswell Beach, NC, Nags Head, NC, Bradley Beach, NJ and Red Bank, NJ). The loud and constant undersea thumping may decrease the catch rates of certain fisheries, potentially threatening a billion-dollar industry that supports thousands of jobs.

At issue is the use of loud acoustic devices that help energy companies probe for oil beneath the seafloor. Federal officials recently adopted a final proposal that would allow the use of this controversial technology in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. Continue reading

Environment: BLM plans in-depth study of oil and gas leases on Colorado’s White River National Forest

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The BLM will analyze the environmental impacts of contested oil and gas drilling leases south of I-70, between Carbondale and DeBeque. Click for a full-size version.

BLM taking input during scoping phase of environmental study

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Lynx, elk, owls and other high country forest critters in western Colorado will get at least a temporary reprieve from potential oil and gas drilling, as the federal Bureau of Land Management announced last week that it will do an in-depth environmental study for 65 existing oil and gas leases on 80,000 acres of public lands managed by the White River National Forest.

The leases are spread roughly west to east along biologically important mid-elevation lands between Carbondale and DeBeque and overlap designated roadless areas. Conservation advocates have long argued that the sale of the leases was inconsistent with efforts to protect wildlife, water quality and other high-value natural resources. Continue reading

Big comeback for renewable energy stocks in 2013

Public market investors bullish on wind and solar

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Renewable sources accounted for 43 percent of all newly installed energy capacity in 2013, according to a new report from UN economists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Renewable energy stocks made a big global comeback in 2013, gaining 54 percent after a 4.5 year slide during which they lost 78 percent in value, according to a new report released by economists in Frankfurt, Germany.

The improvement happened as many companies in the solar and wind manufacturing chains moved back towards profitability after a painful period of over-capacity and corporate distress, according to experts with the United Nations Environmental Program.

The 2013 improvements came despite a significant dip in investments in the renewable energy sector — the investment drop of $US35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013. Continue reading

Climate: Upcoming IPCC reports highlights need for a global carbon tax

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Can we slow our greenhouse gas emissions? A global carbon tax could help.

Ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies also high on the list

Staff Report

FRISCO — A modest carbon tax of just $0.15 per kilo could lead the world down the path of meaningful action on global warming, says a Swedish researcher who was one of the coordinating lead authors of a new report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will present next week.

“What we need to avoid dangerous climate change is the application of strong policy instruments,” said Thomas Sterner, professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg. Continue reading

Energy: Anadarko to pay $5.15 billion fine for fraud

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Trail of toxic waste catches up with corporate polluters.

Largest ever toxic waste settlement will help communities around the country

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A trail of toxic waste sites around the country finally caught up with Kerr-McGee and various subsidiaries of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation last week.

Under a settlement agreement with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice,  Anadarko will pay $5.15 billion to a litigation trust. According to the EPA, the settlement is the largest recovery for the cleanup of environmental contamination in history.

The award came after a bankruptcy court in New York found that Kerr-McGee and the Anadarko subsidiaries played a shell game, selling off assets to try and evade their liabilities for cleanups at toxic sites around the country. Continue reading

Environment: U.S. Coast Guard report rips Shell Oil for runaway drill rig

The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

Investigators delve into potential legal violations

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —A U.S. Coast Guard report says Shell Oil didn’t acknowledge or adequately prepare for Arctic Ocean conditions before the company’s Kulluk drilling rig broke away from its towing vessel and ultimately ran aground on an Alaskan Island on the last day of 2012.

“Inadequate assessment and management of risk” was the key factor in the accident,  Coast Guard investigators concluded, calling on Shell and its partners to change their company culture to avoid complacency.

Continue reading

Wyoming Supreme Court makes it harder for fossil fuel companies to hide fracking cocktail ingredients

Drill rig in a natural gas field in Wyoming. Credit: SkyTruth, flickr

Drill rig in a natural gas field in Wyoming. Credit: SkyTruth, flickr

Ruling narrows trade secret loophole

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fossil fuel companies in Wyoming may soon have to disclose more the chemicals they use for fracking, as the Wyoming Supreme Court decided this week that the state’s oil and gas commission has the burden of justifying the use of a trade secrets exemption that has enabled companies to keep their toxic recipes secret.

“The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed that the public’s right to know is paramount under state law. If fracking operators don’t want to reveal what chemicals they use, they will have to prove that the chemicals are trade secrets, which means they shouldn’t be able to capriciously keep secrets from the public about dangerous chemicals,” said Katherine O’Brien, an attorney with Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs. Continue reading

Environment: Does coalbed methane development in Wyoming affect water quality?

Wyoming's Powder River Basin. Map courtesy USGS.

Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Map courtesy USGS.

FRISCO — Some Wyoming watersheds may be showing signs of wear and tear due to coalbed methane development, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study done on the Powder and Tongue river basins in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana.

According to the USGS, three sites on the Powder River show a difference in water quality between the time before coalbed methane development and during the production period. But thirteen other sites, including mainstem and tributaries to the Tongue and Powder Rivers in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana, showed few substantial differences in water quality between the two time periods. Continue reading

Colorado: Judge rejects fossil fuel industry challenge to voter-approved 5-year fracking moratorium in Broomfield

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A Colorado judge this week upheld the will of voters in Broomfield, Colorado, affirming the vote on a ballot measure that enacts a 5-year ban on fracking.

Election results stand, pending a potential appeal

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bid by the fossil fuel industry to thwart the will of voters in Broomfield, Colorado failed in court this week, as 17th Judicial District Court Judge Chris Melonakis upheld the five-year fracking ban approved by voters last November.

Question 300 passed by 17 votes, triggering a recount that brought nearly the same result. The challenge by the fossil fuel industry focused on election procedures and not on the substantive issue at hand — whether Colorado residents have the right to protect themselves and their communities from potentially harmful activities. Continue reading

Environmental groups join legal fray over Fort Collins fracking ban

Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Grassroots activists stand up to industry ‘bullying’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fort Collins residents who passed a temporary five-year fracking ban last year will get some help in their legal showdown with the fossil fuel industry.

A trio of from from environmental groups — Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, the Sierra Club and Earthworks filed a motion to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit against the City of Fort Collins.

The Association is trying to overturn a five year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”  The Fort Collins moratorium on fracking passed as Ballot Measure 2A with 56 percent of the vote in November 2013. Continue reading

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