50-foot section of failed Montana oil pipeline was exposed on bed of Yellowstone River near site of spill

Cleanup hampered by icy conditions

Cleanup crews try to contain oil from a pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River, near Glendive, Montana. Photo courtesy EPA.

Cleanup crews try to contain oil from a pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River, near Glendive, Montana. Photo courtesy EPA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sonar surveys show that the failed Poplar Pipeline in Montana is exposed on the river bed for approximately 50 feet near the site of a breach that may have spilled as much as 50,000 gallon of oil into the Yellowstone River.

After the spill, oil sheens were spotted on the river as far as 60 miles downstream, according to the EPA. Residents in the town of Glendive, a few miles from the spill, were warned not to drink their tap water after testing found traces of oil in the town’s water supply, but after additional testing, the town’s drinking water system was deemed safe on Jan. 23.

According to the EPA, the bottom of the river bed is about one foot below the pipeline in one area, though the last official inspection of the pipeline in 2012 indicated that it was buried about eight feet below the riverbed. The EPA said the exposed section of pipeline doesn’t explain how the spill happened, but the information will help investigators determine the cause of the breach. More EPA updates at this web page. Continue reading

Report tallies 712 Colorado oil and gas spills in 2014

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A fracking operation in Colorado. bberwyn photo.

‘The risk of spills is one of the major ways that residents in the oil patch bear a disproportionate burden from the state’s energy boom’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates in Colorado say there were a total of 712 spills from oil and gas operations in Colorado during 2014, which together released more than 1 million gallons and other chemicals.

The data were released by the Center for Western Priorities as part of the organizations’s Toxic Release Tracker.

“This is the third year we’ve tracked oil and gas spills in Colorado, and it’s a continuing reminder that the benefits of today’s oil boom come alongside significant risks to Colorado’s communities and outdoor spaces,” said Greg Zimmerman, Policy Director at CWP. Continue reading

Environment: Lawsuit seeks more government transparency for Gulf of Mexico fracking

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So how much fracking is there, exactly, in the Gulf of Mexico? Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Fruitless FOIA request prompts legal action

Staff Report

FRISCO — The public may soon know more about offshore fracking operations in the Gulf of Mexico, as the Center for Biological Diversity sues the federal government in a quest for more transparency.

According to the lawsuit, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement must disclose permits, reports, emails and other documents related to the federal government’s approval for oil and gas companies to frack offshore wells in the Gulf. Continue reading

Colorado toughens fracking penalties

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Frackers in Colorado will face stiffer penalties for spills and other dangerous incidents. bberwyn photo.

New rules eliminate penalty cap

Staff Report

FRISCO — Daily penalties for fracking leaks and spills, or other environmentally dangerous accidents associated with fossil fuel development will go up to as much as $15,000 per day in Colorado, under new rules adopted this week by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.The beefed-up penalty structure also does away with a $10,000 penalty cap for each violation. Continue reading

Colorado oil and gas regulators hold hearing on enforcement and penalties

Fossil fuel industry says it wants clarity

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Colorado fracking operators may see changes in enforcement procedures. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado oil and gas regulators will start the new year today with the continuation of a hearing aimed at beefing up enforcement and penalties. The Denver hearing starts at 9 a.m. with a live audio stream available at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website. Continue reading

Environment: Tuesday roundup

Independent journalism in western Colorado

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Big issues at the climate talks in Lima, Peru.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — If you primarily read this Summit Voice feed, which has been climate focused recently, you may have missed a few other recent stories I’ve done for the Colorado Independent. The past couple of weeks I’ve  covered issues in western Colorado, including fossil fuel development, public lands protection and even the ski industry from time to time, including this week’s story about a Colorado Supreme Court case. Continue reading

More methane woes – study tracks abandoned well emissions

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Concentrations of heat-trapping methane are increasing steadily in the Earth’s atmosphere.

‘What surprised me was that every well we measured had some methane coming out …’

FRISCO — Fixing leaky pipes and other equipment at operational oil and gas wells would go a long way toward cutting emissions of heat-trapping methane pollution, but wells that were abandoned decades ago could be another big source of the potent greenhouse gas.

Princeton University researchers recently tested several abandoned oil and natural gas wells in northwestern Pennsylvania, finding that many of the old wells leaked substantial quantities of methane. By some estimates, there are as many as 3 million abandoned wells across the U.S. Continue reading

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