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

Feds to hold ‘listening sessions’ on public land coal royalties

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The public will have a chance to weigh in on federal coal mining leasing practices.

Changes to leasing rules would benefit U.S. taxpayers

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a string of reports and investigations made it clear that taxpayers are not getting their fair share of money from coal mining on federally managed public lands, the Department of Interior last week announced it will hold a series of “listening sessions” around the country on the federal coal program.

The stakes are high — in fiscal year 2012, about 42 percent of the 1.05 billion tons of coal produced in the United States came from coal tracts leased under the federal coal leasing program.

One report from an energy think tank concluded that the federal treasury may have missed out on as much as $29 billion over the past 30 years because of the way energy companies and federal land managers account for those royalties. Another recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government’s accounting system does not “provide reasonable assurance that oil and gas are accurately measured.” Continue reading

Public lands: Feds release sage grouse plans

Last, best hope for endangered birds?

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Staff Report

FRISCO — If plans, press releases and political mud-slinging could help greater sage-grouse, the majestic western bird would be well on the way to recovery. But the only thing that will really help the imperiled species is on-the-ground action — protecting and restoring the habitat the birds need to survive.

A series of proposed land-use plans released by the federal government this week aims to do just that, by minimizing and avoiding new disturbance to habitat, restoring habitat when possible and reducing threats like wildfires and invasive species. Here’s a fact sheet. Continue reading

Is the West’s power grid vulnerable to climate change?

‘In their development plans, power providers are not taking into account climate change impacts …’

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Renewable energy sources may be less susceptible to climate change impacts.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Western power grid is vulnerable to projected global warming impacts, and should be climate-proofed to minimize the risk of future power shortages, according to a new study by  two Arizona State University engineers.

Their findings show that extreme heat waves and droughts and related changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity, are all factors in the energy equation, and that those changes could significantly constrain the energy generation capacity of power plants. Continue reading

Shell gets conditional OK for Arctic offshore drilling

Conservation groups say Arctic oil disaster nearly inevitable

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Is Shell Arctic-ready?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In a decision heralding all but certain disaster for Arctic ecosystems, the federal government today approved the basic outlines of Shell’s proposed multi-year offshore oil exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea.

Using two vessels, the giant oil company wants to drill up to six wells in an area known as the Burger Prospect, more than 140-feet deep, about  70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

The approval came just two years after the Department of Interior found that Shell tried to rush into its offshore drilling program without being “fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans.” Continue reading

Environment: Conservation groups say latest oil train blast shows need for updated safety rules

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Does an oil train run through your town?

Critics say proposed phaseout is too slow

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few weeks after the Obama administration took some tentative steps to improve oil train safety, yet another such train was blasted off the rails by a massive explosion.

The latest disaster in North Dakota underscores the need for more immediate and assertive action to improve safety, according to conservation advocates like Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles.

“Again another derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude. Again another community evacuated and its people counting their blessings this didn’t happen half a mile down the track in the middle of town,” Boyles said. Continue reading

Environment: New analysis helps pinpoint fracking pollution in Pennsylvania drinking water

Fracked nation.

Fracked nation.

Fracking substances found almost two miles away from faulty drilling operation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists in Pennsylvania said they’ve been able to track pollution from fracking as the source of contamination in drinking water wells more than 1 mile from the fracked shale gas wells.

The stray natural gas and wastewater moved laterally along shallow to intermediate depth fractures to the source of the homes’ well water. The chemicals foamed from water faucets in three homes near a reported well-pad leak. The homes were sold to the gas company as part of a legal settlement in 2012, but scientists received samples before the transfer.

Previous studies had not been able to identify the cause of the foaming, but the new analysis found a chemical compound, 2-BE, and an unidentified complex mixture of organic contaminants, both commonly seen in flowback water from Marcellus shale activity.  Continue reading

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