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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

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis co-sponsors bills to regulate fracking

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).

BREATHE and FRESHER acts would close significant clean air and water loopholes

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Saying that the rapid expansion of fracking in Colorado has outpaced the ability of state regulators to monitor health and environmental impacts, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO.) is calling for federal legislation to protect the safety and the health of the communities where the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process is already taking place.

“New technologies have led to the rapid development of hydraulic fracturing in Colorado and Pennsylvania before community members could fully understand the potential health, safety, and quality of life implications of drilling in their neighborhood,” Polis said, explaining that two new related laws would make sure that fracking is not exempt from the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act simply because fracking was not prevalent when these laws were initially written. Continue reading

Conservation groups request Arctic drilling moratorium

Arctic oil drilling Beaufort Sea

Sunset over the Beaufort Sea. Photo courtesy USGS.

Recent mishaps, lack of data cited in request for suspension of operations

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Citing huge data gaps about the basic ecology of the Arctic Ocean, as well as a string of recent accidents and near-misses in Royal Dutch Shell’s ongoing efforts to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, a coalition of environmental groups this week asked the Obama administration to suspend fossil fuel development in the region.

The letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came just a few days after the Interior Department announced a 60-day assessment of the Arctic offshore drilling program.

In a press release, the groups said any investigation will show that oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean cannot be conducted now in a safe and responsible manner. Along with equipment issues, there are still unanswered questions about the ability to contain and clean up potential spills in the remote, harsh Arctic environment. Those questions remain despite the fact the federal government has already signed off on Shell’s emergency response plan. Continue reading

Investigation sought on Shell Oil’s Arctic snafus

Shell Oil's Arctic drill rig, Kulluk, stranded near Kodiak Island, Alaska

The stranded Kulluk. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard.

Salvage of stranded drill set to begin

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Even as salvage workers prepare to tow Shell’s stranded Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, away from where it’s stranded on the shore of an Alaskan island, progressive members of Congress say they want to know how the accident happened.

The House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition last week called on the Department of the Interior and United States Coast Guard to conduct a joint investigation into the recent grounding of the drilling rig and related incidents.  Continue reading

Environment: Drill rig runs aground on Alaskan island

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Jayhawk helicopter crew delivers personnel to the conical drilling unit Kulluk, southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Response crews have been fighting severe weather in the Gulf of Alaska while working with the Kulluk and its tow vessel Aiviq. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Jayhawk helicopter crew delivers personnel to the conical drilling unit Kulluk, southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Response crews have been fighting severe weather in the Gulf of Alaska while working with the Kulluk and its tow vessel Aiviq. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Shell Oil struggling with keeping control off its Arctic oil drilling equipment

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While pressing ahead with plans for offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, Shel Oil has been unable to maintain control of its equipment. In the latest accident, one of the company’s oil drilling ships ran aground New Year’s Eve on the southeast shoreline of Sitkalidak Island, about 250 miles south of Anchorage.

The Kulluk was part of the Shell’s test drilling program last summer. According to the company, the vessel was loaded with about 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of other oil-based drilling and mechanical fluids. Continue reading

Colorado: BLM presses on with controversial drilling leases

Conservation groups say energy development plans threaten agricultural, recreation values

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Oil and gas drilling leases are proposed for BLM lands near the Dinosaur National Monument visitor center. Photo courtesy NPS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Obama administration officials claim that they want to tackle global warming, but at the same time, they continue to push ahead with new fossil fuel development projects, including several proposed lease sales in Colorado totaling about 115,000 acres.

The oil and gas drilling lease sales include lands bordering Dinosaur National Monument, as well as in the North Fork Valley, near Paonia, and conservation activists are not happy about the new trend of leasing in areas valued for recreation and agricultural uses.

“Helen Hankins has forgotten the purpose of her office,” said Ellynne Bannon, Checks and Balances Project spokesperson. “She continually puts oil and gas company interests ahead of the public she represents. Hankins’ leasing plan will leave the North Fork communities and businesses impacted by these leases out in the cold. ” Continue reading

Colorado: More time to comment on White River National Forest draft oil and gas drilling plan

A map from the draft EIS shows areas with surface-use stipulations in one of the plan’s alternatives. Courtesy White River National Forest.

Agency will take input through Nov. 30

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado citizens and other stakeholders will have an extra 30 days to comment on the new draft oil and gas leasing plan for the White River National Forest. Released in late August, the draft plan cuts some areas for energy development and sets protective stipulations in other areas.

The energy industry sees the plan as overly restrictive, while conservation advocates say it still leaves too many areas open for drilling. The extended comment period runs through Nov. 30. Continue reading

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