Texas Town Opposes BLM's Plan to Frack Public Lands
The mayor of Brenham signed Monday the city council's unanimous resolution opposing the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) plans to auction lands beneath and around Lake Somerville for oil and gas development. The resolution cited concerns that loss or contamination of the lake's water supply would be "catastrophic" for its residents. Lake Somerville is the city's sole drinking water source.
A federal lease auction for oil and gas deposits beneath and around Lake Somerville and Choke Canyon Reservoir—a water supply for Corpus Christi—is scheduled for June 8. Lake Somerville lies along the northeastern end of the oil-rich Eagle Ford Shale Play. In recent years advances fracking techniques have made these oil deposits accessible to oil and gas operators and have sparked an oil and gas boom in Texas.
"We applaud Brenham for taking a stand against this dangerous fracking plan. Fracking beneath or near Lake Somerville could have disastrous consequences for communities that depend on this precious water supply, including Brenham, Somerville and Lyons," said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Conservation groups and the city of Corpus Christi filed formal protests in February challenging the lease auction, raising concerns about spills, water contamination and earthquakes that could jeopardize dam integrity.
"Somerville Lake is an important water source for the city of Brenham," said Rita Beving of Clean Water Action. "It is important that city leaders like those of Brenham step in to do all they can to protect the water quality and the infrastructure of their reservoir."
Brenham city officials also plan to send a letter to the BLM opposing the lease auction, although the deadline for filing a formal protest has passed. City officials at the council meeting expressed concerns that it did not receive adequate notice of the lease auction. The BLM only posted notice of the lease sale on the agency's New Mexico state office website.
Records obtained recently by the Center for Biological Diversity through a Freedom of Information Act request to the federal Bureau of Reclamation show that in 2012, two "plugged" oil wells beneath Choke Canyon Reservoir were found by agency staff to be leaking into the reservoir. Records obtained thus far do not indicate the amount or type of pollution that resulted from the leaks or whether those leaks are ongoing.
By Catherine Collentine
This week, a federal court ruled that the Obama administration over-penalized Exxon for dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of a pollutant onto the streets of Mayflower and threw out a number of safety violations levied against Exxon on the basis that the company met its legal obligations to consider the risks associated with the pipeline.
Ever since the dangerous consequences of natural gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing—popularly known as "fracking"—entered the national consciousness, the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania has arguably been "ground zero" for water contamination caused by the controversial practice.
Now Cabot Oil & Gas, the massive energy company responsible for numerous fracking wells near Dimock, is suing one of the town's residents for $5 million, claiming that his efforts to "attract media attention" to the pollution of his water well have "harmed" the company. According to the lawsuit, Dimock resident Ray Kemble's actions breached an earlier 2012 settlement that was part of an ongoing federal class action lawsuit over the town's water quality. Kemble has stated that Cabot's fracking turned his groundwater "black, like mud, [with] a strong chemical odor."
The incident was detailed in several Facebook posts from Equinac, a Spanish marine wildlife conservation group.
Peaceful activists, including one American, from a Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, have stalled Statoil's oil operations in the Barents Sea off the Norwegian coast. The activists entered the exclusion zone of Statoil's oil rig, Songa Enabler in the Barents Sea with kayaks and inflatable boats, while swimmers protested in the water with banners.
The activists plan to sustain the peaceful protest to stall Statoil's oil drilling as long as possible to send a message that the Norwegian government is failing its commitments to Norway's constitution and the Paris agreement. They are also displaying a constructed giant globe in front of the rig with written statements to the government.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced Wednesday that it has rescinded the 2011 "Water Bottle Ban" that allowed parks to prohibit the sale of disposable plastic water bottles. That same day, news emerged that the Trump administration removed a nine-slot Capital Bikeshare station at the White House that was requested and installed during the Obama years and used by staffers.
By Carey Gillam
Newly released government email communications show a persistent effort by multiple officials within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to slow a separate federal agency's safety review of Monsanto's top-selling herbicide. Notably, the records demonstrate that the EPA efforts came at the behest of Monsanto, and that EPA officials were helpful enough to keep the chemical giant updated on their progress.
The communications, most of which were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, show that it was early 2015 when the EPA and Monsanto began working in concert to stall a toxicology review that a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was conducting on glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's branded Roundup herbicide products. The details revealed in the documents come as Monsanto is defending itself against allegations that it has tried to cover up evidence of harm with its herbicides.
Hundreds of Pacific walruses have hauled out of Arctic waters near Alaska's Point Lay due to declining sea ice levels, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday. It's the earliest haul out the agency has ever seen, and scientists fear a repeat of stampedes that have killed hundreds of walruses in recent years.
Loss of sea ice from climate change is a major reason why the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the federal government to protect Pacific walruses under the Endangered Species Act. A final listing decision from Fish and Wildlife is expected within the next month.
By Kari Lydersen
Four years ago, the Illinois legislature passed a law to regulate high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after months of contentious negotiations between oil industry interests, environmental watchdogs and community groups.
Leading up to the law's passage, companies had secured hundreds of leases to potentially frack in Southern Illinois.