As part of a broad investigation into the practice of pressurized injection of water, sand, and chemicals to extract natural gas from shale, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held several public hearings this week in Binghamton, New York. Hydraulic fracturing operates by the pressure of the injected materials exceeding the rock strength and the fluid then opening or enlarging fractures in the rock. As the formation is fractured, a “propping agent,” such as sand or ceramic beads, is pumped into the fractures to keep them from closing as the pumping pressure is released.
On August 25, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the nation’s largest coastal “No Discharge Zone,” covering California’s entire 1,624 miles of coastline. Pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act, states may request EPA to establish vessel no-discharge zones to protect and restore water quality. Non-sewage discharge from vessels is regulated under state law. Acting pursuant to California’s Clean Coast Act of 2005, the State Water Resources Control Board requested EPA to adopt the protective zone.
Bringing to mind the old adage “canary in a coalmine,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week its innovative water quality software aptly named “Canary.” Developed by EPA scientists in collaboration with the Department of Energy (DOE), the Canary software can help detect chemical and biological contaminants including pesticides, metals and pathogens in drinking water.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the entire 51-mile, concrete lined Los Angeles River a “traditional navigable water,” under the Clean Water Act on Wednesday. Although it may be hard to picture the Los Angeles River as a navigable waterway on par with the mighty Mississippi, EPA made the designation based “on a myriad of factors including the river’s current and historical navigation by water craft, current commercial and recreation uses, and established local plans for restoration of the river.” The designation clarifies the Los Angeles River’s legal status
under the Clean Water Act and strengthens the protection to the small streams and wetlands that make up the 834-square mile Los Angeles River watershed. It also helps ensure the health and safety of those who use the river. While many Angelenos have reason to applaud this designation, it may make it more costly and difficult to develop along the river because developers will have to comply with the Clean Water Act.
In the wake of the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, three coastal Senators have introduced legislation entitled the “Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act.” The bill was introduced on May 3, 2010 by Senators Robert Menendez (D – NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D – NJ), and Bill Nelson (D – FL).
Under the current law, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, liability for economic damages, such as lost business revenues from fishing and tourism, resulting from an oil spill is capped at $75 million, although unlimited damages are available in certain situations, such as a finding that the operator was grossly negligent or violated federal laws or regulations. Once that cap is reached, claimants can seek reimbursement from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which was created through a tax on produced and imported oil.