Center for Biologic Diversity: Keep Fracking Out of Florida

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Keep Fracking Out of Florida
Water drinkers against fracking

House Bills 71 and 157 may seem benign at first glance; they call for the creation of an online registry for fracking in Florida. But if these bills pass, they will pave the way for drillers to come to the Sunshine State, frack our fragile subsurface lands, and expose our productive ecosystems to toxic chemicals.

The bills permit the use of the discredited as the state’s official registry, and they expressly prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection from requiring the disclosure of chemical compositions or concentrations. The bills also provide an exemption from public records requirements and allow drillers to report their activities two months after fracking begins.

Help protect Florida’s incredible natural resources — our water, forests, wetlands and wildlife. And help keep our skies clear of the methane this practice would produce.

Act now to tell Governor Rick Scott and your legislators to vote no on H.B. 71 and H.B. 157 and keep fracking out of Florida.

UC Berkeley Law-Legal-planet: Offshore Fracking Battles Brewing in the Golden State–Increased attention to fracking off the California Coast; what our state agencies can do about it
University of California Berkeley School of Law | Energy | Oceans | Regulation | Water
Jayni Hein February 4, 2014

As prior blog posts and reports have detailed, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has been occurring onshore in California for decades, yet without full disclosure to the public or state regulatory agencies. Recently, new reports of offshore fracking in both California and federal waters have surfaced, showing that fracking has also been underway off the coast for many years, including in California’s most biologically sensitive areas. Yet, the California Coastal Commission, which is tasked with protecting California’s marine environment, was not notified about new fracking activity within its jurisdiction, and issued no coastal development permits to allow it.

blue whale

The increased public attention to offshore fracking in the state comes in the wake of a series of stories by the Associated Press in 2013 that revealed at least a dozen offshore fracking operations in the Santa Barbara Channel in federal waters, and additional operations in near- shore waters within California jurisdiction.

Perhaps a reaction to the growing attention to offshore development, last month U.S. EPA, Region 9, announced that it will require oil and gas operators engaged in hydraulic fracturing off the southern California coast to disclose any chemicals discharged into the Pacific Ocean. This disclosure requirement is part of a revised National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for offshore oil and gas operations in Southern California.

Risks of Offshore Fracking

Fracking presents risks to the environment, whether on land or offshore. As detailed in our prior Berkeley Law report, fracking
produces hazardous wastewater which must be handled and properly disposed of, poses the risk of well casing failure and spills, and uses precious freshwater resources. Further, fracking injection wells have led to induced seismic events.

Offshore, fracking wastewater is either discharged into the ocean or transported for onshore underground injection. Any well casing failure, spills or blowouts in the ocean will immediately pollute marine waters. Offshore fracking also increases related vessel traffic, with concomitant increases in noise pollution, air pollution, and ship strike mortality for whales and other protected marine mammals.

Much of the recent offshore fracking activity near California has taken place in the Santa Barbara Channel, home to blue, humpback and sperm whales, sea otters, sea turtles, and numerous protected and endangered birds and fish species.

Fracking in California Waters

California, like other states, owns and controls the mineral resources within 3 nautical miles of the coast. The California State Lands Commission halted further leasing of state offshore tracts for new oil and gas development after the disastrous Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. In 1994, the California legislature codified this ban on new leases of state offshore tracts by passing the California Coastal Sanctuary Act. (See Cal. Pub. Resources Code § 6240, et. seq.).

While California has long had a ban on new drilling offshore, this ban does not prohibit drilling from existing or “grandfathered” platforms in state waters. California’s Department of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), which regulates oil and gas development in the state, has approved individual well drilling plans for at least four such “grandfathered” platforms and five oil and gas producing islands in state waters. And it did so apparently without communicating with the Coastal Commission about this activity. As such, the Coastal Commission never had the opportunity to assess the potential harm to coastal waters from these operations.

The California Coastal Commission has authority to review and potentially prevent the permitting of any activities within state
jurisdiction that may harm the California coast. (See Cal. Pub. Resources Code §§ 30001, 30231). The Coastal Commission is tasked with “protect[ting] the ecological balance of the coastal zone and prevent[ing] its deterioration and destruction.” (Id. § 30001). The Coastal Act requires that the Commission issue a coastal development permit for “any development” in the coastal zone. (Id. § 30600). While the Coastal Commission has delegated most permitting authority to local governments, the Coastal Act specifically requires any development on tidelands, submerged lands, public trust lands, or any major energy facility to obtain a coastal development permit directly from the Coastal Commission. (Id. §§ 30519, 30601).

In evaluating permits, the Commission weighs the environmental impacts of the proposed development against the public benefit, and ensures that the proposed development is consistent with the goals of the Coastal Act. (Id. § 30200, et seq.). And on any public trusts lands, the Coastal Commission, as well as the State Lands Commission, must ensure that any development is consistent with the common law public trust doctrine. (See, e.g., National Audubon Society v. Superior Court (1983) 33 Cal.3d 419, 435-437).

While newly-enacted SB 4 ostensibly applies to both onshore and offshore fracking within the State of California, it does not abrogate the Coastal Commission’s responsibility for protecting the coastal zone. The savings clause in SB 4 eliminates this possibility, and sets DOGGR’s new regulations as a floor, not a ceiling. (See Pub. Res. Code § 3160(n)). At minimum, DOGGR should alert the Coastal Commission to any proposed new or expanded fracking within state waters so that the Commission can exercise its duty to protect the coastal zone.

Fracking in Federal Waters

Three miles off the coast, federal jurisdiction begins and state jurisdiction ends. Here, too, there is a history of long-term bans on new leasing for oil and gas development in federal waters off the California coast, dating back to the Santa Barbara oil spill. But, drilling and production have continued on existing leases, and a limited number of new platforms have been constructed in the area since 1969. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”), successor agency to the Minerals Management Service (MMS), regulates offshore oil and gas development and exploration.

There are 23 existing oil and gas development platforms in federal waters off the California coast, many of them in the Santa Barbara Channel. Approximately half of the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge their wastewater, which often includes fracking chemicals, directly to the ocean, according to a California Coastal Commission report. U.S. EPA has issued a general NPDES permit for offshore oil and gas platforms to discharge this wastewater; however, the Coastal Commission has raised concerns about inadequate monitoring and enforcement of compliance with the NPDES permit terms. (See Coastal Commission Staff Regulatory Report, p. 9).

In federal waters, the Coastal Commission can demand that fracking receives proper scrutiny under the Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”) and object to any consistency certifications if it finds that fracking will pose a threat to the California coast or coastal waters. The Coastal Zone Management Act provides that any federal license or permit for activities affecting the coastal zone of a state may not be granted until a state with an approved Coastal Management Plan concurs that the activities authorized by the permit are consistent with the Plan. In California, the CZMA authority is the Coastal Commission. The Commission has approved consistency determinations on for only 13 of the 23 existing platforms—the rest predate establishment of the consistency review process by the state. However, BSEE has approved applications for permits to drill and applications for permits to modify as “minor revisions” to these platforms, potentially circumventing consistency review under California’s Coastal Management Plan.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) has called on the federal government to impose a moratorium on fracking in federal waters off the California coast until a comprehensive study is conducted to determine the impacts on the marine environment and public health– much like the statewide environmental study mandated by SB 4. Capps likely faces an uphill battle in the District, as a similar measure was rejected by the House in late 2013.

calif offshore fracking

Coastal Commission Available Actions

Here in California, the Coastal Commission is holding a follow-up meeting next week to discuss the status of its investigation into offshore fracking. The Commission can take some actions now to protect California’s coast and marine waters by:

* Requiring that oil companies fracking in state waters obtain coastal development permits from the Commission before they are allowed to conduct any operations, including expansion of existing platforms or operations;

* Requiring EPA and BSEE to obtain consistency determinations for all offshore oil and gas fracking activities in federal waters off the California Coast; and

* Issuing guidance to local governments to amend local coastal programs to prevent fracking that threatens coastal waters.

There is also much more that the federal government can do to better regulate offshore fracking. This subject is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I flag this for future research and commentary. The Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara recently released a report on this topic.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: With Review in Hand, Obama Must Now Reject Dirty Pipeline

Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by Common Dreams

McKibben: “The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming.”
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Protestors demonstrated against the Keystone XL pipeline in San Francisco last year. (Photo: Getty Images)The State Department released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Environmental groups and climate activists are saying that given Obama’s promise to judge the project on its climate impacts there is no way—given the review’s contents—he can possibly approve it now.

In a press call following the release of the review, co-founder Bill McKibben said that a close reading of the report shows that the climate impacts it recognizes are undeniable.

“The report concluded that in a scenario where we take climate change seriously and regulate climate pollution, this pipeline will indeed have a ‘significant impact’ on climate change,” said McKibben. “So now we’ll find out if that’s the world Barack Obama and John Kerry want. This report gives President Obama everything he needs in order to block this project. This is the first environmental issue in years to bring Americans into the streets in big numbers, and now they’ll be there in ever greater numbers to make sure the President makes the right call.”

“President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline. Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest. Keystone XL should be rejected.” —Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC

Following reports in the corporate media indicating that the final environmental review gives the go-ahead for the Obama administration to approve the controversial pipeline, environmental groups are calling this wishful thinking that accepts the spin of the fossil fuel industry. According to climate experts, the report actually corresponds to what the scientific evidence has shown all along—that the Keystone XL pipeline is dangerous, carbon intensive, hard to clean up, and the dirtiest fuel on the planet.

“The new review represents an important shift from prior analyses because it no longer tries to claim that Keystone’s impacts will be negligible,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But even so, the environmental consequences are clear as day: oil spills, polluted rivers, and wildlife directly in harm’s way.”

According to the Sierra Club:

“Even though the State Department continues to downplay clear evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to tar sands expansion and significantly worsen carbon pollution, it has, for the first time, acknowledged that the proposed project could accelerate climate change,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “President Obama now has all the information he needs to reject the pipeline. Piping the dirtiest oil on the planet through the heart of America would endanger our farms, our communities, our fresh water and our climate. That is absolutely not in our national interest. Keystone XL should be rejected.”

“Keystone XL will transport nearly a million barrels of highly toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland each and every day for 50 years or more — only to have much of it refined and exported,” said Snape. “Along the way it will crush some of the last habitat for endangered species like the swift fox and whooping crane. It’ll pollute water used by millions of people and emit as many greenhouse gases as 51 coal-fired power plants.”

“The State Department acknowledges there is risk to our water and Keystone XL will increase tarsands production,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska executive director. “TransCanada is fighting for their bottom line, while farmers and ranchers are fighting for their livelihoods and the Ogallala Aquifer which at one point our Governor stood with us to protect. We are in this fight to win and are confident Pres. Obama will make the right decision and deny the permit.”

“The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming,” said McKibben earlier on Friday. “He’s about the only person who hasn’t weighed in on Keystone XL; now we’ll see if he’s good for his word.”

As said in a press statement: “Don’t let the convoluted process fool you. This is President Obama’s decision and his alone–and he has all the information he needs to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The President has already laid out a climate test for Keystone XL, that it can’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. It’s clear that Keystone XL fails that test.”

No final decision from the Obama administration has yet been made. The process now opens up to a 30-day public comment period.

And as the Associated Press reports: “The Environmental Protection Agency and other departments will have 90 days to comment before State makes a recommendation to Obama on whether the project is in the national interest. A final decision by the government is not expected before summer.”

On Twitter, key members of the climate movement were pointing out the fallacies and corporate spin they saw in early reporting on the FEIS by some:

Michael Brune @bruneski

Don’t believe the oil industry’s hype. State Dpt analysis shows tar sands oil is more toxic, more corrosive, & more carbon-intensive. #nokxl
3:22 PM – 31 Jan 2014

Common Dreams: The Guardian Approving Keystone XL Could Be the Biggest Mistake of Obama’s Presidency by Michael Mann
Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by The Guardian

A State Department report fails to take into account the full climate impacts of Keystone XL. Who is Obama protecting?
by Michael Mann


I have made my position on the Keystone XL pipeline quite clear. Approving this hotly debated pipeline would send America down the wrong path. The science tells us now is the time that we should be throwing everything we have into creating a clean 21st century energy economy, not doubling down on the dirty energy that is imperiling our planet.

Now that the State Department has just released a final environmental impact report on Keystone XL, which appears to downplay the threat, and greatly increases the odds that the Obama administration will approve the project, I feel I must weigh in once again.

The simple fact is this: if Keystone XL is built, it will be easier to exploit fossil fuel reserves large enough to drastically destabilize the climate. A direct pipeline to refineries and global markets makes the business of polluting the atmosphere that much cheaper and easier.

The only truly accurate examination of the pipeline would include a full cost accounting its environmental footprint. It needs to take into account how much energy is consumed in refining and transporting the crude from oil sands. It must acknowledge that the pipeline would lower the cost and raise the convenience of extracting and exporting the incredibly carbon-intensive deposits of gas.

There are two main issues at stake in the Keystone XL decision: path dependency and US leadership. Path dependency is the term use to describe the fact that once a policy is put into place, it then constrains future options to those within that policy framework. More simply, the choices we make now determine what choices we get to make in the future.

A classic example is the “qwerty” keyboard layout. Even though this layout may not be the most efficient, it was the first one, and so it became the standard. New keyboard layouts would have to compete with an established format, meaning consumers would have to adapt to a new system they had no experience with. On the basis solely of legacy, inferior standards or policies remain in place, more or less out of inertia.

So, looking through the lens of path dependency, what does the Keystone XL project look like?

It looks like decades of extracting high-CO2 fuel at a time when we should be winding down such carbon intensive resource exploitation. It looks like decades of oil spills across America’s heartland written off as an acceptable side effect of making money. It looks like decades of continued political lobbying against any CO2-limiting regulations.

If approved and built, it looks like the United State is failing to take climate change seriously by virtually guaranteeing the massive Canadian oil sands reserved are exploited. That, I’m afraid, is the real threat of Keystone XL – the loss of US status as a global leader.

As the world looks to 2015 for the establishment of legally binding emissions targets, it is looking to the US for inspiration and leadership. While opponents of carbon regulations routinely point to China and India as an excuse for further inaction, the US is still the dominant force in world politics. If Obama puts his foot down and tells us the pipeline will not be built, he will be telling the world that the United States is committed to a future powered by clean renewable energy. For better or for worse, as the US goes so goes the planet.

If the United States takes the climatologically necessary step of preventing the Keystone pipeline, it sends a message more powerful than any protest, watered down regulation or rosy proclamation. It says that business as usual is no longer an option. It says carbon pollution is a serious problem. It says that we will no longer be held hostage by ideologues demanding, “More fossil fuels, or the economy gets it!”

Protecting our planet from Keystone XL would protect US standing on the global stage, and by reassuring all nations that the United States takes climate change seriously, it would protect international negotiations from devolving into a finger pointing, blame shifting debacle. Protecting us from Keystone XL would protect us from decades of continued foreign influence on US energy policy. Protecting us from Keystone XL would protect US land from oil spills and leaks.

Most importantly, protecting us from Keystone XL would protect our atmosphere from one of the most carbon-intensive fuels ever discovered.

If the president won’t protect us, who is he protecting?
© 2014 Guardian News and Media
Michael Mann

Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University. He was recognised with other Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change authors for their contribution to the IPCC’s 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Follow him @MichaelEMann

Common Dreams & Center for Biologic Diversity: Obama Administration Pushes Disastrous Keystone XL Closer to Approval

January 31, 2014
5:21 PM

CONTACT: Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351

In a Shift, New State Department Review No Longer Attempts to Say Keystone Impacts Would be ‘Negligible’

WASHINGTON – January 31 – The controversial Keystone XL pipeline — a project that will worsen the climate crisis and threaten wildlife and waterways along its route — moved a step closer to approval today with the State Department’s release of a final environmental review.

“Keystone XL is a turning point for President Obama in deciding whether he’s embracing the climate-killing fossil fuels of the past or sane energy sources for the future,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oil companies may love this pipeline, but it’s a disaster in the making for our climate and for the wildlife in its path.”

Unlike prior reviews of the pipeline, the new State Department review does not attempt to claim that the environmental impacts would be minimal.

“The new review represents an important shift from prior analyses because it no longer tries to claim that Keystone’s impacts will be negligible,” Snape said. “But even so, the environmental consequences are clear as day: oil spills, polluted rivers, and wildlife directly in harm’s way.”

Last June President Obama warned of the dangers of climate change and said Keystone would only be in the national interest if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The State Department and independent experts have already determined that Keystone XL will vastly increase tar sands development in Alberta, Canada. Acclaimed climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has said Keystone would be “game over” for avoiding catastrophic climate change.

“Keystone XL will transport nearly a million barrels of highly toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland each and every day for 50 years or more — only to have much of it refined and exported,” said Snape. “Along the way it will crush some of the last habitat for endangered species like the swift fox and whooping crane. It’ll pollute water used by millions of people and emit as many greenhouse gases as 51 coal-fired power plants.”

Last year the Center released a report on the risks posed to endangered species by Keystone XL. The Center also released a video highlighting the dangers of oil pipelines — a key point given the State Department’s estimate that the 1,700 Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline will spill at least 100 times during its lifetime.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

State of the Union leaves Obama’s environmental policy in a haze by Peter Moskowitz

by Peter Moskowitz @PeterMoskowitz January 29, 2014 1:42AM ET

Environmental groups say Obama missed an opportunity to lay out a new climate change action plan

Barack Obama speaks in 2012 at Sempra U.S. Gas & Power’s Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility in Nevada, the largest photovoltaic solar plant in the United States.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While President Barack Obama has delivered the strongest rhetoric of any sitting president on the urgent need for action on climate change, his actual environmental record is mixed. So when Obama delivered his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, environmental groups waited eagerly for clues about what may lie ahead for energy and the environment in the president’s last years in office.

But, according to many environmental leaders, Tuesday’s speech didn’t clear up much. Obama mentioned climate change and forcefully called for energy independence, but much of the environmental section of his speech was dedicated his “all-of-the-above” strategy, which includes big increases to one of the most controversial sources of alternative energy, natural gas.

Perhaps more telling of the Obama administration’s future energy policy is what he didn’t say. Out of the nearly 7,000 words contained in the president’s prepared speech, climate and energy accounted for under 500. And unlike in previous State of the Union speeches, the president’s talking points left out specifics about programs that could combat climate change. “He reiterated the things he was already planning to do,” said Shelley Welton, the deputy director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “But I didn’t see anything new.”

Leaders of some environmental groups say they’re most disappointed that the environmental section of Obama’s speech was largely dedicated to drilling for natural gas. Green groups say the process, often called fracking, pollutes air and land, and can have adverse health consequencesfor those who live near drilling sites.

But Obama seemed unwavering in his commitment to increase investment and streamline regulation for natural gas.
“If extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution,” he said. “Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built.”

That left some environmentalists disappointed. “You can’t have regulations on carbon pollution and then advocate for an ‘all-the-above’ carbon policy that includes natural gas,” said Eric Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “The rhetoric of the speech didn’t live up to the seriousness of the issue.”

Others were more disappointed with what Obama seemed to leave out. In past State of the Union speeches, Obama outlined specific energy goals and policy initiatives. Last June, Obama gave a speech in which he directed the Environmental Protection Agency to make sweeping changes to how it regulates the building of new power plants. The changes would severely limit the amount of carbon dioxide a new plant can produce, making it much harder to construct new coal plants in particular. This coming June, the Environmental Protection Agency will also release new regulations for existing power plants.

Obama did mentioned solar energy in this year’s speech, but he didn’t say specifically how his administration would support the development of the solar industry. “We want to see some real leadership, but instead we saw the president fully embrace fracking and really put forward no new programs,”said Jamie Henn, co-founder of “The rhetoric on climate change was good, but the actual policy wasn’t there.” With no specifics outlined in the State of the Union, many environmental groups have been left pondering what comes next for the president and the environment.

Obama has a slew of decisions to make before 2016 that will impact the environment. Perhaps most controversial are the pending application for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver hundreds of thousands of gallons of highly polluting bitumen sands from Canada to the United States daily, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement currently being negotiated without public input, which environmentalists say could incentivize more fossil fuel energy.
Those didn’t get a mention in the State of the Union speech, but some leaders of environmental groups were just happy Obama mentioned energy and climate issues at all. That, they say, is a big step forward from previous presidents.
“It’s so important that the president recognize the climate challenge, and the president really does have a good record on climate change action,” said Abigail Dillen, the vice president of litigation at EarthJustice, a public interest law organization.

But most seemed to feel that Obama missed an opportunity to say more on the environment and push harder for curbing climate change. “If you want to bend history in one direction, you need to pick a side and put your all into it,” Greenpeace’s executive director Phil Radford said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the president continues to stand right in the middle.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Pipeline Protesters Urge Obama: ‘Be A Climate Champion’ Ahead of the State of the Union, protesters call on President Obama to use address to “reject KXL”

Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer


Environmental groups paraded a giant inflatable pipeline around the Capitol building Tuesday ahead of the State of the Union address. (photo: @erichpica/ Twitter)Green groups are calling on President Obama to make a choice: ‘Be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president.’

Parading a 100-yard inflatable pipeline outside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday afternoon, demonstrators are hoping to grab the president’s attention ahead of the annual State of the Union address.

Organized by groups including and Friends of the Earth, the demonstration is calling on Obama to renew the pledge he made last year when he said he would not approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline if it is found to “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution.

“President Obama needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as a climate champion or the pipeline president. He can’t have it both ways,” said Jason Kowalski, Policy Director for

He has “all the information he needs to reject Keystone XL and he should do so in the State of the Union,” the groups added in a statement ahead of the action.

The demonstration comes within days of the anticipated release of the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the project, which Obama previously said he would look to for guidance on whether to permit the pipeline or not.

“Despite shoddy analysis by industry contractors working for the State Department, there is no doubt that approving Keystone XL would have a dramatic impact on the climate and should be rejected immediately by President Obama as not serving the national interest,” the groups continued, referencing a previously released draft of the SEIS which was condemned by both scientists and green groups as “deeply flawed.”

“The State of the Union would be an excellent time to reject the project and embrace a clean energy future,” they add.

Last week, the lesser known southern leg of the Keystone XL began operating, carrying tar sands from its northern terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

Whether or not the Keystone XL is approved, the enormous upswell in opposition to the project has “changed American environmental politics,” according to a piece published Friday in the New York Times.

Times reporter Sarah Wheaton writes:

Although some critics say the environmental movement has made a strategic error by focusing so much energy on the pipeline, no one disputes that the issue has helped a new breed of environmental organizations build a mostly young army eager to donate money and time. The seven-year-old email list of, an organization that focuses on climate change, has more than doubled to 530,000 people since the group began fighting the pipeline in August 2011. In addition, about 76,000 people have signed a “pledge of resistance” sponsored by seven liberal advocacy groups in which they promise to risk arrest in civil disobedience if a State Department analysis, expected this year, points toward approval of the pipeline.

“I remember when I heard the call for civil disobedience, I thought, ‘Yeah, right, you’ll get like 40 people to show up,’ ” Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth, told the Times. “‘And then, bam!’ Over a two-week period, about 1,200 people were arrested at the White House.”

During Tuesday’s demonstration, founder Bill McKibben reiterated the power of the KXL opposition:
✔ @billmckibben

Giant pipeline currently circling White House, a reminder before tonite’s SOTU of what’s brought environmentalists into the streets
12:14 PM – 28 Jan 2014

Common Dreams: Communities Resist as Tar Sands Flow Through KXL South

Published on Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Sacrificing the health of the people and planet, 590,000 additional barrels of oil will now flow to refineries on the Gulf
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Activists in Portland, Maine showing solidarity with communities along the pipeline by locking themselves to TD bank. (Photo: Meaghan LaSala)Tar sands oil began flowing through the the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday as operations commenced delivering the “the dirtiest fuel on Earth” to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The southern leg—the lesser known half of Transcanada’s pipeline—originates in Cushing, Oklahoma and passes through countless communities in Oklahoma and East Texas before arriving at refineries and shipping ports along the coast.

“We are the story that isn’t often told,” East Texas resident Maya Lemon said in a statement circulated by the group NacSTOP (Nacogdoches County Stop Tar Sands Oil Permanently), “the story where Obama’s decision to delay on KXL north was paired with an endorsement to fast track KXL south.”

While opposition to the project has lacked the national attention given to protests against the northern section, local activists and community members on the front lines of the pipeline have long-fought the project and the eminent domain laws that bullied it through.

“We are dissatisfied with the process that allows this pipeline to begin operation, we are frustrated that landowner rights and issues related to eminent domain have never been fully resolved, and we are concerned that our communiies are not prepared to respond safely from this pipeline,” NacSTOP writes in a letter calling for solidarity action nationwide.

Answering that call, two activists in Portland, Maine were arrested for protesting in solidarity with the communities along the pipeline route Wednesday by locking themselves to the front door of a TD Bank, one of the biggest investors in the pipeline.

The activists, both with the group Maine Trans and/or Women’s Action Team, braved 15 degree weather hoping to draw attention to the 590,000 additional barrels of oil that will now flow to refineries located in largely minority communities in Manchester, Texas.

“Climate change’s origin is deeply rooted in this practice of sacrificing of communities that are deemed dispensable,” Betsy Catlin, one of the protesters locked to TD Bank, told Common Dreams.

“It comes as no surprise that these are mostly low-income, communities of color: majority Latina/o on the East End of Houston and majroity African-American in Port Arthur,” said life-long Houston resident and community activist, María Jiménez, who added that these communities “are living examples of environmental racism.”

According to a recent comparitive health study, children raised amid refineries in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood are already 56% more likely to contract childhood leukemia, says Yudith Nieto, an organizer with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS).

“[R]efining tar sands will only increase that percentage while the refineries keep up their blatant disregard for the lives of those of us forced by circumstance to breathe their dangerous emissions on a daily basis,” she added.

Fully operational, the 486-mile southern pipeline will transport 830,000 barrels of crude per day between vast underground storage tanks in Cushing, Okla., and the Gulf Coast, the Dallas Morning News reports. Other pipelines and rail services feed into it from the north.

National environmental groups responded to the news with despair, both for the communities along the pipeline route as well as for what the moment spells for the priorities of American politicians and their approval of the northern half.

“Expediting KXL south was not the mark of a president who really ‘gets’ climate change,” said leading climate activist and founder of Bill McKibben, who later tweeted:

“Tar sands is more corrosive, more toxic, and more difficult to clean up than conventional crude. Coupled with lax oversight and TransCanada’s dismal safety record, this pipeline spells bad news for farmers and families whose land, health, and safety were forfeited so that oil companies can reach export markets with their deadly product,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in a statement.

“We hope from this point on that unity is the clarion call for the climate movement,” lamented Juan Parras, founder of TEJAS.

“Environmental Justice communities, private property owners, residents living in proximity to the pipeline, and all those up and downstream – we’re are all affected here in the same struggle: to permanently stop the most ecologically devastating mining operations in the world and address the ongoing injustices of petrochemical refining,” he added.

Speaking with residents along the pipeline route, Al Jazeera produced this report on the impact of the southern leg

Common Dreams: Message to World Elites: Don’t Bet on Coal and Oil Growth
Published on Friday, January 24, 2014 by Davos 2014

by Kumi Naidoo
A coal power plant is reflected in a puddle. (Photo: REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)A mind-boggling sum of about US$ 800 for each person on the planet is invested into fossil fuel companies through the global capital markets alone. That’s roughly 10% of the total capital invested in listed companies. The amount of money invested into the 200 biggest fossil fuel companies through financial markets is estimated at US$ 5.5 trillion.

By keeping their money in coal and oil companies, investors are betting a vast amount of wealth, including the pensions and savings of millions of people, on high future demand for dirty fuels. The investment has enabled fossil fuel companies to massively raise their spending on expanding extractable reserves, with oil and gas companies alone (state-owned ones included) spending the combined GDP of Netherlands and Belgium a year, in belief that there will be ongoing demand for dirty fuel.

This assumption is being challenged by recent developments, which is good news for climate but bad news for anyone who thought investing in fossil fuel industries was a safe bet. Frantic growth in coal consumption seems to be coming to an end much sooner than predicted just a few years ago, with China’s aggressive clean air policies, rapidly dropping coal consumption in the US and upcoming closures of many coal plants in Europe. At the same time the oil industry is also facing slowing demand growth, and the financial and share performance of oil majors is disappointing for shareholders.

Nevertheless, even faced with weakening demand prospects, outdated investment patterns are driving fossil fuel companies to waste trillions of dollars in developing reserves and infrastructure that will be stranded as the world moves beyond 20th century energy.

A good example is coal export developments. The large recent investment in coal export capacity in all key exporter countries was based on the assumption of unlimited growth of Chinese demand. When public outrage over air pollution reached a new level in 2012-2013, the Chinese leadership moved swiftly to mandate absolute reductions in coal consumption, and banned new coal-fired power plants in key economic regions. A growing chorus of financial analysts is now projecting a peak in Chinese coal demand soon, which seemed unimaginable only a couple of years ago. This new reality has already reduced market capitalization of export-focused coal companies. Even in China itself, investment in coal-fired power plants has now outpaced demand growth, leading to drops in capacity utilization.

Another example of potentially stranded assets is found in Europe, where large utilities ignored the writing on the wall about EU moves to price carbon and boost renewable energy. Betting on old business models and the fossil-fuel generation, they built a huge 80 gigawatts of new fossil power generation capacity in the past 10 years, much of which is already generating losses and now risk becoming stranded assets.

Arctic oil drilling is possibly the ultimate example of fossil companies’ unfounded confidence in high future demand. Any significant production and revenue is unlikely until 2030 and in the meantime, Arctic drilling faces high and uncertain costs, extremely demanding and risky operations, as well as the prospect of heavy regulation and liabilities when (not if) the first major blowout happens in the region. No wonder the International Energy Agency is sceptical about Arctic oil, assuming hardly any production in the next 20 years.

Those investing in coal and oil have perhaps felt secure seeing the global climate negotiations proceed at a disappointing pace. However, the initial carbon crunch is being delivered by increasingly market-driven renewable energy development, and by national-level clean energy and energy efficiency policies – such as renewable energy support schemes and emission regulation in Europe, or clean air policies in the US and in China. Global coal demand, and possibly even oil demand, could peak even before a strong climate treaty is agreed.

Investors often underestimate their exposure to fossil fuels, particularly indirect exposure through, for example, passively managed pension funds and sovereign debt of strongly fossil fuel dependent states. Assessing exposure, requiring fossil energy companies to disclose and reduce carbon risks, and reducing investments in sunset energy technologies will lead to profitable investment in a world that moves to cleaner and smarter energy systems.

Politico: A Big Fracking Lie President Obama isn’t just not fixing climate change – he’s making it worse

If you want to know just how bad an idea it is for America to ship “fracked” natural gas to overseas markets, travel the 65 miles from the White House to a place called Cove Point in southern Maryland.
There, right on the Chesapeake Bay, the Obama administration wants to give fast-track approval to a $3.8 billion facility (12 times the cost of the NFL Ravens stadium) to liquefy gas from all across Appalachia. The new plant, proposed by Virginia-based Dominion Resources, would somehow be built right between a coveted state park and a stretch of sleepy beach communities, with a smattering of Little League baseball fields just down the road. Along the Chesapeake itself, endangered tiger beetles cling to the shore while Maryland “watermen” hunt crabs and oysters in age-old fashion.

Right here, Dominion wants build a utility-scale power plant (130 megawatts) just to power the enormous “liquefaction” process for the fracked gas. The company will then build an industrial-scale compressor, a massive refrigeration system and an adjacent, surreal six-story-tall “sound wall” to protect humans and wildlife from the thunderous noise. The facility as a whole would chill the gas-extracted from fracking wells as far away as New York-to 260 degrees below zero so it can be poured onto huge tankers (with Coast Guard escort due to terrorism risks) and then shipped more than 6,000 miles to India and Japan.

Sound good yet? There’s more: The Cove Point plant in Maryland is just one of more than 20 such “liquefaction” plants now proposed-but not yet built-for coastal areas nationwide. They are intended, as an emerging facet of U.S. energy policy, to double down on the highly controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling boom across the country. But like the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil and the proposed export of dirty-burning coal through new terminals in the Pacific Northwest, this liquefied gas plan is bad in almost every way.

Simply put, this gas needs to stay in the ground. If it’s dug up and exported, it will directly harm just about everyone in the U.S. economy while simultaneously making global warming worse. How much worse? Imagine adding the equivalent of more than 100 coal plants to U.S. pollution output or putting 78 million more cars on our roads. Yes, supporters say, but this gas would be replacing a lot of coal use overseas. And they’d be right. The only problem is we’d be replacing that coal with aggregate “life-cycle” emissions from gas that are almost certainly worse than coal, creating new net damage for the global atmosphere (more on this later).

Ironically, a recent sea-level rise report commissioned by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, reportedly a presidential hopeful, shows that climate change could soon wipe out the peninsula of Cove Point itself. The very point of land next to Dominion’s proposed facility-the whitewashed lighthouse, the country roads and homes and forests-would all drown if the world continues to combust oil, coal and natural gas at current rates, according to the Maryland report.

The “inconvenient truths” on liquefied gas also come-in different forms-from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere. On the economic side, a study commissioned by the DOE last spring found that exporting U.S. gas would raise the fuel’s price here at home. It’s basic supply and demand. More buyers overseas will drive up our domestic price by as much as 27 percent, according to the DOE. And that increase will reduce incomes for virtually every sector of the U.S. economy, from agriculture to manufacturing to services to transportation. No wonder manufacturers like Dow and Alcoa are resisting this emerging U.S. export policy for gas, forming a coalition called “America’s Energy Advantage” to push back.

The DOE found that only one economic sector wins from gas exports. You guessed it: the gas industry! This one special interest wins so big-hundreds of billions in profits-that the DOE now basically argues that it offsets the pain for everyone else, creating a perverse and tiny net bump in the nation’s GDP. If you’re a farmer or wage-earner, too bad. Dominion’s profits at Cove Point are more important than the financial lives of already-struggling average Americans.

The gas export calculations grow even more insane when you factor in climate change. The industry bombards the public with ads saying natural gas is 50 percent cleaner than coal. But the claim is totally false. Gas is cleaner only at the point of combustion. If you calculate the greenhouse gas pollution emitted at every stage of the production process- drilling, piping, compression-it’s essentially just coal by another name. Indeed, the methane (the key ingredient in natural gas) that constantly and inevitably leaks from wells and pipelines is 84 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 over a 20-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Bill McKibben founder of
Mike Tidwell is director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

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Oil and Gas Financial Journal: EPA issues NPDES permits for CA offshore oil and gas operations

January 22, 2014
Michael Weller and Jason Hutt
Bracewell & Giuliani LLP

Region 9 of the US Environmental Protection Agency recently made available the finalized National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit applicable to discharges from oil and gas exploration facilities offshore Southern California. NPDES General Permit No. CAG280000 (2014 NPDES General Permit), issued under provisions of the Clean Water Act, authorizes discharges from exploration, development and production facilities located offshore of Southern California in accordance with specified effluent limitations, monitoring and reporting requirements and various other conditions.

The final 2014 NPDES General Permit includes certain new requirements that EPA indicates were added to address offshore hydraulic fracturing operations, including increases in the monitoring requirements associated with produced water discharges and new inventory and reporting requirements.

While operating offshore, waste streams generated by oil and gas operations are generally either treated and discharged via a NPDES permit or shipped back to shore for disposal. The 2014 NPDES General Permit authorizes discharges from 23 platforms operating offshore Southern California, including discharges of Drilling Fluids and Cuttings, Produced Water, Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids, Bilge Water, and Water Flooding Discharges.

This reissuance of the 2004 NPDES general permit was initially proposed in 2012. During the public comment period, the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), several California legislators and the California Coastal Commission (CCC) expressed interest in hydraulic fracturing operations offshore of California. To address the concerns raised over offshore hydraulic fracturing, EPA changed portions of the final general permit, adding new testing and reporting requirements.

Section 301(a) of the Clean Water Act prohibits point source discharges of pollutants into navigable waters unless in compliance with a permit. To comply with the prohibition on point source discharges, businesses typically obtain CWA Section 402 permits from the state; however, because these operations are offshore, EPA issues the NPDES permits directly. Under the NPDES program, EPA may issue individual permits or general permits. The latter allows the Agency to authorize discharges from a large number of facilities engaged in the same activity. When EPA issues a general permit, a prospective permittee simply submits an application for coverage and then abides by the terms and conditions of the general permit.

Monitoring requirements
NDPES general permits typically contain monitoring requirements. In its response to public comments on the 2014 NDPES General Permit, EPA indicated that it has increased the mandatory Whole Effluent Toxicity or “WET” testing for produced water discharges from an annual to a quarterly requirement. EPA indicated that, because the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations are “commonly commingled and discharged with produced water,” the mandatory tests applicable to produced water will address any concerns over discharges associated with hydraulic fracturing operations.

Inventory/reporting requirements
NPDES permits may also contain inventory and reporting requirements. In the 2004 version of this particular NPDES permit, EPA required that permittees maintain inventories and report drilling fluid constituents added downhole for all discharges of “Drilling Fluids and Cuttings.” In the 2004 version, the mandatory inventory and reporting requirement only applied to mud systems and there was no such requirement for “Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids.”

The 2014 NDPES General Permit includes that same requirement for discharges of “Drilling Fluids and Cuttings.” However, the permittee must also now submit detailed information for discharges of “Well Treatment, Completion and Workover Fluids,” which includes chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Specifically, EPA added Part II.C.3 to the 2014 NPDES General Permit, which requires the permittee to:
1. maintain an inventory of the quantities and application rates of chemicals used to formulate well treatment, completion and workover fluids; and
2. if those fluids are discharged, report to EPA Region 9 the chemical formulation of the discharges and the discharge volume with the operators quarterly discharge monitoring reports.

The disclosures under the 2014 NDPES General Permit are not to the “public” and EPA has indicated that the inventory would be available to EPA where the Agency “deems it necessary to meet the purposes of the CWA. For example, in case of well failure or other accident resulting in an unexpected discharge, EPA may access such inventory in order to immediately assess emergency response needs.” It is not yet clear how the chemical formulations must be reported or to what extent trade secret protections are available.
The public comment period for the 2014 NPDES General Permit closed nearly one year ago on February 4, 2013. The effective date of the permit is March 1, 2014.

Michael Weller is member of the firm’s environmental and natural resources practice in Washington DC.
Jason Hutt is a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC office. He counsels clients on current and upcoming regulatory developments at the nexus of environmental and energy policy, with focused attention on natural gas development, including hydraulic fracturing.
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Greenpeace: Court Decision: Victory for the Arctic, Blow for Shell, Opportunity for President Obama

Media release – January 22, 2014

Greenpeace is welcoming today’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the Department of the Interior violated the law when it opened almost 30 million acres of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling.

The court today concluded the Department’s estimate of one billion barrels of recoverable oil under the frozen Arctic ocean was “chosen arbitrarily” and that the Interior Department “based its decision on inadequate information about the amount of oil to be produced pursuant to the lease sale.”

A coalition of more than fifteen Alaska Native and environmental groups took the case following the George W. Bush administration’s 2008 sale, only to have it struck down in federal court. In 2011, the Obama administration moved it forward again, but the coalition swiftly challenged it through the courts.

Today’s verdict will hamper Shell’s plans in the Arctic, and come just a week after the company issued a profit warning variously described as “disastrous” and “dreadful” in the financial press.

“Shell – one of the world’s largest companies – has so far spent $5 billion dollars on this perilous Arctic folly. As the whole world watched, their bold Arctic expedition in 2012 became a global laughing stock, as giant rigs broke free from their moorings and beached on Alaskan shores, dire storm warnings were ignored, and multiple health, safety and environmental regulations were breached,” says Greenpeace Arctic Campaign Leader Gustavo Ampugnani.

“Drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea poses an enormous risk to the region’s people and wildlife. It locks us into a dangerous and dirty fossil fuel future, and it pushes us far closer to global climate catastrophe and the imminent hazards of extreme weather,” Mr Ampugnani said.

“We applaud the hard work and dedication of the many groups who have pushed this case through the courts, and congratulate them on today’s vindication,” Mr Ampugnani said. “This decision should give President Obama pause to reconsider the dangerous path he’s heading down opening up the precious Arctic to rapacious oil giants. If he wants to live up to his inspiring words on tackling climate change and protecting America’s stunning natural environment for future generations, he should put an end to this dangerous oil rush to the ends of the earth,” Mr Ampugnani says.

The coalition of groups included the Native Village of Point Hope, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society and World Wildlife Fund. Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, represented the groups.

For further comment or information: Keiller MacDuff 202 679 2236
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Groups to Obama: Your Fossil Fuel-Driven Policies Equal ‘Catastrophic Climate Future’

Published on Friday, January 17, 2014
‘America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.’
– Jon Queally, staff writer

While President Obama made a big deal out of delaying the northern half of the Keystone pipeline’s construction, he compensated by signing an executive order to expedite similar infrastructure projects everywhere else. (Photo/Matt Wansley via Flickr)Citing the glaring gaps between his sometimes encouraging rhetoric and the realities of his fossil fuel-laden policies, eighteen environmental, environmental justice, and public health advocacy organizations have written a pointed letter (pdf) to President Obama slamming his “all of the above” energy strategy as a “compromised” approach that “future generations can’t afford.”

The coalition behind the letter—which includes the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, NRDC, the Energy Action Coalition and others—is upset that Obama voices concern about climate change in lofty speeches and with compelling promises even as he oversees the most dramatic push in oil and gas extraction in a generation, continuing an aggressive fossil fuel expansion despite what the climate science is saying about the urgent need to dramatically cut carbon emissions.

“You can’t have it both ways,” said Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune in an interview with the Washington Post, which received advanced notice of the letter that was sent to the White House on Thursday.

“In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

From the letter:

We believe that continued reliance on an “all of the above” energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption. With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

As the Post reports:

The criticism came on the same day that the fossil-fuel industry and its congressional allies began separate efforts to challenge the administration’s environmental policies. That suggests that the White House will have to marshal additional resources to defend the work it is already doing to address climate change.

The American Petroleum Institute announced a new advertising and electoral campaign that will promote domestic oil and gas production. At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked the Government Accountability Office to determine whether the Senate can use the Congressional Review Act to reverse a proposed rule to limit carbon emissions from new power plants.

Though President Obama has yet to make a final decision on approval of the contoversial Keystone XL pipeline, the green groups applauded his previous comments on the project when he said the climate impact of the tar sands pipeline would be a key aspect of the overall determination. The groups want to see that standard now applied to all fossil fuel related projects in the country.

“We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development,” the letter continues, urging Obama to replace his focus on coal, gas, oil, and nuclear development with a new paradigm that champions “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategies.

In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. We urge you to make climate impacts and emission increases critical considerations in each of these decisions.

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Common Dreams TPP: Poison for Local Community Resilience

Published on Wednesday, January 15, 2014
by Richard Heinberg

The trade deal, negotiated in secret, is now trying to receive fact track authority so that it can be rushed through Congress with little say by elected lawmakers. (Image: CD)The past couple of decades of globalization have been a disaster for planetary ecosystems, indigenous peoples, and most middle-class citizens, but a gravy train for big investors, investment bankers, and managers of transnational corporations. This unprecedented expansion of international trade was driven by the convergence of key resources, developments, and inventions: cheap oil, satellite communications, container ships, computerized monitoring of inventories, the flourishing of multinational corporations, the proliferation of liberal trade treaties (including NAFTA), and the emergence of transnational bodies such as the World Trade Organization.

“Want to label GM foods? Sorry, that’s a barrier to trade. Want local schools to buy healthy food from local farmers? Nope, that might violate the rights of Big Ag. Want to protect a forest? Stand aside, you’re in the way of profits.”

Economists said everyone would eventually benefit, but casualties quickly mounted. Inflation-adjusted wages for American workers stagnated. Manufacturing towns throughout the Northeast and Midwest withered. Meanwhile, China began burning immense amounts of coal to make mountains of toys, furniture, clothing, tools, appliances, and consumer electronics, cloaking its cities in a pall of toxic fumes and driving its greenhouse gas emissions to world record-setting levels. In effect, the United States has been importing cheap consumer goods while exporting jobs and polluting industries. In both China and the US, levels of economic inequality have soared.

Now comes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new trade deal negotiated in secret (only corporations get to contribute to, and look at, the draft language). The point of the Treaty: to double down on globalization at precisely the moment in time when the entire enterprise is beginning to fail as a result of stubbornly high oil prices, worsening climate change impacts (floods, droughts, wildfires), debt deflation, and middle-class fears of losing even more ground.

The entire text of (the leaked) TPP is vast—thousands of pages—and it contains little-known provisions that would give companies sweeping powers to sue local governments or entire countries over any law a company deems an impediment to reaping maximum profits. For example, if a city, county, or state were to ban fracking within its jurisdiction, oil companies could overturn the ban and sue for millions of dollars in lost profits. Want to label GM foods? Sorry, that’s a barrier to trade. Want local schools to buy healthy food from local farmers? Nope, that might violate the rights of Big Ag. Want to protect a forest? Stand aside, you’re in the way of profits.

Congress is about to vote on whether to fast-track TPP. If approved, fast tracking would mean an up-or-down vote with no possibility for Representatives or Senators to reject or amend any provision within the Treaty. If fast track fails, the Treaty will immediately bog down in legislative limbo, so this vote effectively seals TPP’s fate. Who’s for fast track? Pro-big-business Republicans and pro-big-business Democrats. Who’s against it? Rabid-right Republicans who want to deny President Obama any legislative achievement whatever, and pro-labor, pro-environment Democrats. The latter groups, contradictory as their interests may otherwise be, just might control enough votes to kill TPP.

For the community resilience movement, a great deal rides on this vote. TPP would grease the tracks leading to ecosystem ruin while frustrating efforts to build sustainable local economies. Educate yourself on the issue (see this fact sheet) and let your congressional representatives know what you think by contacting them here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Richard Heinberg

Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of eleven books, most recently Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future. Previous books include The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, and The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.

Reuters: Former Florida Senator Bob Graham in Cuba for environmental talks

Thu Jan 16, 2014 4:44pm EST

* Talks center on offshore oil drilling
* Embargo supporter favors some cooperation

By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Jan 16 (Reuters) – A former democratic senator and governor from Florida, Bob Graham, visited Cuba this week to discuss oil spill prevention and preparedness during a trip that has caused a stir among exiles and Cuba watchers due to his traditional support for tough sanctions against the Communist-ruled Caribbean island.

Cuba and its partners drilled three exploratory wells off Cuba’s northern coast in recent years that came up dry, but more such wells are expected in the future in search of billions of barrels of oil thought to be below its Gulf of Mexico waters.

Graham’s first ever visit to Cuba follows President Barack Obama’s recent call, while visiting Miami, for “modernizing” relations with Cuba, as well as his famous handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro while attending Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa last month.

The strained relationship between the long-time foes has eased since Obama began his second term in office. Recently, State Department and Cuban officials told Reuters that contacts have been pragmatic and cordial, without the traditional rhetoric from both sides.

The two countries do not have diplomatic relations and Cuba has faced a U.S. embargo for more than half a century.

Graham, 77, told Reuters on Thursday that his visit was consistent with Obama’s policy of “taking on specific areas where there is a common interest and arriving at an approach on how to manage certain issues.”

The former presidential candidate is part of a larger group of environmentalists and disaster experts on a 5-day visit organized by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations to discuss “environmental risks in the Gulf of Mexico related to natural disasters and offshore drilling,” according to a press release issued upon its arrival on Monday.

Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also co-chaired the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling established by Obama after the BP oil spill in the Gulf in 2010. The commission’s other co-chair, William K. Reilly, a former EPA administrator, is also part of the group.

“We became interested in cooperation among Gulf countries doing drilling while on the commission,” Graham said as he and Reilly ate lunch in the restored colonial district of Havana before a meeting with officials from the state oil monopoly.

“We are here to learn as much as we can about things of interest to us, such as safety standards and the capacity to respond to an oil spill,” he said.

The trip has come under fire by supporters of the embargo.

The director of the Cuban-American lobby group, Cuba Democracy Advocates, questioned the visit in an interview with Diario las Americas.

“It is completely illogical and comes close to ridiculous,” Mauricio Claver-Carone said.
Graham said he understood the criticism but was not concerned.

Graham said he still supports sanctions on Cuba, “but I also support a process that will try to move us toward normalization. I don’t think it is going to happen in one strike, but through working on issues of common interest such as offshore oil drilling where a spill could prove disastrous for Florida,” he said.

Graham said that at a reception Wednesday evening, he had talked with foreign ministry officials about human rights and the fate of jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross, sentenced in 2011 to 15 years in prison for setting up Internet links that bypassed local government control as part of a U.S. project Cuba considers subversive.

“We have had conversations over a number of areas, such as the recent migration talks and biotechnology,” Graham said.

“I think there are a series of issues that are not ideological issues, pragmatic issues that are forming the agenda of discussions between the United States and Cuba where both sides will benefit by an intelligent resolution.”

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Newstalk NZ: Anti oil drilling protesters gather in Dunedin & Drilling protestors accused of hypocrisy

Newstalk NZ

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By: Adam Walker, and Sophia Duckor-Jones, | New Zealand News | Sunday January 12 2014 15:52

UPDATED 4:34pm: Diabolical weather conditions haven’t dampened the spirits of anti deep sea oil drilling protesters in Dunedin.
While summer has failed to come to the party, a protest flotilla has gathered at the back beach jetty at Port Chalmers, near the Port of Otago. Heavy rain and strong wind hasn’t stopped hundreds of people turning up to vent their frustrations at the offshore drilling by Shell and Anadarko. The protest flotilla will attempt to spread itself across from Goat Island to Quarantine Island, a channel used by commercial shipping vessels. Oil Free Otago says the strong turn out in the freezing conditions shows Dunedinites don’t want offshore drilling in their backyard.

Shell’s plans to drill offshore in the Great South Basin in December 2016. Oil Free Otago’s Rosemary Penwarden says it’s a dying industry. “There’s a really quite long timeline before we would even get to full production. If it’s gas, 35 years.
“We’re talking quite long term. And we have not got that amount of time.”

Ms Penwarden has a firm message to the oil giants. “I’ve just listened to a day of people telling me that we have a far better future ahead of us if we say no to the likes of Anadarko and Shell down here.”

Meanwhile, a Pro Oil and Gas Otago Facebook page has attracted more than 400 ‘likes,’ in two days.

Photo: Offshore oil rig (Stock.xchng)

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Drilling protestors accused of hypocrisy
By: Emily Murphy, | New Zealand News | Monday January 13 2014 5:04

Related Video
Anti oil drilling protesters gather in Dunedin

UPDATED 6:30am: A Dunedin City Councillor says the city needs to welcome deep sea oil drilling, not fight against it.

Hundreds of people joined in a protest at Port Chalmers yesterday, to vent their frustrations at the offshore drilling by Shell and Anadarko.

But councillor Hilary Calvert says that kind of opposition is hypocritical.

“Until they personally run their own lives without fossil fuels I’m not prepared to consider their position about not extracting fossil fuels.”

MS Calvert says the drilling could create jobs, while giving the city a more diverse economy.

“Our life is about managing risks. Everything that has an upside has a downside and it’s important to manage those risks but living life without risk is not possible.”

Shell plans to drill offshore in the Great South Basin in December 2016.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Naples News: Former U.S. Sen., Fla. Gov. Bob Graham part of Cuba oil drilling mission

Naples News: Former U.S. Sen., Fla. Gov. Bob Graham part of Cuba oil drilling mission
Posted January 11, 2014 at 10:59 p.m.

Former Sen. Bob Graham

Former U.S. Senator and Florida Gov. Bob Graham is part of an American contingent traveling to Cuba on Monday to explore the communist nation’s oil drilling plans.

Graham, the keynote speaker at the Everglades Coalition conference at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club on Saturday evening, said he will be joining about a dozen others, including prominent offshore oil industry experts, for the trip, which is being coordinated by the Council on Foreign Relations.

At least four exploratory wells drilled off Cuba’s northern shore over the last two years have come up dry, but the island nation’s goal is to attain energy self-sufficiency by tapping into the 4.6 billion to 9.3 billion barrels of oil believed to be offshore.

“It’s very important for the nation, and particularly important for Florida that any drilling done in that area be done at a very high standard of safety and with the capability to respond if there is an accident,” Graham said Saturday afternoon, while relaxing at the hotel’s beachfront restaurant.

“The reason for the trip,” he said, “is to talk to the Cubans, try to better understand what their plans are, what their capabilities are, and, frankly, how the international community … can cooperate in a way to ensure that Cuba drills at the highest level of international safety standards.”

Graham was co-chair of the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling established by President Barack Obama after the April 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The commission’s other co-chair, William K. Reilly, a former EPA administrator, is also part of Monday’s trip, Graham said.

The trip is being coordinated by Julia E. Sweig, a senior fellow at the CFR, Graham said. They are expected to return to the U.S. on Friday.

The U.S. has a two-pronged policy on Cuba – an economic embargo and diplomatic isolation. Graham, a supporter of the embargo, said he knows there are those who feel any contact with Cuba is tacit support for the country’s communist regime. But ensuring Cuba’s oil drilling is done safely is in the best interest of the U.S., he said. “The consequences of failure are not going to be on Havana, but are going to be on South Florida. The nature of the currents are going to carry the oil to the northeast and then to the north,” he said.

Graham said he had not seen an itinerary for the trip, and didn’t know exactly who in the Cuban government they will be meeting with. “I’m confident that they’re not sending us down there to meet with people who don’t have some ability to affect the decisions” of the government or private sector, he said.

Conversations about Cuba’s human rights abuses would likely be “sidebar discussions,” said Graham, who said he hoped to experience the flavor of the island during his first trip there. “I went to the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War, and I’ve been in China, a lot of sensitive places,” he said, “and I feel I’m sophisticated enough to know when I might be propagandized.”

During his speech at the Everglades conference, Graham said 2013 was the year that Floridians became aware of how serious the state’s water problems are.

“Now we’re transitioning from awareness to action; what should we be doing about it,” he said.

Included in his prescription: developing a state water plan; restricting activities that lead to pollution, including over-fertilizing lawns; and focusing on water consumption.

Special thanks to Richard Charter.

Washington Examiner: Lawmakers spar over seismic testing for Atlantic Ocean drilling


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, “Increasing evidence suggests…
A long-awaited final federal study on the environmental impact of using seismic guns to search for oil and gas deposits off the Atlantic coast is due at the end of February, signaling future battles between Republicans and Democrats regarding offshore drilling.

The final environmental impact study on using seismic guns to explore for oil and gas from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean energy Management has been five years in the making, and will be used to inform decisions on whether to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore oil and gas drilling.

A seismic gun shoots compressed air into the water and reflects off the seabed to deliver information about whether oil and gas deposits lay beneath. Proponents say it reduces the costs and environmental damage of exploration, while opponents say the shots can deafen marine life, disrupt habitats and lead to eventual death.

While Democrats say the practice disturbs marine life, Republicans say it’s safe, noting that the federal government has never pinned a marine mammal death to seismic guns.
It’s a complicated matter, said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Deputy Director Walter Cruickshank, who noted the environmental study has taken longer than usual.

“There’s a lot of species out there, a lot of ocean to cover, and we’re continuing to learn new things as we conduct this research,” he said during a Friday hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

At its core, though, approval of seismic guns is a discussion of expanding offshore drilling, lawmakers noted at the hearing.

“There’s been a lot of talk about, ‘Let’s explore.’ But talk is cheap. Action is needed,” said Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., who noted the state’s Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Democratic Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe, support offshore drilling.

For now, the Obama administration’s current drilling plan that runs through 2017 blocks energy development in the Atlantic Ocean. Those Atlantic blocks were included in a draft of the president’s first five-year drilling plan, but he revised it following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 workers and spewed 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Drilling supporters say wading into the Atlantic could be lucrative — an American Petroleum Institute report said it would provide 280,000 jobs and add $23.5 billion to the U.S. economy each year between 2017 and 2035.

If the federal government decides to offer oil leases in the Atlantic, it would likely come in the latter half of the next five-year drilling plan that would run through 2022, Cruickshank said.

Many Democrats hope that doesn’t happen.

They warned at the hearing that U.S. laws have not strengthened enough in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident — though Donald Boesch, a marine biologist who worked on a White House-convened independent commission evaluating the response to the spill, said federal regulations and industry have responded well.

Democrats maintained another spill would threaten tourism and fishing industries that support 200,000 jobs and bring in $11.8 billion annually, according to ocean conservation group Oceana.

Seismic testing would pose a risk to those industries too, said Boesch, who is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

“There’s legitimate concerns,” Boesch said. “It’s a matter of legitimate scientific controversy.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that, “Increasing evidence suggests that exposure to intense underwater sound in some settings may cause certain marine mammals to strand and ultimately die.” Oceana, citing federal projections, says seismic testing would injure 138,500 dolphins and whales through 2020.

“We should not be risking our fishing and tourism industries … because the energy companies want to get their hands on a quick oil buck,” said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the subcommittee.

But Republicans and industry say seismic testing has greatly improved since its early use in the 1970s.

They also noted that none of the 60 “unusual mortality events” that killed marine life since 1991 and were documented by a federal working group were the result of seismic testing.

Suggestions of a link between seismic testing and marine mammal deaths “is likely a chimera,” said James Knapp, chairman of the department of earth and ocean sciences at the University of South Carolina.

Enhancements in seismic testing include the advent of 3D imaging, which witnesses credited with reducing environmental damage through curtailing exploration by drilling.

It also has helped shed light on the potentially vast resources available undersea. In the Gulf of Mexico, seismic testing revealed a resource basin five times larger than previously thought, Richie Miller, president of Spectrum Geo Inc., said during the hearing.
“We would expect the same thing just with this new technology off the East Coast,” he said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Fracking Protest at Salinas, CA hearing

see video at:

Salinas, California

Organizers hold fracking protest in Salinas
UPDATED 12:00 AM PST Jan 09, 2014

The debate over the controversial practice of fracking continued Wednesday night in Salinas at the National Steinbeck Center.

SALINAS, Calif. -The debate over the practice of fracking continued in Monterey County on Wednesday.

The debate over the controversial practice of fracking continued Wednesday night in Salinas at the National Steinbeck Center.

People against the practice held a protest outside the National Steinbeck Center while officials held a public comment session inside.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers by injecting highly pressurized liquid into the rock.
VIDEO: Fracking protest at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas

Representatives from the Department of Conservation listened to anyone who wanted to speak. Several consumer advocacy groups were on hand, including Food and Water Watch.

“Four to 7 million gallons of water on average is what’s used, and that’s water that is permanently damaged and not returned to the water cycle, and we’re in the midst of a drought,” said Tia Lebherz, the Northern California organizer for Food and Water Watch.

Dave Quast, the California Director of Energy in Depth, disagrees. “There are a number of differences in California, and a big one is we use significantly less water than back East. And in a state where water is a big concern, that’s important,” Quast said. Quast said fracking would use 116,000 gallons per one process.

The public comment session did not allow for a question and answer session, but representatives said the comments would be added to the rulemaking record.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

EPA Will Require Offshore Frackers to Report Chemicals Discharged Into Pacific

by Center for Biological Diversity, January 9, 2014, ecowatch

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today established a new requirement for oil and gas operations off the Southern California coast to publicly report chemicals dumped directly into the ocean from offshore fracking operations. The notice, formally published today, announces the changes as part of a new permit for water pollution discharges from offshore oil and gas operations in federal waters off California. The reporting requirement will become effective March 1.

The EPA revised the offshore oil and gas wastewater discharge permit to require reporting of the chemicals of any fracking fluids discharged into the ocean.

“Requiring oil companies to report the toxic fracking chemicals they’re dumping into California’s fragile ocean ecosystem is a good step, but the federal government must go further and halt this incredibly dangerous practice,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Banning fracking in California’s coastal waters is the best way to protect the whales and other wildlife, as well as surfers and coastal communities. It’s outrageous that the EPA plans to continue allowing fracking pollution to endanger our ocean.”

In response to the controversy generated by recent reports of fracking of oil and gas wells along the California coast, the EPA revised the offshore oil and gas discharge permit to require reporting of the chemical formulations of any fracking fluids discharged by oil companies.

Approximately half the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge all or a portion of their wastewater directly to the ocean, according to a California Coastal Commission document. This produced wastewater contains all of the chemicals injected originally into the fracked wells, with the addition of toxins gathered from the subsurface environment.

Oil companies have fracked offshore wells more than 200 times in recent years in the state and federal waters off California’s coast. A recent Center of Biological Diversity analysis of 12 frack jobs in state waters found that at least one-third of chemicals used in these fracking operations are suspected ecological hazards. Drawing on data disclosed by oil companies, the analysis also found that more than one-third of these chemicals are suspected of affecting human developmental and nervous systems.

“The EPA’s new reporting requirements underscore how little is known about offshore fracking,” Sakashita said. “This risky practice has gone essentially unregulated.”

“Until recently, no one even knew that our oceans were being fracked,” Sakashita continued. “To protect our coast, we need to stop this dangerous practice in its tracks”

Tell Gov. Brown and the California Department of Conservation to Ban Fracking in California.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Orange County Register: NEWS Fracking foes sound off at hearing & Bellingham Herald: Fracking moratorium urged by California lawmakers

California’s fracking hearings continue this week after yesterday’s Sacramento hearing overflowed it’s hearing room and had to be relocated to larger chambers….BAKERSFIELD — January 8, Kern County Administrative Center, first floor board chambers, 1115 Truxtun Avenue, 3-7 p.m.; SALINAS — January 8, National Steinbeck Center, One Main Street, 3-7 p.m.; SANTA MARIA — January 13, Santa Barbara County supervisors hearing room, 511 East Lakeside Parkway, 3-7 p.m.; for more information, see:


Orange County Register

Fracking foes sound off at hearing

A man holds a sign to protest against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, outside the California State University, Long Beach Auditorium where a public hearing to receive comment was scheduled by the Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources at California State University, Long Beach on Monday.

Published: Jan. 6, 2014 Updated: 8:35 p.m.
Environmentalists and activists pleaded Monday for state officials to protect California’s air, land and water from the fires of fracking at a public hearing to take comments about proposed statewide rules governing the controversial drilling method.

About 30 activists rallied before Monday’s hearing, denouncing the oil and gas industry, criticizing state officials and agencies and repeating one message: ban fracking. Now.
“We’re the majority. We want fracking banned and 2014 is going to be our year,” said Alex Nagy, a Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch, an environmental group that organized the pre-meeting rally.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling process where a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals is injected into the rock deep beneath the earth’s crust to open wide fissures that allow for the extraction of oil and natural gas.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 4, which tasked the Department of Conservation, and more specifically the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, with crafting rules regulating fracking in California. Those interim rules took effect Jan. 1. Permanent rules – ones the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is taking comment on now – will take effect in 2015.

Though more than 100 people showed up Monday, there was scant support for fracking, or the proposed regulations. Activists from environmental organizations laid out a litany of specific changes they wanted for the rules, while residents from Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, and the Inland Empire, decried the drilling technique.

A representative for Hispanics in Energy, a group advocating Hispanic inclusion in the energy industry, was laughed at while making a statement while a representative from Valley Industry & Commerce Association received minimal applause.

Both argued fracking in California could bring reliable jobs to the region, while aiding energy independence.

“It could reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Adriana Fernandez, the legislative affairs manager at VICA, a business advocacy group for the San Fernando Valley.
That’s not so, said Brenna Norton, a Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch.

“We get our oil on a global market,” Norton said. “We frack here for oil, it doesn’t affect the price at the pump at all. The only way to ensure energy independence is to get off fossil fuels.”

But the main concerns, repeated by almost every anti-fracking speaker, centered around air, land and water. And climate change.

The air could be polluted with more oil development, compounding air quality that is already among the poorest in the country. The land, under strain from the violent blasting under its surface, could tremble with earthquakes in an already earthquake-prone region.

The ground water could be contaminated if fracking fluids leak into it from spills or faulty oil well casings, they said. And questions still remain about whether there’s enough water in this drought-afflicted region to supply the millions of gallons of water needed for the fracking process.

Fracking foes also raised the specter of climate change, saying California regulators should not allow a process that could potentially unleash 15 million barrels of Monterey Shale oil – oil that would add to carbon emissions and climate change.

Others took a more existential approach. Dave This, a Brea resident and member of the Brea Congregational United Church of Christ, said humanity is called to preserve a planet gifted to them by the Creator.

“Regardless of the faith, regardless of whether you’re Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, there’s that thread of taking care of the planet and handing it off in better condition than you received it,” he said.

The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is holding several more public hearings across the state. Norton, of the Food & Water Watch, vowed to continue the fight and drive home the message to Gov. Brown that they want fracking banned.

“We’re already dogging him all across the state,” Norton said. “He can’t go to any public hearing, he can’t go to a birthday party, without us being there. If he doesn’t like it now, he’s not going to like it next year.”

Contact the writer: or 562-310-7684

Interim rules permitting but regulating fracking took effect Jan. 1. The Department of Conservation is currently taking public comment on the permanent rules, which will be implemented in 2015.

The Department held public comment meetings in Sacramento and Long Beach Monday. It will host meetings in Bakersfield and Salinas Wednesday and in Santa Maria Monday, Jan. 13.

The Department’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources must also certify an environmental analysis of the rules by July 1, 2015.

The Division is also taking public comments about the environmental analysis, both in writing and at public meetings. The last two of five meetings are being held Wednesday, Jan. 8, in Long Beach and Thursday, Jan. 9, in Ventura. The Long Beach meeting will be at the Long Beach Convention Center from 4 to 8 p.m.

Senate Bill 4, signed into law in September 2013, required the California Department of Conservation to draft rules regulating “well stimulation,” which includes the controversial oil drilling technique hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking.

A few key points:
Evaluation: The well operator must test the cement of the well casing to make sure it is strong enough and must determine fluids cannot leak away because of well stimulation.

Permit: The permit application must detail where and when a well will be stimulated, what chemicals will be used and their concentration, and include a groundwater monitoring plan and an estimation of waste material, among other things.

Notification: Neighbors must be notified 30 days before a well is stimulated.

Testing: The well must be tested at a pressure 25 percent higher than the expected pressure during stimulation.

Monitoring: The well operator must track a host of factors during and after well stimulation, and notify authorities if certain breaches occur.

Disclosure: The well operator must post information about the composition of the stimulation fluids on a government website within 60 days of ending well stimulation.

Trade secrets: Well operators must disclose the composition of the stimulation fluids to the state, which will decide if it is a trade secret.

The Department of Conservation will hold a series of meetings to solicit public comment. The current rules are temporary and the final version of the rules will be implemented in January 2015.


Bellingham Herald
Bellingham, Washington

Fracking moratorium urged by California lawmakers
The Sacramento Bee January 6, 2014

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – Reviving an issue that dominated the environmental agenda in 2013, California lawmakers are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

California is at work crafting regulations to govern hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which well operators blast a potent mix of chemicals and water underground to shatter energy-trapping rock formations. The new guidelines will set up a permitting system, require more groundwater testing and force companies to disclose information about where they plan to frack and what chemicals they will use.

Those forthcoming regulations are the product of a new law passed last year. Senate Bill 4, by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, was less stringent than other proposed fracking measures that would have halted the practice outright.

In the end, legislators sent Pavley’s bill to Brown even as environmentalist groups forsook the legislation, saying it had been diluted to the point of ineffectiveness.

“I think almost everyone walked out of session feeling unsatisfied, so we want to make sure there is accountability on this industry,” said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who last year carried an unsuccessful fracking bill.

Given concerns about the impacts of fracking on groundwater and public health, Levine said, he and three other Assembly members have sent Brown a letter asking for a statewide ban on fracking “until health and environmental concerns are addressed.”

“Current studies show fracking threatens California’s precious water supply, further disrupts our approach to mitigate the dangerous impacts of climate change, exacerbates our pollution problems, and the disposal of wastewater associated with fracking may increase seismic activity,” the letter said.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, Levine said he hoped the governor would defer continued fracking operations until regulators have finished the year-long process of laying down new fracking rules.

“I don’t believe we have as much information as we need to continue allowing the oil industry to work unfettered before those regulations are in place,” Levine said.

The fracking issue has increasingly become the lens through which disenchanted environmentalists view Brown. Protesting activists have dogged the governor at events throughout California since he signed Pavley’s bill.

Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 4 last year under the governor’s auspices. Brown interceded as legislators were debating the bill, urging them to pass the measure and promising his signature.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: Right whales migrate through Va. waters proposed for surveys — study (Online) Climate & Energy

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, December 19, 2013

New research from Cornell University suggests endangered right whales migrate farther from Virginia’s shores than previously thought, putting them in danger of proposed oil and gas exploration in the mid-Atlantic, according to environmental groups.

The research from Cornell’s Bioacoustics Research Program shows right whales migrate far beyond the seasonal protections the Interior Department is considering in its oil and gas seismic survey plan.

The whales were also detected year-round, surprising the researchers who set up recording units 16, 30, 38, 48 and 63 nautical miles from shore.

“These endangered right whales would be afforded little to no protection from ship strikes or the acoustic threats of high-energy seismic airgun surveys,” said a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell earlier this month from Oceana and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which funded the Cornell research.

The groups said the new research means Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management should scrap its current programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), a sweeping plan set to be finalized early next year that would open federal waters from Delaware to Florida to oil and gas surveys.

The surveys, which involve loud blasts from air guns towed behind ships for day, weeks or months at a time, are considered harmful to whales and an array of other marine life.

They’re a crucial prerequisite for drilling, which is still currently banned in the Atlantic Ocean.

Right whales are estimated to number less than 500.

BOEM is contemplating a suite of mitigation measures for marine wildlife in its PEIS, including time and area closures, requiring wildlife observers and acoustic monitoring to reduce impacts to whales and establishing buffer zones between seismic tests (Greenwire, Aug. 9, 2012).

According to BOEM, time-area closures in certain coastal regions are expected to reduce incidental take of right whales by two-thirds. In a worst-case scenario, up to two of the animals could be injured by seismic surveys annually and as many as 476 instances could occur in which the whales could be disturbed from their normal behaviors.

A more restrictive alternative would place a roughly 20-mile buffer along the Atlantic Coast where surveys would be mostly banned from November to April.

But BOEM’s plan relied on flawed assumptions, according to the environmental groups.
While the government study assumed 83 percent of right whale sightings occurred within 20 miles of shore, Cornell found vastly more whales calling beyond the 20-mile buffer.

“By listening off the coast of Virginia, out to the edge of the continental shelf, we were able to hear right whales calling in this area throughout the year,” said Aaron Rice, who directs Cornell’s bioacoustics work. “This year-round pattern is definitely a surprise and raises many new questions about the home range of this species.”

The environmental groups called that information “significant,” arguing that federal law mandates BOEM to at least supplement its PEIS.

BOEM did not indicate whether that would occur.

“BOEM scientists are aware of the research commissioned by Oceana and have considered this type of information in our analysis,” it said in a statement.

Finalization of BOEM’s seismic plans has already been pushed back more than a year to early 2014. The agency first began taking public input for the PEIS in April 2010.

Oil and gas groups and most Republicans are calling on Interior to swiftly finalize its plan so decades-old resource assessments in the Atlantic can be updated. Those assessments will help inform whether President Obama allows future drilling in the Atlantic.

“The delays that we’ve seen so far continue to close the window” in which data would be available to officials writing BOEM’s next five-year leasing plan, Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute’s director of upstream and industry operations, told reporters in October (E&ENews PM, Oct. 15).

Special thanks to Richard Charter Obama Policy: Control Greenhouse Gases At Home, Enable Export of Fossil Fuels

Thursday, December 19, 2013
from Daily Report for Executives™

By Paul Shukovsky

Dec. 18 –Even as President Barack Obama promises to implement
aggressive regulatory measures to rein in climate change domestically,
this year his administration used the same regulatory authority to
quietly position the U.S. to become a global leader in fossil fuel

Much of the policy is being carried out behind closed doors.

At its nexus is the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The
CEQ exercises oversight, in secret, over the ways that permitting
agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of
Land Management implement the National Environmental Policy Act.

In a series of decisions made by regulators under CEQ oversight,
proposals for projects to export–for the first time in U.S. history–
huge amounts of coal to Asia and liquefied natural gas globally are
being evaluated without a comprehensive analysis of the impact of
exporting on climate change.
‘Chilling Effect.’

In June, after being summoned to a series of NEPA-consultation meetings
convened by the council–the corps said that it wouldn’t consider the
climate-change impact of burning hundreds of millions of tons of U.S.
coal in Asia in its environmental analysis of export terminals being
proposed in the Pacific Northwest .

There are scant details concerning what happened in those White House
CEQ meetings. The CEQ has for more than a year repeatedly declined to
answer Bloomberg BNA’s questions on what guidance it has been giving
the Corps of Engineers as the agency evaluates the environmental impact
of proposals to build coal export terminals that would enable U.S.
companies to become major suppliers to China, Japan, South Korea and

The CEQ, in response to a Bloomberg BNA Freedom of Information Act
request seeking documents that would reveal what guidance or
instructions it has been giving regulatory agencies on the proposed
coal export terminals, produced heavily redacted documents. In August,
a CEQ senior counsel declined a final administrative appeal by
Bloomberg BNA, citing the deliberative-process exemption under FOIA. He
wrote that release of the documents “would have a chilling effect on
efforts to foster open and frank discussions of legal and policy

White House press secretary Jay Carney did not respond to a Dec. 5 e-
mail message and a Dec. 12 telephone call seeking comment. CEQ
Communications Director Taryn Tuss, in response to several detailed
questions, wrote in a Dec. 12 e-mail: “CEQ encourages coordination
among agencies and often brings them together for that purpose, however
CEQ doesn’t tell agencies how to conduct their NEPA reviews.”

Proposals Double Coal Exports

The three proposed coal terminals in Oregon and Washington would open a
conduit for shipping coal mined from federal land in the Powder River
Basin of Wyoming and Montana, which contains an estimated 162 billion
tons of recoverable coal. Upon build-out, the terminals collectively
would more than match the total of 107 million tons exported from the
U.S. in 2011.

The Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would export up to 53 million tons
of coal annually, would be built near the Canadian border with
Washington state on north Puget Sound. SSA Marine, which calls itself
the largest U.S. terminal and stevedoring company, is behind the
proposal to build Gateway. The Smith-Hemingway family owns a 51 percent
interest in parent company Carrix Inc., with the other 49 percent being
held by Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners. Gateway would be served
by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Railway Co.

Peabody Energy Corp., which says it is the biggest private-sector coal
company in the world, has contracted to ship as much as 26.5 tons of
coal through Gateway Pacific, about half of the annual capacity of the
proposed export terminal.

About 200 miles to the south, on the Columbia River, is the proposed
Millennium Bulk Terminal. It is a project of Ambre Energy Ltd. with a
62 percent interest, and Arch Coal Inc. with a 38 percent interest. The
terminal, about 63 mile from the river’s mouth, would be capable of
shipping as much as 48.5 million tons of coal annually. Upriver about
270 miles is another Ambre project. The proposed Morrow Pacific project
would ship as much as 8.8 million tons of coal annually from the Coyote
Island Terminal.

Northwest Governors, EPA Rebuffed

The Corps of Engineers rebuffed the Environmental Protection Agency,
along with the governors of Oregon and Washington in June, when it
rejected their calls to go beyond site-specific environmental impact
statements (EIS) that focus on effects in the immediate vicinity of the
proposed coal export terminals. The EPA and the governors instead had
called for a wide-ranging study of the cumulative impacts of all the
projects together, including the effects on climate change from the
burning of U.S. coal in China.

Govs. John Kitzhaber (D) of Oregon and Jay Inslee (D) of Washington, in
a March 25 letter to CEQ Chairwoman Nancy Sutley, asked for a
comprehensive federal policy review–in essence a programmatic or
policy EIS that would consider the broadest range of impacts from the
mines in Wyoming to smokestacks in China .

Ray Clark, who was CEQ associate director for NEPA oversight in the
Clinton administration, as well as several environmental attorneys,
have told Bloomberg BNA that if Obama chose to do so, he could simply
order such a programmatic or policy EIS to be conducted.
“The president could say there are a bunch of different issues
associated with this and so I want the federal government to do an
environmental impact analysis on whether or not we should promote as a
national policy the export of coal,” Clark said earlier this year.
“Then it’s a very good policy EIS.”

Contradictory Evidence.

The CEQ is a statutory entity established by NEPA within the Executive
Office of the President as the interpreter of the statute for the
executive branch. Among its statutory roles under NEPA is to act as
arbiter when conflict exists between regulatory agencies such as this
difference between the EPA and the Corps of Engineers.

There is contradictory evidence regarding whether the White House CEQ
took a hands-off role or directly instructed the corps about how to
proceed in its NEPA analysis of the coal export proposals. Some corps
officials have told Bloomberg BNA that the CEQ gave no instructions
about how to proceed.

In contrast, a corps e-mail obtained through a FOIA request recording
the first of several CEQ-convened meetings on the topic says the June
7, 2012 teleconference was called by the CEQ so it could “provide
preliminary feedback on what direct, indirect and cumulative effects
may be considered within each agency’s control and responsibility.”

The controversial matter is apparently viewed with some sensitivity
within the administration. After EPA’s disagreement with the Corps of
Engineers first became public, a Region 10 EPA official told Bloomberg
BNA that EPA headquarters had forbidden public discussion of the
dispute. In November, EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran
turned down a Bloomberg BNA request to discuss the EPA’s long list of
environmental impacts of the coal terminal proposals that it told the
corps to evaluate–to no avail.

The White House CEQ has repeatedly declined to describe what happened
in its meetings with the regulatory agencies or what guidance it has
given, instead referring Bloomberg BNA to the agencies themselves.

‘Passive’ Policy Making?

Georgetown University law school professor Lisa Heinzerling was senior
policy counsel to then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson during the first
two years of the Obama administration. She finds it difficult to
envision the White House allowing a kind of de facto national climate
change policy to be set by the CEQ, deferring to regulatory agencies
like the corps and BLM.
Heinzerling told Bloomberg BNA on Nov. 19, “If CEQ’s position was that
the Army Corps of Engineers was completely free to write an EIS of
whatever scope it chose, then that would be a passive way of making a
really significant policy decision about climate change.”

Whether or not the White House CEQ fulfilled its statutory role to
resolve the conflict between the EPA and the Corps of Engineers;
whether or not the CEQ is telling the agencies to ignore the climate
change impact of overseas combustion of U.S. fossil fuels in their NEPA
analyses or is leaving it to the agencies to make their own decisions,
the result is the same: an Obama administration policy that enables the
export of fossil fuels without considering numerous secondary, indirect
and cumulative effects including the exports’ impact on climate change.

Obama Touts Natural Gas

On June 25, Obama gave what was billed as a major policy address on
climate change at Georgetown University. It was widely praised by
environmentalists. While it contained soaring rhetoric on the dangers
of climate change and announced significant steps to cut greenhouse
gases emitted by domestic coal-fired power plants, Obama didn’t
directly mention his policy on U.S. fossil fuel exports .
Scientists, said Obama, have “acknowledged the planet is warming, and
human activity is contributing to it. So the question now is whether we
will have the courage to act before it’s too late. As a president, as a
father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act. I refuse to
condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s
beyond fixing.”

“Now, even as we’re producing more domestic oil, we’re also producing
more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth,”
Obama said. “And, again, sometimes there are disputes about natural
gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top
natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only
can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon

“And it’s the transition fuel that can power our economy with less
carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy
more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of
the future.”

Viewing Mitigation Benefits Skeptically
Obama’s CEQ is well-acquainted with the “disputes about natural gas” he
mentioned to the students at Georgetown. More than a year before he
gave the speech, the Sierra Club wrote a letter to a senior counsel at
the CEQ warning that far from being a transition fuel, liquid natural
gas exports are the “very dirtiest of a dirty fuel.”

The April 18, 2012, letter says, “We urgently need CEQ and EPA’s help
to ensure that LNG exports are properly analyzed under NEPA.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had two days earlier issued
what is the first long-term authorization for a facility to export
domestic liquefied natural gas other than a mothballed plant on
Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The Sabine Pass project in Cameron Parish, La.,
owned by Cheniere Energy Partners, L.P., initially applied to export 16
million metric tons of LNG per year.

The Sierra Club letter to the CEQ, citing a Carnie-Mellon University
study of the life-cycle emissions of LNG, says that because energy is
required to liquefy natural gas, transport it and re-gasify it, “LNG is
not an attractive substitute for coal.” And the letter says the
analysis becomes starker when fracking is added to the equation because
pumping natural gas from shale formations releases into the atmosphere
much more methane, a greenhouse gas more potent that carbon dioxide.

The letter cites Energy Information Administration projections that 85
percent of LNG exports will be sourced from unconventional sources such
as shale formations. “The upshot is that CEQ should view claims that
LNG produces significant climate change mitigation benefits with
skepticism,” the letter says.

‘I Don’t Believe CEQ Did Anything.’

FERC, which chose to conduct a less rigorous environmental assessment
as opposed to a full-fledged EIS on the Sabine Pass project, didn’t
analyze the life-cycle emissions of exported LNG. The Sierra Club also
criticized FERC’s decision not to conduct an analysis of the impact of
LNG exports inducing increased domestic production of shale gas.
“The NEPA failings in the Sabine Pass matter may well be repeated
without clear guidance from CEQ and EPA,” the letter says.

Asked what the CEQ did in response to the letter, Sierra Club attorney
Nathan Matthews told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 22, “I don’t believe CEQ did
anything one way or the other on Sabine Pass.”

‘All these pending export applications are inconsistent with the
President’s own stated climate policy.’

‘Cooked-in Accusation.’

Steve Everley, a spokesman for an Independent Petroleum Association of
America advocacy program, Energy in Depth, contests the accuracy of
Sierra Club assertions that LNG’s life-cycle emissions make it not an
attractive substitute for coal. In a Dec. 12 telephone interview with
Bloomberg BNA, he cited a 2011 Carnegie Mellon University study saying
that it had found fracked Marcellus shale natural gas “adds only 3%
more emissions to the average conventional gas when used to generate
electricity.” The study cited by Everley doesn’t address the life cycle
emissions of LNG derived from Marcellus shale.

While he doesn’t contest that LNG exports will stimulate production of
fracked gas, “the sort of cooked in accusation with that–that that is
a bad thing–is demonstrably false.”

“Sierra Club has been making these claims about fracking, saying that
because you are fracking, because you are producing from so-called
unconventional reservoirs, the methane leakage rate is so high that it
cancels out the greenhouse gas benefit. What I am saying is that
experts for the Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, state regulators and independent experts across the country
have all affirmed that that is not the case.”

On Oct. 25, FERC denied a Sierra Club petition for rehearing on a
pipeline to deliver gas to Sabine Pass. The agency wrote, “The
Commission further found that any impacts which may result from
additional gas production are not ‘reasonably foreseeable’ under the
applicable judicial standard or as defined by the CEQ regulations and
thus rejected Sierra Club’s contention that the effects associated with
the additional natural gas production needed to be addressed in the

Said Matthews, “These energy exports are such a shift in the way energy
is done in the U.S. that we have explicitly called for a programmatic
EIS in a lot of these export project proposals. Someone needs to stop
and look at this in a systemic way.”

CEQ, BLM Consult on Coal Leases

Kitzhaber shares the perspective that a systemic analysis is needed. In
April 2012, he wrote to then-Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, the
secretary of the Army, and the director of the Bureau of Land
Management, asking for the formulation of a clear federal policy on
coal exports before further permitting and coal mine leasing decisions
are made. The letter got the White House CEQ’s attention.

On June 25, 2012, the CEQ’s Horst Greczmiel, associate director for
NEPA oversight, convened a conference call that included a discussion
of the BLM’s Powder River Basin coal leasing program, according to a
redacted, handwritten note from a corps official who participated in
the meeting. The note, obtained by Bloomberg BNA through a Freedom of
Information Act request for corps documents, makes reference to
litigation challenging the BLM’s NEPA analysis of coal leases in the
Wright Area of the basin.

And a BLM official who participated in the teleconference told
Bloomberg BNA that there was discussion about the possibility of doing
a supplemental EIS on the Wright Area to account for future export of
the coal.

There was no indication in the redacted note of what position, if any,
White House CEQ staff took on the issues. Since then, there has been no
supplemental EIS on the Wright Area and the Department of Justice has
been vigorously defending a series of suits challenging the adequacy of
BLM’s NEPA analysis of coal leases.

China Will Get Coal From Somewhere

The environmental group WildEarth Guardians routinely challenges BLM’s
environmental impact statements on its Powder River Basin coal leases
and has several suits outstanding against the agency. An opening brief
filed Oct. 24 by WildEarth, the Sierra Club and a local group in three
associated cases challenges the adequacy of BLM’s NEPA analysis of
Wright Area leases on a variety of grounds, most related to air quality
issues in general and climate change in particular (WildEarth Guardians
v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., D. Wy., No. 2:12-cv-00085, opening brief
filed, 10/24/13).

One WildEarth argument zeros in on a theme that repeatedly arises in
debates over fossil fuel exports and to which Obama alluded in his
Georgetown University climate change address. It can be summarized by
the oft-heard phrase in those debates: “If we don’t sell it to them,
someone else will.”

That perspective is present in the NEPA documents for BLM coal leases
and for FERC’s environmental assessment of Sabine Pass. The final EIS
for the Wright Area coal leases says: “It is not likely that selection
of the No Action alternatives would result in a decrease of U.S. CO2
emissions attributable to coal mining and coal-burning power plants in
the longer term, because there are multiple other sources of coal that,
while not having the cost, environmental, or safety advantages, could
supply the demand.”

The same thought process also appears in the Keystone XL pipeline draft
EIS, which included a life cycle analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions and concluded “that approval or denial of the proposed
Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of
development in the oil sands.”

Obama referred directly to this equation in his Georgetown address:
“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that
doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest
will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate
the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s
impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining
whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

Dueling Princeton Economists

The question of whether U.S. fossil fuel exports will “significantly
exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution” is deeply controversial and
far from settled. Two economists, both experts in natural resources and
both trained at Princeton University, take divergent views with respect
to coal exports.

Thomas Power is an emeritus professor at the University of Montana,
where he spent 30 years as chairman of the economics department. He is
still active there as a research professor and authored a paper in May
2013, “The Impact of Powder River Basin Coal Exports on Global
Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

Power calls himself a “decentralist’’ and says he often gets invited to
libertarian think tank events “because they like some debate.”

Power told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 1 in a telephone interview: “If we are
going to sell it, we are going to be competing against other sources of
coal. We are going to drive down the price and that is going to
encourage the use of coal and discourage the use of other fuels. There
is no way out. It has to be true.”

Power’s paper modeled the export of 140 million tons of Powder River
Basin coal annually to markets on the south China coast. He found that
exports at that level “would reduce coal prices by 12.4 percent. That
would lead consumption to increase by 14.9 percent.” Power concluded
that 70 percent of the coal exports from the U.S. would represent new
consumption in China and result in “an annual increase in GHG emissions
of about 183 million tons of CO2.”

Economically Rational About Energy

“I have no idea why people say the Chinese are going to burn it no
matter what,” Power said. “That suggests they are economic morons; that
they don’t care about efficiency. The only way we can sell it is if we
can compete effectively, sell it cheaper than the other sources of
coal, both domestic Chinese and foreign.”

“When people say that the Chinese are going to burn the same amount of
coal no matter what, they are saying that price and costs of coal to
the Chinese doesn’t matter, that the Chinese … are economic morons;
that they don’t pay attention to costs when they make investment
decisions,” Power said. “They are as economically rational as we are.”

Robert Nelson is a professor at the School of Public Policy at the
University of Maryland. For about a decade, beginning in the mid-1980s,
he played a pivotal role in establishing federal coal-leasing policies
at the Department of Interior. He’s a senior fellow at the Independent
Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Nelson told Bloomberg BNA in a telephone interview Nov. 26: “The debate
is about whether the United States is going to try to limit the use of
coal by not allowing its export. My general view is that there is not
much the United States can do. If we don’t export it to China, they are
still going to burn the coal.”

Long-Term Effect Is Greater

“If we ship coal to China, will that have any effect on the amount of
coal-fired power production in China?” Nelson asked. “In the short run,
the answer is probably no. They are going to get it and burn it.”

Nelson had this caveat: “If our sending coal to China meant that the
substitution of gas for coal would be slowed down, that would have a
negative effect on climate change. It is really a matter of time frame.
If you are talking about exports for five years, it wouldn’t have an
impact. China is going to burn the coal one way or another.”

“But as you extend the time frame, the possibility of an effect becomes
greater,” Nelson said. “If you are talking about 30 years from now,
Powder River Basin coal going into China could have a significant
effect on coal to gas. It also raises the question of how fast is wind
and solar going to come along.”

“If it were up to me, I would export it,” Nelson said. “But I couldn’t
prove it to you that that is the right thing to do. If I had been in
the Obama administration, I would probably have made the same decision
as they did.”

‘They Simply Wave a Wand.’

Power also reflected on the long-term economic impact of coal exports.
Cheap coal sold to China will “undermine the incentives for developing
wind and solar energy. They are going to invest more heavily in coal
because it has been provided more cheaply. Those are 50-year decisions.
Once you’ve built a coal-fired generator, once you’ve put billions of
dollars into a large coal-fired generator, you are committing yourself
to use of coal for a very long period of time.”

Asked whether the BLM’s NEPA analysis of Powder River Basin (PRB) coal
adequately addresses the cost of coal in terms of its impacts on
climate change, Power said: “Absolutely not. They ignore the ultimate
combustion of the coal and the GHGs released. They simply wave a wand
and say that the amount of coal Americans consume or the world consumes
will be the same whether federal PRB coal is sold or not.”

Brenda Neuman, BLM’s chief of the solid minerals branch in Wyoming,
told Bloomberg BNA in a series of conversations in December that the
agency didn’t ignore the greenhouse gases released. Although BLM coal
lease environmental impact statements such as those conducted on the
Wright Area contain estimates of GHGs released from combustion, BLM
didn’t analyze the resulting climate change impact, Neuman said.

“There is not really any science that says burning a discrete amount of
coal from a pit in Wyoming has some sort of numerical value that we can
say causes a discrete amount of climate change,” Neuman said.

Coal Industry Supports Regulatory Approach

The coal industry supports the Obama administration’s NEPA process in
the Powder River Basin. Peabody Energy Vice President Beth Sutton
provided an e-mailed reply Dec. 5 to a Bloomberg BNA request for an
interview. “We believe the current regulatory approach to surface mine
permits is appropriate and protects the environment.”

In a Dec. 4 telephone interview, National Mining Association General
Counsel Katie Sweeney said she has “not heard suggestions for
improvement” of BLM oversight of the coal resource from NMA’s
“For a while, there were quite a few delays in sales in the early the
early to mid-2000s,” Sweeney said. “It seemed to take five plus years
to get between nominations and sales. But that seems to have improved.”

Luke Popovich, NMA vice president for external communications, told
Bloomberg BNA, “I think there has been a fairly forceful response from
the administration against claims by the environmental litigants”
contesting the adequacy of NEPA review of coal leases. “They have
defended the current process.”

Arch Coal Inc. spokeswoman Kim Link declined to comment Dec. 4.

‘It’s Speculative at this Point.’

Major players in the Powder River Basin–including Arch, Ambre and
Peabody–have announced plans to export coal from the Basin through the
proposed Pacific Northwest export terminals. But the BLM hasn’t
analyzed in its coal lease EISs what the impacts would be of selling
coal to Asia. That question arose in the first meeting convened by the
White House CEQ, according to the BLM’s Neuman.
Neuman said she participated in one of the CEQ meetings. “There was
some discussion,” said Neuman, who noted that her participation was
limited to providing a schedule of various leases. “People were asking
the question of whether we should supplement our EISs that are out
there right now, particularly the Wright Area EIS, to include export
from ports in Washington.”

Asked about the outcome, Neuman said, “Our position in BLM Wyoming is
that the coal isn’t being used for export.” She said there are no plans
to conduct a supplemental EIS.
“We generally assume that the coal is going to be used for domestic
use,” Neuman said. “We can’t say that it will never be used for export,
but right now, we’re not seeing that. It’s speculative at this point.”
That’s one reason BLM cites for its decision not to evaluate the
effects of coal export on climate change.

CEQ Has Statutory Authority

Heinzerling, the former Obama administration EPA official, said the
notion that the CEQ simply steps back, allowing the BLM or the Corps of
Engineers to make these decisions without White House guidance doesn’t
make sense.
“CEQ does have a superior role as far as NEPA implementation,”
Heinzerling said. “So it would be odd to me if they were saying, ‘Oh,
we don’t really have anything to do with the way agencies implement

“CEQ’s guidance on NEPA implementation has been deferred to by the
courts. They are one of the few White House offices that actually has
statutory authority. It would be reasonable for them to engage in a
kind of coordinating function in this regard. It seems not quite
plausible to think that they are not engaged in that kind of

“This White House has been extremely, actively involved in agency
decisions; as much as probably any past administration. It’s not a
White House that is shy about being involved. It would be weird if they
said hands off in this place where they actually have authority, but
they are all over places where they don’t really have authority.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Shukovsky in Seattle at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: KEYSTONE XL: Gulf Coast access for oil sands set for Jan. 22

Elana Schor, E&E reporter
Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013

TransCanada Corp. will begin shipping heavy oil sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast — the goal of its Keystone XL pipeline — on Jan. 22, when the controversial project’s President Obama-blessed southern leg begins operation, the company announced today.

Environmentalists rarely offer loud criticism of the Obama administration’s green light for the 485-mile pipeline that TransCanada last year renamed the Gulf Coast Project, locked as they are in a years-long campaign to secure a presidential veto of the 1,179-mile northern leg of KXL. But as the pipeline giant’s CEO affirmed in a Reuters interview today, higher prices for heavy oil along the Gulf Coast mean many shippers will seek to move Canadian crude from the 2010-launched Keystone 1 pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Cushing, Okla., onto KXL’s southern portion, which runs from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas.

“This is another important milestone for TransCanada, our shippers and the refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast who have been waiting for this product to arrive,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard wrote to reporters.

The company had said last week that it would not disclose the in-service date for the Gulf Coast Project until crude shipments already had begun, citing the risk of financial market speculators aiming to profit off anticipated time frames for deliveries (Greenwire, Dec. 9).

Despite the practical blow that the southern leg’s opening represents, conservation and safety advocates remain as committed as ever to unraveling TransCanada’s border-crossing permit application for the northern section of KXL. The State Department remains at work on a final environmental review of the $5.4 billion project, widely expected to see release next year given an ongoing inspector general inquiry into conflict-of-interest allegations against the private contractor helming the process.

The Gulf Coast Project’s ultimate capacity is expected to reach 700,000 barrels per day, though initial flows are likely to fall below 600,000 bpd as TransCanada continues to seek shipper commitments to run heavy crude through the line.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: ‘Face of Resistance in Northwest’: Tar Sands ‘Megaload’ Blockaded
Published on Tuesday, December 17, 2013

‘They want to extract the dirtiest oil in the world and send it overseas at the expense of communities and the climate’
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Activists engaging in a blockade of a tar sands “megaload” in Oregon earlier this month. (Photo: Portland Rising Tide) “The face of tar sands resistance in the Northwest” appeared again on Monday when 16 people were arrested in Oregon after blockading a “megaload” of equipment on its way to the Athabasca oil fields in Alberta, Canada.

Organizers with the climate activism group Portland Rising Tide say protesters set up two blockade sites along Highway 26 near the town of John Day, locking themselves to disabled vehicles in front of the 376-foot long, 901,000-lb load carrying a heat exchanger to be used in tar sands extraction.

While the activists succeeded in at least temporarily halting the transport of equipment, Portland Rising Tide says police used “pain compliance to extract” the four protesters who had locked themselves to the two vehicles, and aggressively arrested others “who were actively trying not to obstruct the load or police activity.”

Among the arrested were the group’s photographers and videographers.

“Transporting loads of such sizes presents a huge threat to rural Oregon’s roads, and rivers,” said Nicole Brown, who grew up in Eastern Oregon and was present at the actions last night. “Law enforcement should focus on protecting Oregon’s roads and rivers and people, rather than multinational fossil fuel interests.”

Portland Rising Tide says that a similar megaload toppled last week in Gladstone, Ore., blocking part of I-205 for hours.

“Are they creating jobs in our communities? No, they want to extract the dirtiest oil in the world and send it overseas at the expense of communities and the climate,” Brown stated.

Weather, mountain roads and protests have already slowed down the megaload’s travel. It now heads east into Idaho and then into Montana before reaching the Alberta tar sands.

It is the first of three megaloads scheduled to pass through Oregon.

Monday’s blockade follows a similar action earlier in the month, when Rising Tide activists and Umatilla tribal members blockaded a megaload of tar sands equipment near the Port of Umatilla in Oregon. In August members of the Nez Perce tribe and others halted a similar megaload of equipment making its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Within the last two weeks, Portland Rising Tide has also occupied offices of megaload shipper Omega Morgan as well as the office of a General Electric subsidiary that makes equipment for what the group has called “the most destructive and outmoded, fossil fuel extraction undertaking on Earth: Alberta tar sands mining.”


Save the Can We “Save the Blue” by Dumping Old Drilling Rigs into the Ocean? by Richard Charter

How Oil Companies Plan to Maximize Their Profits at the Expense of Our Coastal Waters

By Richard Charter, for the H2oover Foundation

Exploration of natural gas and oil brings with it numerous and diverse environmental and human health problems. With so much attention focused on a long list of issues including oil spills, tar sands, fracking, carbon emissions, etc., little attention is being paid to the removal of thousands of offshore oil and gas structures.

Removing disused offshore drilling rigs from U.S. federal waters after the economic life of a seafloor oilfield has concluded is established public policy. In the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, beyond state waters that extend for three miles from shore off most coastal states and for ten miles off Texas and Florida’s Gulf Coast, longstanding federal regulations have required full decommissioning and removal of obsolete oil platforms.

Drilling platform support “jackets” that are no longer in use have long been required to be disposed of by being cleaned of oils, cut up, and either recycled for metals or transferred to landfills, while any remaining seafloor oil well casings have had to be sealed and severed 15 feet below the mud line. In each of the original Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease contracts executed between the Department of Interior and the petroleum industry, the companies willingly agreed to carry out eventual terrestrial decommissioning as part of the legally binding terms of their lease. In certain sensitive areas off of Southern California, this written contractual commitment by industry to eventually restore the seabed to “as-near-prelease conditions as possible” played an instrumental role in enabling drilling to proceed in the first place.

Old non-producing platforms have logically been slated for removal because they can create serious safety, environmental, and navigational risks, and often deteriorate in ways making them more susceptible to structural failure, leading to substantial liability issues for the rig owner or the government agency administering the lease. On November 10, 2012 a barge loaded with five million gallons of fuel oil hit a submerged oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, 30 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The platform had been damaged by Hurricane Rita and was marked with unlit buoys. The 150,000-barrel double-hull barge DBL 152 suffered a 35’×6′ gash in one of its cargo tanks after striking the West Cameron 229A platform, leaking an estimated 1.3 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. Efforts to remove remaining oil from the barge were still underway a month after the collision.

In the past, parts of the Gulf of Mexico have been littered with disused offshore drilling rigs. In some instances leftover damaged wellheads have continued to leak oil for years into the Gulf, and some are still leaking even now. In response to the problems created by these kinds of orphaned rigs in the Gulf, the Interior Department has had to initiate what it calls the “Idle Iron” policy, requiring removal and careful plugging and abandonment of old wells within a certain timeframe with penalties for noncompliance.

An Industry Dodging Fiscal Responsibility:

The immense potential cost savings to the petroleum industry to be gained by not removing old rigs that have made immense profits for companies over the decades has led oil interests to undertake a slick public relations campaign as they try to break their promises. Financially motivated to avoid about 50% of their obligated decommissioning costs, the drillers cleverly anointed their effort to circumvent federal decommissioning requirements with the name Rigs-to-Reefs. Thus altering the “life cycle costing” considerations for a company as it evaluates whether or not to bid on a particular future drillsite can change a bidding decision considerably when the drilling company knows it will not be required to remove and recycle the rig itself at the end of its useful lifetime. This means that sensitive waters like the Arctic Ocean, the California coastline, and Florida’s long-protected Gulf Coast and Panhandle, for example, will be placed at increased jeopardy as industry bids more aggressively on challenging or remote drilling targets with the foreknowledge that the company will ultimately be able to just cheaply discard a platform in the ocean near the drilling site.

The petroleum industry has spent a lot of money and focus group message-testing as part of their nationwide Rigs-to-Reefs greenwashing effort, aimed primarily at the recreational fishing industry and at policymakers, trying to gain federal approval for their proposal. Once the oil industry figured out how much money they could save by simply dumping their cut-off steel jackets – or even by cutting them off “in-situ” below the water line and leaving the wreckage in place on site – an elaborate promotional effort was put into motion. Sadly, some of the most vocal advocates for the Rigs-to-Reefs concept have apparently not turned out to be among the most responsible operators in the Gulf of Mexico.

In response to political pressure from the oil industry, the Interior Department has initiated its own version of a Rigs-to-Reefs program, designed to interact with state programs in states that have passed specific legislation to establish programs for dealing with old oil and gas platforms, including Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and most recently, California. Under certain limited conditions, the Interior Department can now waive existing federal law requiring full decommissioning and “donate” the spent rig to one of these states for offshore abandonment in a state-designated “reefing site”.

With the exception of Florida, the Gulf Coast states that are still reeling economically from the disastrous BP Gulf Oil Spill find the powerful combination of the long-entrenched political persuasion of the petroleum industry and the pressure from the similarly influential sportfishing lobby combine to force them to embrace Rigs-to-Reefs with little objective scientific scrutiny, since few studies are available that have not been designed and paid for by the oil companies. First dozens, then hundreds, and eventually thousands of offshore rigs and related subsea pipelines and other petroleum infrastructure facilities will eventually need to be decommissioned, with Rigs-to-Reefs representing a potential savings to the industry amounting to billions of dollars. Even for the 23 rigs nearing obsolescence and facing near-term abandonment in federal waters off of California, the lure of potential future state funding that might someday be derived from even a fraction of industry’s cost-savings motivated the state legislature and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration to gloss over what was admittedly only a cursory literature review and become the latest guinea pig for the Rigs-to-Reefs scheme. California’s petroleum interests, joined by well-compensated sportfishing lobbyists and at least one normally-cautious conservation group, managed to dominate the debate and to obscure legitimate public concerns about the plan. Going forward, at least California agencies will supposedly be required to perform a case-by-case evaluation for each of the discarded rigs off the state’s coast, some of which are immense structures located in 400 to 1000 feet of water.

Hidden Adverse Impacts:

There are several underlying problems inherent in enabling the industry to avoid their prior requirement for full decommissioning of spent platforms. At the site of many offshore drilling rigs in relatively shallow water, seafloor obstructions consisting of drill mud mounds containing toxic substances often remain behind. Studies conducted around offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have revealed small amounts of mercury with the potential to bio-accumulate in the fisheries food chain leading to humans. This mercury pollution is thought to originate from mercury contained in spent barite drill muds used to cool and lubricate the drill bit, after which the used muds are discharged into the water column and dumped on the seafloor. Other toxic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic chemicals often remain in the seafloor wastes accumulated from years of drilling and oil production. Concentrations of these discharged oil-related pollutants do not need to be particularly high to be of serious biological concern. Research on oil pollution in Alaska’s Prince William Sound since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill has provided compelling evidence that very low levels of PAH compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) associated with the spilled oil are causing life-cycle mutagenic damage to the eggs of Pink salmon at levels of two parts-per-billion. Dilution, it turns out, is not the solution for toxic pollution that bio-concentrates in the marine food chain.

Beyond the toxic chemical components found in the mud mounds, these seafloor snags also represent physical obstructions to the activities of commercial fishermen.

Can Oil Companies Really “Improve on Nature”?

There is also an ongoing dispute about the efficacy of the much-touted “artificial reef” functions supposedly provided by abandoning discarded drilling rigs in the marine environment. The oil industry’s Rigs-to-Reefs advertising claims that the dumped rigs reliably attract fish in various ecological settings. The state of current science, however, provides ample contrary evidence indicating that while their abandoned drilling structures might sometimes attract certain species of fish, in many locations these fish are not necessarily “new” fish biomass, but are instead coming from natural hard-rock seafloor substrate or other nearby natural habitat. Certain species are simply being aggregated around the dumped rig components in a manner that makes the fish easier prey for sportfishing interests normally precluded from fishing in close proximity to an active rig due to the usual closure zone surrounding an operating platform. There is no evidence that either operational or discarded platforms provide net ecological benefits to the marine ecosystem as a whole, relative to parts of the ocean left in a natural state.

Each proposed platform abandonment location in the Gulf of Mexico and off of Southern California is necessarily unique in terms of ecological setting and the specific types of marine species found in surrounding waters. No matter how carefully considered, not all artificial reefs are functional contributors to marine health. A 176-acre rocky-bottom fish habitat that Southern California Edison Company built a half-mile off San Clemente in 2008, supposedly “replacing” fish lost due to operations at the company’s nearby nuclear power plant, has recently been found to be failing to propagate enough fish to meet the agreed-to mitigation requirements.

The vision of a restored ocean returning to vibrant and healthy productivity after offshore rigs are removed is proving an elusive one in the face of a lopsided debate being dominated by petro-dollars, but for many states and for much of the American ocean, the fate of our marine environment is yet to be decided.

Promises Not Kept:

The word “ecosystem” finds its meaning in the Greek word oikos, defining a “house, dwelling place, or habitation.” The ocean is a key part of our collective home. In ecosystems, diversity is closely connected with network structure. A diverse ecosystem is resilient because it contains many species with overlapping ecological functions that can partially replace one another. We ourselves are living with, and literally living as part of, the Earth’s ocean ecosystem.

Left alone by human intervention and absent polluting activities, the ocean environment can prove to be a powerful and pervasive self-healing mechanism, and the case could be made that the ecosystem design that preceded the age of offshore oil development was likely the most successful biological niche that could have evolved in a particular location. Ultimately allowing the marine environment to restore itself was the stated rationale for the decommissioning contracts that the drillers originally accepted and signed when they began to explore and develop the offshore sites now in question, and there is no conclusive evidence that Rigs-to-Reefs is a beneficial use of spent drilling rigs for anyone but the accounting department of an oil company.

If our society allows the petroleum industry and their captive scientists to determine the fate of our sustaining hydrocommons in the oceans, decisions made by this special interest lobby will not be in the public interest, but made instead in the interest of maximizing industry profits by avoiding remediation of corporate messes and by circumventing willingly-accepted corporate responsibilities for rig removal.

In the event that we arbitrarily extend the duration of the impacts of the industrial detritus of the fleeting carbon age in our oceans, we are denying our grandchildren the possibility of experiencing the ocean we inherited from our ancestors. We are instead allowing the ocean itself to become a vast corporate chemical and biological experiment, with no coherent vision or sound science to tell us what the results might turn out to be over the long term.

Enabling the drilling industry to avoid keeping their solemn promise of full decommissioning of spent rigs, aside from the trail of pollution that would be left behind, particularly endangers ever more sensitive places in our coastal waters by making them more economically attractive for exploitation while arbitrarily incentivizing their unnecessary sacrifice. Our ocean, while appearing deceptively uniform when viewed from above the sea surface, actually embodies a wide diversity in seafloor habitats, species composition, and water column conditions, and an approach to dealing with obsolete drilling infrastructure that might at first appear to be effective in one location may not work at all elsewhere. The petroleum industry has an obligation to society to follow the precautionary principle that they themselves often espouse and to honor their original agreements to remove spent drilling rigs and restore the seafloor as much as possible to pre-drilling conditions when an oil field is depleted, lest Americans someday wake up to a polluted ocean haunted by thousands of dumped rigs comprising an offshore junkyard of epic proportions.

Richard Charter is a Senior Fellow with The Ocean Foundation and has worked for 35 years on offshore drilling safety, oil spill response, and ocean protection issues with local and state governments and the conservation community. Richard currently serves on the Methane Hydrates Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Energy and on NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Committee.

“The wise use of water is quite possibly the truest indicator of human intelligence, measurable by what we are smart enough to keep out of it. Including oil, soil, toxics, and old tires.”
-David Orr, Reflections on Water and Oil

Rolling Stone Magazine: Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story by Bill McKibben

The president has said the right things about climate change – and has taken some positive steps. But we’re drilling for more oil and digging up more carbon than ever

Illustration by Victor Juhasz
By Bill McKibben
December 17, 2013 9:00 AM ET

Two years ago, on a gorgeous November day, 12,000 activists surrounded the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Signs we carried featured quotes from Barack Obama in 2008: “Time to end the tyranny of oil”; “In my administration, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.”

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Our hope was that we could inspire him to keep those promises. Even then, there were plenty of cynics who said Obama and his insiders were too closely tied to the fossil-fuel industry to take climate change seriously. But in the two years since, it’s looked more and more like they were right – that in our hope for action we were willing ourselves to overlook the black-and-white proof of how he really feels.

If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.

Greenland Melting: Climate Change’s Disasterous Effects

You could argue that private industry, not the White House, has driven that boom, and in part you’d be right. But that’s not what Obama himself would say. Here’s Obama speaking in Cushing, Oklahoma, last year, in a speech that historians will quote many generations hence. It is to energy what Mitt Romney’s secretly taped talk about the 47 percent was to inequality. Except that Obama was out in public, boasting for all the world to hear:

“Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quad­rupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth, and then some. . . . In fact, the problem . . . is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas . . . that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it where it needs to go.”

Actually, of course, “the problem” is that climate change is spiraling out of control. Under Obama we’ve had the warmest year in American history – 2012 – featuring a summer so hot that corn couldn’t grow across much of the richest farmland on the planet. We’ve seen the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and the largest wind field ever measured, both from Hurricane Sandy. We’ve watched the Arctic melt, losing three quarters of its summer sea ice. We’ve seen some of the largest fires ever recorded in the mountains of California, Colorado and New Mexico. And not just here, of course – his term has seen unprecedented drought and flood around the world. The typhoon that just hit the Philippines, according to some meteorologists, had higher wind speeds at landfall than any we’ve ever seen. When the world looks back at the Obama years half a century from now, one doubts they’ll remember the health care website; one imagines they’ll study how the most powerful government on Earth reacted to the sudden, clear onset of climate change.

The Fossil Fuel Resistance

And what they’ll see is a president who got some stuff done, emphasis on “some.” In his first term, Obama used the stimulus money to promote green technology, and he won agreement from Detroit for higher automobile mileage standards; in his second term, he’s fighting for EPA regulations on new coal-fired power plants. These steps are important – and they also illustrate the kind of fights the Obama administration has been willing to take on: ones where the other side is weak. The increased mileage standards came at a moment when D.C. owned Detroit – they were essentially a condition of the auto bailouts. And the battle against new coal-fired power plants was really fought and won by environmentalists. Over the past few years, the Sierra Club and a passel of local groups managed to beat back plans for more than 100 new power plants. The new EPA rules – an architecture designed in part by the Natural Resources Defense Council – will ratify the rout and drive a stake through the heart of new coal. But it’s also a mopping-up action.

Obama loyalists argue that these are as much as you could expect from a president saddled with the worst Congress in living memory. But that didn’t mean that the president had to make the problem worse, which he’s done with stunning regularity. Consider:

• Just days before the BP explosion, the White House opened much of the offshore U.S. to new oil drilling. (“Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills,” he said by way of explanation. “They are technologically very advanced.”)

• In 2012, with the greatest Arctic melt on record under way, his administration gave Shell Oil the green light to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. (“Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents,” the president said.)

• This past August, as the largest forest fire in the history of the Sierra Nevadas was burning in Yosemite National Park, where John Muir invented modern environmentalism, the Bureau of Land Management decided to auction 316 million tons of taxpayer-owned coal in Wyoming’s Powder River basin. According to the Center for American Progress, the emissions from that sale will equal the carbon produced from 109 million cars.

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Even on questions you’d think would be open-and-shut, the administration has waffled. In November, for instance, the EPA allowed Kentucky to weaken a crucial regulation, making it easier for mountaintop-removal coal mining to continue. As the Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles said, “It’s dismaying that the Obama administration approved something even worse than what the Bush administration proposed.”

All these steps are particularly toxic because we’ve learned something else about global warming during the Obama years: Most of the coal and gas and oil that’s underground has to stay there if we’re going to slow climate change.

Though the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 was unquestionably the great foreign-policy failure of Obama’s first term, producing no targets or timetables or deals, the world’s leaders all signed a letter pledging that they would keep the earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius. This is not an ambitious goal (the one degree we’ve raised the temperature already has melted the Arctic, so we’re fools to find out what two will do), but at least it is something solid to which Obama and others are committed. To reach that two-degree goal, say organizations such as the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, HSBC and just about everyone else who’s looked at the question, we’d need to leave undisturbed between two-thirds and four-fifths of the planet’s reserves of coal, gas and oil.

The Powder River Basin would have been a great place to start, especially since activists, long before the administration did anything, have driven down domestic demand for coal by preventing new power plants. But as the “Truth Team” on barack puts it, “building a clean future for coal is an integral part of President Obama’s plan to develop every available source of American energy.”

And where will the coal we don’t need ourselves end up? Overseas, at record levels: the Netherlands, the U.K., China, South Korea. And when it gets there, it slows the move to cleaner forms of energy. All told, in 2012, U.S. coal exports were the equivalent of putting 55 million new cars on the road. If we don’t burn our coal and instead sell it to someone else, the planet doesn’t care; the atmosphere has no borders.

As the administration’s backers consistently point out, America has cut its own carbon emissions by 12 percent in the past five years, and we may meet our announced national goal of a 17 percent reduction by decade’s end. We’ve built lots of new solar panels and wind towers in the past five years (though way below the pace set by nations like Germany). In any event, building more renewable energy is not a useful task if you’re also digging more carbon energy – it’s like eating a pan of Weight Watchers brownies after you’ve already gobbled a quart of Ben and Jerry’s.

Let’s lay aside the fact that climate scientists have long since decided these targets are too timid and that we’d have to cut much more deeply to get ahead of global warming. All this new carbon drilling, digging and burning the White House has approved will add up to enough to negate the administration’s actual achievements: The coal from the Powder River Basin alone, as the commentator Dave Roberts pointed out in Grist, would “undo all of Obama’s other climate work.”

The perfect example of this folly is the Keystone XL pipeline stretching south from the tar sands of Canada – the one we were protesting that November day. The tar sands are absurdly dirty: To even get oil to flow out of the muck you need to heat it up with huge quantities of natural gas, making it a double-dip climate dis­aster. More important, these millions of untouched acres just beneath the Arctic Circle make up one of the biggest pools of carbon on Earth. If those fields get fully developed, as NASA’s recently retired senior climate scientist James Hansen pointed out, it will be “game over” for the climate.

Obama has all the authority he needs to block any pipelines that cross the border to the U.S. And were he to shut down Keystone XL, say analysts, it would dramatically slow tar-sands expansion plans in the region. But soon after taking office, he approved the first, small Keystone pipeline, apparently without any qualms. And no one doubts that if a major campaign hadn’t appeared, he would have approved the much larger Keystone XL without a peep – even though the oil that will flow through that one pipe will produce almost as much carbon as he was theoretically saving with his new auto-mileage law.

But the fight to shut down the pipeline sparked a grassroots movement that has changed the culture of environmentalism – but not, so far, the culture of the White House. For me, the most telling moment came a month or two ago when it emerged that the president’s former communications director, Anita Dunn, had taken a contract to flack for the pipeline.

The reason for fighting Keystone all along was not just to block further expansion of the tar sands – though that’s required, given the amount of carbon contained in that expanse of Alberta. We also hoped that doing the right thing would jump-start Washington in the direction of real climate action. Instead, the effort necessary to hold off this one pipeline has kept environmentalists distracted as Obama has opened the Arctic and sold off the Powder River Basin, as he’s fracked and drilled. It kept us quiet as both he and Mitt Romney spent the whole 2012 campaign studiously ignoring climate change.

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We’re supposed to be thrilled when Obama says something, anything, about global warming – he gave a fine speech this past June. “The question,” he told a Georgetown University audience, is “whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” Inspiring stuff, but then in October, when activists pressed him about Keystone at a Boston gathering, he said, “We had the climate-change rally back in the summer.” Oh.

In fact, that unwillingness to talk regularly about climate change may be the greatest mistake the president has made. An account in Politico last month described his chief of staff dressing down Nobel laureate and then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu in 2009 for daring to tell an audience in Trinidad that island nations were in severe danger from rising seas. Rahm Emanuel called his deputy Jim Messina to say, “If you don’t kill Chu, I’m going to.” On the plane home, Messina told Chu, “How, exactly, was this fucking on message?” It’s rarely been on message for Obama, despite the rising damage. His government spent about as much last year responding to Sandy and to the Midwest drought as it did on education, but you wouldn’t know it from his actions.

Which doesn’t mean anyone’s given up – the president’s inaction has actually helped to spur a real movement. Some of it is aimed at Washington, and involves backing the few good things the administration has done. At the moment, for instance, most green groups are rallying support for the new EPA coal regulations.

Mostly, though, people are working around the administration, and with increasing success. Obama’s plan to auction Powder River Basin coal has so far failed – there aren’t any bidders, in large part because citizens in Washington state and Oregon have fought the proposed ports that would make it cheap to ship all that coal to Asia. Obama has backed fracking to the hilt – but in state after state, voters have begun to limit and restrict the technology. Environmentalists are also taking the fight directly to Big Oil: In October, an Oxford University study said that the year-old fight for divestment from stock in fos­sil-fuel companies is the fastest-growing corporate campaign in history.

None of that cures the sting of Obama’s policies nor takes away the need to push him hard. Should he do the right thing on Keystone XL, a decision expected sometime in the next six months, he’ll at least be able to tell other world leaders, “See, I’ve stopped a big project on climate grounds.” That could, if he used real diplomatic pressure, help restart the international talks he has let lapse. He’s got a few chances left to show some leadership.

But even on this one highly contested pipeline, he’s already given the oil industry half of what it wanted. That day in Oklahoma when he boasted about encircling the Earth with pipelines, he also announced his support for the southern leg of Keystone, from Oklahoma to the Gulf. Not just his support: He was directing his administration to “cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”

It has: Despite brave opposition from groups like Tar Sands Blockade, Keystone South is now 95 percent complete, and the administration is in court seeking to beat back the last challenges from landowners along the way. The president went ahead and got it done. If only he’d apply that kind of muscle to stopping climate change.

This story is from the December 19th, 2013 – January 2nd, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.

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Los Angeles Times: New campaign for a California oil extraction tax underway,0,3099963.story

By Phil Willon
December 16, 2013, 4:04 p.m.
San Francisco Bay Area hedge fund manager Tom Steyer on Monday launched a statewide campaign, aimed at prompting action by state lawmakers, to impose a new extraction tax on oil produced in California.

Steyer said California imposes only a 14-cent per barrel fee and that, even when property, income and corporate taxes are factored in, the state collects far less per barrel that states such as Texas and Alaska – a claim that oil industry representatives disputed.


A wireline operator prepares a slick line at an oil pump jack site in the oil fields near Bakersfield. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / March 18, 2013)

The extraction tax could produce billions of dollars in much-needed revenue for the state, Steyer said.

“It’s an obvious thing to do,” said Steyer, a billionaire who has been a leading campaigner against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry oil extracted from Canada’s tar sands to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Tupper Hull, spokesman for Western States Petroleum Assn., said an industry-supported analysis done two years ago found that oil companies already pay more than $6 billion a year in taxes to state and local governments. Hull said Steer’s assertion that the industry is under-taxed is “erroneous” and that imposing a new extraction tax would result in a decline in oil production in California and the loss of jobs.

“He supports a lot of policies that, intended or not, will make it harder and more costly to deliver petroleum energy to consumers in California and the rest of the country,” Hull said.

Rock Zierman, chief executive of the California Independent Petroleum Assn., said a state oil extraction tax could also siphon away tax revenue that oil companies pay to local governments.

The oil extraction tax proposal is similar to one voters defeated at the ballot box in November 2006.

Proposition 87 would have imposed an extraction tax and used the revenue generated to fund research and development of alternative fuels. The oil industry spent just over $100 million to defeat the ballot measure. Recent legislative efforts to impose an extraction fee also have failed.

Steyer and his political committee, NextGen Climate Action, are launching a statewide media campaign to raise awareness about the issue and, hopefully, prompt the state Legislature into action, he said. The organization also will conduct public opinion research.

Steyer declined to say how much of his own money he expected to spend on the effort.,0,3099963.story#ixzz2nh6eBIdw

Special thanks to Richard Charter

CREDO action: Tell the White House: Don’t silence key advisor John Podesta on the presidential decision on Keystone XL

The petition reads:
“Advisors or contractors with a financial stake in the outcome of Keystone XL – like TransCanada-linked contractor ERM – should recuse themselves from the White House decision on the tar sands pipeline. But a key advisor like John Podesta who has a fact-based track record opposing climate change and raising concerns about Keystone XL should not be silenced now that he has accepted the position of White House counselor. The White House should encourage John Podesta to provide his best counsel in deliberations on the presidential permit TransCanada requires to build Keystone XL.”

Automatically add your name to sign the petition below.

Free John Podesta

Apparently in the White House, having common sense now constitutes a conflict of interest.

John Podesta is the highly respected founder of the Center for American Progress and recognized as a uniquely effective chief-of-staff to President Clinton. He announced yesterday he’ll be going to work as a top advisor to the president.

That should be good news. But because he has a fact-based track record on climate change and has publicly and truthfully criticized the Canadian tar sands for being a highly inefficient and environmentally irreconcilable source of energy, the White House has already announced Podesta will recuse himself from participating in the decision on whether or not to award a foreign oil company the presidential permit necessary to build the Keystone XL pipeline across our northern border.1

It’s simply shameful. Podesta has no financial interest in the Keystone XL decision. Meanwhile, key players allied to the oil industry with massive conflicts of interest are playing a major role in Keystone XL decisionmaking. State Department contractor ERM is writing the key environmental impact statement for the State Department, an analysis on which the White House will base its decisionmaking, despite ERM’s having direct financial ties to TransCanada.

Tell President Obama: If anyone should be recused from discussion of Keystone XL, it’s the ethically compromised ERM, not John Podesta. Don’t silence key White House advisors who tell the truth about tar sands and climate change. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

Oil-industry contractor ERM has direct financial ties to the builder of the Keystone XL pipeline. That’s as direct a conflict of interest as you can get. But instead of recusing ERM from involvement in the decision when this information came to light, the State Department literally attempted to cover it up!2

Podesta will be a valuable advisor on the Keystone XL decision precisely because he doesn’t have compromising ties to the fossil fuel industry. On the contrary, he has issued honest, straight ahead indictments of their worst products. This perspective has been marginalized at high levels of the Obama administration, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that climate change poses serious dangers to our national interest through heatwaves, fires and superstorms, not to mention escalation of overseas conflicts that are exacerbated by drought, devastating floods and the refugee crises they provoke.

That’s why after three years we’re still fighting a pipeline whose approval the president’s own leading climate scientist declared would help lead to “game over for the climate.” This decision, which is President Obama’s alone, should have been a non-starter given President Obama’s previous commitments on climate change and dirty oil.

Far from a radical environmentalist, Podesta has touted a widespread embrace of natural gas – something we disagree with. Still, in a White House that has sorely lacked in prominent climate champions, his employ is a welcome addition. And the decision to silence him on what may be the single most closely watched decision of the Obama presidency is a shameful indication that the White House is not yet ready to face the challenge before us as a generation and embrace the climate leadership he promised and we so desperately need.

Tell President Obama: We need climate leadership in the White House! Let John Podesta speak on the Keystone XL decision. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:

Thanks for taking action.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. “John Podesta Recuses Himself From Keystone Issue, White House Aide Says,” Reuters, December 11, 2013.
2. Andy Kroll, “EXCLUSIVE: State Dept. Hid Contractor’s Ties to Keystone XL Pipeline Company,” Mother Jones, March 21, 2013.

Huffington Post: The Koch Brothers Are Still Trying to Break Wind
Published on Tuesday, December 10, 2013
by Elliott Negin

As Congress dithers for the umpteenth time over extending a key subsidy for wind energy, the industry once again is up in the air. Called the production tax credit (PTC), the subsidy helps level the playing field between wind and fossil fuels and has proven to be critical for financing new projects, helping to make wind one of the fastest growing electricity sources in the country. Given the planet needs to transition as quickly as possible away from coal and natural gas to carbon-free energy to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, who would be against renewing wind’s tax credit?

Charles G. and David H. Koch — the billionaire owners of the coal, oil and gas Koch Industries conglomerate — have enlisted their extensive network of think tanks, advocacy groups and friends on Capitol Hill to spearhead a campaign to pull the plug on the PTC. Never mind the fact that the oil and gas industry has averaged four times what the wind tax credit is worth in federal tax breaks and subsidies annually for the last 95 years.

The Koch network is fighting the wind industry on a number of fronts. Last month, Koch-funded Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) sent a letter signed by 52 House members to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, urging him to let the PTC expire. Meanwhile, a coalition of some 100 national and local groups organized by the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity sent a letter to each member of Congress asking them to do the same. And earlier this month, the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research launched an anti-PTC ad campaign and released a report claiming that only a handful of states actually benefit from the subsidy.

Malcolm Gladwell didn’t include this battle in his new book David and Goliath because, given the odds, it’s more like Bambi versus Godzilla.

The Kochs’ Man in Congress

The fact that Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo is the Kochs’ point man to scuttle the PTC in the House is a bit ironic given his state is a wind energy leader. Kansas has the second highest wind potential in the country, it has already attracted more than $5 billion in wind industry investment, and last year wind generated 11.4 percent of its electricity. With stats like that, the industry has broad bipartisan support. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts — all Republicans — are big fans.

Pompeo, who has been in Congress since only 2011, would argue that he’s against all energy tax credits. For the second year in a row, he has introduced a bill that would eliminate tax breaks that benefit oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, electric vehicles, alternative fuels, solar and wind, including the PTC, which gives wind developers a tax credit of 2.3 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce.

But there’s a catch. Although it appears evenhanded, Pompeo’s bill would severely hamper wind and solar but preserve a number of oil, gas and coal subsidies, including the percentage depletion allowance, the ability to expense the costs of exploration, and the accelerated depreciation of certain kinds of “geologic property.” These and other tax breaks he left out of his bill would be worth about $12.5 billion to the oil and gas industry from 2011 through 2015, according to a March 2012 Congressional Research Service report.

Why is Pompeo so down on wind? Perhaps it’s because Koch Industries is headquartered in Wichita, smack-dab in the middle of his district — and the fact that the company is by far and away his biggest campaign contributor. Since 2010, Koch Industries has given him $200,000, more than four times what his second highest contributor kicked in. Besides Koch Industries, three other oil companies are among Pompeo’s top five contributors — McCoy Petroleum, Mull Drilling and Richie Exploration — and they’re also based in Wichita.

What about the other 51 House members who signed Pompeo’s letter? As it turns out, 65 percent of them received contributions from Koch Industries during the last two or three campaign cycles, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. A quarter of them, meanwhile, cashed checks from ExxonMobil. And except for two congressmen who didn’t take any energy industry money, the signatories received sizable contributions from a number of other corporations that compete with wind, including coal barons Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources; oil and gas giants Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Valero Energy; and Exelon, which owns the most nuclear reactors in the country.

Americans for (Koch) Prosperity Weighs In

Pompeo’s letter came on the heels of a letter from the Kochs’ flagship advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, calling for Congress to kill the PTC. AFP’s letter, which was signed by 102 organizations, claims that “the wind industry has very little to show after 20 years of preferential tax treatment” and declares that “Americans deserve energy solutions that can make it on their own in the marketplace — not ones that need to be propped up by government indefinitely.”

Is that right? Little to show? Preferential tax treatment?

In fact, until Congress left the wind industry hanging late last year, it had been doing quite well. Even with a deep recession and slow recovery, over the previous five years — with the help of the PTC, stimulus spending and state renewable electricity standards — the industry doubled its electricity output, employment and private investment. In 2012, domestic manufacturers produced roughly 72 percent of the wind turbine equipment erected across the country — nearly triple the percentage in 2006 — and more than 13,000 megawatts of new wind generation capacity was installed. By the end of last year, there were enough wind turbines to power 15 million typical American homes — without toxic pollutants or carbon emissions.

But AFP’s complaint that the wind industry has been on the dole far too long is even more galling. What about the oil and gas industry? It’s been feeding at the federal trough since 1918! On average, the industry has benefited from $4.86 billion in tax breaks and subsidies in today’s dollars every year since then, according to a 2011 study by DBL Investors, a venture capital firm. Renewable energy technologies, meanwhile, averaged only $370 million a year in subsidies between 1994 and 2009. The 2009 stimulus package did provide $21 billion for wind, solar and other renewables, but that support barely begins to balance the scales that have tilted toward nuclear power for more than 50 years, oil and gas for 95 years, and coal for more than two centuries.

So who signed the AFP letter? About half of the signatories are local tea party affiliates and anti-wind NIMBY groups of indeterminate size and funding. The other half are, for the most part, relatively obscure national groups, but there are a few that have attracted attention over the years for their contrarian views on climate science and renewable energy. Like AFP, those groups are awash in petrodollars. The American Energy Alliance (and its parent, the Institute for Energy Research), Competitive Enterprise Institute, Freedom Works, Frontiers of Freedom and Heritage Action (and its parent, the Heritage Foundation) collectively have received millions of dollars from Koch family foundations, ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s premier trade association.

The Institute for Energy Research’s Questionable Research

On December 3, the Institute for Energy Research and its political arm, the American Energy Alliance, sponsored what they dubbed the “wind welfare” summit in Washington, D.C., featuring IER founder and CEO Robert Bradley Jr., a Koch network veteran. AEA announced it would spend $40,000 on print and digital ads calling for an end to the PTC and is flying in anti-PTC advocates for meetings on Capitol Hill.

Bradley presumably highlighted the findings of a report IER released the day before claiming that a small number of states with wind resources — Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas — are reaping the benefits of the PTC while 30 states and the District of Columbia are “losing millions” to fund it.

The report’s findings, however, don’t hold up to scrutiny. Mike Jacobs, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed out in a recent blog that IER ignored the fact that a number of the states it identified as “net payers” are home to wind industry manufacturing facilities. There are 62 companies in Ohio making turbine components, for example, 40 in Michigan and 21 in California. Jacobs also discovered that IER downplayed the fact that “the PTC benefits consumers where wind-generated electricity adds to the supply and lowers the price of electricity, landowners who receive lease payments from the wind turbines, and local communities that collect tax payments on installed wind farms.”

Jeff Spross, blogging on the Center for American Progress’ ThinkProgress website, also chided IER, pointing out that most industries are not equally distributed across the country. “The oil and gas industries, for instance, benefit from a wealth of federal tax carve-outs,” he wrote, “but the economic activity they generate is concentrated in just a few key states.”

In other words, it’s disingenuous to single out the wind industry.

Twisting in the Wind

While Congress has generously provided the fossil-fuel and nuclear-energy industries a number of permanent subsidies, it has typically granted the wind industry the PTC on a short-term basis and then wavered over renewing it. Last year the PTC expired on December 31, but as part of the “fiscal cliff” budget deal the next day, Congress extended it for the seventh time since it debuted in 1992 — for only one year.

This uncertainty over the PTC’s status has put wind developers at a distinct disadvantage, making it difficult to attract investors and plan ahead. Last year’s cliffhanger, for example, definitely did a number on the industry. Wind farm construction has fallen off dramatically compared with 2012: Only one utility-scale wind turbine was installed in the first six months of this year. Business picked up somewhat in the third quarter, with 68.3 megawatts installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association, but that’s far below the average of more than 1,000 megawatts that the industry constructed in most quarters in recent years.

Given that it takes years to plan, finance and construct a wind farm, Congress is again undermining the industry’s potential by slow-walking the PTC extension this year. And that potential is tremendous. Wind currently generates about 4 percent of U.S. electricity, but by 2030 it could produce more than 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory also is bullish on wind and renewables writ large. Last year, it published a report that concluded today’s commercially available renewable technologies could easily generate 80 percent of U.S. electricity by 2050, with nearly half coming from wind. If the Koch brothers and their allies have their way, however, it likely will take a lot longer to get there — and it will cost a hell of a lot more.

Elliott Negin is the director of news and commentary at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Marine Link: BOEM Proposes Eastern Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale

Posted by Eric Haun
Wednesday, December 04, 2013, 9:29 AM
As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today announced that it will hold Gulf of Mexico Eastern Planning Area oil and gas lease sale 225 in New Orleans on March 19, 2014, immediately following the proposed Central Planning Area (CPA) Sale 231.

Proposed Sale 225 is the first lease sale proposed for the Eastern Planning Area under the 2012 – 2017 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Natural Gas Leasing Program, and the first sale offering acreage in that area since Sale 224, held in March of 2008.

“This proposed sale is another important step to promote responsible domestic energy production through the safe, environmentally sound exploration and development of the Nation’s offshore energy resources,” said BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau.

The proposed sale encompasses 134 whole or partial unleased blocks covering approximately 465,200 acres in the Eastern Planning Area. The blocks are located at least 125 statute miles offshore in water depths ranging from 2,657 feet (810 meters) to 10,213 feet (3,113 meters). The area is bordered by the Central Planning Area boundary on the West and the Military Mission Line (86º 41’W) on the East. It is south of eastern Alabama and western Florida; the nearest point of land is 125 miles northwest in Louisiana.

Of the 134 blocks available in this sale, 93 are located in the same area offered in 2008’s Eastern Planning Area Sale 224 and are subject to revenue sharing under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA), which provides that the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas share in 37.5% of the bonus payments. These four Gulf producing states will also share in 37.5% of all future revenues generated from those leases. Additionally, 12.5% of revenues from those leases are allocated to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The remaining 41 blocks, located just south of that area, are not subject to revenue sharing under GOMESA.

BOEM estimates the proposed lease sale could result in the production of 71 million barrels of oil and 162 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The decision to move forward with plans for this lease sale follows extensive environmental analysis, public comment, and consideration of the best scientific information available. In October, BOEM published a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for proposed Eastern Planning Area Sales 225 and 226. The Final EIS updated information gathered in three previous EIS’s. EPA Sale 226, scheduled for 2016, is the only other Eastern Gulf of Mexico lease sale proposed under the current Five Year Program.

The proposed terms of this sale include conditions to ensure both orderly resource development and protection of the human, marine and coastal environments. These include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region.

All proposed terms and conditions for Lease Sale 225 will be finalized when the Final Notice of Sale is published at least 30 days prior to the Sale.

The Notice of Availability of the Proposed Notice of Sale can be viewed today in the Federal Register at: Proposed terms and conditions for the sale are fully explained in a new streamlined format, available at:
CD’s of the sale package as well as hard copies of the maps can be requested from the Gulf of Mexico Region’s Public Information Office at 1201 Elmwood Park Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70123, or at 800-200-GULF (4853).

The Gulf of Mexico contributes about 25% of U.S. domestic oil and 11% of domestic gas production, providing the bulk of the $14.2 billion in mineral revenue disbursed to Federal, state and American Indian accounts from onshore and offshore energy revenue collections in Fiscal Year 2013. That was a 17% increase over FY 2012 disbursements of $12.15 billion, due primarily to $2.77 billion in bonus bids received for new oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico
The 2012-2017 Five Year Program offers nearly 219 million acres on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf for lease, making all areas of the OCS with the highest oil and gas resource potential available for exploration and development. The plan includes up to 15 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The first three sales under the Five Year Program offered more than 79 million acres for development and garnered $1.4 billion in high bids.

ENN: Massachusetts Legislature moves on fracking moratorium

Environmental News Network

Published December 1, 2013 09:16 AM

The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture has approved a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking. The committee’s approval of a bill introduced by Reps. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, and Denise Provost, D-Somerville, came after Environment Massachusetts and its allies presented the committee with documented cases of water contamination, illness and other damage from fracking operations elsewhere.

“From Pennsylvania to Colorado, fracking has contaminated water, threatened residents’ health and turned rural landscapes into industrial zones” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate for Environment Massachusetts. “Thanks to the leadership of Chairs Anne Gobi and Mark Pacheco, we are now one step closer to protecting the Pioneer Valley from dirty drilling.”

Concern over fracking in the Bay State has been growing since last year, when an industry-affiliated organization met with landowners in western Massachusetts to discuss the prospects for fracking there. Moreover, as New York mulls over large-scale fracking, drilling operators could soon view western Massachusetts as a convenient dumping ground for toxic fracking wastewater.

“All you have to do is look at the overlap of shale and water resources in the Pioneer Valley, and you know we cannot allow fracking – or its toxic waste – to come to Massachusetts,” Provost said.

“Our state government must do everything it can to protect our drinking water supplies,” Kocot said. “This bill will help to ensure that the health and prosperity of our communities is maintained.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Public Herald: New Aerial Video of Alabama Oil Spill Questions Cleanup

amazing moonscape video at:

Shared by Melissa Troutman on December 2, 2013

Every year, we hear about the latest oil spills, pipeline explosions and pollution but we rarely see how people and environment are impacted over time. Public Herald is embarking on a new series to investigate the environmental legacy of fossil fuel in America and solutions for cleaning it up. We begin in Aliceville, Alabama.

Ongoing efforts to clean up an Alabama oil spill are under scrutiny after a train carrying 2.7 million gallons of North Dakota Bakken crude oil exploded, spilling into wetlands just outside the town of Aliceville. Photojournalist John Wathen captured video of cleanup efforts one week after the November 7th derailment, and the footage prompts questions about the efficacy of methods being used.

oil wreck
Train carrying crude oil from North Dakota wrecks and spills into wetlands near Aliceville, Alabama. Photo: John Wathen.

Wathen wasn’t the only citizen responder in Aliceville. He was joined by Scott Smith, who’s visited major oil spills across the globe to deploy his biodegradable technology, OPFLEX, that can absorb oil and other toxins from polluted water. Wathen and Smith tried to reach the wetland to assess the damage and help stop the oil from moving downstream. But they no sooner were turned away by railroad personnel and threatened with the FBI. Railroad spokesperson Michael Williams wouldn’t confirm or deny the FBI’s involvement and redirected Public Herald to the Bureau.

The footage captured by Wathen shows clean up workers spraying what appears to be water into the oil spill.

After seeing Wathen’s footage, Smith wrote to the railroad company, Genesee & Wyoming, to express his concerns about the methods being used to clean up the spill:vvIt appears from the photos sent to me that water is being used to spray down the oil in the wetlands surrounding Aliceville, AL. There are much better options to remove the oil and help prevent further damage to the wetlands. If it rains anytime soon, there is little doubt that the oil in the water will spread downstream and things can be done now to prevent this.

Smith believes his own technology may be one better way. After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Smith sold BP over 2 million square feet of OPFLEX for cleanup. OPFLEX is an open-celled, sponge-like material modeled after the human lung and sometimes takes the shape of eelgrass to absorb oil and other toxins from polluted water both on and below the surface.

Scott Smith, inventor of OPFLEX, deploys his “eel grass” boom into an oily creek. Photo: Joshua Pribanic.

According to Genesee & Wyoming spokesperson Michael Williams, the spray method revealed in Wathen’s footage is “a process used to corral the oil within the containment booms prior to skimming.” However, workers appear to be spraying away from booms in some instances and towards unprotected shorelines. Smith believes the workers are actually using an outdated, defunct “dilution is the solution to pollution” method.
U.S. EPA Region IV, who responded to the spill, was not available for initial comment about the spraying.
workers spraying
Workers spraying oil at the train wreck and crude spill near Aliceville. Photo: John Wathen.

According to Smith, when water is sprayed onto a shale oil spill, some toxins mixed with the oil dissolve below the surface of the water. Some of these toxins are naturally-occurring and some are byproducts of the drilling process used to extract Bakken crude, called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which involves hundreds of chemicals that return to the surface with recovered oil.

4th image aerial view
Aerial view of cleanup after a Genesee & Wyoming train exploded its crude oil contents into wetlands. Photo: John Wathen.

5th aerial view
Cleanup efforts were led by United States Environmental Services (USES) and US EPA, according to a Genesee & Wyoming railroad spokesperson. Photo: John Wathen.

So how are oil spills cleaned up, exactly?
In nearly all oil spills, containment booms are used as floating buffers to try and corral oil resting on the surface of water for skimming. Preventing oil from reaching shore is a major concern, given that oil is virtually impossible to remove from soil. U.S. EPA and industry alike also use absorbent padding at waters edge in order to try and keep the oil off the shore.

When asked about the railroad’s cleanup efforts, Williams wrote to Public Herald that “air and water monitoring began on the morning of the derailment, and the site will be remediated.”

The railroad has a top oil-cleanup contractor on site that is experienced with crude oil responses for pipelines, exploration companies, railroads and shipping companies and which has an established working relationship with EPA Region IV and the State of Alabama. The railroad is working closely with the EPA who are on site daily.

Williams later added their “top oil-cleanup contractor” is United States Environmental Services (USES), the same company involved in cleanup efforts of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and others.
6  contracted workers
Of course, part of remediation involves knowing precisely what’s been spilled and how. Though the cleanup and investigation of how the train derailed and exploded in Alabama is ongoing, Williams informed Public Herald that the railway was up and running ten days after the incident and trains carrying Bakken crude are being diverted around Aliceville.

Series of Spills Reveals Crude Trend
Four months before the Alabama spill, Smith visited another oil train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where railcars, also carrying Bakken crude oil, derailed and exploded killing over 40 people and decimating half the town.

7 blast
CBC News Montreal reported in August that the “U.S. Department of Transportation authorities were worried prior to the Lac-Mégantic disaster about the transport of oil from North Dakota on trains.” Another CBC News report states that Lac-Megantic investigators found it “unusual for crude oil to burn so fiercely.”

Smith has sampled and tested Bakken crude. According to him, not only is Bakken crude lighter and more volatile than other oils, but no one is testing or “fingerprinting” each shipment before placing it in railcars or pipelines for transport. “The objective is to pump it and load it,” Smith told CBCNews Montreal.

Smith offered his test results to help with Genesee & Wyoming’s ongoing investigation. “I have done baseline fingerprinting of Bakken crude oil in its ‘pure form’ This data might help Genesee & Wyoming assess exactly what was in the tankers that exploded.”
Bakken crude is extracted using a controversial drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. A Bakken wellhead during fracking. Photo: Joshua Doubek (2011) Wikimedia Commons.

CBC News also reported tests of Bakken crude by one oil company which showed ten times the amount of benzene in Bakken oil as compared with others, as well as hydrogen sulfide, leading some experts to wonder about the crude’s propensity to easily ignite.

Spills Not Uncommon
Like Smith, John Wathen has responded to many environmental disasters. As Hurricane Creekkeeper of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, Wathen responded to the 2008 Kingston coal ash disaster in Tennessee and the BP Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010, which won him the honor of being named 2012 River Hero. His documentation of these incidents gives a close-up look at how spills are handled.

Aliceville is just the latest in a series of spill disasters in North America, topping (for now) a growing list of incidents related to fossil fuel’s production, transport, distribution, and waste disposal. Setting aside natural gas facility explosions and coal ash spills, here’s a list of some of the oil spill disasters in the United States, or involving U.S. companies, in just the last three years:

January 11, 2010 – Aleutian Islands, Alaska – Adak Petroleum tank spill
January 23, 2010 – Port Arthur, Texas – ExxonMobil tanker ship hit by barge, spill
April 7, 2010 – Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana – ExxonMobil pipeline contractor spill
April 20, 2010 – Gulf of Mexico, US – BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, spill
May 1, 2010 – Niger Delta, Nigeria – ExxonMobil spill
May 25, 2010 – Anchorage, Alaska – BP Trans-Alaska pipeline spill
June 11, 2010 – Salt Lake City, Utah – Chevron Red Butte Creek oil spill
July 26, 2010 – Kalamazoo, Michigan – Enbridge pipeline rupture into Kalamazoo River
July 27, 2010 – Barataria Bay, Louisiana – Boat struck a Cedyco Corp. abandoned wellhead, 5-day spill
December 1, 2010 – Salt Lake City, Utah – Chevron Red Butte Creek oil spill, part II
March 18, 2011 – Gulf coast, Louisiana – Oil spill, unknown origin
July 1, 2011 – Billings, Montana – ExxonMobil Yellowstone River oil spill
July 13, 2011 – Prudhoe Bay, Alaska – BP pipeline leak, spill
November 8, 2011 – Campos Basin, Brazil – Chevron offshore rig oil spill
December 21, 2011 – Niger Delta, Nigeria – Shell offshore oil spill
April 28, 2012 – Torbert, Louisiana – Exxon Mobile pipeline spill
October 29, 2012 – Sewaren, New Jersey – Arthur Kill oil spill after Hurricane Sandy
December 21, 2012 – McKenzie County, North Dakota – Newfield well blowout, spill
March 9, 2013 – Magnolia, Arkansas – Lion Oil refinery leak
March 26, 2013 – Willard Bay, Utah – Chevron pipeline rupture, spill, groundwater contamination
March 30, 2013 – Mayflower, Arkansas – ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline rupture, spill
May 7, 2013 – Milner, North Dakota – TransCanada pipeline leak, spill
May 9, 2013 – Indianapolis, Indiana – Marathon Oil pipeline leak, spill
May 18, 2013 – Cushing, Oklahoma – Enbridge storage terminal leak, spill
September 25, 2013 – Tioga, North Dakota – Tesaro Logistics pipeline rupture, spill
November 7, 2013 – Aliceville, Alabama – Genesee & Wyoming crude train explosion, spill

This is not a comprehensive list. According to an analysis by EnergyWire, over 17,000 spills were reported between 2010-2012 in the U.S.

‘Best’ Method of Transporting Oil
Due to a surge in American fossil fuel production in recent years, oil-by-rail has become an alternative for many companies at a time when pipelines are taboo, crowned in controversy by the Keystone XL. The L.A. Times reported in September that railroads are carrying 25 times more crude oil than they were five years ago.

Genesee & Wyoming’s Michael Williams wrote to Public Herald, “Rail is the safest means of ground-freight transportationŠAs a common carrier, the railroad has a legal obligation to transport these materials.

Both railways and pipelines can be ‘common carriers’ which are legally required to carry all freight, if space allows and fees are paid, and may not refuse unless reasonable grounds exist. Under international law, a common carrier is liable for damage to freight as well, with four exceptions: “An act of nature, an act of the public enemies, fault or fraud by the shipper, [or] an inherent defect in the goods.”

Whether pipelines or railways are ‘safer’ for transport of hazardous materials like crude oil is debatable, but writer Russ Blinch gives an interesting analogy:

Looking at pipelines versus rail tankers is really like asking, “Should I drive the car with bad brakes or the one with bad tires?

For those living along routes for transporting hazardous materials, whether by pipe or by rail, it’s unlikely anyone’s taken time to ask which methods or cleanup technology communities prefer industry use.

About Melissa Troutman
Melissa Troutman is a Public Herald co-founder. She has experience as a traditional print and multimedia journalist and has a passion for photography, teaching, songwriting, and dance. As Managing Editor for Public Herald, Melissa strives to unearth, or sometimes dust off and reorganize, stories that are valuable to all readers. You can email her at Follow on twitter: @melissat22 View all posts by Melissa Troutman »

Environment News Service: Law of the Sea Tribunal Orders Russia to Free Greenpeacers

Posted by News Editor in At Risk, Latest News, RSS on November 22, 2013 1:48 pm / no comments

HAMBURG, Germany, November 22, 2013 (ENS) – In a binding ruling, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea today ordered Russia to release the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and the 28 activists and two freelance journalists who were onboard during a September protest of Arctic oil exploration.

In the case of the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise brought by the Kingdom of the Netherlands against the Russian Federation, the tribunal ordered that upon the posting of a bond in the amount of 3.6 million euros by the Netherlands the activists, journalists and the ship must be freed.

Twenty-nine of the so-called “Arctic 30? have this week been granted bail by Russian courts, but one man, Colin Russell of Australia was denied bail and remains in a St. Petersburg prison.

The tribunal also ordered Russia to allow the vessel and the defendants to leave the country.

Russian authorities have charged the 30 men and women with piracy and hooliganism, and some of them may be charged with obstructing a law enforcement officer.

The arrests and seizure of the ship were triggered by a September 18 Greenpeace protest against the Arctic oil and gas drilling operations of Russia’s state-controlled oil and gas company Gazprom in the Pechora Sea off Russia’s northern coast.

Several activists attempted to climb the Gazprom oil platform in protest of the world’s first commercial drilling operation in the Arctic.

Greenpeace activist Sini Saarela of Finland, one of the two who scaled the platform, said just before her arrest, “This rusty oil platform is an Arctic disaster waiting to happen. We’re hundreds of miles away from emergency response vessels or independent observers, but right next to a pristine Arctic environment that’s home to polar bears, walruses and rare seabirds.”
Saarela is now free on bail.

In response to the tribunal’s ruling, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said, “Today is a historic day – a day when the fundamental rights of the Arctic 30 have been upheld by an international court of law. These 30 men and women were detained only because they stood up and courageously took peaceful action against Arctic oil drilling and to halt the devastating impacts of climate change.”

“Now that the Tribunal has ordered their release, I would remind you that President Putin recently said in a letter to the American people, ‘The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.'”

“Greenpeace would not disagree. The law is the law and this ruling goes a long way towards rectifying the great injustice against the Arctic 30 and we welcome it with open hearts.

Russia declined to appear before the tribunal to present its case, but the tribunal ruled that this non-appearance did not affect its ruling.

“The Tribunal notes that the Russian Federation was given ample opportunity to present its observations but declined to do so. The Tribunal considers that the Netherlands should not be put at a disadvantage because of the non-appearance of the Russian Federation in the proceedings and that the Tribunal must therefore identify and assess the respective rights of the Parties involved on the best available evidence.”

Jasper Teulings, general counsel at Greenpeace International, said, “In lodging this lawsuit, the Dutch government took a strong stance in support of the rule of law and the right to peaceful protest and for that we are grateful
. Greenpeace is also a great believer in international law – after all one of the primary objectives of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is to protect the marine environment.”

“We thank the Tribunal and the Dutch government for bringing the freedom of our friends in Russia a significant step closer,” said Teulings. “Given that Russia is traditionally a strong defender of the importance of adhering to international law and of the UNCLOS regime, we at Greenpeace assume the Russian Federation will comply with the order.”

Naidoo said the actions of the Arctic 30 did more to help bring public awareness to the dangers of climate change than the UN climate negotiations in Warsaw which wrapped up today with little progress towards a legally-binding universal climate agreement.

“I have just come from the UN climate talks in Warsaw where governments again have failed to take action against climate change,” said Naidoo. “The Arctic 30 took action and it is time that governments acted with them.”

“It is time for the Arctic 30 to come home to their loved ones. It is time for the Arctic to be protected,” said the Greenpeace leader. “Thirty people stood up for seven billion people. We must stand with them.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: Green group reveals offshore fracking chemicals, says many pose hazards

Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, November 15, 2013

Unconventional oil drilling in the waters off Southern California uses
several chemicals considered hazardous, including at least one that a
federal agency connects to increased cancer risk, an environmental
group said yesterday.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in a 28-page letter asked the
California Coastal Commission to block offshore hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking, and cited a list of potential perils.

The green group identified chemicals used in offshore operations after
looking at oil and natural gas company disclosures on

“The fracking chemicals known to be used in California state waters are
alarming,” Emily Jeffers, Center for Biological Diversity’s staff
attorney, Oceans Program, wrote in the letter. “The Center’s analysis
of chemicals used in 12 wells and disclosed by the voluntary reporting
site FracFocus reveals that almost all of the chemicals used are
suspected of causing gastrointestinal, respiratory, and liver hazards,
as well as skin, eye, and sensory organ risks.

“More than half of the chemicals are suspected of being hazardous to
the kidneys, immune and cardiovascular systems, and more than one-third
are suspected of affecting the developmental and nervous systems,” the
letter added. “Between one-third and one-half of the chemicals used are
suspected ecological hazards.”

The green group said that the California Coastal Commission should use
its authority to prohibit fracking in waters off the Golden State
because it threatens coastal resources.

The commission has not had the chance to review the letter that arrived
yesterday, said Sarah Christie, the agency’s legislative director.

“The Commission staff is in the process of evaluating all of the
available information on offshore fracking, and will be discussing the
topic, as well as our role in the regulatory process, when the
Commission meets next month in San Francisco,” Christie said in an
email. “The Commission is committed to protecting coast and ocean
resources consistent with its mandate and authority in the Coastal Act
and the Coastal Zone Management Act.”

The commission had already planned to talk about offshore oil drilling
at its meeting next month, Christie said. It’s a follow-up to a meeting
in August, when the agency launched an investigation into how much
hydraulic fracturing is happening offshore and what power the
commission has to control it.

That followed a news report that regulators have allowed drilling using
fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least a dozen times since the late
1990s. The Associated Press unearthed the data through a Freedom of
Information Act request.

At that August meeting, Alison Dettmer, chief deputy head of the
commission’s Energy and Ocean Resources division, said the agency lacks
key data related to fracking, in which companies blast water laced with
sand and chemicals at high pressure to break apart rock formations and
release oil or natural gas.

In waters controlled by the federal government, there are 23 platforms
with outer continental shelf (OCS) plans granting approval for
exploration. Thirteen of those were authorized by the Coastal
Commission, Dettmer said in August. Of those, a dozen “have done some
form of fracking in the last 25 years,” she said. In addition, it has
been approved for Platform Gilda off Santa Barbara.

Dettmer will review the CBD letter before next month’s meeting,
Christie said.

Oil and natural gas industry trade group Western States Petroleum
Association did not respond to inquiries about the CBD letter and
claims on chemicals used.

Chemicals listed as hazardous

The Center for Biological Diversity in its letter said many of the
dozen wells where fracking is underway use chemicals with risks.

The green group lists seven chemicals that it said are most commonly
used in offshore wells. It said there are known health risks with those

The ones listed include crystalline silica or X-Cide, which CBD’s
letter said is “classified as a hazardous substance under both the
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Cleanup, and Liability Act (CERCLA, or

The chemical is “harmful to skin, eyes and other sensory organs,
respiratory system, immune system and kidneys; mutagen. Known human
carcinogen,” the letter said. CBD drew that information from the
Endocrine Disruption Exchange Inc., or TEDX, which describes itself as
an organization “that focuses primarily on the human health and
environmental problems caused by low-dose and/or ambient exposure to
chemicals that interfere with development and function, called
endocrine disruptors.”

OSHA has issued a hazard alert on respirable crystalline silica, which
said that “hydraulic fracturing sand contains up to 99 percent silica.
Breathing silica can cause silicosis. Silicosis is a lung disease where
lung tissue around trapped silica particles reacts, causing
inflammation and scarring and reducing the lungs’ ability to take in

The alert, which addresses the issue of worker exposures only, added
that “workers who breathe silica day after day are at greater risk of
developing silicosis. Silica can also cause lung cancer and has been
linked to other diseases, such as tuberculosis, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, and kidney and autoimmune disease.”

CBD’s letter also said offshore wells use methanol, which the green
group quoted TEDX as saying is “harmful to skin, eyes and other sensory
organs, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system and liver, brain
and nervous system, immune system, kidneys, reproductive and
cardiovascular system; mutagen.”

The letter also named glyoxal, sodium tetraborate, 2-butoxyethanol,
methyl-4-isothiazolin and ethoxylated nonylphenol as chemicals used in
the offshore wells.

“The chemicals used in the fracking process are extremely dangerous,
but the fate of their ultimate disposal is of even greater concern,”
the letter said. “Releases of fracking fluids onshore have led to fish
kills in freshwater bodies. Spilling or leaking of fracking fluids,
flowback, or produced water is also a huge problem. Spills can occur at
the surface, and there is a risk of underground migration of fluids.
Also, many fluids must be transported to and/or from the well,
presenting additional opportunities for spills.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Sen. Sanders, Rep. Ellison Introduce Legislation to End Fossil Fuel Tax Breaks
November 21, 2013
3:56 PM

CONTACT: Congressman Keith Ellison

WASHINGTON – November 21 – As House and Senate budget negotiators look for ways to lower deficits, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) today introduced legislation to eliminate tax loopholes and subsidies that support the oil, gas and coal industries.

The End Polluter Welfare Act of 2013 would remove tax breaks, close loopholes, end taxpayer-funded fossil fuel research and prevent companies from escaping liability for spills or deducting cleanup costs. Under current law, these subsidies are expected to cost taxpayers more than $100 billion in the coming decade.

The White House budget proposal for next year calls for eliminating several of the same provisions that the legislation by Sanders and Ellison would end.

“At a time when fossil fuel companies are racking up record profits, it is time to end the absurdity of American taxpayers providing massive subsidies to these hugely profitable fossil fuel corporations,” Sanders said.

“The five biggest oil companies made $23 billion in the third quarter of 2013 alone. They don’t need any more tax giveaways,” Ellison said. “We should invest in the American people by creating good jobs and ending cuts to food assistance instead of throwing tens of billions of taxpayer dollars at one of the biggest and most profitable industries in the world.”

The five most profitable oil companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and ConocoPhilips) together made more than $1 trillion in profits over the past decade.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, Friends of the Earth,, Sierra Club, Environment America, Greenpeace, Oil Change International, Public Citizen, Earthjustice support the bills. Russian court grants bail to 9 foreign Greenpeace activists

Published time: November 19, 2013 12:04
Edited time: November 19, 2013 16:28

A Russian police officer puts handcuffs on Greenpeace International activist, one of the “Arctic 30,” Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel from Brazil, in a defendant cage in a court in Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, on November 18, 2013.(AFP Photo / Olga Maltseva)

Nine foreign Greenpeace activists were granted bail by Russian court in the city of St. Petersburg. A total of 12 out of 30 crewmembers detained over the protest at an oil rig in the Barents Sea have had bail approved.

They all are to be released while awaiting trial as soon as Greenpeace makes bail for them.

The court in St. Petersburg on Tuesday set bail at 2 million rubles ($61,500) for each of them. Greenpeace said it would transfer the money as soon as possible.

Greenpeace activists granted bail:
1. Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel (BRA)
2. Miguel Hernan Perez Orsi (ARG)
3. David John Haussmann (NZ)
4. Tomasz Dziemianczuk (PL)
5. Camila Speziale (ARG)
6. Cristian D’Alessandro (ITA)
7. Paul Ruzycki (CAN)
8. Sini Saarela (FI)
9. Francesco Pisanu (FRA)
10. Yekaterina Zaspa (RUS)
11. Denis Sinyakov (RUS)
12. Andrey Allakhverdov (RUS)

“We still have no idea what conditions our friends will endure when they are released from jail, whether they will be held under house arrest or even allowed outside,” Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo, said reacting on news stressing that they were still “charged and could spend years behind bars if they are convicted.”

On Monday another St. Petersburg court granted bail to three Russians who were aboard the ship: a doctor, Ekaterina Zaspa, freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov and Greenpeace Russia press office chief Andrey Allakhverdov.

Greenpeace said Tuesday that it has prepared 6 million rubles (US$184,500) in bail for the three Russian crew members. A wire transfer of the money is required within two working days.

A separate court in St Petersburg also on Monday refused to free Australian activist Colin Russell.

“Colin was refused bail and sent back to prison for three months. The Arctic 30 will not be free until every last one of them is back home with their families,” Naidoo said.

Greenpeace International activist, one of the “Arctic 30,” Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel from Brazil, holds a poster as she stands in a defendant cage in a court in Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, on November 18, 2013.(AFP Photo / Olga Maltseva)

The 28 activists and two reporters from 18 different countries were arrested on September 19 following their protest at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea a day earlier. They were first charged with piracy, which carries a possible jail sentence of 15 years. However, Russia’s Investigative Committee reduced the charges to hooliganism. The hooliganism charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Offshore Energy Today: Center for Biological Diversity Calls for End of Offshore Fracking in California

Posted on Nov 15th, 2013 with tags California, News, offshore fracking .

Citing the use of hazardous hydraulic fracturing chemicals and the release of oil industry wastewater off California’s coast, the Center for Biological Diversity yesterday called on the Coastal Commission to halt fracking for oil and gas in state waters and press for tighter regulation of fracking in federal waters.

In a letter delivered as commissioners meet this week in Newport Beach, the Center says hundreds of recently revealed frack jobs in state waters violate the Coastal Act. Some oil platforms are discharging wastewater directly into the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a government document.

“The Coastal Commission has the right and the responsibility to step in when oil companies use dangerous chemicals to frack California’s ocean waters,” said Emily Jeffers, a Center attorney. “Our beaches, our wildlife and our entire coastal ecosystem are at risk until the state reins in this dangerous practice.”

After noting seven risky chemicals used by oil companies fracking in California waters, the letter describes the duties of the Coastal Commission to protect wildlife, marine fisheries, and the environment. “Because the risk of many of the harms from fracking cannot be eliminated, a complete prohibition on fracking is the best way to protect human health and the environment,” the letter says.

At minimum, the Coastal Commission must take action under the Coastal Act to regulate the practice, including requiring oil and gas operators fracking in state waters to obtain a coastal development permit.

The letter also contains the Center’s analysis of chemicals used in 12 recent frack jobs in state waters near Long Beach. Drawing on data disclosed by oil companies, the Center found that at least one-third of chemicals used in these fracking operations are suspected ecological hazards. More than a third of these chemicals are suspected of affecting the human developmental and nervous systems.

The chemical X-Cide, used in all 12 offshore frack jobs examined by the Center, is classified as a hazardous substance by the federal agency that manages cleanup at Superfund sites. X-Cide is also listed as hazardous to fish and wildlife.

Oil companies have used fracking at least 200 times in waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, as well as in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel. Fracking involves blasting massive amounts of water and industrial chemicals into the earth at pressures high enough to crack geologic formations and release oil and gas.

Approximately half the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge all or a portion of their wastewater directly to the ocean, according to a Coastal Commission document. This produced wastewater contains all of the chemicals injected originally into the fracked wells, with the addition of toxins gathered from the subsurface environment.

The Center’s letter says that water pollution from fracking and oil operations in California’s waters poses risks to a wide range of threatened and endangered species, including Blue whales, sea otters, and Leatherback turtles.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New Zealand: Protesters’ flotilla awaits drillship



SPEAKING UP: Raglan residents at the car park in Manu Bay on Saturday, protesting against oil company Anadarko’s offshore drilling programme.

Oil Free Seas Flotilla
A flotilla of protesters is promising to defend the ocean from deep-sea oil exploration as an Anadarko vessel sets a course for their location.

The flotilla of ocean-going yachts, which include the Greenpeace yacht Vega, raced the drillship the Noble Bob Douglas to the site at the Romney Prospect, 110 nautical miles off the Raglan coast, at the weekend.

Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid, who was on one of the six boats, said they planned a peaceful protest where Anadarko will drill in 1500 metre of water in what will be New Zealand’s deepest well.

“Our objective is to faithfully defend our oceans and our coastline, defend our climate, defend out future generations against very risky and unnecessary deep-sea oil drilling,” she said.

Changes to the Crown Minerals Act, known as the Anadarko Amendment, limits protest activity in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and requires all boats to remain 500m clear of drilling operations.

“Seeing as the ship is not here yet there is no restricted zone where we are. We’re just sailing off the coast of New Zealand in very beautiful water.”

The Oil Free Seas flotilla was a loose alliance who wanted to halt exploration and said coastal communities would suffer in a major spill. “The Raglan community and that coastline there would be in the direct path of any major oil spill if it should happen so they have a lot to lose.”

Former Green party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons was also on the flotilla and said Anadarko threatened her grandchildren’s right to a clean environment.

Anadarko’s drilling ship the Noble Bob Douglas was 50 nautical miles off New Plymouth last night and was due to depart overnight.

They will set up in the permitted area and corporate affairs manager Alan Seay expected everything to run smoothly.

“We respect their right to protest and I’d ask that they respect our right to go about our lawful business and respect the safety zone that will be around the Noble Bob Douglas,” he said. “I do understand that they are not allowed to interfere with that location that they must move off when the drillship arrives so we very much hope that that is what happens otherwise they will be interfering.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Business Week: Oil Drillers Rush Back to the Gulf of Mexico

By Edward Klump November 14, 2013
The Gulf of Mexico has been left for dead more than once over the past half-century. It’s now roaring back to life with at least 10 recent mega-discoveries that have renewed oil explorers’ enthusiasm for the region. Billions of dollars are being poured into new wells in the ultra-deep waters off Texas and Louisiana, fueling a resurrection that could set a production record this decade and complete a recovery from the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

In 2014, output from the deepest parts of the Gulf, where the water is more than 1,300 feet deep, will be equivalent to about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, 15 percent more than this year, according to estimates by energy consultants Wood Mackenzie. By 2020, the firm says, the deepwater Gulf, which accounts for about half the Gulf’s 252,000 square miles of federal waters, is expected to produce an average of more than 1.9 million barrels a day, a new high. “Investors should not sleep on the Gulf of Mexico,” says Brian Youngberg, an analyst with Edward Jones in St. Louis. “Onshore shale is obviously the main driver in the growth in U.S. production, but going forward, the Gulf of Mexico should start contributing to that.”

U.S. crude production has surged in recent years, largely because companies used hydraulic fracturing and advanced drilling technology to open onshore shale formations. Now producers including Chevron (CVX), Royal Dutch Shell (RDS/A), and Anadarko Petroleum (APC) are preparing to surpass the Gulf’s 2009 peak; production collapsed after BP’s (BP) 2010 spill. That disaster, and the five-month drilling moratorium that followed, led to an exodus of rigs and drilling equipment as regulators bolstered safety requirements. As large oil companies have begun drilling again, so has BP, which remains a major operator in the deep Gulf. It was the biggest producer there in 2012 and has ownership stakes in more than 650 leases.

In the late 1970s energy companies began referring to the Gulf as “the Dead Sea.”

Shallow-water wells drilled decades earlier were tapering off, and the industry lacked the technology to find oil in the deeper waters. New seismic equipment has since let explorers see through once-opaque layers of rock. Engineering innovations enable companies to lower their drills through 10,000 feet of water to the seabed. There the drills penetrate 5 miles into the earth’s crust, where temperatures are hot enough to boil water and high pressures approach the weight of four cars resting on one square inch. That seismic and drilling technology has improved even since the 2010 oil spill, allowing ventures into deeper and deeper waters.

Chevron, with a company-record five rigs drilling, is among the most bullish. The company expects its $7.5 billion Jack/St. Malo platform to begin producing oil and gas in 2014, with a long-range target of 177,000 barrels per day. Other deep-water projects that may begin producing in the Gulf next year include Anadarko’s Lucius, Hess’s (HES) Tubular Bells, and Murphy Oil’s (MUR) Dalmatian. Gulf projects can cost $15 billion for infrastructure, wells, and facilities, and take more than a decade to bring into production.

The U.S. Department of the Interior estimates the Gulf has 48 billion barrels of oil yet to be discovered. “What catches our attention,” says Robert Ryan, vice president for global exploration at Chevron, “is the potential-billions of barrels right in our own backyard.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Credo Action: Interior Secretary Jewell doesn’t know about the most dangerous federal fracking loophole?

The petition to Secretary Jewell reads:
“As one of the most important deciders on fracking, it’s vital that you fully understand the dangerous Halliburton Loophole, and other exemptions that the industry has carved out to pave the way for fracking. As long as gaping loopholes like this exist, the only sure way to protect our health and safety from fracking is to ban it outright.”

Automatically add your name:
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Dear DeeVon,

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is responsible for what may be the Obama administration’s single most important fracking policy decision: Drafting regulations for fracking on public lands.

That’s why it’s so appalling that, recently, when Secretary Jewell was asked if the administration supports a bill to close Dick Cheney’s infamous Halliburton Loophole, which exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act and parts of other critical environmental laws, she said she wasn’t “intimately familiar” with the loophole.1 2

That’s not acceptable. The Halliburton Loophole is the biggest barrier to keeping us safe from fracking.3 4 This and other federal fracking loopholes are the reason that the burden of regulating fracking has fallen largely to state governments.5 As a result, underfunded regulatory agencies controlled by politicians flush with oily money have largely left Americans at the mercy of the fracking industry.

As Interior writes rules for fracking on federal land, we need to make sure that Secretary Jewell knows all about the Halliburton Loophole, and the other loopholes in federal environmental law that protect the fracking industry from accountability.

Tell Secretary Jewell: The “Halliburton Loophole” fracking exemption is a major threat to our health and safety. Click here to sign automatically.

An area of federal land larger than the entire state of Florida is currently under lease for oil and gas extraction and more than 15 million Americans live within a mile of a fracked oil or gas well, so Interior’s pending fracking rule will have a sweeping impact on America’s energy policy.6 7

But, unfortunately, every indication is that Interior is caving to the fracking industry. The most recent draft fracking rules are even weaker than the previous draft — likely as a result of a fracking industry lobbying blitz at the White House.8

More than a million Americans submitted public comments on the rule opposing fracking, including more than 600,000 calling for an outright ban on fracking on federal lands. But apparently our message hasn’t gotten through yet — and Secretary Jewell’s recent comments may give us some clue why.

Tell Secretary Jewell: The “Halliburton Loophole” fracking exemption is a major threat to our health and safety. Click here to sign automatically.

Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

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Learn more about this campaign

1. David Baker, “Interior Sec. Jewell: U.S. can pump oil and fight climate change,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 8, 2013
2. “U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell,” Climate One, November 7, 2013
3. “The Halliburton Loophole,” Earthworks
4. Lauren Pagel and Lisa Sumi, “Loopholes for Polluters,” Earthworks, May 16, 2011
5. Steve Horn, “Regulatory Non-Enforcement by Design: Earthworks Shows How the Game is Played,” DeSmogBlog, September 27, 2013
6. Amy Mall, “More than six percent of U.S. already leased for oil and gas: new NRDC analysis,” NRDC Switchboard, February 26, 2013
7. Katie Valentine, “More Than 15 Million Americans Now Live Within One Mile Of A Fracking Well,” ThinkProgress, October 26, 2013
8. Mike Soraghan, “White House huddled with industry before changes to BLM fracking rule,” EnergyWire, April 12, 2013

Climate Progress: House To Vote On Bill That Would Impose $5,000 Fee For Protesting Drilling Projects


The House is likely to vote on a number of GOP bills this week related to the oil and gas industry, arguably the most sweeping of which is the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), is broad legislation designed to make it much easier for oil and gas companies to obtain permission to drill on public lands. If signed into law, the legislation would automatically approve onshore drilling permits if the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) failed to act on them in 60 days.

If an individual does not like a proposed drilling project and wanted to oppose it, he or she would have to pay a $5,000 fee to file an official protest.

In addition, Lamborn’s proposed bill would direct the DOI to begin commercial leasing for the development of oil shale, a controversial type of production that has been largely banned by the United States since President Herbert Hoover prohibited the leasing of federal lands for oil shale. Oil shale – which should not be confused with the more common “shale oil” – is a type of rock that needs to be heated to nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to produce crude oil, which then has to be refined.

Jessica Goad, research manager of the Center for American Progress’ Public Lands Project has said the process of producing oil shale “takes a large amount of energy and money, as well as 3-5 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced, a dangerous issue in the parched West.” The Natural Resources Defense Council calls it “the dirtiest fuel on the planet.”

Nonetheless, the largest deposits of oil shale in the world are in the United States in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming – 70 percent of which is on land owned by the federal government. Under Lamborn’s bill, the government would be required to offer 10 leases on federal lands in 2014 for oil shale research and demonstration projects. And before 2016, the government must hold at least 5 commercial lease sales of federal lands for oil shale development, each no less than 25,000 acres.

The oil produced from the oil shale could provide the United States with energy for the next 200 years, the bill says, and create an estimated 350,000 jobs. But according to the NRDC, oil shale production would emit four times more carbon pollution than producing conventional gasoline, credited to the amount of energy it takes to get hydrocarbons out of the rock.

“This bill is not simply anachronistic; it is dangerous,” a group of Democratic Representatives said in their dissent of the bill. “It would harm the environment, short-circuit critical reviews, and establish barriers to people wishing to challenge decisions on oil and gas development in their backyards.”

The entire bill, along with amendment votes and dissents, can be read here.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Greenpeace: Absolute must-read from the Philippines


As I was watching the tragic scenes of destruction from the Philippines and wondering how I could help, I received this email from the Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Von Hernandez.

It was such powerful reminder of why we do what we do that I asked if I could share it with you. He agreed.


Phil Radford
Greenpeace USA Executive Director

P.S. For more on the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, visit our blog.


From: Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director
To: Phil Radford, Greenpeace USA Executive Director
Subject: Philippine Climate Disaster update

Dear friends,

Destruction in the Philippines

Click here for more on the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

It is impossible to put into words the despair that millions of Filipinos are going through right now.

Days after Haiyan (Yolanda) sliced through the central islands of the Philippines, it has become horrifyingly clear that the damage wrought by the super typhoon has been colossal, the devastation absolute.

As of this writing, almost a thousand people have been officially confirmed to have lost their lives. The number of dead, however, is expected to exceed 10,000 — as more reports continue to filter in from other cities, islands and villages that were flattened by the apocalyptic winds and enormous walls of sea water that came rushing ashore.

More than 10 million people are estimated to have been displaced by this single event. Hunger, sickness and despair now stalk the most hard hit of areas, even as aid from both local and international sources started to trickle in. The President has already declared a state of national calamity.

It will probably take a few more days, maybe weeks before the total extent of this disaster can be confirmed. But for sure, this is now considered the worst natural calamity that the country has ever experienced.

While storms and typhoons are indeed natural occurrences, the ferocious strength and destructive power delivered by this typhoon have been characterized as off the charts and beyond normal.

This is also not the first time.

Last year, there was Bopha, which resulted in more than 600 fatalities, and before that a number of other weather aberrations too freakish even for a nation that has grown accustomed to getting more than 20 of these howlers in any given year. As if on cue, and following the template of Bopha in Doha, Haiyan also came at a time when the climate COP is taking place, this time in Warsaw.

Some of you would have already heard about the emotional opening speech delivered by the head of the Philippine delegation at the climate summit yesterday, bewailing the absence of responsible climate action at the global level and refusing to accept that the fate of Filipinos may now be irretrievably linked to a future where people are served super typhoons for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Once again, a disaster such as this one, underscores the urgency of the work we do as a global organization on climate change.

It is in fearful anticipation of tragic scenarios such as these why our staff and activists go through great lengths, putting their life and liberty at risk, to take action at the frontlines of climate destruction — whether that’s in the forests of Sumatra or the hostile waters of the Arctic.

I would like to believe this is part of the larger narrative why 30 of our colleagues remain in detention in Russia. And it is our hope that they find courage and inspiration to endure the injustice they are going through, moving the planet away from the clear and present danger posed by runaway climate change.

We thank you all for the messages of solidarity and support you have sent our way at this time.

More importantly, I would urge you to use this moment to remind your governments that every investment in fossil fuels is an investment in death and destruction.

The impact of new coal plants being built or new oil fields being developed — do not remain in their immediate vicinities — they translate into epic humanitarian disasters and tragedies, as we continue to witness in the Philippines.


Von Hernandez
Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive

Channel 3 News New Zealand: Anti-Anadarko flotilla sets sail

video at:

Read more:
Monday 11 Nov 2013 6:16a.m.

By 3 News online staff

A flotilla of protestors campaigning against Anadarko’s offshore oil drilling plans will set out today, and organisers aren’t promising they won’t breach legally protected zones around drilling vessels.

Boats will leave Auckland and Kaikoura at midday as part of the Oil Free Seas Flotilla to head to a proposed drilling site.

The Nobel Bob Douglas, a newly-commissioned drilling ship currently carrying out exploratory drilling, is positioned at the site 110 nautical miles west of Raglan. “Nuclear testing in the Pacific wasn’t right and deep-sea oil drilling in the Tasman is not right either. We will not be bullied into submission by big oil or dubious laws,” says spokesperson Anna Horne.

“We’ve got six fantastic boats, great skippers and crew, who are going to go out for as long as it takes to get the message across to Anadarko directly, and also to make it clear to the Government that it’s not a popular thing.”

Anadarko is due to begin drilling for oil at the site later this month. Vessels from the Bay of Islands and Wellington will depart for the site later this week.

The flotilla could be the first test of legislation passed earlier this year which bans aspects of protesting at sea. That law states it is illegal to interfere with any structure or ship that is in an offshore area that is to be used in mining activities, with an exclusion zone of 500 metres.

However members of the group say they do not anticipate violating the exclusion zone.”Safety is paramount in our minds – we wouldn’t do anything to risk a spill,” says Ms Horne. “We are just determined with our banners and a peaceful presence, to show that these things don’t go unnoticed.”

She says it’s too early to say whether the group will or won’t deliberately breach the 500m exclusion zone. “We are committed to peaceful non-violent protest, and we are absolutely mindful of the lawŠ we’re used to acting within those international laws of the sea.”

One of the ships involved in the flotilla, the Vega, was also involved in a flotilla protesting against French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

3 News

Read more:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Environmental News Network: Deep sea Drilling in New Zealand

From: Rachel Shaw, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published November 6, 2013 01:51 PM

Deep sea drilling will soon commence in the rough waters off the New Zealand coast. This could mark the beginning of an oil rush in which democratic process, public concern, environmental protection and safety considerations are all swept aside. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around New Zealand is fifteen times larger than the country’s land area – it extends from the sub-tropical to the sub-Antarctic. Like the Arctic, New Zealand’s EEZ supports a multitude of species which travel from far-flung areas of the globe to reach these rich waters. Like the Arctic, New Zealand’s EEZ is fast becoming an oil exploration frontier.

In the Arctic, drilling rig operators must contend with the extreme polar conditions and sea ice. In New Zealand, notoriously rough seas and the deep ocean will test the limits of drilling technology. The deepest offshore oil production well in New Zealand is currently 125 m below the ocean’s surface. In a matter of weeks, Texan oil company Anadarko will drill its first deep-sea oil well 1500 m below the waves of the Tasman Sea. This is the first exploration well in what is shaping up to be an onslaught of deep-sea oil drilling in the coming years.

To expedite the deep-sea oil rush, a legislative process is underway to remove any consultation rights from the New Zealand public regarding proposals to drill new offshore exploratory oil wells. Meanwhile, in May of 2013 the government rushed through a law, infamously known as the ‘Anadarko amendment’, banning protest within 500 m of a rig or drill ship operating within the New Zealand EEZ. The penalties for entering this 500 m zone include hefty fines and up to a year in prison. Like the Russian response to the Arctic 30, the message from the New Zealand government is clear: opposition to oil drilling is not welcome here.

The dangers of deep-sea oil
Public concern in New Zealand over this deep-sea oil rush is understandable. In 2010, the environmental and economic devastation that a deep-sea oil spill may cause became a terrible reality in the Gulf of Mexico. Vast quantities of oil gushed into the Gulf unimpeded for 87 days before the spill was capped. As a quarter share investor in the well, Anadarko (the same company at the vanguard of the New Zealand oil rush) were found jointly liable for the worst oil spill in history.

Read more at ENN affiliate, The Ecologist.
West Coast New Zealand image via Shutterstock.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

National Geographic: Earthquake Study Points to Possible Carbon Injection Risks
Photo of an oil well drilling rig near Peggy, Texas.
Oil rigs like this one long have been a feature of the Texas landscape. But for the first time, a study has traced a link between small earthquakes in western Texas and an increasingly common practice, underground injection of carbon dioxide to boost production.

Photograph by America, Alamy

Joe Eaton

For National Geographic

Published November 4, 2013

A cluster of 18 small earthquakes in western Texas was likely triggered by the injection of carbon dioxide into oil wells, according to a study published Monday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is the first to link carbon dioxide injections to actual earthquakes, and may help scientists evaluate the risks of storing greenhouse gas emissions deep underground, a fledgling technology for managing climate change known as geologic carbon sequestration. (See related “Quiz: What You Don’t Know About Carbon Capture.”) This week, energy secretaries from 22 nations and the European Union are meeting in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to spur global deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

The earthquakes evaluated in the study were magnitude 3 and slightly larger and occurred between 2006 and 2011 in the Cogdell oil field near Snyder, Texas. It was not the first time the area had experienced seismic activity. From 1975 to 1982, a number of earthquakes had struck the oil field. Scientists linked that seismic activity to the oil industry practice of injecting water into oil wells to increase production. When the water injections stopped, the earthquakes ceased.

Beginning in 2004, however, the oil industry injected carbon dioxide and other gases into wells in the Cogdell field, also in a bid to enhance production. Earthquakes returned soon after, according to the study.

Cliff Frohlich, study co-author and associate director of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin, said carbon dioxide injection is the only variable that changed significantly before the earth started trembling.

Although injecting carbon dioxide to extract oil differs from carbon sequestration, Frohlich said his study could help scientists better understand possible risks of the technology, which has shown promise for reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

“I’m not an expert on climate engineering, but a number of solutions have been proposed,” Frohlich said. “Whether they are good ideas or not, the jury is still out. Anytime you mess with the environment, there are unintended consequences.”

The study sheds further light on a category of seismic risks that is receiving increased attention in recent years: manmade risks caused by energy development that involves the injection of fluids underground, often at high pressure. The disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations has been linked to temblors in several cases. (See related, “Fracking Wastewater Disposal Linked to Remotely Triggered Quakes” and “Scientists Say Oil Industry Likely Caused Largest Oklahoma Earthquake.”)

A 2012 report by the National Academy of Sciences warned that carbon sequestration might have the potential to induce larger earthquakes than fracking or injecting energy industry wastewater into the Earth’s subsurface. (See related blog post: “Tracing Links Between Fracking and Earthquakes.”) The increased risk is a result of the large volumes of carbon dioxide that would be injected, the study said. (See related, “Report Links Energy Activities to Higher Quake Risk.”)

Other scientists, however, worry the public might overlook the possible benefits of carbon sequestration by focusing on the risks. Andres Clarens, an assistant professor of environmental and water resources engineering at the University of Virginia, said he is concerned that Frohlich’s study could slow efforts to develop the technology. (See related, “Amid Economic Concerns, Carbon Capture Faces a Hazy Future,” and “A Quest to Clean Up Canada’s Oil Sands Carbon.”)

“Climate change is a well understood and imminent threat, and we are in dire need of strategies for reducing emissions while we scale up carbon-free energy sources,” Clarens said. “Quiz: What You Don’t Know About Climate Change Science.”)

In September, Clarens published a paper in Environmental Science and Technology, a scientific journal of the American Chemical Society, that proposed storing carbon dioxide in hydraulically fractured shale deposits after the removal of methane gas. The study found that the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania alone has the potential to store roughly 50 percent of future U.S. nontransportation carbon dioxide emissions from 2018 to 2030.

Carbon sequestration is currently being tested at 65 sites around the world, including in Norway and Algeria and at a project site near Decatur, Illinois, where carbon dioxide totaling one million metric tons is being injected into a saline reservoir over a three-year period.

Wayne Pennington, a professor of geological and mining engineering and sciences at Michigan Technological University, said Frohlich’s paper is important because it provides the first example of an earthquake caused by carbon dioxide injection.

But Pennington said the study should not be read as the final word on the technology, which is widely used in international oil production without event.

What’s most intriguing, Pennington said, is that many locations are exposed to higher levels of injection than the Cogdell oil field but do not experience earthquakes. “We don’t know why,” he said. “Our understanding is clearly incomplete.” (See related, “Carbon Recycling: Mining the Air For Fuel,” and “Out of Thin Air: The Quest to Capture Carbon Dioxide.”)

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visitThe Great Energy Challenge.

Common Dreams: First Nations to Resume Blockade in Canadian Fracking Fight

Published on Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Renewed protests follow announcement that energy company will re-start shale gas exploration
– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A Royal Proclamation day feast brought out over 300 to the anti-fracking blockade in Rexton, New Brunswick in early October. [Photo: Miles Howe]Elsipogtog First Nations members are heading back to the streets in New Brunswick this week to defend their land from a gas drilling company seeking to re-start exploratory fracking operations in the region.

The new wave of local anti-drilling resistance will resume an ongoing battle between the community members who faced a paramilitary-style onslaught by law enforcement agencies last month that sparked international outcry and a wave of solidarity protests.

“This is an issue of human rights and access to clean drinking water, and it’s fundamentally about sovereignty and self-determination.” –Clayton Thomas-Muller, Idle No More

The renewed protest follows a recent announcement by New Brunswick’s premiere that SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of the Houston-based Southwestern Energy Company, will resume shale gas exploration in First Nations territory after it was halted by blockades and protests.

Elsipogtog members announced Monday they will join with local residents and other First Nations communities—including the Mi’kmaq people—to “light a sacred fire” and stage a protest to stop SWN from fracking.

“SWN is violating our treaty rights. We are here to save our water and land, and to protect our animals and people. There will be no fracking at all,” said Louis Jerome, a Mi’kmaq sun dancer, in a statement. “We are putting a sacred fire here, and it must be respected. We are still here, and we’re not backing down.”

“The people of Elsipogtog along with local people have a very strong resolve and will be there as long as they need to be to keep the threat of fracking from destroying their water,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, a campaigner with Idle No More, in an interview with Common Dreams.

Community members previously blocked a road near the town of Rexton in rural New Brunswick to stop energy companies from conducting shale gas exploration on their land without their consent.

In early October, the government imposed a temporary injunction on the New Brunswick protest, bowing to pressure from SWN.

Claiming the authority of the injunction, over 100 Royal Canadian Mounted Police launched a paramilitary-style assault on the blockade in late October, bringing rifles and attack dogs and arresting 40 people.

First Nations communities and activists across Canada and the world launched a wave of actions in solidarity in response to the attack.

“Within 24 hours of the paramilitary assault on the nonviolent blockade by the fed police, Idle No More and other networks organized over 100 solidarity actions in over half a dozen countries,” said Thomas-Muller.

Days later, a Canadian judge overruled the injunction on the protests. Yet the federal and provincial governments continue to allow SWN to move forward fracking plans on indigenous lands, in what First Nation campaigners say is a violation of federal laws protecting the sovereignty of their communities.

“This is an issue of human rights and access to clean drinking water, and it’s fundamentally about sovereignty and self-determination,” said Thomas-Muller. “Support for the Elsipogtog and their actions to reclaim lands in their territory is something that is powerful and united from coast to coast and around the world.”


Common Dreams: TransCanada CEO: Anti-Pipeline Campaign Effective, But Keystone XL Will Be Built

Published on Thursday, October 31, 2013

Russ Girling still sees project going forward, with or without White House approval
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The CEO of TransCanada, the corporation behind the tar sands-carrying Keystone XL, recognized the power of activists in fighting the project but said that even a rejection from the White House won’t deter the pipeline from being completed.

(Photo: Emma Cassidy via tarsandsaction/cc/flickr) Russ Girling, head of the Calgary-based energy giant, was in Washington on Tuesday to meet with the State Department about the pending approval of the pipeline, and offered his thoughts about Keystone opponents and the future of the pipeline in a handful of interviews on Wednesday.

Girling acknowledged the power activists, who have given “good sound bites” that have caused the average person to be fearful of the project, have had in fighting the pipeline, in an interview with Politico. Speaking to Bloomberg, he said that Keystone foes have been able to slow down the approval process and have been “very successful in creating the impression that the pipeline equals emissions.”

“There’s no question that the noise outside is having an influence on the process,” Girling told Bloomberg. “The project has been hijacked by activists that are opposed to the development of all fossil fuels.”

The reach of the message of Keystone XL opponents forced the company to launch extensive PR campaigns to fight back, Girling conceded.

While now in a fifth year of waiting for White House OK for the Keystone XL, which he expects in early 2014, Girling is optimistic, but said that even a “no” from the president won’t deter the project from moving forward.

In June President Obama declared :

Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.

A widely criticized draft environmental statement on the pipeline from State Department issued in March indicated it would have minimal impact.

Girling told The Hill he sees no reason for the White House to reject the pipeline in its final assessment, and, contradicting reports from environmental groups, said, “It is impossible to get to a conclusion that the pipeline causes any significant increase in [greenhouse gas] emissions.

He said supporters of the project that TransCanada has already sunk $2 billion into have shown no signs of leaving, despite years of waiting.

“Nobody is going to pack up their tent and leave,” Girling told Bloomberg. “We will get through these hurdles. The marketplace will determine whether these projects get done.”


New York Times: Activists Feel Powerful Wrath as Russia Guards Its Arctic Claims

Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace, via Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
Alexandra Harris, one of 30 people from a Greenpeace ship who are being detained by Russia.
Published: October 30, 2013

MOSCOW – Gizem Akhan, 24, was about to begin her final year studying the culinary arts at Yeditepe University in Istanbul. Tomasz Dziemianczuk, 36, took a vacation from his job as a cultural adviser at the University of Gdansk in Poland that has now unexpectedly turned into an unpaid leave of absence.

Dmitri Litvinov, 51, is a veteran activist who as a child spent four years in Siberian exile after his father, Pavel, took part in the Red Square protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

“I didn’t expect my son to get in their clutch,” the elder Mr. Litvinov said in a telephone interview from Irvington, N.Y., where he settled to teach physics in nearby Tarrytown after being expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974.

Dmitri Litvinov and the others are just three of the 30 people aboard a Greenpeace International ship, the Arctic Sunrise, who are now confined in separate cells in the far northern city of Murmansk after staging a high-seas protest last month against oil exploration in the Arctic. All face criminal charges that could result in years in prison as a result of having grossly underestimated Russia’s readiness to assert – and even expand – its sovereignty in a region potentially rich with natural resources.

The vigorous legal response by the authorities, including the seizure of the ship itself, appears to have caught Greenpeace off guard and left the crew’s families and friends worried that the consequences of what the activists considered a peaceful protest could prove much graver than any expected when they set out.

“Naturally, every time Gizem sets out on a protest I feel anxious,” Ms. Akhan’s mother, Tulay, said in written responses delivered through Greenpeace. “I’m a mother, and most of the time she doesn’t even tell us she is participating. I’ve known the risks but couldn’t have foreseen that we would come face to face with such injustice.”

Critics of the government of President Vladimir V. Putin have added the crew of the Arctic Sunrise to a catalog of prisoners here who have faced politically motivated or disproportionate punishment for challenging the state. Among them are the former oil tycoon Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the punk performers of Pussy Riot and the protesters awaiting trial more than a year after violence broke out on the day of Mr. Putin’s inauguration last year.

But there is one crucial difference: Most of those who were aboard the Arctic Sunrise are foreigners.

They hail from 18 nations. Two of them, Denis Sinyakov of Russia and Kieron Bryan of Britain, are freelance journalists who joined the crew to chronicle the ship’s voyage, which began in Amsterdam and ended on Sept. 19 when Russian border guards borne by helicopters descended on the ship in the Pechora Sea.

Alexandra Harris of Britain, 27, was on her first trip to the Arctic. Camila Speziale, 21, of Argentina, was on her first trip at sea. Others were veteran Greenpeace activists, including the American captain, Peter Willcox, who was skipper of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 when French secret service agents bombed it at dockside in Auckland, New Zealand, leading to the drowning of a photographer, Fernando Pereira.

The activists knew the protest was risky. Two of them, Sini Saarela of Finland and Marco Weber of Switzerland, tried to scale the offshore oil platform in the Pechora Sea owned by Russia’s state energy giant, Gazprom.

They plunged into the icy waters after guards sprayed water from fire hoses and fired warning shots, and they were plucked from the sea by a Russian coast guard ship and held as “guests.” The next day, Sept. 19, however, the Arctic Sunrise was seized by border guards in international waters.

Greenpeace staged a similar but more successful protest in the summer of 2012. In that instance, activists, including Greenpeace’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, scaled the same platform and unfurled a banner. After several hours, they departed, and the Russian authorities did not pursue any charges.

The authorities have shown little sign of leniency since the ship’s seizure, despite an international campaign by Greenpeace to draw attention to the prosecutions and even an appeal from Italy’s oil giant Eni, a partner of Gazprom, to show clemency for the crew, which includes an Italian, Cristian D’Alessandro.

The prosecution of the Arctic Sunrise crew has punctuated Mr. Putin’s warnings that he would not tolerate any infringement on Russia’s development in the Arctic. The region has become a focus of political and economic strategy for the Kremlin as its natural resources have become more accessible because of the warming climate.

When the government of the Netherlands, where Greenpeace International is based, filed an appeal to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to have the ship and crew released, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would not recognize the tribunal’s jurisdiction, citing the country’s sovereignty. The tribunal has scheduled a hearing on the Dutch claim anyway, but unless Russia seeks a compromise that would free the prisoners, the crew could be detained for months awaiting trial.

Greenpeace’s activists and their cause have not found much sympathy in Russia, their fate shaped in part by hostile coverage on state-owned or state-controlled television. The main state network, Channel One, recently broadcast an analysis that suggested that Greenpeace’s protest had been orchestrated by powerful backers with economic incentives to undermine Gazprom.

After their formal arrest on Sept. 24, the crew members appeared one by one in court and were charged with piracy and ordered held at least until Nov. 24. One by one their appeals for bail were denied. Last week, the regional investigative committee reduced the charges to hooliganism, a crime that nonetheless carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

The committee raised the possibility of new charges against some crew members that could result in longer sentences upon conviction.

According to Greenpeace and relatives, the prisoners have not been mistreated in the detention center where they are now held, next to Murmansk’s morgue. They have had access to lawyers and diplomats from their respective countries. They are allowed care packages delivered by Greenpeace, occasional phone calls and sporadic visits from those relatives who can make it to Murmansk. The captain and chief engineer were taken to visit and inspect the Arctic Sunrise, now moored in Murmansk’s port.
Conditions, though, are grim.

In letters or phone calls to their families, they have described small, unheated cells, unappetizing meals and Russian cellmates who smoke relentlessly. They spend 23 hours a day in their cells, with only an hour of exercise a day in an enclosed courtyard and the periodic visits with lawyers or trips to court for a hearing. “It’s very cold now,” Ms. Harris, the activist from Britain on her first Greenpeace operation in the Arctic, wrote in a letter to her parents and brother that was widely cited in the British press: “It snowed last night. The blizzard blew my very poorly insulated window open and I had to sleep wearing my hat.”

She went on to express a measure of resolve, saying she practiced yoga in her cell and tapped on the wall to the music piped in, but she also wrote of uncertainty in a confinement that she compared to slowly dying.

“I heard that from December Murmansk is dark for six weeks,” she wrote. “God, I hope I’m out by then.”

Reporting was contributed by Andrew Roth and Patrick Reevell from Moscow, Ceylan Yeginsu from Istanbul, and Joanna Berendt from Warsaw.
A version of this article appears in print on October 31, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Activists Feel Powerful Wrath

Common Dreams: Big Oil’s Bid to Crush Small Town Stand Against Tar Sands
Published on Monday, October 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

Industry cash and lobbyists pour into coastal Maine town in effort to defeat residents’ initiative to block dirty oil project
– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Protect South Portland rallies in favor of the Waterfront Protection Ordinance (Photo: damp wood)Big Oil is sparing no expense in its bid to crush efforts by residents of South Portland, Maine who are taking the fossil fuel industry head-on to save their waterfront from tar sands.

Campaign finance reports revealed Friday that the oil industry has poured over $600,000 into a campaign to defeat the Waterfront Protection Ordinance—a land-use zoning ordinance up for referendum in the November election, that is backed by grassroots organizations and would block oil industry efforts to build a tar sands export facility.

“Clearly they have all the money. We are talking about some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. They do not want a community to stand up for itself. They are going to do everything they can to squash our initiative.”
–Robert Sellin, Protect South Portland

The oil industry is likely to break all records on campaign spending in this coastal town of 25,000 people, out-spending local environmental and community groups six-to-one.

“Oil industry spending is completely over the top,” said Robert Sellin, from the group Protect South Portland, in a phone interview with Common Dreams. “Clearly they have all the money. We are talking about some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. They do not want a community to stand up for itself. They are going to do everything they can to squash our initiative and discourage other jurisdictions.”

While the Keystone XL pipeline is still under review by the State Department, the fight in South Portland shows that oil and pipeline industries are pressing to expand routes across the U.S. and Canada.

The campaign to defeat the Waterfront Protection Ordinance is bankrolled by the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group American Petroleum Institute, as well as the Portland Pipe Line Corporation. The hundreds of thousands of dollars are being used to run advertisements, hire consultants and strategists, and employ canvassers.

“They have been stuffing our mailboxes with shiny mailers and our phones have been ringing off the hook with robo calls, and we’re so sick of it,” said Cathy Chapman, a South Portland resident.

In contrast, local organizations in favor of the ordinance’s passage have collectively spent only $107,000. Protect South Portland says that the $31,000 they have spent in favor of the ordinance came from 192 people donating an average of $42.49 each.

“Our citizen group—Protect South Portland—is volunteer-powered by neighbors and is grassroots,” said Crystal Goodrich of Protect South Portland, who also questioned the tactics of the oil lobby.

The Portland Pipe Line Corporation applied four years ago for a permit to use South Portland as the potential location for an alternate tar sands pipeline. The plan was to use a 70-year-old, 236-mile pipeline, currently employed to transport crude oil from freighters in the South Portland harbor to Montreal, to instead transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada. This would be accomplished by reversing the flow of the pipeline, and the tar sands oil would be distributed to international markets via oil tankers and an upgraded terminal in South Portland.

The upgrade would include two 70-foot smokestacks erected on the South Portland waterfront that would spew pollution, including carcinogenic benzene, into the atmosphere. Freighter ships transporting crude oil from Casco Bay would increase the risk of spills, and tar sands storage tanks would be erected near area schools.

PPLC President and CEO Larry Wilson now claims that his company has no immediate plans to move forward on this project, though has said his company won’t rule it out. Meanwhile, PPLC is putting up a vigorous fight against community efforts to prevent tar sands distribution at the South Portland waterfront.

Sellin said that the same tactics the oil industry is using against local residents are used in a bid to force the tar sands industry on communities all over the world. “I hope that people would think about their local situation and how they can use what powers they have to defend their communities,” he said. “We encourage all communities nationally and internationally to look at what’s available and stand up.”

Common Dreams: via Can Obama Ever Stand Up to the Oil Industry?

Published on Monday, October 28, 2013 by

X-ray of a flagging presidency: Will Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline or just keep bending?
by Bill McKibben


President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. In June of this year, President Obama said that the building of the full pipeline — on which he alone has the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down — would be approved only if “it doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” By that standard, it’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get. (Photo: Getty images)As the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has worn on — and it’s now well over two years old — it’s illuminated the Obama presidency like no other issue. It offers the president not just a choice of policies, but a choice of friends, worldviews, styles. It’s become an X-ray for a flagging presidency. The stakes are sky-high, and not just for Obama. I’m writing these words from Pittsburgh, amid 7,000 enthusiastic and committed young people gathering to fight global warming, and my guess is that his choice will do much to determine how they see politics in this country.

Let us stipulate at the start that whether or not to build the pipeline is a decision with profound physical consequences. If he approves its construction, far more of the dirtiest oil on Earth will flow out of the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and reach the U.S. Gulf Coast. Not just right away or for a brief period, but far into the future, since the Keystone XL guarantees a steady flow of profits to oil barons who have their hearts set on tripling production in the far north.

The history of oil spills and accidents offers a virtual guarantee that some of that oil will surely make its way into the fields and aquifers of the Great Plains as those tar sands flow south. The greater and more daunting assurance is this, however: everything that reaches the refineries on the Gulf Coast will, sooner or later, spill into the atmosphere in the form of carbon, driving climate change to new heights.

In June, President Obama said that the building of the full pipeline — on which he alone has the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down — would be approved only if “it doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” By that standard, it’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get.

These days, however, as no one will be surprised to hear, brainless things happen in Washington more often than not, and there’s the usual parade of the usual suspects demanding that Keystone get built. In mid-October, a coalition that included Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell, not to mention the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable, sent Obama a letter demanding that he approve Keystone in order to “maintain investor confidence,” a phrase almost guaranteed to accompany bad ideas. A report last week showed that the Koch brothers stood to earn as much as $100 billion in profits if the pipeline gets built (which would come in handy in helping fund their endless assault on unions, poor people, and democracy).

But don’t think it’s just Republican bigwigs and oil execs rushing to lend the pipeline a hand. Transcanada, the pipeline’s prospective builder, is at work as well, and Obama’s former communications director Anita Dunn is now on the Transcanada dime, producing TV ads in support of the pipeline. It’s a classic example of the kind of influence peddling that knows no partisan bounds. As the activists at Credo put it: “It’s a betrayal of the commitments that so many of us worked so hard for, and that Dunn herself played a huge role in shaping as top strategist on the 2008 campaign and communications director in the White House.”

Credo’s Elijah Zarlin, who worked with Dunn back in 2008, wrote that attack on her. He was the guy who wrote all those emails that got so many of us coughing up money and volunteering time during Obama’s first run for the presidency, and he perfectly exemplifies those of us on the other side of this divide — the ones who actually believed Dunn in 2008, the ones who thought Obama was going to try to be a different kind of president.

Yes, the Environmental Protection Agency has put in place some new power plant regulations, and cars are getting better mileage. But the president has also boasted again and again about his “all of the above” energy policy for “increasing domestic oil production and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

On energy there’s been precious little sign of that. Yes, the Environmental Protection Agency has put in place some new power plant regulations, and cars are getting better mileage. But the president has also boasted again and again about his “all of the above” energy policy for “increasing domestic oil production and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.” It has, in fact, worked so well that the United States will overtake Russia this year as the biggest combined oil and natural gas producer on the planet and is expected to pass Saudi Arabia as the number one oil producer by 2017.

His administration has okayed oil drilling in the dangerous waters of the Arctic and has emerged as the biggest backer of fracking. Even though he boasts about marginal U.S. cuts in carbon emissions, his green light to fracking means that he’s probably given more of a boost to releases of methane — another dangerous greenhouse gas — than any man in history. And it’s not just the environment. At this point, given what we know about everything from drone warfare to NSA surveillance, the dream of a progressive Obama has, like so many dreams, faded away.

The president has a handy excuse, of course: a truly terrible Congress. And too often — with the noble exception of those who have been fighting for gay rights and immigration reform — he’s had little challenge from progressives. But in the case of Keystone, neither of those caveats apply: he gets to make the decision all by himself with no need to ask John Boehner for a thing, and people across the country have made a sustained din about it. Americans have sent record numbers of emails to senators and a record number of comments to the State Department officials who oversee a “review” of the pipeline’s environmental feasibility; more have gone to jail over this issue than any in decades. Yet month after month, there’s no presidential decision.

There are days, in fact, when it’s hard to muster much fire for the fight (though whenever I find my enthusiasm flagging, I think of the indigenous communities that have to live amid the Mordor that is now northern Alberta). The president, after all, has already allowed the construction of the southern half of the Keystone pipeline, letting Transcanada take land across Texas and Oklahoma for its project, and setting up the beleaguered communities of Port Arthur, Texas, for yet more fumes from refineries.

Stopping the northern half of that pipeline from being built certainly won’t halt global warming by itself. It will, however, slow the expansion of the extraction of tar sands, though the Koch brothers et al. are busy trying to find other pipeline routes and rail lines that would get the dirtiest of dirty energy out of Canada and into the U.S. via destinations from Michigan to Maine. These pipelines and rail corridors will need to be fought as well — indeed the fights are underway, though sometimes obscured by the focus on Keystone. And there are equally crucial battles over coal and gas from the Appalachians to the Pacific coast. You can argue that the president’s people have successfully diverted attention from their other environmental sins by keeping this argument alive long past the moment at which it should have been settled and a decision should have been made.

At this point, given what we know about everything from drone warfare to NSA surveillance, the dream of a progressive Obama has, like so many dreams, faded away.

At this point, in fact, only the thought of those 900,000 extra barrels a day of especially nasty oil coming out of the ground and, via that pipeline, into refineries still makes the fight worthwhile. Oh, and the possibility that, in deciding to block Keystone, the president would finally signal a shift in policy that matters, finally acknowledge that we have to keep most of the carbon that’s still in the ground in that ground if we want our children and grandchildren to live on a planet worth inhabiting.

If the president were to become the first world leader to block a big energy project on the grounds of its effects on climate, it might help dramatically reset the international negotiations that he allowed to go aground at Copenhagen in 2009 — the biggest foreign policy failure of his first term.

But that cascade of “ifs” depends on Obama showing that he can actually stand up to the oil industry. To an increasingly disillusioned environmental movement, Keystone looks like a last chance.

RigZone: API: 67% of US Voters Support Offshore Drilling

Even though this poll was done by a reputable pollster, knowing the American Petroleum Institute commissioned it leads me to question these figures… DV

by American Petroleum Institute
Press Release
Monday, October 21, 2013

Sixty-seven percent of voters nationwide support offshore drilling for domestic oil and natural gas resources, according to a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Petroleum Institute’s ( API’s) “What America is Thinking on Energy Issues” series. This support bridged party lines, with clear majorities of Republicans (79 percent), Democrats (57 percent) and Independents (67 percent) all supporting offshore drilling.

“Americans get it: domestic oil and natural gas development is a key driver for new jobs, economic growth and energy security,” said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for API. “Our country is now firmly positioned as an energy superpower, and most Americans want our nation to seize opportunities to build upon that status.”

Four state-specific polls showed similar levels of support for offshore oil and natural gas development in Virginia (67 percent), North Carolina (65 percent), South Carolina (77 percent) and Florida (64 percent). Nationwide, 90 percent of voters say producing more oil and natural gas here at home is important. Increasing domestic oil and natural gas production is also important to 88 percent of Virginians, 89 percent of North Carolinians, 91 percent of South Carolinians, and 87 percent of Floridians.

“Americans are eager to put more of our offshore energy resources to work,” said Milito. “If exploration and development is allowed to safely expand to new areas, domestic oil and natural gas could provide more energy, jobs and government revenue than ever before.”

The Obama administration will soon begin work on its next five-year offshore leasing plan, in which areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico could be included for oil and natural gas leasing. Early next year, the administration is also expected to decide whether to permit seismic surveys in the Atlantic from Delaware to northern Florida for the first time in 30 years.

Seismic surveys, which have been used safely around the world for decades, are the most accurate method available to prospect for oil and natural gas reserves offshore apart from drilling. More accurate survey data makes offshore energy production safer and more efficient by reducing its environmental footprint. Technological advances and data collection improvements since seismic surveys were last conducted in the U.S. Atlantic OCS have rendered old resource estimates obsolete.

– See more at:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Inside Climate News–Behind Russia vs. Greenpeace Furor, Unreported Oil Pollution of the Arctic

A Russian Coast guard officer is seen pointing a knife at a Greenpeace International activist as five activists attempt to climb the 'Prirazlomnaya,' an oil platform operated by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom platform in Russia s Pechora Sea.  This is one example of the disproportionate use of force by the Russian authorities during a peaceful protest. The activists are there to stop it from becoming the first to produce oil from the ice-filled waters of the Arctic.
About 4 million barrels of spilled oil, as much as BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill, is flowing into the Arctic Ocean every year, Greenpeace says.
By Zahra Hirji, InsideClimate News
Oct 16, 2013

A Russian Coast guard officer points a knife at a Greenpeace activist as protesters attempt to climb the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Arctic Ocean’s Pechora Sea. Credit: Greenpeace

An environmental organization with a $350 million war chest, a giant protest vessel, 28 activists and a rubber raft have succeeded in drawing Russian President Vladimir V. Putin into a very public global dispute.

Attention is now focused on the Greenpeace activists-who were arrested last month by Coast Guard agents for trying to hang a protest banner on an Arctic Ocean oil platform-and whether they will languish in prison for up to 15 years each on dubious piracy charges.

“They are obviously not pirates,” Putin said in a speech to the International Arctic Forum last month. Yet Russian authorities so far seem to be throwing the book at the activists as international outrage grows to secure their freedom. Protests have been held at Russian consulates in about a half dozen cities worldwide to release the activists.

While the unfolding drama is now focused on issues of civil disobedience and human rights, underneath the uproar is a tangle of issues around Arctic drilling that Greenpeace has been campaigning to address for many years. And now it has secured the world’s attention and a chance to spark a discussion-and the stakes are high.

Earlier this year in a report called Point of No Return, the confrontational organization identified oil drilling in Arctic waters as one of the biggest climate threats being ignored by the world’s governments.

“Oil companies plan to take advantage of melting sea ice … to produce up to 8 million barrels a day of oil and gas,” Greenpeace said in the report. “The drilling would add 520 million tons of CO2 a year to global emissions by 2020.”

That Greenpeace would target Russia’s Prirazlomnoye oil platform-which this fall is expected be the world’s first offshore Arctic well-should not come as a surprise. And it is equally unsurprising that Russia, currently the world’s biggest oil producer, would react so sharply to protect its oil interests and the flagship project of its multibillion-dollar quest to drill, especially as the United States is overtaking Russia as the No. 1 energy producer.

“This is probably the strongest reaction we’ve gotten from a government since the French government blew up one of our ships [in 1985 in an anti-nuclear protest],” said Philip Radford, executive director of Greenpeace USA.

Hidden from view so far, however, has been the environmental damage the Arctic is already suffering at the hands of the Russian oil industry, a degradation that would likely get worse if the oil boom there continues without better regulation, according to Greenpeace and other Russian environmentalists and scientists.

Every year, according to Greenpeace, about 30 million barrels of oil products leak from wells and pipelines in Russia. An estimated four million barrels of that, roughly the size of BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill, flows straight into the Arctic Ocean through tributaries.

The precise impact of these spills on the fragile Arctic environment and its people is unknown but is likely substantial, Greenpeace says. For them the leaks-and the alleged lack of adequate means to deal with them-are an example of an inadequate safety culture in the country’s oil industry. And they’re causing deep concern about Russia’s aggressive push to start drilling for oil in open Arctic waters.

“Russia will not be ready for effective monitoring, supervising and working in the Arctic Ocean,” said Vladimir Chuprov, a Russian citizen and the head of energy for Greenpeace Russia in Moscow, the country’s main energy industry watchdog. Chuprov has been monitoring oil spills for the past decade.

Poor Record
While Russia produces 12 percent of the world’s oil, it is responsible for roughly half the world’s oil spills, according to Greenpeace Russia figures. Broken down, the numbers reveal that some 30 million barrels of petroleum leak from 20,000 inland spills each year.

Official government records paint a different picture. Russian environmental officials say there are only hundreds of inland spills a year. Among other omissions, however, those figures don’t include spills that dump less than 56 barrels, because companies aren’t required to report those incidents.

The two Russian oil companies that already received government approval to drill the Arctic have notorious records for oil accidents and spills.

The Prirazlomnoye platform in the Arctic’s Pechora Sea that Greenpeace targeted is owned and operated by Gazprom Neft Shelf LLC, a subsidiary of the state-run energy giant OAO Gazprom. Gazprom Neft was responsible for the country’s worst offshore oil disaster in December 2011, when a floating rig sank in the Sea of Okhotsk, killing 53 workers.
According to the company’s 2012 sustainability report, the company reported 2,626 pipeline ruptures that year and 3,257 ruptures in 2011.

Gazprom has landed several other licenses to build exploratory drilling wells and platforms in a half dozen other Russian Arctic seas.

Rosneft, another major state-run oil company and the country’s biggest oil producer, has also secured licenses and is expected to begin drilling its first well in early 2014.

Last year, Rosneft was named Russia’s worst environmental polluter by the regional paper Bellona after a government report found that the company had 2,727 reported spills in 2011 in a single northwestern province.

In an interview with InsideClimate News, Vladimir Antoshchenko, a Gazprom Neft Shelf spokesperson, said the Prirazlomnoye project was “based on strict demands on environmental and industrial safety.” He said the rig has Arctic-specific ice-crushing machines to blast floating icebergs and special boats to safely navigate the icy waters.

Alexey Knizhnikov, an environmental policy officer based in the Moscow office of the World Wildlife Fund, said he “has not seen any effective technology to combat an oil spill in ice conditions.”

Either way, environmentalists and other critics of Russia’s Arctic energy plans say there are deeper reasons why the country’s oil industry isn’t ready for Arctic drilling.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that substantial environmental regulations for energy companies were introduced in Russia. The end of Communism brought the establishment of environmental advocacy in the country, which, among other factors, led to the roll out of more and better rules, such as financial penalties for oil spills, but they’re not enough.

For decades the government has been harshly criticized for concealing petroleum spills from the public and the media, levying meager fines that hardly discourage violators, and for failing to require companies to have adequate emergency response plans and spill response tools, among other criticisms.

Valentina Semyashkina, former chair of the Save the Pechora Committee, an environmental organization that works in the Arctic Komi Republic told InsideClimate News that “concealment of accidental oil spills” by energy companies is a regular occurrence. So is the government’s “turning a blind eye,” she said.

The Komi Republic, a province the size of Germany with a largely indigenous population, has been on the frontlines of Russia’s oil rush for years. Accidents have been prevalent, including a vast spill of as much as 2 million barrels from a corroded pipeline in 1994. The incident was first made public by a U.S. Department of Energy official who revealed the spill to the New York Times, prompting accusations of a Russian government cover-up.

“The power is always on the side of big businesses and never on the side of the citizens,” Semyashkina said.

She pointed to a recent oil spill in the Komi Republic. In late May this year, a local Komi resident on his way to work spotted a big blob of black gooey oil in the area’s Kolva River from a pipeline that tore apart in the early winter months. The pipeline’s operator, the Russian- and Vietnamese-owned company Rusvietpetro, had detected the rupture in November but nothing happened.

More than a dozen community members ran the cleanup, shoveling oil into barrels and putting them on the shore before the government emergency response officials arrived and took over about a week later. By late June, Rusvietpetro had repaired the line, which it said broke due to a drop in pressure in the line. The government response ended on July 25, after 3,500 barrels of oil spilled out.

A resident helps clean up the Kolva River oil spill/Credit: Greenpeace
The oil is still threatening the fish and cows that the local indigenous Komi people depend on to earn their living, according to Semyashkina. And several residents are still cleaning up the mess without compensation.

Rusvietpetro didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Local authorities say some of the oil and oil products have reached the Pechora River, a tributary of the Arctic Ocean, as is typical following spills in the Russian tundra, the country’s biggest oil-producing area, Greenpeace’s Chuprov said.

Arctic Challenges
About 13 percent of the planet’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its natural gas lie under Arctic land and water, most of it offshore, according to projections.

One-third of that oil and more than half of the gas is buried on and off Russia’s coastline. And for the first time, the trove of energy is accessible to drilling, a result of both global warming-which has turned the northern ice cap into mush in the summer months-and advanced drilling technology.

Drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean poses new and difficult challenges for industry, and this is particularly worrying for conservation advocates who oppose Russia’s advance into the Arctic.

“We saw how hard it was to respond to the serious offshore drilling incident in the Gulf of Mexico with the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Doug Norlen, director for Pacific Environment, an advocacy and research organization that supports a moratorium on Arctic drilling. Now imagine a spill in the Arctic, where “you are dealing with places that are far away from response capabilities. … It’s a recipe for a disaster.”

Although drilling conditions vary across the ocean’s 5.4 million square miles, the risk of a blowout and a catastrophic spill are threatening all over. Fast-developing storms can wield hurricane-force winds. Icebergs up to a mile in length drift across its choppy currents.
Water temperatures typically hover well below zero. If an accident were to occur in countries lacking emergency response infrastructure along their Arctic coastlines-as in Russia-it could take emergency response crews several hours to arrive at the site under the best conditions and perhaps days.

Marilyn Heiman, director of the U.S. Arctic program at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said that to respond to spills immediately all countries bordering icy Arctic waters would need emergency response centers that are located within a few hundred miles of a drilling site.
These centers would have to be manned by response workers 24 hours a day, because once oil enters the sea, the dark slime can be carried to distant shorelines via strong ocean currents or sink to the depths of the ocean floor.

No country with icy waters has a center this close. In Alaska, the nearest Coast Guard response unit is around 1,000 miles from planned Arctic drilling locations. (It is unclear whether U.S. Arctic drilling regulations, to be released later this year, will require closer emergency centers at planned U.S. drilling sites.)

Knizhnikov of the environmental organization WWF said he’s skeptical that adequate centers will be built in Russia. “It will be very difficult to become reality because [the centers are] very costly,” he said. “It will take many, many years before they will be created, if they will be created.”

Companies in Control
Still, on July 1, Russia passed stricter safety standards and pollution cleanup regulations for offshore drillers than it has in place for inland operations.

Russia now requires companies to have more and better equipment to collect spilled oil-such as booms and skims on hand at all times at drilling sites. The rules also require companies to react to spills faster. According to Russian law, drilling operators must respond to spills at sea within four hours of discovering them, whereas companies have six hours to respond to spills on land.

Most experts say the regulations are not sufficient to address serious concerns about a major spill in the Arctic, one of Earth’s last pristine wilderness areas. For instance, regulations dictating the type of safety equipment and spill response operators must use are too general to be effective, many say.

Even those experts who say Russia’s rules are adequate have their worries.
“The regulations are good,” said Alexei Bambulyak, a Russian environment expert at the Norwegian environment research institution Akvaplan-niva. However, “whether they are followed or not is up to the [drilling] operators.”

The five counries with major Arctic claims-Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States-are moving somewhat slower than Russia, either because of uncertain energy prospects or environmental security and safety concerns.

Norway is the exception, but it has the world’s most stringent standards for offshore drilling safety and is drilling in warmer waters than Russia with less sea ice. In 2007, Norway’s Statoil became the first driller in the world to produce natural gas in Arctic waters.

According to Eric Haalan, a spokesperson for Statoil, Arctic drillers everywhere have “absolutely everything to lose” by working in the Arctic Ocean unprepared.

“Meaning, if we don’t do it properly, we lose more than anyone else. And we have seen the consequences of accidents that have happened in the past, and what effect that has had on even large companies,” he said.

Extreme Consequences
Greenpeace has a long history of taking a strong stand against Arctic drilling and other issues and accepting the consequences, according to Radford, the Greenpeace USA executive director.

“But the consequences by Russia are unbelievably extreme and illegal and unjust,” he said.
Twenty-eight Greenpeace activists and two journalists from 18 countries are sitting in prison and facing charges of piracy, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Two of the activists tried to scale the tower on the Gazprom Neft platform before the Russian Coast Guard fired 11 warning shots into the water near their raft and ordered them to come down. They descended before they were able to hang a banner and were immediately arrested. The Coast Guard waited a day before raiding the Arctic Sunrise protest ship, where the other activists were located.

This week Russia denied bail to the U.S. captain of a Greenpeace ship and another activist.

The harsh reaction reflects Russia’s new urgency to tap its Arctic resource. Almost exactly one year ago, six Greenpeace protestors climbed the same Arctic platform and hung a banner, and the Coast Guard did nothing. In fact, oil company crew members reportedly gave them soup.

Radford said he hopes people see that the arrested Greenpeace activists were acting for the benefit of the world.

“They were doing this to alert the world of the first ever offshore deep Arctic well drilling that could cause radical climate change and could cause a huge oil spill that the [Russian] Coast Guard thinks is their nightmare scenario,” Radford said. “Now, that wasn’t for private gain, that was for the benefit of all of us.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Fossil Fuel Euphoria: Hallelujah, Oil and Gas Forever!

Published on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 by TomDispatch

by Michael T. Klare

For years, energy analysts had been anticipating an imminent decline in global oil supplies. Suddenly, they’re singing a new song: Fossil fuels growing scarce? Don’t even think about it! The news couldn’t be better: fossil fuels will become ever more abundant. And all that talk about climate change? Don’t worry about it, they chant. Go out and enjoy the benefits of cheap and plentiful energy forever.

Climate justice advocates rally across from the White House, July 27, 2013. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr)This movement from gloom about our energy future to what can only be called fossil-fuel euphoria may prove to be the hallmark of our peculiar moment. In a speech this September, for instance, Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission (that state’s energy regulatory agency), claimed that the Earth possesses a “relatively boundless supply” of oil and natural gas. Not only that — and you can practically hear the chorus of cheering in Houston and other oil centers — but many of the most exploitable new deposits are located in the U.S. and Canada. As a result — add a roll of drums and a blaring of trumpets — the expected boost in energy is predicted to provide the United States with a cornucopia of economic and political rewards, including industrial expansion at home and enhanced geopolitical clout abroad. The country, exulted Karen Moreau of the New York State Petroleum Council, another industry cheerleader, is now in a position “to become a global superpower on energy.”

There are good reasons to be deeply skeptical of such claims, but that hardly matters when they are gaining traction in Washington and on Wall Street. What we’re seeing is a sea change in elite thinking on the future availability and attractiveness of fossil fuels. Senior government officials, including President Obama, have already become infected with this euphoria, as have top Wall Street investors — which means it will have a powerful and longlasting, though largely pernicious, effect on the country’s energy policy, industrial development, and foreign relations.

The speed and magnitude of this shift in thinking has been little short of astonishing. Just a few years ago, we were girding for the imminent prospect of “peak oil,” the point at which daily worldwide output would reach its maximum and begin an irreversible decline. This, experts assumed, would result in a global energy crisis, sky-high oil prices, and severe disruptions to the world economy.

Today, peak oil seems a distant will-o’-the-wisp. Experts at the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) confidently project that global oil output will reach 115 million barrels per day by 2040 — a stunning 34% increase above the current level of 86 million barrels. Natural gas production is expected to soar as well, leaping from 113 trillion cubic feet in 2010 to a projected 185 trillion in 2040.

These rosy assessments rest to a surprising extent on a single key assumption: that the United States, until recently a declining energy producer, will experience a sharp increase in output through the exploitation of shale oil and natural gas reserves through hydro-fracking and other technological innovations. “In a matter of a few years, the trends have reversed,” Moreau declared last February. “There is a new energy reality of vast domestic resources of oil and natural gas brought about by advancing technology… For the first time in generations, we are able to see that our energy supply is no longer limited, foreign, and finite; it is American and abundant.”

The boost in domestic oil and gas output, it is further claimed, will fuel an industrial renaissance in the United States — with new plants and factories being built to take advantage of abundant local low-cost energy supplies. “The economic consequences of this supply-and-demand revolution are potentially extraordinary,” asserted Ed Morse, the head of global commodities research at Citigroup in New York. America’s gross domestic product, he claimed, will grow by 2% to 3% over the next seven years as a result of the energy revolution alone, adding as much as $624 billion to the national economy. Even greater gains can be made, Morse and others claim, if the U.S. becomes a significant exporter of fossil fuels, particularly in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Not only will these developments result in added jobs — as many as three million, claims energy analyst Daniel Yergin — but they will also enhance America’s economic status vis-à-vis its competitors. “U.S. natural gas is abundant and prices are low — a third of their level in Europe and a quarter of that in Japan,” Yergin wrote recently. “This is boosting energy-intensive manufacturing in the U.S., much to the dismay of competitors in both Europe and Asia.”

This fossil fuel euphoria has even surfaced in statements by President Obama. For all his talk of climate change perils and the need to invest in renewables, he has also gloated over the jump in domestic energy production and promised to facilitate further increases. “Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003,” he affirmed in March 2011. “And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half of the liquid fuel we consumed. So that was a good trend. To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production.”

Money Pouring into Fossil Fuels

This burst of euphoria about fossil fuels and America’s energy future is guaranteed to have a disastrous impact on the planet. In the long term, it will make Earth a hotter, far more extreme place to live by vastly increasing carbon emissions and diverting investment funds from renewables and green energy to new fossil fuel projects. For all the excitement these endeavors may be generating, it hardly takes a genius to see that they mean ever more carbon dioxide heading into the atmosphere and an ever less hospitable planet.

The preference for fossil fuel investments is easy to spot in the industry’s trade journals, as well as in recent statistical data and anecdotal reports of all sorts. According to the reliable International Energy Agency (IEA), private and public investment in fossil fuel projects over the next quarter century will outpace investment in renewable energy by a ratio of three to one. In other words, for every dollar spent on new wind farms, solar arrays, and tidal power research, three dollars will go into the development of new oil fields, shale gas operations, and coal mines.

From industry sources it’s clear that big-money investors are rushing to take advantage of the current boom in unconventional energy output in the U.S. — the climate be damned. “The dollars needed [to develop such projects] have never been larger,” commented Maynard Holt, co-president of Houston-based investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Company. “But the money is truly out there. The global energy capital river is flowing our way.”

In the either/or equation that seems to be our energy future, the capital river is rushing into the exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels, while it’s slowing to a trickle in the world of the true unconventionals — the energy sources that don’t add carbon to the atmosphere. This, indeed, was the conclusion reached by the IEA, which in 2012 warned that the seemingly inexorable growth in greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide is likely to eliminate all prospect of averting the worst effects of climate change.

Petro Machismo

The new energy euphoria is also fueling a growing sense that the American superpower, whose influence has recently seemed to be on the wane, may soon acquire fresh geopolitical clout through its mastery of the latest energy technologies. “America’s new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength,” crowed National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in an April address at Columbia University. Increased domestic energy output, he explained, will help reduce U.S. vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price hikes. “It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

A new elite consensus is forming around the strategic advantages of expanded oil and gas production. In particular, this outlook holds that the U.S. is benefiting from substantially reduced oil imports from the Middle East by eliminating a dependency that has led to several disastrous interventions in that region and exposed the country to periodic disruptions in oil deliveries, starting with the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74. “The shift in oil sources means the global supply system will become more resilient, our energy supplies will become more secure, and the nation will have more flexibility in dealing with crises,” Yergin wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

This turnaround, he and other experts claim, is what allowed Washington to adopt a tougher stance with Tehran in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. With the U.S. less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, so goes the argument, American leaders need not fear Iranian threats to disrupt the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf to international markets. “The substantial increase in oil production in the United States,” Donilon declared in April, is what allowed Washington to impose tough sanctions on Iranian oil “while minimizing the burdens on the rest of the world.”

A stance of what could be called petro machismo is growing in Washington, underlying such initiatives as the president’s widely ballyhooed policy announcement of a “pivot” from the Middle East to Asia (still largely words backed by only the most modest of actions) and efforts to constrain Russia’s international influence.

Ever since Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency of that country, Moscow has sought to sway the behavior of its former Warsaw Pact allies and the former republics of the Soviet Union by exploiting its dominant energy role in the region. It offered cheap natural gas to governments willing to follow its policy dictates, while threatening to cut off supplies to those that weren’t. Now, some American strategists hope to reduce Russia’s clout by helping friendly nations like Poland and the Baltic states develop their own shale gas reserves and build LNG terminals. These would allow them to import gas from “friendly” states, including the U.S. (once its LNG export capacities are expanded). “If we can export some natural gas to Europe and to Japan and other Asian nations,” Karen Moreau suggested in February, “we strengthen our relationships and influence in those places — and perhaps reduce the influence of other producers such as Russia.”

The crucial issue is this: if American elites continue to believe that increased oil and gas production will provide the U.S. with a strategic advantage, Washington will be tempted to exercise a “stronger hand” when pursuing its “international security goals.” The result will undoubtedly be heightened international friction and discord.

Is the Euphoria Justified?

There is no doubt that the present fossil fuel euphoria will lead in troubling directions, even if the rosy predictions of rising energy output are, in the long run, likely to prove both unreliable and unrealistic. The petro machismo types make several interconnected claims:

* The world’s fossil fuel reserves are vast, especially when “unconventional” sources of fuel — Canadian tar sands, shale gas, and the like — are included.

* The utilization of advanced technologies, especially fracking, will permit the effective exploitation of a significant share of these untapped reserves (assuming that governments don’t restrict fracking and other controversial drilling activities).

* Fossil fuels will continue to supply an enormous share of global energy requirements for the foreseeable future, even given rising world temperatures, growing public opposition, and other challenges.

Each of these assertions is packed with unacknowledged questions and improbabilities that are impossible to explore thoroughly in an article of this length. But here are some major areas of doubt.

To begin with, those virtually “boundless” untapped oil reserves have yet to be systematically explored, meaning that it’s impossible to know if they do, in fact, contain commercially significant reserves of oil and gas. To offer an apt example, the U.S. Geological Survey, in one of the most widely cited estimates of untapped energy reserves, has reported that approximately 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% percent of its natural gas lie above the Arctic Circle. But this assessment is based on geological analyses of rock samples, not exploratory drilling. Whether the area actually holds such large reserves will not be known until widespread drilling has occurred. So far, initial Arctic drilling operations, like those off Greenland, have generally proved disappointing.

Similarly, the Energy Information Administration has reported that China possesses vast shale formations that could harbor substantial reserves of oil and gas. According to a 2013 EIA survey, that country’s technically recoverable shale gas reserves are estimated at 1,275 trillion cubic feet, more than twice the figure for the United States. Once again, however, the real extent of those reserves won’t be known without extensive drilling, which is only in its beginning stages.

To say, then, that global reserves are “boundless” is to disguise all the hypotheticals lurking within that description. Reality may fall far short of industry claims.

The effectiveness of new technologies in exploiting such problematic reserves is also open to question. True, fracking and other unconventional technologies have already substantially increased the production of hard-to-exploit fuels, including tar sands, shale gas, and deep-sea reserves. Many experts predict that such gains are likely to be repeated in the future. The EIA, for example, suggests that U.S. output of shale oil via fracking will jump by 221% over the next 15 years, and natural gas by 164%. The big question, however, is whether these projected increases will actually come to fruition. While early gains are likely, the odds are that future growth will come at a far slower pace.

As a start, the most lucrative U.S. shale formations in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Texas have already experienced substantial exploration and many of the most attractive drilling sites (or “plays”) are now fully developed. More fracking, no doubt, will release additional oil and gas, but the record shows that fossil-fuel output tends to decline once the earliest, most promising reservoirs are exploited. In fact, notes energy analyst Art Berman, “several of the more mature shale gas plays are either in decline or appear to be approaching peak production.”

Doubts are also multiplying over the potential for exploiting shale reserves in other parts of the world. Preliminary drilling suggests that many of the shale formations in Europe and China possess fewer hydrocarbons and will be harder to develop than those now being exploited in this country. In Poland, for example, efforts to extract domestic shale reserves have been stymied by disappointing drilling efforts and the subsequent departure of major foreign firms, including Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil.

Finally, there is a crucial but difficult to assess factor in the future energy equation: the degree to which energy companies and energy states will run into resistance when exploiting ever more remote (and environmentally sensitive) resource zones. No one yet knows how much energy industry efforts may be constrained by the growing opposition of local residents, scientists, environmentalists, and others who worry about the environmental degradation caused by unconventional energy extraction and the climate consequences of rising fossil fuel combustion. Despite industry claims that fracking, tar sands production, and Arctic drilling can be performed without endangering local residents, harming the environment, or wrecking the planet, ever more people are coming to the opposite conclusion — and beginning to take steps to protect their perceived interests.

In New York State, for example, a fervent anti-fracking oppositional movement has prevented government officials from allowing such activities to begin in the rich Marcellus shale formation, one of the largest in the world. Although Albany may, in time, allow limited fracking operations there, it is unlikely to permit large-scale drilling throughout the state. Similarly, an impressive opposition in British Columbia to the proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline, especially by the native peoples of the region, has put that project on indefinite hold. And growing popular opposition to fracking in Europe is making itself felt across the region. The European Parliament, for example, recently imposed tough environmental constraints on the practice.

As heat waves and extreme storm activity increase, so will concern over climate change and opposition to wholesale fossil fuel extraction. The IEA warned of this possibility in the 2012 edition of its World Energy Outlook. Shale gas and other unconventional forms of natural gas are predicted to provide nearly half the net gain in world gas output over the next 25 years, the report noted. “There are,” it added, “also concerns about the environmental impact of producing unconventional gas that, if not properly addressed, could halt the unconventional gas revolution in its tracks.”

Reaction to that IEA report last November was revealing. Its release prompted a mini-wave of ecstatic commentary in the American media about its prediction that, thanks to the explosion in unconventional energy output, this country would soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer. In fact, the fossil fuel craze can be said to have started with this claim. None of the hundreds of articles and editorials written on the subject, however, bothered to discuss the caveats the report offered or its warnings of planetary catastrophe.

As is so often the case with mass delusions, those caught up in fossil fuel mania have not bothered to think through the grim realities involved. While industry bigwigs may continue to remain on an energy high, the rest of us will not be so lucky. The accelerated production and combustion of fossil fuels can have only one outcome: a severely imperiled planet.
Copyright 2013 Michael T. Klare
Michael T. Klare

Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. His newest book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, has just recently been published. His other books include: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum. A documentary version of that book is available from the Media Education Foundation.

The Hill: Shutdown delays BP lawsuit over federal contracts freeze & New York Daily News: Former Halliburton manager pleads guilty to destroying evidence of BP’s massive oil spill

The Hill: Shutdown delays BP lawsuit over federal contracts freeze
By Ben Geman – 10/14/13 07:08 AM ET

A federal court has extended the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) looming deadline to respond to BP’s lawsuit challenging the freeze on winning new federal contracts that the agency imposed over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The EPA had faced an Oct. 15 deadline to respond to the lawsuit but asked for a stay last week, citing the lapse in funding for the Justice Department during the government shutdown.

On Friday, Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted the EPA’s motion. She extended all deadlines in the case “commensurate with the duration of the lapse in appropriations” that began Oct. 1. BP, a major fuel supplier to the U.S. military, sued the EPA in August to end its ongoing suspension from winning new federal procurement contracts.

The EPA imposed the suspension in late 2012, shortly after BP’s $4.5 billion plea agreement to resolve criminal and securities claims, citing the oil giant’s “lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct” in the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Former Halliburton manager pleads guilty to destroying evidence of BP’s massive oil spill

Anthony Badalamenti, the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., faces a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine after prosecutors charged he instructed two employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP’s blown-out Macondo well.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2013, 12:24 PM

NEW ORLEANS – A former Halliburton manager pleaded guilty Tuesday to destroying evidence in the aftermath of the deadly rig explosion that spawned BP’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Anthony Badalamenti, 62, of Katy, Texas, faces a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine after his guilty plea in U.S. District Court to one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence. His sentencing by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey is set for Jan. 21.

Badalamenti was the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., BP’s cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Prosecutors said he instructed two Halliburton employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP’s blown-out Macondo well.

Last month, a federal judge accepted a separate plea agreement calling for Halliburton to pay a $200,000 fine for a misdemeanor stemming from Badalamenti’s conduct. Halliburton also agreed to be on probation for three years and to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, but that payment was not a condition of the deal.

The April 20, 2010, rig explosion killed 11 workers and led to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

In May 2010, according to prosecutors, Badalamenti directed a senior program manager to run computer simulations on centralizers, which are used to keep the casing centered in the wellbore. The results indicated there was little difference between using six or 21 centralizers. The data could have supported BP’s decision to use the lower number.

Badalamenti is accused of instructing the program manager to delete the results. The program manager “felt uncomfortable” about the instruction but complied, according to prosecutors.

A different Halliburton employee also deleted data from a separate round of simulations at the direction of Badalamenti, who was acting without company authorization, prosecutors said.

Halliburton notified investigators from a Justice Department task force about the deletion of data. Efforts to recover the data weren’t successful.

Badalamenti wasn’t the first individual charged with a crime stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but he is the first to plead guilty.

BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine await a trial next year on manslaughter charges stemming from the rig workers’ deaths. They botched a key safety test and disregarded abnormally high pressure readings that were glaring signs of trouble before the well blowout, prosecutors say.

Former BP executive David Rainey is charged with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was spewing from the blown-out well in 2010. Former BP engineer Kurt Mix is charged with deleting text messages and voicemails about the company’s response to the spill.

Two floors down from the courtroom where Badalamenti pleaded guilty, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is presiding over a trial for spill-related civil litigation. For the trial’s second phase, Barbier is hearing dueling estimates from experts for BP and the federal government about the amount of oil that spewed into the Gulf.

Read more:

Fuelfix: Report: US oil growth having limited effect on energy security

Posted on October 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

WASHINGTON – The United States may soon claim the throne as the world’s top crude and gas producer, but America’s dependence on oil leaves the nation at risk, according to a global energy security assessment issued Monday.

According to the analysis by Roubini Global Economics and Securing America’s Future Energy, the nation’s heavy reliance on petroleum fuels threatens to undo U.S. gains in efficiency and oil and gas production.

“Heavy oil dependence still renders the country highly vulnerable to price fluctuations in the short-to-medium term, particularly as economic growth – and fuel demand – recovers,” according to the report.

While physical supplies of oil may be more dependable in the United States – particularly with hydraulic fracturing allowing production of newly recoverable crude and gas resources – the nation’s overall dependence on oil and inefficient use of it leaves the economy “exposed to high and volatile oil prices.”

Of 13 countries evaluated in the report, the United States ranks No. 5, behind Canada and the relatively oil efficient nations of Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. The United States effectively climbed in the rankings ahead of Australia, Brazil, China and other countries because of its relatively high levels of domestic oil production, which helped make up for bottom-tier scores tied to consumption.

SAFE CEO Robbie Diamond said the oil security index underscores that “the path to true oil security is not paved by production alone.” Even despite the domestic oil boom, U.S. oil security is “only middle-of-the-road,” he said.

The disconnect between oil production and security also are illustrated by Saudia Arabia’s dead-last position, at No. 13. Like the United States, the oil-rich nation is a big consumer of crude. Saudia Arabia’s long status as a leading global oil producer also means the country is heavily dependent on crude exports for revenue.

The report’s release kicks off a week of events tied to the 40th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo. An interactive online version of the oil security index allows users to dig into quarterly data and rankings dating back to 2000.

Overall, countries were assessed for their structural dependency on oil, their economic exposure to oil price volatility and their vulnerability to physical supply disruptions.
For instance, analysts evaluated the structural importance of oil in individual countries by looking at per-person fuel consumption and the volume of oil consumed per unit of gross domestic product.

The economic exposure was assessed by looking at total spending on oil and net oil imports as a percentage of GDP, among other factors. In analyzing supply security, Roubini Global Economics looked not only at how vulnerable countries were to physical supply disruptions but also their capabilities to respond, such as by tapping emergency inventories.

Low fuel demand wasn’t enough to secure a high spot. While India has the lowest fuel consumption per person of all the nations assessed in the report, it is near the bottom of the rankings because of the country’s oil consumption and spending.

Nouriel Roubini, chairman of the group, said the security index is meant to capture a range of diverse factors affecting how nations might be affected by changes in oil supply and demand.

“Changes in the supply and cost of oil, and the demand for it, impact individual nations in different ways due to unique national strengths, weaknesses, advantages, and disadvantages,” Roubini said.

Some of the report’s findings about the United States dovetail with warnings from lawmakers that the U.S. can attain energy security but will never be truly energy independent. Oil prices are still set globally, so even soaring domestic production means that when prices climb, Americans get hit with the added cost too.

A report issued last month concluded that the United States’ rigid dependence on oil to fuel cars and trucks meant that Americans kept buying the stuff over the past decade, even as prices rose, at a cost of $1.2 trillion in additional federal debt.

Here are how 13 nations stacked up in the oil security index, from most secure to most vulnerable:
1. Japan
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Germany
5. United States
6. South Africa
7. Australia
8. Brazil
9. China
10. Mexico
11. India
12. Russia
13. Saudi Arabia

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty: Russia: Families Say Detained Greenpeace Crew ‘Ordinary, Peaceful People’ & Interview: Greenpeace Head Says Biggest Crime Is Arctic Drilling

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Russia: Families Say Detained Greenpeace Crew ‘Ordinary, Peaceful People’

By Claire Bigg and Aleksandra Vagner
October 11, 2013

When her husband left for the Arctic last month to cover a Greenpeace protest against offshore oil drilling, Alina Zhiganova watched him go with a heavy heart.

She knew the reporting trip would keep him away from home for several weeks.

But neither of them suspected how dramatically the protest would end for all those involved, including for Zhiganova’s husband, distinguished Russian photojournalist Denis Sinyakov.

On September 19, Russian authorities detained all 30 people on board Greenpeace’s icebreaker, “Arctic Sunrise,” and charged them with piracy for attempting to stage a protest on an oil platform owned by Gazprom.

The defendants, many of whom are foreigners, have all been remanded in custody for two months pending trial.

They face up to 15 years in prison.

Zhiganova was able to pay a brief visit to her husband at his pretrial detention center in the northern Russian city of Murmansk.

What she saw deeply alarmed her.

“He’s holding his head high,” Zhiganova says, “but as someone who has known him for a long time, I can see that he’s not well at all. He has lost a lot of weight. He has huge black circles under his eyes. You can tell he’s having a hard time.”

‘The Death Of Freedom Of Speech’

A court in Murmansk denied bail to Sinyakov on October 8, saying he was a flight risk although he and Zhiganova have a 3-year-old son.

Speaking by videolink from his detention center, he told the court that he had only been covering the protest as a journalist and that his prosecution “spells the death of freedom of speech in Russia.”

At the same hearing, a Greenpeace spokesman and the doctor onboard the “Arctic Sunrise” were also denied bail.

Sinyakov had been documenting the protest for the Russian news website and also took pictures for Greenpeace on a freelance basis.

Another freelance journalist, British national Kieron Bryan remains in detention after the court turned down his bail appeal on October 11.

The charges of piracy leveled against the environmental activists and the two reporters, widely denounced as disproportionate, have sparked a barrage of criticism worldwide.

Under Greenpeace’s plan, two activists who began to scale the Gazprom platform were to unfurl a banner reading “Don’t Kill the Arctic.”

Russian Coast Guard personnel eventually descended onto the ship from helicopters and threatened the crew with guns before towing the vessel to Murmansk.

The group says it had no plan to take control of the platform and that its ship was in international waters when it was seized.

Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace International, described all 30 detainees as prisoners of conscience and demanded a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

INTERVIEW: RFE/RL Speaks With Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo

In Russia, Sinyakov’s jailing has caused particular dismay.

Fellow journalists have rallied to his defense, staging pickets, launching petitions, and publishing black squares in place of photographs on their websites as a sign of solidarity.
More than 300 journalists sent a note to the court in Murmansk calling for his release.

They say his prosecution sets a dangerous precedent that could embolden authorities to punish reporters simply for covering protests critical of Kremlin policies.

Putin’s own human rights council condemned Sinyakov’s detention as “a crude violation of the law on mass media” and noted that journalists covering news events “cannot bear responsibility for the actions of those participating in this event.”

Zhiganova, however, says her husband is all but cut off from the outside world and was unaware of the campaign until his lawyer briefed him during a recent prison visit.

“Denis did not know about what was going on in Moscow — about the protests, about the fact that newspapers were publishing black squares instead of photos,” she says. “He didn’t know any of that. He is isolated from society. He’s in pretrial detention together with criminals and, apart from his lawyers, he has no contact with anyone.”

Agonizing Separation

For the families of foreign activists detained on the “Arctic Sunrise” the separation has been just as agonizing.
Anita Litvinov, the wife of Swedish national Dmitry Litvinov, says she is currently waiting for a Russian visa to visit him in detention.
Litvinov last spoke to her husband on September 19, when he called to congratulate their son on his 14th birthday. The couple lives in Stockholm and has two other children.

Since then, the family has received only sporadic news from him through the Swedish Embassy in Russia.

“Based on everything I hear, I’m very, very worried, and very anxious,” she told RFE/RL. “I’m very eager to have him back home.”

Anita Litivnov stresses that Greenpeace has a long history of nonviolent protests.

Last month’s stunt at the Gazprom oil platform, she says, was no exception:

“I know my husband and I know some of the other people who were on the ‘Arctic Sunrise,'” she said. “They are ordinary peaceful people. They wanted to draw attention to a problem that is connected to environmental pollution and global warming. Their intentions are, and have always been, peaceful.”
EXPLAINER: Five Things To Know About Russia’s Greenpeace Drama

Some observers believe that Russian authorities are seeking to deter Greenpeace from staging further protests in the Arctic — which Russia wants to turn into its top source of oil and gas over the next decade – and that the activists will soon be released.

Putin has defended their detention. But he has also said the activists were not pirates, fuelling hopes they would be spared jail sentences.
Sinyakov’s wife, at any rate, has no intention of giving up her battle to free him: “If I didn’t have hope, I would go mad.”


Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Interview: Greenpeace Head Says Biggest Crime Is Arctic Drilling

October 11, 2013

Russian authorities are keeping 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists in detention after the environmental group attempted to stage a protest against offshore oil drilling in the Arctic at a platform owned by Russia’s Gazprom. All 30 detainees have been charged with piracy.

RFE/RL’s Mark Krutov spoke to Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International.

RFE/RL: Greenpeace activists have been campaigning on environmental issues for decades now. What kind of legal issues have you run into over the years?

Naidoo: Probably the worst impact of any action taken against Greenpeace was the murder of one of our activists, Fernando Pereira, when French intelligence bombed the “Rainbow Warrior” 27 years ago in Auckland, New Zealand. We have had activists that have been in prison. In Copenhagen, for example, some of our activists were held for 21 days over Christmas and New Year’s.

We have activists who engage in peaceful protests around the world who often are arrested, but often the charge is trespassing and that usually carries a fine rather than prison time. The worst prison time, as far as I understand, that any of our colleagues have served is six months.

RFE/RL: Have piracy charges ever been leveled against Greenpeace activists?

Naidoo: We have never been charged with piracy. There have been cases where sometimes a government might start talking about piracy and then quite quickly realize that “these guys are peaceful, they are not armed, and they are not acting for personal gain, so therefore they don’t meet a lot of the basic definitions of piracy” and it’s struck.

RFE/RL: The Russian authorities accuse the activists of violating Russian and international law. You have expressed the desire to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. If Putin agrees to this meeting but makes it a precondition for the activists’ release that Greenpeace admits guilt, will you comply?

Naidoo: It depends [on] admitting the guilt for what, right? If it is to admit the guilt for piracy, definitely not.
Clearly, if we were to admit that we broke the law at the level of breaching the exclusion zone, for example, and to admit that — which is a violation — we would be happy to admit that. But to say that we tried to storm the rig, to say that we are pirates, and so on, and that we were risking property and people — all of which is not true — that we cannot honestly concede to, even if it means getting the people released.

The biggest crime being committed is the environmental crime of pursuing drilling in the Arctic for oil, when in fact the threats — of climate change on the one hand, but also to the environment of the Russian Arctic — [are] so potentially devastating that history will judge this is the biggest crime that went unpunished and unregulated.
RFE/RL: You have said that Greenpeace is not picking a fight with the Russian government and that your protest focused on Gazprom. Are you aware, though, of the close ties between Putin and Gazprom?

Naidoo: Yes, we are aware of that. But our focus is not on the presidency or the government per se. Our focus is on a company that, we believe, might be operating within the law, but is engaged in environmental destruction and will lead the planet to climate disaster.

Especially when just recently the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that we are running out of time, there has to be more urgency, and that known fossil fuel reserves — a significant chunk of it — [need] to stay underneath the ground where they are if we are to prevent runaway catastrophic climate change.

And runaway catastrophic climate change, just to be clear, means that life on this planet as we know it will be threatened and we will put at risk our [children’s] and grandchildren’s future. That’s what is at stake. And that is why the Artic is so important and that is why we have been taking these actions.

RFE/RL: Could you clarify the status of Russian national Denis Sinyakov, one of the two freelance journalists who were detained during Greenpeace’s protest last month. Can he be considered an activist, too?

Naidoo: The Greenpeace activists made a conscious decision — they knew that there are potential consequences whenever Greenpeace activists take action. But we don’t expect the journalists to get arrested. That’s why in my letter to President Putin I said that it’s not fair. As Denis said: “The crime I’m accused of is called journalism, and I will continue to do it.”

E&E: Green group warns feds that Calif. offshore fracking breaks the law

Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013

Hydraulic fracturing operations in the waters off California’s coast
break multiple environmental laws, a green group warned yesterday in a
letter to two federal agencies.

The Center for Biological Diversity asked the Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to
halt offshore operations that use unconventional drilling, including
the process known as fracking.

Oil and natural gas company operations in the Pacific Ocean need to go
through a supplemental National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
analysis, the letter said. That would look at potential threats to
environment and wildlife in the area, “which hosts the world’s densest
summer concentrations of blue whales,” Center for Biological Diversity

The agencies need to take corrective action or face a lawsuit from the
green group, said the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Oil companies are fracking California’s beautiful coastal waters with
dangerous chemicals, and federal officials seem barely aware of the
dangers,” Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney and director of the Center’s
oceans program, said in a statement. “We need an immediate halt to
offshore fracking before chemical pollution or an oil spill poisons the
whales and other wildlife that depend on California’s rich coastal

The Associated Press in August reported that companies including Venoco
Inc. and Chevron Corp. have fracked offshore wells. Federal regulators
have permitted at least a dozen instances of hydraulic fracturing in
the Pacific Ocean since the late 1990s, AP reported, citing federal
documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

At a California Coastal Commission meeting a week later, Brian Segee,
staff attorney with the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense
Center, said that most of the leases in question have existed for years
and have changed ownership several times. California bans new leases
for offshore drilling (EnergyWire, Aug. 16).

The center’s letter went to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Pacific
Region Director Ellen Aronson and Bureau of Safety and Environmental
Enforcement Pacific Region Director Jaron Ming. Neither immediately
responded to reporter inquiries sent after business hours local time in

The Western States Petroleum Association, a trade group for oil and
natural gas companies, also did not immediately reply to a request for
comment. WSPA, as it’s known, has argued that the California
Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, has not applied to onshore fracking

Kassie Siegel, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity,
said that NEPA applies to offshore fracking under the same theory used
in a recent lawsuit in California. In that case, a federal judge ruled
that the Bureau of Land Management improperly issued oil and gas leases
in California’s massive Monterey Shale without considering the effects
of hydraulic fracturing on leased lands (EnergyWire, April 9).

“That suit focused on onshore fracking on public land in central
California, but the judge made it clear that NEPA applies to fracking,”
Siegel said.

The Center for Biological Diversity subsequently filed a similar case.
It has been in settlement talks with BLM on the remedy in the first
case and on merits and remedy in the second case, said Brendan
Cummings, the CBD attorney in the case.

“As with onshore leases issued by BLM where the agency never looked at
fracking, offshore fracking has also never been analyzed in any NEPA
document, as fracking wasn’t considered at all in the old
[environmental impact statements] or [environmental assessments] for
the original lease sales, nor in the more recent, very cursory NEPA
done for more recent drilling permits on those leases,” Cummings said.

“Approving any offshore drilling that involves fracking without new
NEPA is unlawful, and this letter puts the agency on notice of such,”
he added.

Yesterday’s letter sent to the agencies said that under NEPA, agencies
not only must perform analyses prior to taking federal action but must
conduct supplemental review whenever “[t]here are significant new
circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and
bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.”

The green group also noted provisions in the Outer Continental Shelf
Lands Act (OCSLA).

“The Bureaus are required to ‘[p]revent damage to or waste of any
natural resource, property, or the environment,'” the letter said,
citing the law, “and have the authority to suspend ‘any operation or
activity, including production, pursuant to any lease or permit … if
there is a threat of serious, irreparable, or immediate harm or damage
to life (including fish and other aquatic life), to property … or to
the marine, coastal, or human environment.'”

Common Dreams: Shut It All Down: Report Calls for Nationwide Ban on Fracking

Published on Friday, October 4, 2013
Hydraulic fracturing gas drilling turning America’s water into cancer-causing, radioactive waste
– Jon Queally, staff writer

The explosion of hydraulic fracturing in the last several years, according to a new report, is creating a previously ‘unimaginable’ situation in which hundreds of billions of gallons of the nation’s fresh water supply are being annually transformed into unusable—sometimes radioactive—cancer-causing wastewater.

According to the report, Fracking by the Numbers, produced by Environment America, the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts betray all claims that natural gas is a “cleaner” or somehow less damaging alternative to other fossil fuels.

The report explores various ways in which gas fracking negatively impacts both human health and the environment, including the contamination of drinking water, overuse of scarce water sources, the effect of air pollution on public health, its connection to global warming, and the overall cost imposed on communities where fracking operations are located.

“The bottom line is this: The numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said John Rumpler, the report’s lead author and senior attorney for Environment America. “For our environment and for public health, we need to put a stop to fracking.”

In fact, the report concludes that in state’s where the practice is now occurring, immediate moratoriums should be enacted and in states where the practice has yet to be approved, bans should be legislated to prevent this kind of drilling from ever occurring.

Though the report acknowledges its too early to know the full the extent of the damage caused by the controversial drilling practice, it found that even a look at the “limited data” available—taken mostly from industry reports and government figures between 2005 and 2012—paints “an increasingly clear picture of the damage that fracking has done to our environment and health.”

So what are the numbers?

The report measured key indicators of fracking threats across the country, and found:

• 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012,
• 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year,
• 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005,
• 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005,
• 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005.

“The numbers don’t lie,” said Rumbpler. “Fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If this dirty drilling continues unchecked, these numbers will only get worse.”

The Environment America report comes on the heels of a study released by researchers at Duke University earlier this week that found a “surprising magnitude of radioactivity” in the local water near a fracking operation in Pennsylvania.

And ClimateProgress adds:

The report also pointed out the weaknesses of current wastewater disposal practices — wastewater is often stored in deep wells, but over time these wells can fail, leading to the potential for ground and surface water contamination. In New Mexico alone, chemicals from oil and gas pits have contaminated water sources at least 421 times, according to the report.

Those toxic chemicals are exempt from federal disclosure laws, so it’s up to each state to decide if and how the oil and gas companies should disclose the chemicals they use in their operations — which is why in many states, citizens don’t know what goes into the brew that fracking operators use to extract oil and natural gas. Luckily, some states are beginning to address this — California recently passed a law ordering fracking companies to make their chemicals public, an order similar to laws in about seven other states.

The report also noted the vast quantities of water needed for fracking — from 2 million to 9 million gallons on average to frack one well. Since 2005, according to the report, fracking operations have used 250 billion gallons of freshwater. This is putting a strain on places like one South Texas county, where fracking was nearly one quarter of total water use in 2011 — and dry conditions could push that amount closer to one-third.

In addition to the impact on surface and ground water supplies, fracking is a well-known contributor to global warming and numerous studies have shown that the methane emissions created by the extraction and transportation of natural gas far outweighs any benefit generated by its ability to burn “cleaner” than oil or coal.

Download or read the complete report here (pdf). EA_FrackingNumbers_scrn

Common Dreams: Oil Drilling in Planet’s Most Biodiverse Area Gets Green Light

Published on Friday, October 4, 2013
“Countless future generations will not understand why we carelessly destroyed the most biologically diverse areas of our planet, nor why we destroyed the indigenous cultures of people who lived in them.”
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A view of the Yasuní National Park. (Photo: sara y tzunky/cc/flickr)

Ecuador gave the OK on Thursday to oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park, an area some consider the most biodiverse place in the world.

The authorization by Ecuador’s parliament follows President Correa’s announcement in August that the country was abandoning an innovative conservation plan to use international funds to not drill in the Amazonian nature preserve.

Matt Finer, a scientist at the U.S.-based Center for International Environmental Law, had called the conservation initiative “the lone exception to the relentless expansion of hydrocarbon projects deeper into the most remote tracts of the western Amazon.”

Now, however, two areas of the reserve will be open for fossil fuel exploitation.

The plans to bail out of the conservation plan have been met with strong opposition, and Reuters reports that 680,000 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum.

In addition, over 100 scientists from around the globe have voiced opposition to the oil drilling plans, issuing a statement to the Ecuadoran government in which they warn of threats to biodiversity and isolated tribes in the area.

Among the points the “Scientists Concerned for Yasuní” list in their letter are that

There are 153 amphibian species documented for Yasuní National Park—”a world record at the landscape scale.”
“A single hectare of forest in Yasuní National Park is estimated to contain at least 100,000 arthropod species, approximately the same number of insect species as is found throughout all of North America. This represents the highest estimated biodiversity per unit area in the world for any taxonomic group.”
“Oil – related activities and contamination may impact the Giant Otter and Amazonian Manatee, two Threatened large aquatic mammals. Both species have been documented in the Tiputini and Yasuní Rivers, which would likely be the principal access routes and infrastructure sites for oil development in ITT and Block 31.”

“Countless future generations will not understand why we carelessly destroyed the most biologically diverse areas of our planet, nor why we destroyed the indigenous cultures of people who lived in them,” stated Stuart Pimm of Duke University. “Yasuní is exceptionally rich in species and home to diverse cultures— including some living in voluntary isolation. Its protection defends nature and peoples: destroying it would be a particular tragedy.”


Fox News: Joint U.S.-Mexico Gulf Oil Drilling Deal Held Up Over Disagreements In Congress

Published October 03, 2013Fox News Latino


Along with the budget and immigration, one more thing that the Senate and House can’t mutually agree upon is the proposed joint U.S.-Mexico effort to develop offshore oil and gas fields along the two countries’ maritime border in the Gulf of Mexico.

Both the Mexican government and many in Washington want to nail down the agreement soon, but its ratification by the U.S. Congress has been delayed by a dispute between the House and Senate over whether oil and gas producers should be required to publicly disclose their payments to foreign governments.

Mexico almost immediately ratified the treaty but the agreement has stalled on Capitol Hill as the House-passed version exempts oil and gas companies from disclosing their payments.
The U.S. and Mexico have tried for decades to figure out a plan for divvying up the oil and gas resources in the Gulf, but a 2000 moratorium was placed on drilling in the region to allow time for the development of a joint plan. From that point on, the U.S. began expanding its drilling operations closer and closer to the maritime border in the Gulf, as Mexico grew increasingly concerned that the U.S. could be siphoning from deposits located on their side of the border.

“It is the hope that, through this Agreement and the proposed energy reforms in Mexico, the energy revolution the U.S. is currently experiencing can extend throughout the Western Hemisphere,” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a statement Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “This would make our region more competitive and less reliant on politically tumultuous states for obtaining energy.”

The U.S. and Mexico have tried for decades to figure out a plan for divvying up the oil and gas resources in the Gulf, but a 2000 moratorium was placed on drilling in the region to allow time for the development of a joint plan. From that point on the U.S. began expanding its drilling operations closer and closer to the maritime border in the Gulf, as Mexico grew increasingly concerned that the U.S. could be siphoning from deposits located on their side of the border.

The joint agreement is meant to set explicit guidelines for where each country can drill and provide the United States “substantial geopolitical, energy security and environmental benefits, while potentially helping the U.S. oil and gas industry gain access to a huge market that may offer jobs and gains across a long value chain,” the Brookings Institution stated earlier this year.

For Mexico, a ratified agreement would provide Latin America’s second-largest economy with new technology and investment needed to develop hard-to-reach regions along with giving a major boost to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s push for energy reform that includes opening the country’s state-run oil company -Pemex – to foreign investment.

“The motive for the U.S. is ‘We’re ready to drill, but we don’t want to drill ourselves into a legal nightmare,'” said George Baker, publisher of Mexico Energy Intelligence, an industry newsletter based in Houston, according to the Christian Science Monitor. “For Mexico, it’s ‘We want to make certain our oil rights are protected so that if they start drilling on the U.S. side – and discover crossborder oil – we have architecture in place to protect our interests.”

Besides the exemptions for oil and gas companies, the specter of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill looms heavy over drilling in the Gulf. Environmental activists argue that the U.S. and oil companies have not learned their lessons from the BP spill that left 11 people dead and dumped around 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“[O]ur continued emphasis on expanding offshore drilling is slowing the necessary investment in clean energy projects that will stimulate the economy without the attendant risks, and help to alleviate the worst impacts of climate change,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. oceans at the conservation organization Oceana during Tuesday’s hearing.

If finally approved, the agreement will be the first major test to Peña Nieto’s energy reform plan. The Mexican leader has already taken heat for his proposal to open Pemex up to foreign investment – with opponents claiming the move is tantamount to Mexico losing its sovereignty.

If the agreement is not ratified by Congress by Jan. 17, 2014 then the moratorium in place will expire and it is unlikely that either country will drill in the region.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Cause: Nobel Laureates to EU: Classify Tar Sands Oil As ‘Dirty Fuel’ It Is

Published on Thursday, October 3, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Extraction of unconventional fuels is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change,’ say noted scientists and peace advocates
– Jon Queally, staff writer

There is no proposed pipeline to pump Canada’s tar sands oil direct to customers in Europe, but that hasn’t kept twenty-one Nobel Prize laureates from demanding the European Union make a stand against the dirty and damaging fuel source.

In a letter this week to the EU president José Manuel Barroso, EU ministers and heads of state, the prominent group of peace advocates and scientists implored the government leaders to enact a law that would classify the heavy bitumen that comes from tar sands mining as a dirtier fuel than conventional crude oil. Such a move, the letter argues, would provide incentives for cleaner energy choices within the EU and also help discourage further development of Canada’s destructive tar sands industry.

“The world can no longer ignore, except at our own peril, that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing life on this planet today,” the letter reads. “The impacts of climate change and extreme resource extraction are exacerbating conflicts and environmental destruction around the world. The extraction of unconventional fuels—such as oil sands and oil shale—is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change.”

The letter highlights the European Commission’s own scientific research which found that one of the unconventional fuel sources identified in the proposed policy, tar sands, produces an average of 23% more greenhouse gas emissions than average conventional oil.

On the particulars of the law the group is pressing on, The Guardian reports:

EU member states approved legislation in 2009, called the fuel quality directive, with the aim of cutting greenhouse gases from transport fuel sold in Europe by 6% by 2020.

In October 2011, the commission proposed detailed rules for implementing the law, including default values to rank fuels by their greenhouse gas output over their wells-to-wheels life cycle.

So far the commission has said it is standing by its value for tar sands – of 107 grams per megajoule – making it clear to buyers that the fuel source had more greenhouse gas impact than average crude oil at 87.5g.

Intense Canadian lobbying and an inconclusive EU vote on the law forced the commission to announce an assessment of the impact of the fuel quality directive in April 2012.

EU sources say the assessment has been concluded, but not yet made public, so the law is still in limbo.

The Canadians have argued the EU law discriminates against Canadian oil and have taken every opportunity to press their case.

The commission has said repeatedly it would stand firm on the law, but the pressure to weaken the measure is intense.

The full letter follows:

EU climate legislation and unconventional fossil fuels

The world can no longer ignore, except at our own peril, that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing life on this planet today. The impacts of climate change and extreme resource extraction are exacerbating conflicts and environmental destruction around the world. The extraction of unconventional fuels—such as oil sands and oil shale—is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change.

For this reason, we are writing to urge you to support the immediate implementation of the European Union’s (EU) Fuel Quality Directive in order to fulfill its 6% reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions from fuels used for transportation by 2020. We have no doubt that the Directive must be applied fairly to unconventional fuels to ensure their climate impacts are fully taken into account. It follows that the fuel-producing companies should report their climate emissions and be held responsible for any emissions increase.

We welcome the EU’s scientific analysis—as it is now proposed for the implementation of the EU Directive—that the extraction and production of fuels from unconventional sources fuels including oil sands, coal-to-liquid, and oil shale leads to higher emissions and that this should be reflected in the regulations.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and is concerned that these fuel sources are now increasingly competing on a par with conventional fuel sources. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the IEA calculates that two thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground.

Now is the time to transition swiftly away from fossil fuels, with a special focus on those that pollute the most. We must all move toward a future built on safe, clean and renewable energy. Fully implementing the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive will send a clear signal that the European Union is committed to action that supports the rights of future generations to a healthy planet.

It is not too late to avert our actions that only amount to palliative care for a dying planet. The time for positive action is now. The European Union can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership by upholding its climate principles. We look forward to working together as we move forward to confront this frightening challenge to our global survival.

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1976, Ireland

Roger Guillemin, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1977, France

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize 1980, Argentina

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize 1984, South Africa

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize, 1992, Guatemala

Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993, United Kingdom

Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1995, Netherlands

Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996, United Kingdom

José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996, East Timor

John Walker, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1997, UK

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997, USA

John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize, 1998, Ireland

Paul Greengard, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2000, USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003, Iran

Gerhard Ertl, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2007, Germany

Mark Jaccard, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada

John Stone, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada

Martin Chalfie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008, USA

Thomas Steitz, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009, USA

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Liberia

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Yemen


Voice of America News: Greenpeace Crackdown Part of Moscow’s Arctic Cold War?

James Brooke
September 30, 2013

SALEKHARD, RUSSIA – Icy blasts of water greeted Greenpeace protesters climbing Russia’s lone offshore oil platform in the Arctic.

Then, Russian police fired warning shots.

And then arrested 30 activists.Today, 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists from the ship are serving 2 months detention terms in Murmansk, where their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, also is impounded.

Greenpeace Russia lawyer Anton Beneslavski says last year there were no legal penalties after Greenpeace boarded the same platform and unfurled a protest banner.

He said that last year, border police never reacted. This year, police are accusing Greenpeace of piracy.

But Russia is increasingly flexing its muscles in its vast Arctic region.

In September, Russia’s only nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser led a flotilla to the Novosibirsk Islands, where Russian soldiers reopened a military base that had been closed 20 years ago.

As Arctic ice melts more, the base will check on ships passing in summer.

Last summer, China’s first icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, made the Arctic passage. This summer, the first Chinese freighter passed over the top of Russia.

Last May, at a meeting in Sweden, the Arctic Council admitted China as an observer.

That meeting also drew Greenpeace protesters. They called for a ban on drilling and mining in the fragile Arctic environment.

Recently, at Salekhard, a Russian city on the Arctic Circle, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at an Arctic Forum. He rejected Greepeace’s protest tactics.

He said: “They are obviously not pirates, but formally, they did attempt to board the platform.”

After Putin spoke, Vera Orlova of the Russia Geographical Society told foreign reporters that their permits to visit the Russian Arctic had expired.

She said that it was an absolutely normal procedure for reporters to receive permits to visit Salekhard for only the two days of the conference.

No other nation restricts visits to its Arctic cities. But Putin’s Russia is taking the road of more and more government controls.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

FuelFix: Feds to release new rules for offshore emergency equipment this year

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The blowout preventer stack (right) and lower marine riser stack (left) from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill (AP file photo/Gerald Herbert)

The nation’s top offshore drilling regulator said he hopes to unveil new requirements for blowout preventers by Dec. 31, nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster revealed vulnerabilities in the emergency devices.

The hulking devices sit atop wells and can be activated in an emergency to cut drill pipe and block off the hole, trapping oil and gas inside. But a forensic investigation of the blowout preventer used at BP’s failed Macondo well concluded that a powerful rush of oil and gas caused drill pipe to buckle and shift, ultimately preventing powerful shearing rams on the device from cutting the pipe and sealing the hole.

In response, the nation’s three main blowout preventer manufacturers are developing and selling newly robust shearing rams and other designs to slash through thick pipe connections and debris. But a new federal rule would give those voluntary changes the force of law.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement aims to issue those proposed requirements by the end of 2013, said agency director Brian Salerno.

“Blowout preventers are an integral part of the safety systems on drilling rigs,” Salerno said in a letter to Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, and other lawmakers. The safety bureau “is working to continue to advance blowout preventer improvements.”

In July, the lawmakers told the safety bureau they were concerned that regulators were “failing to provide clarity for rig operators” while preparing potentially “sweeping new rules” for blowout preventers.

Response ready: Spill containment system headed for Texas coast

Regulators at the safety bureau are likely to lay out specific performance standards for the devices, such as a mandate that they be capable of cutting through casing and drill pipe and effectively sealing a well. Officials could insist that companies use a second set of shearing rams, potentially boosting the odds of successfully cutting drill pipe – a method already being used by some operators in the Gulf of Mexico.

The measure also could require the use of real-time technologies that could aid in diagnosing problems or detecting unexplained surges of oil and gas.

Salerno said his agency is consulting with the manufacturers of blowout preventers and the oil companies that use them as it writes new requirements. The consultation officially began with a public forum in May 2012.

“BSEE has received significant input and specific recommendations from stakeholders, such as industry groups, operators, equipment manufacturers and environmental organizations,” Salerno said.

When a notice of proposed rule making is issued, Salerno said, stakeholders will have a chance to comment further.

Offshore operators say they want to make sure there is a sufficiently long on-ramp for compliance, with plenty of time to redesign blowout preventers and retrofit existing drilling rigs with the devices.

Regulators previously have vowed to give the oil industry plenty of time to adapt, especially given the prospect that requirements could hasten the retirement of some older industry equipment. For instance, a mandate for a second set of shear rams could grow the size of blowout preventers beyond the available space in some rig cellars at shallow-water operations.

The safety bureau is also drafting new standards for oil and gas activity in U.S. Arctic waters, with hopes to unveil that proposal by the end of the year.

(Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle)
Employees at National Oilwell Varco work on a lower blowout preventer stack (left) and lower marine riser package (right).

Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Jennifer A. Dlouhy covers energy policy, politics and other issues for The Houston Chronicle and other Hearst Newspapers from Washington, D.C. Previously, she reported on legal affairs for Congressional Quarterly. She also has worked at The Beaumont Enterprise, The San Antonio Express-News and other newspapers. Jennifer enjoys cooking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and toddler son.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: The Yes Men — Pipeline Company’s PR Dream Turns Into a Nightmare

September 30, 2013
12:21 PM

CONTACT: The Yes Men

TransCanada’s “community consultation” squad dogged by activist lookalikes

WASHINGTON – September 30 – In towns across Canada, troupes of mischievous activists are successfully derailing the attempts of TransCanada—the company building the stalled Keystone XL pipeline—to ram through their latest proposed project, the Energy East pipeline, which would bring over a million barrels of Tar Sands oil to the East Coast for export, primarily to Europe and Asia.

During previous pipeline projects, stakeholders were able to express concerns in front of their whole community. To impede the type of opposition that has stalled past projects, this time TransCanada has changed the format of community consultations, turning them into trade-show-like promotional events where stakeholders can only speak one-on-one with company representatives (or PR contractors hired for the occasion).

To outwit this latest ploy by TransCanada, local activists all along the pipeline route have been swarming these events dressed just like TransCanada reps, but with lookalike “SaveCanada” name tags and brochures. Instead of promoting the pipeline, the SaveCanada reps communicate risks.

“Since TransCanada has come up with a new way to lie to the public, we had to come up with a new way to tell the truth,” said North Bay farmer Yan Roberts, who helped to launch the unusual protest. “We’re friendly folks, so our solution is to dress like them, outnumber them, and ‘out-friendly’ them in every community they’re trying to scam.”

The series of SaveCanada actions began at TransCanada’s open house in North Bay, where roughly 30 TransCanada reps were surprised to see their meeting overwhelmed by newcomers wearing nearly identical shirts and also carrying slick PR materials, but with a twist.

Now, ten other towns have orchestrated their own versions of the prank. When TransCanada came to the Montréal area on September 24, members of the Québécois SaveCanada counterpart, “SansTransCanada,” nearly outnumbered the TransCanada reps. A Global TV segment even identified a SansTransCanada activist as a TransCanada rep.

The Montréal SaveCanada action came to a carnivalesque conclusion when attendees were invited to play “pin the bitumen spill on the pipeline” and a crowd formed around TransCanda’s large route map to see where the sticky-note spill would end up.

NASA’s James Hansen has said of the Keystone XL pipeline that, if built, it will be “game over” for the climate. This is truer still for the Energy East pipeline, as it’s designed to carry a greater volume. The new pipeline also threatens the local communities in its path with inevitable leaks.

“In the next few weeks TransCanada is holding more of these so-called ‘consultations,’ and we are looking forward to seeing them derailed by every community they hope to fool.” said Roberts. “Then we’ll see what they try next, and we’ll derail that, too.”

Upcoming TransCanada “consultations” are scheduled in: Saint-Honoré-de-Témiscouata, Québec (Oct. 1); Kemptville, Ontario and St-Onésime-d’Ixworth, Québec (October 2); Montmagny, Québec and Horton, Ontario (Oct. 3); and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s capital city (Oct. 10). To help derail one of these events, please visit

“Companies may try to invent new ways to fool people, but citizens will always be more powerful because we care more,” said Shona Watt, a local organizer of the Montréal SaveCanada/SansTransCanada action. “What’s guaranteed is that, ultimately, people will win.”
### Special thanks to Common Cause

Los Angeles Times: Californians wary of fracking, poll says,0,7679192.story

By Chris Megerian
September 26, 2013, 7:00 a.m.

SACRAMENTO — Californians want stricter regulation of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial method of oil and natural gas extraction, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

In addition, a majority of likely voters surveyed opposed the increased use of fracking, which involves injecting water and chemicals into the ground to remove the resources locked underneath.

The issue is gaining increased attention in California because energy companies are eyeing an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil in the massive Monterey Shale rock formation.

Sixty-one percent of likely voters said they favor stricter rules, and 53% said they’re against the expansion of fracking in the state.

The PPIC poll was conducted over the phone Sept. 10-17 and included 1,703 Californians.
The results echo a June poll conducted from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. At that point, 58% of registered voters said they supported a moratorium on fracking until its environmental effects had been studied.

Legislative efforts to halt fracking in the state have repeatedly fallen short, but Gov. Jerry Brown did sign legislation earlier this month to increase scrutiny of the practice.

In addition to requiring an environmental study, the bill, SB 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), requires new permitting of wells and notification of neighbors close to fracking sites.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

AP: Russian court jails 6 more Greenpeace activists

Charlotte, Channel 9

Updated: 9:43 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013 | Posted: 9:43 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013

The Associated Press
MOSCOW – A court in the northern Russian city of Murmansk on Sunday sent six more Greenpeace activists to jail for two months and showed no sign that the remaining two activists would be treated any differently for a protest at a drilling platform in Arctic waters.

Twenty other activists and two journalists were ordered jailed for two months during a marathon court session on Thursday that stretched late into night, but the court ruled to hold the remaining eight only until new hearings could be held on Sunday.

No charges have been brought against any of the activists, who are citizens of 18 countries, including Russia. Russian prosecutors are considering whether to charge them with piracy, among other offenses, and the activists are being held pending the investigation.

The Russian Coast Guard disrupted an attempt on Sept. 18 by two of the activists to scale a platform owned by Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom to call attention to the environmental risks of drilling in Arctic waters. The next day, the Coast Guard seized Greenpeace’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and towed it to Murmansk with the crew and activists aboard.

Greenpeace Russia campaign director Ivan Blokov has described the seizure of the ship as “the most aggressive and hostile act” against the environmental organization since French government agents bombed the Rainbow Warrior ship in 1985, killing one man.
Peter Wilcox, an American who captained the Rainbow Warrior, also is the captain of the Arctic Sunrise. He was ordered held in custody during Thursday’s court session.

Those ordered jailed on Sunday include Dima Litvinov, Greenpeace International spokesman, who has dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship; Finnish activist Sini Saarela, who was one of the two who tried to scale the platform; a British activist; two Dutch citizens and a Ukrainian cook.

The platform, which belongs to Gazprom’s oil subsidiary, is the first offshore rig in the Arctic. It was deployed to the vast Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea in 2011, but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom said this month it was to start pumping oil this year, but no precise date has been set.

Copyright The Associated Press



Greenpeace activists demonstrate near the Russian embassy in Paris, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. They are demonstrating against the ruling of a Russian court that led to the jailing of the environmental group’s activists for a protest, by Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, near an oil platform in the Arctic. On Thursday, the court in the city of Murmansk jailed 22 members of the Greenpeace team who were protesting near the platform last week. The demonstrators are holding photos of the activists who were aboard the Arctic Sunrise.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Akron Beacon Journal: Support grows for pipeline, drops for fracking, Pew survey says

By BOB DOWNING Published: September 27, 2013
From the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

Most Americans (65%) continue to favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps the most politically contentious energy issue in Barack Obama’s second term. Yet when it comes to another issue making headlines – a proposal to tighten greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – the public favors stricter limits, by exactly the same margin as the Keystone pipeline (65% to 30%).

Opinions on these two hotly debated issues underscore the complexity of public attitudes on U.S. energy policy. Support for increasing energy production from some traditional sources remains strong: 58% favor increased offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters.

Yet over the past year, opposition to the drilling process known as fracking has increased, as has opposition to nuclear power. Just 38% favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed, the highest level of opposition since the question was first asked in 2005.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 4-8 among 1,506 adults, finds that, as with other energy-related issues, there is a sharp partisan divide on the Keystone pipeline. But while an overwhelming majority of Republicans (82%) favor construction of the pipeline, so too do 64% of independents and about half of Democrats (51%).

President Obama’s decision about whether to go ahead with the pipeline is expected in the next few months. Environmental groups staunchly oppose the project, while GOP lawmakers are stepping up pressure on Obama to approve it.

The survey was conducted before the EPA announced its proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Nearly two-thirds of the public favors stricter emissions limits on power plants, including 74% of Democrats, 67% of independents and 52% of Republicans.

Overall, 44% favor and 49% oppose the increased use of fracking, the drilling method that uses high-pressure water and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. In March, there was more support (48%) than opposition (38%) for more extensive use of the drilling process. The rise in opposition to fracking has come among most demographic and partisan groups.

In terms of broader priorities for the nation’s energy supply, a majority of Americans (58%) say it is more important to develop alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology, while just 34% say expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas is the more important priority. These views are little changed from February, when 54% said more important to develop alternatives and 34% said more important to expand production from traditional sources.

There are age differences in opinions about a number of energy policies, but they are particularly stark in views of overall energy priorities. Fully 73% of those younger than 30, and 61% of those 30 to 49, say it is more important to develop alternative energy sources; among those 50 and older, only about half (48%) view alternative energy as the greater priority.

The survey finds that the recent energy boom in the United States has not registered widely with the public: only 48% correctly say that U.S. energy production is up in recent years and just 34% attribute it mainly to greater oil, coal and natural gas, even though oil and gas exploration has been the primary driver of this trend.

There is no indication that awareness of the nation’s growing energy production is related to energy policy attitudes. For instance, among those who know that energy production is growing mostly from traditional sources, 57% prioritize developing alternative energy sources. That is about the same percentage (58%) among those who do not know this.

Keystone XL Support Remains Broad
Support for the Keystone XL pipeline has remained fairly stable during the past six months (65% today, 66% in March), though opposition has risen from 23% to 30%.

During this period, the Obama administration has continued to weigh whether to allow completion of the pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s oil sands through the Midwest to refineries in Texas. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the northern leg requires federal approval. The southern portion does not, and much of it has been constructed.

In June, President Obama for the first time linked the pipeline debate to climate change, saying he would approve the project only if it would not “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Republicans overwhelmingly support constructing the pipeline. Eight-in-ten conservative Republicans (84%) and 76% of GOP moderates and liberals favor building the pipeline. As was the case in March, Democrats are internally divided: By 58% to 41%, conservative and moderate Democrats favor construction of the pipeline. Liberal Democrats oppose the proposal, by 54% to 41%.

While majorities across all age groups back the Keystone XL pipeline, there is less support among young people. Among those younger than 30, 55% favor building the Keystone XL pipeline while 39% are opposed. People 30 and older favor it by more than two-to-one (67% to 28%).

The balance of opinion favoring the pipeline is roughly the same in the six states it would pass through as in other parts of the country. In the six states the pipeline would traverse – Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas – 69% support its construction while 28% are opposed. Those in other states support it by a margin of 64% to 31%.
Changing Views of Fracking
Since March, opposition to increased fracking has grown significantly across most regions and demographic groups. Overall, 44% now favor increased use of fracking while 49% are opposed. In March, support exceeded opposition by 10 points (48% to 38%).

Opinion about the increased use is now divided in the Midwest and South. In March, support exceeded opposition by 23 points in the Midwest and 18 points in the South. Opposition also has risen in the West, from 44% to 55%. In the Northeast, more continue to oppose (51%) than favor (42%) increased fracking.

While opposition among both men and women has increased since March, there continue to be wide gender differences over the increased use of fracking. About half of men (51%) favor more fracking compared with 38% of women.

Independents and Republicans are more likely to oppose fracking now than in March (by 13 points and 12 points, respectively). Democrats’ views have shown less change, but a majority of Democrats continue to oppose increased use of the drilling method (59%).
Overall, people who are aware that U.S. energy production is growing – and that the increase is mostly coming from traditional energy sources (34% of the public) – have about the same views of fracking as do the majority of Americans who are not aware of this.

However, opinion is more divided along partisan lines among those who know that energy production is increasing from traditional sources. Fully 69% of Republicans and Republican leaners who know that the energy supply is increasing and that the growth is mostly from sources like oil, coal and natural gas favor increased use of fracking.

Conversely, a nearly identical percentage of Democrats and Democratic leaners (68%) who are aware of trends in domestic energy production oppose increased use of fracking.
Opinion is less sharply divided among Republicans and Democrats who are unaware that the domestic energy supply is increasing, mostly as a result of more production among traditional sources.
Support for Alternative Energy Research, More Offshore Drilling
By nearly three-to-one (73% to 25%), the public supports requiring better vehicle fuel efficiency. An identical percentage (73%) favors federal funding for alternative energy research, while two-thirds (67%) back more spending on mass transit.

A majority (58%) also favors more offshore oil and gas drilling. That is lower than last year, when 65% supported more offshore oil and gas drilling. But it remains significantly higher than it was in June 2010, following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, when just 44% of people wanted to allow more drilling in U.S. waters

Nuclear power has lost support over the past year. Currently, 38% favor the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed. In March 2012, opinion was more closely divided (44% favor, 49% oppose). As recently as February 2010, significantly more favored (52%) than opposed (41%) the increased use of nuclear power.
Sharp Partisan Divide over Energy Policies
There are substantial partisan differences in opinions about each of the energy policies on the poll – and in many cases those differences have widened over time.
As in previous Pew Research Center polls, one of the largest gaps between the parties is on the question of offshore drilling. Nearly eight in-ten Republicans (79%) – and 90% of Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party – support allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling, compared with 44% of Democrats.

Democrats are far more supportive than Republicans of stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change; 74% of Democrats favor this compared with 67% of independents and 52% of Republicans. Still, even among Republicans there is more support than opposition to emission limits (52% favor, 43% oppose).

And when asked which should be the more important priority for addressing the nation’s energy supply, large majorities of both Democrats (71%) and independents (60%) say it is more important to develop alternative sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology. A smaller majority of Republicans (53%) say the priority should be expanding exploration of oil, coal and natural gas.
Partisan Differences Widen on Alternative Energy, Fuel Efficiency
Just a few years ago, there was broad agreement on some – though not all – energy policy objectives. In 2006, during George W. Bush’s presidency, comparable majorities of independents (85%), Republicans (82%) and Democrats (77%) favored increasing federal funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen technology.

The bipartisan consensus on alternative energy research and other policies – including better fuel efficiency standards – was noted in a February 2006 report, “Both Reds and Blues Go Green on Energy.”

Since then, support for funding alternative technology research has fallen by 24 points among Republicans (to 58%) and 10 points among independents (75%), while increasing slightly among Democrats (84%). Much of the change in opinions among Republicans came after Barack Obama took office in 2009. In September 2008, 85% of Republicans and 77% of independents favor increased funding for alternative energy research; in May of 2010, 61% of Republicans and 73% of independents favored more funding for alternative energy research.

There has been a similar trend in opinions about requiring better fuel efficiency for cars, trucks and SUVs. Seven years ago, large majorities across all partisan groups (87% of independents, 86% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans) favored higher fuel efficiency standards. The percentage of Democrats favoring this has changed little over this period (currently 84% favor), while falling 25 points among Republicans and 13 points among independents.

On some energy policy-related issues, however, such as nuclear power and offshore drilling, partisan differences have remained fairly steady over the years. Currently, 49% of Republicans, 39% of independents and 29% of Democrats favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power. In 2006, 56% of Republicans, 38% of independents and 39% of Democrats supported more nuclear power.

In September 2008, 87% of Republicans, 67% of independents and 55% of Democrats favored more drilling in U.S. waters. Today, there is less support across all three groups, but the partisan gap is about as large as it was then (35 points now, 32 points in September 2008).

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Food & Water Watch: The Facts Are In on Fracking’s Social Impacts: Read Our Report, Then Tell Your Governor: Fracking Harms Local Communities!

Tell your Governor to listen to the data on fracking:

Fracking Harms Our Beloved Communities

Faces of fracking in Pennsylvania

Check out our new report, then share it with your Governor!

Dear Friend,

It all happened in less than 10 years.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, that’s how long it took for thousands of natural gas wells to be drilled, for our land, air and water quality to be degraded, and for communities across the state to be torn apart by fracking. But the impacts of fracking don’t stop there. That’s why our research team at Food & Water Watch has worked for almost a year to pull together a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind report on the social costs of fracking in PA communities.

Our new report is the first investigation on the social impacts of fracking, and it’s crucial that our political leaders see this shocking data. Will you email the report to your Governor?

What we uncovered in this study was hard to believe, but we didn’t make up these numbers — all of our research was based on the state of Pennsylvania’s own data. Here are some surprising examples of what we found:

Sexually transmitted infection rose by 32.4% in rural Pennsylvania counties where fracking began (that’s 62% more than the increase in rural unfracked counties).
Social disorder crimes — especially substance abuse and alcohol-related crimes — increased by 17% in counties with the highest density of fracking (compared to only 13% in unfracked rural counties).
Heavy-truck crashes increased by 7.2% in counties with high fracking activity (whereas they fell in unfracked counties).

Across the country, folks have been coming to community meetings and town halls for years to voice concerns about how natural gas drilling has affected their communities. Now, we finally have the data to back up their concerns. Show your support for a ban on fracking and share this critical report with your Governor!

Thanks for taking action,

Emily Wurth
Water Team Director
Food & Water Watch

P.S. There’s lots you can do in your own community to ban fracking! On October 19, plug into the Global Frackdown to be part of an international day of action against fracking — sign up for an event near you!

Food & Water Watch is a consumer advocacy nonprofit that challenges the corporate control of our food and water. We empower people to take action and transform the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

Donate * Contact Us • Visit the Website

Food & Water Watch, 1616 P Street, NW Suite 300 Washington, DC 20036 • (202) 683-2500

E&E: BUDGET:Green groups urge cutting environmental riders from debt ceiling bill

Nick Juliano, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013

A coalition of environmental groups is urging congressional leaders to avoid including controversial environmental and energy-policy provisions in legislation being crafted to increase the debt ceiling. More than two dozen groups yesterday sent a letter to House and Senate leaders from both parties in response to reports that House Republicans are preparing a debt ceiling bill that would include a long wish list of GOP priorities. Among the measures being written into the bill are mandatory approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, an end to U.S. EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and expanded oil and natural drilling on federal lands and offshore (E&ENews PM, Sept. 20).

“These riders would increase costs to American families through higher health care costs and reduced value of environmental values and natural systems that sustain us all,” wrote the groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and National Parks Conservation Association.

House leaders are expected to formally introduce their debt ceiling package later today. In addition to the energy provisions, the bill also is expected to propose several changes to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as well as GOP policy goals in other areas.

The debt ceiling will have to be raised by Oct. 17 to prevent a government default, the Treasury Department said yesterday. Congress also continues to work on a stopgap spending bill, with the Senate continuing to debate its proposed changes to a House-passed continuing resolution that could be sent back to the lower chamber by this weekend.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this morning that he would not accept the “clean” CR Senate Democrats are expected to send him, setting up another round of legislative pingpong that would occur with little time remaining to avoid a Tuesday government shutdown.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

StarTribune/World: Russia to file piracy charges against Greenpeace activists for anti-drilling protest in Arctic

Article by: ALEXANDER ROSLYAKOV , Associated Press Updated: September 24, 2013 – 1:05 PM

MURMANSK, Russia – Russia’s top investigative agency said Tuesday it will prosecute Greenpeace activists on piracy charges for trying to climb onto an Arctic offshore drilling platform owned by the state-controlled gas company Gazprom.

The 30 activists from 18 countries were on a Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, which was seized last week by the Russian Coast Guard. The ship was towed Tuesday into a small bay near Russia’s Arctic port of Murmansk.

The Investigative Committee, Russia’s main federal investigative agency, said its agents will question all those who took part in the protest and detain the “most active” of them on piracy charges. Piracy carries a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of 500,000 rubles (about $15,500).

Two activists tried to climb onto the Prirazlomnaya platform on Thursday and others assisted from small inflatable boats. The Greenpeace protest was aimed at calling attention to the environmental risks of drilling for oil in Arctic waters.

“When a foreign vessel full of electronic technical equipment of unknown purpose and a group of people calling themselves members of an environmental rights organization try nothing less than to take a drilling platform by storm, logical doubts arise about their intentions,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement.

He said the activists posed a danger to operations on the oil platform. “Such activities not only infringe on the sovereignty of a state, but might pose a threat to the environmental security of the whole region,” Markin said.

The oil platform, the first offshore rig in the Arctic, was deployed to the vast Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea in 2011 but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom has said it was to start pumping oil this year, but no precise date has been set.

Greenpeace insisted that under international law Russia had no right to board its ship and has no grounds to charge its activists with piracy.

“Peaceful activism is crucial when governments around the world have failed to respond to dire scientific warnings about the consequences of climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere,” Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.

“We will not be intimidated or silenced by these absurd accusations and demand the immediate release of our activists,” he added.

One Greenpeace activist told The Associated Press that Coast Guard officers hit and kicked some activists when they stormed the Greenpeace vessel.

The Arctic Sunrise was anchored Tuesday in Kulonga Bay near Severomorsk, the home port of Russia’s Northern Fleet, 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Murmansk.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Maria Favorskaya said activists were ordered Tuesday to prepare to leave the ship. The Interfax news agency reported they were bused later in the day to the Investigative Committee’s headquarters in Murmansk.

Greenpeace said the activists hailed from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States.

Blue Frontier Campaign: Marine conservation groups pledge not to accept money from the fossil fuel industry.

Recent gatherings themed around ocean conservation included among their sponsors the American Petroleum Institute, BP, Shell, the French oil giant Total and ExxonMobil. It’s as if a medical convention on how to reduce heart and lung disease were sponsored by coal and tobacco companies.

As leaders of groups dedicated to protecting our public seas and ocean planet we will not accept financial sponsorships from the fossil fuel industry. In addressing the critical challenges our blue planet faces from overfishing, pollution, loss of habitat and climate change we recognize the need to engage with all sectors of the marine community.

However we also understand that almost all ocean users including fishing, shipping, ports, recreation and tourism, science, national defense and clean energy have the potential to be part of a unified effort to sustain our coasts and ocean for future generations.

Forty or fifty years ago the same might have been thought of the fossil fuel industry when oil spills from drilling and shipping were seen as the main challenge for marine conservation and common efforts could be sought to balance the risk of pollution against the need for energy.

Today science and observation informs us that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate disruption including increased coastal storminess, sea level rise, warming seas, loss of arctic sea ice, coral bleaching and ocean acidification among other dangerous impacts. These changes are already putting millions of people and billions in property at risk along with the marine ecosystems we all depend on.

This is why we will not take any contributions from fossil fuel corporations that will allow them to greenwash (or bluewash) their role in climate change and undermine the marine conservation community’s credibility.

We need to make climate a blue issue by educating the public on why we have to make a rapid transition from fossil fuels to clean non-carbon renewable energy on and offshore as part of our greater effort to protect and restore the wonders and promise of our blue marble planet. Not taking money from big oil is a minimal step we all can commit to.

James N. Barnes
Executive Director
Antarctic & Southern Ocean Coalition

Anna Cummins
Executive Director
5 Gyres Institute

Jim Curland
Advocacy Program Director
Friends of the Sea Otter

Tim Dillingham
Executive Director
American Littoral Society

Vicki Nichols Goldstein
Colorado Ocean Coalition

Randy Hayes
Executive Director
Foundation Earth

David Helvarg
Executive Director
Blue Frontier

Alex Hobbs
Acting Executive Director
Heal the Bay

Linda Hunter
Executive Director
The Watershed Project

Phillip Johnson
Executive Director
Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition

Laura Kasa
Executive Director
Save Our Shores

Kurt Lieber
Executive Director
Ocean Defenders Alliance

Millard McCleary
Executive Program Director
Reef Relief

David McGuire
Shark Stewards

Bill McKibben

Wallace j. Nichols, PhD
Blue Mind

Jeff Pantukhoff
President & Founder
The Whaleman Foundation

Louis Psihoyos
Executive Director
Oceanic Preservation Society

Phil Radford
Executive Director
Greenpeace USA

Daniella Dimitrova Russo
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Plastic Pollution Coalition

Carl Safina, PhD
Blue Ocean Institute

Cynthia Sarthou
Executive Director
Gulf Restoration Network

Todd Steiner
Executive Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network

Mike Tidwell
Executive Director
Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Marc A. Yaggi
Executive Director
Waterkeeper Alliance

Cindy Zipf
Executive Director
Clean Ocean Action

Special thanks to Blue Frontier as it appeared in Blue Notes

FuelFix: Obama administration authorizes more natural gas exports

The Obama administration on Wednesday authorized a fourth company to broadly export U.S. natural gas, giving Dominion conditional approval to sell the fossil fuel abroad after processing it at a Maryland facility.

The Energy Department’s decision means that as long as it secures other required permits, Dominion Cove Point will be able to sell as much as 770 million cubic feet of natural gas per day for the next 20 years to Japan and other countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the United States.

With the Dominion Cove Point decision, the Obama administration has now authorized 6.37 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas to be sold to non-free-trade nations. Previously, the Energy Department has given export licenses to a Lake Charles, La. project, as well as the Freeport LNG project on Quintana Island, Texas, and, in 2011, Houston-based Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass facility in southwest Louisiana.

Exxon: Natural gas soon will overtake coal in global energy use

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged the Obama administration to be more skeptical of future proposals to export natural gas harvested in the United States, lest the foreign sales drive up prices at home. Analysts broadly have predicted total U.S. natural gas exports might settle somewhere between 5 and 10 billion cubic feet per day.

“The United States is now squarely in the range that experts are saying is the most likely level of U.S. natural gas exports,” Wyden noted. “If (the Energy Department) approves exports above that range, the agency has an obligation to use most recent data about U.S. natural gas demand and production and prove to American families and manufacturers that these exports will not have a significant impact on domestic prices, and in turn on energy security, growth and employment.”

Critics of expanded natural gas exports — including some large industrial users of the fossil fuel — say more foreign sales could cause the domestic price to climb, hiking energy bills for manufacturing plants as well as households. Manufacturers who use the fossil fuel as a building block for plastics and chemicals also say higher prices could blunt a competitive advantage that has spurred them to move facilities to the United States.

But a government-commissioned study last year concluded that the United States would score big economic benefits by broadly exporting natural gas, with only modest domestic price increases for the fossil fuel.

And export enthusiasts say more foreign sales of natural gas would ensure new markets and demand that are essential to sustaining the current U.S. drilling boom. The government’s Energy Information Administration has predicted the U.S. will produce a record-setting 69.96 billion cubic feet of natural gas on average each day this year, driven largely by hydraulic fracturing techniques that involve blasting sand, water and chemicals underground.

Dominion aims to convert its existing Cove Point facility so it can liquefy natural gas and load the super-chilled product onto tankers. The facility was originally built as a terminal to receive and regassify tanker shipments of LNG, before today’s surge in domestic natural gas production largely negated the need for those imports.

The Energy Department’s action on Dominion comes roughly four weeks after the last LNG export authorization, a swifter timeline than some had anticipated, especially as analysts expect the bar for approvals to climb with each new approval.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has championed broader LNG exports, said she was “encouraged that the Department of Energy seems to have picked up the pace of its reviews.” But she noted that the Cove Point approval came nearly two years after Dominion first applied for the export license.

“The United States has a narrowing window of opportunity to join the global gas trade,” Murkowski said. “In order for us to take advantage of the geopolitical and economic benefits offered by selling American gas to our friends and allies overseas, projects like Dominion’s Cove Point must be approved without unnecessary delay.”

Dozens of LNG export facilities are planned around the globe, as companies in the U.S., Australia, Canada and other countries clamor for a foothold in Asian markets hungry for natural gas.

Environmentalists questioned the wisdom of the Dominion approval, saying it would tether the U.S. to fossil fuels for decades.

“Exporting LNG to foreign buyers will lock us into decades-long contracts, which in turn will lead to more drilling — and that means more (hydraulic fracturing), more air and water pollution, and more climate-fueled weather disasters like record fires, droughts, and superstorms like last year’s Sandy,” said Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign.

Twenty other export proposals are pending at the Energy Department, which is vetting the applications on a case-by-case basis, following an order that was set in December. In announcing its decision Wednesday, the Energy Department vowed to continue processing the applications individually, even as it continues “to monitor any market developments and assess their impact in subsequent” decisions.

Chairman: Houston port has record exports, but challenges remain

Next in line is a second application from Freeport LNG to export 1.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, followed by a proposal from Cameron LNG for 1.7 billion cubic feet per day.

A federal law dictates that the Energy Department must affirm proposed exports are in the public interest before granting licenses to sell the fossil fuel to countries that don’t have free-trade agreements with the United States — a benchmark that tilts in favor of the foreign sales.

Even after companies have approvals and secure financing for the massive, multibillion-dollar liquefaction facilities, it can take years to build them.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Lens Opinion, Times-Picayune: Royalty-screwed: Big Oil likes to confuse severance taxes with cleanup costs

The Lens

OPINION By Mark Moseley, Opinion writer September 10, 2013 5:00pm

In August, Sen. Mary Landrieu argued that Louisiana deserves a greater share of oil royalty payments, maybe even rates equal to those received by mineral-rich states in the interior, such as Wyoming. With the additional proceeds from offshore production, Landrieu argues, the state can fund its urgent coastal restoration needs:

“Failure is no option. I don’t know if anybody knows where any other money is, but I don’t. If we do not get this [royalty] money, we cannot secure this coast and build the levees we need.”
In fact, Landrieu was well aware of another possible source of money. BP is about to be on the hook for a massive fines related to the 2010 oil spill, and Louisiana will use its share of those billions to jumpstart restoration projects.

Also, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East’s coastal erosion lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies had been announced in July and – importantly- Landrieu signalled tentative support when she said, “I think we should seek justice everywhere we can find it.”

In 2006, Landrieu successfully shepherded legislation that, beginning in 2017, will increase Louisiana’s royalties from our vast offshore assets. Unfortunately, a $500 million cap prevented the act from being the coast’s saving grace. Landrieu wants to rectify that by removing the cap.

State coastal czar Garret Graves identified increased royalties as a prong in the state’s strategically sequenced tripartite coastal strategy. (It’s a complicated affair.) The other two prongs include BP oil spill money (natch), and “battling with the Army Corps of Engineers over its management of the Mississippi River.” It’s apparently a delicately balanced little stratagem, and Graves is hopping mad at the flood authority lawsuit because it has disturbed the Jindal administration’s priority sequence of coastal restoration funding mechanisms.

One thing is clear, though: The Jindal administration, the oil and gas lobby, and presumably the majority of the state Legislature are not thrilled by the flood authority’s lawsuit. They would prefer that the state’s $50 billion Master Plan to restore the coast be funded through an increased share of oil and gas royalties.

The royalty issue takes on increased importance in light of BP’s recent transformation from “contrite to combative.” Perhaps alarmed by increased potential expenses related to the oil spill, the once-apologetic oil giant has gone from vowing to “make things right” to basically mounting a PR campaign to say it is being victimized by fraudulent Louisianans. Thus it seems that BP will not be paying additional fines or judgements, without first exhausting all of its legal options. And that will likely mean years of delay.

So the royalty option assumes more importance. And this suits the oil and gas companies fine. Restoring the coast with oil and gas royalties gives the illusion that oil giants are paying to fix the coast that they helped to disappear (by slicing it apart with pipelines and navigation channels).
However, they’re not paying anything more than than they used to. Increasing royalties for Louisiana come out of the federal government’s share, not Big Oil’s coffers. It’s additional money for the state, and less for the federal budget.

Flood authority vice chairman John Barry explained in his masterful Lens op-ed:
The industry wants it [the coast] fixed, but they want taxpayers to pay for the damage they did, either in taxes or flood insurance rates. If we succeed in getting a bigger share of offshore revenue, we’re getting it from the federal treasury. From taxpayers in Rhode Island and Oregon – and in Louisiana. The industry won’t be paying a penny more.

This gets to the heart of the royalty dilemma. The rhetoric surrounding the argument Landrieu makes for increased royalties for Louisiana – “we deserve our fair share” and “we need this money to fix our coast” – subtly conflates two different issues.

Royalties, or more accurately, severance taxes, are compensation for the right to extract non-renewable mineral wealth. It’s for removing mineral assets, like oil, that can only be exploited once. Royalties are not a repair cost for extraction, or compensation for environmental impact.

Everyone who touts increased royalties as the smart play toward funding the coastal reconstruction Master Plan is misleading you. They are trying to link royalties and coastal restoration in the public’s mind, as a solution to the problem.

Don’t be misled. Louisiana’s fair share of the mineral wealth is one issue. If we should get a larger percentage of revenues – the same share interior states receive – that would be wonderful.

However, oil and gas companies’ responsibility for our coastal mega-problem is a separate issue. We would deserve increased royalties even if the coast was healthy and flourishing like it was a hundred years ago. As Barry says, Big Oil should pay more to fix the coast that they helped break. If the state acquires more royalty funds and directs them to restore the coast, instead of other urgent needs, that’s still a tremendous sacrifice.

Granted, the odds are long against the lawsuit being successful. Even if it were, oil and gas companies, like BP, will probably use every legal and political device at their disposal to avoid paying judgments promptly. So, increased royalties might become one of Louisiana’s last best politically feasible solutions to fund coastal restoration.

But don’t be fooled, if that’s how it plays out. Taxpayer’s will be paying for the destruction of our coast by the world’s richest corporate sector. Big Oil had a chance to step up, and instead they let the “little people” -as a BP exec once called us- take the hit.

I call that getting royalty-screwed.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

AP: Contracting issues delay legacy well cleanup in Arctic reserve

Published: September 10, 2013 Updated 1 hour ago

By BECKY BOHRER — Associated Press

JUNEAU, ALASKA — Contracting issues have delayed the start of planned cleanup work around abandoned well sites in the Alaska Arctic, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said Tuesday.

In May, BLM-Alaska released a draft plan identifying 50 abandoned wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that it believes require cleanup by the agency. The plan prioritized the remediation of the first 16 of those sites in the reserve. One of those sites — described as lying near a well-traveled winter road, with a building well known for providing shelter to travelers in poor weather — has a gas leak that the agency said could pose a threat to public health and safety.

The plan called for surface work at several sites southeast of Barrow to begin as early as this year, with cleanup of drums submerged in oil seeps and other debris. But Erin Curtis, a spokeswoman for BLM-Alaska, said that kind of work needs to be done in the summer. She said the contracting process can be lengthy and it will probably be next summer before that work begins.

She said there is no greater risk associated with the delay. The debris has been out there for a long time and will get frozen over during the winter, she said.

BLM manages the reserve, where more than 130 wells were drilled under the federal government’s direction as part of an exploratory oil and gas program from the 1940s to the 1980s. State leaders have pushed for progress on the cleanup and insisted it is a federal responsibility.

Curtis said the money for the initial surface work has been identified. But it’s not clear what the total cost to address the priority sites might be, and Curtis said additional work will be dependent upon funding.

Curtis said she expected the final version of the draft plan to be released soon. The initial hope was to have the plan finalized within weeks after the draft was released. But Curtis said it took a little longer than expected to get comments from interested parties. She characterized the comments BLM received as generally supportive of the top priorities the agency identified.

Cathy Foerster, a commissioner with the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission who has been critical of BLM’s handling of the legacy well issue, said she was encouraged that BLM was working with her group and others and taking their comments into account.

Foerster said she agrees with BLM on the highest-priority wells but worries that the agency doesn’t seem concerned about other sites. She remains concerned about the availability of funding and is taking a wait-and-see approach on any work that’s done.

“I won’t feel good until the work is done and I’ve seen how it’s done,” she said.

Curtis said the draft plan is meant to cover short-term issues. She said the intent is to look at additional sites once the highest-priority sites are addressed.

Read more here:

Lois N. Epstein, P.E.

Engineer & Arctic Program Director

The Wilderness Society

work: 907.272.9453, x107| cell: 907.748.0448



We protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Energy & Environment: Regulator hopes Gulf mapping tool can defuse tension between drillers, fishermen

Nathanial Gronewold, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013

HOUSTON — The federal government is racing to roll out a new mapping
tool that it hopes will lead to a truce between offshore drillers and
fishing interests over the spike in rig decommissioning and tear-downs.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement hopes by the end of
this month to have the basic framework for a geographic information
system mapping tool that would be used to track the life span of the
thousands of offshore structures and platforms standing in the Gulf of
Mexico, hundreds of which are slated for removal. But finalizing it
will take many more months or even years and will require the input of
charter fishermen, recreational diving companies, shrimp boat captains
and anyone else who has a stake in the Gulf’s natural resources.

The aim is to defuse the tension between charter fishermen and divers,
who depend on the artificial reef environments created by the rigs for
their livelihood, and the very owners of those offshore structures, who
are legally required to remove them when they are no longer in use. Rig
owners also fear the legal liability they are exposed to should a
defunct rig cause an accident or suffer storm damage.

In an interview, David Smith, a public affairs specialist at BSEE, said
the map that he and his team hope to complete this month will just be a
bare-bones version of the final product. The ultimate aim, he said, is
to develop a tool that enables all interested parties to know ahead of
time when a rig might be coming down and whether that structure would
be a good candidate for the federal Rigs to Reefs program.

BSEE sees Rigs to Reefs as the key to bridging the divide between the
fishermen and offshore oil and gas companies. Charter fishing interests
have been lobbying hard in Congress for a temporary moratorium on rig
decommissioning and removal, something that oil and gas companies and
the decommissioning industry are eager to avoid.

“You have the older platforms that have created this temporary
artificial habitat for fish and other marine life, but they’re also the
ones that are probably going to come out the soonest,” Smith explained.
“What we found is that there needs to be a lot more collaboration in
the planning process for decommissioning.”

Although the platforms, caissons and other offshore structures are the
private property of oil and gas companies, commercial and charter
fishermen insist that their voices should be added to the discussion on
what to do with an aging offshore structure. At the same time they and
some state agencies complain that the Rigs to Reefs program is too slow
and laden with bureaucracy. Six federal agencies have some say in what
happens to a structure resting above an abandoned offshore well.

Capt. Gary Jarvis, former president of the Corpus Christi, Texas-based
Charter Fishermen’s Association (CFA), expressed some skepticism that
BSEE’s planned reforms of Rigs to Reefs will work, but he is satisfied
that at least BSEE is hearing his industry’s concerns.

Still, he and others feel that nearly all offshore structures should be
reefed in place after they are no longer of use to the industry. That
currently happens with only a small fraction of them.

“Ideally for us, we would say reef them right where they’re at,” Jarvis
said. “That would be a good compromise.”

Delicate balancing act

Once the GIS map is in place, Smith said he hopes to organize a cross-
industry commission to help manage it and keep it updated.
Representatives of charter fishing and dive trip operators could
identify which structures are of most value to them, and oil and gas
interests across the table could provide updates on the status of these
structures, notifying whether they plan to tear them down and how

Representatives of Gulf state agencies that assume responsibility for
artificial reefs created in Rigs to Reefs would also be at the table to
give guidance on whether these structures can be folded into the
program. Not all are eligible to become artificial reefs.

“We’re trying to develop a GIS map as a planning tool, and then we want
to develop a collaborative planning body that will sort of be an
information repository and facilitate a dialogue,” Smith said.

It’s a delicate balancing act that will attempt, for the first time, to
bring all Gulf of Mexico commercial interests — fishing, recreation,
and oil and gas — together to hash out compromises over their
competing needs.

Though charter fishermen may want to keep all structures in place,
shrimp boat captains by and large would like to see all those defunct
platforms removed to avoid damaging their equipment. Oil and gas firms
are keen to rid themselves of liability for these defunct platforms as
soon as possible. Meanwhile, thousands of workers are employed in the
Gulf Coast region by companies that tear down platforms and salvage the
“idle iron” for scrap metal.

The committee or planning commission that he hopes to form would “take
all of the input from the shrimping community, from the trawlers, from
the fishing and recreational charters, commercial diving community, all
of those different organizations and bring it all together, and then
have regular update meetings and have a place where people can come and
talk about what’s working and what’s not,” Smith said.

Complicating matters further, the science surrounding artificial
reefing is still in its infancy. The ecological benefits of artificial
versus natural reefs is still hotly debated and will be the principal
topic of discussion at the forthcoming Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries
Institute conference in Corpus Christi, Texas, slated for November.

Wes Tunnell, associate director of the Harte Research Institute at
Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, explained that the current debate
swirls around whether artificial reefs generate new populations of fish
species or simply concentrate existing ones. He said there is evidence
for both.

Gulf of Mexico researchers are also still trying to develop a sound,
standardized technique for studying and monitoring artificial reefs,
counting the populations of fish that call them home and comparing this
data with what researchers collect at natural reef sites. “There’s
never been a really good way to count the fish around these artificial
reefs and have kind of an objective method for doing that,” Tunnell

But there is some general understanding of artificial reefs among the
scientific community. Tunnell indicated that there’s evidence to
suggest that, though natural reefs are more biodiverse, artificial
reefs may actually harbor larger numbers of fish and therefore might be
more productive for fisheries.

Harte and other research centers are willing to aid BSEE’s efforts to
reach a general compromise, but Tunnell said his institute’s position
on the decommissioning and Rigs to Reefs controversy will be strictly

“We like to be what we call the honest broker,” he said. “We want to
keep providing the best information until we get to the right

Hurricane’s wake

The hurricane seasons of 2005 to 2008 brought this issue to the fore.

Hundreds of platforms were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina,
Rita, Gustav and Ike. In investigating the problem, BSEE discovered
that more than half of the damaged structures were in disuse, sitting
abandoned for years. Fixing the damage cost hundreds of millions of

The 2010 Macondo well blowout and oil spill delayed action somewhat,
but after the dust settled from that incident, BSEE issued a notice to
oil and gas companies reminding them that they need to demonstrate a
plan for what they intend to do with abandoned platforms within five
years. The options include selling them to other companies, reusing
them for developing new wells, reefing or removal.

Smith is adamant that the Notice to Lessees issued in October 2010 was
not a directive that companies must remove abandoned structures.
Rather, the notice was meant to remind industry of the existing
regulations in place.

Smith estimated that the Gulf is home to nearly 2,900 production
platforms, but he stressed that, of these, 700 to 800 may have to be
dealt with as they near the end of their life spans. And even then the
law doesn’t require that they be removed, only that the owners come up
with a plan for what to do with them next.

Still, many in the industry acted as if the NTL was ordering immediate

BSEE estimates that 285 structures were removed from the Gulf in 2011,
up from 153 in 2008. Permit requests for rig decommissionings rose from
254 submitted in 2010 to 319 in 2011. Fishermen and divers grew alarmed
as hundreds of platforms were pulled, mostly from the western Gulf off
the coast of Texas. Structures that they’ve depended on for years
seemingly vanished overnight.

“Especially off South Texas where we are, we’ve just had so few rigs so
when they pulled out 30 or however many there were in our region, the
fishermen and the diving industry, they felt that tremendously,” said
Jennifer Wetz, a researcher at the Harte Institute. “That was huge to

The Charter Fishermen’s Association and other groups and individual
fishermen responded by getting politically active, pressing their local
members of Congress to get involved. Last year lawmakers proposed the
decommissioning moratorium. Although that effort failed, the speed and
strength with which fishing and diving interests acted got the
attention of offshore oil and gas firms. The dispute was a top item for
discussion among industry representatives at the Decommissioning and
Abandonment Summit held in Houston earlier this year.

J. Dale Shively, artificial reef program leader at the Texas Parks and
Wildlife Department, expressed sympathy for the fishing interests but
suggested they should have seen this problem coming. Offshore platforms
are meant to be temporary installations with their owners free to do
with them as they wish, as long as it complies with the law.

“One of the sticking points really is that the public doesn’t accept
that these platforms are private property,” Shively said. “They don’t
belong to the public. They don’t belong to the federal government or
the state. They belong to the oil company.”

CFA member Jarvis, however, argues that these structures become far
more than just a matter for the private owner because they create
valuable fish habitat, an asset that is tightly controlled throughout
the Gulf. Simply removing them when the companies want to would destroy
that habitat and the fish that reside there, an action that would
result in severe consequences for fishing interests but almost none for
oil and gas firms, he said.

“There are all kinds of federal laws and regulations about live coral,
and there’s nothing on those oil rig legs but live coral. They get a
free pass on that,” Jarvis said. “The fishing reefs, also known as oil
rigs, are a valuable asset to the fishery, not only from the
fisherman’s perspective but from the fish perspective too.”


Shively agrees with BSEE that the Rigs to Reefs program will be a
central factor to satisfying all sides of the issue, but he complained
that for a while now the program allowed too little flexibility for
state agencies like his to grab structures before they are removed and
recommend them for reefing.

He also echoed Tunnell’s point that the science of artificial reefing
is still being worked out. Texas Parks and Wildlife is relying on
researchers at the Harte Institute; University of Texas, Brownsville;
and Texas A&M University, Galveston, for help in studying Texas’ three
primary artificial reef areas. Getting a fix on the value and proper
management of the Rigs to Reefs program is a never-ending challenge, he

“We don’t ever predict that we’re done,” Shively said. “We put
materials down that are serving as a reef, but the scientific questions
are if you put more material, do you get more fish, or do you at some
point get all this competition and the population decreases because now
you’re bringing in more predators?”

Another challenge is the expense. Shively estimates that a typical
reefing job costs more than $500,000. A near-shore artificial reef he’s
working to put together this month near Corpus Christi using more than
400 concrete pillars will run about $700,000. Another near Matagorda,
spread across 160 acres, will probably cost $1.2 million to complete,
he said.

“Every reefing job is expensive,” Shively said. “We’re hoping to get
some of this Deepwater Horizon money to help with it. It’s in the
plans, but we haven’t gotten official approval yet.”

Though reefing can save an operator potentially millions of dollars,
the time-consuming and cumbersome process — and restrictions on where
and how rigs can be reefed — means that far more concrete and steel
will still be removed than left in the Gulf of Mexico. Last year BSEE
reported that the oil and gas industry requested approval to scrap
about 330 offshore structures. Twenty-seven were recommended for the
Rigs to Reefs program, or about 8 percent of the total. So far this
year the agency has received permit applications to scrap 121 rigs and
to reef 15.

The GIS mapping system that BSEE will try to roll out later this month
will be the beginning of attempts to bring more structure and order to
the Rigs to Reefs program and to provide fishermen and divers with
enough information so that they can know precisely what’s happening
with their favorite reefs. If such a structure is scheduled for
decommissioning, fishing and diving interests would be able to flag it
to state officials or BSEE for possible inclusion in Rigs to Reefs. If
popular structures are deemed unsuitable for reefing, then the divers
and fishers can at least learn of this ahead of time, giving them an
opportunity to seek out replacements to visit to keep their businesses

Smith said he needs the cooperation of all sides to make the experiment

“In order to get the map to work, we have to get all the BSEE data on
it, we need to get all the shrimping data on it, we need to get all the
fishing data on it,” he said. “It would help if the fishing and diving
community could point out those platforms that are really important to
them and make the states aware of those so that the states know where
to look for them.”

Though he thinks it’s been taking BSEE too long to put this mapping
tool together, Smith believes this step will prove to be the easy part
of this entire effort.

“The hard part is coming up with some sort of cooperative agreement or
something for a body to put all this stuff together,” he said. “I’m not
sure exactly how that’s going to happen yet. We’re still working on
that part.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter The Flip Side Of Obama’s Keystone XL Delay: Even as President Obama cast a veneer of caution over the Keystone pipeline’s northern half, he quietly expedited dozens of similar projects.

By Steve Horn | September 7, 2013

The Republican-controlled House is voting today on a measure that would strip the president’s authority on Keystone XL pipeline approval, allowing Congress to push the project through before completion of the environmental impact study. (Photo/Matt Wansley via Flickr)

While President Obama made a big deal out of delaying the northern half of the Keystone pipeline’s construction, he compensated by signing an executive order to expedite similar infrastructure projects everywhere else. (Photo/Matt Wansley via Flickr)

Large segments of the environmental movement declared a win on Jan. 18, 2012, the dawn of an election year in which partisan fervor reigned supreme.

On that day President Barack Obama kicked the can down the road for permitting TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline’s northern half until after the then-forthcoming November 2012 presidential election.

“Northern half” is the key caveat: just two months later, on March 22, 2012 – even deeper into the weeds of an election year – President Obama issued Executive Order 13604. Among other key things, the order has an accompanying memorandum calling for an expedited review of the southern half of Keystone XL stretching from Cushing, Okla. to Port Arthur, Texas.

The day before, March 21, Obama flew on Air Force One to a pipe yard in Cushing – the “pipeline crossroads of the world” – for a special stump speech and photo-op announcing the executive order and memorandum.

Dubbed the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project by TransCanada – 95 percent complete and “open for business” in the first quarter of 2014 – the 485-mile tube will ship 700,000 barrels of tar sands crude per day from Cushing to Port Arthur, where it will then reach Gulf Coast refineries and be exported to the global market. It will eventually have the capacity to ship 830,000 barrels per day.

The subject of a large amount of grassroots resistance from groups such as Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and the Tar Sands Blockade, the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project – when push comes to shove – is only the tip of the iceberg.

That’s because Obama’s order also called for expedited permitting and review of all domestic infrastructure projects – including but not limited to pipelines – as a reaction to the Keystone XL resistance.

A months-long Mint Press News investigation reveals the executive order wasn’t merely a symbolic gesture.

Rather, many key pipeline and oil and gas industry marketing projects are currently up for expedited review, making up for — and by far eclipsing — the capacity of Keystone XL’s northern half. The original TransCanada Keystone pipeline – as is – already directly connects to Cushing from Alberta, making XL (short for “extension line”) essentially obsolete.

Keystone XL’s northern half proposal is key for marketing oil obtained from the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin.

Dubbed the Bakken Marketlink Pipeline, the segment has lost its importance with the explosive freight rail boom for moving Bakken fracked oil to market and other pipeline proposals. One of those pipelines, in fact, has received fast-track approval under the March 2012 Obama Executive Order.

Feeling the pressure from protest against the Keystone XL from groups such as the Tar Sands Action, Indigenous Environmental Network and others, Obama pulled a fast one: “wait and see” for XL’s northern half – which many claimed as a victory – and expedited approval of everything else via executive order.

Breaking down the Keystone XL executive order

Obama’s Keystone XL southern half March 2012 memo reads like Big Oil talking points.

“[W]e need an energy infrastructure system that can keep pace with advances in production,” Obama states in the Memo. “To promote American energy sources, we must not only extract oil — we must also be able to transport it to our world-class refineries, and ultimately to consumers.”

A metaphorical slap in the face to environmentalists who spent months working on opposing Keystone XL, Obama argued a more efficient, less bureaucratic means of approval was compulsory.

“[A]s part of my Administration’s broader efforts to improve the performance of Federal permitting and review processes, we must make pipeline infrastructure a priority … supporting projects that can contribute to economic growth and a secure energy future,” the memo reads.

Though the order issued an expedited permitting process for Keystone XL’s southern half, it also foreshadowed that expedited permitting would become the “new normal” going forward for all domestic oil and gas pipeline projects.

“To address the existing bottleneck in Cushing, as well as other current or anticipated bottlenecks, agencies shall … coordinate and expedite their reviews … as necessary to expedite decisions related to domestic pipeline infrastructure projects that would contribute to a more efficient domestic pipeline system for the transportation of crude oil,” the memo states in closing.

The memo also notes all projects placed in the expedited permitting pile can have their statuses tracked on the online Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard, with 48 projects currently listed.

Little time was wasted building the XL’s southern half after Obama issued the Order and within a slim two years, TransCanada will have its first direct line from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in southern Texas.

Muted opposition: “eco-terrorists,” SLAPP lawsuit threats

It’s not as if the Keystone XL southern half expedited permit has gone unopposed. It’s just that activists who have chosen to resist the pipeline have paid a heavy price for doing so.

A case in point: opposition to Keystone XL’s southern half has earned many activists the label – on multiple occasions – as potential “eco-terrorists,” named as such by TransCanada, the U.S. FBI and Department of Homeland Security’s Nebraska-based “fusion center” and local undercover police.

Other activists were threatened by TransCanada with a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), all of whom made an out of court settlement in January 2013.

Activists agreed to “no longer trespass or cause damage to Keystone XL property including the easements within private property boundaries,” explained FireDogLake’s Kevin Gosztola in a January 2013 article.

The agreement was a quintessential “lesser of two evils” choice, given activists could have found themselves bogged down in legal fees from TransCanada and may have eventually owed the corporation big bucks.

“The activists had a choice: either settle or face a lawsuit in court where TransCanada would seek $5 million for alleged financial damages … that could have much worse consequences,” Gosztola further explained.

Beyond SLAPP threats, key lawsuits aiming to fend off TransCanada have also failed.

Texas lawsuit highlights expedited permitting corruption

One of those lawsuits in particular – filed on April 25, 2013 by a Douglass, Texas-based citizen named Michael Bishop representing himself in court – paints a picture of what President Obama meant when he said he would fast-track permitting for infrastructure projects going forward.

Before filing the lawsuit, Bishop penned a four-part series for EcoWatch in February and March of 2013 on his experiences as a landowner living a mere 120-feet from pipeline construction and dealing with TransCanada in Texas.

“I am amazed by the lack of understanding about this project by the general public and even more amazed that people in other parts of the country are so focused on the ‘northern segment’ while the pipeline is actually being laid right here in Texas and will begin transporting diluted bitumen, tar sands crude oil, to Gulf Coast refineries by the end of the year,” Bishop wrote in Part III. “So many seem oblivious to this fact.”

Bishop alleges in his Complaint for Declaratory Relief and Petition for Writ of Mandamus that on-the-books bread-and-butter environmental laws were broken when fast-tracked permitting for Keystone XL’s southern half unfolded.

The permitting mechanism utilized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – following Obama’s March 2012 executive order and memorandum – was a Nationwide Permit 12.

Nationwide Permit 12 has also been chosen for fast-tracked permitting of Enbridge’s Flanagan South Pipeline. That pipeline is set to fill the gap – and then some – for Keystone XL’s northern half, bringing tar sands crude along the 600-mile long, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline from Pontiac, Ill. to Cushing, Okla.

A 2012 document produced by the Army Corps of Engineers explains Nationwide Permit 12 is meant for permitting of utility lines, access roads; foundations for overhead utility line towers, poles, and anchors: pipelines carrying corrosive tar sands crude go unmentioned.

The Corps’ document also explains Nationwide Permit 12 exists to “authorize certain activities that have minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment,” further explaining, “Activities that result in more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment cannot be authorized.”

Bishop cited the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), arguing Nationwide Permit 12 as applied to Keystone XL’s southern half violated the spirit of that law because no environmental assessment was conducted and no public hearings were held.

“Given the fact that the Corps was involved in the preparation of the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline XL for the State Department … knowledgeable of the toxic nature of the material to be transported and massive public opposition to the project, public hearings should have been held in accordance with the law,” wrote Bishop.

Further, the pipeline crosses “nearly 1,000 crossings of bodies of water in Texas alone,” according to Bishop’s complaint.

In following the dictates of the March 2012 executive order and memorandum, Bishop argues the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acted in total disregard for long-established environmental law.

“The use of Nation Wide Permit-12 is not a substitute for following NEPA and the Corps, while having some degree of latitude, failed in its ministerial duty,” Bishop wrote. “There was a blatant disregard for established environmental law…which not only included public input, but also directed the agency to consider human health and safety.”

To date, the lawsuit has not been heard in court.

Hastening Bakken shale development

While the environmental community hones in on Keystone XL’s northern half, the business community has focused on expediting permits in the Bakken Shale and filling in the gap left behind by the lack of a TransCanada “Bakken Marketlink.”

Big Business has done so – in the main – by using pipelines to ship Bakken crude to key rail hubs.

One of the pipelines listed in the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard is the Bakkenlink pipeline – not to be confused with the “Bakken Marketlink” – a 144-mile-long tube set to carry fracked oil from the Bakken to rail facilities that would then carry the product to strategic markets.

“Currently, crude oil from this region of the Bakken field is transported to rail facilities via truck,” explains the Dashboard. “The proposed BakkenLink pipeline provides an opportunity to eliminate a vast amount of overland truck traffic.”

Petroleum News Bakken, an industry news publication, explains Bakkenlink was proposed when the northern half of Keystone XL was put on hold by the Obama Administration.

“Originally the BakkenLink was intended to run all the way to Baker, Mont., where it was to connect to the Keystone XL pipeline, but when the Keystone XL project was put on hold in 2011, BakkenLink LLC modified its plan and opted to terminate the pipeline at the Fryburg rail facility,” Petroleum News Bakken explained.

The Bismarck Tribune explained Great Northern Midstream LLC – which wholly owns BakkenLink LLC as a subsidiary – has built capacity to load fracked Bakken oil onto 110-car unit trains via the Fryburg rail facility.

For sake of comparison, TransCanada’s Bakken Marketlink Pipeline – aka Keystone XL – was slated to bring 100,000 barrels per day of crude to market.

The freight trains scheduled to carry this oil are owned by Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF). BNSF itself is owned by Warren Buffett, the fourth richest man on the planet and major campaign contributor to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

With plans to “spend $4.1 billion on capital improvements in 2013, a single-year record for an American railroad…BNSF says it is transporting more than half of the oil produced in the North Dakota and Montana regions of the Bakken,” according to a June 2013 Dallas Morning News article. “The boom would not be as big, nor would it have happened as fast, without BNSF.”

Recent investigative pieces on Buffett’s ties to the tar sands also shows he owns over $2.7 billion worth of stock in tar sands producers such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Suncor as of September 7, 2013.

Another key data point: a 70-unit train carrying 51,428 barrels of fracked Bakken Oil to a Canadian east coast export terminal owned by Irving Oil derailed and exploded in a fireball on July 2013, killing 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, located in Québec province.

Coming full circle, Irving Oil and TransCanada announced a joint venture to develop and construct an export facility in St. John, Canada on August 1, less than a month after the lethal Lac-Mégantic derailment. That facility would take tar sands crude shipped from the 1.1 million barrels per day proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline and export it to the global market.

Bakken Federal Executives Group

Bakkenlink isn’t the only game in town for the March 2012 executive order’s impact on expedited permitting in the Bakken Shale.

Enter the Bakken Federal Executives Group – helped along by Obama’s Assistant for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal – the Obama White House’s industry-friendly liaison to Big Oil.

“Among Zichal’s tasks is wooing Jack Gerard,” explained a May 2012 article in Bloomberg. Gerard was thought to be one of the candidates for Chief-of-Staff for Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney if he became president.

“[I]dentified by the President as one of five priority regional initiatives under Executive Order 13604 … [the] [g]roup represents a dozen federal bureaus with review and permitting responsibilities that are working collaboratively to address common development obstacles associated with the Bakken boom…,” explains an August 7 U.S. Department of Interior press release.

Newly-minted U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell – a former petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil Company – recently took a trip to the Bakken Shale oil fields to advocate for the dictates of the March 2012 Executive Order.

“The group’s Aug. 6 itinerary began with a tour of a rig operated by Continental Resources Inc., followed in the afternoon by a tour of facilities operated by Statoil, which has invested more than $4 billion in the Bakken,” explained the Oil and Gas Journal.

Continental Resources’ CEO is Harold Hamm, who served as energy advisor to Mitt Romney, the Republican Party presidential nominee for the 2012 election.

“Interior continues to be a leader in implementing President Obama’s vision for a federal permitting process that is smarter [and] more efficient,” David Hayes, Department of Interior Deputy Secretary said in a June press release. “By coordinating across the many federal agencies involved in the Bakken region … we are able to offer a better process for industry.”

Obama May 2013 memo: Cut it in half

On May 17, 2013, President Obama issued an updated memorandum titled, “Modernizing Federal Infrastructure Review and Permitting Regulations, Policies, and Procedures.”

Citing his March 2012 executive order as precedent, this memo called for cutting the time it takes to approve major infrastructure projects – pipelines included – in half.

“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to advance the goal of cutting aggregate timelines for major infrastructure projects in half,” he states in the memo, with a final goal to “institutionalize or expand best practices or process improvements that agencies are already implementing to improve the efficiency of reviews.”

Scary math

Adding insult to injury, a recent story appearing in The Wall Street Journal explains Keystone XL’s northern half is no longer a priority for refiners, investors or the industry at large.

With a further delay in the cards due to conflicts of interest in the State Department’s environmental review process, it may start to matter less and less for Big Oil as it plans out its other options for getting its product to market going forward.

“U.S. companies that refine oil increasingly doubt that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline [northern half] will ever be built, and now they don’t particularly care,” explained the Journal.

Enbridge recently proposed an expansion for its Alberta Clipper pipeline (approved by Obama’s State Department in August 2009, now known as “Line 67”) from 450,000 barrels per day to 570,000 barrels per day to theState Department in a November 2012 application.

It upped the ante since the original Clipper expansion application — a move met with activist opposition — requested 800,000 barrels of tar sands run through it per day.

That’s on top of Enbridge’s recently proposed Nationwide Permit 12 – paralleling what TransCanada did for Keystone XL’s southern half – set to bring 600,000 barrels per day of tar sands to Cushing, Okla from Pontiac, Ill.

The reaction to pressure against building Keystone XL’s northern half has been – put simply – “build more and faster.” Simple math and geography shows – as The Wall Street Journal boasted – project permitting parameters have tilted more and more in Big Oil’s favor under President Obama’s watch.

With full-throttle expansion of the tar sands described as “game over for the climate” by now-retired NASA scientist James Hansen — and with fracked oil and gas found to be dirtier than coal when examined in its entire lifecycle according to a May 2011 Cornell University study — it makes for scary math indeed.

Greenpeace: Greenpeace activists invade Shell refinery

Christian Wenande
August 28, 2013 – 09:38
The action is a protest against Shell spearheading the search for oil in the vulnerable Arctic region
Around 40 Greenpeace activists, some dressed as polar bears, forced entrance to the Shell oil refinery in Fredericia this morning (Photo: Greenpeace)

Shell’s oil refinery in the Jutland city of Fredericia was invaded by about 40 Greenpeace activists dressed up like polar bears early this morning.

The activists forced entry to the Dutch oil giant’s refinery just after 6am and a group of them immediately began climbing up one of the refinery’s large silos , where they hung a banner featuring an image of the well-known yellow and red Shell logo juxtaposed with a polar bear’s face.

“We are here to reveal Shell’s true face. The company is leading the hunt for oil in the Arctic, despite having shown us that they are completely unable to protect the vulnerable environment and unique nature in Greenland and the rest of the region,” Helene Hansen, a 28-year-old activist, told Ekstra Bladet tabloid.

Part of a global campaign
The activist group in Fredericia includes Danes as well as individuals from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Italy, Germany and Latvia.

The police showed up at around 6:30am but as of two hours later no arrests had made.
The Fredericia action is the latest Greenpeace stunt aimed at taking on Shell’s hunt for arctic oil. In July, six activists climbed western Europe’s tallest building near Shell’s headquarters in London to display a ‘Save the Arctic’ banner, and last Sunday a 20-metre banner was unveiled during the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Belgium.

The Arctic: another Nigeria?
Shell is currently preparing a number of seismic examinations in protected sea areas in Baffin Bay, the body of water between Greenland and Canada. Whale experts have warned that the noisy seismic tests could threaten the population of whales in the area. In June, Denmark’s Arctic oil spill preparedness was found woefully inadequate by experts.

“Shell has already a displayed horrendous breach of security in Alaska, they’ve polluted the entire Niger Delta and now they’re getting ready for Russia and Greenland. The plans should be stopped so Greenland doesn’t become the next Nigeria,” Niels Fuglsang, a spokesperson for the Danish Arctic campaign in Greenpeace, told Ekstra Bladet.
Greenpeace is hoping that politicians in Greenland and Denmark step up and prohibit Shell’s tests before they commence over the next few months.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Sierra Club: FAIL: How Keystone XL’s tar sands flunk the climate test

tar sands

The Sierra Club

Sierra Club and Oil Change International just released an extensive report, titled “FAIL: How Keystone XL’s tar sands flunk the climate test,” to directly answer President Obama’s pledge to reject KXL if it significantly exacerbates #climate pollution.

Read more about the report:
— with Thomas Edward Pearce.

August 29, 2013
Why Keystone Flunks the Climate Test

In June President Obama set a climate test for his decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He said he will not approve the pipeline if it would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. Today the Sierra Club, Oil Change International, and 13 partner groups have released a report that settles the issue unequivocally: Keystone XL would be a climate disaster.

Our report, “FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test,” spells out the full consequences of building the pipeline.

Start with the one fact that the State Department, the U.S. EPA, climate scientists, and even Wall Street and industry analysts all agree on: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will create massive amounts of carbon pollution. Tar sands, after all, are the world’s dirtiest and most carbon-intensive source of oil. Oil Change International estimates that the pipeline would carry and emit more than 181-million metric tons of carbon pollution each year. That’s the pollution equivalent of adding 37.7 million cars to U.S. roads, or 51 new coal-fired power plants.

The State Department, though, tried to ignore this 181-million metric ton elephant. It argued in its environmental review of Keystone XL that tar sands development was inevitable, regardless of whether the pipeline is built. That’s not true for several reasons.

Tar sands can be processed only at specialized refineries. The accessible U.S. and Canadian refineries capable of handling it are already at or near capacity. In order to expand production, tar sands producers must reach the U.S. Gulf Coast, where the heavy crude can be refined or, more likely, exported.

Although other pipeline projects have been proposed to export tar sands east, west, and south from western Canada, all of them face legal, technical, economic, and political obstacles that make them unlikely. Using rail is too expensive because tar sands transport requires special heated rail cars and loading terminals. Industry experts and financial firms like Goldman Sachs have already said this will be cost-prohibitive.

Keystone XL is critical for the Canadian oil industry to meet its goal of massive expansion in the tar sands. You don’t need to take our word for it, though. Just this week, Canada’s independent Pembina Institute uncovered documents from the industry itself that make that case. Briefing notes prepared for Canadian natural resources minister (and pipeline proponent) Joe Oliver state: “in order for crude oil production to grow, the North American pipeline network must be expanded through initiatives, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline project.”

The U.S. Interior Department has already joined the Environmental Protection Agency in criticizing the State Department’s environmental review for disregarding how the Keystone XL pipeline would affect wildlife and waterways. Given that we now know the State Department’s review was conducted by a consultant with strong ties to Keystone XL’s backer, TransCanada, and to the tar sands industry, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

In fact, earlier this month, the State Department’s own office of inspector general confirmed that it has opened an into inquiry how its Keystone XL review was conducted. Perhaps the most serious charge is that State Department officials tried to cover up evidence of conflicts of interest.

For an administration that’s actually done many good things on climate, the State Department’s environmental review of Keystone XL is both a failure and an embarrassment. It’s time to kick the oil industry lobbyists out of the room, listen to the scientists, weigh the facts, and reject this pipeline once and for all.

Add your voice to the growing chorus: By President Obama’s own standard, Keystone XL should not be approved.

Grist: Drill next door: Here’s what it looks like when fracking moves in by Erik Hoffner

By Erik Hoffner

Grist guest contributor

When my wife and I pulled into a relative’s subdivision in Frederick, Colo., after a wedding on a recent weekend, it was a surprise to suddenly find a 142-foot-tall drill rig in the backyard, parked in the narrow strip of land between there and the next subdivision to the east. It had appeared in the two days we’d been gone.

The 142 foot derrick looms over homes in Eagle Valley.Erik Hoffner

This couple hundred grassy acres, thick with meadowlarks and bisected by a creek crowded with cattail, bulrush, willow, and raccoon tracks, sits atop the DJ Basin shale deposit. Our folks hadn’t known that when they bought the property last year, nor did they recall any useful notice that this new industrial neighbor was moving in.

We witnessed the increasing phenomenon of rigs popping up in suburban neighborhoods like mushrooms overnight. The craze of the gas rush means that companies won’t hesitate to drill wherever shale deposits lie — even if they’re under a school or a subdivision. The message to homeowners in towns big and small alike seems to be: You are on notice. The ills of fracking that were once viewed as a rural concern — contamination of air and water, noise pollution, reduced safety on roads jammed with heavy trucks — are coming to your backyard, too.

Their neighborhood was now lit 24/7 by floodlights and featured the incessant low grind of the drill’s nearly 900 HP Caterpillar engine, the clanking of roughnecks beating on pipe at 2 a.m., and regular snorts from the rig’s massive 525 HP diesel generator … loud enough that we kept the windows closed to hear the television at night.

View from the picnic pavilion: nights are flooded with light since the drilling began.

We stared at this potentially toxic tower surrounded on three sides by many homes of the Eagle Valley and Raspberry Hill developments, and on the other side across a county road, by Legacy Elementary School. It seemed that the rig was only about 300 feet from the nearest homes, and about the same to a playground. Definitely too close.

But as a member of Fracking Colorado (which fights such projects in the Denver suburb of Aurora) told me by email, “The setback for wells from homes in urban areas was 350 feet. The new setback rules have increased that distance to 500 feet, but that probably was not in effect when this permit was granted. The new rules are effective as of Aug. 1, 2013. Also, when they re-enter an existing abandoned well, that was there before the homes were built, they can be closer than 350 feet to homes.”
Approximate current location of the rig.
An aerial map did seem to reveal the presence of a previous wellhead, but the difference between 300, 350, or even 500 feet seemed trivial, given the industry’s uninspiring track record on air and water pollution, plus the occasional explosion.

But then there are energy companies that think they don’t need any meaningful setback at all: Take a current frack-job just to the north. The derrick looms so near roads and powerlines that it’s potentially in direct contact with people in case of an accident, in direct violation of setback rules. Unfortunately for the managers of that project, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis owns a home across the street. His threat of a legal injunction prompted an apology from the company and a $26,000 fine from the state last week, although the drilling continues.

Back in Frederick, concerns of abutters went unheeded. After news of the project eventually became known (rules about notice vary, with some towns only requiring signs be posted on fields in the project area), numerous residents spoke up about safety, congestion, air quality, proximity to the school, and noise.

Interestingly, it’s town-owned land that’s being debated, so I suppose they will be collecting the check, as outlined in the town’s board of trustees meeting minutes on June 11: “Upon approval of the (Surface Use Agreement) and drilling permit application, the Town would be paid … a total of $20,000. In addition, the Town would receive a nominal amount of residual compensation for its share of the minerals …”

Hardly sounds like enough remuneration (a new pickup truck for the highway department?) given the steadily souring opinion of residents, one of which stated in a letter to the trustees on June 11: “Many homeowners have said they didn’t think it would do any good to come to meetings and give their input because it didn’t do any good in past years. Please fight for us, the citizens you represent, and don’t allow (them) to drill in Eagle Valley.”

But the drilling has begun, and a shrieking frack rig is now a regular feature of the hammock time, dog walks, and backyard barbecues of hundreds of people.

Here’s what that looks like:

Playground view, about 300 or so feet from the rig.Erik HoffnerPlayground view.

View from the bike path.Erik HoffnerView from the bike path.

Ironic flame of a tiki torch at a backyard BBQ foreshadowing events to come.Erik HoffnerIronic flame of a tiki torch at a backyard BBQ foreshadowing possible events to come.

Sunset, trampoline, fracking rig.Erik HoffnerSunset, trampoline, rig.

Many homeowners wish fences made better neighbors.Erik HoffnerMany homeowners wish fences made better neighbors.

Update: We’ve dropped references to “fracking rigs” as the fracking comes after the drilling.

Special thanks to Erik Hoffner, Outreach Coordinator at Orion Magazine

Scientific American: Groundwater Contamination May End the Gas-Fracking Boom

Well water in Pennsylvania homes within a mile of fracking sites is found to be high in methane
By Mark Fischetti

September 12, 2013 issue

In Pennsylvania, the closer you live to a well used to hydraulically fracture underground shale for natural gas, the more likely it is that your drinking water is contaminated with methane. This conclusion, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA in July, is a first step in determining whether fracking in the Marcellus Shale underlying much of Pennsylvania is responsible for tainted drinking water in that region.

Robert Jackson, a chemical engineer at Duke University, found methane in 115 of 141 shallow, residential drinking-water wells. The methane concentration in homes less than one mile from a fracking well was six times higher than the concentration in homes farther away. Isotopes and traces of ethane in the methane indicated that the gas was not created by microorganisms living in groundwater but by heat and pressure thousands of feet down in the Marcellus Shale, which is where companies fracture rock to release gas that rises up a well shaft.

Most groundwater supplies are only a few hundred feet deep, but if the protective metal casing and concrete around a fracking well are leaky, methane can escape into them. The study does not prove that fracking has contaminated specific drinking-water wells, however. “I have no agenda to stop fracking,” Jackson says. He notes that drilling companies often construct wells properly. But by denying even the possibility that some wells may leak, the drilling companies have undermined their own credibility.

The next step in proving whether or not fracking has contaminated specific drinking-water wells would be to figure out whether methane in those wells came from the Marcellus Shale or other deposits. Energy companies claim that the gas can rise naturally from deep formations through rock fissures and that determining a source is therefore problematic. Yet some scientists maintain that chemical analysis of the gas can reveal whether it slowly bubbled up through thousands of feet of rock or zipped up a leaky well. Jackson is now analyzing methane samples in that way.

Another way to link a leaky fracking well to a tainted water well is to show that the earth between them provides pathways for the gas to flow. Leaky wells have to be identified first, however. Anthony Ingraffea, a fracking expert at Cornell University, is combing through the inspection reports for most of the 41,311 gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania since January 2000. Thus far, he says, it appears that “a higher percentage” of Marcellus Shale fracking wells are leaking than conventional oil and gas wells drilled into other formations. Stay tuned.

This article was originally published with the title Fracking and Tainted Drinking Water.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Lens: Suing oil and gas interests to save the coast: author John Barry weighs in

OPINION By John Barry, Contributor August 22, 2013 11:36am 5 Comments

Dr. Terry McTigue / NOAA
Oil service canals in the Barataria Basin show the ravages of an industry that has given much and taken even more from Louisiana.
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East has filed a controversial lawsuit seeking to extract a settlement from oil, gas and pipeline interests in compensation for the industry’s long-term damage to Louisiana’s fragile and rapidly collapsing coast. The administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal claims that the Flood Protection Authority lacked the authority to file the suit and wants it withdrawn on grounds that it is hostile to oil and gas interests and possibly inimical to other state efforts to secure funding for coastal restoration.

In recent days, author and Flood Protection Authority vice chairman John Barry has spoken in defense of the suit before a joint legislative committee and the Baton Rouge Press Club. His remarks have been edited and updated to include developments at a Wednesday meeting of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, of which Barry is a member:
What we’re doing is simple: We want to save Louisiana, at least part of it.

First, the background:
We are an independent board, created by a constitutional amendment, which passed after Katrina with 81 percent of the vote. The amendment envisioned a board of experts who would try to prevent another such catastrophe – a board of experts independent of political influence.

A special nominating committee was created, including deans of engineering schools in the state, representatives of engineering and scientific societies and good-government groups.
This committee sends nominees to the governor, who must appoint someone from the nominees, and the senate confirms.

To guarantee we see the big picture, that we are not parochial, the law requires us to have four members from outside our jurisdiction.

Our board has expertise in engineering, meteorology, coastal science, oceans and the history of the levees. From North Carolina we have the co-author of the most advanced storm-surge model in the world, from California the head of that state’s flood plain management, and another board member has written textbooks used in college courses. I have the least technical training of anyone on the board, but I routinely participate in working groups at the National Academies of Science. I am the only non-scientist ever to win an honor given by the National Academies for contributions to water-related knowledge. I also serve on advisory boards at MIT’s Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals and Johns Hopkins’ School of Public Health Center for Refugees and Disaster Relief.

We all take our task very seriously and very personally. Two board members lost everything they owned in Katrina. Several of us know people killed in that storm.

Jindal can be a great governor for the coast – a great governor period – if he steps in, brings everyone together and solves this problem. It might make him the greatest governor in Louisiana’s history.

Flood protection has nothing to do with partisanship, I might add. We are a majority Republican board, including one vocal Tea Party member and at least one other member who leans that way.

With unanimous support, we filed the lawsuit seeking compensation from oil, gas and pipeline interests because we don’t want other people to die in a hurricane or have their homes and livelihoods destroyed.

Those who created the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East wanted to insulate us from political pressure – exactly the kind of pressure exerted on us by the governor and others in the past month.

We have gotten criticism from public figures but a lot of support from the public. We believe the public understands. The more people hear what we’re doing and why, the more support we have.
The first point I want to make is that no one has criticized the substance of our lawsuit. Let me repeat: No one has criticized the substance of our lawsuit.


Louisiana isn’t like any other state. Twelve thousand square miles of Louisiana – all the way north to the Arkansas border and our entire coast – was formed by sediment coming from the Mississippi River. We are not like Texas or Mississippi, and certainly not like Maine and Oregon. We have no rocky cliffs on the coast. We have mud held together by roots. And that mud is melting into the ocean.

Our board has never said oil, gas and pipeline companies are solely responsible for the loss of nearly 2,000 square miles of our state in the past 80 years or so. There are multiple causes.

It’s the industry which likes to blame one cause – the levees – as the source of all problems, but it isn’t just levees. If it was, the western part of the state wouldn’t have lost any land at all. The western part of the state is outside the river’s flood plain. Even if there were no levees, floodwater from the river would never reach that area. If levees were the only problem, out west they would have no land loss. Instead, they have plenty of it.

In fact, the multiple causes for land loss include levees, six dams in Montana and the Dakotas which retain almost a third of the sediment that used to flow down the river, benefits for the shipping industry, such as the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the lethal Mississippi River Gulf Outlet – and the oil and gas industry.

The fact that there are multiple causes does not mean, however, that an entity responsible for part of the destruction should not be accountable for what it has done.

Let me quote something: “Dredging canals for oil and gas pipelines Š took a toll on the landscape Š Canals and pipelines Š criss-crossed south Louisiana marshes Š The coastal marshes were lost when spoil banks were left randomly throughout the area, drastically altering the natural hydrology Š Saltwater intrusion increased and more land was lost Š Canal dredging has had one of the most dramatic effects on wetland growth and regeneration Š The marsh is unable to regenerate itself. [All of this amounts to] “industrial negligence.”

What I just quoted isn’t from our lawsuit. It’s from the state’s Master Plan for a sustainable coast.
The truth is the truth. Every scientist agrees that the oil and gas industry has done extraordinary damage to our coast. Even the industry concedes it. One U.S. Geological Survey study, a study that included input from industry scientists, concluded that 36 percent of the damage statewide comes from industry. Other estimates put it much higher.

It is also a truth that the industry operated under permits which required them to minimize damage and repair it when they finished. The industry has failed to obey these requirements.

Those are the two fundamental facts which drove us to consider taking legal action. There is a third truth. Everyone on the board has wondered how we can meet our responsibilities. Our job is not simply to operate and maintain a levee system handed to us by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Our job is protecting people’s lives and property.

We just conducted a study of the land bridge extending into Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans East. If that narrow spit of land disappears, the ocean will roar unchecked into the lake and threaten the lives and property of people who have never been threatened before. Reinforcing that alone would cost $1.2 billion.

We don’t have that money. As we look at the tremendous expenses necessary to maintain minimally adequate protection, we see nothing coming in.

One of our critics is quoted as saying: “We have a Master Plan. Let’s give it a chance.” I absolutely agree with that statement. Let’s give it a chance. Nothing we do is at variance with the state’s Master Plan. We want to carry out the Master Plan.

Let me repeat: Nothing we’re doing is inconsistent with the Master Plan. What we’re doing will let us carry out the Master Plan in our area.

Here’s the problem: The Master Plan has no funding.


The Flood Authority board believes that for our jurisdiction we have an absolute duty to pursue this case. If we don’t do it, we see no way to get the money needed to protect the public.

Our case is based on the fact that we are forced to maintain and possibly build more elaborate flood protection defenses because of land loss. The industry’s failure to comply with permits – its failure to do what they voluntarily agreed to do and to obey the law in exchange for taking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the state – has destroyed land.

That land loss means there’s no buffer to block storm surge, and that sends more water pounding against our levees. As the saying goes, the levees protect the people, and the land protects the levees.
The land is disappearing so fast that by 2100, if nothing is done New Orleans will be basically an island. The levees will be beach-front property. Much of the rest of the Louisiana coast will simply cease to exist.

Louisiana law also embodies a concept going back to the Romans called “servitude of drain.” This prohibits one party from increasing the natural flow of water from its property onto another’s. The destruction of land is sending more storm surge pounding against our levees.

We believe the oil and gas industry violated the law, and these violations have endangered the people we are responsible to protect.

Our suit does not ask that the industry restore the entire coast. But they must restore the part of the coast they destroyed. They must fix the part of the problem which they created. That’s all we want: Fix the part they broke.

If some areas are impossible to fix, industry should compensate us so we can upgrade flood protection to take care of the increased risk they caused.

We decided unanimously to file the lawsuit, and we unanimously reaffirmed our decision last week.

We have been called a rogue board, but we first informed Garret Graves of our plans Dec. 4, 2012. Garret is head of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. He attended the Flood Authority’s executive session Jan. 17. We informed him several more times of our intent to proceed with a lawsuit. We’re an independent, non-political board. We want to work with everyone, but ultimately each of us is responsible to his own conscience, and we did not operate in stealth.


We have been told we don’t have the authority to sue. We welcome a court challenge to that. You notice for all the talk – and there has been a lot of it – no one has filed for a declaratory judgment against us. They know the court will uphold our authority.

We have been criticized for trying to collect from an industry which was complying with the law at the time it conducted its operations. We believe that they were never in compliance with the law.
We have been criticized on grounds that we are interfering with efforts to get a larger share of federal revenues from offshore drilling. We absolutely support that effort but don’t believe our lawsuit interferes with it. [Louisiana’s U.S.] Sen. Mary Landrieu, the sponsor of that legislation, has said Louisiana should pursue coastal restoration everywhere, including in the courts.

We have been told our suit may interfere with the BP trial. Our attorney checked with the attorney representing the state and was told our suit would not interfere. How could it? The BP trial will be over long before our trial starts. And at Garret’s request we waited until the first phase of the trial was over before filing suit.

We have been told the state has litigation plans of its own, which our lawsuit interferes with. Those plans have been described to us, and in our board’s unanimous opinion our suit does not interfere; in fact it could complement the state’s strategy.

We have been told that we’ll cost the state jobs, but the reality is the oil and gas industry will stay as long as there’s oil and gas here. Look at BP. The state is suing BP. Every parish is suing BP. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against BP. And BP just sued the federal government to be allowed to bid on offshore tracts.

And as far as jobs go, no one talks about the jobs a major coastal restoration effort would create. These are not just construction jobs or transitory jobs. We have the potential to be the world leader in the science and engineering of this kind of work. We are the point of the spear, but every coastal area in the world will be dealing with problems like ours soon. We have the potential to produce great jobs, important jobs. We can create a silicon valley of water-related expertise.

Every one of the criticisms comes down to one thing: politics. But we are currently an independent board, specifically designed to do what politicians will not or cannot do.

They used to say, “The flag of Texaco flies over the Louisiana capitol.” People have to ask themselves, is that still true?

Legally speaking, the Flood Authority’s action involves our jurisdiction only. We are not acting for the state or for any other parish or levee board. Ironically, our jurisdiction has lost much less land than others. Much less.


What’s at stake is the future of Louisiana, the very existence of Louisiana as we know it. Everything is threatened. Our ports are threatened. Our way of life is threatened.

If you hunt anywhere near the coast, where will you hunt? What will you hunt? What happens to all the migratory birds that use our marsh? If you fish, where will you fish? Nearly every species in the gulf depends on the Louisiana marsh for some part of its life cycle. And if you live on the coast, where are you going to live? What will happen to your community? Because you won’t be able to live where you live now.

The U.S. Geological Survey is remapping the coast. They’ve finished only one parish, Plaquemines. They took 31 names off the map. These places no longer exist – 31 names in one parish, gone from the map. Many more names will come off the map as more parishes are mapped.

This lawsuit presents a choice:
Protect the industry from having to live up to its word and obey the law, or protect people’s lives and property from the crawling death of a vanishing shoreline and the violence of a hurricane storm surge. Protect the industry, or protect Louisiana’s way of life.

It’s really that simple.

Nearly everyone in Baton Rouge seems afraid of the oil and gas industry. They never talk about the elephant in the room, about the damage the industry has done to the coast. Our current status as an independent board allowed us to take the action we did. Because of it, the elephant isn’t in the room anymore. Right now it’s stampeding down the street. The issue cannot be ignored any longer.
Too many people in Louisiana, too many things, are threatened.

The industry itself is threatened. Chris John, head of Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, says the industry recognizes the need to “protect critical oil and gas infrastructure from storm surge,” adding that “our viability depends on” the coastal buffer.

The industry wants it fixed, but they want taxpayers to pay for the damage they did, either in taxes or flood insurance rates. If we succeed in getting a bigger share of offshore revenue, we’re getting it from the federal treasury. From taxpayers in Rhode Island and Oregon – and in Louisiana. The industry won’t be paying a penny more. If the money comes from state or parish funds, it comes only from Louisiana taxpayers.

The wealthiest industry in the world wants taxpayers to pay to fix what the industry broke. We say to the industry: Fix what you broke.

I am not against the industry. I recognize it’s enormously important to the state and in the country. I’m proud of our ability to produce gas and oil, to let Americans heat their homes and drive their cars with what we produce. Years ago, I worked for an oil company – one of our defendants. I also applied for and got a job at the American Petroleum Institute, though in the end I didn’t take it because I would have had to give up my writing. But I appreciate the industry for treating me well when I did work for it.

We’re not charging that the industry has done nothing to help. They have done things to help. But they haven’t done enough. The industry isn’t responsible for all the land loss, but it is responsible for some of the land loss. It has to fix the part of the problem it created.

Compared to the size of the industry, the wealthiest in the world, the burden will be small. To Louisiana, the benefit will be enormous.

The Master Plan has no funding.

BP money won’t be enough. Even if we win, our lawsuit won’t be enough either, not even for our area. But if you start putting different funding together, we may get enough – enough to save what can be saved. If we don’t, most of the coast, most of the people who live there, will be gone.
Our board is not the problem. Land loss is the problem, and getting the industry to fix the part of the problem it created will go a long way toward the solution.


The governor wants us to withdraw the lawsuit. Last Thursday our board unanimously passed two resolutions. The first affirmed the suit. The second said we’d consider a 45-day pause in the substantive part of the suit in return for a good faith effort to create a task force to address the problem.

A pause was Garret Graves’s idea. We had hoped the CPRA would look upon our proposal as what it was, an olive branch.

We proposed a process that would result in oil being at the table to discuss a resolution to save lives and property – including industry’s own property. Our lawyers had already agreed, in the event of a resolution in this working-group process, to have their fee determined in arbitration with industry – and paid by industry, not taxpayers – in accord with long-established principles of Louisiana law.
No lawyers hijacked this board. The idea came from us. With a task force in place, our lawyers would stand down in accordance with our resolution.

The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) met Wednesday. But apart from my own comments offering this pause – again, a pause which Garret Graves had suggested – there was not a single mention of it in a three-hour meeting, not one. The meeting ended with CPRA voting to oppose the law suit. But they still did not authorize taking legal action against the law suit.
I still have hope for a resolution.

In return for a major contribution from the industry, there are many things the industry wants from the Legislature which I would personally support. This, of course, is not up to me. It’s up to the governor. He’s got tremendous abilities. Whether you agree with all his policies or not, there’s no question that when it comes to the coast he’s been a good governor.

He can be a great governor for the coast – a great governor period – if he steps in, brings everyone together and solves this problem. It might make him the greatest governor in Louisiana’s history.
That’s what I want. I want the governor to be great.

John Barry’s books include “Rising Tide” and, more recently, “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul.” A member of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, he also serves on the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: Restoration panel adds scientific oversight to plan for spending spill fines

Annie Snider, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013

The federal-state panel tasked with overseeing the billions of dollars
expected to flow to the Gulf Coast from civil fines related to the 2010
Deepwater Horizon oil spill yesterday released a final plan for how it
will spend the money on restoring the region’s ecosystems and

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council received more than 41,000
comments on the draft plan it released in May and incorporated a
handful of changes into the final “Initial Comprehensive Plan” released
yesterday. The council is scheduled to vote on that plan next week in
New Orleans.

Under the RESTORE Act passed by Congress last year, 80 percent of Clean
Water Act civil penalties from the oil spill will be sent back to the
Gulf through the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund. The
council — comprising officials from six federal agencies and the five
Gulf states — oversees 60 percent of those funds. Thirty percent will
go to projects selected by the council, and another 30 percent will go
to initiatives selected by the states and approved by the panel.

The “Initial Comprehensive Plan” sets overarching restoration goals for
the region, lays out how the council will evaluate and fund projects
and describes how it will consider states’ plans for spending their
share of the money.

Among the changes made in the final plan is an increased focus on
incorporating science into the council’s work. The plan states that the
council is considering “the most effective means of ensuring that the
Council’s decisions are based on the best available science.” This
could include forming a scientific advisory committee or another
vehicle that would work across Gulf restoration efforts, it says. In
the council’s response to public comments, it also raises the
possibility of hiring a chief scientist.

The plan also includes a greater emphasis on public engagement. It
states that the council “will take steps to create a public engagement
structure” and that additional announcements on this are forthcoming.

Like the draft plan released in May, the final document does not
include a 10-year plan for allocating the money or a list of priority
projects and programs, both of which were already due under the RESTORE
Act. The council said it did not include these elements because of
uncertainties related to the amount of money that will ultimately flow
to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund, the fact that the
Treasury Department has not yet issued procedures for spending the
funds, the desire to receive public comment on key elements of the plan
first and the states’ ongoing efforts to develop their own spending

The Treasury Department sent its proposed rule to the Office of
Management and Budget earlier this month, and it could be finalized

The leading coalition of environmental groups working in the Gulf Coast
released a statement on the plan last night.

“We thank the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council for its efforts
toward a comprehensive plan to restore the invaluable Gulf ecosystem,”
said the group, which includes the Environmental Defense Fund, National
Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore
Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. “As the
Council takes its next crucial step of prioritizing ecosystem
restoration projects, we urge them to embrace the Louisiana Coastal
Master Plan as its guiding document for restoring the Mississippi River
Delta, which was ground zero for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster.”

Currently, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund is scheduled
to receive $800 million within the next two years from Transocean
Ltd.’s Clean Water Act civil settlement. BP PLC could be facing a civil
penalty of as much as $17.6 billion under the Clean Water Act,
depending on how negligent the driller is found to have been leading up
to the spill. The second phase in the federal trial against the oil
giant is scheduled to begin next month.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: HYDRAULIC FRACTURING: Industry, conservationists split on BLM rule proposal at comment deadline

Scott Streater, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013

The oil and gas industry and national environmental groups continue to weigh in strongly for and against the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed rule on hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on domestic energy production and natural resources.

BLM’s proposed rule would require disclosure of the chemicals injected underground during hydraulic fracturing and set tougher standards for demonstrating well bore integrity and management of flowback water. Among other things, the proposed rule is designed to address concerns about potential water contamination from the fracturing process, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to create fissures in tight rock formations, allowing oil and gas to flow to the surface.

The public comment period for the draft rule, first unveiled in May, ends tomorrow.
With that deadline looming, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance submitted formal comments mirroring those of Republican congressional leaders who are opposed to the federal rule because they say states are better positioned to regulate fracturing.

“This rule undercuts states’ authority to regulate energy production, a realm in which they have been successful for decades,” said IPAA President and CEO Barry Russell in a statement. “Our federal system has vested the states with the authority to ensure that development of energy sources is safe and responsible. Together with state regulators and local environmental groups, the U.S. oil and natural gas industry has secured the great benefits of the shale revolution, while protecting the environment and strengthening local communities. DOI should not be in the business of undermining this progress.”

All that progress could be undermined because adding another layer of red tape to an already complicated permitting process could discourage energy development on public lands in the West, said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the Western Energy Alliance.

The alliance last month commissioned a study that found BLM’s proposal to more tightly regulate fracturing on public lands would cost society $346 million annually, or greater than 15 times more than what the agency estimated the rule would cost when it released its draft rule (Greenwire, July 22).

“The Interior Department cannot point to a single instance of an environmental problem from hydraulic fracturing,” Sgamma said. “DOI cannot demonstrate that states are not adequately regulating or that federal regulation is more effective.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups are lobbying Interior and BLM to move forward with the proposed rule, and some are calling on the agency to make some significant changes to strengthen the regulations.

The Wilderness Society this week submitted formal comments urging the agency to take additional steps, such as “requiring pre- and post-fracturing water monitoring, pre-fracturing notice of chemical constituents, measures to reduce flaring, the use of enclosed tanks for storing fracturing fluids, and proper well abandonment and remediation.”

“The increase in the use of hydraulic fracturing means that there needs to be meaningful rules governing its use on federal lands,” Lois Epstein, the Wilderness Society’s Arctic program director, said today in a statement. “The current draft rules from the BLM are a good start, but should be strengthened in order to guarantee the highest possible protections for the public and nearby wildlands.”

Environment America, claiming to speak alongside more than half a million Americans, called on BLM to use the rules on fracturing to take steps to keep oil and gas drilling out of national forests and away from being sited near national parks.

“The ugly reality is that the oil and gas industry has gotten very used to operating on our public lands with few safeguards in place,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice.

Van Noppen called BLM’s proposal “weak rules” that won’t result in any meaningful protections.

One source of contention among the environmental groups appears to be BLM’s decision to alter rules first proposed last year in favor of a new draft rule released in May that would allow the agency to defer to state drilling rules if they are found to be as strong as or stronger than the federal rules.

“The Obama administration had the chance to lead,” said Jennifer Krill, the executive director of EarthWorks. “Instead, despite overwhelming public input urging stronger oversight or an outright ban on fracking, the Bureau of Land Management caved to industry lobbying and made the rules weaker. President Obama, listen to the public this time and protect our land, air and water.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Russia Shuts Greenpeace Out of Arctic Sea Route, Stifles Criticism of Oil Industry

August 21, 2013 5:39 PM

CONTACT: Greenpeace
Sune Scheller, Greenpeace communications, or +45 27144257
Greenpeace International press desk, or +31 20 718 24 70

WASHINGTON – August 21 – Barents Sea, August 21, 2013 – The Russian government has denied permission for the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise to enter the increasingly busy Northern Sea Route (NSR), despite the ship having fulfilled all the requirements for such an entry.

Greenpeace International claims the decision is an attempt to prevent it from exposing the activities of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. Multiple vessels contracted by Rosneft and US partner ExxonMobil are conducting seismic testing and geological work in the Kara Sea in preparation for offshore Arctic drilling.

“This is a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest and keep international attention away from Arctic oil exploration in Russia. The Arctic Sunrise is a fully equipped icebreaker with significant experience of operating in these conditions, while the oil companies operating here are taking unprecedented risks in an area teeming with polar bears, whales, and other Arctic wildlife,” says Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner aboard the Arctic Sunrise.

“The decision to deny us entry to the Kara Sea is completely unjustified and raises serious questions about the level of collusion between the Russian authorities and the oil companies themselves. Over three million people are behind our campaign, and they want to know what Russia and its Western oil partners are trying to hide here in the Arctic.”

Greenpeace International entered three detailed applications for entry to the Northern Sea Route Administration, clearly stating its intentions to engage in peaceful and lawful protest. All applications were rejected. (1) The latest application was refused on the grounds that the information provided on the ice strengthening was apparently insufficient. From the pattern of refusals it is clear that the NSR administration has never been interested in granting Greenpeace access. The refusal is in violation of international law including the right to freedom of navigation (2).

None of the six oil exploration vessels operating for Rosneft and ExxonMobil in the area has an ice classification as high as the Arctic Sunrise. More than 400 vessels have been granted access to the Northern Sea Route this year, many of them with an inferior classification to that of the Arctic Sunrise, which is classed as an icebreaker (3).

Greenpeace International has written to the head of the Northern Sea Route Administration with an urgent request to reverse the unjustified decision. As the Arctic Sunrise is a Dutch flagged-vessel, a copy of the letter has also been sent to the Dutch Infrastructure and Foreign Ministries.

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is on a month-long expedition in the Arctic to expose and protest oil exploration.

Further information:
-Statement from the independent Det Norske Veritas (DNV) on the classification of the Arctic Sunrise:

The Guardian: A Texan tragedy: Plenty of oil, but no water

By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

Sunday, August 11, 2013 13:35 EDT

Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.

“The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes,” she said, blinking back tears. “I went: ‘dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind.”

Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted.

Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry’s outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.

In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Nearly 15 million people are living under some form of water rationing, barred from freely sprinkling their lawns or refilling their swimming pools. In Barnhart’s case, the well appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking.

The town – a gas station, a community hall and a taco truck – sits in the midst of the great Texan oil rush, on the eastern edge of the Permian basin.

A few years ago, it seemed like a place on the way out. Now McGuire said she can see nine oil wells from her back porch, and there are dozens of RVs parked outside town, full of oil workers.

But soon after the first frack trucks pulled up two years ago, the well on McGuire’s property ran dry.

No-one in Barnhart paid much attention at the time, and McGuire hooked up to the town’s central water supply. “Everyone just said: ‘too bad’. Well now it’s all going dry,” McGuire said.

Ranchers dumped most of their herds. Cotton farmers lost up to half their crops. The extra draw down, coupled with drought, made it impossible for local ranchers to feed and water their herds, said Buck Owens. In a good year, Owens used to run 500 cattle and up to 8,000 goats on his 7,689 leased hectares (19,000 acres). Now he’s down to a few hundred goats.

The drought undoubtedly took its toll but Owens reserved his anger for the contractors who drilled 104 water wells on his leased land, to supply the oil companies.

Water levels were dropping in his wells because of the vast amounts of water being pumped out of the Edwards-Trinity-Plateau Aquifer, a 34,000 sq mile water bearing formation.

“They are sucking all of the water out of the ground, and there are just hundreds and hundreds of water trucks here every day bringing fresh water out of the wells,” Owens said.

Meanwhile, residents in town complained, they were forced to live under water rationing. “I’ve got dead trees in my yard because I haven’t been able to water them,” said Glenda Kuykendall. “The state is mandating our water system to conserve water but why?Š Getting one oil well fracked takes more water than the entire town can drink or use in a day.”

Even as the drought bore down, even as the water levels declined, the oil industry continued to demand water and those with water on their land were willing to sell it. The road west of town was lined with signs advertising “fresh water”, where tankers can take on a box-car-sized load of water laced with industrial chemicals.

“If you’re going to develop the oil, you’ve got to have the water,” said Larry Baxter, a contractor from the nearby town of Mertzon, who installed two frack tanks on his land earlier this year, hoping to make a business out of his well selling water to oil industry.

By his own estimate, his well could produce enough to fill up 20 or 30 water trucks for the oil industry each day. At $60 (£39.58) a truck, that was $36,000 a month, easily. “I could sell 100 truckloads a day if I was open to it,” Baxter said.

He rejected the idea there should be any curbs on selling water during the drought. “People use their water for food and fibre. I choose to use my water to sell to the oil field,” he said. “Who’s taking advantage? I don’t see any difference.”

Barnhart remained dry for five days last month before local work crew revived an abandoned railway well and started pumping again. But residents fear it is just a temporary fix and that next time it happens they won’t have their own wells to fall back on. “My well is very very close to going dry,” said Kuykendall.

So what is a town like Barnhart to do? Fracking is a powerful drain on water supplies. In adjacent Crockett county, fracking accounts for up to 25% of water use, according to the groundwater conservation district. But Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, argues fracking is not the only reason Texas is going dry – and nor is the drought. The latest shocks to the water system come after decades of overuse by ranchers, cotton farmers, and fast-growing thirsty cities.

“We have large urban centres sucking water out of west Texas to put on their lands. We have a huge agricultural community, and now we have fracking which is also using water,” she said. And then there is climate change.

West Texas has a long history of recurring drought, but under climate change, the south-west has been experiencing record-breaking heatwaves, further drying out the soil and speeding the evaporation of water in lakes and reservoirs. Underground aquifers failed to regenerate. “What happens is that climate change comes on top and in many cases it can be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back, but the camel is already overloaded,” said Hayhoe.

Other communities across a bone-dry south-west are resorting to extraordinary measures to keep the water flowing. Robert Lee, also in the oil patch, has been hauling in water by tanker. So has Spicewood Beach, a resort town 40 miles from Austin, which has been trucking in water since early 2012.

San Angelo, a city of 100,000, dug a pipeline to an underground water source more than 60 miles away, and sunk half a dozen new wells.

Las Cruces, just across the border from the Texas panhandle in New Mexico, is drilling down 1,000ft in search of water.

But those fixes are way out of reach for small, rural communities. Outside the RV parks for the oil field workers who are just passing through, Barnhart has a population of about 200.

“We barely make enough money to pay our light bill and we’re supposed to find $300,000 to drill a water well?” said John Nanny, an official with the town’s water supply company.

Last week brought some relief, with rain across the entire state of Texas. Rain gauges in some parts of west Texas registered two inches or more. Some ranchers dared to hope it was the beginning of the end of the drought.

But not Owens, not yet anyway. The underground aquifers needed far more rain to recharge, he said, and it just wasn’t raining as hard as it did when he was growing up.

“We’ve got to get floods. We’ve got to get a hurricane to move up in our country and just saturate everything to replenish the aquifer,” he said. “Because when the water is gone. That’s it. We’re gone.” © Guardian News and Media 2013

CommonDreams: Fracking-Harmed Residents Demand Reopening of EPA Poisoned Water Investigations

August 13, 2013
3:01 PM

CONTACT: Food & Water Watch

Seth Gladstone – sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org, 718.943.8063

Action Comes on Heels of Report Showing EPA Officials Ignored Evidence from Philadelphia Office Finding Pollution in Dimock Drinking Water

WASHINGTON – August 13 – Pennsylvania residents and activists personally harmed by the hazards of fracking gathered today at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. to call for the reopening of the investigation into drinking water contamination in Dimock, PA. A recent report in the Los Angeles Times revealed that EPA officials in Washington chose to close an investigation of Dimock drinking water despite evidence gathered from agency investigators based in Philadelphia that found “significant damage to the water quality,” from poisonous contamination likely caused by fracking. The EPA PowerPoint Presentation was released last Monday on DeSmog blog by investigative journalist Steve Horn. Evidence of drinking water contamination due to fracking was similarly ignored by the EPA in Pavillion, Wyoming and Weatherford, Texas. The resident-activists delivered more than 50,000 petitions to new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on her to reopen investigations in Dimock, PA as well as in Pavillion, WY and Weatherford, TX. They are also calling on EPA to provide safe drinking water to residents while these investigations recommence.

“For years now, I have had to live with toxic, poisoned fracked water in my home,” said Ray Kemble, a former gas industry employee turned whistleblower and an affected Dimock area resident. “When EPA finally stepped in and tested my water, I thought ‘Thank God. Someone is finally here to help us.’ But then it became apparent to those of us on the ground that they were playing politics. EPA officials literally told us officially that our water was safe to drink but then told us off-the-record not to drink it. Now the truth is out and we want justice.”

In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection concluded that a fracking well drilled by Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation was responsible for methane contamination of a large aquifer in Dimock, PA resulting in the contamination of the drinking water of 19 families. The PA DEP enacted a fracking moratorium in the area and promised to build a water line from a nearby town to the residents. Then they rescinded that promise leaving Dimock residents to fend for themselves.

During the next few years, Cabot Oil and Gas paid for water deliveries to the residents and then abruptly stopped December 2011. Residents and advocates demanded the EPA and the federal government step in and in January 2012, the EPA commenced water deliveries while conducting its own investigation into groundwater contamination caused by drilling and fracking operations. In the summer of 2012, the EPA concluded its investigation and stated that Dimock’s water wasn’t contaminated from drilling and fracking operations, however the Los Angeles Times now reports that internal documents show regional EPA staff members said the exact opposite. Staff members warned their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely from local gas drilling and fracking.

“I helped sound the alarm and called EPA when Cabot Oil and Gas stopped water deliveries to outspoken residents in Dimock, PA,” said Craig Stevens, a resident from the neighboring town of Silver Lake Township, who has also been adversely been affected by fracking operations in the region. “The people in this country deserve better then this. These fracking corporations should not be allowed to cause citizens harm and then have the federal government cover up the water contamination. Enough is enough. We aren’t going away until we have law, order and safe drinking water.”

Residents argue this isn’t the first time the EPA has stepped back from connecting the evidence from its own studies of water contamination to unconventional gas drilling and fracking operations. Dimock’s story is emblematic of a troubling pattern in EPA groundwater investigations related to fracking.

In late-2010 in Weatherford, Texas, after evaluating samples from a water well near drilling and fracking operations, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane. More than a year later, the agency rescinded its mandate and refused to explain why. However, in an Associated Press story that later emerged, the EPA had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but changed course after the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study about hydraulic fracturing. In response to this threat and industry pressure, regulators set aside an analysis that concluded the drilling could have been to blame for the contamination.

More recently, the EPA abandoned the fracking study in Pavillion, WY, which found benzene, a known carcinogen, at 50 times the level that is considered safe. However, even with this evidence, the EPA stepped away from this study and instead handed it over to the state of Wyoming, whose lead politicians have repeatedly vocally supported fracking. Worse, the research will be funded by EnCana, the very company whose drilling and fracking operations may have caused the groundwater contamination.

“The purpose of the EPA is to protect all Americans from the types of health and safety hazards fracking so obviously caused in Dimock and elsewhere,” said Emily Wurth, director of water programs at Food & Water Watch, the organization that led the petition collection effort. “It’s time for Gina McCarthy and the EPA to do its job and stand up for public health, not continue wilting under pressure from the oil and gas industry to simply maintain the dangerous status quo.”
Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink. Joyful, Unyielding by Bill McKibben

My wife Sue and I criss-crossed America these past few weeks — from the Mackinac Straits of Michigan where they want to run tar sands oil through aging pipes beneath the Great Lakes, to the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California where they’d like to turn tar sands into gasoline. We saw coal plants, fracking wells and stretches of Pacific coast they’d like to turn into carbon ports.

But mostly we saw people — the beautiful face of a movement that’s growing, learning, coming together.

It’s incredibly diverse, as one would expect — people in Maine are from people in Moab, Utah are different from people in Trumbull County, Ohio. But no matter our differences, everywhere we share an adversary: a fossil fuel industry so focused on greed that they’re willing to rip apart the planet and its communities.

We’ve put up a slideshow with photos and reportbacks from Summer Heat events — it’s a small glimpse of the power and beauty shown across the country in the past few weeks. Click here to see it:

Everywhere I went, people also shared a spirit: firm, joyful, unyielding. I particularly liked the banner that hung from the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River: “Coal, Oil, Gas: None Shall Pass.” It all has to stay under ground.

For a few weeks we took the hottest stretch of the summer and turned it politically hot as well. A lot of people felt the pinch of handcuffs — myself included — but they felt the embrace of the rest of the movement too. Everywhere people were embracing the power of the local climate justice movement, in all its forms.

If this was a movement of a few big organizations or a few leaders, then the industry wouldn’t need to worry so much. But instead there are thousands of local leaders, and hundreds of local organizations — and they’re linked together in new, exciting ways that spell trouble for the fossil fuel barons, and hope for a troubled earth.

So many thanks to everyone who raised the heat. Let’s keep going,

Bill McKibben is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally, sharing your story, and donating.

Grand Forks Herald: Interior secretary gets firsthand look at Bakken

Published August 06, 2013, 11:00 PM

During her first visit to North Dakota as secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell said it’s clear to her that oilfield operators and the state recognize that more work needs to be done to reduce natural gas flaring.
By: Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service

sally jewell

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell speaks during a media briefing at a Statoil facility in Williston, N.D., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. From left are Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Neil Kornze, principal deputy director for the Bureau of Land Management, Sen. John Hoeven and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – During her first visit to North Dakota as secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell said it’s clear to her that oilfield operators and the state recognize that more work needs to be done to reduce natural gas flaring.

“Flaring it and venting it is obviously not capturing resources that could be leading us to energy independence,” Jewell said Tuesday.

Top executives of two oil companies gave Jewell a tour of their North Dakota operations, focusing on technology advancements and efforts to reduce natural gas flaring.

A recent report estimated that $3.6 million in natural gas is burned away each day in North Dakota.

U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp invited Jewell to tour the Bakken to see the state’s oil and gas development firsthand.

“There is no question that this is the epicenter of many aspects of energy development in this country,” said Jewell, who was sworn in as secretary in April.

Officials who helped lead the tours included Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm and Statoil Senior Vice President Torstein Hole, who is based in Norway.

Continental Resources gave Jewell a tour of a location adjacent to a residential area in Williston that will have 14 oil wells on the same location, minimizing the footprint on the land.

Statoil showed the group a location in the city limits of Williston that had pipelines in place ahead of time, capturing the natural gas and eliminating the need for of thousands of truck trips to transport oil and water.

Across the state, about 29 percent of natural gas is flared, Hamm said. But Continental Resources flares 10 percent of its natural gas and captures 90 percent, with a goal to reduce the flared amount even further.

“It’s valuable and we collect it all,” Hamm said. “We’re not going to waste those hydrocarbons.”

Hamm said he expects other companies will catch up and bring that percentage down.
“They’re getting there real quick,” Hamm said of other companies.

Statoil currently flares 30 percent of the natural gas it produces due to infrastructure challenges, said Lance Langford, Statoil vice president who oversees Bakken operations.
But the company is working to reduce that percentage through the use of bi-fuel rigs, which use natural gas and reduce the amount of diesel required, and technologies that will extract the valuable natural gas liquids.

Statoil also showed Jewell a pilot project the company is working on to test a compressed natural gas liquids unit.

Jewell, whose background includes working as a petroleum engineer, asked technical questions during the tours, such as how wet the gas is and how operators build a curve to drill horizontally. When touring a drilling rig, Jewell commented that there were “no chains flying around like when I was in the industry.”

Hoeven said the goal of the visit was to emphasize that North Dakota’s approach to energy development, rather than a federal one-size-fits-all model, is producing more energy with better environmental stewardship.

“This country needs to develop a comprehensive energy plan as well,” Hoeven said. “The secretary can be very instrumental in that development.”

As Interior Secretary, Jewell plays a key role in energy development on public and tribal lands. She referenced President Barack Obama’s all-of-the-above energy policy and said “he believes it deeply.”

Jewell said she’s in favor of having federal baseline minimum standards for hydraulic fracturing that would include requirements such as disclosing the chemicals and ensuring the integrity of the wellbore.

While North Dakota and other states are sophisticated, other states don’t have experience regulating fracking, she said.

“There are a number of states that don’t have standards at all,” Jewell said.

If states’ standards meet or exceed the federal standards, operators would follow those state standards, she said.

Heitkamp, Hoeven and Lt. Gov Drew Wrigley, who also participated in the tour, repeatedly emphasized a states-first approach to energy development.

“No one knows the hydrology and geology of North Dakota better than the people who have been studying for years,” Heitkamp said.

Officials also said they are partnering with Jewell on efforts to improve the efficiency of the Bureau of Land Management, which experiences backlogs in keeping up with drilling permit applications in the Bakken.

Jewell’s tour concluded Tuesday with a visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Jewell also planned to meet with Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall on Tuesday, but he got caught in traffic.

“The fact that he got stuck in traffic when we had a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting says something about the boom going on here,” Jewell said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Groups say drilling tool will disturb Va. marine life

NORFOLK August 3, 2012

While oil rigs drilling off the coast of Virginia are still a question mark in the near future, local environmental groups will be making noise about the possibility today.

Beginning at noon, members of Oceana and the Sierra Club will blow horns and clang pots and pans at Waterside Festival Marketplace to symbolize the loud noises made by seismic air guns – devices used to identify oil and gas reserves in the ocean.
“The point is to be noisy,” said Eileen Levandoski, assistant director of the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club. But it won’t be a literal simulation. “We’d be too loud,” she said.

Surveyors use seismic air guns to send blasts toward the sea floor and measure their echoes to identify drilling prospects. The industry says the method hasn’t been shown to hurt marine life and is necessary to open drilling. But environmentalists say it could injure animals and disrupt migration and mating patterns.

“The unique part about this technology is that not only is it that first step (toward offshore drilling), but in and of themselves, the air guns are really, really dangerous and destructive,” said Caroline Wood, Virginia organizer for Oceana’s climate and energy campaign.

The U.S. government has estimated that 138,500 whales and dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean will be deafened, injured or killed by the blasts, according to the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club website. The North Atlantic Right Whale – of which only about 500 remain – is among the species at risk. The demonstration, which will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m., is one of many on the East Coast, Wood said, adding that similar demonstrations will take place in Virginia Beach and Alexandria.

Debate over offshore drilling, which is years away even under supporters’ most optimistic scenarios, is coming to a head this year. The U.S. House in June approved a bill to lift a moratorium on drilling in Virginia waters. The federal government will release a report this fall outlining the environmental impact of East Coast drilling.
Offshore drilling has the potential to create 18,000 jobs in Virginia by 2030, according to Nicolette Nye, vice president of communications and external relations of the National Ocean Industries Association.
Locally, drilling faces opposition beyond environmentalists: The Navy has opposed it in the offshore areas it uses, and the federal government has been reluctant to share royalties with coastal states, which local legislators say is key to their support.

Still, the environmental groups say they will keep making a clatter.
“We just want to make a lot of noise to get people’s attention,” Wood said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Big hike in dolphin strandings has experts baffled,0,7140056.story

Dead and dying dolphins are washing up on Virginia beaches in numbers that are baffling marine stranding experts, who are hustling to determine the extent and pinpoint the cause. Dolphin beachings aren’t unusual in the summer months, and in a typical July the state might get six such reports. But by Thursday the number for this July had soared to 49 – and Mark Swingle with theVirginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach said they have no idea why.

“We really don’t know – I wish we did,” said Swingle. The aquarium’s Stranding Response Team has been gathering dolphin remains from throughout the Virginia coast – including two from Buckroe Beach in Hampton on Tuesday and one from Gwynn’s Island in Mathews County on July 26 – for necropsy and tissue testing. He said it could take two to three weeks to get results.

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“In some ways, we’re trying to rush these tests to try and get a handle on what’s happening,” Swingle said. “We know there’s some sort of disease process going on. There’s no evidence on these animals of any sort of any human interactions.”
The number of reported dolphin strandings in Virginia for a typical year is about 64, he said. So far, the state has already seen 88. The unusual hikes were reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which runs a network of stranding teams throughout the country.

So far, the only other state reporting an unusual uptick for July is New Jersey, said Maggie Mooney-Seus, spokeswoman for NOAA Fisheries. Their most recent number for New Jersey strandings is 20, but she said that figure might not reflect new strandings over the last couple of days. The state logged four strandings for July in 2012, and seven in 2011.

So far, she said, New York reported 15 dolphin strandings in July, Maryland seven and Delaware one. New York reported only one stranding July of last year, while Maryland and Delaware reported none. If enough unusually high numbers of strandings come in, she said, NOAA will assemble a team of experts to examine the data and necropsy results and determine if it qualifies as an “unusual mortality event.” The last such event in Hampton Roads occurred in 1987-1988, she said, and involved about 740 animals.

While that number was unusual, she said, dolphin beachings in general are not. “Keep in mind we do have strandings,” Mooney-Seus said. “They do occur regularly along our coasts and are caused by a number of reasons. If it’s a large population and living in close proximity, they’re not unlike deer populations or human populations where they can pass things to each other.”

Dolphin strandings can also be caused by entangling in fishing gear, ingesting plastics, toxic algal blooms or red tides, changes in water temperature and the rare vessel strike, as well as diseases like the distemper-like morbillivirus, which can also affect other marine animals such as seals, said Swingle. The stranding team hasn’t seen an uptick in stranding reports of other animals.

Determining the cause of death in a stranding can be hard, he said, especially if it’s not reported right away.
“The main thing is to call as soon as possible, because the sooner we get to the animals, the better the information we can get from them,” Swingle said. “It’s like the whole ‘CSI’ thing – if you have a fresh body, you can get a tremendous amount of information from it. If it sits in the sun for a day, it gets less valuable in terms of figuring out what’s happening.”
Seismic airguns. Meanwhile, environmentalists worry that even more such strandings could occur if geophysical survey companies are allowed to use seismic airguns to search for deposits of oil and gas buried deep beneath the sea floor, including off the coast of Virginia.

Airguns are typically towed behind ships and emit pulses of compressed air in a shock wave described as 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. The airguns would boom every 10 seconds, day and night for days or weeks at a time.
To protest the plan, Oceana and the Sierra Club plan to make a big noise outside the Waterside Festival Marketplace in downtown Norfolk beginning at noon Saturday. Demonstrators are expected to use horns, vuvuzelas and the like to draw attention to the damage airguns can inflict on marine life and sensitive habitats.

An environmental impact statement released last year by the U.S. Department of the Interior estimated 138,500 whales and dolphins could be injured, deafened or possibly killed by the blasts over an eight-year period. “It’s loud, booming, and it disrupts their activity,” said Eileen Levandoski, assistant director of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club. “They depend on hearing to find their food. They can’t communicate with each other and they get lost. When you have a compromised animal with a bacteria or virus, they’re already weakened. You’re adding insult to injury.”

Swingle said seismic airguns have been used in other parts of the world, and “what those impacts may or may not be is open for question.” “Certainly anything that’s dangerous for marine mammals would be concerning,” he added.

President Barack Obama announced in March he was reversing a ban he’d placed on oil lease sales off most of the country’s coasts after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and spilling nearly 5 million barrels of oil. Obama’s reversal re-opened the door to potential oil and natural gas exploration and drilling along the Atlantic coast, the eastern portion of the Gulf and part of Alaska.

Oceana and the Sierra Club want the Administration to reject proposals that include airgun use, and phase them out of U.S. waters. But if seismic testing is to occur, it should be done using the least harmful technology, with defined “no activity zones” to protect vulnerable marine habitats and species.

To report a stranding
If you see a beached dolphin or other marine animal, call the Stranding Response Program hotline 24/7 at 757-385-7575.

Politico: Enviros target Keystone in new pipeline spill video
By: Matt Daily
August 1, 2013 02:10 PM EDT

An environmental group is rolling out a new tactic today to fight the Keystone XL pipeline: ananimated video showing every significant oil, gas and chemical pipeline spill in the U.S. since 1986.

The group, the Center for Biological Diversity, hopes the video will go viral and says it’s aimed at stirring up enough public awareness of the pipeline industry’s troubles to put pressure on three key Democratic senators – Bill Nelson of Florida, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – to oppose any pro-Keystone legislation. It’s also hoping to influence President Barack Obama’s final call on the pipeline’s future.

The video is part of a campaign aimed at spreading a simple message: Don’t trust the pipeline industry.

(WATCH: Obama says he’ll approve Keystone only if greenhouse gases won’t worsen)

Contrary to claims by the oil and gas industry, pipelines are not a safe way to ship energy, said Noah Greenwald, director of the Arizona-based group’s endangered species program. “For so many different reasons, we need to be moving away from fossil fuels,” Greenwald said. “There’s really no safe and clean way to deal with them.”

But the oil industry has said pipelines are far safer than other transportation systems, such as rail cars or trucks.

“Safety is the number one priority for the oil and natural gas industry. Pipelines are one of the safest ways to transport crude oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products, and spills are extremely rare,” said Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. “Even one spill is too many, and our industry, working with regulators, continues to apply the highest standards and the latest technologies to ensure the safe delivery of the energy needed to fuel our economy.”

(PHOTOS: Climate skeptics in Congress)

The Center for Biological Diversity is perhaps best known for its aggressive tactics to enforce the Endangered Species Act, including the many lawsuits it has filed accusing agencies like the Interior Department and EPA of refusing to impose legally required protection for creatures like the polar bear, California condor and Mexican gray wolf.

Its animated spill map is based on data culled from nearly 8,000 incidents catalogued as “significant” by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, including incidents that killed people, sent victims to the hospital, caused more than $50,000 in damages, released more than five barrels of volatile substances or triggered an explosion or fire. The spills featured in the video involved natural gas, oil and other hazardous liquids, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, fuel oil and anhydrous ammonia.

The group says the incidents have caused almost $7 billion in damage and killed more than 500 people since 1986.

“The numbers add up to 76,000 barrels per year, nearly 300 incidents per year,” Greenwald said.

The United States has more than 180,000 miles of oil and liquids pipelines and more than 305,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, according to industry data.

(WATCH: Obama’s full speech on climate change)

But the data also show that, at least in terms of the volume of the spills, the three lowest annual totals have occurred in the past five years, with the smallest volume in 2012. Greenwald acknowledged the downtrend in recent years, as well as the fact that a large percentage of the spills are very minor.

“A lot of the spills are small, but if it’s your land or the creek that you fish in Š it’s very damaging,” he said.

Environmentalists have pointed to the oil-sands crude that Keystone would carry as a particularly noxious type of oil that can be extremely difficult to clean up after a spill, particularly in water. That crude, which is mixed with light fluids to enable it to flow through pipelines, appears to sink in water, making it far more difficult to recover than crude oils that float on the surface.

That’s what happened when an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in July 2010, pouring more than 20,000 barrels of diluted oil-sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The clean-up there is still ongoing, with the costs to Enbridge likely to approach $1 billion.

Another rupture on a pipeline owned by ExxonMobil this March sent thousands of barrels of oil streaming through a neighborhood in Mayflower, Ark.

According to PHMSA data, nearly a quarter of the pipeline accidents were caused by excavation damage, while more than 18 percent were from corrosion. Another 17 percent of the incidents happen because of faulty materials or welding problems.

The Keystone fight has been raging for five years, but with an Obama administration decision on a needed permit expected before the end of the year, supporters and opponents are ramping up their rhetoric.

The Senate may also be nearing a crucial vote in September on a pro-Keystone amendment that Republicans would try to attach to widely popular energy efficiency legislation. That outcome may depend on the votes of a handful of Democrats, including Nelson, Klobuchar and Bennet.

Obama hasn’t yet tipped his hand on whether the Keystone pipeline, which would connect the oil sands fields in Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, will win the permit. But his comments this week downplaying the number of jobs that the project will create gave opponents hope that he may turn it down.

In June, he warned that the pipeline shouldn’t be built if it would increase greenhouse gases, a statement that indicated the administration could be leaning on a State Department draft report that said the pipeline was a cleaner option than railroad cars or trucks to transport the oil.


Special thanks to Richard Charter

Mint Press News: Revelation: Feds OK’d Offshore Drilling Without Full Environmental Review

By Trisha Marczak | July 31, 2013

surfers oil rig
Surfers enjoy the waves near a conventional offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. These rigs could soon be joined by offshore fracking operations. In fact, in California, it turns out they already exist. (Photo/berardo62 via Flickr)

Environmental advocates are crying foul after the discovery that oil companies are using the controversial process known as fracking to extract oil off the coast of California, warning that the West Coast operations could become the norm from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico.

According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the news organization Truthout, two fracking operations have been ongoing in the Santa Barbara Channel since 2009 without the environmental review normally required under federal regulations.

The same discovery was made by the Environmental Defense Center, which indicated that its research confirmed that Venoco Inc. conducted an offshore fracking operation in 2009. According to the center, no public disclosure was made before the fracking began.

“It’s completely illegal for the agency to approve fracking in the outer continental shelf without conducting a complete environmental impact statement,” Center for Biological Diversity Senior Counsel Kassie Siegel told Truthout.

The offshore fracking operations were approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement as a regular oil drilling operation.

According to documents obtained by Truthout, oil companies Venoco and Dcor LLC modified drilling permits already in place to pave the way for the fracking operations.
An email obtained by Truthout indicates the federal government knew the companies were fracking. In an email sent on behalf of the bureau’s chief of staff, Thomas Lillie, to a fellow employee, he posed the question: “Has there been an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) to assess the environmental consequences of fracking on the OCS? How can we begin to review permit requests without that?”

That’s the question environmental organizations are asking, too.

“Venoco’s fracking operation was allowed under existing authorizations, and no further environmental analysis or public disclosure was made prior to the operation, despite the fact that offshore oil development raises its own host of environmental issues,” the Environmental Defense Center states on its website.

Those environmental issues, including groundwater contamination and propensity for spills, are still being debated as onshore fracking spreads in California and around the nation. There are also issues relating to the wells’ location near seismic faults.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management justified its endorsement of fracking operations using the argument that updated permits were approved after all new threats were assessed. But according to the Center for Biological Diversity, that doesn’t do the trick, either scientifically or technically.

Venoco, however, claims it does. Its website illustrates the company as one “concerned about the environment.”

“We operate in areas with extensive environmental regulations such as in and around the Santa Barbara Channel as well as in prime agricultural areas such as the Sacramento Basin,” the company’s site states.

California landlocked fracking questioned
California sits atop the Monterey shale formation, estimated to hold a potential 15 billion barrels of crude oil, representing the largest reserve in the nation.

In April, the federal Bureau of Land Management lost a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club over the issuing of leases to oil companies to drill in the Monterey shale. The Sierra Club successfully argued that leases were improperly given to the oil companies without the proper environmental reviews.

In all, roughly 17,000 acres of land in the Monterey shale formation was leased by the federal government to oil companies.

This is, essentially, the beef environmental organizations have with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

According to a bureau fact sheet obtained by Truthout, the agency has allowed fracking to occur 11 times in the last 25 years. However, a spokesperson for the bureau told Truthout the exact number of fracking operations is not known, as it would require combing through years of files.

The offshore fracking is similar to the process used on land to drum up oil locked in shale – a combination of water, chemicals and silica sand is shot into the earth to break up and extract hidden oil.

In the sea, it’s no different, although the process doesn’t require as much water or silica sand, otherwise known as frac sand. According to Truthout, offshore fracking uses 7 percent of the frac sand and 2 percent of the combined water and chemicals used in onshore fracking wells.

On land and sea
The offshore fracking discovery comes at a time when the safety of onshore fracking is being debated in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency has yet to release its study on the impact of fracking – recently announcing it would be delayed until 2016.
In the meantime, the effect on groundwater supplies is being monitored by people on both sides of the debate.

A study released by the University of Texas this month indicates water supplies surrounding fracking wells had elevated and toxic levels of arsenic, strontium and selenium, all associated with the fracking process.

The study assessed water samples taken from 100 private wells, 91 of which were within 3 miles of drilling sites.

The University of Texas study echoed one released this year by Duke University that found fracking operations were linked to groundwater contamination.

The study looked at roughly 140 water samples from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale formation and discovered methane levels were 23 times more prevalent in homes less than a mile from a fracking well.

The University of Texas study comes after the National Energy Technology Laboratory, or NETL, released a report indicating groundwater supplies near a Pennsylvania fracking site did not show any signs of contamination. However, the report was only preliminary, and the laboratory intends to release its full report in 2014.

“NETL has been conducting a study to monitor for any signs of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations at a site on the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania,” NETL said in a statement following the preliminary report release. “We are still in the early stages of collecting, analyzing, and validating data from this site. While nothing of concern has been found thus far, the results are far too preliminary to make any firm claims. We expect a final report on the results by the end of the calendar year.”

On top of issues associated with groundwater contamination, fracking has raised questions associated with wastewater disposal and spills.

This month, Exxon Mobil was fined $100,000 for a fracking wastewater spill that contaminated the Susquehanna River in 2010. The EPA discovered water tested near the spill included elevated levels of chlorides, strontium and barium, chemicals also found in the company’s wastewater storage tanks.

Within three months, two major fracking fluid spills occurred at fracking well sites operated by Carrizo Oil and Gas. In May, a fracking well sent 9,000 gallons of fracking fluid onto nearby property in Pennsylvania. In March, a fracking well sent 227,000 gallons of fracking fluid into another Pennsylvania community.

These are the types of incidents environmental advocates are worried about, especially when there’s now a possibility such spills could occur in the ocean. While the offshore fracking process requires less fracking fluid, the possibility for detection and cleanup is in question, particularly when most people aren’t aware that offshore fracking is taking place.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Huffington Post: Natural Gas Rig Blowout Highlights Dangers Of Drilling In The Gulf

I’m concerned about the 27,000 old wells that have not been decommissioned and are prone to leak. They should be removed and the wellheads sealed. DV

Posted: 07/26/2013 4:36 pm EDT

From Mother Nature Network’s Russell McLendon:

Flames erupted from an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night, torching a natural gas plume that had been leaking since a blowout earlier in the day. All 44 rig workers were evacuated before the fire began, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, but the rig continued spewing gas until Thursday morning, when its scorched frame finally collapsed enough to cut off the leak.

In addition to the cloud of natural gas rising from the rig, the BSEE had observed a light sheen on the water’s surface measuring half a mile by 50 feet. The well’s owner, Walter Oil & Gas, was reportedly making preparations to drill a relief well before the rig “bridged over,” clogging the well with sand and sediment. The Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon that the fire is out, the rig appears stable and no sheen is visible.

Located 55 miles off the Louisiana coast, the well’s unmanned platform wasn’t producing gas when the blowout occurred. The 44 workers were on an adjacent, portable rig that was drilling a “sidetrack well” into the original well bore. It’s unclear what ignited the gas, the BSEE says, and a diagnosis will likely be delayed by response and cleanup efforts.

“BSEE’s efforts today are focused on bringing this loss of well control event to a safe resolution,” says Lars Herbst, BSEE Gulf of Mexico regional director, in a statement issued Tuesday. “Offshore oil and gas operators need to re-affirm their aggressive approach to the safety of well operations in light of this event and other recent well control events.”

The most salient such event in recent memory is the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 people and released 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf. Officials say there’s little chance this week’s blowout will come anywhere close to matching that level of devastation, but it does cast a new spotlight on a long-running risk looming off the U.S. Gulf Coast. Earlier this month, for example, another inactive gas well ruptured off the Louisiana coast, leaking a small amount of gas and liquid before it was plugged.

The Gulf of Mexico is dotted with nearly 4,000 active oil and gas platforms (pictured above), plus a sprawling array of drilling rigs, supply ships and pipelines. This seafaring infrastructure is key to a bustling energy sector across the Gulf Coast, especially in Louisiana and Texas, but it also poses a grave danger to nearby people and wildlife.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry had a death rate of 27.1 per 100,000 workers between 2003 and 2010. That’s seven times higher than the 3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers across all U.S. industries. “The 11 lives lost in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion provide a reminder of the hazards involved in offshore drilling,” the CDC report stated.

Beyond the threat from active wells and drilling, the Gulf is also haunted by more than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, most of which undergo no monitoring for leaks. Some of the region’s oldest wells were abandoned in the 1940s, and many others are only considered “temporarily abandoned,” thus facing less strict sealing requirements.

These wells could be seeping oil, methane or other toxic substances for years, potentially sickening already-threatened wildlife like sea turtles or cetaceans. And as researchers have learned since 2010, large amounts of oil and gas can wreak havoc with microbial life and coral colonies, both of which are key to the Gulf’s food web – including its lucrative seafood industry. Although the Gulf is home to microbes that evolved to feed on natural oil and gas seeps, too much unnatural leaking and spilling can smother them.

“It’s important to keep in mind that if you keep pumping hydrocarbons into the system, you’ll eventually overwhelm it,” University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye told MNN earlier this year, referring to the 2010 spill on its three-year anniversary.

Closer to shore, oil and gas development has already transformed many Gulf Coast wetlands, as manmade canals and other extraction-related projects have disrupted the flow of water and sediments that gradually build coastal bayous. The region has lost about 1,900 square miles of land in the past 80 years, and Louisiana alone is projected to lose another 1,750 square miles by 2060. Not only do these marshes house important wildlife, but they also serve as a protective buffer against hurricanes.

Recognizing this risk, Louisiana officials filed a lawsuit Wednesday against dozens of energy companies, seeking damages for decades of harm to coastal wetlands. Filed coincidentally as a leaking gas rig burned offshore, the suit cites “a mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction,” according to the New York Times, and hints at evolving attitudes in a region that has prospered from drilling but also suffered from lost tourism and seafood income after the Deepwater Horizon spill.

“Coastal economies, which depend on healthy oceans, simply cannot afford more offshore drilling disasters,” says Jacqueline Savitz, deputy vice president for the environmental group Oceana, in a statement released Wednesday about the latest gas blowout. “This is yet another reminder that offshore drilling remains dirty and dangerous.”

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated since it was first published on July 24, 2013.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Fuel Fix: Perry to lawmakers: Do more to advance offshore drilling

Posted on July 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

ric petty
Texas Gov. Rick Perry prepares for a presidential debate in October 2011. AP Photo/Scott Eells, Pool)

Congress can do more to advance offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean while boosting the economies of coastal states, eight governors said Friday.

Options rage from giving states a greater share of federal drilling royalties to passing legislation that would force the Interior Department to make more coastal tracts available for oil and gas development, the group of coastal governors said.

The governors, including Texas’ Rick Perry, made their pleas in a letter to their congressional delegations in the nation’s capital.

“During this congress, legislators will consider several matters that directly and indirectly affect the future of offshore energy development,” said the governors, who all represent coastal states. “As our federal representatives, we strongly urge you to act in concert to champion outer continental shelf energy and, by effect, the vitality of our coastal and state economies.”

The group – banded together as the OCS Governors Coalition – offered five recommendations.

At the top of their list: expanding an existing program for sharing offshore drilling revenue with states near the activity.

“Currently, the Atlantic coast states and Alaska are generally not eligible to share in revenues generated by oil, gas and renewable energy development in the outer continental shelf,” the group said. “These states should be treated equitably with all states.”

The governors may be preaching to the choir, since several of the recipients already have sponsored legislation that would open up the revenue-sharing program – which is set to begin for the Gulf Coast in 2017 – to all coastal states.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is set next week to hold a hearing on one of those proposals, a measure by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would also move up the timeline for the Gulf revenue sharing program so it starts sooner. Their measure also would do away with a $500 million annual cap on what Gulf states can collect.

Under their bill, every state with ocean views would be able to participate and collect up to 37.5 percent of the royalties from any offshore energy production, whether it comes from oil and gas or wind and solar.

But the proposal is controversial – particular among offshore drilling foes, who believe the lure of revenue could encourage cash-strapped states to support oil and gas development in nearby waters.

In a March letter to Wyden and Murkowski, eight senators insisted they would “vigorously oppose any effort that expands or provides further incentive for offshore oil and gas drilling in areas where drilling is currently prohibited.”

The coastal governors also endorse plans to expand access to new outer continental shelf areas. The Obama administration’s five-year plan for selling offshore oil and gas leases through June 2017 contains a dozen auctions of territory in the Gulf of Mexico and three of tracts near Alaska.

But regulators at the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opted not to plan an auction of leases near Virginia, where a sale had previously been scheduled (and canceled after the 2010 Gulf spill). Some Alaskan areas and southern California acreage, near existing development, also were left out of the plan.

The coastal governors say the administration should have opened access to new frontiers and should finish its ongoing review of the environmental effects of seismic research along the Atlantic that could help pinpoint possible oil and gas reserves.

OCS governors letter – this is the version sent to Sen. Mary Landrieu (see attached file)
OCS-governors-letter-this-is-the-version-sent-to-Sen-Mary-Landrieu.pdf OCS-governors-letter-this-is-the-version-sent-to-Sen-Mary-Landrieu.pdf
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Special thanks to Richard Charter Join Phase Two of Global Power Shift (Video)
See video at link above. DV

Join Phase 2 of Global Power Shift
Global Power Shift (GPS) is a planetary-scale project to spark a new wave of climate action around the world.
Here’s the plan:

Phase 1: In June of 2013, 500 young climate leaders gathered in Istanbul, Turkey for a week of intensive training, strategising, and preparations.

Phase 2: National teams will work on scaling up the climate movement through regional convergences, strategic campaigns, and grassroots mobilisations. These events will be launchpads for new, highly-coordinated efforts targeting political and corporate power to achieve bold climate action. Working together, we will truly shift the power and spark the kind of visionary transformation we need to fight the climate crisis.
To make this work, we all need to work together — so sign the pledge on this page to let us know you’re ready to create a Global Power Shift and we will keep you informed of our national (and global!) plans.

Posted by Pear Energy: Who Pays the Cost of Fracking? a new report by Environment America Research and Policy Center
Posted by Pear Energy
Raising new concerns about a little-examined dimension of the fracking debate, Environment America Research & Policy Center today released a report analyzing state and federal financial assurance requirements for oil and gas drilling operations. As fracking expands at a frenzied pace in several states and federal officials consider allowing fracking near national parks and forests and key drinking water sources, Who Pays the Costs of Fracking? reveals current bonding requirements are inadequate to cover the costs of damage from gas drilling.

Read the full report by clicking below:
Who Pays the Cost of Fracking_vUS screen

Just reclaiming a fracking site can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the damage done by fracking—from contaminated groundwater to ruined roads—can cost millions of dollars. But today’s report shows that:

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) generally requires drillers to post bonds of only $10,000 per lease or a blanket bond of only $25,000 for all wells in any one state;
All but eight states require bonds of less than $50,000; and
In most cases, these bonds only cover the cost of site reclamation and well plugging, providing little or no up-front financial assurance for the broader damage done by fracking.

“This appalling lack of financial assurance dramatically increases the risks that our communities, our drinking water and our natural heritage face from fracking,” observed John Rumpler, senior attorney with Environment America Research & Policy Center and a co-author of the report.
Today’s report comes as the oil and gas industry is seeking to frack in several national forests and other sources of drinking water for millions of Americans—including George Washington National Forest in Virginia, White River National Forest in Colorado, Otero Mesa in New Mexico, Wayne National Forest in Ohio and the Delaware River Basin.

“It’s bad enough to think that fracking could pollute major sources of drinking water,” said Rumpler. “The fact that we could wind up paying the clean-up bill as well just adds insult to injury.”
Environment America is urging the BLM to implement a key recommendation of the administration’s advisory panel on fracking, which is the “preservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling …”

The report shows that financial assurance requirements at the state-level are also quite weak in areas at the center of the current fracking boom—including in Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Of particular concern for financial accountability are the long-term costs of fracking. According to the report, across the nation by 2006 there were already 59,000 abandoned oil and gas wells and at least another 90,000 whose status is unknown. The potential cost for just plugging these wells exceeds $780 billion.

“From coal to oil to mining, we’ve seen every boom of extraction leave a legacy of pollution that future generations are left to grapple with,” observed Rumpler. “Weak financial assurance requirements virtually guarantee the same fate wherever fracking is allowed.”

CREDO action: There’s never been more going on in the fight against climate change. Here’s how you can get involved.

You know how, in the summer, your local newspaper comes out with a guide to the concerts and festivals going on? This email is sort of like that – only it’s about ways you can get out there to help save the planet.

The resistance to the fossil industry, and its climate heating projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, has never been bigger.

Of course, it’s never been more urgent either. In June we witnessed historically devastating wildfires in Colorado and Arizona, a record-breaking 90+ degree heat wave in Alaska,1 the deadliest monsoon season in recent history in India, and record flooding devastation in Germany and Canada, even as New Mexico farmers suffered through the shortest irrigation season ever, with drought drying the Rio Grand into the “Rio Sand.”2 (To name a few.)

No wonder regular folks are standing up across the country in unprecedented numbers; from pipeline fighters and blockaders in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan and Maine, coal-export activists in the Pacific Northwest, those holding the line against fracking in New York and drawing a line in California, and of course, the nearly 70,000 activists across the country who have signed the Pledge of Resistance to the “game over for the climate” Keystone XL Pipeline. (To name a few.)

The President’s climate speech and his promise to reject Keystone XL if it increases carbon emissions is proof positive that we’re making an impact. But the fact that that determination is being made by a shady State Department process and a shady oil-industry contractor who hid its ties to TransCanada3 shows that the deck is still stacked against us, and the fossil fuel industry isn’t afraid to play the ace up its sleeve.

Th next few months are crucial to escalate our pressure. Here’s how you can help:

July: Pledge of Resistance Action Leader Trainings
Hundreds of activists have already been trained by CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% to lead peaceful, dignified civil-disobedience actions in their community, to be ready if the State Department recommends approval of Keystone XL.4 There are three more weekends of trainings, in 14 cities across the country – get to one of these cities if you want to be part of leading this amazing organizing effort against Keystone XL. Here’s the schedule:

July 20-21: Tampa, Miami, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston
July 27-28: Raleigh, Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City, Tulsa
August 3-4: Cincinnati, Salt Lake City
RSVP to be trained as a #NoKXL Pledge of Resistance Action Leader

July/August: SummerHeat actions
Our friends at 350 are working with local groups to plan a dozen big actions across the country this month to oppose Keystone XL, coal, fracking, toxic pollution, and the industry that brings them to us. Most of the actions will feature a rally and an optional direct action, where participants may be risking arrest. Those participating in direct action will need to attend a training the day before. Everyone is welcome at the rallies, whether or not you will be risking arrest.
See the SummerHeat action map and get involved.

August, September and October: #NoKXL Pledge of Resistance Sit-ins
We need to keep our pressure on the Obama administration as we await a final decision on Keystone XL. To demonstrate the commitment of the nearly 70,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest if the State Department recommends approval of Keystone XL, and of the hundreds of people who are being trained to organize them, CREDO, Rainforest Action Network and The Other 98% are planning major sit-ins in the months of August, September and October. We’re starting with an action on August 12, in front of State Department Headquarters in Washington, DC. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, August 12: #NoKXL sit-in at the State Department, Washington, DC. RSVP here
Monday, September 16: #NoKXL sit-in, Houston, TX. RSVP here
Monday, October 7: #NoKXL sit-in, Boston, MA. RSVP here

It goes without saying, these are just some of the amazing things going on across the country this summer in the fight for climate justice. Check out the Fearless Summer site to see more updates from more actions all around the country.

We have lots to do, we need your help, and we hope you get involved. If you can’t attend a training or action, the best way you can help us oppose Keystone XL is by chipping in with a donation to help pull off this massive organizing effort.

Thanks for standing with us this summer, and in all the fights ahead.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. “June 2013 Global Weather Extremes Summary,” Weather Underground, 7/15/13
2. “Ongoing Drought In New Mexico Turns Rio Grande Into ‘Rio Sand’,” Think Progress, 7/15/13
3. “State Dept Contractor ERM Lied About TransCanada Ties, Another Fatal Flaw of Environmental Review,” DeSmog Blog, 7/10/13
4. “#NoKXL Trainings in The Huffington Post & Wall Street Journal – See more at:,” 7/13/13

Center for Biologic Diversity: This is Our Land; Don’t Frack it Up

Contact the Center for Biologic Diversity today to support their efforts to end fracking on American lands. DV

Our landmark national parks are under siege: A dozen areas in the national park system already house oil and gas operations, and 30 areas may be threatened by drilling in the future.

This means our cherished public lands face severe air and water pollution, the animals and plants that depend on these lands will experience devastating habitat loss, and people who spend time on these public lands will see their health threatened and their experience of nature degraded.

Theodore Roosevelt and Grand Teton national parks are just two cherished places threatened by the rapid expansion of oil and natural gas drilling and fracking. Nationwide the Bureau of Land Management estimates that 90 percent of new oil and gas wells on federal land are fracked.

But the Bureau’s new draft fracking rules are even weaker than in the past. Sadly, these regulations seem designed to encourage as much fracking as possible, while doing little to protect the environment or people’s health.

Now’s our chance to ensure the feds take real steps to protect our national treasures. Tell the Bureau of Land Management to ban fracking on our public lands.

Huffington Post: Fracking Protesters Follow Hickenlooper To Aspen At Democratic Governors Association Meeting (PHOTOS)

The Colorado Independent | By Andrea Tudhope
Posted: 07/15/2013 4:25 pm EDT | Updated: 07/15/2013 5:08 pm EDT

ASPEN- This tiny resort town, set high above the heavily plied natural-gas fields of the Colorado Front Range, was the unlikely scene on Saturday of the latest clash in the running battle in the state over the controversial natural-gas-extraction method known as fracking. More than 100 anti-fracking protesters gathered outside the Democratic Governors Association meeting held here, waving signs, shouting slogans and staging street-theater scenes in an attempt to draw the attention of Governor John Hickenlooper and the other “important state leaders and presidential hopefuls” in attendance.


“Ideally people will stop and listen, take notice, ask questions, get educated,” said protester Megan Brody. “That would be my hope.”

Passersby stopped to watch the action as it unfolded in front of the St Regis Resort, the city’s iconic ski mountains making a green and jagged backdrop in the summer sun. Some of the spectators shook their heads. But many walked up or stopped their cars to pose a question to the nearest protester: ‘What’s fracking?’

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For Charles Bucknam, who joined the protest from Parker, the question was telling. “The government has the responsibility to let the people know what’s going on,” he said. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process that blasts millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals deep into the earth to loosen up trapped gas. The protesters are concerned that the public health effects of fracking have been downplayed and that the way the heavy industrial activity has been allowed to spread into residential areas of the state will result in illness and depressed property values. They say putting the interests of the drilling industry over environmental health and safety runs against hard-won Colorado values. They add that people come here for the outdoor lifestyle, for the clean air and the stunning Rocky Mountain landscape.

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“I would never have guessed that this would have happened in Colorado. I moved here on purpose,” said Longmont resident Mike Taylor. “We pulled up 51 years of roots and came [to Colorado]. Now here I am standing here with a sign in my hand because I feel like my health and my future is being compromised for dollars and nothing more than dollars.”

The protest comes on the heels of news that the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, with Hickenlooper’s approval, joined a lawsuit filed by drilling companies to override a ban on fracking passed by voters in Longmont last year. The ballot initiative banned fracking within the city limits and was supported by roughly 60 percent of city voters. Longmont, about a four-hour drive from Aspen, sits on the eastern plains atop the Wattenberg Field, one of the largest natural gas fields in the country.

Hickenlooper, a former oil-and-gas-industry geologist, has worked to defend fracking. He sees it as an innovative process that will boost the use of natural gas over coal, arguing that gas is a cleaner “bridge” fuel spanning the time from now to an era when renewable energy will mostly fuel the nation. He opposed the Longmont ban because he believes it’s the state’s responsibility to make a comprehensive set of regulations for the industry to follow.

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“Democracy is being undermined by the Governor and the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission],” Taylor said. “I mean, they’re all in it together. They might as well just step into the same trousers every morning.”

Bucknam agreed. “[Hickenlooper] represents the industry instead of the people,” he said. For many in attendance, the protest was about raising awareness. Thirteen-year-old activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, youth leader of the nonprofit Earth Guardians, has been recognized around the world as one of the biggest little voices in the environmental movement. Most recently, he and the youth team at Earth Guardians put together a presentation called “Fracking 101.”

“We’re taking it into communities that are getting fracked that don’t really know what’s happening to them, don’t know why they’re getting sick, why they’re getting skin rashes, why they’re getting nose bleeds and headaches and cancer,” he said.

“There’s no point in learning about an issue if you’re not going to do anything about it.”

Among the protesters, or “fracktivists,” were representatives and volunteers from groups that included 350 Colorado, Frack Free Colorado, Food and Water Watch, Garfield Transparency Initiative. The protest was organized by Protect Our Colorado, a coalition fighting to protect Colorado from drilling and fracking.

Health concerns are the top priority for the activists. In reference to the U.S. Senate committee meeting in 2012 where Hickenlooper claimed fracking fluid was safe enough to sip, the protesters brought in Hickenlooper look-alike Mike McLoughlin, Denver-based actor and electrician, for a dramatic interpretation of fracking-fluid taste-testing.

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Former cell biology professor at NYU, Virginia Black, now a Longmont resident, is mystified by the government’s loose approach to regulating the process. “I don’t understand why chemicals that I could not pour down the sink for fear of contaminating water and air would not be regulatedŠ in fracking. Those are massive amounts of chemicals,” Black said.

A woman named Phyllis from Paonia said she felt an urgency to join the protest.

“It’s either speak up now or never, because it’s going to be too late. The environment isn’t going to continue to support us.”

Go to link to see slide show below:

State Lawmakers And Environmental Activists Express Opposition To Hydro Fracking
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in New York state attend a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on January 11, 2012 in New York City. The event, which was held on the steps of City Hall, called for an end to the controversial gas drilling method as environmental groups increasingly warn about contamination of the state’s aquifers that could poison its drinking water. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
State Lawmakers And Environmental Activists Express Opposition To Hydro Fracking
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch attends a news conference and rally against hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in New York State on January 11, 2012 in New York City. The event, which was held on the steps of City Hall, called for an end to the controversial gas drilling method as environmental groups increasingly warn about contamination of the state’s aquifers that could poison its drinking water. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Department Of Environmental Conservation Holds Hydro Fracking Hearing
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 30: Opponents and supporters of gas-drilling, or fracking, walk into the last of four public hearings on proposed fracking regulations in upstate New York on November 30, 2011 in New York City. Fracking, a process that injects millions of gallons of chemical mixed water into a well in order to release gas, has become a contentious issue in New York as critics of the process belive it contaminates drinking water among other hazards. NewYork City gets much of its drinking water from upstate reservoirs. If the regulations are approved, drilling in the upstate New York Marcellus Shale could begin next year. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: General views of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers look at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: A lump of shale rock on display at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Engineers at work on the drilling platform of the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: Drill heads on display at the entrance to the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Cuadrilla Shale Fracking Plant
PRESTON, LANCASHIRE – OCTOBER 07: An engineer displays a lump of shale rock at the Cuadrilla shale fracking facility on October 7, 2012 in Preston, Lancashire. The controversial method of extracting gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground has been blamed for two minor earthquakes in the surrounding region. Environmental campaigners are calling for a halt to the drilling of what Cuadrilla believe could be significant reserves of natural gas. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Hydraulic Fracturing Prevention Press Conference
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: Actor/director Mark Ruffalo (C) speaks at the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Hydraulic Fracturing Prevention Press Conference
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 25: (L-R) Actor/director Mark Ruffalo, Denise Katzman, Wenonah Hauter, and Water Defense co-founder/campaign director Claire Sandberg attend the Hydraulic Fracturing prevention press conference urging the protection of the drinking water source of 15 million Americans at Foley Square on April 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Josh Fox on Obama, the EPA, and House Republicans Who Had Him Arrested
HuffPost Green Editor Joanna Zelman talks to Josh Fox, director of the documentary ‘Gasland,’ about hydro-fracking, the EPA, and the House Republicans who had him arrested during a Congressional hearing.
Game Changer in Green: Mark Ruffalo
The expertise and the grassroots zeal Mark Ruffalo has brought to the issue of fracking is changing the game in green.

Special thanks to Richard Charter