Common Dreams: ‘Risky and Reckless’: Environmental Groups Renew Fight Against Shell

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‘Risky and Reckless’: Environmental Groups Renew Fight Against Shell

‘This is the largest, loudest, and dirtiest exploration plan ever proposed in the American Arctic Ocean,’ conservation alliance says

‘Kayaktivists’ from the sHellNo! Action Council greet a Shell drilling rig in Washington state’s Port Angeles on April 17. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

A coalition of environmental and conservation groups on Monday renewed their challenge of a federal lease which opened nearly 30 million acres of Arctic waters to offshore drilling and was recently upheld by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The coalition, which includes the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, the World Wildlife Fund, and several other environmental organizations, filed a report with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Anchorage, Alaska outlining their intent to challenge the 2008 lease, which they called “risky and reckless.”

“Drilling in the Arctic is a recipe for disaster,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society, one of the groups in the coalition. “It’s reckless and defies common sense. Oil and water don’t mix.”

“There’s no worse place on earth to drill for oil than the Arctic Ocean, and no company with a worse recording trying than Shell,” added Nathaniel Lawrence, Arctic director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “And as reckless as it is to drill there, it could do even more harm by pumping all that carbon into the atmosphere, since science tells us Arctic oil has no place in a world grappling with the challenge of climate change.”

In May, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave conditional approval for oil giant Shell to drill into the Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea after conducting a review of the company’s environmental and safety plans. The coalition on Monday called the review “rushed and cursory” and said it “inadequately assessed its threats and effects.”

“There’s no worse place on earth to drill for oil than the Arctic Ocean, and no company with a worse recording trying than Shell.”
—Nathaniel Lawrence, Natural Resources Defense Council

In addition to the potential release of significant carbon emissions, activists have long warned that fossil fuel exploration in Chukchi Sea would harm endangered species which rely on the Arctic’s pristine ecosystems to survive, and that an accident in those remote waters could be more devastating than the 2010 BP oil spill which killed 11 workers and poured millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Moreover, offshore drilling in the Arctic—which could start as early as July—also puts a heavy burden on Indigenous populations in the area, particularly those that rely on whaling.

“The lease sale decision…is directly contrary to President Obama’s commitment to take essential action to limit the worst effects of climate change for future generations,” said Earthjustice.

A month before Shell’s drilling plan was approved, one of its rigs failed a Coast Guard inspection, while another was held in port over pollution control problems. And in 2012, the oil giant’s Kulluk drilling rig was wrecked during an exploratory mission that was ultimately abandoned.

“Interior unlawfully approved Shell’s problem-riddled Arctic drilling plan. In doing this, it has failed the communities and wildlife of this region,” said Erik Grafe, Earthjustice staff attorney. “Allowing oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean takes us in the wrong direction on combating climate change and downplays the catastrophic consequences of an oil spill here. Shell proved itself unprepared in 2012, and it remains so today and should not be permitted to drill in our fragile Arctic Ocean.”

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Marissa Knodel added, “This is the largest, loudest, and dirtiest exploration plan ever proposed in the American Arctic Ocean. Shell’s revised Exploration Plan sets us on the path toward climate catastrophe as the latest science says Arctic oil must be kept in the ground in order to have a chance at keeping the planet safe. The only place for these dirty fossil fuels is in the ground.”

“Shell Oil’s planned exploration of the Chukchi Sea poses heavy burden and risk on Inupiat cultural livelihood,” said Faith Gemmill, executive director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL). “Moving forward with drilling in the Chukchi Sea without any concrete measures to address a large oil spill in broken ice conditions is a perilous venture that could have disastrous consequences for the Inupiat and their whaling way of life. No amount of profit is worth the potential loss of a culture’s livelihood.”

The lawsuit is just the latest move in the fight against Shell’s offshore drilling plans. In recent weeks, activists in Seattle have blockaded terminals holding one of the oil giant’s rigs, organized a “flotilla rally” to oppose the company’s operations, and protested from kayaks in an action they dubbed ‘Paddle in Seattle.’

Common Dreams; Oil Change International: Tar Sands on Life Support: Report–Evidence of struggling tar sands sector suggests opportunity to slow the rate of growth ‘significantly’

Oil Change International credits a growing people’s climate movement for slowing tar sands growth. (Photo: Chris Yakimov/flickr/cc)

With dozens of carbon-intensive tar sands projects delayed or on hold, a new report released Friday confidently declares: “The case for the tar sands is crumbling.”

A new analysis by Oil Change International identifies 39 projects—representing more than 1.61 million barrels per day (bpd) of potential tar sands oil production capacity—that companies are currently unable or unwilling to invest in.

That’s good news for the climate and the environment, as well as for frontline communities that bear the brunt of the toxic tar sands production.

And it’s bad news for the tar sands sector, which now finds itself “struggling to justify many new projects,” says Hannah McKinnon, senior campaigner on private finance at Oil Change International.

According to the report, On the Edge: 1.6 Million Barrels per Day of Proposed Tar Sands Oil on Life Support (pdf), the delayed and on-hold projects include three open pit mine projects with a combined capacity of over 450,000 bpd, and over 30 drilling projects with nearly 1.2 million bpd capacity. The total extractable tar sands oil in these projects is almost 13 billion barrels. If all of that resource was extracted and burned, around 7.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted—equivalent to 40 years of emissions from 51 average U.S. coal-fired power plants.

Furthermore, the Oil Change analysis found that an additional 550,000 bpd of production capacity is owned by companies that have filed for bankruptcy—”another clear indicator of weakness in the sector,” the authors write.

A number of factors have led to this decline, the report says, pointing to plummeting oil prices; shifting politics in the ‘tar sands capital’ of Alberta, Canada; and the rise of both alternative energy technologies and the grassroots climate movement.

“The combination of citizen action to block pipelines and development and the rising tide of climate policies and alternative technologies, which are together leading to lower oil demand growth and lower oil prices, signal very strong headwinds for an oil source that is both high cost and high carbon,” the report reads. Should such conditions persist, it goes on, “the rate of growth may slow significantly in the coming years—potentially avoiding lock-in of a significant amount of [greenhouse gas] emissions.”

Still, the authors warn against growing complacent in the face of an industry that will fight tooth and nail to maintain its dominance.

“This report is some good news for the climate, but the battle is far from over. Every day of delay for tar sands projects is a good day for our future, but this is an industry determined to dig it up,” said Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International. “But while the industry puts its head down and tries to charge ahead, people around the continent are rising up to defend our communities and climate, and their efforts are clearly paying dividends.” Reefs de Rigueur; Fish earstones may offer a verdict on the environmental value of oil rig reefs.

Hakai Magazine
by Nsikan Akpan
Published May 26, 2015

Life swarms to an oil rig the moment its massive steel legs plunge into the ocean. Algae, barnacles, anemones, sponges, and other less-mobile creatures latch onto the hard metal structures. Darting fish soon join the fray. But petroleum wells dry up after a couple of decades, and traditionally this has spelled the end of a rig: the steel legs, and the habitat they create, are decommissioned, dismantled, and hauled away.

In 1979, the United States introduced the concept of the “rig-to-reef,” wherein an oil platform’s legs are left in the water post-decommissioning to retain the constructed ecosystem. Soon after the first rig reefs were built along Florida’s coast, these artificial ecosystems began popping up everywhere. And soon after that, the protests started-the most famous being in 1995 when Greenpeace occupied Shell’s Brent Spar platform in the North Sea for nearly a month.

There are a number of points of tension over oil rig reefs. Some are ideological or political-“All offshore oil leases were granted on the reassurance that the seafloor would be returned to as near natural conditions as possible,” says The Ocean Foundation’s Richard Charter-while some challenge the ecological value of the reefs themselves.

The central scientific dispute over rigs-to-reefs is one that has dominated the debate for 40 years: do the structures actually encourage growth of reef-dwelling species or do they merely attract marine life that’s passing by?

Without a clear understanding of rig reefs’ effects, the international response has been mixed. Following Greenpeace’s 1995 protest, plans for rig reefs in the North Sea stalled. Elsewhere, oil rig reefs blossomed. In Texas, more than 140 rigs have added to the state’s artificial reefs since 1990. Over the next 10 years more than 6,500 oil rigs are due for decommissioning. How many will be turned into reefs is still up for debate.

For their part, oil companies like rig reefs because it saves them money-to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in saved decommissioning costs-as do US state governments, which often get a kickback for some of the money saved. Environmentalists are torn.
A novel scientific technique, however, may offer a way to resolve this long-running controversy by finally giving scientists a way to determine whether reef fish treat these rigs like a home or like a hotel.

In 2008, fish ecologist Ash Fowler and his team ventured onto the water off northwestern Australia. There, four separate oil rigs were being decommissioned. When the steel structures were hoisted onto the ship’s deck, dozens of red-belted anthias spilled forth. (This seafloor-dwelling species is often found hiding in the drilling wellhead.) The team collected the fish and returned to shore, where they chemically examined each fish’s earstones, or otoliths.

Much like a tree’s trunk, otoliths grow annual rings. As these rings grow, they absorb chemicals from the surrounding environment. By firing a laser at the otoliths, Fowler and his colleagues learned that each oil rig gave the fishes’ earstones a distinctive chemical composition. The overall shape of the earstone honed the geographical marker, allowing the otolith to serve as a home address.

“Otoliths are used to identify fish stocks over regional scales, but with our technique, we could identify home [oil rig] structures over distances as short as 10 kilometers,” says Fowler.

This geolocating technique can be used for almost any artificial structure, says Fowler, because the chemical distinctions between sites are based on common elements found in seawater (rather than, for instance, the pollution that might seep from a drilling site). As such, the technique can also distinguish oil rig reef fish from those living on natural reefs nearby. If combined with a genetic screen for lineage, Fowler’s otolith technique may reveal whether fish live around the same rigs for generations, or are just passing through.

Separating oil rig fish from natural reef fish has been a major challenge for the handful of scientists who have tried to compare the ecology of rigs-to-reefs with natural environments.

In a 2003 report, researchers from the US Minerals Management Service found that a single natural reef supported more than two million fish, which would be comparable to the number found in 1,000 oil rig reefs. More recently, a 2014 study argued that California’s oil rigs have become a fertile ground for juvenile fish, making the rigs one of the most productive fish habitats in the world. But without the ability to separate permanent resident fish from visitors, properly interpreting these studies becomes difficult.

Milton Love, an ecologist who worked on the 2014 study, doubts that answering the scientific question will actually end the debate over rigs-to-reefs. Even if the rigs are responsible for creating a bountiful ecosystem, he says, it’s an artificial creation that carries the risk of introducing invasive species, such as orange cup coral or Australian spotted jellyfish into new environments. In the Gulf of Mexico, commercial fishermen love the artificial reefs because they attract red snapper and other profitable catch, but the steel legs sticking up from the seafloor strip shrimpers of their ability to trawl the seafloor. Some conservationists want the rigs removed, but that would mean the animals that live stuck to the metal frame would die and wind up as waste dumped into the sea or on shore.
“In the end,” says Love, “the decision has nothing to do with anything except your moral compass.”

Geographic Region: Oceania, North America
Oceanographic Region: Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean
Species: Fish
Scientific Fields: Chemistry, Ecology, Engineering
Cite this Article: Nsikan Akpan, “Reefs De Rigueur,” Hakai Magazine, May 26, 2015, accessed May 26, 2015,

Daily Kos: Surprise! Company whose pipeline burst in Santa Barbara has extensive record of safety violations by Meteor Blades

Thu May 21, 2015 at 09:04 AM PDT

byMeteor BladesFollow

Refugio State Beach oil spill

attribution: U.S. Coast Guard
A section of Refugio State Beach tainted by oil from burst pipe.

Since 2006, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has logged more than 175 maintenance and safety violations by the company whose pipeline burst in Santa Barbara County, California, Tuesday night. That makes its rate of incidents per mile of pipe more than three times the national average, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, which found only four companies with worse records. But those infractions only generated $115,600 in fines against the company, Plains All American Pipeline, even though the incidents caused more than $23 million in damage.It was initially reported that 500 barrels of oil had leaked from the broken pipe, but authorities later said the total could be in the realm of 2,500 barrels, 105,000 gallons. The leak contaminated a portion of Refugio State Beach and nearby patches of ocean. A crew from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is handling clean-up on land, while the U.S. Coast Guard is handling the job on the water.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state emergency, a move which frees up emergency state money and resources for the cleanup. Authorities shut down both Refugio and El Capitan beaches, but most people camping in the popular area had already fled because of fumes from the leak. Camping reservations have been canceled through May 28.

Julie Cart, Jack Dolan and Doug Smith report:

The company, which transports and stores crude oil, is part of Plains All American Pipeline, which owns and operates nearly 18,000 miles of pipe networks in several states. It reported $43 billion in revenue in 2014 and $878 million in profit.The company’s infractions involved pump failure, equipment malfunction, pipeline corrosion and operator error. None of the incidents resulted in injuries. According to federal records, since 2006 the company’s incidents caused more than $23 million in property damage and spilled more than 688,000 gallons of hazardous liquid. […]

Plains Pipeline has also been cited for failing to install equipment to prevent pipe corrosion, failing to prove it had completed repairs recommended by inspectors and failing to keep records showing inspections of “breakout tanks,” used to ease pressure surges in pipelines.

The area tainted by the leak is popular for camping, fishing, surfing, kayaking and watching seals, sea lions and numerous species of birds. Until 2013, the state was responsible for monitoring and inspecting some 2,000 of the 6,000 miles of pipelines in California, but that task was then turned over the federal Department of Transportation.The company has expressed its regrets for the leak. Perhaps it would regret the situation more if fines for its repeated violations did more than empty out the petty cash drawer for the weekend

Progress Florida: No underwater explosions, No killing dolphins

Five years ago, BP’s infamous rig Deepwater Horizon was spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf, wreaking havoc on marine life, Florida’s economy, and our world famous beaches. The image of the rig engulfed in flames, beaches and birds smothered in oil filled our headlines for months and painted a clear picture that offshore drilling is anything but clean and safe.

Now, Big Oil is seeking to conduct seismic testing, the precursor to offshore oil drilling, off Florida’s eastern coast. Sen. Bill Nelson has introduced the Seismic Moratorium Act, which would halt seismic testing unless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deems such testing to be safe for sea life.

Thank Sen. Nelson for standing up to Big Oil and defending Florida’s coastline, marine life and our tourism economy from another devastating oil spill. 

Seismic tests shoot compressed air blasts at the ocean floor, revealing what lies beneath the surface. The blasts, emitted every 10 seconds for several months at volumes rivaling jet engines, injure and kill sea animals, especially whales and dolphins.

Loggerhead sea turtles migrating to their nesting beaches become disoriented and the sound of seismic air guns disrupt fish migration and spawning, resulting in the death of fish eggs and larvae. That can seriously damage the fragile Atlantic food web so critical to our coastal economies.

Sen. Nelson’s bill would go a long way towards banning oil drilling off Florida’s east coast. It’s a bold step in the right direction, especially as we work to transition to a clean energy economy.

Please join us in thanking Sen. Nelson for his work defending Florida’s coast and our economy by expressing your support for his bill. 

Sen. Nelson will undoubtedly face an uphill battle against lobbyists and opponents in getting the bill passed, and will need all the support we can give him.

Thanks for all you do!

Mark and the Progress Florida team

Text PFLA to 30644 to join our Mobile Action Team


Progress Florida • 1010 Central Ave #209 St. Petersburg, FL 33705 • (727) 289-2612

Common Dreams: ‘Fighting for the Places We Love’: A Vision for the Climate Battles to Come Ahead of upcoming Global Divestment Day, a conversation between author Naomi Klein and executive director May Boeve
Friday, February 06, 2015

(Image: Go Fossil Free)

CD editor’s note: The following conversation between Naomi Klein and May Boeve took place as an online webinar hosted by last week in advance of the upcoming Global Divestment Day(s), taking place on February 13 and 14, during which individuals and institutions from around the world will take action and urge others “do what is necessary for climate action by divesting from fossil fuels.”

Wide-ranging in terms of topics covered, the overall talk reveals the current thinking of two prominent voices within the global climate justice movement.  Klein and Boeve take a look back at the impactful events of 2014, strategic concerns for the year(s) ahead, and explore the unique historical moment that is now presenting itself to those who believe—in the face of an increasingly warming planet—that an economic, political, and energy transition is more necessary than ever.

In one key section, Klein argues what’s most essential is the further emergence of unified global movement—one whose agenda is “simple enough to fit on a postcard”— that can articulate a positive vision while continuing to make clear what it opposes. “We’re fighting to leave it in the ground. No new fossil fuel frontiers. We’re fighting for societies powered by 100% renewable energy. We’re fighting for free public transit. We’re fighting for the principle that polluters should pay, that how we pay for the transition has to be justice based. We’re fighting for the principle of frontlines first, that the people who got the worst deal in the old economy should be the first in line to benefit in the new economy. Those are some principles that we can all agree on and rally behind.”

And as Boeve states, “We have a moment, we have a movement, so let’s do it.”

Joining the online talk were more than 2,000 people who were able to listen in and ask questions.

Naomi Klein: [The number of people on this call] is a powerful indication of the interest in this topic [and shows] the message that divestment is everywhere. Because there’s a sort of patchy quality to it: there are places where this is very much part of the public debate and then there are places where it’s just getting started. And by having a coordinated day of action it sends a really clear message that this is happening all over, that it’s spreading quicker than any movement I’ve ever witnessed, and that it’s just an exciting time. So thank you all for being here.

MB: So my first question, Naomi, is this: there’s a lot of talk right now in the news about falling oil prices. Can you speak to the role that falling oil prices play in energy and climate politics in particular, and what we should be thinking about in this moment?

NK: That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about, because the book I wrote before was called the Shock Doctrine, and the message of that book was that these moments are often catalysts for the wrong kind of change. I think that’s really important to understand that in the case of energy and climate change, none of this is predetermined. It is not preordained that low oil prices will either hurt or help the climate movement.

“It is not preordained that low oil prices will either hurt or help the climate movement.”

If we do nothing, then it’s more likely that low oil prices will work against sensible climate action, just for simple economic reasons. When oil is cheap, people feel able to buy more of it. Already we’re hearing these stories, like the comeback of the SUV. All of these incentives towards efficiency for reasons of financial strain–people were leaving their cars at home, taking public transit, carpooling and doing these things that were good for the environment, but for financial reasons—we’ve lost that. That’s the context in which we’re working. That’s not good news, it’s bad news.

But I think on the whole, if we look at this in the context of this rising movement that we’re a part of, if we look at it in the run-up to Paris and the fact that climate is going to be very much in the news and top of mind, if we also look at it in the context of the renewable energy sector, with prices falling rapidly, the fact that we can all now point to a country like Germany that has moved so rapidly toward having 20-25% of its electricity coming from renewables, this is definitely a moment.

[Take a look] at last week’s Economist cover? For those of you who can’t see it, this is a figure leaping off a pyramid of oil barrels, and the headline is “Sieze the Day.” The editorial that accompanies this—and this is a quote from the Economist, not from—is saying that this is a “once in a generation opportunity” to dramatically transform our energy system, to kick the oil habit. We’ve been using this slogan internally: “Kick it while it’s down.”

There are various reasons why, if we get the right set of incentives in place—both political and economic—it can be a really, really good time to get off fossil fuels and push very aggressively toward a decentralized, renewables-based economy.

One of the things that has really struck me as I’ve been thinking about this price plummet over the past couple of weeks, is that we’ve been living with an oil price between $80-100 dollars per barrel or more—even reaching $120 dollars per barrel—for over a decade. It went up to $100 a barrel after the US invaded Iraq in 2003, that’s when things really took off.

I wrote a column about a year after that, and the headline was “Baghdad burns, Calgary booms.” It was about the fact that the turmoil in the market that was linked to the invasion of Iraq, which had sent oil prices soaring, was leading to the boom that was happening with the Alberta tar sands. Calgary is ground zero for those profits: all money flows through Calgary. We have always known, or had known for a long time, that there were vast oil deposits in northern Alberta, but those oil deposits weren’t counted toward the global fossil fuel reserves because they were considered uneconomic. It wasn’t that they discovered oil in Alberta in 2003, it was that when oil prices were $30 a barrel it didn’t make sense to count it, because it costs so much to dig it up.

“With oil at $100 per barrel, it makes people crazy. It’s irresistible. So, even as we’ve had scientists raising the alarm, we’ve been barreling down the wrong road.”

What’s really been striking to me is understanding that it really kind of makes sense why, despite all of the consciousness-raising that has taken place over the past decade—An Inconvenient Truth, the IPCC winning the Nobel Prize,  and all of these various moments when consciousness was raised around climate change—why this hasn’t translated into action? It’s because we have been working against the titanic power of enormous profit. The enormous profit that comes with oil at such a high price. Because that kind of pricing, with oil at $100 per barrel, it makes people crazy. It’s irresistible. So, even as we’ve had scientists raising the alarm, we’ve been barreling down the wrong road. We’ve been barreling into extreme energy, drilling in the Arctic, tar sands, fracking. And this is all linked to high prices.

Now, we find ourselves in this kind of reprieve. It’s not permanent. What goes down can go back up, and will go back up. But I think what this has given us is a little bit of breathing room, because suddenly a lot of these projects that we’ve been working so hard to stop, many of them are shutting down on their own. I mean, not completely, but a lot of investors are pulling their investments out of tar sands, or suspending their investments because it’s so expensive, there’s less of a push for Arctic drilling. That’s a context in which it’s easier to win political victories.

When you’re going head to head with the richest companies on earth, and they’re dying to get into the Arctic and you’re saying “no,” well, that’s not a fair fight. But when their own investors are going “Wow, is this really a good idea?” I think that’s a moment when we can win some really big victories to close off fossil fuel frontiers.

Of course, this is very tied to the whole logic of the divestment movement and the need to leave this carbon in the ground. But we all know we’re not going to win this one divestment fight at a time: we’re going to win this by building the arguments that will then lead to big demands, like no new fossil fuel frontiers, country-wide bans on fracking, closing off the Arctic to drilling permanently, and those types of policies.

So, I think we’re in a much better situation to win that. But we need to understand that this is a window. This is the last moment to be complacent. I mean, when the Economist is calling this a once in a generation opportunity, think about that: it means it doesn’t come around again.

One of the reasons that it’s been difficult to win and sustain victories to put a price on carbon, a carbon tax—and I don’t think a carbon tax is a silver bullet, but I think a progressively designed carbon tax is part of a slate of policies that we need to make this transition happen—is that when consumers are hurting (and we’ve been in the midst of an economic downturn, recession, or crisis depending on where you live) it’s hard for politicians to increase the price of energy. When suddenly oil is way cheaper and your energy bill is dropping, that’s a good time to introduce a progressive carbon tax.

“We’re going to win this by building the arguments that will then lead to big demands, like no new fossil fuel frontiers, country-wide bans on fracking, closing off the Arctic to drilling permanently, and those types of policies.”

Between the capacity to win some big keep-it-in-ground fights in the midst of falling prices, and the ability to fight for a progressive carbon tax, and that we now have these great examples of what a rapid renewables transition might look like—I think it is an extraordinary moment, to be honest.

MB: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. And extraordinary moments can pass.

NK: They can and do pass. I mean, some of you have heard me say this before, but I am haunted by the long shadow of 2008, when the financial crisis hit and we all witnessed this huge transfer of wealth from public hands into the hands of the banks. And this was a moment when it could have been a real leap forward, especially in the US. It could have been a real leap forward because Obama had just been elected. He was elected with a clear mandate to act on climate change. It was also a moment when the car companies were bankrupt, and it was possible to write a really big stimulus bill, and we could have told the banks what to lend—they could have funded the energy transition—but that became this period of demobilization for people as they sort of waited for what Obama would do. And now I feel like we’re being given a second chance. When that happened and we didn’t seize that moment, I thought “Am I ever going to see another moment like this, with this amount of potential?”

And here we are now, with this opening, and we’re also seeing some big political shifts. Syriza just won in Greece, that’s a big message. Podemos is rising in Spain. There are political parties that need vision. They need a vision for what the next economy should look like, and I believe that the climate movement should be very much a part of that conversation.

MB: Absolutely. You know, I think about 2015 as the year that we have to demonstrate irrevocably that the age of fossil fuels is over. If we think about 2014 as the year that—through your book, through our mobilizations like the People’s Climate March—that brought this idea that climate change changes everything, and we need everyone to be part of the moment. That was the 2014 moment. Here we are in 2015. So how are you thinking about that? What’s on your wishlist for the climate movement in 2015? If you could sort of just snap your fingers and make it happen, what would be taking place?

NK: My personal obsession is that I feel like there’s this way in which we are still failing to break out of our respective issue silos. There are people who are working on climate where that doesn’t intersect nearly enough with the people working for the public sphere, fighting for the commons, fighting against austerity—even when it’s the same people. They put on their climate and they’re being one person, and then they put on their “no cuts” hat or their anti-austerity hat, and it somehow doesn’t become the same conversation. Even when we intellectually understand it as the same.

“There are political parties that need vision. They need a vision for what the next economy should look like, and I believe that the climate movement should be very much a part of that conversation.”

I have a lot of hope about the fact that the next COP is happening in Europe. I think that presents enormous opportunities, because in Europe the anti-austerity movement is so strong. In this moment, we have these political parties that are running on anti-austerity agendas that are winning elections or are poised to win elections. It’s a moment when we can bring our movements together and have one conversation instead of these separate conversations.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. I was going from Amsterdam to Brussels and there was a train strike. Belgium is getting hit with a round of austerity right now, and one of the services that’s getting hit is the public trains, and they’re having series of rotating strikes leading up to a general strike. The day I was there, there was a rail strike, and all of the climate activists were generally talking about it as a bit of an inconvenience getting from point A to point B. I was just amazed that it wasn’t being talked about as part of the climate movement.

Now, May, you and I have talked about this as one of the things that we want to do at 350 is have the fight for not just affordable, but in my opinion, free public transit, be welcomed into the climate movement. When you see the people on the streets of Rio and Sao Paulo fighting for affordable public transit it doesn’t matter if they call themselves climate activists. They are climate activists. Because affordable public transit is central to any just transition or any transition whatsoever.

That’s part of what I mean when I say that somehow we’re not yet having the same conversation. When, of course, it’s the same conversation. This is the world we’re fighting for. And so my real hope is that the labor movement, the anti-cuts movement, the climate movement will really come together in a coherent demand for a just transition away from fossil fuels, using this price shock as the catalyst.

Because climate change is never going to be that shock. We think it is, that if we scare people enough, then that will shock them.There’s this great group in the Bay Area called Movement Generation that we work with at 350, who are just an amazing group of thinkers and theorists, and they have this presentation that they do called, “Shock, Slide, Shift.” It’s about how you have these punctuated shocks and these long slides. A disaster is a shock. Climate change is a slide. Our mission is to harness the shocks and the slides to win the shifts that we want. We’re in a slide, we just got a shock, and now we need to fight for the shift.

“When you see the people on the streets fighting for affordable public transit it doesn’t matter if they call themselves climate activists. They are climate activists.”

I feel like it almost needs to be simple enough to fit on a postcard: what is it that we’re fighting for? We’re fighting to leave it in the ground. No new fossil fuel frontiers. We’re fighting for societies powered by 100% renewable energy. We’re fighting for free public transit, I would add that. We’re fighting for the principle that polluters should pay, that how we pay for the transition has to be justice based. We’re fighting for the principle of frontlines first, that the people who got the worst deal in the old economy should be the first in line to benefit in the new economy. Those are some principles that we can all agree on and rally behind.

That’s my hope for 2015. That we get off the defense and put forward this very clear vision, bringing all of our movements together, because they are mobilizing in incredible ways. Some of you may have read the piece I wrote trying to connect the #BlackLivesMatter movement with the climate justice movement, because so much of what we are fighting for is based on the principle that black lives matter, that all lives matter. The way our governments are behaving in the face of the climate crisis actively discounts black and brown lives over white lives. It is an actively racist response to climate change that we should expose. I think we have to not be afraid to bust down these barriers if we really mean it when we say that if we’re going to change everything, it’s going to take everyone.

MB: Absolutely. I think that coupled with what you were saying earlier about this moment is that there is so much energy and alignment happening within all these different movements. We have a moment, we have a movement, so let’s do it.

My last question is, as we move towards the 13th and 14th of February, Global Divestment Day, and think about the next moves on divestment, I wanted to ask you about that. You were instrumental in helping articulate the link between stranded assets, unburnable carbon, climate change, and divestment. The movement to divest has taken off in incredible ways, so I’d like to ask you a reflective question: what has been most significant about divestment and what is needed to keep that call fresh and alive in this moment?

NK: If you can just indulge me a moment, I want to give a little bit of history from my perspective of where all of this came from. When we had the idea for a national, and then international, divestment call on fossil fuels, there were already pockets at certain universities that were pushing their schools to divest from coal, but there wasn’t an overall fossil fuel divestment call that had been made.

That call came out of a call between Bill McKibben and I, that happened after both of us had read the Carbon Tracker research, which blew both of our minds. This is the research that all of this is based on, that shows that the fossil fuel industry has five times more carbon dioxide in their proven reserves than the atmosphere can absorb and leave us with a decent shot of keeping global warming below two degrees celsius.

“My real hope is that the labor movement, the anti-cuts movement, the climate movement will really come together in a coherent demand for a just transition away from fossil fuels, using this price shock as the catalyst.”

Now, the thing that was striking when we were reading that research was that it was not addressed to us, this is research that was done for the investment community. It was addressed to investors as a warning to them, warning that there is a bubble in the market. This was a couple years out of the housing bubble bursting, and it was warning, “Ok, we see another bubble on the horizon, we don’t want to have another bubble burst.” Obviously, these companies cannot burn five times more carbon than the atmosphere can observe, so obviously these are going to become stranded assets.

Now, I read that research and I went, “No, that’s not right.” We’re the bubble. They’re planning to burn the carbon, and they have made a political assessment that when our politicians said they were going to keep warming below two degrees they were lying, that they didn’t mean it. The commitments made in Copenhagen were unbinding, and Exxon and Shell and everyone else decided that that was not something that they had to worry about, that they were going to go ahead and burn it anyway.

So, I didn’t think that this was a warning to investors. I thought that this was a warning to all of us, and that’s what Bill thought, too. So, the question is, ok, if we’re the bubble, how do we flip it? How do we turn them into the bubble that’s going to burst? And that’s where the divestment idea comes from. Those are the stakes, that’s really what that research shows: it’s them or us.

Bill wrote that incredible piece for Rolling Stone that popularized this idea, just laying it out, because people get these numbers. Bill is such an incredible teacher, such a patient explainer, and people got it. I had just had my kid at this point, so I wasn’t able to go on the full Fossil Free tour that Bill and 350 kicked off, but I did go, with my five-month old in tow, to New York and Boston, which were a couple of biggest events. What was amazing, was that people were on their feet before we said a word. I’d never seen anything like it. The movement was waiting for someone to admit that there was a war going on.

This comes back to one of the most controversial parts of This Changes Everything, the part about how so many of the big green groups have partnered with fossil fuel companies, based on the false idea that we’re in this together. No, we’re not. I think people really get this, and young people get this most of all. It all comes back to that research. Every time you explain it to somebody else, you are part of the solution, because these are illegitimate profits.

“I think we have to not be afraid to bust down barriers if we really mean it when we say that if we’re going to change everything, it’s going to take everyone.”

Coming back to low oil prices, the other thing that helps is that fossil fuel stocks are not performing very well right now. So your opponents have just lost their best argument. They won’t lose it for long, so that’s another reason to just pound away at this. If this was last year, they could say, “these stocks are performing better than other ones, you want to bankrupt our schools.” But, no, in fact these stocks are underperforming. Not only are institutions destroying the planet, but they are also taking unnecessary risks with their endowments.

Another point I would make, and this comes back to the issue around carbon pricing, is that when we make the argument that this is a rogue sector, that their business plan is at odds with life on earth, we are creating an intellectual and political space where it becomes much easier to tax those profits, to increase royalties, and even, if there is too much resistance, to nationalizing these companies. This is not just about the fact that we want to separate ourselves from these companies, it’s also that we have a right to those profits. If those profits are so illegitimate that Harvard shouldn’t be invested in them, they’re also so illegitimate that taxpayers have a right to them to pay for a transition away from fossil fuels, and to pay the bills for a crisis created by this sector. It’s not just about dissociating ourselves from their profits, but potentially getting a much larger piece of them.

MB: Here’s a question from online, “Where do we put our divested funds? How do we push local economy investment in the transition?”

NK: I think the reason why the reinvestment piece is a little bit trickier than the divestment call, is because what we need to get out of is really simple, we want to divest from the fossil fuel companies, but what we want to get into will look a little bit different everywhere we live. There isn’t one blanket investment, nor should their be. I don’t think that the response should be, “Goodbye, big carbon. Hello, big wind, big solar.” I think we can do better than that.

“It’s not just about dissociating ourselves from [fossil fuel] profits, but potentially getting a much larger piece of them.”

Which isn’t to say big green companies don’t have a place in the transition. I think they do, but I think we should also be looking at supporting local solar coops, that reinvestment should be very much a tool for climate justice. The answer for what that means is only going to come from building alliances with frontline communities in all of your communities and developing tools and projects that can be supported and are being prioritized.

The Our Power campaign in the US is a great example of identifying six climate communities that have great transition plans, some of them already quite far along, that can be supported. We should resist the temptation of just presenting this as flipping the switch from dirty energy to big, clean, green energy that will be controlled by a different set of corporations. I realize that it’s tempting and that some people will disagree with me on that.

MB: Next question is from Eileen, who says she’s 93, in Manchester, UK. The question is, “Of all the urgent environmental issues in your book that you identified that we could campaign on, which should we prioritize?”

NK: Once again, I would say that this is really dependent on where you live. Anyone who would pretend that there is one answer to that question is leading us down the wrong path.

Something I write about in the book is that for too long the climate movement has adopted the astronauts eye view of the Earth. The icon of the globe seen from space that has been adopted by the green movement has been a bit of a problem. Because when you are looking down at the Earth from space, things get very blurry and then you can say, well, there’s one solution, and we should all just be fighting on this very narrow solution. That it’s all about just parts per million, for example. What we’ve found at 350, and I mean, we are an organization that’s named after parts per million, and we care about carbon, but we have found that this movement is powered by people fighting for the places we love. It’s a movement that is not driven by hatred of fossil fuel companies, more than anything it’s driven by love of place. It’s driven by a duty and responsibility to protect the land and water for future generations.

So wherever you live, it’s going to look differently. If there’s fracking in your backyard, which is certainly an issue in Manchester, then it’s probably fracking, especially what the British government is doing. But that doesn’t mean it’s fracking everywhere (although they would like to frack everywhere).

“We have found that this movement is powered by people fighting for the places we love. It’s a movement that is not driven by hatred of fossil fuel companies, more than anything it’s driven by love of place. It’s driven by a duty and responsibility to protect the land and water for future generations.”

MB: The third question here is from Ian Middleton. Ian asks, “We’ve been here before though, haven’t we? What’s to stop the reversion to business as usual when the price of oil rises again?”

NK: Yes, we have been here before. But we have never been exactly here before, in the sense of this particular confluence of events, with the price of renewables dropping, with the German transition, and with where the climate movement is. The climate movement of today is not Al Gore’s climate movement, it is a much more grassroots movement, a much more youth-led movement. I think it is a movement that is a lot clearer about what it is fighting for and who it is fighting against.

I am by no means saying that this price shock is going to do this for us. It’s about what we do in this window, and what you do once you get a few of these policies in place. It’s really about taking advantage of the fact that it’s a little bit easier to get some big wins right now. It’s a little bit easier to win a carbon tax right now, it’s a little bit easier to win some “keep it in the ground” fights right now, it’s a little bit easier to fight for visionary policies right now, policies that then have their own momentum. This is the thing about Germany: once you have proof of concept, once people are experiencing it, then they start fighting to defend it.

“We can’t beat the bean counters at their own game. We’re going to win this, because this is an issue of values, human rights, right and wrong.”

So, it isn’t saying that the market is going to take care of this for us, it’s that we a have a very brief moment where a few market forces are working in our favor. It will not last, it will not do it for us, but we need to use this moment to push for policies that can then create a context where people are fighting for the policies that work. Our problem is that we haven’t had the chance to get the right policies in place.

MB: Here’s a specific campaign question, the question is, “What do you think the likelihood is that Pope Francis will divest the Vatican and call on all Catholics to divest?”

NK: Hmm, you know, well that guy is full of surprises, that’s all I can say. I think it’s great to keep the pressure up.

I do think that raises a slightly different point. You know, I’ve been making these arguments around economics, but there is nothing more powerful than a values based argument. We’re not going to win this as bean counters. We can’t beat the bean counters at their own game. We’re going to win this, because this is an issue of values, human rights, right and wrong. We just have this brief period where we also have to have some nice stats that we can wield, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that what actually moves people’s hearts are the arguments based on the value of life.

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, author, and syndicated columnist. Her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (Simon & Schuster, 2014), has just been published. Her previous books include the international best-sellers,  The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.   To read all her writing visit Follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

May Boeve is the Executive Director of

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18 hours ago

Actually, it seems to me that when the call is for grassroots engagement on the premise of loving the land where you live, you are talking about coalitions that engage on issues, not from ‘right-left’ silos. Part of that is shifting balances from supply side to demand side awareness and policy. The latter is in the process of occurring as we seem to have hit ‘peak’ supply side extraction/externalization/financial fraud/austerity/waste/pollution etcetera.

“Carbon taxes should be 100% returned to private citizens with no share for government of corporations.”
That strikes me as a supply-side framing that doesn’t yet realize it is a supply side framing. For example: shall we turn to the prison industrial complex for slave labor to rebuild infrastructure in order to keep “government” small ? Now, what happens when these are envisioned from a demand side framing?

The uncounted costs that continually aggregate (environmental – think today BP 10 mil. gal at the bottom of the Gulf) and the list not even yet tabulated for future generations…

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Common Dreams: Ten Reasons Why the TPP Must Be Defeated by Bernie Sanders
Published on
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
People gather at Peace Arch Park in 2012 to oppose the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). (Photo: Caelie_Frampton/flickr/cc)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy. It will also negatively impact some of the poorest people in the world.

The TPP is a treaty that has been written behind closed doors by the corporate world. Incredibly, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies have full knowledge as to what is in this treaty, the American people and members of Congress do not. They have been locked out of the process. Further, all Americans, regardless of political ideology, should be opposed to the “fast track” process which would deny Congress the right to amend the treaty and represent their constituents’ interests.

The TPP follows in the footsteps of other unfettered “free trade” agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the Permanent Normalized Trade Agreement with China (PNTR). These treaties have forced American workers to compete against desperate and low-wage labor around the world. The result has been massive job losses in the United States and the shutting down of tens of thousands of factories. These corporately backed trade agreements have significantly contributed to the race to the bottom, the collapse of the American middle class and increased wealth and income inequality. The TPP is more of the same, but even worse.

During my 23 years in Congress, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA and PNTR with China. During the coming session of Congress, I will be working with organized labor, environmentalists, religious organizations, Democrats, and Republicans against the secretive TPP trade deal.

Let’s be clear: the TPP is much more than a “free trade” agreement. It is part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system. If TPP was such a good deal for America, the administration should have the courage to show the American people exactly what is in this deal, instead of keeping the content of the TPP a secret.

10 Ways that TPP Would Hurt Working Families

1. TPP will allow corporations to outsource even more jobs overseas.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the TPP is agreed to, the U.S. will lose more than 130,000 jobs to Vietnam and Japan alone. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. ·∙ Service Sector Jobs will be lost. At a time when corporations have already outsourced over 3 million service sector jobs in the U.S., TPP includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers; computer programming; engineering; accounting; and medical diagnostic jobs.

Manufacturing jobs will be lost. As a result of NAFTA, the U.S. lost nearly 700,000 jobs. As a result of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, the U.S. lost over 2.7 million jobs. As a result of the Korea Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has lost 70,000 jobs. The TPP would make matters worse by providing special benefits to firms that offshore jobs and by reducing the risks associated with operating in low-wage countries.

2. U.S. sovereignty will be undermined by giving corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals.

The TPP creates a special dispute resolution process that allows corporations to challenge any domestic laws that could adversely impact their “expected future profits.” These challenges would be hea rd before UN and World Bank tribunals which could require taxpayer compensation to corporations. This process undermines our sovereignty and subverts democratically passed laws including those dealing with labor, health, and the environment.

3. Wages, benefits, and collective bargaining will be threatened.

NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, and other free trade agreements have helped drive down the wages and benefits of American workers and have eroded collective bargaining rights. The TPP will make the race to the bottom worse because it forces American workers to compete with desperate workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is just 56 cents an hour .

4. Our ability to protect the environment will be undermined.

The TPP will allow corporations to challenge any law that would adversely impact their future profits. Pending claims worth over $14 billion have been filed based on similar language in other trade agreements. Most of these claims deal with challenges to environmental laws in a number of countries. The TPP will make matters even worse by giving corporations the right to sue any of the nations that sign onto the TPP. These lawsuits would be heard in international tribunals bypassing domestic courts.

5. Food Safety Standards will be threatened.

The TPP would make it easier for countries like Vietnam to export contaminated fish and seafood into the U.S. The FDA has already prevented hundreds of seafood imports from TPP countries because of salmonella, e-coli, methyl-mercury and drug residues. But the FDA only inspects 1-2 percent of food imports and will be overwhelmed by the vast expansion of these imports if the TPP is agreed to.

6. Buy America laws could come to an end.

The U.S. has several laws on the books that require the federal government to buy goods and services that are made in America or mostly made in this country. Under TPP, foreign corporations must be given equal access to compete for these government contracts with companies that make products in America.

Under TPP, the U.S. could not even prevent companies that have horrible human rights records from receiving government contracts paid by U.S. taxpayers.

7. Prescription drug prices will increase, access to life saving drugs will decrease, and the profits of drug companies will go up.

Big pharmaceutical companies are working hard to ensure that the TPP extends the monopolies they have for prescription drugs by extending their patents (which currently can last 20 yea rs or more). This would expand the profits of big drug companies, keep drug prices artificially high, and leave millions of people around the world without access to life saving drugs. Doctors without Borders stated that “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”

8. Wall Street would benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Under TPP, governments would be barred from imposing “capital controls” that have been successfully used to avoid financial crises. These controls range from establishing a financial speculation tax to limiting the massive flows of speculative capital flowing into and out of countries responsible for the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s. In other words, the TPP would expand the rights and power of the same Wall Street firms that nearly destroyed the world economy just five years ago and would create the conditions for more financial instability in the future. Last year, I co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Harkin to create a Wall Street speculation tax of just 0.03 percent on trades of derivatives, credit default swaps, and large amounts of stock. If TPP were enacted, such a financial speculation tax may be in violation of this trade agreement.

9. The TPP would reward authoritarian regimes like Vietnam that systematically violate human rights.

The State Department, the U.S. Department of Labor, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have all documented Vietnam’s widespread violations of basic international standards for human rights. Yet, the TPP would reward Vietnam’s bad behavior by giving it duty free access to the U.S. market.

10. The TPP has no expiration date, making it virtually impossible to repeal.

Once TPP is agreed to, it has no sunset date and could only be altered by a consensus of all of the countries that agreed to it.

Other countries, like China, could be allowed to join in the future. For example, Canada and Mexico joined TPP negotiations in 2012 and Japan joined last year.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont’s at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

AP: New $3.7B gas line proposed for Ala., Ga., Fla.


ATLANTA (AP) — A proposal to build a $3.7 billion pipeline system carrying natural gas into Florida is raising complaints from Georgia residents — including media mogul Ted Turner — who say they’d face environmental costs while others get the benefits.

Spectra Energy Partners and NextEra Energy are seeking federal permission to build the Sabal Trail and the Florida Southeast Connection, about 600 miles of pipeline bringing natural gas from a hub in Alabama, across southwest Georgia and to power plants in Florida. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the system would start operating in mid-2017.

The project is an economic and political balancing act. The United States has benefited from its expanding supply of natural gas, which has pushed fuel prices to historic lows and made it possible for utility companies to close coal plants for cleaner, gas-burning power plants. The growing reliance on gas also means customers need a steady supply of the fuel. Developers say the two existing pipes serving peninsular Florida are running at nearly full capacity.

“What people certainly worry about is when I wake up in the morning and I hit the switch on the wall are the lights going to come on?” said David Shammo, Spectra Energy’s vice president of business development in the southeast. “It’s really about reliability of service.”

Project opponents say the pipeline will decrease property values, cause pollution and put their communities at risk of accidents while the big benefits go to the Florida market.

“We’re just the pass-through,” said Gloria Gaines, who faults developers for proposing a compressor station in her predominantly black community south of Albany. “When you look at it at the micro level, there is no value.”

If federal regulators approve, developers would have the right to force landowners to let the gas pipeline pass under their property. While landowners would be paid, they couldn’t build anything on top of the pipe.

Energy firms say the project is necessary to meet Florida’s appetite for gas. Florida Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of NextEra, wants additional gas supplies to serve its fleet of gas-fired plants. Meanwhile, Duke Energy has plans to build a new combined-cycle gas plant in Florida’s Citrus County.

A new pipeline would make Florida less dependent on gas from the Gulf of Mexico region, allowing it to draw more heavily from production basins in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and markets in the Northeast, developers say. That means Florida would be less likely to run short of gas if a hurricane damaged Gulf production facilities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recommended FERC ask for more proof to verify the existing pipelines were at their limits, according to case filings. The EPA also questioned whether Florida already had access to diverse sources of natural gas and noted electricity sales had been dropping since 2007.

NextEra, Spectra or their related political committees have donated several thousand dollars to politicians, including Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

The plan faces some corporate opposition. A compressor station forcing gas through the pipe near Albany would sit about a quarter mile from Ted Turner’s Nonami Plantation, where he’s hunted quail for decades. Turner’s company has asked that Georgia authorities withhold a necessary permit because the facility would emit air pollutants and disturb people and wildlife. As an alternative, it asked that the station use a cleaner, quieter electric compressor powered by solar energy.

“It is our hope that Sabal Trail Transmission will take the community’s concerns seriously and consider alternative routes that are far safer and more direct, and possibly avoid the state entirely,” Turner Enterprises spokesman Phillip Evans said.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham told federal regulators in a September letter that his family’s Angus beef farm in Georgia “in no way” supports the proposed route across its 8,000-acre property outside Albany.

“Their routing comes through our farm up there and we’d rather it would go elsewhere,” said Stuart Wyllie, CEO of Graham Cos. in an interview. “This is land that while we don’t have immediate development plans, we may want to develop it in the future.”

Follow Ray Henry on Twitter:

Special thanks to Anita Stewart.

Progress Florida: Ban Risky Oil and Gas Fracking in Florida

I just wanted to share with you a column I wrote that was published at Context Florida regarding the need to ban risky oil and gas fracking in Florida.

The threat to Florida from fracking is especially worrisome as long as Gov. Rick Scott is in office. The last thing Florida needs, with our delicate ecology and vast underground aquifer system, is oil and gas fracking. After you’ve had a chance to read the column, please consider a contribution to Progress Florida so we can continue the fight against fracking statewide.

Thanks for reading.

Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida


To protect Florida’s future, ban fracking

Imagine a future where Florida’s soil and air are contaminated, iconic endangered species like the Florida panther are lost forever and our drinking water is poisoned. Unfortunately it could happen — if we don’t put a stop to new oil and gas extraction process known as acid fracking.

There are many environmental and public health concerns linked to fracking. More than 1,000 cases of water contamination have been documented near fracking sites as well as sensory, respiratory, and neurological problems. Gas that is leaked during the fracking process, along with the numerous toxic chemicals that are used, creates air pollution, contributes to global warming and is a danger to human health.

Inexplicably, Gov. Rick Scott stated in 2011 that he supports oil and gas drilling in the Everglades. And just last month, he was slapped with an ethics complaint alleging a conflict of interest for his investment in a company that is drilling near the Everglades.

Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hid Dan A. Hughes Co.’s illegal Everglades fracking from the public for months, and to this day the company has failed to disclose exactly what they’ve been pumping into our ground to extract fossil fuels, citing industry “trade secrets.” The Florida DEP’s initial punishment amounted to a $25,000 slap on the wrist fine. Just as alarming, over the past five years the DEP has not denied a single drilling permit but has approved more than 40.

Despite the Scott administration’s weak response to illegal fracking, concerned Floridians and citizens groups, including the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Preserve Our Paradise, and the Stonecrab Alliance, are fighting back, and it’s working.

It took a massive public outcry, but the Florida DEP finally discovered what the “E” and the “P” mean in their acronym and revoked the Hughes Co. permit more than six months after the Texas-based company undertook its unauthorized fracking.

On July 15, Hughes Co. announced that it would suspend drilling at the so-called Collier Hogan well, site of the fracking incident. And although Hughes may still face further action from the DEP, some lawmakers have begun pushing for tougher regulations on the oil and gas industry, including a statewide ban on fracking.

A moratorium on fracking in Florida makes sense. There is great uncertainty about the effect of fracking on the environment and public health. Those concerns are magnified in Florida because of our unique ecology and hydrology. Moreover, it has become clear that Floridians can’t count on the Scott administration to put the public’s health and safety above the interests of bad corporate actors like Hughes Co.

The Hughes Co.’s suspension of oil extraction activities in the Everglades amounts to only a partial victory for Floridians. The threat fracking poses to Florida remains, especially while Scott is in office. Given its location in the Everglades and the potential harm drilling may do to South Florida’s drinking water supply, Hughes’ permit should never have been approved.

State lawmakers who cherish Florida’s natural treasures and the health of their constituents should pass a statewide ban on all fracking-like drilling during the 2015 legislative session. Meanwhile, the Scott administration should suspend permitting on all fracking-like drilling projects.

If these policymakers don’t care about protecting wilderness, wildlife or public health, maybe the fact that the health of our economy is inextricably linked to the health of our environment will convince them to do the right thing.

Special thanks to Mark Ferrulo,  Progress Florida

The Hill: House GOP urges Interior to open up new offshore drilling areas
By Laura Barron-Lopez – 08/01/14 09:57 AM EDT

More than 160 House Republicans are urging the Obama administration to open up more areas to offshore drilling in a new five-year lease plan for oil and gas development.
The Republicans claim that opening areas of the Outer Continental Shelf that have otherwise remained off-limits, such as the Atlantic, Arctic, and parts of the Pacific oceans, would generate roughly $160 billion between 2017 and 2035.

The Interior Department is currently gathering comments from oil and gas companies, conservation groups and others to determine which parts of the seabed will be included in its lease sales for 2017-2022.

“We believe the Department must move forward with a five-year program that continue to lease in the Gulf of Mexico but also includes new areas with the greatest resources potential as well as areas such as the Mid-and-South Atlantic, or the Arctic, where there is strong bipartisan support from members of Congress, governors, state legislators, local leaders and the general public for allowing oil and natural gas development,” the letter sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Friday states.

“A legacy of leasing in existing areas will not put our nation’s offshore energy production on sound footing,” it adds.

Environmental groups also sent a letter to Jewell, warning that expanding lease sales to the Atlantic, Arctic, and other new areas would undermine the president’s climate change agenda.

Environmentalists argue that expanding offshore drilling would lead to more air pollution, and harm fragile ecosystems.

The Interior Department said earlier this week that it plans to extend its request-for-information period 15 days, giving businesses, green groups and others more time to offer feedback on the lease sale.

Recently, the department also said it would open the Atlantic to seismic testing for oil and gas deposits. It’s the first time in nearly 30 years that companies will be able to explore the Atlantic using air guns and sonar tests. The move signaled that the administration may open up the Atlantic to future drilling.

“Opening our coasts to more oil and gas lease sales has the potential to create thousands of new jobs and billions in new capital,” Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said in a statement on Friday.

Cassidy signed Friday’s letter to Jewell, along with Reps. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), and Rob Bishop (R-Utah), and more than 160 other House Republicans.

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Special thanks to Richard Charter

Various articles on Seismic Testing on Atlantic

Free Times
Sonic Cannons Could Endanger Marine Life in S.C. Waters
Seismic Tests Could Open Door to Offshore Drilling
By Rodney Welch
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

The seismic blastings can deafen dolphins.
The Obama Administration’s recent approval of seismic blasting on the Eastern Seaboard could have an immediate negative impact on marine life, and long-term consequences for the coast if it leads to offshore drilling, according to local conservationists.

The decision affects the coastal waters of a seven-state region from Delaware to Florida.

In a July 18 statement, Walter D. Cruikshank, acting director of the U.S Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the decision came about after working with federal agencies and reviewing public input.

“The bureau’s decision reflects a carefully analyzed and balanced approach that will allow us to increase our understanding of potential offshore resources while protecting the human, marine and coastal environments,” he said.

Seismic blasting is a means of discovering oil resources by use of a seismic airgun, or sonic cannon, which is placed in the water and dragged along the water by a boat. The airgun is trailed by rows of sound sensors.

As the American Petroleum Institute explains it, the airgun releases compressed air into the water, creating sound waves. The sensors record how long it takes for the waves to bounce back, which also determines the location of petroleum reserves.

API officials say that seismic blastings are scheduled so as not to disrupt the mating season of marine animals, and that explorations always begin with a low-level warning signal to warn off any underwater animals.

But for conservationists, the risks are still enormous. The sonic blast sent across the ocean floor is said to be a hundred times louder than a jet engine and can deafen both dolphins and the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

“The main impact on marine mammals has to be hearing,” says Hamilton Davis, energy and climate director of the Coastal Conservation League in Charleston. “That’s how they hunt and how they communicate.  It’s disruptive across the board, and potentially leads to death in these individuals.”

When marine animals are no longer able to communicate, they abandon their habitat trying to get away from the noise, says Coastal Conservation League program director Katie Zimmerman.

Perhaps the biggest impact would be on the North Atlantic right whale, of which only some 400 remain in existence.

“That’s something we’re very concerned about,” says Alan Hancock, program director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina. “The North Atlantic right whale is endangered, and their calving grounds are off the coasts of North Florida, Georgia and southern South Carolina.”

The sound also interferes with the ability of fish to look for food and communicate.

Davis says that previous environmental assessments have shown as many as 138,000 marine animals could be affected by seismic testing, resulting in injury or death, and that doesn’t even include the impact on fisheries.

Seismic blasting is also the first step toward offshore drilling. For some, that means jobs. For others, it means a Deepwater Horizon oil spill waiting to happen.

Hancock says the East Coast has managed to stave off offshore oil exploration because past projections have indicated that there isn’t enough oil in the South Atlantic to warrant the risk.

“Any oil or gas that would be produced from the South Atlantic would be a drop in the bucket compared to global supplies of oil and gas,” he says.

While the prospect of offshore drilling has been welcomed by Gov. Nikki Haley and Senators Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott – the latter has drafted legislation allowing for oil exploration – Congressman Mark Sanford has opposed federal legislation that cuts states out of the process.

Sanford was one of five House Republicans who recently voted against the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act. Sanford said the bill allowed rigs to be built three miles off shore “in plain sight from the beaches of the Isle of Palms or Hilton Head, with no ability of anyone in the state to impact that decision.”

Hancock says mayors along the coast have also been concerned about the “potential impact of offshore drilling on the tourism economy as well as the fishing industry.”

Not only that, offshore oil rigs would not be impervious to hurricanes.

“The frequency of hurricanes means that any offshore drilling off the coast of South Carolina,” Hancock says, “would just be all the more risky and all the more potentially costly for South Carolina’s coast.” – See more at:

Carolina Coast Online
Offshore exploration raises concerns
Tideland News
Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 10:33 am | Updated: 11:13 am, Wed Jul 30, 2014.

The Obama Administration’s July 18 announcement that
that it would reopen the East Coast to offshore oil and gas exploration with sonic cannons is causing concern among local environmentalists and those involved in the protection and study of marine mammals, including whales and dolphins.
Environmentalists, such as Todd Miller, executive director of the Carteret County-based N.C. Coastal Federation, are worried about the pollution and potential onshore growth and infrastructure that would accompany oil and gas production, if it should occur.
“We were very disappointed in the announcement,” he said. “There’s not going to be any direct economic boom and the energy gain from North Carolina would be small.”
Marine mammal experts, such as Keith Rittmaster, natural science curator at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, are worried, though far from alarmist, about potential impacts exploration might have on the animals.
Rittmaster, whose wife, Dr. Vicky Thayer of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, heads the state’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network, has studied marine mammals extensively for more than two decades and has actually worked as a federally mandated “observer” on one of the sonic cannon vessels operating off Alaska.
“I can tell you it’s very loud,” he said. “I can tell you that while in my bunk on the ship, with ear plugs in and ear protectors over the ears, it was still loud.” And, he added, marine mammals depend on hearing, underwater, for almost all that they do, including navigation.
While there has been relatively little conclusive research on the effects the cannons have on marine mammals – more research has been done and more conclusions reached on the impacts of military sonar – the fact that the government requires observers on the boats in order for them to gets permits means there are, no doubt, potentially serious problems.
The approval by U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opened the outer continental shelf from Delaware to Florida to exploration by energy companies that are preparing to apply for drilling leases in 2018, when current congressional limits are set to expire. The bureau is moving ahead despite acknowledging that thousands of sea creatures will be harmed.
“The bureau’s decision reflects a carefully analyzed and balanced approach that will allow us to increase our understanding of potential offshore resources while protecting the human, marine and coastal environments,” acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank said in a statement.
The sonic cannons are already in use in the western Gulf of Mexico, off Alaska and other offshore oil operations around the world. They are towed behind boats, sending strong pulses of sound into the ocean every 10 seconds or so.
The pulses reverberate beneath the sea floor and bounce back to the surface, where they are measured. Computers translate the data into high resolution, three-dimensional images. The sonic cannons are often fired continually for weeks or months.
According to an Associated Press article that ran after the July 18 announcement, underwater microphones have picked up blasts from these sonic cannons over distances of thousands of miles, and marine scientists say the constant banging – amplified in water by orders of magnitude – poses unavoidable dangers for marine life.
According to the announcement, certain habitats will be closed during birthing or feeding seasons.
Still, according to the AP story, the bureau’s own environmental impact study estimates that more than 138,000 sea creatures could be harmed, including nine of the world’s remaining 500 north Atlantic right whales.
These whales give birth and breed off the coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas before migrating north each year. Many other species vital to East Coast fisheries also travel up and down the Gulf.
And some of these animals are so scarce that intense noise pollution could have long-term effects, Scott Kraus, a right whale expert at the John H. Prescott Marine Laboratory in Boston told AP.
“No one has been allowed to test anything like this on right whales,” he said. “(The Obama administration) has authorized a giant experiment on right whales that this country would never allow researchers to do.”
Rittmaster said he doesn’t know of any case in which the sonic cannons have been proven directly responsible for the death of a marine mammal. But he added that any positive causal link would require quick access to a deceased mammal, whether in the water or stranded on a beach, and that’s often problematic, at best. In North Carolina, that task would fall upon Thayer and her network. She declined to comment for this story, but suggested Rittmaster as a source for information on mammals.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican leaders of the state General Assembly have been strong proponents of offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling.
At any rate, Rittmaster added, there is clearly the potential for, at the very least, changes in the mammals’ behavior.
“I saw, or at least think I saw – and it’s pretty well documented – such things as changes in travel direction, changes in diving patterns and even in the sounds they make in response to anthropogenic sounds,” Rittmaster said.
He added that, similarly, there appears to have been little research done on how the sonic blasts affect the fish the marine mammals depend upon for fish.
According to the Associated Press article, fish ecologists say that fish and crabs navigate and communicate by sound.
Patricia Smith, spokesperson for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, couldn’t provide anyone to comment on the potential impacts that oil exploration might have on fish.
As for marine mammals, Rittmaster said there are known instances of at least some “co-existing” with sonic oil and gas exploration activities in the Gulf of Mexico.
He also said his experience with the offshore oil and gas exploration industry off Alaska convinced him that those involved take the monitoring program seriously.
His job, he said, was to watch for marine mammals and to get on the radio, advise the operators when he saw them and tell them to take action, such as to stop firing the cannon.
It was, Rittmaster said, a very complex system, with the action required dependent upon a variety of factors, including he species involved, the water depth and temperature and bottom topography, among other things.
The companies, he said, have “obviously spent millions of dollars” to learn about how the sounds travel through the water, depending upon those factors.
“If I saw, for example, a Beluga whale, I would get on the radio and say, “Stop,” and they would have, like 12 seconds to stop,” he said. “If they didn’t, that would count as a ‘take.'”
A “take” he said, doesn’t mean a harvest – as it does in fisheries – or even a likely injury. It means anything that would cause an alteration in the whale’s behavior.
Under their permits, the companies are allowed a specific number of “takes” per species over a given amount of time, and their response to a mammal sighting would be dependent upon on several factors, including when the activity was taking place and how many “takes” had already occurred.
Always, the goal would be to not meet or exceed the allowed number of takes for a particular species. Thus, if it was late in the operation and there had been either no takes or a few, the operators might not stop.
He said he understands the need for oil exploration, since the substance is still so crucial, and will remain so crucial, for some time, to “almost every aspect of our life.”
But, he said, it’s also very clear that the ability to hear is critical to the survival of the marine mammals.
According to the Associated Press article, before the U.S. Atlantic seabed was closed to oil exploration in the 1980s, some exploratory wells were drilled, but the region has never had significant offshore production.
“One thing we find is, the more you get out and drill and explore to confirm what you see in the seismic – you end up finding more oil and gas than what you think is out there when you started,” Radford said to the news service.
Opposition to oil development has been abundant along the coast, where people worry that oil will displace fisheries and tourism. More than 16 communities from Florida to New Jersey passed resolutions opposing or raising concerns about the seismic testing and offshore drilling, according to AP.
Miller of the coastal Federation outlined his objections in detail in a piece for his organization’s website.
Proponents, he wrote, say that offshore oil from the East Coast will help the U.S. become more energy independent, lower gas prices, provide jobs, increase tax revenues and be environmentally safe.
“But the track record for oil and gas development elsewhere in the country is dogged by failed claims of economic prosperity and environmental stewardship,” he wrote.
“Tainted coastal waters, disruptions of recreational and commercial fishing and inequitable distribution of economic benefits result in an ugly legacy for oil and gas development.”
He disputed the notion that oil and gas development will cause little harm to marine fisheries in the state, in part because of the state’s geography. It’s at the confluence of two currents – the cold Labrador and warm Gulf Stream – which make it highly productive for a wide variety of species. And the state’s coast, which sticks far out into the central Atlantic, is very prone to hurricanes and nor’easters that make oil infrastructure and oil wells very risky in terms of potential pollution.
Miller also disputed the value of oil drilling off North Carolina.
While proponents contend that development of those oil and gas reserves will make the nation more energy independent, he wrote, “In reality, the amount of oil and gas off our coast is just a tiny drop in the bucket of U.S. demand.
“The Carolina Trough south of Cape Hatteras has a potential of about 690 million barrels of oil and 16.25 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to supply our country’s demands for just 36 days of oil and 246 days of gas,” according to a report by a state advisory panel on offshore energy.
Similarly, he added, there’s little or no indication that development of those reserves will reduce oil and gas costs.
“According to the Annual Outlook on energy supply and prices written by the Energy Information Administration, analysts project that the existing oil and gas reserves in the U.S. coast would not lower, or even significantly affect, gas prices” he wrote.
And as for jobs, “Previous studies by independent committees formed by state government have found that the chances are very slim that N.C. could even compete for this investment with larger ports and much more industrialized areas in Virginia and South Carolina.
“Oil refineries have been proposed for Wilmington and Morehead City in the past and very intense public opposition forced state and local politicians to withdraw their early support for these industries and to eventually soundly reject them.”
Miller wrote that there’s serious doubt about proponents’ assertions that oil production in North Carolina would dramatically aid the state’s budget picture.
“The industry,” he wrote, “estimates that $66 to $400 million a year in direct income to state government over the lifetime of the reserves will come from royalties and leasing fees. However, it will take a Congressional change in federal law to divert these funds to the states,” and that’s not likely given “the severe budget issues facing the nation currently.”
Finally, Miller added, “This revenue estimate does not speak to the ‘costs’ associated with providing for the public infrastructure and services that are necessary to provide for an increased population.”
That, he added, is a key to the whole issue, should production ever gear up here.
“Barring a major catastrophic disaster offshore, the development of support facilities and refining capacity onshore poses the biggest risks to the N.C. coast,” Miller wrote. “We have one of the cleanest and most productive coastlines remaining in the U.S. This will no longer be true if oil and gas development results in major new investments in onshore refineries, storage facilities, pipelines and related petrochemical industries, as proponents claim it will. That’s because petrochemical industrial development has never taken place without degrading coastal environments. Existing environmental laws work to minimize harmful impacts, but do not prevent them from occurring.”
In addition, Miller wrote, it’s the federation’s position that, “Offshore drilling is a shortsighted solution that does nothing to minimize global climate change. While fossil fuels will remain in the energy mix into the foreseeable future, reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be the guiding principal behind any future energy policy.”
Huffington Post
Offshore Oil Exploration in the Atlantic? Bad Idea
Posted: 07/30/2014 5:30 pm EDT Updated: 3 hours ago
By Jason Bittel, OnEarth

Suppose someone was detonating a stick of dynamite in your neighborhood.


Every 10 to 12 seconds.


For days and weeks and months on end.


Maybe you could just ignore the noise. BOOM. Or maybe you’d go a little crazy.


Maybe you lose your appetite. BOOM. And stop trying to ask your kids how their day went. BOOM.

Maybe you start walking in circles. BOOM. Or get lost.

And good luck getting your significant other BOOM to cuddle up and BOOM relax for a little BOOM romantic BOOM fun BOOM time.


Annoying, isn’t it? But guess what — that’s what life will be like for marine mammals in the Atlantic Ocean now that the Obama administration has re-opened the East Coast, from Delaware to Florida, to offshore oil and gas exploration. With ban on offshore drilling in the Atlantic expiring in 2017, seismic testing could begin as early as next year.

What’s the connection between wells and whales? In a word, noise.

To find deposits buried deep below the seafloor, the oil and gas industry trawls the ocean with powerful airgun arrays. These cannons sound off every 10 to 12 seconds, recording the acoustic vibrations that bounce back as a way to map the sea bottom. An engineer for the American Petroleum Institute euphemistically likens the practice to “a sonogram of the Earth.”

Riiiiighhhht … We use sonograms to check in on fetuses because the sound waves do them no harm. We conduct them in quiet, dark rooms causing little discomfort other than a squirt of cold jelly on the mom’s tummy. So let me ask you, does this look like a sonogram?
Acoustic noise, whether it’s seismic testing for oil and gas or sonar exercises conducted by the Navy, creates what some biologists call an “acoustic smog.” This smog interferes with the way marine mammals perceive the world. In a way, it’s like they go blind.
Whales use sound to eat, hunt, find mates, navigate, and communicate with their young and the rest of their pod. Sonic booms jeopardize all of those activities.
National Geographic reports that the government’s own estimates have the noise pollution injuring (potentially killing) more than 138,000 marine mammals, and disrupting the migration, feeding, and reproductive behaviors for 13.6 million others.

Seismic testing produces a cacophony nearly on par with exploding dynamite. In fact, the industry actually used to employ dynamite in its search for undersea oil and gas deposits before airguns became a safer alternative. (Safer for workers, that is. Not whales.)

“Whales use sound for virtually everything they do to survive and reproduce in the wild,” says Michael Jasny, a marine mammal expert with NRDC (which publishes OnEarth), “and when we make sounds on the order of an industrial seismic survey, we are fundamentally compromising the foundation on which marine life depends.”

And it’s not just about the nearby booms. Sonic waves pervade through entire ocean basins. In one study, scientists found that a single seismic test can drown out the low-frequency calls of endangered baleen whales for 10,000 square nautical miles — that’s larger than the state of West Virginia. Worse still, airguns can make endangered fin and humpback whales fall silent over areas of the ocean 10 times larger than that.

OK, so a whale’s survival and sense of serenity doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, but you should know that opening up the East Coast to offshore drilling would hit you in your stomach, too. Seismic surveys, studies show, negatively affect the fishing industry, reducing catch rates for cod, haddock, and rockfish. And I don’t need to remind you that the fossil fuels we haul out of the ocean exacerbate climate change, right? Offshore drilling, lest we forget, also risks oil spills that devastate whale, fish, and human communities.

“The use of seismic airguns is [the] first step to expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling to the Atlantic Ocean, bringing us one step closer to another disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Claire Douglass of Oceana told the Balitimore Sun.

Now that the path to drilling in the Atlantic is open, the fight to save marine life would require stopping oil and gas companies from getting permits for seismic testing and eventually, drilling. And if that doesn’t work, environmentalists might have to appeal to the courts. Remember, the oil and gas industry isn’t the only one who knows how to bring the noise. BOOM go lawsuits, too.
The Blaze
Obama Approves Offshore Oil Exploration Along East Coast, Greenie-Weenies Freak
Jul. 30, 2014 12:30pm
Humberto Fontova
Humberto Fontova is the author of four books including: The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro
After decades of paranoid hemming and hawing, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finally approved oil exploration in federal waters along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to Florida.

The hemming and hawing ended on July 17.

“The announcement is the first real step toward what could be a transformation in coastal states,” said the Associated Press report, “creating thousands of jobs to support a new energy infrastructure. But it dismayed environmentalists and people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism.”
Alas, this “dismay” afflicts only the greenie-weenies from Delaware to Florida. From New Jersey up through New England the greenie hysteria against offshore oil exploration prevailed. This superstition among the local worshippers of Earth Goddess Gaia proved as intractable as the one that once mandated burning witches by New Englanders no less “enlightened.”

“With today’s decision,” whined Claire Douglass, campaign director at the environmental group Oceana, “President Obama is bowing to pressure from Big Oil rather than listening to the thousands of voices calling on him to protect our natural resources and coastal economies.”

Well, allow me to present the call of “thousands of voices” and specifically from “people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism.” Their call, based on over half a century of experience with offshore oil production (including the ultimate test: the BP oil spill) says: “Drill, baby, drill!”

With over 3,000 of the 3,700 offshore oil and gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana is home to almost a third of North America’s commercial fisheries. As a trivial sideline, these oil production platforms also extract 80 percent of the oil and 72 percent of the natural gas produced in the continental U.S. This “sideline” (as us fanatical fishermen see it) by itself would offset the hardships (in any rational calculation of national priorities) of the relatively few “people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism.”

But a study by LSU’s sea grant college found that majority of Louisiana’s offshore fishing trips (among the state’s top tourist attraction) target these structures. Recreational fishing and diving trips to these structures generate an estimated 5,560 full time jobs and $324 million annually for Louisiana.

“Oil platforms as artificial reefs support fish densities 10 to 100 times that of adjacent sand and mud bottom, and almost always exceed fish densities found at both adjacent artificial reefs of other types and natural hard bottom,” says a study by Dr. Bob Shipp, professor at the Marine Sciences department of the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama, and currently, the vice-chair of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council.
In this April 21, 2010 file image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon.  (AP Photo/US Coast Guard, File)

In fact, the most prolific and diverse marine ecosystem ever recorded by marine scientists was created by offshore oil production. Acting as artificial reefs over the past half century, the teeming fish life, coral colonies, and “bio-diversity,” created by offshore oil platforms is amply documented in several studies commissioned by none other than the U.S. Department of the Interior.

One recent report by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Minerals (a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior) boasts that
fish densities are 20 to 50 times higher at oil and gas platforms than in nearby Gulf water, and each platform seasonally serves as critical habitat for 10 to 20,000 fishes.”

In fact, “villainous” big oil produces marine life at rates that puts to shame “wondrous” Earth Goddess Gaia.

“The fish Biomass around an offshore oil platform is 10 times greater per unit area than for natural coral reefs,” said Dr. Charles Wilson of LSU’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science [emphasis added]. “Ten to 30,000 adult fish live around an oil production platform in area half the size of a football field.”

“Evidence indicates that massive areas of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico were essentially empty of snapper stocks for the first hundred years of the fishery,” found the study by Dr. Shipp. “Subsequently, areas in the western Gulf have become the major source of red snapper, concurrent with the appearance of thousands of petroleum platforms.” [emphasis added]
More recently, the red snapper catch from the northwestern Gulf (Louisiana, studded with oil platforms) is estimated six to seven times greater than the catch from the eastern Gulf (bereft of oil platforms.) That this proliferation of seafood came because rather than in spite – of the oil production rattled many environmental cages and provoked a legion of scoffers.

Amongst the scoffers were some of The Travel Channel producers, fashionably greenish in their views. They read these claims in a book titled “The Helldiver’s Rodeo” (and Ted Nugent’s blurb sure didn’t help against their scoffing). The book described an undersea panorama that (if true) could make an interesting show for the network, they concluded, while still scoffing.

They scoffed as we rode in from the airport. They scoffed over raw oysters, grilled redfish and seafood gumbo that night. More scoffing through the hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s. They scoffed even while suiting up in dive gear and checking the cameras as we tied up to an oil platform 20 miles in the Gulf.

But they came out of the water bug-eyed and indeed produced and broadcast a Travel Channel program showcasing a panorama that turned on its head every environmental superstition against offshore oil drilling. Schools of fish filled the water column from top to bottom – from 6-inch blennies to 12-foot sharks. Fish by the thousands. Fish by the ton.
The cameras were going crazy. Do I focus on the shoals of barracuda? Or that cloud of jacks? On the immense schools of snapper below, or on the fleet of tarpon above? How ’bout this – WHOOOAA – hammerhead!

We had some close-ups, too, of coral and sponges, the very things disappearing off Florida’s (that bans offshore oil drilling) pampered reefs. Off Louisiana, they sprout in colorful profusion from the huge steel beams – acres of them. You’d never guess this was part of that unsightly structure above. The panorama of marine life around an offshore oil platform staggers anyone who puts on goggles and takes a peek, even (especially!) the most worldly scuba divers.
“Fine!” comes the greenie-weenie rebuttal. “But howze about the BP oil spill?!”
Well, after the spill, the FDA’s Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Seafood Inspection Laboratory, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, along with similar agencies from neighboring Gulf coast states, have methodically and repeatedly tested Gulf seafood for cancer-causing “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.”

“Not a single sample [for oil
or dispersant] has come anywhere close to levels of concern,” reported Olivia Watkins, executive media advisor for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

“All of the samples have been 100-fold or even 1,000-fold below all of these levels,” reports Bob Dickey, director of the FDA’s Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory. “Nothing ever came close to these levels.”

Fine!” snivel the greenie tinfoil-hatters. “But kindly define what constitutes this “level of concern.”

“The small amount of hydrocarbons in a seafood meal is much less than the exposure from pumping gas,” explained the Los Angeles Department of Health and Hospitals’ Dr. Jimmy Guidry.

“It’s all a conspiracy!” no doubt snivel the greenie tinfoil-hatters, “between big oil and Louisiana seafood processors and the FDA!”

But the facts suggest otherwise.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of five books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro.
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Times-Picayune: Should the government open more offshore areas to oil and gas drilling? VOTE NOW

vote now at:

This June 2011 file photo shows a drilling rig known as the Maersk Developer in the Gulf of Mexico about 250 miles off the coast of Louisiana in about 7,000 feet of water. (Photo provided by Exxon Mobil Corp.)
By Jennifer Larino, | The Times-Picayune
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 23, 2014 at 12:10 PM, updated July 23, 2014 at 12:12 PM
More than two-thirds of American voters support increased oil and natural gas drilling offshore, though many think the federal government is not doing enough to encourage activity, according to an American Petroleum Institute poll released Wednesday (July 23).

Do you support increased oil and gas production in federal waters offshore? Take the reader survey below and share your opinion in the comments.

The API poll found 68 percent of registered voters surveyed support offshore drilling. That included about 80 percent of Republican voters, 72 percent of Independent voters and 61 percent of Democrat voters.

About one quarter of respondents said they think the U.S. government does enough to encourage oil and gas development on federal lands and waters.

The telephone poll, conducted by Harris Poll between July 10 and 13, surveyed 1,012 registered voters nationwide. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.  

Should the federal government open more offshore areas to oil and gas drilling?



I’m not sure. I’ll explain why in the comment section.

View Results

It comes as the Obama administration drafts its latest five-year plan for selling oil and gas leases offshore. The plan will take effect starting in 2017.

Last Friday (July 18) the administration said it would allow the energy industry to search for oil and gas under Atlantic waters using seismic testing, potentially paving the way for drilling in the area.

Environmentalists argue the testing, which uses air guns and noisy sonic blasts, is harmful to marine life.

In a conference call with reporters, Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for API, said the poll results show the government needs to open development in the Atlantic as well as parts of the Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico currently off limits to oil and gas companies.

“Clearly voters do not think energy should be a partisan issue,” Milito said. 

What do you think?


Special thanks to Richard Charter Sally Jewell Obama’s Pro-Fracking Climate Czar

Jewell wants the government to continue to raise money from energy producers to pay for sea walls, wetlands restoration, and other measures that will make communities more resilient to climate change. She also wants to reform oil and gas permitting so that industry gets permission faster, while underwriting environmental impact evaluations and inspections Interior can’t afford. And it’s not just for fossil fuels, Jewell says. The U.S. needs the same arrangement-faster permit processing in exchange for fees from industry for safety analysis-from wind and other renewable energy producers.
For offshore oil and gas production, Jewell says, it works. Onshore, it doesn’t. “So we’re criticized for not processing permits fast enough,” she says. “And we have a report from the [U.S. Government Accountability Office] saying we’re not inspecting high-risk wells. And we can’t do that because we don’t have the resources. So we’re working with members of Congress and in the industry to say let’s be rational about matching supply and demand.”
Sally Jewell: Obama's Pro-Fracking Climate CzarPhotograph by Benjamin Rasmussen

Sally Jewell has just seen a ghost. Several, really. As she enters the aisle between two rows of eight-foot-tall shelving units, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has come face to face with more than a dozen severed tiger heads. She lets out a quiet “ooh,” somewhere between gasp and sigh. The heads are all taxidermied—jaws open, fangs bared, startled eyes, comprising a gallery of silent roars. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFW) officer tells Jewell how few of these cats remain in the wild; such trophies can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. Jewell listens and, moving down the aisle, reflects on how values take time to change—until they do. When she was little, she recalls, her gram owned a snow leopard coat. Later, when her grandmother learned it was from an endangered species, she donated it to a zoo.

Jewell is touring the National Wildlife Property Repository, a 10,000-square-foot facility outside Denver where items made from protected animals get cataloged. The warehouse calls to mind the conclusion of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Instead of crated artifacts, however, it’s packed with the remains of animals: tortoise shells; a trunk of shawls made from the wool of a Chiru, a Tibetan antelope; bear claws; ivory shards. As the tour continues, Jewell has a suggestion for Steve Oberholtzer, who runs the repository: invite the fashion trade. “When they see this stuff close up,” she says, “the message will get through, and they’ll be more careful about their sources.”

The policing of poachers, smugglers, and exotic pet owners is but one of the federal functions Jewell supervises, and although it keeps 205 agents busy full time, it’s one of the smaller ones. Interior manages more than 500 million acres, one-fifth of all the land in the U.S., on an annual budget of $12 billion. It controls 23 percent of the nation’s energy supply—mostly oil, gas, and coal on federal lands—and last year disbursed $14.2 billion in energy revenue to federal agencies and state, local, and tribal communities. Interior is also the largest wholesaler of water in 17 Western states, a life-and-death matter for thousands of farms and rural communities. And, of course, it runs more than a thousand parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges, natural and cultural attractions estimated in 2011 to contribute, through tourism, $48.7 billion to the economy. In all, the department estimates that its “value added” economic activity and production contributed $200 billion to the U.S. economy during 2013. (Interior appears to prefer this “value added” figure to straight income because it still spends more than it takes in.)

The agencies that comprise Interior are almost comically at odds with one another. The Bureau of Reclamation operates dams that disrupt fisheries. The USFW endeavors to keep fisheries robust. The U.S. Geological Survey studies rising seas’ impact on coastal areas. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Development facilitates deep-sea drilling permits. The department restores Superfund sites, most notably at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, where the U.S. military made sarin gas during World War II. On the Rocky Mountain Front, the department promotes fracking, a drilling technique that environmentalists contend is toxic. “One of the best ways to tell if we’re doing something right is when both sides are ticked off at us,” Cecil Andrus, President Jimmy Carter’s Interior secretary, famously told an assistant.

Jewell, 58, seems uniquely qualified to balance these contradictions. The former CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., a Seattle-based outdoor gear and apparel retailer, she worked previously as a commercial banker, starting at a regional bank assessing the value of oil and gas reserves as debt collateral. “From your résumé, I can see you worked on the Alaska pipeline, and you’re an oil and gas engineer,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) began, recapping her CV during her April 2013 confirmation hearing. He sought—and got—her mostly nodded affirmation for each point: “And you said you once fracked a well? You were a banker for 20 years? The chief executive officer of a billion-dollar company?” He paused dramatically. “How did you get appointed by this administration?!”

When asked if her values as an outdoorswoman and conservationist conflict with her fossil fuel expertise, Jewell says, “There’s no reconciling to be done.” It’s the day after her repository tour, and she’s sitting in the lobby of a Hampton Inn & Suites in Las Cruces, N.M. “I’m going to be flying home on an airplane. Planes burn fossil fuels. So I don’t think we can afford to be hypocritical,” she says. “I just think we need to open our eyes and understand that these things have tradeoffs. And we need to apply our ingenuity to a future that we didn’t understand in the ’70s and ’80s, when we were really focused solely on fossil fuels.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter.

WWNT Radio: Senators Push Administration for Expanded Offshore Drilling in Next 5-Year OCS Leasing Plan
25 Jun 2014 3:07 PM
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) sent a letter to Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of Interior, regarding the Department’s oil and gas leasing plan for 2017 through 2022 on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
“You now have a final opportunity during the Obama Administration to put forward a plan that will not only generate substantial government revenues, create jobs, and improve the economy of our nation, but also could yield long-term geopolitical benefits through ensuring a decreased reliance on foreign resources,” wrote the Senators. “Given the tremendously positive impacts that opening these waters to new drilling would have, we respectfully advise that now is not the time to play politics with such a decision.”
In the letter, the Senators request that Interior’s 5-year leasing plan includes the expansion of offshore access to include areas off the Atlantic Coast, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, areas off the coast of Southern California, and multiple areas off the Alaska shoreline that the Obama Administration had previously placed off-limits. A recent study concluded that developing oil and gas resources in the Pacific OCS and Eastern Gulf alone would generate more than 200,000 jobs and add $218 billion to the U.S. economy.
Since President Obama was elected, Vitter has been urging the Administration to stop putting large portions of the OCS off limits for leasing. The President’s current 5-year leasing plan is only half of what the previous plan was and keeps 85 percent offshore areas closed. At the beginning of this Congress, Vitter
introduced legislation that would force the administration to go back to the previous 5-year leading plan that was scheduled before Obama was elected. Vitter also introduced the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act that increases domestic production, expedites important reviews for major energy projects, and could create millions of jobs.
Text of today’s letter is below.
Click here for the PDF version.
June 25, 2014
The Honorable Sally Jewell
Department of Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Jewell:
Beginning the process of developing the Department of Interior’s (DOI) next 5-year leasing plan is an important step to furthering our nation’s goals of providing a secure, stable source of domestic energy, leading us towards energy independence and improving our hobbled economy.  This latest leasing plan, which will govern oil and gas leasing for 2017-2022 on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), should serve as an important step in rectifying the self-inflicted damage done by President Obama’s moratorium on energy development in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the unnecessary termination of the proposed 2010-2015 leasing program that would have rightfully expanded, rather than restricted, access to our federal offshore resources.
As we have pointed out in the past, Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) requires that these 5-year leasing plans be designed to “best meet national energy needs for the 5-year period following its approval.”  The Administration clearly failed to follow the intent of the OCSLA in the previous lease plan by placing over 85% of America’s OCS off-limits to energy production and offering the lowest number of offshore lease sales ever offered in the history of the process.  You now have a final opportunity during the Obama Administration to put forward a plan that will not only generate substantial government revenues, create jobs, and improve the economy of our nation as well as states and localities, but could have long-term geopolitical benefits through ensuring a decreased reliance on foreign resources in light of a deteriorating situation in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
The current Obama DOI lease plan, under which you are currently operating, excludes areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) where expansion had significant bipartisan support.  In response, the House of Representatives has sent a clear signal by passing multiple bipartisan bills that call for opening new offshore areas that the Obama administration placed off-limits in their misguided 2012-2017 lease plan. Further, a bipartisan coalition of governors from Gulf Coast and Mid-Atlantic states have recognized the significant economic and job creation benefits of offshore energy production and have repeatedly encouraged the administration to expand offshore access to states that have been blocked from participating in the process. The administration’s lost opportunity included leasing off the Atlantic Coast, significant acreage in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, areas off the coast of Southern California, and multiple areas off the Alaska shoreline.  If this new lease plan is to have any credibility, it is imperative that these areas be opened and included in the new plan.
Study after study has shown the positive impacts of expanding offshore oil and gas development in regions that this Administration has blocked.  A study by Wood Mackenzie concluded that developing oil and gas resources in the Pacific OCS and Eastern Gulf alone would generate more than 200,000 jobs and add $218 billion to the U.S. economy.  A recent study by Quest Offshore Resources also found that oil and gas development in the Atlantic could generate nearly 280,000 jobs, expanding the U.S. economy by up to $23.5 billion.  To further underscore the incredible economic potential of offshore oil and gas development, previous reports have even found that simply speeding up permitting could create hundreds of thousands of jobs nationally and over 155,000 in our states alone. 
The opportunity for offshore oil and natural gas production provides a significantly positive contrast when compared to offshore wind energy production, which the Administration has spent significant resources pushing.  Wind leases net the government $1 to $2 per acre versus $100 per acre for oil and natural gas energy resources in the deepwater.  In addition, there is strong indication that the royalty rate for wind energy is a fraction of the tax credit it receives, meaning the government will end up with a net loss of revenue on each project. Moreover, we are unaware of any operating offshore wind facility at this stage despite significant commitment of resources and time by this Administration.  With the wind energy production tax subsidy slated to expire at the end of 2014, we cannot imagine any circumstances in which an offshore wind farm is competitive and question why the Administration has devoted many resources to promoting the offshore wind industry when the benefits of developing more domestic oil and gas are proven. 
A recent analysis by Mark P. Mills, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, found the following:
 * In the 10 states at the epicenter of oil & gas growth, overall statewide employment gains have greatly outpaced the national average.
 * A broad array of small and midsize oil & gas companies are propelling record economic and jobs gains-not just in the oil fields but across the economy.
 * America’s hydrocarbon revolution and its associated job creation are almost entirely the result of drilling & production by more than 20,000 small and midsize businesses, not a handful of “Big Oil” companies. In fact, the typical firm in the oil & gas industry employs fewer than 15 people.
 * The shale oil & gas revolution has been the nation’s biggest single creator of solid, middle-class jobs-throughout the economy, from construction to services to information technology.
 * In recent years, America’s oil & gas boom has added $300-$400 billion annually to the economy.  Without this contribution, GDP growth would have been negative and the nation would have continued to be in recession.
Given the tremendously positive impacts that opening these waters to new drilling would have on our struggling economy, the massive job creation an expanded plan would yield, and the foreign policy benefits from expanding domestic fossil fuel production as unrest increases in areas of the world such as the Middle East and Russia, we respectfully advise that now is not the time to play politics with such a decision.  This administration and the DOI should take this opportunity to strengthen both the American economy as well as our geopolitical standing by issuing a 5-year leasing plan that expands offshore access to new areas consistent with our nation’s energy and economic needs.
David Vitter
U.S. Senator
Roger Wicker
U.S. Senator
Jeff Sessions
U.S. Senator
Tim Scott
U.S. Senator
South Carolina
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Tampa Bay Times: Scott’s stake in oil company tied to Collier drilling riles environmentalists

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, “I put everything in a blind trust, so I don’t know what’s in the blind trust.”


Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, “I put everything in a blind trust, so I don’t know what’s in the blind trust.”

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s six-figure stake in a French energy company is angering environmentalists because the firm is involved in oil drilling in Collier County, near the Everglades.

Scott and the Cabinet oversee the Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates oil drilling in Florida, and Scott has invested in businesses that could be regulated by DEP and other state agencies.

Asked if he supports drilling in a county where he owns a $9.2 million home, Scott did not directly answer. He said: “You’ll have to talk to DEP.”

To avoid conflicts, Scott put his wealth in a blind trust three years ago, and an adviser is assigned to manage Scott’s money without his knowledge.

“I put everything in a blind trust, so I don’t know what’s in the blind trust,” Scott said last week.

In 2011, the original blind trust showed a $135,000 investment in Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s largest oil services company.

Its stock has risen steadily over the past year and trades at $107 a share, but the blind trust prevents the public from knowing whether Scott still has a stake in the company — or whether it has grown.

The leader of a citizens group opposed to drilling is one of numerous people alarmed at Scott’s past, and possibly continuing, financial ties to Schlumberger.

“This makes a huge difference to me,” said Joe Mulé, president of Preserve Our Paradise.

Learning of the Schlumberger tie, Mulé said he’s more suspicious of DEP’s layoffs of dozens of employees charged with regulating polluters in 2012.

“It’s very two-faced,” said Alexis Meyer, who runs a Sierra Club program to protect panther habitats in Southwest Florida. “To have a governor who invests our money for Everglades restoration but also supports a company that wants to drill in the Everglades makes me very uncomfortable.”

Schlumberger helped apply for a DEP permit so that a Texas oil company, the Dan A. Hughes Co., can use a drilling technique that uses acid to create cracks in the rock and then a gel mixed with sand to hold the cracks open.

“Schlumberger Water Services has been involved primarily in the permitting of the saltwater injection wells for Dan A. Hughes and has assisted with the oil well permit application,” said Stephen Harris, a Schlumberger spokesman.

Harris said Schlumberger also performed groundwater monitoring and a review of abandoned oil wells on behalf of Collier Resources, which holds the mineral rights to the drill site. Schlumberger has no involvement in drilling operations, he said.

Hughes has denied it has used hydraulic fracturing to crack limestone, a process known as fracking. The company agreed to a $25,000 fine for an unauthorized second acid treatment and, in a consent order with DEP, agreed to hire an independent expert to monitor groundwater for possible contamination.

Hughes’ operation has drawn opposition from Collier residents because the drilling is near a residential area known as Golden Gate Estates and close to the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge.

The project also has created a major rift between DEP and the Collier County Commission.

Commissioners have voted to challenge the consent order and claim DEP is not demanding enough oversight of Hughes.

The county and residents accused DEP of excessive secrecy in its dealings with Hughes.

DEP urged the county to drop its challenge, saying it will remove any obligations on Hughes until all lawsuits are settled. But DEP on Friday sent the county a more conciliatory letter, saying it “is committed to working with you . . . to be good stewards of Florida’s natural resources.”

Scott’s campaign spokesman, Matt Moon, said the Schlumberger investment was not made by Scott but by an external brokerage, C.L. King & Associates, that manages part of Scott’s portfolio.

Schlumberger was one of more than three dozen securities accounts managed by King that in 2011 had a value of $21.4 million.

Scott’s overall net worth last year was $83.8 million.

“In 2011, Governor Scott disclosed his investment in an externally managed brokerage account,” Moon said. “He placed those assets in a blind trust so he would have no knowledge if his investments in this brokerage account were bought, sold or changed.”

Environmentalists said Scott’s investment in an oil services company raises questions.

“It means that Rick Scott is in this business,” said David Guest, an attorney for Earthjustice. “It changes how you see him if you know he’s an investor in this business.”

Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said she’s troubled that a geologist from Schlumberger was hired by Collier Resources to reassure the county that old wells were plugged properly and that no contamination resulted.

“The only consultant who says it’s safe is the same consultant who worked on the permitting of the project,” Hecker said.

Scott and the three elected Cabinet members jointly oversee DEP.

Scott has frequently praised the performance of DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard.

Scott, who faces re-election in November, has said he is proud of his environmental record and cited ending years of litigation over Everglades protection.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done for the environment. There’s always more to do,” Scott said at a DEP event earlier this year.

Scott’s blind trust received the approval of the state Commission on Ethics in 2011. Last year the Legislature passed a law that regulated blind trusts, and the ethics agency approved Scott’s trust a second time.

The law is under challenge in a state lawsuit by Jim Apthorp, a former top aide to the late Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, who says that blind trusts violate the state Constitution’s requirement that officials provide a “full” disclosure of their finances.

Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Scott’s stake in oil company tied to Collier drilling riles environmentalists 06/13/14 [Last modified: Saturday, June 14, 2014 6:19pm]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

Santa Cruz Sentinel: Santa Cruz County first to ban fracking


Unanimous vote prohibits underground oil production
By Jason Hoppin @scnewsdude on Twitter
POSTED: 05/20/2014 03:02:54 PM PDT

Santa Cruz
Fracking ban supporters celebrate on the courthouse steps after Santa Cruz County Supervisors…

Adding another trophy to a case full of environmental firsts, the county of Santa Cruz on Tuesday banned fracking, becoming the only one in California to do so.

The unanimous 5-0 vote by the Board of Supervisors came without objection, and places Santa Cruz County at the vanguard of a growing number of cities and counties weighing constraints on the controversial oil development method, even as the state readies stricter new rules governing the industry.

“This is a historic decision and it’ll be looked back on as visionary. And it will hopefully spur other counties to do similar things, and to prevent harm before it happens,” said Joy Hinz, a Scotts Valley resident.


The move, however, is largely symbolic: There are no known oil leases in Santa Cruz County, nor has it been targeted by oil prospectors. Fewer than a dozen people spoke to the board before Tuesday’s vote, which was followed by a small rally outside the County Governmental Center.

While the state regulates underground wells, Tuesday’s vote bans above-ground production support facilities. In doing so, the new law echoes a similar local effort from the 1980s to ban facilities for offshore oil drilling, an effective regulatory tool that became a model for coastal communities across California.

Fracking involves extracting previous untapped sources of oil and gas by injecting a slurry of water, sand and chemicals into wells, creating fracture in underground rock formations. Boom towns have been erected on barren plains, bringing with them controversy over what kind of long-term damage is being done to the environment.

The issue has moved to the fore on the Central Coast because of the Monterey Shale, a vast rock formation lying more than a mile underground that extends south through the San Joaquin Valley. The U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates it to hold nearly 14 billion barrels of untapped oil.

The county ban covers all oil development, and Supervisor John Leopold, the architect of the law, cited the environmental and health risks. While fracked wells use water located far below drinking water aquifers, among Leopold’s concerns is that wells could be breached and contaminate scarce local supplies.

“Since we’ve been considering this, I’ve heard from colleagues from around the state wanting to know what we were doing, trying to figure out the strategy, concerned about the prevalence of this practice here in California. It’s important for Santa Cruz to take a stand,” Leopold said.


Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy Future, a coalition of business and taxpayer groups that formed last month, said the industry not only supplies oil to California, but jobs as well.

Fracking has been a part of the state’s oil industry since the 1950s, and oil now provides 468,000 jobs and $40 billion in personal income, as well as $21 billion in state and local taxes, Lockhart said.

Citing a study by Fresno State, Lockhart said the Monterey Shale could add thousands more jobs and billions more in income and tax revenues, pointing out the state is in the process of enacting new rules on chemical disclosure, well-integrity and drinking water testing, and landowner notification.

Environmentalists’ true goal, she added, is to shut down the state’s oil industry.

“They’re using fear rather than facts to scare the public. They’re using hydraulic fracturing as a Trojan horse to ban all oil production,” Lockhart said.

Butte, Santa Barbara and San Benito counties are all considering fracking bans. Beverly Hills also recently passed a ban, becoming the first city to do so.

The grassroots activism is being driven, in part, by environmentalists’ frustration with the state Legislature, and especially Gov. Jerry Brown, for not taking a tougher stand on the issue. Last year, Brown signed a new law that not only toughens fracking rules, but also calls for an statewide environmental impact report on the practice.

Asked on CNN recently why he continued to allow fracking given the state’s drought problems, Brown pointed out that California is a leading consumer of oil, and that the state has a long history with domestic production that relies heavily on fracking.

“We’re not going to shut down a third of our oil production and force more oil coming from North Dakota, where they are fracking a lot more, and coming by train or boats or ships from all over the world,” Brown said.

Dan Haifley, executive director of the O’Neill Sea Odyssey, was instrumental in passing the local ban on offshore drilling. He pointed out that while the ban is symbolic, it also acts as a safeguard against an uncertain future.

Furthermore, Haifley saw it as the beginning of local municipalities taking the lead on the issue.
“This is very similar to the effort to ban plastic bags city by city, county by county, because it was felt that in Sacramento no progress can be made,” Haifley said. “This is taking matters into your own hands.”

Local residents who backed the ban are also thinking big.

“I consider the whole idea of fracking to be an insanity, especially in a state where drought is such a problem,” said Live Oak resident Carol Beatty. “My vision is for (the ban) to spread throughout the whole state and throughout the whole country.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Huffington Post: Read The Secret Trade Memo Calling For More Fracking and Offshore Drilling

Posted: 05/19/2014 6:00 am EDT Updated: 4 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The European Union is pressing the Obama administration to expand U.S. fracking, offshore oil drilling and natural gas exploration under the terms of a secret negotiation text obtained by The Huffington Post.

The controversial document is an early draft of energy policies that EU negotiators hope to see adopted under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal, which is currently being negotiated. The text was shared with American officials in September. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative declined to comment on the document.

Environmental groups fear the broad language proposed for the deal would eliminate key restrictions on the export of crude oil and natural gas, fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. The document marks the first major bone of contention in the EU deal, amid an outcry from environmentalists over leaked terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a separate pact that the U.S. and 11 Pacific nations are also negotiating.
“Exports of energy goods to the other Party shall be deemed automatically to comply with any conditions and tests foreseen in the Parties’ respective legislation for the granting of export licenses,” the memo reads, defining “energy goods” as “coal, crude oil, oil products, natural gas, whether liquefied or not, and electrical energy.”

The U.S. government treats trade negotiation texts as classified information. Previous leaks concerning the EU deal have focused on lighter topics, including whether American cheesemakers can call their products “feta” or “parmesan.”

By encouraging more crude oil and natural gas exports to the EU — a massive economic force that uses a tremendous amount of global energy — the proposal could spur more domestic oil and gas drilling and discourage the development of green energy in the EU, dealing a significant blow to efforts to avert climate change. Some environmental and citizens groups also object to the fracking process itself — in which a high-pressure mixture of chemicals, water, and sand is injected into rock formations to release natural gas — because of concerns that it might affect groundwater supplies.

“Encouraging trade in dirty fossil fuels would mean more dangerous fracking here in the U.S. and would push more climate-disrupting fuels into the European Union,” Ilana Solomon, director of the Responsible Trade Program at Sierra Club, told HuffPost. “The oil and gas industry is the only winner in this situation.”

The U.S. banned crude oil exports in 1975, and imposes a host of restrictions on the export of natural gas for both economic and national security reasons. But the president can issue special licenses to exempt some crude oil exports from the ban, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said this month that he wants to consider relaxing it.

There has also been an increasing push to loosen constraints on natural gas exports from the U.S. to Europe, particularly as the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine has grown, highlighting Europe’s dependency on Russian energy. Although burning natural gas produces lower emissions than oil or coal, the energy-intensive storage and shipping process — liquefying the gas and then sending it in fuel-burning vessels — eliminates many of its advantages. And critics of gas say that increasing exports would only increase reliance on fossil fuels, rather than speeding the transition to renewables. It would also likely increase energy prices in the U.S., although the effects of the deal would not come to fruition for several years.

Free trade agreements frequently bind all of their participants to a specific regulatory regime, hindering the deployment of future regulations in response to new problems. Trade pacts are enforced by international courts, which can issue economic sanctions against countries that violate the deals. The proposed EU language would run counter to existing environmental standards that limit the development of the fossil fuel industry.

“It expands a trend in trade negotiations of removing policy decisions from national and local governments and enshrining those policy decisions in international trade laws,” said Sarah Burt, an attorney with the environmentalist legal organization Earthjustice, who has seen the document. Those negotiations, said Burt, happen outside of the public eye and are an “opaque process where trade and economics are elevated above any other values.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Clean Ocean Action: Memorial Day Action at Rutgers University opposes Seismic Testing off New Jersey

**For Immediate Release**

May 21, 2014

Contact Clean Ocean Action at (732) 872-0111:
Jennifer Cubias, Press Inquiries

To Stop Rutgers Ocean Blasting Study
Citizens Launch Campaign over Memorial Day Weekend!
Fishing, Boating, and Environmental Groups unite to
Save Marine Life and Jersey Shore Economies;
Banner Planes to Fly

WHAT: The clock is ticking-Citizens will launch a public awareness campaign to stop the study lead by Rutgers University that will blast the ocean floor with devastatingly harmful sounds to track historical changes in sea level rise, set to begin June 3, 2014. An update and status of the issues will be discussed; banner planes will fly overhead which will be flown along the Shore over the holiday weekend; petition drive and letters to key decision makers will also be released.

WHO: Clean Ocean Action, commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, commercial boaters and concerned citizens. Elected officials have been invited.

WHEN: Friday, May 23, 2014, 11:00am
The Fisherman’s Dock Cooperative
57 Channel Drive
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742

WHY: As the Memorial Weekend kicks off the summer tourist season, it is imperative citizens and tourists know the pending impacts this study could have on their time at the Shore. The Jersey Shore economies are at stake as the technologies used in this study will impact all marine life in the area, with effects ranging from harassment to death, including mammal strandings on beaches.

PHOTO OP: Commercial fishing docks with boats, Charter boats nearby, banner plane with campaign slogan/call-to-action, retail fish market.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Collier County, FL to file against state, drillers over Everglades fracking-like procedures


Steve Doane, 2:43 p.m. EDT May 14, 2014

(Photo: Andrew West/News-Press)

Story Highlights

County to ask for administrative hearing against DEP, Hughes Company over violations
DEP offered mitigation and settlement talks, but Collier board opts for public hearing
Conservancy will join in eventual administrative action

Collier County will challenge the state on its settlement over claimed drilling violations.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Collier County commission voted to request an administrative hearing from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to protest a consent order between the agency and a Texas drilling company over an unauthorized fracking-like procedure.

The county wants the DEP to revoke the Dan A. Hughes Co.’s permit, or at least amend it with stricter terms.

“What we do now is going to set the stage for what happens over the next 20-25 years,” Commissioner Fred Coyle said. “Pumping chemicals into the ground to extract oil in Collier County has serious implications for our residents.”

Once filed, the DEP will review the county’s petition to determine if it has legal standing for an administrative review. If so, the case will be forwarded to the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

Prior to the meeting, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida announced it would intervene in any administrative law action.

Fred Coyle.jpg

Fred Coyle(Photo: Special to

“We are now assured of a public process, and that’s a win for the public,” said Robert Moher, president and CEO of the conservancy.

Last month the DEP fined Hughes $25,000 and ordered it to hire a third party to determine if its activities contaminated Collier aquifers.

The order came in response to an “enhanced extraction procedure” the company used at its Collier-Hogan well southwest of Lake Trafford this winter.

The procedure hadn’t been used before in Florida and a description provided by DEP resembles hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The company denies that claim, but agreed to halt new operations earlier this month.

In its meeting in April, the board instructed County Attorney Jeff Katzlow to draft a formal petition to the state. After that meeting Katzlow was contacted by DEP’s general council about arranging private settlement talks with the agency and the company in Tallahassee to mitigate county concerns, according to county documents.

Katzlow brought this offer before the board Tuesday for approval.

“We need to challenge their permit to find out what the effects were, on the ground,” said Commissioner Tom Henning.

Before the board voted, the Conservancy spoke about what its own investigations had found, including an improperly sealed oil well from 1948 less than 200 feet from the Collier-Hogan’s drilling vector.

The unsealed well extends thousands of feet underground and could provide a corridor for drilling chemicals to bypass containing rock layers into aquifers, said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the conservancy.

Special thanks to Roger Dobrynyi

350.0rg: Good news from Capitol Hill re: Keystone XL

by Jason Kowalski

May 8 (6 days ago)


I’ve spent the last week running around Washington DC talking to Senators and our allies on Capitol Hill to defeat the latest attempt to push Keystone XL through Congress.

Today I have some good news: it looks like this bill will be going down in defeat without ever coming to the floor. Thanks to your phone calls and work in the streets in key states across the US, Big Oil realized they didn’t have the votes to pass Keystone XL, and are pulling back.

What made the difference in this push was the work of organizers and our allies who stepped up to organize actions outside of key Senators’ offices, combined with the flood of phone calls to DC offices that showed that the opposition to Keystone XL remains as strong as ever.

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is in a strange position: he says he believes in climate science, but also says he supports the pipeline. However, after we shut down his DC phone lines w calls, and held an action in front of his Miami office, Sen. Nelson did some mental gymnastics to swing our way. He’s now saying that he supports Keystone but *only* if 100% of the oil stays in the US, which he knows is a condition that Big Oil refuses to accept. This should be much simpler: either Sen. Nelson believes in climate science, or he wants to build a giant tar sands pipeline. He should be taking a stronger stand.

Just the threat of more actions from our network was enough to move some Senators off the fence — which is a very high compliment to our work. Don’t take my word for it though: here are just a few of the news articles about the vote that pay tribute to the work of organizers and our allies:

“Keystone Pipeline Backers, Opponents Spar Ahead Of Vote,” Associated Press, May 5th

“Senators push Keystone XL vote for political gain,” The Ed Show, May 7th.

“Denver Calls on Colorado Senators to Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline,” EcoWatch, May 8th.

“KXL Activists Blast Pro-Keystone Dems in Senate” Common Dreams, May 5th.

Of course, it’s always possible that there will be new attempts to push the pipeline through Congress. But every time they fail, it makes the next push more difficult for Big Oil. In the weird world of Washington, this is what progress looks like, and you are an essential part of making it happen.

High fives all around,


The Downstream Project 2014: The Year of Living Dangerously


Winter brought us the MCHM spill in the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia and the coal ash release into North Carolina’s Dan River. Suddenly, spring seems just as frightening. Last week, a CSX train carrying crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia, shooting flames into the air and releasing an estimated 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the adjacent James River. Just a day later, another CSX train derailed near Bowie, Maryland dumping several containers of coal onto the ground.

Thankfully, the James River derailment didn’t affect Lynchburg’s drinking water, according to news reports, and officials were able to warn Richmond and other communities directly downstream to shift to other sources if necessary until the pulse of oil flowed past on the fast moving river. The Bowie derailment doesn’t seem to have affected drinking water either (although few details have emerged in the media about this accident, perhaps because the Lynchburg spill offered a much more dramatic story) and no one was killed in either incident. But it does kind of make you wonder: Why are all these accidents happening now? And, for those of us who live in the Mid-Atlantic: Why are they happening in my back yard?

It’s hard to find a specific common denominator in this winter’s regional disasters. Commentators and advocates blame West Virginia’s MCHM spill in large part on lax environmental rules that allowed a chemical storage facility to sit upstream from the capital city’s water intake and avoid tank inspections by state and federal regulators. Many also blame an impotent Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the federal law covering industrial chemicals like MCHM – for the confusion among public health officials about when it was safe to drink the water. In North Carolina, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently charged Duke Energy with violating state and federal stormwater and wastewater requirements after facing public criticism for being too lax on polluters.
Yet a quick read through recent news reports shows that last week’s James River disaster reflects a dangerous national (even continental) trend: Other trains carrying oil have derailed in recent months, including into Philadelphia’s Schuykill River in January and in western Pennsylvania in February.

Just one week before the Lynchburg derailment, railroad representatives testified before the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that current standards for carrying oil are inadequate. The industry itself adopted stronger tank standards in 2011, after realizing that the older models could puncture too easily. But with a recent surge in Bakken oil production, some companies still rely on older tanks to meet the growing demand for North Dakota crude. And railroads and safety officials acknowledge that even the post-2011 cars are inadequate. According to news reports, 14 of the 17 rail cars that released oil into the James River were newer models.

Two other fiery train accidents – including a December derailment in North Dakota and a deadly disaster that killed 47 people last July in the town of Lac Megantic in Quebec – prompted the NTSB to call for greater precautions in conjunction with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. In doing so, it noted that crude oil transport by rail has increased 400 percent since 2005 but safety measures haven’t kept pace. The Department of Transportation reportedly submitted proposed new rail car standards to the White House for review soon after the James River accident.
NTSB and others worry about crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale deposit for two reasons: One, it’s more flammable than many other kinds of oil and, two, the hydraulic fracking boom in North Dakota has rapidly increased the amount of Bakken oil traveling in rail cars across the country to coastal ports – from 10,000 carloads in 2009 to 400,000 in 2013 according to National Public Radio. The train passing through Lynchburg was on its way to an oil transfer terminal in Yorktown, Virginia that has become a regional hub for shipping North Dakota oil to East Coast refineries. In fact, in a March letter to Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr. of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation expressed concern about the estimated 800 trains, each expected to carry 60,000 to 65,000 gallons of oil, traveling into Yorktown annually in coming years. It urged the Coast Guard to evaluate the risk of oil spills and its readiness to deal with them.

As reporter Curtis Tate of McClatchy news service notes, rivers are particularly vulnerable to rail accidents because so many major lines were built along gentle river grades to ease transport. Rail lines along the James River, New York’s Hudson River and the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River serve as major routes for shipping interior crude to coastal facilities and opposition along these routes is now growing.

Safety and drinking water are major concerns, of course, but there’s also river life itself and the health of ecosystems downstream. The spring rush of high water in the James River might have flushed most of the 30,000 gallons of spilled oil downriver, but pollution like that doesn’t just disappear. It lingers on the banks, smothers vegetation and enters the food web. As Pat Calvert of the James River Association told Tate, his organization measured an oil slick 17 miles long on the river after the accident. They’ll keep monitoring the river in coming weeks and months to track environmental impacts – particularly on vulnerable shad and herring – long after the flames have died, the tracks repaired, and hundreds of other trains start speeding along the James once again.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

National Wildlife Federation: Lost at Sea: Study Estimates Around 800,000 Birds Killed During BP Oil Spill & NYT: Still Counting Gulf Spill’s Dead Birds

from Wildlife Promise
0 5/8/2014 // By Daniel Hubbell

An oiled pelican, photo by the Louisiana Governor’s Office

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the New York Times is reporting on a new study that calculates 600,000-800,000 sea birds were directly killed by oil. The researcher team includes Dr. Jeffrey Short, a veteran of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who has studied the Exxon Valdez oil spill extensively. That spill is thought to have killed around 300,000 sea birds.


New York Times

Still Counting Gulf Spill’s Dead Birds

Flock of gulls
A flock of gulls rose as an oil spill response boat passed by at the mouth of Barataria Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.
Credit: Mark Schrope

After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew out in the Gulf of Mexico some 50 miles from the nearest land, responders were left to cope with a search area of nearly 40,000 square miles, as well as wind and currents that kept evidence of damage away from the more easily searchable coastline.

Patrollers recovered fewer than 3,000 dead birds. But some had suspected that many more were unaccounted for.

Now a team of scientists has tried to quantify the extent of damage inflicted on the gulf’s bird population from the oil spill caused by the explosion. Based on models using publicly available data, the studies estimated that about 800,000 birds died in coastal and offshore waters.

“Part of the reason they discovered so few carcasses is because the oceanographic currents for the most part moved them away,” said Jeffrey Short, a marine chemist and a co-author of the studies.

The findings are bound to be disputed. The science of calculating the number of birds affected in such a catastrophe remains imprecise, and studies by BP and the federal government are not yet publicly available for comparison.

The studies also illustrate the difficulty of calculating a death toll in geographically difficult circumstances – and of establishing a figure that is widely accepted, particularly amid legal battles.

Dr. Short and two colleagues conducted the studies for two law firms representing clients with environmental impact claims against BP stemming from the explosion of the rig on April 20, 2010.

Dr. Short spent most of his 31-year career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studying the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and mired in resulting lawsuits. Chris Haney, another of the authors, is the chief scientist for Defenders of Wildlife, which has been involved in lawsuits against BP.

In a statement, Jason Ryan, a spokesman for BP America, questioned the objectivity of the researchers. He also questioned their methodology, arguing that some of the authors’ assumptions are not supported by data collected for the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a collaborative effort by the responsible parties and the federal government that is required after major oil spills.

While the damage assessment studies are not complete, “analysis of field observations conducted to date indicate that population and nesting impacts from the spill on birds were limited,” said Mr. Ryan, adding that BP intended to publish bird and other data online at

While the ratio of deaths to carcasses varies from spill to spill, it is typically estimated at 10 to 1 or lower. But Dr. Short’s research, to be published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, makes the case for a significantly higher ratio for the gulf spill.

Steve Hampton, a resource economist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who models bird deaths for West Coast oil spills, found the estimate high. (Most Gulf Coast bird specialists cannot comment on independent research because they are involved in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment.) Dr. Hampton argued that the team needed additional data not yet publicly available, like more specific information about where carcasses were spotted, to establish a reliable kill count.

“That’s really off the charts of what we’ve ever seen,” he said of the estimated deaths. “It just begs a lot of questions.”

But some researchers say circumstances in the gulf can make carcass recoveries particularly low – among them prevailing winds and currents, as well as the disappearance of bodies before they reached shore because of factors like controlled surface oil fires, tiger sharks and decay rates in sweltering heat. And the search area encompassed more than 4,000 miles of coastline.

Jordan Karubian, a bird ecologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, said he found the estimates reasonable. “Given the degree of uncertainty we’re dealing with inherently in the process, my sense is that these researchers were careful to be conservative.”

The new studies were based on two established modeling techniques to overcome the challenges. A primary study estimated bird deaths in coastal waters within 25 miles of shore, which was assumed to be the farthest a carcass could drift before disappearing. Using public data on the number of dead birds found during and after the spill, they calculated the likelihood of finding a given bird by factoring in daily winds and currents, carcass drift speeds and carcass disappearance rates on shorelines from decay and scavenging, among other parameters.

The team considered only carcasses of coastal species that spend time over or in the water, such as gannets and pelicans, and that were visibly oiled.

The carcass count then dropped to 2,004 from the initial 3,000. By comparison, a recent California spill 1,000 times smaller than Deepwater Horizon yielded 1,500 carcasses.
The team’s second coastal model used data on the locations of oil slicks on each day during the spill and several days afterward. They also studied data on the numbers and habits of birds typically found offshore. The model calculated the likelihood that a bird would land in oil, an event likely to kill it by interrupting feeding patterns or causing other complications. Multiplying that probability by the estimated birds present yielded the second death estimate.

The researchers found both results to be similar despite the uncertainties and the divergent methods. The first model estimated about 600,000 deaths, with an uncertainty range of 320,000 to 1.2 million birds. The second model estimated 800,000 deaths with an uncertainty range of 160,000 to 1.9 million.

For a companion paper to be published soon, the authors used another model to estimate likely bird deaths farther than 25 miles offshore, where sooty terns and band-rumped storm petrels, among other species rarely seen from land, could be found. They estimate there were 120,000 deaths, with the uncertainty range at 25,000 to 400,000.

By comparison, the still-contested estimate in the much smaller Exxon Valdez spill was about 300,000, with an uncertainty range of 100,000 to 690,000.

Beyond counting the dead, researchers say a major challenge will be determining what, if any, long-term effects the losses will have on the area’s ecology.

Melanie Driscoll, an ornithologist with the Audubon Society in Baton Rouge, La., said the work has “tremendous value” for restoration planning. But, she said, “this is a really big number, and it’s still too small.” That’s because, by design, the study didn’t consider categories such as marsh birds, among other limitations.

Dr. Short’s team tested its results by comparing them with an independent source of bird data, an annual Audubon Society citizen science event called the Christmas Bird Count.

The researchers had teased out of their aggregate numbers the impact on some species.

They estimated that 40 percent of northern gulf laughing gulls had died, for instance.
Christmas Bird Count data also showed a roughly 40 percent drop in laughing gull sightings.

Dr. Hampton, who was skeptical of the estimates, found this result at least potentially significant. “I thought that was interesting, and there may be something to it,” he said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Fuel Fix: Offshore regulators to keep eye on bad actors

Fuel Fix

Posted on May 8, 2014 at 6:29 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

HOUSTON – Maritime and drilling regulators vowed Thursday to keep a closer watch on oil companies and contractors they say are consistently cutting corners on safety offshore.

The Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for prevention policy, Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, and Brian Salerno, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, delivered that message directly to oil industry representatives on the final day of the Offshore Technology Conference.

Servidio said the Coast Guard will consider launching unannounced inspections of oil and gas industry vessels after some logged more than five deficiencies during scheduled probes.

“There are significant areas of concern, and we have a ways to go with some vessels and some companies,” Servidio said.

While acknowledging some offshore supply vessels and mobile offshore drilling units have come through examinations without problems, and still others have worked to improve their performance, Servidio said some still are falling short. “There are other companies where we find the same problems over and over again,” he said.

The Coast Guard already conducts unannounced inspections of some cruise ships – and that same model could be applied to oil industry vessels with bad track records.

“We will be looking at expanding oversight on those vessels and those companies that have demonstrated significantly above average trends and deficiencies, and we will take appropriate control and enforcement actions where needed,” Servidio said. “We’re looking at the potential for instituting no-notice exams for the small population of vessels whose performance and commitment to safety may be in question.”

Salerno said the safety bureau he heads, which regulates offshore drilling, also sees evidence of spotty performance, with a few repeat offenders mingled among companies with deep commitments to the safety and environmental management systems now required to minimize process risks offshore.

“There are companies we have encountered that think they can cut corners or regard SEMS as just a plan on a shelf,” Salerno said. “In some tragic cases, lives have been lost – needlessly – for failure to follow established safety processes.”

A spate of recent accidents have highlighted the risks of offshore oil and gas development – even in shallow waters close to shore.

In its probe of a fatal Gulf of Mexico oil platform blast that killed three workers in November 2012, the safety bureau blamed Houston-based Black Elk Energy and its contractors for failing to make sure areas were cleared of explosive gas before welding.
The agency also is investigating what caused a welder to fall to his death while dismantling an Energy Resource Technology platform in the Gulf last October.

Salerno did not name names, but he said his view about bad actors offshore “was formed as a result of actual events.”

“Incidents occur and we investigate them,” he said. “We look at the reasons why they have occurred, and in many cases, you can point to a failure to follow pretty well-established safety principles. A lot of what we have seen in the incidents is very, very preventable, and when you read the reports, you say, ‘how can that have happened?'”

Salerno, who has spent nine months leading the safety bureau, said he wants the agency to focus its attention on the riskiest operations and the most problem-prone companies.

That risk-based approach wouldn’t mean companies with good track records would escape inspections altogether, Salerno said, but data could be used to justify spending less time on some operators with proven performance and more time on those “where there are clear problems.”

The safety bureau has asked a national laboratory to help it develop a robust risk methodology.

The agency is also looking to step up its technological know how – and keep updating its regulations – as the oil and gas industry sets its sight on reservoirs with bone-crushing pressures and 350-degree temperatures miles below the sea floor.
That’s a big challenge, Salerno admitted.

The industry “sets a very aggressive pace,” Salerno said.

“Regulations have always had a tough time keeping up with technological change; for that matter, industry standards are having a tough time keeping up as well,” Salerno said. “And that has become even more of a problem as the pace of technological innovation and change has accelerated.”

Charlie Williams, Brian Salerno and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio discuss safety during an OTC panel Thursday.
Special thanks to Richard Charter.

Houston Chronicle: Efficient use of water called key to future energy projects

May 8,2014 by Matthew Tresaugue

Water may be everywhere in the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s becoming increasingly scarce in many other areas where oil and gas is produced. “Water is already a crucial issue and will shape the future,” said Emmanuel Garland, an environmental expert for Total Exploration, during an Offshore Technology Conference session Tuesday.

Energy companies consume water for drilling and cooling, among other uses, and it now accounts for up to 25 percent of project costs, Garland said.

At the same time, less water is available because of swelling population, worsening water quality and a changing climate. The National Climate Assessment released Tuesday by the Obama administration showed that the Gulf Coast is especially vulnerable to higher temperatures and decreased availability of water.

Moving forward, companies must limit consumption, increase reuse of wastewater and reduce the impact of discharges on the environment, Garland said, because future operating licenses probably will depend on a company’s demonstrated ability to conserve water.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Houston Chronicle: New rules coming for retiring offshore oil structures & Norwegian Company Plans Underwater ‘factories’

May 6, 2014 | Updated: May 6, 2014 11:06pm
by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Tommy Beaudrieu

Tommy Beaudreau says new rules are coming on the decommissioning of old offshore oil infrastructure.

New regulations governing the decommissioning of old offshore oil infrastructure are on the horizon, a top Obama administration official said Tuesday. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will begin tackling the issue this summer, said Tommy Beaudreau, the former director of the agency. Although Beaudreau did not give specifics during a presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference, the coming regulations are expected to deal with concerns that existing bonding requirements for oil and gas companies are insufficient in an era of ultradeep exploration far from the coast.

“This will be an open, transparent process on how we meet these challenges around aging infrastructure and decommissioning,” said Beaudreau, who is now chief of staff to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. The issue is a live one as some of the oldest deep-water wells in the Gulf of Mexico reach the end of their lives and companies look to dismantle the operations. Randall Luthi, the head of the National Ocean Industries Association and a former federal drilling regulator, said any changes should embrace rigs-to-reefs programs designed to allow old structures to have new lives as a habitat for marine life.

Norwegian company plans underwater ‘factories’ by Ryan Holeywell

Statoil wants to build huge underwater “factories” by 2020 that would sit on the seabed as they produce and process natural gas offshore.
The effort would be the culmination of work the Norwegian oil and gas company has pursued since 1986, when it drilled its first subsea wells, said Ola Anders Skauby, Statoil’s vice president of communication, technology, projects and drilling.

Statoil’s 500 undersea wells now account for half of its energy production, and its plan is to put almost every component needed for that work underwater in some locations, in part to insulate personnel and technology from difficult conditions. The company says subsea factories will be vital in parts of the world that are farthest from shore in deep, cold, harsh environments. One key to making them work is development of giant undersea gas compressors to boost production. Statoil is set to deploy a pair of those devices next year off the coast of Norway at a site called Åsgard.

“It’s as large as a soccer stadium – something you put on the seafloor,” Skauby told the Houston Chronicle. Compressors typically are placed on surface facilities. Building and installing the two compressors will cost $2.7 billion, but Statoil projects they will increase production in the Åsgard fields by at least 282 million barrels of oil equivalent. Subsea factories also will include an electrical power source and machinery to separate oil, gas and water. Statoil already operates a commercial separator off the coast of Norway. “We have that technology today,” Skauby said.

Still, subsea is costly and only will take hold where the economics make sense, he said.

Black Elk rig

The Black Elk Energy platform is submerged at South Timbalier Block 185 in the Gulf of Mexico. OceanGate, a Seattle-based provider of deep-water submersible vessels, has released a new crop of underwater images from the federal Rigs to Reefs program, showing sea creatures swimming among the steel legs of an old Black Elk Energy platform. The manned submersibles typically are contracted for deep-water research and filming of shipwrecks and underwater life. But OceanGate made its first dive to observe an oil facility in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Miami Herald: CUBA EMBARGO Revise restrictions to ensure safe oil drilling

Posted on Saturday, 05.03.14


After an unsuccessful round of drilling in 2012 and 2013, Cuba’s oil and gas industry is poised for further deepwater exploration in the Gulf as soon as 2015. As Cuba explores and eventually drills for oil, Florida and neighboring states have a paramount interest in ensuring that Cuba’s drilling operators employ the highest safety standards and the best available technology. From our experience with the BP tragedy, failure to meet these standards would seriously threaten Florida’s economy and environment.

A half-century of trade and travel restrictions separates the United States and Cuba. And yet the island’s northern boundary floats just 50 miles from southern Florida. For communities in southern Florida whose commerce, especially tourism, depends on a healthy marine system, an oil spill would be disastrous. Coral reefs and mangroves, such as those found in the Everglades, Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys, serve as protective barriers from hurricanes. They also provide critical nurseries for species that support commercial and recreational fisheries on the east coast.

Earlier this year in Havana, we met with top energy and environmental officials in Cuba to assess the country’s preparation to mitigate an oil spill in Cuba’s Gulf waters. After successive meetings, we left with a new realization of Cuba’s imminent intention to explore for oil. Seismic studies indicate the potential for commercial-scale oil and gas deposits, and the instability of Venezuela, Cuba’s main oil provider, is further incentive.

We are confident that Cuba is adopting standards in line with the recommendations developed by President Obama’s National Commission on the BP Oil Spill and the Future of Offshore Drilling, which we co-chaired. The test will be the capacity to achieve these standards.

Given Cuba’s limited human and material resources and lack of substantial experience regulating deepwater oil and gas exploration, the United States should revise embargo-related restrictions to foster the highest standards of safe drilling. It is beyond our intentions to advocate for a total lifting of the embargo; rather, we urge for modifications to specific provisions to achieve maximum protection from a BP-type accident. One such restriction in need of modification is the U.S. sanction that prevents Cuba and its contractors from acquiring advanced technology with more than 10 percent U.S. content. Only one drilling rig in the world qualifies under this criterion.

U.S. travel and export restrictions further limit spill response in the Gulf of Mexico as they prohibit U.S. oil spill mitigation companies from traveling readily to Cuba. This potential danger became a reality during the BP explosion where the delay in capping the surging oil substantially increased the damage. In the aftermath of BP, the U.S. oil and gas industry established two response teams in the Gulf. But under current U.S. embargo restrictions, these response capabilities would not be available in the event of a similar accident in Cuban waters. We therefore urge the president to issue appropriate industry-wide “general” licenses for travel and export so that companies in the oil service and spill response industry can position proper equipment in advance.

The BP oil spill underscored that the Gulf of Mexico waters transcend national boundaries, making all countries sharing the Gulf vulnerable to consequences of a major spill. Within a year of the BP spill, commission representatives and affected U.S. agencies met with Mexican counterparts to coordinate Gulf drilling safety and response. Culminating at the Clean Gulf 2013 conference in Tampa, this dialogue now includes the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Cuba. The result was the establishment of the Multi-Lateral Technical Operating Procedure (MTOP) to institute safety protocols in the event of a cross-border spill. While this was a substantial start, more needs to be done. Appropriate agencies in the U.S. government should brief oil companies on safety procedures in the agreement. To strengthen their oversight of drilling in the Gulf, these agencies would likewise benefit from creating channels for the exchange of expertise and training between Cuban and U.S. personnel.

Given Cuba’s serious pursuit of offshore drilling and the potential risk of an oil spill, the slow pace of U.S. preparedness greatly concerns us. To avoid environmental and economic damages reminiscent of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the United States must relax equipment restrictions. It must take comprehensive actions to facilitate cross-border exchange of best practices, mitigation training and response strategies. Until such steps are in place, we cannot be satisfied that every possible measure has been taken to preserve the economic and ecological wellbeing of the Gulf of Mexico.

William K. Reilly, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Bob Graham, former governor and senator from Florida, co-chaired the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
Read more here:

Special thanks to Richard Charter Problems At Petrobras Mount As Brazil’s Oil Production Stagnates

By Nick Cunningham | Tue, 06 May 2014 22:06 | 0
For the past 30 years or so, Brazil has increased its oil production every year. Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, has become a world class producer of offshore drilling technology, which puts it in a good position for the future, as oil comes from increasingly difficult places to reach.

In the 1980s, Brazil’s oil production was negligible, but by 2010, it was pumping 2.7 million barrels of liquid fuels per day (bpd). By the mid-2000s, the trend line seemed to be inexorably rising upwards, and with the huge oil discoveries in 2007 in Brazil’s pre-salt basins – oil reserves that are trapped beneath a thick layer of salt – many observers believed Brazil was destined to become an oil superpower.

But then something happened. Since 2010, oil production has flattened out entirely. In 2013, Brazil averaged only 2.7 million bpd of oil production, which is where it was three years ago.

Petrobras’ performance over the last few years deserves some of the blame, and a steady stream of reports point to mismanagement within the company as why. A former executive was arrested in March for money laundering in connection with a gang. The company is conducting an internal investigation because of allegations that top company officials accepted bribes from a Dutch company in exchange for awarding contracts.

Local content rules are also hampering production. With Brazilian oil service companies booked up, there is a shortage of labor, leaving Petrobras and its partners struggling to find enough qualified contractors. Not only has this raised costs, but it has also delayed projects. Most recently, Brazil’s oil regulator ANP recommended a delay of further auctions for offshore blocks until 2015, so that local service companies could absorb all the demand.

Petrobras’ problems were perfectly summed up in an April mishap. According to Reuters, Saipem SpA, an Italian contractor working at a Petrobras-run oil field in the Atlantic Ocean, managed to drop a 2.3 kilometer steel pipe deep into the ocean. Saipem was trying to attach the pipe to a drilling rig, but it sank 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) to the ocean floor. Damaged and lost to sea, the $2 million pipe is not recoverable. That’s only the beginning – the lost pipe could set the project back by more than a month, costing Petrobras tens of millions more.

The incident fits a pattern – several other rigs in nearby oil fields are also behind schedule, including Parque da Baleias off the coast of the state of Espirito Santo, and Papa Terra near Rio de Janeiro.

But the problem is deeper than just bad management. The state-owned oil company is used as a tool to achieve policy goals by the government, such as subsidizing fuel prices for drivers, which has cost the company $37 billion since 2011.

All of these problems have caused Petrobras to claim the mantle of the world’s most indebted and least profitable major oil company. It has amassed $114.3 billion in debt, and according to Moody’s, Petrobras owes $11.50 for every barrel of oil it has yet to produce. Its share price has cratered, losing half of its value since 2010.

The stagnating oil industry is becoming a hotter political issue in Brazil. Whether true or not, it fits the narrative of how corruption at the highest levels is causing the economy to stagnate. And the angry protests in several major cities last year demonstrated voter frustration as Brazil heads into this fall’s presidential election.

Brazil’s political opposition is using Petrobras’ woes in an effort to unseat President Dilma Rousseff. But she continues to back the firm, which is a symbol of nation pride. “No one and nothing will destroy Petrobras,” she told a crowd of oil workers and supporters in April in the state of Pernambuco. “Petrobras is bigger than all of us. Petrobras is as big as Brazil.” Her fate, as well the country’s, hinges on the performance of Brazil’s largest company.

By Nick Cunningham of Special thanks to Richard Charter

Tampa Bay Times: Oil drilling company ordered to shut down second Florida well pending tests

Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
Friday, May 2, 2014 6:40pm

State Department of Environmental Protection officials announced Friday they have ordered the Dan A. Hughes Co. to cease operations at a second South Florida well until experts can analyze whether the violation at the first well spread pollution in the aquifer.

DEP officials did not give details about why they were taking this step more than a week after shutting down operations at the well where the violation occurred. DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said the agency “has been in dialogue with the Dan A. Hughes Co. regarding their plans and permits … and this is part of that ongoing process.”

However, the announcement followed a call Thursday by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to open an investigation into what happened.

Hughes spokesman David Blackmon issued a terse statement that said the shutdown was something the company had agreed to after negotiations with DEP.

“Protection of human life and the environment are our company’s highest priorities,” he said in the statement. “We commend the DEP for its diligent efforts to … reach an approach to this matter that satisfies the needs of all stakeholders.”

Hughes’ drilling operations have sparked controversy among Collier County residents, who went so far as to stage a protest march on Gov. Rick Scott’s Naples home. The controversy began when a Hughes contractor contacted Golden Gate Estates residents about their plans for an evacuation should something go wrong with the well being drilled less than 1,000 feet from their homes. That was the first they’d heard of it.

That permit was approved by DEP but challenged in court. Meanwhile a new controversy has swirled around one of the company’s other wells in that region.

A 12-page consent order, dated April 8, says DEP officials became concerned about an operation that the Texas company launched without DEP permission in late December 2013. They told the company to shut it down, but it kept going for another day.

The company was injecting acid deep underground to fracture the limestone, then injecting a mix of sand and chemical gel under pressure, to prop open the new fractures and let the oil flow out. That’s called using a “proppant.”

Although the process is similar to fracking, Blackmon called it an “acid stimulation treatment,” which he said is common in Florida. However, Miller of the DEP said no one has ever used a proppant in Florida before. The DEP order requires Hughes to install monitoring wells to check on whether any pollution is spreading through the aquifer, although Blackmon said the chemicals were injected thousands of feet below the drinking water supply.

Until the well results are analyzed by independent experts, Hughes has to shut down all other “new operations,” DEP said Friday. Hughes has six other locations, but the only one fitting the DEP’s description is a well near Immokalee, Miller said.

Craig Pittman can be reached at or follow him on Twitter via @craigtimes.

Oil drilling company ordered to shut down second Florida well pending tests 05/02/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2014 8:16pm]
© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Platts: BP has record 11 deepwater rigs running in Gulf of Mexico: BP America CEO

Houston (Platts)–5May2014/414 pm EDT/2014 GMT

Four years after the Macondo oil spill, BP has 11 operated rigs running in the US Gulf of Mexico, the most the company has ever had there at one time, BP America’s CEO said Monday.

BP will spend $10 billion over the next five years in the deepwater US Gulf, which amounts to about 10% of its worldwide exploration and production budget and makes the company the largest investor in that arena, said John Minge, who is also BP America’s chairman and CEO.

“Our business is back; it’s strong and it’s gaining momentum,” Minge said. “It wasn’t long ago when the common belief was that the region was played out, that deepwater wasn’t going to work and it was better to head off to other places. But we had [employees] who said there’s more there, and convinced the leadership to invest further.”

Minge was enthusiastic over energy reforms in Mexico that could lead to new opportunities for the company in that country, particularly in the upstream deepwater.

Mexico’s so-called “secondary legislation” on energy reform– the fine print and terms — was sent to the Mexican Congress last week for approval later this year. The first bid round is expected in mid-2015.

“We’re excited about developments in Mexico, particularly offshore,” he said at the opening of the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. “We think the resource base will be similar to what we’re exploring on the US side of the border.”

Not only is BP the largest investor in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, it also is the largest leaseholder there, with about 620 blocks, Minge said. The company has explored in waters of 1,200 feet deep or greater since the mid-1980s.

On April 20, 2010, the BP-operated Macondo deepwater well offshore Louisiana blew out, causing the US’ largest offshore oil spill. As a result, deepwater exploration came to a virtual standstill for about nine months while the federal government formulated and implemented stricter offshore regulation.

Moreover, in late 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency imposed a Macondo-related ban on the award of federal contracts to BP, including US Gulf leases. As a result, BP sat out three subsequent federal lease sales, although it reached a settlement with the EPA just days before the most recent sale in March. As a result, the company participated in that sale where it was apparent high bidder on 24 of 31 blocks.


BP has four major production hubs in the US Gulf: Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Na Kika. It has also made three ultra-deep Paleogene discoveries in recent years, sited largely in the Keathley Canyon area of the US Gulf: Kaskida, Tiber and last December, Gila. The Paleogene is sited in the remote southwest US Gulf in waters that can be more than a mile and a half deep and at total depths more than six miles below the seabed.

Among BP’s 11 deepwater rigs are three Thunder Horse alone, according to federal offshore records. The company is also drilling a wildcat at Keathley Canyon block 57 in 4,065 feet of water. Government records show BP procured the lease in 2003 for a nominal $500,000; it now has a 62% stake, while Brazil’s Petrobras has 20% and ConocoPhillips has 18%.

Owing to what Minge called pioneering technologies BP has developed to allow better deepwater reservoir imaging, data collection and recoveries, the company expects operating cash flow from the US Gulf “to grow to 2020 and beyond,” he said.

BP also has a minority stake in the Shell-operated Perdido Hub, which produces some of the deepest and most remote offshore discoveries in the world. The hub, offshore Texas, is just a handful of miles from Mexican waters, where the ultra-deep Perdido Fold Belt reservoir also spans that country’s offshore. Mexican state oil and gas company Pemex has drilled some wells there and global oil companies may be able to bid on blocks in the area as early as next year. They will also be able to joint-venture with Pemex on the company’s tracts there.

Minge said he believes Mexico “will absolutely compete for capital” within BP.

“We’re ready to go if [Mexico is] ready to have us,” he said.

–Starr Spencer, –Edited by Richard Rubin,

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Reuters: Bird reproduction collapsed after oil spill Study of shag colonies on Spanish coast shows lingering effect of 2002 Prestige disaster

by Matt Kaplan

30 April 2014

volunteer workers
Jose Manuel Ribeiro/REUTERS
Volunteer workers drag fuel oil spilled by the Prestige tanker at Muxia beach, in northwestern Spain, in December 2002.

Oil spills kill a lot of wildlife quickly, but their long-term effects are hard to establish because to compare the situation before and after a disaster, a study would need to have been already up and running before the disaster occurred. Fortunately, this was precisely the case for a Spanish team of researchers.

Back in 1994, marine biologist Álvaro Barros and his colleagues at Spain’s University of Vigo started looking at the reproductive activity of 18 colonies of a diving bird known as the European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis). Then, on 13 November 2002, the hull of the Prestige oil tanker broke in half off the north-western coast of Spain, releasing 63,000 tonnes of oil. The oil heavily coated regions near seven of the colonies, and mostly missed the other 11, creating ‘oiled’ and ‘unoiled’ populations for the researchers to compare.

The team now reports in Biology Letters1 that reproductive success was 45% lower in oiled populations compared with unoiled colonies, whereas it had been much the same before the spill. The researchers measured reproductive success by counting how many fully grown young emerged from each nest. This number averaged 1.6 for both oiled and control colonies before the spill. Afterwards, while the control colonies maintained the 1.6 figure, the number for the birds in the oiled colonies dropped to 1.0.

“We just don’t have much information on long-term oil-spill effects. That this team was able to compare colonies like this over so many years makes the findings very valuable,” explains ecologist David Grémillet at the CNRS Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, France.

Barros and his team did not investigate why reproductive success was so much lower in the oiled colonies, but speculate from their knowledge of other studies that it resulted from wider ecological damage. “It looks like many of the shags’ preferred prey were wiped out, and that a lot of oil pollutants got incorporated into the ecosystem. This would certainly harm their ability to reproduce,” Barros explains.



Barros, A., Álvarez, D. & Velando, A. Biol. Lett. (2014).

The Guardian: Methane hydrate reserves under deep ocean bed are ‘enormous’ but challenging to mine, says British Geological Survey

Press Association
Monday 28 April 2014

A fuel buried under the deep ocean bed off Britain and Ireland could provide a plentiful supply of energy but will be difficult to exploit, an expert said. The gas – known as fire ice – is locked away in the form of ice crystals under the Atlantic where the floor changes from shallow waters to deep sea. But poor weather, the great distance from shore and technical challenges could make it hard to mine methane hydrate profitably.

Dr Chris Rochelle, a geo-chemist at the British Geological Survey, said: “It is exploitable, it is just going to be some way off-shore.”
Existing reserves of oil, coal and gas have become tougher to access. Test wells have been drilled for shale gas in north west England. In Northern Ireland environmental campaigners have railed against fracking exploration for the gas in Co Fermanagh.

Methane hydrate takes the form of crystals with natural methane gas locked inside. They are produced through a combination of low temperatures and high pressure and are found largely on the edge of continental shelves where the seabed drops sharply away into the deep ocean floor.

Rochelle said the deposits were enormous. “Estimates suggest that there is about the same amount of carbon in methane hydrates as there is in every other organic carbon store on the planet.” That means there is more energy in methane hydrates than in all the world’s oil, coal and gas put together.

By lowering the pressure or raising the temperature, the hydrate breaks down into water and methane. One cubic metre of the compound releases about 160 cubic metres of gas, making it an energy-intensive fuel.

However with potentially easier access to shale gas, at this stage no serious plans are in place to retrieve methane hydrates from relatively near the UK, unlike research carried out in the US and Canada. Last year Japan became the first country to successfully extract natural gas from methane hydrates.

Rochelle added: “We have to bring it back a long way, for other producers it is closer to shore. It is relatively deep water, it would be more challenging from the UK respect. That does not mean to say that companies from this part of the world could not take advantage of it by exploiting it in different parts of the world.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: NAS oil spill report emboldens drilling foes

Margaret Kriz Hobson, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014

A new scientific study that concludes the United States lacks the resources and scientific data necessary to adequately respond to an Arctic oil spill is energizing the environmental community’s campaign to ban oil drilling in the ice-laden waters.

The comprehensive National Academy of Sciences report released yesterday found that the federal government needs additional response tools, personnel and infrastructure to address oil spills in America’s Arctic (Greenwire, April 23).

The panel called for expanded, on-the-ground research to improve oil cleanup technologies for use in the Arctic’s extreme weather and environmental conditions.
Researchers also suggested that oil spill responders need “improved port and air access, stronger supply chains, and increased capacity to handle equipment, supplies, and personnel.”

However, the study concludes that oil spill response improvements have been set back by a lack of federal funding to address those deficiencies.

Several environmental groups responded to the scientific report by demanding an end to oil development in the American Arctic, at least until the government finds more effective ways to handle oil spills in the frigid North.

Margaret Williams, managing director of Arctic programs for the World Wildlife Fund, said the Obama administration “should not approve further Arctic oil and gas leasing or specific activities unless and until spill prevention and response technologies are proven effective in this harsh environment.”

Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for the Wilderness Society, said the report “documents the reasons why we cannot clean up — and are unlikely to ever effectively recover — a significant percentage of oil from any major spill into the Arctic Ocean.”

“We need to decide as a country if it makes sense to risk the near-pristine Arctic Ocean environment now that we know there is little that can be done to clean up major oil spills,” Epstein said.

Sierra Club Alaska Program Director Dan Ritzman said the NAS report reinforces the environmental community’s concerns that “we shouldn’t be drilling in the Arctic Ocean.”

But Charles Ebinger, director of the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security Initiative, disagreed, arguing that the report is just the most recent evidence that the federal government should fund more Arctic research and resources.

“Certainly we need to spend a lot more on resources, beef up the Coast Guard’s capabilities, make sure that we have onshore supporting infrastructure in place in the event of an accident of any kind,” he said.

“All of that has to be done. But that’s a question of allocation of resources. That’s not saying the Arctic shouldn’t be drilled in.”

“You’ve got companies moving into Greenland,” Ebinger added. “The Arctic is being developed. It’s a question of whether we’re going to adopt so many restrictions that our Arctic either doesn’t get developed or lags behind.”

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) echoed those concerns. “Arctic development will happen whether we are prepared or not — we’ve already seen significant increases in marine traffic and natural resource exploration by domestic and international interests,” he said.

More studies ahead
The report comes more than a year after Royal Dutch Shell PLC tried — but failed — to become the first company in decades to explore for oil in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The company’s 2012 season was marked by equipment problems, unpredictable ice floes and an oil rig grounding.

More recently, Shell’s Arctic drilling efforts have been delayed by a January appeals court decision invalidating the environmental assessment that the Interior Department used to support the federal government’s 2008 lease sale (EnergyWire, April 21).

But once those legal issues are sorted out, oil industry representatives assert, federal regulators should allow Arctic oil exploration to move forward as they improve available oil spill response technologies.

American Petroleum Institute senior policy adviser Richard Ranger said the National Academy study should not be a roadblock to future oil exploration in Alaska’s northern waters.

“Shell demonstrated to the satisfaction of the agency that they possess the capability to respond to a foreseeable spill incident at this exploration stage” in the Arctic, Ranger argued.

“If exploration succeeds in identifying resources for development, then there are a lot of tasks ahead before those resources could be brought online,” he noted. “There would be additional studies needed, additional preparedness and project design to go forward into the next phase of project development.”

Energy Wire: Baker Hughes phasing out ‘trade secrets’ in FracFocus disclosure

Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter
Thursday, April 24, 2014

One of the country’s major providers of hydraulic fracturing services plans to begin disclosing all the chemicals it uses in “fracking” fluid, without exceptions for trade secrets.

The policy of Baker Hughes Inc., rolled out quietly on an unheralded page of its website, is a split with competitors, prominent industry trade groups and even some regulators. It tracks with the recommendation of an Obama administration panel looking at FracFocus, the website where most companies report their fracking chemicals.

“Baker Hughes believes it is possible to disclose 100 percent of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations,” the company’s website states, deeming the new policy “a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation.”

Baker Hughes spokeswoman Melanie Kania confirmed that the website statement indicated a corporate policy that the company is moving away from asserting trade secret claims. The company plans to begin eliminating proprietary exceptions “where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities,” according to the website.

A critic of the current system for disclosure said she was heartened by Baker Hughes’ change in policy. “If they’ve found a way to report with better disclosure, I’m on board,” said Kate Konschnik, policy director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

But Halliburton Co., a Baker Hughes competitor, along with trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), have defended the current level of protection for trade secrets. “A company’s trade secrets can be among its most important assets — the key intellectual property that allows it to keep its market position for its products or services and provide value to its shareholders,” API, ANGA and other industry groups wrote last month in joint comments about a government report about FracFocus.

Trade secret exemptions have emerged as the latest sticking point in the tug of war between environmentalists and drilling companies about disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking. Those chemicals make up only a small fraction of the volume of the fluid that is blasted underground to shatter rock formations and release oil and gas. But with modern “frack jobs” using millions of gallons of water, even small percentages can add up.

After initially resisting public release of ingredient lists, industry has come around to disclosing more and more data (Greenwire, June 21, 2010). In 2011, oil and gas companies coalesced around the FracFocus site. Steve Everley of the industry group Energy in Depth says the debate about trade secrets can overshadow how much information is already being disclosed. “It’s not a question of whether people are or aren’t disclosing. It’s a question of how,” Everley said. “Companies are disclosing a lot more than critics are alleging.”

But industry has held the line on its desire to keep secret some of the ingredients. They say relinquishing that would give away companies’ competitive edge. “Trade secret protection is critical to encourage innovation, the environmental and economic benefits of which are being demonstrated daily in the oil and gas industry,” Halliburton wrote in its comments on the government report. Earlier this month, North Dakota’s chief oil and gas regulator, Lynn Helms, derided proposals to force full disclosure, asserting that companies would curtail the use of newer mixtures rather than give up trade secrets (EnergyWire, April 17).

A ‘systems approach’ to disclosure

The oil and gas companies that operate wells have often cast the service companies, such as Baker Hughes, Halliburton and Schlumberger Ltd., as the impediment to disclosure. Operators have said they don’t usually know what chemicals service companies are using to frack their wells.
A Department of Energy panel reviewing FracFocus for the Obama administration reported earlier this year that at least one chemical ingredient was omitted for 84 percent of the wells listed on FracFocus.

Environmental groups see the secrecy as ripe for abuse, a way to hide the use of potentially dangerous chemicals. In Wyoming, environmental groups have sued the state, claiming trade secret exemptions are granted too freely (EnergyWire, March 13). The DOE panel brushed aside many of industry’s concerns in a report, saying trade secrets can be protected by reporting the raw chemicals separately from the additive products they go into.

The report calls this a “systems approach.” The common analogy for such a systems approach is that Coca-Cola Co. reports its ingredients on every can, but the recipe remains secret. Kania said Baker Hughes’ new initiative is intended to implement such a systems approach.
The DOE panel, officially a task force of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, said reducing trade secret claims would build public confidence. “The Task Force is challenging FracFocus to operate in a manner that encourages full disclosure with few, if any trade secret exceptions,” the panel’s report stated.

The task force said that in March, “at least one large oil field service supplier” was already using such a systems approach. Based on reviewing FracFocus filings, Konschnik said she believes that to be Schlumberger. A Schlumberger spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
But Halliburton, in its comments on the panel report, directly rebutted the panel’s assertions on the systems approach. “The method that the Task Force advocates for resolving the trade secret issue — the ‘systems approach’ to disclosure — simply will not protect proprietary information in the way the Draft Report suggests,” Halliburton wrote.
Baker Hughes Corporate Policy

Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Disclosure Policy
Baker Hughes believes it is possible to disclose 100% of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations – a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation. Where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities, Baker Hughes is implementing a new format that achieves this goal, providing complete lists of the products and chemical ingredients used.

Fast, accurate and full disclosures supported by a dedicated team
Baker Hughes supports our customers in communicating important information about the chemistry used in our hydraulic fracturing fluids in the most expedient way possible. That is why Baker Hughes endorses FracFocus, the national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry managed by the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, and accessible at FracFocus represents a coordination of efforts with regulators, operators, and other stakeholders to promote responsible hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure, which is more comprehensive and well-site specific than that which could be provided by any individual company.
Our dedicated disclosure team uses systems designed to ensure that this data is accurate and that customers receive it quickly to meet regulatory deadlines. This process gives our customers confidence that Baker Hughes staff is always ready and available to help them through the process and troubleshoot any issues.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

WWNO: Telltale Rainbow Sheens Show Thousands Of Spills Across The Gulf

April 19, 201411:07 AM ET

Listen to the Story
Weekend Edition Saturday

The 300,000 wells drilled in Louisiana are connected by tens of thousands of miles of pipelines that are vulnerable to leaks, like this one in a coastal marsh. Gulf Restoration Network

Jonathan Henderson of New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network is flying Louisiana’s coast looking for oil. As usual, he’s found some. Just in the last year, I have filed 50 reports for different leaks and spills unrelated to the BP disaster.- Jonathan Henderson, Gulf Restoration Network. “I just noticed something out of the corner of my eye that looks like a sheen that had some form to it,” he says. “We’re going to go take a closer look and see if there’s a rainbow sheen.”

It’s a target-rich environment for Henderson, because more than 54,000 wells were planted in and off this coast – part of the 300,000 wells in the state. They’re connected by thousands of miles of pipelines, all vulnerable to leaks. And leak they do. Louisiana admits to at least 300,000 barrels spilled on its land and in its waters each year, 20 percent of the nation’s total. But those figures come from a system that depends largely on oil companies to self-report.

The problem went mostly unnoticed until the largest spill in U.S. history back on April 20, 2010, drew environmental groups to the coast looking for BP’s oil. “I started noticing, towards the end of 2010, other leaks that were unrelated to the BP disaster,” Henderson says. “I would find wellheads that were leaking or platforms that were leaking. Just in the last year, I have filed 50 reports for different leaks and spills unrelated to the BP disaster.”

Under the Clean Water Act, when a company spills any amount of oil in the water, it must file a report with the National Response Center run by the Coast Guard. But when Henderson checked, he found many of those smaller spills were not making that list. So environmental groups formed the Gulf Monitoring Consortium to get a better count on spills. The partnership is a blend groups of complementary skills.

Gulf Restoration Network, for example, has personnel who can spot spills from the air and file complete reports. SouthWings, a group of volunteer pilots, helps get those spotters aloft. A third member, the West Virginia-based tech group SkyTruth, finds the spills on satellite photographs, then applies a formula used by spill experts to translate the size of the oil sheen into gallons of oil in the water.

SkyTruth spokesman David Manthos says its estimates typically are much higher than what’s been reported. “We found that the spill was usually 10 times larger than had been reported, and that was averaged out across a lot,” he says. “In some, the mismatch was much larger than that.”
The sheer size of the industry here means there’s seldom a quiet day for the consortium. In an average year, the NRC receives 10,000 reports of spills in the Gulf.

It’s a number that surprised even SouthWings Gulf Program Director Meredith Dowling, a veteran of monitoring efforts. “I can’t think of a single instance where our volunteers have flown offshore and not found spills,” Dowling says. “This was something that was really amazing to me when I first moved here … that is was a continuous, absolute failure of business-as-usual practices.”

The partners hope their work educates the public to the scope of the problem, and perhaps gets governments to end the voluntary compliance model and turn to aggressive enforcement by outside groups.

Bob Marshall reports on the environment for The Lens, a New Orleans non-profit newsroom.
Louisiana relies largely on the oil industry to self-report leaks and spills. The Gulf Monitoring Consortium was formed to improve that effort and said it often finds smaller leaks like this one, near Golden Meadow, that go unreported by the companies.

Gulf Restoration Network
The vast oil insfrastructure in Louisiana’s wetlands are vulnerable to damage during hurricanes. These facilities were leaking after Hurricane Isaac.
Gulf Restoration Network

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Tampa Bay Times: Oil company drilling in sanctuary fined $25,000 for violation that could be fracking by Craig Pittman

Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

Friday, April 18, 2014 7:44pm

The Texas company that stirred controversy by applying to drill for oil in Florida panther habitat was doing more with one of its wells than what its state permit allowed.
Related News/Archive

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Friday afternoon revealed that it had fined the Dan A. Hughes Co. $25,000 for violating its permit. The violation involves using a process that sounds like fracking — although the word “fracking” appears nowhere in either Friday’s DEP news release or the legal paperwork about the fine from 10 days earlier.

Instead, the 12-page consent order, dated April 8, says DEP officials became concerned about a “workover operation” that the Texas company launched without DEP permission in late December 2013. The well site is on an island surrounded by the National Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a major nesting site for wood storks. DEP officials told Hughes to stop right away.

Determining exactly what the company did is difficult because the DEP censored that part of the order, labeling it “a confidential trade secret.”

However, the DEP news release says Hughes “proposed an enhanced extraction procedure that had not previously been used in Florida. The company proposed to inject a dissolving solution at sufficient pressure to achieve some openings in the oil-bearing rock formation that would be propped open with sand in pursuit of enhancing oil production.”

That matches the dictionary definition of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking: “the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas.” Florida Petroleum Council executive director David Mica said it may mean Hughes was fracking, or it could mean it used one of several similar procedures.

Fracking has helped the United States vastly expand its production of natural gas by allowing greater access to reserves once considered too difficult to tap. However, scientists have expressed concern that the chemicals used in fracking may pose an environmental threat. Studies of fracking sites in Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming found elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater, and Ohio geologists found a probable connection between fracking and a sudden burst of mild earthquakes.

The DEP’s order, which resulted from negotiations with Hughes officials, says the company must provide an “estimate of the total amount of flowback material” from the injection and explain where and how it disposed of it. The types of chemicals used were not named.

The order also says the Texas company must put in four monitoring wells to watch for any pollution spreading beyond its drilling site that might contaminate drinking water wells.

The company also must pay for independent experts to consider “the potential for injected or native fluids to migrate through the deep geological formations or the well casing into surrounding groundwater-bearing zones” —in other words, the aquifer.

DEP officials would say little about the order and did not respond to a reporter’s request to interview Ed Garrett, who heads up the oil and gas permit program. Hughes officials did not return repeated calls. Neither did anyone from Collier Resources, which owns the land.

Joe Mule, as president of Preserve Our Paradise, has led protests against a DEP permit allowing Hughes to drill on the edge of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge as well as about 1,000 feet from the nearest occupied home in Naples’ Golden Gate Estates neighborhood. He said nobody from the DEP had told him or his neighbors of what the company had done.

Neither the DEP nor Hughes disclosed the violation during a recent hearing on the Golden Gate permit, said Preserve Our Paradise attorney Ralf Brookes.

Florida is not exactly Texas, where oil fields produced 588 million barrels of crude last year. But there are geological formations in the Panhandle and the area west of Lake Okeechobee that produced more than 2 million barrels in 2012.

As of last count there were 156 active wells in Florida, and the oil they pump out provided $700 million in tax revenue for the state. The oldest oil field is in Collier County, where the company that’s now Exxon drilled its first well in 1942.

Rising oil prices in recent years have spurred a push to increase drilling in Florida, and Hughes has been in the forefront. Last year the company boasted, “Hughes has been in the business of drilling oil and gas wells for over 50 years and enjoys an exemplary reputation as a domestic and international operator.”

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Craig Pittman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @craigtimes.

The New York Times OpEd: The Deepwater Horizon Threat By S. ELIZABETH BIRNBAUM and JACQUELINE SAVITZ

NYTimes Op-Ed 4.17.14
APRIL 16, 2014
image002 5529.jpg 2
Credit Doug Chayka

FOUR years ago this Sunday, BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, destroying the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers and setting off an uncontrolled oil gusher lasting 87 days. By the time the flow was stopped, an estimated 200 million gallons of oil had entered the ocean.

The harm to gulf wildlife has been long-lasting if not fully understood. One recent study found that dolphins in the gulf region were suffering from problems consistent with exposure to oil: lung damage and low levels of adrenal hormones, which are important for responding to stress. Another study found that bluefin and yellowfin tuna sustained heart damage, which suggests likely harm to other fish as well. Another legacy has been the oiling of marshes along the coast, which has exacerbated coastline erosion by killing grasses that help keep the shoreline intact.

One of us, Liz Birnbaum, had for nine months been head of the government agency that regulated the offshore drilling industry when the spill began. We were both horrified to discover that the best efforts of industry and government engineers could not stop the spill for months.

We would never have imagined so little action would be taken to prevent something like this from happening again. But, four years later, the Obama administration still has not taken key steps recommended by its experts and experts it commissioned to increase drilling safety. As a result, we are on a course to repeat our mistakes. Making matters worse, the administration proposes to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic and allow seismic activities harmful to ocean life in the search for new oil reserves.

Following the spill, the administration promised that it would do what was necessary to make drilling as safe as possible. A presidential commission recommended numerous measures to increase drilling safety. The Coast Guard, the Department of the Interior and the National Academy of Engineering subsequently identified more problems that contributed to the spill. Though some recommendations have been acted upon, including restructuring the regulatory agency that oversees drilling and increasing training and certification for government drilling rig inspectors, threats remain.

One huge concern centers on the blowout preventers, which seal wells in blowouts and are the last line of defense for events like the one at Deepwater Horizon. It’s unfathomable that the administration has failed to act on the findings of the December 2011 report of the National Academy of Engineering, which gave us some very bad news about Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer.

Its massive cutting blades were supposed to slice through the drill pipe to stop the flow of gushing oil. But it turned out that these huge pieces of equipment were not adequately engineered to stop emergency blowouts in deep water.

The academy’s report was detailed and damning. Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer “was neither designed nor tested for the dynamic conditions that most likely existed at the time that attempts were made to recapture well control,” the report said. More troubling, the shortcomings of Deepwater’s equipment “may be present” at other deepwater drilling operations, the report said.

Administration officials promised an immediate response to the N.A.E. report, including regulations to set new standards for blowout preventers by the end of 2012. Today, 16 months after that deadline and four years after the blowout, we still have not seen even proposed rules. Deepwater drilling continues in the gulf. New leases are being offered by the government and sold to energy companies each year. Yet the N.A.E. report warned that a blowout in deep water may not be controllable with current technology.

The risk of another blowout is real. Offshore wells have lost control several times in the past year. In July the Timbalier 220 well spewed natural gas for two days in the gulf, setting a drilling rig on fire, before it could be stopped. Its operators were fortunate that the blowout took place in just 154 feet of water, where the pressure is lower and underwater access is easier, and that the spill was mostly natural gas. But the same lack of control could easily lead to another oil blowout in deep water.

This continuing threat to the oceans is compounded by the administration’s recent proposal to allow the use of seismic air guns to search for oil along the Atlantic coast. Scientists use these blasts to map the subsurface of the seafloor. But they harm a wide range of species, and the Interior Department’s own analysis indicates that they may kill large numbers of dolphins and whales. Rather than waiting for pending scientific guidelines that would determine whether this acoustic testing could be done safely, the administration has rushed to allow the oil industry to move forward.

We have seen this pattern before. The expansion of drilling into deeper water and farther from shore was not coupled with advances in spill prevention and response. The same is true as we push into new territory in the Atlantic. As we commemorate one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history, we hope our leaders can rethink the expansion of offshore drilling, put real safety measures in place in the gulf and chart a course for safer and cleaner solutions to end the need for this risky business in the first place.


S. Elizabeth Birnbaum is a consultant at SEB Strategies, and was director of the Minerals Management Service at the time of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Jacqueline Savitz is vice president for U.S. Oceans at Oceana, an international conservation group.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on April 17, 2014, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: The Deepwater Horizon Threat.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Republic: Offshore drilling rig taking on water but stable after hit by large storm wave off Texas coast & Coast Guard News: CG Monitoring damaged drilling rig in Gulf–Offshore-Rig-Storm-Wave

April 15, 2014 – 6:55 pm EDT

GALVESTON, Texas – An offshore drilling rig is taking on water but is stable after being hit by a large storm wave off the Texas coast.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the rig was drilling for oil and gas in 3,000-foot depths around 10 a.m. Tuesday when the wave hit.

Petty Officer Manda Emery says the platform was knocked 55 feet, and one of three watertight chambers in one of the rig’s six floatation columns began taking on water.

Emery says the platform is being kept level and there is no spill. None of the 116 crew members was injured, and there have been no evacuations.
The rig is about 130 miles from Galveston.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Andy Kendrick says the well is being drilled for Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum

Coast Guard News

Coast Guard monitoring damaged drilling rig in Gulf of Mexico
Apr 15th, 2014 · 0 Comment

HOUSTON – The Coast Guard is overseeing response efforts for an offshore drilling rig that began taking on water into a ballast tank after a large wave hit them in heavy seas more than 100 miles south of Galveston.

Tuesday morning the Coast Guard received a report that the ENSCO 8506, an offshore semi-submersible drilling rig, had been damaged causing one of the rig’s column ballast tanks to take on water. The capacity of the ballast pumps onboard are keeping up with the ingress of water in the column ballast tank. The rig is maintaining an even keel and remains in a stable position without resorting to using the emergency pumps, or performing an emergency disconnect from the riser.

There are no reports of injuries or pollution.

The rig was conducting exploratory operations and did not have any oil product onboard from drilling operations. The drilling rig is operating in an area with a 3,800-foot water depth and was not conducting actual drilling operations when the incident occurred. All rig operations have been suspended and preparations are being made for normal disconnect procedures if necessary to make repairs.

The Coast Guard has deployed the Coast Guard Cutter Skipjack, homeported in Galveston, and an aircrew aboard an HU-25 Falcon airplane from Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi to provide on-site intelligence and to assist if necessary.

The onscene weather Tuesday afternoon was 20 knot sustained winds and 12 foot seas.

Special thanks to Richard Charter 6 Horrible Oil Spills Since Deepwater Horizon That You Probably Didn’t Hear About

By Kristine Wong | 17 hours ago

On April 20, 2010, the giant Deepwater Horizon oil rig, owned by Transocean Inc. and operated by BP, exploded some 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 crew members before sinking into the Gulf of Mexico two days later. The rig’s underwater well, called Macondo, was 5,000 feet below sea level. The extreme environment-and, critics contend, lax oversight and governmental regulation-made it hard to stanch the flow of oil into the sea. By the time Macondo was finally capped on July 15, more than 210 million gallons of oil had leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, making it one of the largest environmental disasters in United States history.

Though environmentalists pounced on the accident as an occasion to push for an end to our oil-dependent lifestyles, BP and its big oil brethren have continued to rake in outsize earnings. In 2013, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell took home $93 billion in profits-that’s $177,000 per minute. The accidents haven’t stopped either.

Here are six of the largest oil spills around the world that have occurred since that fateful day nearly four years ago.

Little Buffalo, Alberta
On April 29, 2011, more than 868,000 gallons of crude oil from Plains Midstream Canada’s Rainbow Pipeline spilled into a forest 20 miles from the Lubicon Cree First Nation community of Little Buffalo, Alberta. Three hectares of beaver ponds and swampland were contaminated. Many residents reported experiencing headaches and nausea from the fumes. Two years after the spill, Plains Midstream was fined for violating Canada’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The spill was considered to be Alberta’s worst in 35 years.

Kalamazoo River, Michigan
A pipeline transporting diluted bitumen-aka tar sands oil-from Ontario, Canada, to Indiana ruptured into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River, on July 26, 2010. The size of the spill was initially reported to be 877,000 gallons. But in 2012, the EPA said that cleanup crews recovered 1.1 million gallons of oil and 200,000 cubic yards of oil-contaminated sediment and debris. Three years after the spill, an oil sheen remained on the river, according to The New York Times. Enbridge, the Alberta-based energy company that owned the ruptured pipeline, was fined $3.7 million by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for the incident. The cost of the oil spill has been estimated to exceed $1 billion. Enbridge now wants to build a pipeline transporting tar sands oil through a pristine boreal forest in Western Canada.

Bonga Oil Field, Nigeria
On Dec. 21, 2011, Royal Dutch Shell’s Bonga oil field in Nigeria leaked 1.24 million gallons of oil into the Niger Delta. The Guardian reported that satellite watchdog organization Skytruth posted photos indicating that the spill was 43.5 miles long and covered 356 square miles. Nigerian activist organization Environmental Rights Action told the newspaper that it did not believe Shell’s 1.24-million-gallon claim, saying that the “company consistently under reports the amounts.” Ever year Shell and other companies spill the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez tanker capacity into the Niger Delta.

Lac-Mégantic, Quebec
A 72-car freight train operated by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway derailed July 6, 2013, in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and spilling 1.5 million gallons of oil. Half the city’s downtown area was destroyed by a subsequent blast. The spill leaked into the Chaudière River, a waterway that flows to the St. Lawrence River. It took crews 36 hours to extinguish the fires. The cleanup has involved siphoning oil from the river and removing more than 25,000 cubic meters of toxic soil. The rebuilding effort will cost an estimated $200 million. A criminal investigation by the Quebec police is ongoing. 2013 was the worst year ever for oil spills from trains in North America.

Guarapiche River, Venezuela
On Feb. 4, 2012 a ruptured pipeline operated by Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA spilled crude oil into the Guarapiche River, near Maturin. While government officials said they could not determine how much was spilled, one lawmaker (from an opposition party to the government) told media that 1.86 million gallons were spilled. Environment Minister Alejandro Hitcher said that the country had deployed 1,500 workers to clean up the spill. A PDVSA executive later told the state-run news agency AVN that “a good percentage” had been cleaned up, Reuters reported.

Yellow Sea, China
After a pipeline heading to a port in Dalian, China, ruptured on July 16, 2010, the Chinese government said that 461,790 gallons had spilled into the Yellow Sea. But two weeks after the spill, Rick Steiner, a former academic conservationist with the University of Alaska, said that after touring the area, he estimated the volume spilled to be between 18.47 and 27.70 million gallons. That figure, he told The Associated Press, was “at least as large as the official estimate of the Exxon Valdez disaster.” Steiner toured the spill area as a consultant for Greenpeace China, The World Post reported. He calculated his estimates based on his understanding that a 27.7-million-gallon oil storage tanker that had been reportedly filled was destroyed during the incident.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Study: Fracking Emissions Up To 1000x Higher Than EPA Estimates

Published on Tuesday, April 15, 2014
New report suggests highly potent greenhouse gas far more prevalent in gas production than previously thought
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Marcellus Shale Gas Well, Lawrence County, Penn. (Flickr / WCN247 / Creative Commons license)

Natural gas drilling is emitting far higher levels of methane into the atmosphere than federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency have said, according to the findings of a new study released Monday.

“We identified a significant regional flux of methane over a large area of shale gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania in the Marcellus formation and further identified several pads with high methane emissions,” said the report, conducted by a team of scientists led by Purdue University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While past EPA studies have said gas well sites emit as little as between 0.04 and 0.30 grams of methane per second, this new study found numbers between 100 to 1,000 times higher than what the EPA has calculated, with levels closer to 34 grams of methane per second at some of the Pennsylvania sites. Methane is up to 30 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Of particular curiosity for the research team was the fact that the highest levels of methane were coming from well sites that were being preliminarily drilled for production, but had not yet gone through the controversial gas production process known as fracking.

“The methane emissions from the gas wells … are surprisingly high considering that all of these wells were still being drilled, had not yet been hydraulically fractured, and were not yet in production,” the paper reports.

“Methane plumes might be the result of drilling through coal beds,” said the study, “which are known to release large amounts of methane when mined. Fracking sites in the Marcellus Shale formation are commonly located over coal beds.”

As the Los Angeles Times reports, Monday’s findings add to “a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations.” The EPA’s research has largely been subject to the whims of the industry, the researchers noted, which has a say over where and when the agency has access to drilling sites. Monday’s Purdue report, on the other hand, used a plane equipped with technology to measure greenhouse gas levels in the air above the sites.

Meanwhile, the EPA released its own new set of methane information on Tuesday with a series of technical white papers detailing the sources of methane emissions in the oil and gas industry. The agency also opened a public comment period, which will be used—alongside peer reviewed input—”to determine how to best pursue additional reductions from these sources.”

The EPA said the white papers, which detail five main sources of methane leakage in the fossil fuel industry—natural gas compressors, hydraulic fracturing for oil, natural gas production, removing liquids in gas wells and pneumatic devices used in the gas industry—are designed to help the agency “solidify [its] understanding of certain sources of methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in the oil and natural gas industry.”


Energy & Environment: Oil companies pushed to release more data on offshore drilling

Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, April 14, 2014

Companies involved in offshore oil drilling in federal waters along
California’s coast should voluntarily test for chemical leaks and
release the information, a state lawmaker said Friday.

Providing water quality data would bolster people’s faith that oil
companies want to prevent pollution, Assembly member Das Williams (D)
told industry representatives at an Assembly Select Committee on
Coastal Protection hearing in Santa Barbara, Calif.

California’s S.B. 4, which passed last year, requires base line
testing of water near sites where hydraulic fracturing and other well
stimulation treatments are used, including state waters. But the law
doesn’t apply in the ocean controlled by the federal government.

“If the regulatory structure of S.B. 4 provides that extra level of
safety, and frankly, testing and verification, so therefore
accountability, why would your industry not voluntarily agree to
adhere to those standards in federal waters?” Williams said. “Why
would you not provide that testing data to state regulators? There’s
nothing stopping you from adhering to state regulations in federal

“Would you do it?” he added.

The inquiry took place at the informational hearing focused on
offshore drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing. Throughout
California, city and state officials are examining rules related to
fracking operations. In the Legislature, S.B. 1132, which would
temporarily ban hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional oil
drilling, last week passed out of its first committee in the state’s
Senate (EnergyWire, April 9).

That same day, the board of supervisors in Butte County, 80 miles
north of Sacramento, in a 4-1 vote directed staff to come back with an
ordinance that would bar fracking. There have been similar votes
seeking moratorium ordinances in Los Angeles and Culver City. Nearby,
Carson last month imposed a ban on all oil drilling.

Williams’ question Friday came after Dan Tormey, while speaking on
behalf of the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA),
supported new state rules on water.

“With S.B. 4 and the addition of water quality monitoring, I do think
that’s a good idea,” Tormey said, “to measure what the base-line
conditions are and then to see afterward whether those have been

Williams then asked about voluntarily providing the data as it relates
to drilling in federal waters.

“It’s an unfair question,” replied Peter Candy, an attorney also
representing CIPA. “You would have to ask individual operators.” Those
drilling platform operators would need to talk to federal officials,
Candy said, adding that there currently are movements toward those

‘Prove good faith’

“We don’t need them if you guys voluntarily decided to do it,”
Williams said, which triggered applause from the audience. “If you
really wanted to prove good faith to the public, you could decide to
do that.”

Candy said that it “would go operator by operator. It’s difficult for
us to sit up here today and answer for individual operators.”

Craig Johns, representing the Western States Petroleum Association
(WSPA), said that S.B. 4’s provisions on water testing focus on
protecting groundwater. Ocean water isn’t used for drinking, he said.
Additionally, he said, EPA monitors for any adverse impacts on the
aquatic environment from offshore drilling.

Williams responded sharply.

“I think on behalf of fishermen and swimmers and surfers and
beachgoers of this county and the state, seawater does have a
beneficial use,” even if it’s not used for drinking water, though
that, too, is changing, he said, referring to desalination.

The California Coastal Commission began probing offshore fracking last
year after a news report revealed that regulators had allowed 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.

In waters controlled by the federal government, there are 23 platforms
with outer continental shelf (OCS) plans granting approval for
exploration. A dozen individual wells have done some form of fracking
in the last 25 years, Alison Dettmer, chief deputy head of the Coastal
Commission’s Energy and Ocean Resources division, told lawmakers.

The agency has limited power when it comes to federal waters, she
said. Its purview is limited to evaluating whether activities are
consistent with state law.

Discharges to the ocean are prohibited in state waters but are allowed
and practiced in a number of federal waters, the Coastal Commission
has said previously. The agency plans to send U.S. EPA a letter
requesting that the agency modify its permits so that drilling
platform operators that plan to discharge would submit to an
additional Coastal Commission review, Dettmer said.

Assemblymember Mark Stone (D), chairman of the Select Committee on
Coastal Protection, at the hearing noted that he had seen in his
background materials that the oil and gas industry rejects that the
commission has review authority over OCS plans.

Dettmer said that it’s “a complicated question.”

“We’re going to have to go case by case to look at the individual OCS
plans,” Dettmer said, explaining that the agency would be evaluating
whether each initial plan “actually anticipated at that time doing any
form of well stimulation.”

Federal vs. state jurisdiction

During questioning later, Stone asked Candy — representing CIPA —
his view of the Coastal Commission’s authority. Candy said that CIPA’s
position isn’t that the state agency “lacks all authority to do
consistency reviews.”

But, Candy said, “in cases where you’ve got an established facility
and an approved OCS plan, then the commission needs to be wary of
infringing upon” the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Safety and
Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Federal regulations give those agencies “exclusive jurisdiction” for
determining what falls within the scope of an OCS plan versus what
would require significant revision, which would trigger a commission
consistency review, he said.

“This industry is highly regulated,” Candy said. “The protections are
in place.” The Coastal Commission should be ensuring that “the
regulators are doing their jobs,” he said, “but not requiring
consistency review every time an operator proposes to hydraulically
fracture a well.”

Stone responded that “the point of consistency review is that
oversight over a federal agency” to “ensure that the federal action is
not jeopardizing coastal resources.”

Interior Department representatives turned down a request to testify
at the hearing, Stone said.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, urged more protections.

Brian Segee, staff attorney with the Santa Barbara-based Environmental
Defense Center, said that the Santa Barbara channel is rich with
marine life that includes threatened and endangered species. There are
bluefin, humpback and killer whales, porpoises, dolphins, southern sea
otters and hundreds of other fishes, birds and invertebrates, he said.

Fracking releases harmful air pollution, uses large amounts of water,
could increase risk of earthquakes and, by producing more oil, hurts
efforts to reduce climate change, Segee said.

In addition, he said, some companies are using hydrochloric and
hydrofluoric acid in wells and should fall under the definition in
S.B. 4 for well stimulation. But there’s an industry attempt to
curtail S.B. 4’s scope by exploiting an exclusion for “routine well
cleanout work, routine well maintenance and routine removal of
formation damage due to drilling.”

“Until a moratorium is enacted … it is imperative that attention be
paid to this critical issue and attempt to circumvent the plain
language and intent of S.B. 4,” Segee said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: In Small Canadian Town Democracy Wins, Tar Sands Loses; Kitimat, British Columbia’s ‘no’ vote follows widespread opposition to Northern Gateway

Published on Monday, April 14, 2014

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Photo: Stephen Boyle/cc/flickrIn a vote cheered as a victory for democracy, one community in British Columbia has given a flat rejection to a proposed tar sands pipeline.

Over 58 percent of voters who headed to the polls in the North Coast municipality of Kitimat on Saturday said “no” to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project.

That project would include a pipeline to carry tar sands crude from near Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat.

CBC News reports that

Kitimat is the community most affected by the $6.5-billion project, because as the endpoint for the pipeline bringing bitumen from Alberta, it would house a marine terminal where the supertankers would load up.

“The people have spoken. That’s what we wanted — it’s a democratic process,” Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said in a statement following the vote. “We’ll be talking about this Monday night at Council, and then we’ll go from there with whatever Council decides.”

One group welcoming the rejection is the Dogwood Initiative, a B.C.-based group that advocates for decision-making power for environmental decisions to be in the hands of the people.

“This shows what happens when you actually give people the chance to vote on Enbridge’s proposal,” stated Kai Nagata, Energy & Democracy Director with the group.

The rejection was also a reflection of voter awareness of the environmental threats posed by the Northern Gate, according to the B.C.-based Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

“The vote in Kitimat illustrates how acutely aware British Columbians are that our province’s coast, which hosts incomparable land and seascapes, is in imminent jeopardy from the proposed export of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to the oil industry’s global markets by the threat of a catastrophic Exxon Valdez type spill, as well as a host of other impacts,” said Chris Genovali, Executive Director of Raincoast.

“For example, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project will result in increased tanker traffic and vessel noise through sensitive and productive waters, impoverishing critical habitat for numerous species of threatened and endangered whales. Additionally, the chronic oiling accompanying Northern Gateway’s tankers and terminal will likely slowly degrade habitat and water quality to the point where near-shore environments are no longer productive or capable of supporting nurseries for wild salmon, one of B.C.’s greatest natural assets,” said Genovali.

Photo: Neal Jennings/cc/flickrIn December 2013, a federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) gave its recommendation to approve the pipeline, but that approval prompted backlash from environmental groups, including ForestEthics Advocacy and Living Oceans Society, who say the approval was made without taking into consideration the full environmental impacts of the project. The groups, representing by Ecojustice, have filed suit to block the JRP’s report from being used as a basis for full federal approval of the project.

“The panel cannot consider the so-called economic benefits of oilsands expansion tied to this pipeline but ignore the adverse impacts that expansion will have on climate change, endangered wildlife and ecosystems,” stated Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner with ForestEthics Advocacy, when their lawsuit was filed.

A resounding “No” for the pipeline was also heard this past Friday, when, as the Globe and Mail reports,

A group of First Nations with territory covering a quarter of the route for the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline met with federal representatives Friday to officially reject the project.

The First Nations representatives said there is no more debate, as they banned the pipeline under their traditional laws.

“We do not, we will not, allow this pipeline,” the Globe and Mail reports Peter Erickson, a hereditary chief of the Nak’azdli First Nation, as telling the bureaucrats. “We’re going to send the message today to the federal government and to the company itself: Their pipeline is dead. Under no circumstances will that proposal be allowed.”

“Their pipeline is now a pipe dream,” Erickson added.

Nagata’s group is saying that all British Columbians should have a vote on the Northern Gateway.

“This project would have serious ramifications for the whole province, so all British Columbians deserve to vote on it,” said Nagata. “That should extend far beyond just speaking to a panel or writing your local newspaper. Regardless of whether you support this proposal, the decision should be made by British Columbians.”

To help make this happen, the Dogwood Initiative has launched a new website,, to harness the province’s direct democracy laws by gathering the signatures of at least 10 per cent of the registered voters to get the issue onto a ballot.

A federal review panel is expected to give its final decision on Enbridge’s project in June.


Global Dashboard: Climate Change Is Not a Debate: It Is a Struggle That Pits Survivors Against Fossil Fuel Profiteers
Published on Thursday, April 10, 2014

by Ben Phillips

(Credit: Oxfam / cc / Flickr)Climate change is not a debate. The scientists couldn’t be clearer about how real and how harmful it is. But governments are still not basing their commitments on what is needed, and fossil fuel companies remain confidently fossilised in their economic outlook and plan.

So why haven’t the facts haven’t driven the policy? In part, it’s the collective action problem. But let’s not be naive: there are billionaires getting richer and richer from fossil fuels. For them, the collective failure to responsibly manage fossil fuel reserves isn’t a failure at all, it’s a hugely profitable success.

Climate change is impossible to make sense of as a debate, precisely because it is not a debate. It’s a struggle.

As has been said of “failed states”, you can only understand them if you understand who is doing well out of the so-called failure. The same is true of “failed global politics”: The broken-down Warsaw talks sponsored by the coal industry were a huge success for the sponsors. Don’t assume that politicians who second-guess scientists are being stupid – look at their donors, and you’ll find many of them are being very clever. Likewise the “sceptical” think tankers paid for from oil tankers. In successfully ensuring a recurring “not yet” to any decent plan to tackle climate change, the fossil fuel lobby make the tobacco industry look like amateurs. As Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman puts it, “fossil fuel money is drowning democracy”.

The fossil fuel lobby is determined to hold out. But they are beatable. We’ve seen them make one tactical retreat already. Those who didn’t want climate change to get in the way of their irresponsibility used to say that climate was a myth; now they are starting to say it’s inevitable. It’s a shameless pivot from denialism to fatalism, of course, a clever move that will buy the fossil fuel lobby more time. (And time is money.) But that they have been forced to pivot is an indication of weakness, a chink in the armour.

The fossil fuel lobby is weakened too by the growing movement pushing for other parts of business to separate themselves from, and start to take on, the fossil fuel lobby: we’ve seen the wiser parts of the finance industry start to connect the sustainability of their investments with the sustainability of the climate, and to recognise the risks inherent in betting on unlimited carbon use; and we’ve seen the wiser parts of the food industry – an industry which both contributes to and suffers from climate change – start to look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the agricultural and water resources on which they depend. As they start to shift, the fossil fuel lobby will become ever more isolated.

But what most threatens the fossil fuel lobby is the power of survivors as campaigners. Of course, this is not the first time that affected people have spoken out about climate change, but one of the consequences of climate change is that the numbers of the affected grows ever larger. The raw, brutal, damage to people wrought by climate change has been a spur for re-energised powerful grassroots activism, driven by experience, by groups ranging from Nicaraguan coffee growers to Manilla slum dwellers. Communities hit by extreme weather in countries like the UK and US are getting more organised too. And increasingly the governments of the poorest countries are speaking on behalf of their people. Diplomats have stopped being diplomatic. The ecological has become personal.

This movement of the affected is still inchoate, but it is the most important force for action on climate change. Just as people affected by HIV took on the pharmaceutical industry (and, ultimately, and with great sacrifice, won), so too the people most affected by climate are taking on the power of the fossil fuel lobby. They are making it clear that this is a struggle between interests. And they are calling upon others to choose a side.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Ben Phillips

Ben Phillips is Campaigns and Policy Director of Oxfam. He has lived and worked in four continents and 10 cities including New Delhi and Washington DC, as well as with children in poverty in East London.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

MySanAntonio from the Houston Chronicle: Latest oil incident belies painful truth

Photo By Jennifer Reynolds / Galveston County Daily News
Oil spill response crews remove absorbent material on the beach in Galveston. About 170,000 gallons of oil spilled into Galveston Bay on March 22.


HOUSTON – Shortly before noon March 30, a storage tank on a platform in the northernmost lobe of Galveston Bay began overflowing because of an equipment malfunction. At least 160 gallons of light crude oil poured into the water and spread to nearby marshes.

The incident mainly occurred in the background, as attention was focused on a larger problem across the bay, where crews were in their ninth day of cleaning up nearly 170,000 gallons of heavy oil spilled by a punctured barge.

The one-two punch underscores a depressing truth about these blue-collar waters: Oil spills happen almost every day.

Galveston Bay has averaged 285 spills a year since 1998, according to the Houston Advanced Research Center, which publishes periodic reports on the state of the bay’s ecosystem.

The spills typically are small, averaging 103 gallons per incident. Most were less than a gallon. Yet the spills occur frequently enough to raise concerns about the health of the bay.

“It’s like death by a thousand cuts, especially when you combine the oil spills with all of the other stressors to the bay,” said Lisa Gonzalez, a marine scientist who serves as the Houston Advanced Research Center’s vice president.

The area’s growing human footprint has taken a toll. More than 35,000 acres of coastal marshes have disappeared, primarily because of subsidence, the sinking of soft soils because of groundwater pumping.

The bay remains resilient, however, as the most productive and commercially valuable bay and estuary system in Texas and the heart of the state’s $2 billion fishing industry. Experts say the size of the fishing industry suggests that the bay is healthy. But it’s hard to tell because the ecosystem is always changing, and scientific knowledge is lacking.

Antonietta Quigg, a marine biologist at Texas A&M University at Galveston, said spilled oil is a chronic issue with long-term consequences for the bay’s animals and plants. For years, Quigg has measured the bay’s health through plankton, some of the smallest, most sensitive organisms in the water.

In the first days after the March 22 spill, Quigg’s research team took water samples near where the Summer Wind, a bulk carrier as long as a football field, collided with a barge, causing heavy bunker fuel oil to empty into the lower end of the bay.

The winds and waves pushed the black goo into the Gulf of Mexico instead of the fragile estuaries ringing the bay. While some consider the oil’s movement to be a lucky break, the spill still caused harm.

It’s still too early to tell how the spill affected plankton. But Quigg’s preliminary findings show oil-consuming bacteria, which occur naturally in the bay’s subtropical waters, are helping to clean up the mess.

The oil spill was the largest in the bay since a 1990 collision between a tanker and three barges released about 700,000 gallons of heavy crude into the Houston Ship Channel, just south of Redfish Island. The incident was larger than all spills combined for Galveston Bay in any given year since 1998, according to the Texas General Land Office.

It received 284 reports of oil spills in the bay in 1998, the first year of the state agency’s data. That number peaked at 397 incidents in 2001 and since has trended downward, with a low of 184 spills in 2011.

“We have gone from a culture 30 years ago where (if) you spilled something you didn’t tell anybody, where today if you spill something, regardless of the amount, you self-report,” said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Even with greater attention to preventing spills, oil inevitably gets into the water.

The recent spill from the storage tank was blamed on a high-water alarm that failed. Oil-laced water poured over the brim and fouled at least 300 yards of marshland, said Scott Gaudet of the land office.
“We’ve made good progress, and there are fewer spills in the bay,” he said. “But tanks overflow, hoses leak and people make mistakes.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter U.S. Could Allow Atlantic Offshore Surveying This Year

By James Burgess | Mon, 07 April 2014 21:19 | 0

A top Department of Interior official said that the Obama administration may allow oil and gas companies to begin seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean later this year in what would be a first step towards offshore oil exploration. Tommy Beaudreau, the Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the Department has received several applications to conduct seismic testing. “It’s possible, depending on what the contractor wants to do, that the first survey could be as early as later this year,” he said.

The Atlantic Ocean has been off limits to drilling since the early 1980s, but the Obama administration has taken steps to open up the area for exploration. There is an estimated 3.3 billion barrels of oil under the Atlantic seabed. Environmental groups have opposed seismic testing due to the damaging effects on marine life. Moreover, by blocking seismic testing, they hope to prevent drilling before it starts. At the hearing, Rep. James Moran (D-VA) expressed concern about the potential impacts of an oil spill on Virginia’s economy, and pressed Beaudreau on ensuring that Interior has sufficient oversight to guard against such an event.

Interior published an environmental impact statement in February that outlined safeguards to protect marine life, but also provided a framework for companies to move forward with seismic testing. It didn’t approve seismic testing outright, but that appears to be the direction the agency is heading. And Beaudreau’s comments last week suggest that Interior is moving towards approving seismic testing in late 2014.

Seismic testing would merely be the first step. Drilling could not occur before 2017 – the Department of Interior operates under five-year plans, and should it decide to open up the Atlantic for drilling, that would likely come as part of the 2017-2022 plan.

By James Burgess of

Daily Mail, UK: Poor management led to Shell grounding

PUBLISHED: 20:13 EST, 3 April 2014 | UPDATED: 20:13 EST, 3 April 2014
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Poor risk assessment and management were among factors that led to the grounding of a Shell oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Alaska in 2012, the Coast Guard said in a report released Thursday.

The report also says Alaska’s tax laws influenced the decision to tow the Kulluk to Seattle for maintenance. Royal Dutch Shell PLC believed the drill vessel would have qualified as taxable property on Jan. 1, 2013, if it was still in Alaska waters.

The Kulluk broke away from its tow vessel in late December 2012 after it ran into a vicious storm – a fairly routine winter event for Alaska waters. Multiple attempts to maintain tow lines failed, and the vessel ran aground that New Year’s Eve off tiny Sitkalidak Island, just off Kodiak Island. Several days before the tow initially broke, the master of the tow vessel, Aiviq, sent an email to the Kulluk’s tow master, expressing concerns about the towing conditions, according to the report.

“To be blunt I believe that this length of tow, at this time of year, in this location, with our current routing guarantees an ass kicking,” says the email quoted in the report. “In my opinion we should get to the other side just as soon as possible. It (sic) the event that our weather resources can route us “around” an area that will jeopardize any personnel or equipment on either the Kulluk or the Aiviq we should strongly consider the recommendation and deal with any logistical issues as they develop.”

The Aiviq’s master and tow master shared their concerns about the weather forecast with Shell’s marine manager, and they requested to change course to minimize the impact, according to the report. The request was “not formally granted,” even though Shell’s tow plan gave those Aiviq officials the discretion to change course under certain considerations, the report said.

Damage to the Kulluk played a role in Shell’s decision to forego Arctic offshore drilling in 2013. Shell doesn’t plan to drill in the Arctic this year.

Before the grounding in 2012, Shell had also experienced problems in the challenging Arctic conditions to the north where it was conducting pre-production drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

In the Kulluk grounding, the Coast Guard report says sufficient evidence exists for other authorities to consider penalties.

Lisa Novak, a civilian spokeswoman for the Coast Guard, said the final report stems from the Coast Guard’s formal marine casualty investigation. She said it is a fact-finding report, with no direct penalties issued.

The report also includes recommendations. Among them, the Coast Guard Commandant should partner with the Towing Safety Advisory Council to establish a group to address issues raised by the grounding. The report also recommends that the state of Alaska develop minimal criteria for ocean towing in the Coast Guard’s area of responsibility. It also says Shell and other corporations intending to work in Arctic waters should develop and maintain policies addressing all aspects of such operations in areas with histories of heavy weather.

Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said the company is reviewing the Coast Guard report. Shell already has implemented lessons learned and will measure them against the findings of the report, she said.

“We appreciate the US Coast Guard’s thorough investigation into the Kulluk towing incident and will take the findings seriously,” she wrote in an email.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who has been vocal about his concerns over the grounding, issued a statement Thursday, saying Shell should be held accountable for its “reckless behavior” pertaining to its tax-avoidance motivations.

“This report shows that Shell ran through every single safety and common-sense red light in moving this rig because of financial considerations,” Markey said.” This kind of behavior should raise major red flags for any future Arctic drilling plans.”

Environmental groups said the report emphasizes deficiencies that make the oil industry and government ill-prepared to deal with oil development in the Arctic Ocean.

“Today’s report again shows that Shell did not appreciate or plan for the risks of operating in Alaskan waters, prioritized financial considerations ahead of safety and precaution, and simply disregarded important legal protections,” Mike LeVine, a staff attorney for the conservation group Oceana, said in an email. “The report again confirms what common sense dictates: companies and government agencies are not ready for the Arctic Ocean.”

Associated Press writer Donna Blankinship in Seattle contributed to this rep


Shell was not prepared for the challenges of towing large vessels in the Arctic, the Coast Guard says in a report detailing the Dec. 31, 2012, incident in which the drilling rig Kulluk to run aground while being towed out of Alaska, in part to avoid millions of dollars in state taxes. The report is the latest in a string of bad news for Shell, which said earlier this year it won’t be restarting Arctic drilling activities this year. The 152-page report, which includes a detailed account of the days-long incident, concludes that Shell’s towing plans “were not adequate for the winter towing operation crossing the Gulf of Alaska.”

– There were a number of other contributing factors, according to the report, including using just one towing vessel in bad weather, taking a route too close to the coast, a lack of formalized risk assessment, the premature evacuation of the Kulluk, and using response vessels with inadequate abilities (though it praises their crews). The report includes a litany of safety recommendations, including identifying minimal requirements for towing in the ‘unique Arctic environment.’

Weather blame: The report notes that extreme weather made towing the Kulluk extremely difficult. “The weather in this case had a constant negative impact during the course of this casualty. No less than four significant low pressure systems created hazardous sea and wind conditions, particularly during the response efforts. The storms encountered were extreme, and the frequency added to the complications as there was inadequate time between storms to move the Kulluk to a safe harbor.”

Recommended penalties: The report also says there is sufficient evidence to level penalties against Edison Chouest Offshore, the builder of the towing vessel Aiviq, and several crew members. It recommends turning those matters over to the proper authorities. “I am most troubled by the significant number and nature of the potential violations of law and regulations,” writes Rear Admiral Joseph A. Servido, the assistant commandant for prevention policy, in his response. He adds that “if the potential violations of law and regulations noted in the report actually occurred, far greater levels of oversight will be required.”

The report:

SHELL RESPONSE: “We appreciate the US Coast Guard’s thorough investigation into the Kulluk towing incident and will take the findings seriously,” Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said. “Already, we have implemented lessons learned from our internal review of our 2012 operations. Those improvements will be measured against the findings in the USCG report as well as recommendations from the US Department of Interior.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “The service has made a number of good recommendations to improve the safety of maritime activities as exploration of the Arctic moves forward. I believe that we can safely develop our energy resources in the Arctic, but it requires that we adhere to world-class safety standards.”

Sen. Mark Begich: “I remain a strong supporter of responsible development of the Arctic’s resources. … The Coast Guard’s investigation and recommendations here will help guide that development and gives me greater confidence about the role the Arctic will play in Alaska’s future.”

Alaska Wilderness League Executive Director Cindy Shogan: “The report continues to demonstrate that no oil company is ready to drill in the Arctic. Shell Oil was forced to abandon its plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean in 2013 due to its own lack of preparedness and technical failures, together with Alaska’s harsh and unpredictable conditions.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New Orleans Advocate: Stephanie Grace: Ex-govs agree on worth of lawsuit


Photo by Harold Baquet, Loyola University Office of Public Affairs — From left, moderator Lee Zurik with former Govs. Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards at the Institute of Politics Ed Renwick Lecture at Loyola University in New Orleans.

April 01, 2014

Proponents of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies say that, in private, they’re not only getting a fair hearing from many politicians but sense some support for their effort to force the powerful industry to help remediate coastal damage. Ask them to name names, though, and they turn mum.

Opponents, of course, are showing no such reluctance. Gov. Bobby Jindal adamantly opposes the suit, and sympathetic legislators, led by oil and gas man and state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, are seeking to kill before it ever gets to court. Jindal removed the effort’s prime architect, author John Barry, from the levee board and is maneuvering to stack it with allies, even as the Legislature is poised to consider codifying more gubernatorial control. The Louisiana Oil & Gas Association sued, arguing Attorney General Buddy Caldwell had no right to OK the suit in the first place, but a judge ruled in Caldwell’s favor. Meanwhile, LOGA President Don Briggs has been vociferously arguing that the suit would have a chilling effect on companies that do business in the state, although in a deposition, he couldn’t come up with a single example.

Such is the atmosphere surrounding the suit and the widely perceived risk in bucking one of the state’s biggest employers and most potent political forces.

That’s what made last week’s unmitigated endorsement of the lawsuit by three former Louisiana governors remarkable.

It’s not that Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards said anything particularly outlandish when they appeared at a Loyola University Institute of Politics forum. Instead, they simply acknowledged that the industry bears responsibility for environmental damage its operations caused and argued that going to court is not a form of intimidation but, rather, a perfectly acceptable way to determine liability.

“All you gotta do is fly over the coastline of Louisiana,” Roemer said. “You don’t need a big speech, you don’t need a lecture series, you don’t need to read a book. Just hitch a ride on a plane, fly over our coastline and see that we are literally disappearing,” particularly along the channels dug by oil and gas interests.

“They do what is best for capitalism, that is to maximize their profits. And the job of the regulators and the citizens is to make sure that damage done is repaired. And that should figure into the cost of profit, and it’s not done now, and Louisiana is particularly egregious in this matter,” he said. “In my opinion, this ought to be a for-profit state, but those who abuse the privilege and don’t pay for damaging the land and water and air which we breathe ought to pay the cost to fix it.”

Next up was Edwards, who noted that “the damage is there, they have made billions of dollars, they have paid millions of dollars in taxes.”

“At the very least, we ought to go to court and find out who is responsible and to what extent, and if it’s determined that they are, then they should be required to pay,” he said.

Then came Blanco, who reminded the crowd that she’d overseen the creation of the independent levee boards in the first place and is “rather concerned that it’s going to be repoliticized.”

“Well, I think that certainly both governors are correct. We’ve all known that the channels that were dug and not restored have contributed mightily to our land loss,” she said. “I would predict that these major companies will come to the table if the lawsuit isn’t destroyed in the political process by the Legislature, but I think that they’ll come to the table and we’ll have a negotiated settlement. I think that they all know that it’s long overdue and that they owe something back to the state of LouisianaŠIt may not go all the way through the court system, but it will bring everybody to the table and force a more honest discussion than we’ve ever seen before.”

Those don’t sound like fringe sentiments, and they don’t come from fringe players.

Roemer, a former Democrat, became a Republican while in office and embarked on a banking career afterward. He can hardly be labeled anti-business, even if he has embraced a crusade in recent years against the poisonous influence of special interest money in politics.

As governor, Blanco was pretty mainstream on oil and gas issues, although she did on a few occasions push back against the industry, with little blowback.

And Edwards may be a lifelong populist, but he coexisted just fine with the industry, as have most Louisiana politicians.

The other thing the three have in common, of course, is that they’re untouchable. Roemer and Blanco are safely retired from politics, and while Edwards is going for an unlikely comeback, he doesn’t seem worried about ticking off any powerful interests.

No, this was just a common-sense take from three politicians who know the lay of the land but have nothing to fear.

Makes you wonder what some of today’s politicians might say out loud, if they felt they could.
Stephanie Grace can be contacted at Read her blog at

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New Times: DEP Advisory Committee Says No to Oil Drilling in Big Cypress Swamp

Broward Palm Beach

By Fire Ant Tue., Apr. 1 2014 at 8:51 AM

Environmentalists took heart yesterday when a Texas oil company’s request for official permission to drill deep into the Big Cypress watershed got a thumbs-down from an arm of the Department of Environmental Protection.

How great was the enviros’ victory remains to be seen, however. Yesterday’s panel, the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee, has no veto power, and the well has already won preliminary approval from the DEP. The enviros’ hopes now rest with state administrative law Judge D.R. Alexander, who must rule on legal challenges to the permit and who has indicated an interest in the advisory committee’s opinion.

The well is a project of the Dan A. Hughes Co. of Houston and would occupy but a small part of the 115,000 acres of mineral rights the company has leased from Collier Resources. Collier is the deepest pockets the enviros are up against ultimately, the owners of more than 800,000 acres of mineral rights in Southwest Florida.

Up in arms over the Hughes proposal is Preserve Our Paradise, a group of Collier County citizens’ whose homes are not far from the well site and who are lead petitioner in the administrative challenge to it. Their concerns center on air and groundwater pollution, traffic congestion, and hazardous waste. They and their supporters attended yesterday’s hearing en masse, according to media reports, peppering the panel with statements and questions and cheering the final 3-1 vote.

Also party to the administrative challenge is Matthew Schwartz, of the South Florida Wildlands Association. His special concern is the project’s impact on the Florida panther, whose habitat it adjoins. “There may be 100 to 160 Florida panthers remaining,” Schwartz told New Times. “And the 160 is a high-end estimate. They’re living in a very small area for a big cat with a big range, so even without the intrusion of the oil industry, their fate looks grim.”

One of those in attendance yesterday, Dr. Karen Dwyer, a leader in the citizen activist group Stone Crab Alliance, described the advisory committee’s vote as “something to smile about.”

“The exact wording of the denial is something to look for when it comes out,” Dwyer wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “It’s historic in holding Collier Resources accountable and in citing a statute that includes cumulative impacts to water, wildlife and more… A tiny victory, but a victory nonetheless that will spend a powerful message!”

See also:
– Oil Companies Are Planning to Drill in Florida Panther Habitat

Special thanks to Richard Charter

BOEM Extends Public Comment Period on Environmental Review for Geological and Geophysical Survey Activities Off the Atlantic Coast

Latest on comment extension about the Atlantic Seismic Final PEIS, which includes up to three deep stratigraphic test wells and up to five shallow test wells…..

Note to Stakeholders
March 31, 2014

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is extending the public comment period for the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for geological and geophysical (G&G) survey activities off the Mid- and South Atlantic coast. The comment period will be extended for 30 days and will now end on May 7, 2014.

The comment period is being extended in response to requests from the public asking for additional time to provide input.

The PEIS assesses G&G activities conducted under BOEM’s oil and gas, renewable energy and marine minerals programs through 2020, including deep-penetration and high-resolution seismic surveys, electromagnetic surveys, magnetic surveys, gravity surveys, remote-sensing surveys and geological and geochemical sampling. The PEIS also evaluates reasonably foreseeable environmental effects in adjacent state waters.

The PEIS is available for public comment at:
The February 27th news release announcing the original completion of the EIS and request for public comments can be found here:

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy resources.

About the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) promotes economic development, energy independence, and environmental protection through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy resources.

For More Information:
Caren Madsen or Blossom Robinson BOEM Office of Public Affairs (202) 208-6474
Please visit us at

Special thanks to Richard Charter

KBTX: Texas A&M-Galveston Scientists Assisting In Oil-Spill Aftermath, Texas A&M Vet Also Involved

Bryan, College Station, Texas

Posted: Tue 2:54 PM, Apr 01, 2014
By: Texas A&M University

GALVESTON, April 1, 2014 – Texas A&M University at Galveston scientists, along with colleagues from the main Texas A&M campus in College Station, have assisted in coping with the oil spill that temporarily shut down the Houston Ship Channel and affected a large additional area-and their work in some instances will go on indefinitely.

TAMUG researchers are studying the winds and currents to determine the path for the oil slick as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico. Other researchers are studying the damage that occurred to sea life and the ecosystem of Galveston Bay, its tributaries and wetlands.
Dr. Antonietta Quigg, a marine biologist and expert on the Galveston Bay ecosystem, is examining the water and sediment samples her team collected.

“It is too early to determine the results, it will take weeks to months,” she noted. “Once the findings are available, we will compare them to baseline data as we have been studying this bay for many years and we have the background data to determine the effects of this spill.”

Dr. Bernd Würsig, a marine biologist and one of the world’s foremost authorities on marine mammals, was not surprised to see that the area’s dolphins-seen almost daily in the waters off the university’s waterfront-left the oil zone for about four days.

“They are very smart and know to stay out of an oil slick; however this kind of oil forms globs that dolphins do not often see and that can pose a danger to them,” said Würsig.
Nevertheless, during one of his trips he noticed a pod socializing and feeding in the area.

“While it may be good that they are returning to the bay and commencing with regular activities, it could be dangerous for some if they ingest oil-tainted food or otherwise become compromised due to the disruption to the bay ecosystem,” Würsig said.

Dr. Tom Litton, a specialist on currents and waves, is working with data based on NASA’s satellite imagery.

“Indications are that the main slick should be moving down the coast and may affect fragile wildlife sanctuaries,” he said.

A team from the state has moved into those same areas to rescue wildlife and clean any oil globs from the beaches.

All agreed that it will take months to determine the true effects of this spill. Meanwhile, Texas A&M University at Galveston’s scientists are doing their part to help authorities get the bay and the wildlife back to normal.

Rear Admiral Robert Smith, CEO of Texas A&M at Galveston and a vice president of the university, said the Texas A&M branch campus was not directly affected by the oil spill.

He noted that, in addition to those faculty members who are actively engaged in projects related to the oil spill, several other Texas A&M faculty members were contacted by various media for expert comment and by the Coast Guard for the long-range effects and related matters.

A member of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Jill Heatley, was dispatched to the Galveston area to treat oil-soaked animals as part of the emergency response team of the Wildlife Center of Texas.

The spill near the Houston Ship Channel, which has dumped as much as 168,000 gallons of oil, has affected numerous birds, and Wildlife Center officials are expecting more to be brought in needing immediate care.

The situation is especially tricky because thousands of birds are currently passing through the area of the Texas coast as part of their annual northern migration pattern. Many of the birds eventually land in the area’s thousands of acres of marshes, and cleanup crews are focused on preventing the marshlands from becoming soaked with oil.

Heatley says removing oil from birds can be a tedious process.

“First of all, we often have to go out and capture the bird and bring it back to shore because if the bird is soaked, it is really struggling,” she explained.

“We examine the bird to see if it is injured in any way, and if not, then we begin the cleaning process. It involves wiping the oil off the bird, then soaking it in a mixture of mild detergents and water.

“Many times, these steps have to be repeated over and over if there is a lot of oil present,” she added. “That’s why it can take a while for each bird to get fully cleaned. It can be a time-consuming process but it is absolutely necessary.”
Heatley said she and other veterinarians from across Texas could be at their posts for several days, perhaps longer. “We stay as long as we’re needed,” she noted.

Special thanks to Richard Charter U.S. review of LNG export plant should weigh shale gas impact -EPA

By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, March 31 Tue Apr 1, 2014 3:30am IST

(Reuters) – The U.S. environmental regulator has raised concerns that a federal review of Sempra Energy’s proposed liquefied natural gas export project did not include an assessment of the potential effects of more natural gas drilling. The Environmental Protection Agency issued its finding earlier this month. It urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to weigh indirect greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental effects that would flow from the increase in gas drilling needed to support exports from the Cameron plant in Louisiana.

The Department of Energy approved exports from the project in February, but the plant must still get clearances from FERC. The EPA’s assessment is a fresh angle in the long running debate of how much LNG the U.S. should export. FERC should “consider the extent to which implementation of the proposed project could increase the demand for domestic natural gas extraction, as well as potential environmental impacts associated with the potential increased production of natural gas,” the EPA said in response to the commission’s draft review of the project.

The finding, dated March 3, was released by FERC late on Friday. FERC has long resisted calls from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club to consider the effects of shale gas production in its review of the safety and environmental impacts of LNG export facilities.

A spokeswoman said FERC would take the EPA’s comments and other public input into consideration as it crafts its final environmental review, currently set for release by April 30. Energy analysts said FERC will probably decide there is no need for an extensive analysis of the indirect greenhouse gas emissions that would be caused by one LNG export project.

A federal appeals court ruled in FERC’s favor in 2012 in a similar case regarding Crestwood Midstream Partner’s Marc 1 natural gas pipeline. In that case, environmental groups argued that the commission should have done a more expansive review of the impact of natural gas production.
“I don’t think FERC will defer to Sierra Club’s or EPA’s issues on the upstream unless or until regulations change,” said Christi Tezak, energy analyst for ClearView Energy Partners.

The shale gas boom, spurred by advances in drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to record U.S. natural gas production and paved the way for the United States to become a major gas exporter.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to extract fuel. Critics have blamed the practice for water contamination and say that increased drilling is polluting the air. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, editing by Ros Krasny and David Gregorio)

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: POLITICS: White House plans to patch methane leaks, but uncertainty and opposition exist

Twitter: @evanlehmann | Email:

Evan Lehmann and Stephanie Paige Ogburn, E&E reporters
Published: Monday, March 31, 2014

The Obama administration’s effort to plug the nation’s methane leaks has rekindled the debate about the role of natural gas in national climate policy, with most environmentalists applauding the effort, while others describe it as an empty promise.

The White House announcement Friday was widely seen as an important step to stop emissions of methane, a strong greenhouse gas, at leaky wellheads, at pipelines and from flares at oil wells. The administration says its unfinished strategy could curb 90 million tons of greenhouse gases by 2020, a significant step toward President Obama’s goal of cutting emissions by 17 percent.

That would be achieved through potential regulations on the oil and gas sector, though U.S. EPA won’t know before this fall whether it will pursue new methane rules. The strategy also calls for plugging up leaks at coal mines, in landfills and on farms, using the gas instead for electricity generation.

“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment and jobs, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air,” the 15-page strategy says.

But for some whose exclusive concern is climate change, the administration is trying to fix a problem of its own making. The administration wouldn’t need to fix methane leaks in the natural gas network if it hadn’t endorsed the development of hydraulic fracturing in the first place, said Bill McKibben, founder of

“These guys have been encouraging the development of fracking all along, and now they’re trying to — I don’t know what they’re trying to do — make it not quite so bad,” he said. “This was a misguided idea to come up with a whole new source of hydrocarbons just at the moment when science was telling us we needed to get off hydrocarbons.”

He seems to represent a minority view, however, and last week, the president’s counselor, John Podesta, said that a fossil-free future was “impractical.”

“Methane is a potent heat-trapping pollutant, and we’ve long understood the urgency and importance of controlling it as a way to slow dangerous climate change,” David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. He added that it’s “a big step in the right direction.”

Decision on regs this fall
Methane accounts for 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to U.S. EPA. Much less methane is released annually than carbon dioxide. But the gas, known as CH4, is pound-for-pound about 21 times more efficient at trapping radiation in the atmosphere than CO2, making it a potent contributor to climate change.

The oil and gas industry is the single biggest source of methane, accounting for about 30 percent of emissions, according to EPA’s greenhouse gas inventory. The gas is sometimes flared from oil wells, when pipelines and other equipment used to capture and distribute the gas are absent. Some is also released during the production, storage and distribution of natural gas, of which methane is the key ingredient.

The switch from coal to natural gas is a significant driver behind the nation’s declining greenhouse gas emissions. But the benefit of using more gas, which releases about half the amount of emissions that coal does when burned, could be blunted if methane releases rise as hydraulic fracturing makes gas increasingly accessible for extraction, many environmentalists say.

The White House strategy states that EPA will solicit expert input this spring on significant sources of methane from the oil and gas sector, in white papers. Recently, a number of studies have been released showing that EPA estimates of methane emissions from natural gas activities are 50 percent lower than actual emissions measurements (ClimateWire, Feb. 14).

After the white papers are completed, the agency will decide this fall whether it should develop additional regulations to limit methane from oil and gas under its Clean Air Act authority. This could apply to both public and private lands, said Dan Utech, special assistant to the president for energy and climate change. If EPA pursues regulations, the rules would be completed by the end of 2016, just before Obama leaves office.

In response to the strategy release, industry groups focused on the progress made by voluntary programs and state-level regulations, which are also mentioned in the White House document.

The American Petroleum Institute released a statement saying more regulations would place an “unnecessary burden” on industry, which is voluntarily reducing emissions.

“Additional regulations are not necessary and could have a chilling effect on the American energy renaissance, our economy, and our national security,” API Director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Howard Feldman said in a statement.

Rules are the ‘only way’ to limit methane
The American Gas Association, which represents natural gas utilities, said it’s important to look at the most cost-effective way to reduce methane emissions over the entire natural gas production, distribution and use cycle.

Repairing natural gas infrastructure in cities can be an expensive way to plug leaks, but utilities are steadily working to do this, primarily with a focus on public safety, said Kathryn Clay, AGA’s vice president for policy strategy. Gas leaks can cause explosions.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the agencies, and we appreciate that the administration is taking a thoughtful, data-driven approach,” Clay said.

Environmental groups praised the strategy and the administration’s focus on methane, focusing on the potential for two significant rulemakings outlined in the document.

The Environmental Defense Fund, which has taken a leadership role in measuring the amount of methane leaking from the natural gas system, praised the announcement. Still, Eric Pooley, EDF’s senior vice president for strategy and communications, also said regulations were necessary to reduce emissions.

“We would call on EPA to go ahead and regulate methane from the oil and gas sector,” said Pooley.

Mark Brownstein, associate vice president and chief counsel of EDF’s U.S. Climate and Energy Program, said that while some gas companies have begun to address the issue of leaking methane, regulation would ensure that emissions are reduced.

“At the end of the day, the only way to be assured that everyone in industry will play by the same rules and that reductions will take place is when there is some kind of regulatory framework in place,” said Brownstein.

Landrieu breaks from Dems
The idea of regulating the booming gas industry, which is currently supplying U.S. markets with cheap fuel for electricity generation, is unappealing to at least one Democrat in a tight political election. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the new chairwoman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said the strategy could harm her state.

“While I appreciate the administration’s efforts to develop a strategy to reduce methane gas emissions, I wish they put as much effort into developing a strategy to increase our domestic energy production,” Landrieu said in a statement. “I am concerned that the end result of these efforts will not be commonsense reform, but more of the same onerous regulations that hamper domestic production, hurt our farmers and kill jobs.”

One rule discussed in the strategy, informally referred to as Onshore Order 9, would revise the Bureau of Land Management’s policy on flaring and venting of methane from oil and gas extraction on federal land.

That policy has not been updated since 1980, and BLM is currently holding listening sessions in preparation for drafting a rule that would limit the amount of methane that is flared and vented from wells on public lands.

According to the strategy document, the agency will release that draft rule later this year.
“We’re hoping that BLM will issue tight restrictions on venting and flaring and require best management practices to stop leaks. We don’t think that an incentive-based or voluntary program is adequate to address the problem,” said Sarah Uhl, senior project director with the Clean Air Task Force.

More poop than cash
While agriculture is listed as a major source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, the reduction measures for that sector are entirely voluntary.
Those actions are focused around turning animal manure from large concentrated feeding operations into biogas energy.

Brian Murray, the director for economic analysis at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and an expert on biogas from agriculture, said that biogas systems are very expensive. That has prevented farmers from adopting them.

“The capital expenditures necessary for a farmer to put in a digester are large, in the millions of dollars,” Murray said.

Without incentives to adopt the technology, farmers are unlikely to install such expensive methane digesting equipment on their farms. A voluntary system could work to increase adoption of methane digesters if farmers are given economic incentives through that system, said Murray.

Ultimately, the problem with curbing agricultural methane emissions is that since the sources are dispersed, it is still not very cost-effective to limit their methane emissions, he pointed out.

Twitter: @evanlehmann | Email:

Common Dreams: Forget Russian Gas, Just Frack Europe: Obama
Published on Thursday, March 27, 2014
Obama calls for combination of European fracking and US exports to serve EU energy needs
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

US president Barack Obama at EU summit

President of the European commission Jose Manuel Barroso, US president Barack Obama and president of the European council Herman van Rompuy at the summit in Brussels. (Photonews/Photonews via Getty Images)Speaking after a meeting with European leaders at the EU-US summit in Brussels on Wednesday, President Barack Obama suggested that the U.S. is open to exporting fracked shale gas, once promised as the source of American “energy independence,” to the EU and urged the EU to open up its own fracking reserves amid energy fears related to the crisis in Ukraine. Environmental groups have warned these policies will do nothing by way of energy security and everything for global environmental destruction and climate chaos.

“Once we have a trade agreement in place,” Obama said at a news conference in Brussels in reference to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal currently in the works, “export licenses for projects for liquefied natural gas destined to Europe would be much easier, something that is obviously relevant in today’s geopolitical environment.”

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso reportedly pressed Obama during Wednesday’s meeting to ease current restrictions on U.S. gas exports, claiming fears over the future of Russian gas imports, which make up a quarter of EU gas supplies.

While insisting that U.S gas exports could be done sometime in the future, Obama used more candid language to suggest EU leaders should first open up their own shale gas reserves to fracking—amongst other energy options such as increased nuclear power.

“I think it is useful for Europe to look at its own energy assets, as well as how the United States can supply additional energy assets,” Obama said. “Because the truth of the matter is, is that just as there’s no easy, free, simple way to defend ourselves, there’s no perfect, free, ideal, cheap energy sources. Every possible energy source has some inconveniences or downsides. And I think that Europe collectively is going to need to examine, in light of what’s happened, their energy policies to find are there additional ways that they can diversify and accelerate energy independence.”

He added: “The United States as a source of energy is one possibility, and we’ve been blessed by some incredible resources. But we’re also making choices and taking on some of the difficulties and challenges of energy development, and Europe is going to have to go through some of those same conversations as well.”

The comments came, Reuters reports, as “a clear reference to opposition in parts of the EU on environmental grounds to nuclear power and the extraction of shale gas.”

France and Bulgaria currently ban the controversial drilling practice, which has been known to contaminate ground water supplies and pollute the air, while countries such as Britain and Poland have faced protests against ongoing fracking exploration, as Reuters reports.

Since the onset of the Ukraine crisis has sparked conversations regarding EU energy concerns, environmentalists have warned that the fossil fuel industry and fossil fuel friendly leaders are using the crisis to push through energy policies they have wanted all along—particularly having to do with the production and export of unconventional fossil fuels such as Canada’s tar sands and the U.S’s shale gas. As Stewart Trew writes at the Council of Canadian’s blog today:

Now Canada, political voices in the United States, and the European Commission for that matter, are trying to leverage the political crisis in Ukraine to make a case for more (not less) North American imports of the dirty stuff: tar sands from Alberta and fracked gas from North America’s “boom” in unconventional shale production. The first puts pressure on Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring bitumen from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast before shipping the final product to Europe and Asia. (The Energy East pipeline would do the same in Canada.)

The second (fracked gas) would require the U.S. to approve new LNG plants and remove energy export restrictions, which the EU is trying to do through trade and investment negotiations with the United States. David Cameron’s government in the UK is also using the crisis to justify a European shale gas boom that environmental groups and the general public strongly opposes.

“Fossil fuels should not be used as a geopolitical bargaining chip, nor should giant oil and gas corporations write our foreign policy,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch also recently noted. “The hypocrisy of the call for exports is highlighted by the fact that it will take years for our export facilities to be able to process the volumes of gas proposed for overseas sales.”

“There’s been a lot of talk about fast tracking and streamlining” the approval process, Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, recently told Common Dreams in reference to natural gas export plans and a proposed LNG export terminal in Cove Point, Maryland. “People need to understand that what they are talking about is cutting corners on processes put in place to protect people and the environment.”


Common Dreams: BP Spill at Tar Sands Refinery Has ‘Crapped Up Lake Michigan’

Published on Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Company with tarnished past doubling tar sands processing near major water source
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
another BP spill
BP oil spill into Lake Michigan (Screengrab: NBC Chicago)

Oil giant BP has caused yet another oil spill in a crucial water way this week, following an increase in tar sands refining at its Indiana plant on the shores of Lake Michigan.

BP notified the federal government’s National Response Center around 5 p.m. Monday that its Whiting Refinery was leaking oil into the lake, which is the source of drinking water for 7 million people in nearby Chicago, due to a malfunction in the refinery’s cooling water system.

The spill comes less than a year after BP started processing Canadian tar sands at the refinery. Tar sands oil, many environmental groups have warned, is the “the dirtiest fuel on Earth” and is “more corrosive, more toxic, and more difficult to clean up than conventional crude.”

Enumerating a long list of historical problems at the Whiting Refinery, Henry Henderson at the Natural Resources Defense Council notes Wednesday, “The week of the Exxon Valdez disaster anniversary and a week after the Council of Canadians released a report highlighting the threat that tar sands oil imposes on the Great Lakes, BP did what it always does: crapped up Lake Michigan.”

He continues:

While the scope of yesterday’s spill is clearly a tiny fraction of the Kalamazoo disaster, it’s still not clear what kind and how much oil made its way into Lake Michigan from the refinery. A day later, we still don’t know […]

It is that lack of transparency that drives environmentalists and government decisionmakers alike crazy. The public needs to know what has made its way into their drinking water sources and whether it is being adequately cleaned. Sure, state and federal regulators need to do better: press calls to state and federal EPA were routed directly to BP to answer.

“The malfunction occurred at the refinery’s largest crude distillation unit, the centerpiece of a nearly $4 billion overhaul that allowed BP to process more heavy Canadian oil from the tar sands region of Alberta,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “The unit … performs one of the first steps in the refining of crude oil into gasoline and other fuels.”

It was still uncertain Wednesday as to exactly how much of the oil spilled. BP said it had managed to stop the discharge by Tuesday and cleanup efforts continued throughout the day on Wednesday.

The EPA stated:

Under EPA oversight, BP has deployed more than 2,000 feet of boom to contain the oil. In addition, the company has used vacuum trucks to remove about 5,200 gallons of an oil/water mixture from the spill location. BP crews also are combing a nearby company-owned beach for oil globs and conducting air monitoring to ensure the safety of the public. The U.S. Coast Guard has flown over the area and has not observed any visible sheen beyond the boomed area.

Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a joint statement that they are “extremely concerned” about future spills. BP recently said they are doubling its processing of heavy crude oil at the refinery.

“We plan to hold BP accountable for this spill and will ask for a thorough report about the cause of this spill, the impact of the Whiting Refinery’s production increase on Lake Michigan, and what steps are being taken to prevent any future spill,” they stated.

A recent report by the Council of Canadians, warns that the Great Lakes are at risk of becoming a “liquid pipeline” for the dirtiest forms of oil and gas available, citing ongoing plans to transport “extreme energy” sources such as tar sands under and across the Great Lakes.

“We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and only just beginning to understand the grave impacts these extreme energy projects are going to have on the Great Lakes,” said national chairperson of the Council Maude Barlow. “We often see these projects approved piecemeal but we have to step back and think about how all these projects are going to affect the Lakes.”

This week’s spill comes four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the largest in U.S. history, which continues to plague the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite BP’s history, the EPA recently removed a ban on BP drilling contracts and new leases in the U.S., an offer BP was quick to capitalize on.


Crews clean up an oil spill along Lake Michigan in Whiting, Ind. (E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune, March 25, 2014)


Fox News: Coast Guard aims to reopen Houston ship channel after oil spill

Coast Guard aims to reopen Houston ship channel after oil spill
Published March 24, 2014
Associated Press


March 23, 2014: Vessels work with skimmers and oil containment booms in Galveston Harbor. Dozens of ships are in evolved in clean-up efforts to remove up to 168,000 gallons of oil that make have spilled into Galveston Bay after a ship and barge collided near the Texas City dike on Saturday afternoon. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool)

TEXAS CITY, Texas – The Coast Guard aimed to reopen one of the nation’s busiest seaports Monday, two days after a collision between a barge and a ship caused nearly 170,000 gallons of tar-like oil to spill into the waters south of Houston.

The closure of the Houston Ship Channel has forced more than 80 ships to wait to enter or leave the bay. Coast Guard Warrant Officer Kimberly Smith said the agency’s goal was to reopen the channel at some point Monday, but she did not know the precise timing.

Authorities are still trying to determine how much oil spilled Saturday, when a barge carrying about 900,000 gallons collided with a ship. Initial estimates were that as much as a fifth of the barge’s cargo spilled.

By Sunday, oil had been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Twenty-four vessels were working to skim the spilled fuel and deploy containment booms.

Environmental groups said the spill occurred at an especially sensitive time and place. The channel in Texas City, about 45 miles southeast of Houston, has shorebird habitat on both sides, and tens of thousands of wintering birds are still in the area.

“The timing really couldn’t be much worse since we’re approaching the peak shorebird migration season,” said Richard Gibbons, conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society.

Just to the east is the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, which attracts 50,000 to 70,000 birds to shallow mud flats that are perfect foraging habitat.

Fewer than 10 oiled birds had been found and sent to a wildlife rehabilitation center as of Sunday afternoon, the Coast Guard said. The Texas General Land Office sent a bird-rehabilitation trailer to the area.

Draining the remaining oil from the barge and transferring it to other vessels eliminated the risk of additional spillage, said Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander of the Coast Guard at Houston-Galveston.

Nearly 400 people joined a fleet of oil-retrieving skimmers and other vessels in deploying some 60,000 feet of containment booms around environmentally sensitive areas.

Some black, tar-like globs, along with a dark line of a sticky, oily substance, were seen along the shoreline of the Texas City dike, a 5-mile jetty that juts into Galveston Bay across from a tip of Galveston Island.

Jim Guidry, executive vice president of Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine Corp., which owned the barge, said the company — the nation’s largest operator of inland barges — was taking responsibility for the cleanup costs.

“We’re very concerned. We’re focused on cleaning up,” he said.

The damaged barge has been moved to a shipyard, according Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office.

The spill also suspended state-operated ferry service between Galveston and Port Bolivar, affecting thousands of travelers.

Two cruise ships were allowed to travel through the spill area “to minimize inconvenience” to thousands of passengers and limit the spill’s economic effects, the Coast Guard said.

The channel, part of the Port of Houston, typically handles as many as 80 vessels daily.

If the bottleneck of vessels eases in a day or so, fuel prices are unlikely to change much. But a more prolonged closure could raise prices briefly, said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Jim Ritterbusch and Associates in Chicago.

The contents of the barge’s torn tank, equal to about 4,000 barrels, were lost or displaced into other vacant areas of the barge. Penoyer said currents, tides and wind were scattering the spill.

“Containment was never a possibility in this case,” he said.

The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating.

“It will take quite a bit of time, given the complexity of the vessels and a very busy waterway,” Penoyer said.

Also closed was the Texas City dike, a popular fishing spot that extends into the Gulf for a few miles.

Lee Rilat, owner of Lee’s Bait and Tackle, the last store before the access road to the dike, said if it weren’t for the spill, his business would be hopping. Instead, the access road was blocked by a police car on a breezy, overcast Sunday.

“This would be the first spring deal, the first real weekend for fishing,” he said.

The spill site is 700 yards offshore from the Texas City dike. A crane and several small boats could be seen at the cleanup site, and dozens of trucks were at a staging area along the beach.

WECT: Energy Council rep. calls on N.C. to split future offshore oil money with coastal counties

Posted: Mar 19, 2014 12:34 PM PDT
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 3:34 PM EST
Updated: Mar 19, 2014 12:44 PM PDTPM EST
By: Justin Smith – email

At the Energy Policy Council meeting Wednesday in Raleigh, Frank Gorham introduced a proposal that state lawmakers commit to share federal offshore oil revenues with the 20 coastal counties

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) – A New Hanover County member of the N.C. Energy Policy Council says he doesn’t think offshore drilling will ever happen in the Atlantic Ocean off the North Carolina coast unless coastal counties share in the profits.

At the Energy Policy Council meeting Wednesday in Raleigh, Frank Gorham introduced a proposal that state lawmakers commit to share federal offshore oil revenues with the 20 coastal counties. Those communities could use the money for beach renourishment, wetlands restoration, or other needs, he explained.

“I’ve traveled the whole coast, and the number one thing I’m hearing is the coastal communities are seeing only a negative to offshore drilling,” Gorham said, who is chair of the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission.

The Energy Council is a 13 member board of appointees that submits energy policy recommendations to the governor and General Assembly.

Gorham, who explained Texas and Louisiana set aside a large portion of their federal oil royalties for coastal communities, wants the N.C. legislature to agree to give half of any offshore revenue to the coastal counties, but drilling off North Carolina’s coast is not imminent. Gorham estimates seismic testing could be allowed within the next year and a half, with the federal leasing for drilling following several years later.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who serves as chair of the N.C. Energy Council, explained conversations have already started in the state regarding revenue sharing for onshore gas. He believes those talks will lead into discussions about offshore revenue.

Forest thinks the Council will be receptive to Gorham’s proposal but said, “the reality of the situation is offshore drilling is really in the hands of the federal government right now. They hold all the cards to that discussion.”

Gorham’s proposal was sent to the Energy Council’s exploration committee for consideration.

Several articles about Seismic testing in Gulf of California and beached whales, including lawsuit to stop NSF-owned ship from testing

BySUE CHANAPOctober 16, 2002, 4:56 PM

Judge: Stop Whale-Harming Research

A federal judge ordered the National Science Foundation on Monday to stop firing sound blasts into the Gulf of California because it harms whales. Magistrate Judge James Larson sided with conservationists who said sound blasts used to map the ocean floor have disrupted marine life in the ocean between Baja California and mainland Mexico. Larson ordered such aspects of a $1.6 million research project undertaken by the foundation to end immediately.

The Center for Biological Diversity asked the court last week to stop the research, saying two dead whales found on the Mexican coast last month likely beached themselves because of noise from air guns aboard the government vessel. Government lawyers argued environmentalists had proven no connection between the beached whales and noise from the air guns. James Coda, assistant U.S. attorney for Northern California, said the government may appeal.

A mass stranding of 15 beaked whales happened Sept. 24-25 in Spain’s Canary Islands, where naval maneuvers were taking place. One of the biologists who found the dead whales in Mexico said preliminary tests had linked the Spanish beaching to underwater noise from the maneuvers.

“When we heard they were using high-intensity sounds offshore (for the mapping), I think all our heads clicked onto the possibility that this could have been caused by the research,” the biologist, Jay Barlow, a National Marine Fisheries Service scientist in San Diego, said Tuesday. He said some scientists suspect intense underwater sounds like a warship’s sonar may confuse beaked whales, which emit sound waves to search for food.

The National Science Foundation owns the vessel from which the researchers are sending out the sound signals, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University is operating the ship. Lamont-Doherty officials said they have taken additional steps to limit the impact of the work, including reducing the intensity of the sound signals, restricting the research area, limiting operations to daylight, and enlisting Mexican researchers to monitor marine mammal activity. Mexican President Vicente Fox has declared all of his nation’s waters a preserve for whales. Of the 81 known species of whales, 39 are found in Mexican waters, and some breed off the Baja California peninsula.

© 2002 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


January 2003

Whales beach seismic research

On Sept. 25, five vacationing marine biologists sailing in Mexico’s Gulf of California came across two recently beached Cuvier’s beaked whales. Surprised by the find, the biologists wanted to contact a Mexican colleague to perform necropsies to determine why the whales had died – but the radio on the sailboat was not strong enough to reach the researcher, 40 miles away. The biologists hailed a nearby ship, hoping to use its satellite phone.

The ship was the Maurice Ewing operated by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The biologists quickly learned that the ship, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), had been pulsing the ocean with high-powered sound waves to map the lithosphere beneath the ocean floor. Aware of recent correlations between Navy sonar exercises and beaked whale deaths, the biologists immediately suspected the sound waves had fatally disoriented the whales.

Environmental lawyers got wind of the incident and took the issue to court. On Oct. 30, the Northern California District Court issued a temporary restraining order halting the surveys. The Court found that it was likely that both the acoustic blasts were irreparably harming marine mammals and that NSF had violated U.S. environmental laws – criteria strong enough to grant a temporary stop. While important legal questions remain, the restraining order shut the door on a major research initiative more than 10 years in the making.

“It was a huge blow,” explains geophysicist Steven Holbrook, from the University of Wyoming, who was one of the four primary investigators on board the Ewing at the time of the strandings.

The geophysicists were working in the Gulf of California because it is one of the two best places in the world to study a complete rift complex that is actively driving continents apart, explains Michael Purdy, director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Understanding rifting is a major scientific objective within the NSF-funded MARGINS program that supported the Ewing cruise. The other prime candidate for studying rifting is the Red Sea, but no cruises to that location have been funded.

The powerful air guns on the Ewing generate high-resolution images of the lithosphere that read like deep roadcuts into Earth, detailing the shapes and distributions of rock layers five miles or more below the ocean floor. “This is a methodology that has evolved over several decades, and we use it because it is the best,” Purdy says.

The marine biologists initially suspected that the Ewing was to blame because the strandings fit a pattern, explains John Hildebrand, a whale and acoustics specialist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Beaked whale strandings in Greece in 1996 and again in the Bahamas in 2000 occurred at the same time that NATO and the U.S. Navy, respectively, were using high-powered sonar in nearby waters. “If you look at all the recent strandings incidents, about half a dozen, you see a good correspondence between a ship track and the timing of the strandings. And it is consistently beaked whales that is the species most affected,” Hildebrand says.

When researchers on the Ewing first heard of the strandings, they halted all air gun activity. But as evidence came in, it looked unlikely that the Ewing caused the beachings, and so they resumed, Holbrook explains. Spurred by the Bahamas incident, the Navy has done tests concluding that sounds below 180 decibels do not damage marine mammals; intensities above 180 can damage lungs and tissues. The intensity of sound generated by the Ewing air guns falls steeply with distance so that it goes below 180 decibels at 3.2 kilometers from the ship. According to Holbrook, the Ewing was at least 80 kilometers from the whales when they beached, casting doubt on a causal link. When the researchers did resume the seismic profiling, they took several steps to minimize the possibility of harming marine mammals. They reduced sound levels, increased efforts to spot whales and stopped working at night. These steps complemented the Ewing’s standard procedure of slowly ramping up the intensity of the air guns when beginning a seismic survey – allowing any marine mammals in the immediate vicinity to leave before being exposed to dangerous levels of sound.

The additional mitigation efforts limited productivity, explains Holbrook. “From the actual restraining order, we lost six days of work outright. But there was a much greater impact from the voluntary measures we undertook.” The research crew ended up completing little over half of the four transects across the rift that they had intended.

Yet those voluntary measures were not enough, explains Hildebrand, who had informally asked the Marine Mammal Commission to review the planned cruise before it left, after he had discovered that air guns would be used. “The problem is that from visual surveys you only see about 20 percent of these animals because they are deep diving,” he says. That means many whales could be within 3.2 kilometers of the Ewing – the danger zone – without researchers knowing it.

Hildebrand and colleagues presented their concerns at the annual meeting of the Marine Mammal Commission in San Diego, which happened to be scheduled soon after the strandings. Brendan Cummings, an attorney for the California-based Center for Biological Diversity who attended the meeting, quickly saw a need for action. “It was clear to me that the scientists wished the government would do something, but the agency people were not sure they had the right jurisdiction. It was also clear to me that indecision would mean nothing would happen.”

After some digging, Cummings and colleagues found that the National Science Foundation had not applied for permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to do their research. Nor had NSF gone through the environmental assessment procedure required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). These alleged violations became the crux of the Center’s law suit.

NSF contended that no evidence connected the Ewing to the beached whales. Furthermore, the Ewing was operating in Mexican waters and therefore was not subject to the U.S. environmental laws. In a letter to the Center for Biological Diversity, Anita Eisenstadt, Assistant General Counsel to NSF, wrote, “Before the cruise began, we obtained all required permissions from the Mexican government because the vessel is operating in Mexican waters.”

While the court decision sided with the environmental lawyers, the restraining order is temporary and does not set a precedent for future cases. It will stay in effect until a more extensive court trial, which will likely happen within the year, determines whether to make the order permanent. The judge may decide that the point is moot, because the temporary restraining order has already stopped the research, and the Ewing has no plans within the foreseeable future to return to the Gulf of California.

Several key questions remain unresolved that will likely come up if another hearing is held. Each side has a different interpretation of the exact timing of the beachings and how close the Ewing was to the whales when they beached. A second question is whether the strandings linked to Navy sonar provide any guide for interpreting the cause of the strandings in this case. The air guns from the Ewing produce acoustic pulses that, at their source, are more intense than the Navy’s sonar. However, whales respond to specific frequencies of disturbance, as well as magnitude, and the air guns operate at a much lower frequency (about 100 hertz) than the Navy sonar (several kilohertz), Holbrook says. Also, the Navy sonar continuously sweeps the ocean with sound waves, while the air guns only fire short acoustic pulses once every 20 to 60 seconds.

A larger question is over the jurisdiction of U.S. environmental laws – do they apply to federally funded ships operating in the waters of other countries? “There is a horrible dearth of legal certainty on this matter,” says Curt Suplee, director of the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs at NSF. “If you are in the Gulf of California, where every cubic inch of water is in territorial waters or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Mexico, do these laws apply? The Center for Biological Diversity has the perfect right to seek a different interpretation.” One reason that question has not been fully resolved is that EEZs were established after the NEPA and MMPA laws.

A final court ruling could help resolve these scientific and jurisidictional questions. In the meantime, this case has put the spotlight on NSF, Purdy says. “It is clear that this case has brought the issue into the public scrutiny, and it is clear that we are going to be scrutinized very carefully in the future, and we need to continue to show that we are operating legally and responsibly.”
Greg Peterson

A recent court order stopped the Maurice Ewing from conducting seismic surveys in the Gulf of California on the grounds that the survey’s loud acoustic pulses may have been harming marine mammals. Photo courtesy of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Division of Marine Affairs.


Nature, April 2004

Nature 428, 681 (15 April 2004) | doi:10.1038/428681a

Push to protect whales leaves seafloor research high and dry
See associated Correspondence: Stocker, Nature 430, 291 (July 2004)
Rex Dalton

A prestigious US research ship’s schedule is in disarray after geophysicists were forced to abandon two recent projects because of concerns that they would harm marine mammals.The Maurice Ewing – a 2,000-tonne vessel operated by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, New York state – has been docked in Mobile, Alabama, for the past two months after the cruises were blocked.

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Nature, July 2004

Nature 430, 291 (15 July 2004) | doi:10.1038/430291a; Published online 14 July 2004

Ocean noise could injure more than mammals
Michael Stocker1

Geologists should wait until more is known about the harm their work may do to fish.

Your News story “Push to protect whales leaves seafloor research high and dry” (Nature 428, 681; 200410.1038/428681a) reports that the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory survey of the 65-million-year-old Chicxulub meteorite crater, coordinated by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), was cancelled because of concerns that the airguns used could harm marine mammals.

To read this story in full you will need to login or make a payment (see right).


Sea Shepherd

February 2005

February 24, 2005

Whale Harassment Vessel Damages Reef off Mexico

On February 15, 2005, the U.S. National Science Foundation vessel Maurice Ewing struck a reef some 30 miles off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula. The grounding damaged 30 square meters of the reef – 10 meters of the damage was to coral.

The reef was clearly marked. The skipper of the Maurice Ewing was clearly negligent. The ship now faces heavy fines for running aground on a protected reef. “The fines will be based on the amount of damage done,” said Mexico’s Attorney General for Environmental Protection Jose Luis Luege. “I can’t say offhand what the fine will be, but it will be sizeable.”

The grounding of the Maurice Ewing is the most recent negative environmental activity of this U.S. National Science Foundation ship. Just prior to the reef damaging incident, the vessel was engaged in deploying seismic waves to search for traces of the asteroid impact that occurred 65 million years ago. This seismic activity represented a significant harassment to marine wildlife populations. Several strandings of cetaceans in the Caribbean area during this activity are believed to be a result of this research.

The Maurice Ewing is currently moored off the end of Progresso Pier and will stay there until whatever fine imposed is paid. Their work permit has also been suspended until the fine is paid and there is also a move underway in the Mexican Senate to permanently ban the Maurice Ewing from Mexican waters.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society applauds the government of Mexico for seizing the Maurice Ewing until a legal judgment determines what the fine will be and is paid.

Officials with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which operates the Maurice Ewing, have refused to comment on the incident.
Sea Shepherd is calling for the cessation of the research by the Maurice Ewing on the grounds that the crew conducting the research are incompetent. “Here we have a ship full of scientists arrogantly disregarding the welfare of living whales and dolphins in their efforts to seek the cause of the mass extinction of dinosaurs,” said Captain Paul Watson. “They claim they have the technology to detect evidence on the sea floor of an event 56 million years, yet they can’t even avoid a reef that is clearly identified on nautical charts.”

Please write to PROFEPA (Procuraduria Federal de Protección al Ambiente) and encourage the Mexican government to permanently confiscate this ship which has caused so much damage to marine habitat and wildlife:
Luis Fueyo Mac Donald
Director General de Inspección de los Recursos Marinos y Ecosistemas Costeros
Nivel KA1
Edificio AJUSCO
Carretera Picacho-Ajusco 200
Col. Jardines en la Montaña
Deleg. Tlalpan, C.P. 14210, México D.F.
Tel: +54-49-63-00 ext. 16323
Fax: 26152093


see online version for illustrations:

Judge Halts Baja Research After
Two Whale Deaths

SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 30,
2002 (ENS) – A federal district court judge
ordered the National Science Foundation to stop
using high decibel airguns in the Gulf of
California yesterday, citing concern over possible
harm to whales that environmentalists believe the
research project has caused.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) had been
using the airguns to fire high energy acoustic
bursts at the sea floor to help map a fault in the
earth’s crust.

It is these high energy acoustic bursts that The
Center for Biological Diversity believes is the
likely cause of the death of two beaked whales,
which found stranded on September 25 at Isla San
Jose in the Gulf of California which separates
Mexico’s Baja Peninsula from mainland Mexico.

The whales were
discovered by National Marine Fisheries Service
scientists, who were on vacation at the time. After
examining the dead animals, the scientists
determined the activities of the NSF project were
probably responsible for their deaths.

After NSF refused its request to stop its work, the
Center filed suit in federal district court in San
Francisco on October 18 to halt the research
project, citing concern for marine wildlife and
accusing the National Science Foundation of not
having the correct environmental permits for its

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate James Larson found
that NSF was likely violating both the National

Environmental Policy Act and the Marine
Mammal Protection Act and has ordered
suspension of the use of the airguns.

“We’re delighted that the judge ordered a halt to
this dangerous and illegal project,” said Brendan
Cummings, an attorney with the Center for
Biological Diversity. “We had hoped that such a
renowned scientific institution as the NSF would
exercise some concern over the environmental
effects of its actions. Unfortunately, the NSF has
displayed the same disregard of environmental
laws that we have come to expect from this

The ruling has effectively terminated the NSF’s
research project, which began on September 18
and was scheduled to conclude by November 4.
The science foundation is unlikely to challenge
the decision, but it does not believe that it in any
way endangered marine wildlife nor disregarded
environmental laws in carrying out its research,
which was funded by a $1.6 million grant from
the National Science Foundation.

“We lost a huge amount of the science,” said NSF
spokesperson Curt Suplee. “It will be better than
nothing, but it wouldn’t be what they needed. Will
it justify the cost of the cruise? Probably not.”

The agency is convinced it did not need to
complete an environmental impact statement
under the National Environmental Policy Act
because it was operating in Mexican waters.
NEPA, however, is applicable to “major federal
actions,” and as a federally funded project using a
federal agency’s resources, this research fits the

“If any agency should know better, it is the NSF,”
Cummings said, noting that NSF was party to a
seminal case involving application of NEPA to
waters outside the U.S. The Marine Mammal
Protection Act applies, Cummings explained, for
several reasons, primarily, the use of a sound
source loud enough to potentially impact marine

In order to map and study the underwater plate
boundaries of the earth’s crust, scientists have to
bounce sound off the ocean floor. The R/V
Maurice-Ewing, a research vessel owned by the
National Science Foundation, is equipped with 20
airguns designed for this kind of project.
According Suplee, the vessel has been in use for
12 years and has mapped hundreds of thousands
of miles without incident.

“To the best of NSF’s knowledge, there has never
been a reported incident of injury or death to a
marine mammal,” Suplee said. “We still believe
that is the case. This is not new technology that
we started for the first time on this cruise to
torment marine wildlife.”

True, said Cummings, but NSF should have taken
into consideration the possibility that marine
mammals might have been affected. The decibel
levels of the array of airguns on the R/V
Maurice-Ewing can be louder than the
techonology used by the Navy, he added.

The technology used on the R/V Maurice Ewing
is not the same as what the U.S. Navy’s high
intensity, low frequency, active sonar, Suplee
added. But that type of sonar is not the only kind
that is damaging to whales. U.S. Naval operations
involving quieter, medium intensity sonar have
been directly linked to beaked whale strandings in
the Bahamas in 2000. NATO naval exercises were
linked to the deaths of a dozen whales in the
Canary Islands in September.

NSF also argues that the R/V Maurice-Ewing was,
at a minimum, 40 miles from where the whales
were found. In addition, NSF immediately halted
the project when it learned of the deaths, only
restarting a week later after what Suplee called
extensive efforts to ensure the research activities
were not the cause.

“We waited an entire week until the scientists
conducting this were all satisfied that we were not
involved in this unfortunate stranding,” Suplee
said. “We promised everyone in sight that if there
was even the remotest indication that this was
dangerous, that we’d shut it down. We’ve not only
been legal. Legal is easy. We’ve done everything
that is morally and ethically responsible in this.”

Cummings does not argue that NSF did not take
this seriously once the issue with the whales had
come up. The problem is that NSF failed to take
the possibility of damage to marine mammals into
consideration during the funding and planning of
the project.

“They did the research first and then once the
whale issue became a concern, were scrambling to
try to justify how it wasn’t impacting whales
rather than trying to do that first,” Cummings said.

“We’ve perhaps only scratched the surface, and
there may be other NSF funded projects out there
where they’ve ignored their obligations to carry
out environmental review before funding them or
carrying them out,” said Cummings. “Our goal is
not to stop this research, it is to make sure NSF
looks at the possible effects of the research before
carrying it out.”


and from 2005:

Activists Call Sound Wave Research Harmful
January 14, 2005

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Scientists working off the Yucatan Peninsula are preparing to use sound waves to search for information about an asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

But environmental activists are trying to shut the project down, saying the technology could harm whales, sea turtles and several varieties of fish that provide a livelihood for thousands of Mexicans along the gulf coast.

Marine seismologists from the University of Texas Institute of Geophysics, the Geophysics Institute at Mexico’s Autonomous National University and Cambridge and London universities will use underwater seismic pulses to learn more about the Chicxulub (pronounced Sheek-shoo-LOOB) Crater, a depression measuring about 120 miles in diameter and centered just outside the port of Progreso, 190 miles west of Cancun.

The same technique is routinely used by scientific research vessels around the world to study earthquake faults, tsunami dangers and climate change, scientists say. It is used in Mexico by the state oil monopoly, Pemex, to search for new energy reserves.

But Rosario Sosa, president of the Yucatan-based civilian Association for the Rights of Animals and their Habitat, said the sound waves “damage the brain, or damage the cochlea of the ear, and disorient the animals so that they beach themselves or crash into boats.”

“They are no longer capable of looking for food using their sonar,” she said.
Scientists acknowledge there’s evidence that points to Navy sonar causing whales to beach themselves. But they say there’s no proof that seismic pulses have harmed marine animals, though much more research is needed to draw firm conclusions.

Thus far “there has not been any significant evidence that there is any harm being done to the marine animal population,” said Maya Tolstoy, a research scientist with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The observatory is in charge of operating the Maurice Ewing, the research vessel from which the scientists will work, about 50 miles offshore. The boat is owned by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Located half-onshore and half-offshore, the Chicxulub Crater is believed to have been carved by a comet or asteroid 65 million years ago, and occurred simultaneously with the mass extinction of species, including the dinosaur.

It is the largest and best-preserved “impact” crater on Earth, said Gail Christeson, a University of Texas marine seismologist involved in the project.

Researchers will send sound waves into the seabed via compressed-air guns to try to create the three-dimensional structure of the crater and learn the speed of the asteroid or comet, the angle at which it hit the Earth, and its effects on the environment.

The information could lead to knowledge of how to respond to possible future asteroid hits, Christeson said. She said the research also will help scientists to better understand the aquifer system of the Yucatan because the crater controls the water supply.

But Sosa says that after the Maurice Ewing conducted research in the waters between the Baja California peninsula and mainland Mexico in October 2002, two beached whales were found in the area with evidence of damage to their ears.

She also says activists have come across dead dolphins and turtles in the gulf coast state of Campeche, where Pemex uses seismic pulses to explore for oil. An additional concern is that the sound waves could threaten fish stocks – the livelihood of about 30,000 families along the Gulf coast.

Christeson says she has participated in at least four seismic cruises, “and we have never seen any effect on marine life.”

“It has been observed that the Navy sonar may have contributed to strandings of marine mammals,” said Christeson. “Our sounds source is different from navy sonar. The amplitude is less and we also fire intermittently, so we will put a short burst of sound in water every 20 seconds. The Navy sweeps through different frequencies.”

Mexico’s national Environment Department granted the Maurice Ewing permission to operate after the scientists agreed to take along independent specialists to monitor sea animals; allow flight and underwater acoustic monitoring; work only during the day when it is easier to notice the animals; and maintain a 3,800-yard safety radius around the ship. The government will conduct its own monitoring flights as well, officials said.

The scientists also have agreed to stop testing when the presence of marine mammals is detected, and will gradually raise the sound wave decibels to warn the animals and give them a chance to leave the area.

The activists, who claim to represent 100 national and international organizations, say that’s not good enough.

Benjamin White of the Washington-based non-governmental Animal Welfare Institute initially planned to tie himself with a rope to a fishermen’s boat that would ride alongside the Maurice Ewing to prevent it from conducting the tests.

Now faced with orders banning them from approaching the boat, the protesters are considering peaceful weekend demonstrations in front of Yucatan state offices.
“I’m here as long as it takes to shut them down,” White said.

On the Net:


Special thanks to Richard Charter

RESCHEDULED: Oversight Hearing on “Energy Independence: Domestic Opportunities to Reverse California’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Oil”

Friday, April 4, 2014 9:30 AM
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
1334 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515HEARING RESCHEDULED * * *
Oversight Hearing on:

“Energy Independence: Domestic Opportunities to Reverse California’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Oil”

Witnesses and Testimony:
A witness list will be posted here once it has been confirmed.
Since 2000, California has experienced a surge in foreign oil imports. Today, California gets 50 percent of its oil from foreign sources and half of those imports come from the Middle East through the Strait of Hormuz. California’s unemployment is higher than the national average at 8.7 percent, energy prices in California are among the highest in the nation, and California is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that California’s Monterey Shale contains over 15 billion barrels of oil – more than estimates of North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. Federal lands off the coast of California contain energy reserves estimated to contain at least 9.8 billion barrels of oil and 13.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas according to the Interior Department. And, as California is the primary recipient of Alaskan exports, no state stands to benefit more from increased production in Alaska. If the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A) were open for production, it could add an additional 13.1 billion barrels of crude oil to the domestic market.
Related Documents:

Subcommittee Hearing Notice – September 10, 2013
Updated: Subcommittee Hearing Postponement Notice – September 12, 2013
Updated: Subcommittee Hearing Notice – March 13, 2014

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Chesapeake Climate Action Network: National Environmental Leaders Tell President Obama: Pell-Mell Rush to Export Gas Would Significantly Undercut U.S. Climate Action

For Immediate Release
March 18, 2014

Kelly Trout, 240-396-2022,
Mike Tidwell, 240-460-5838,

Leaders of 16 national and regional groups call on the president to reverse course-and order a full review of the ‘Cove Point’ LNG export project in Maryland as a first step in the right direction

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Leaders of 16 national and regional climate advocacy groups sent a letter to President Obama today, calling on him to revisit proposals to radically expand U.S. exports of fracked and liquefied natural gas, which would significantly undermine his administration’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis. As a first step in the right direction, the letter urges the president to ensure a comprehensive federal environmental impact review for one of the most controversial liquefied natural gas export proposals currently before his administration-the Cove Point facility proposed by Dominion Resources just outside of Washington, D.C. on the Chesapeake Bay.

“President Obama, exporting LNG is simply a bad idea in almost every way. We again implore you to shift course on this disastrous push to frack, liquefy, and export this climate-wrecking fossil fuel,” the letter states.

“As a first step, tell [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] to drop its shameful and unacceptably weak permitting process for Cove Point in Maryland. Demand a full Environmental Impact Statement for this massive $3.8 billion project just a short drive from your house. An EIS will put more facts on the table and, we believe, will persuade you and the nation that a pell-mell rush to export gas is a pell-mell rush to global climate ruin,” the letter continues.

Groups signing the letter included, CREDO, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Earthworks, all sponsors of a weekend rally in California that was the largest anti-fracking protest in the state’s history, as well as the Sierra Club, the Energy Action Coalition and Earthjustice. National leaders Bill McKibben and Michael Brune joined a tele-press conference to release the letter.

“From Maryland to California, Americans are taking to the streets to say that climate leaders don’t frack,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder and president of

Emerging and credible analyses show that significant expansion of fracking and gas export infrastructure could cripple global efforts to solve climate change, which Secretary of State John Kerry recently called perhaps the “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” In fact, the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the LNG export process-including drilling, piping, compressing, liquefying, shipping, re-gasifying, and burning-likely make it as harmful to the climate, or worse than, burning coal overseas. Analysis shows the $3.8 billion Cove Point plan could alone trigger more lifecycle climate change pollution than all seven of Maryland’s existing coal-fired power plants combined.

“President Obama has told us many times that failure to address the climate crisis amounts to the betrayal of our children and future generations, so it would be contradictory for the president to allow the LNG export facility at Cove Point to start operating without a full environmental review,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. “We can’t cut climate pollution and simultaneously expand the use of dirty fossil fuels, and we must fully understand the consequences of liquefying fracked natural gas for export. Building new fossil fuel infrastructure keeps America tied to the past. We should be exporting clean energy innovation, not the dirty fuels of the 19th century.”

The Cove Point project has faced particularly fierce regional and local resistance in recent months, including a record-large environmental protest in downtown Baltimore in late February and a string of three civil disobedience protests over the past three weeks resulting in arrests across Maryland.

Cove Point would be the first export facility to open fracking operations across the Marcellus Shale to Asian export markets. It would also be built in an area in southern Maryland that is by far the most densely populated human community in the vicinity of any proposed gas export facility in the nation. Despite calls from Maryland health, environmental and community leaders as well as Maryland’s attorney general for a full Environmental Impact Statement on Cove Point, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced last week that it would release a more limited and less participatory Environmental Assessment on May 15 of this year.

“Marylanders would certainly have President Obama’s back if he steps in to demand a full federal environmental review of Cove Point-81 percent of state voters expressed support for this more protective type of review in recent polling,” said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Ultimately, President Obama can and should abandon support for more fracking infrastructure and concentrate on locking in a legacy of new wind turbines and solar panels criss-crossing Maryland and the country-a plan that would create far more jobs than fracking and exporting climate-harming gas.”

View a PDF of the full text and signers of the letter to President Obama:

View the news release online at:

For more information:

FULL TEXT AND SIGNERS OF THE LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Å° Center for Biological Diversity Å° Center for Health, Environment and Justice Å° Chesapeake Climate Action Network Å° CREDO Å° Earth Day Network Å° Earthjustice Å° Earthworks Å° Energy Action Coalition Å° Environmental Action Å° Environment America Å° Food and Water Watch Å° Friends of the Earth Å° Green America Å° Sierra Club Å° Waterkeeper Alliance

March 18, 2014

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President,

We write as Americans who are grateful that you have taken steps to elevate the urgency of the climate crisis over the past year. We agree with you that, as you said in your June 25th climate action speech at Georgetown University last year, “the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”

However, we are disturbed by your administration’s support for hydraulic fracturing and, particularly, your plan to build liquefied natural gas export terminals along U.S. coastlines that would ship large amounts of fracked gas around the world. We call on you to reverse course on this plan and commit instead to keeping most of our nation’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground, in line with the recommendations of most of the world’s leading climate scientists.And as a good-faith test case in this direction, we ask you to hold your Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accountable to completing a full Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed “Cove Point” LNG export facility, located just 65 miles from your home on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby, Maryland.

Cove Point is emblematic of the irrational and fast-track strategy of the gas industry to export U.S. fracked gas and then ask questions later. The truth is that Cove Point, like other proposed LNG export terminals, will raise U.S. gas prices – harming virtually all Americans – while becoming a historic catalyst for more fracking across the mid-Atlantic and triggering a huge new pulse of climate pollution. Yet despite all this, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – part of your federal government – does not intend to even conduct a full and customary Environmental Impact Statement on the $3.8 billion project. Please, Mr. President, demand that FERC conduct an EIS. Given a full and fair accounting of the facts, we believe the clear economic and climate reality will become clear to you and the nation: Cove Point and the general push for LNG exports is NOT in America’s best interest or the world’s.

The life cycle of exported fracked gas, from drilling to piping to “liquefaction” to shipping overseas and eventual burning, results in huge levels of carbon emissions and widespread leakage of methane, a greenhouse gas much more powerful than CO2. Emerging and credible analyses now show that exported U.S. fracked gas is as harmful to the atmosphere as the combustion of coal overseas – if not worse. We believe that the implementation of a massive LNG export plan would lock in place infrastructure and economic dynamics that will make it almost impossible for the world to avoid catastrophic climate change.

In a report published in 2011 by the International Energy Administration, experts referred to plans for a major expansion of natural gas production and usage worldwide: “This puts emissions on a long-term trajectory consistent with stabilising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at around 650 ppm, suggesting a long-term temperature rise of over 3.5°C.” (Are We Entering a Golden Age of Gas?, June 6, 2011)

Given that the world’s nations have agreed that we need to limit temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius to have a decent chance of making a successful transition to a low-carbon economy, we call upon you to immediately change course when it comes to LNG export terminals.

Such a course would be consistent with the public statements made by your Secretary of State John Kerry in recent weeks. In Jakarta, Indonesia on February 16 he stated that: “Climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction. … Industrialized countries have to play a leading role in reducing emissions.” And just a few days ago, in a personal message to State Department personnel, he wrote, “The scientific facts are coming back to us in a stronger fashion and with greater urgency than ever before. This challenge demands elevated urgency and attention from all of us.”

President Obama, exporting LNG is simply a bad idea in almost every way. We again implore you to shift course on this disastrous push to frack, liquefy, and export this climate-wrecking fossil fuel. As a first step, tell FERC to drop its shameful and unacceptably weak permitting process for Cove Point in Maryland. Demand a full Environmental Impact Statement for this massive $3.8 billion project just a short drive from your house. An EIS will put more facts on the table and, we believe, will persuade you and the nation that a pell-mell rush to export gas is a pell-mell rush to global climate ruin.

Instead of a gas rush, we ask you to double down on your ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency and expand wind and solar power nationwide. Let that be your legacy, not a reckless dash to gas that will harm all future generations.

We need your leadership, President Obama.


Bill McKibben
Co-founder and President

William Snape
Senior Counsel
Center for Biological Diversity

Lois Marie Gibbs
Executive Director
Center for Health, Environment and Justice

Mike Tidwell
Executive Director
Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Becky Bond
Political Director

Kathleen Rogers
Earth Day Network

Deborah Goldberg
Managing Attorney

Jennifer Krill
Executive Director

Maura Cowley
Energy Action Coalition

Jesse Bacon
Field Organizer
Environmental Action

Margie Alt
Executive Director
Environment America

Wenonah Hauter
Executive Director
Food and Water Watch

Erich Pica
Friends of the Earth

Fran Teplitz
Policy Director
Green America

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

Mark Yaggi
Executive Director
Waterkeeper Alliance

Mike Tidwell
Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Obama Administration to Offer 40 Million Acres in the Gulf of Mexico for Oil and Gas Development–first lease in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico since 2008

“Lease Sale 231 in the Central Planning Area and Lease Sale 225 in the Eastern Planning Area will be held consecutively in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 19, 2014.”

Department of Interior

Final Notice of Sales for Central and Eastern Planning Areas

WASHINGTON, DC — As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau today announced that Interior will offer more than 40 million acres for oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico in March lease sales.

“These lease sales underscore the President’s commitment to create jobs through the safe and responsible exploration and development of the Nation’s domestic energy resources,” said Jewell. “The Five Year Program reflects this Administration’s determination to facilitate the orderly development while protecting the human, marine and coastal environments, and ensuring a fair return to American taxpayers.”

Lease Sale 231 in the Central Planning Area and Lease Sale 225 in the Eastern Planning Area will be held consecutively in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 19, 2014. The sales will be the fourth and fifth offshore auctions under the Administration’s Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 (Five Year Program), which makes all areas with the highest-known resource potential available for oil and gas leasing in order to further reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. The lease sales build on the first three sales in the Five Year Program that offered more than 79 million acres for development and garnered $1.4 billion in high bids.

Domestic oil and gas production has grown each year President Obama has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than any time in two decades; natural gas production at its highest level ever; and renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources having doubled. Combined with recent declines in oil consumption, foreign oil imports now account for less than 40 percent of the oil consumed in America – the lowest level since 1988.

The Gulf of Mexico contributes about 20 percent of U.S. domestic oil and 6 percent 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 percent increase over FY 2012 disbursements of $12.15 billion.
“As a critical component of the Nation’s energy portfolio, the Gulf holds vital energy resources that can continue to generate jobs and spur economic opportunities for Gulf producing states as well as further reduce the Nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” said BOEM Director Beaudreau.

Sale 231 encompasses about 7,507 unleased blocks, covering 39.6 million acres, located from three to 230 nautical miles offshore Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, in water depths ranging from 9 to more than 11,115 feet (3 to 3,400 meters). BOEM estimates the proposed sale could result in the production of approximately 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Sale 225 is the first of only two lease sales proposed for the Eastern Planning Area under the Five Year Program, and is the first sale offering acreage in that area since Sale 224 in March of 2008. The sale encompasses 134 whole or partial unleased blocks covering about 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 to 10,213 feet (810 to 3,113 meters).

The area is south of eastern Alabama and western Florida; the nearest point of land is 125 miles northwest in Louisiana. BOEM estimates the sale could result in the production of 71 million barrels of oil and 162 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The decision to hold these sales follows extensive environmental analysis, public comment and consideration of the best scientific information available. The terms of the sales 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.

In addition to opening bids for these two sales, BOEM will open any pending bids submitted in Western Planning Area Sale 233 for blocks located or partially located within three statute miles of the maritime and continental shelf boundary with Mexico (the Boundary Area). Any leases awarded as a result of these bids will be subject to the terms of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement, which was approved by Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and recently signed by the President.

All terms and conditions for Lease Sales 231 and 225 are detailed in the Final Notices of Sale that can be viewed today in the Federal Register. Terms and conditions for Sale 225 are fully explained in a new streamlined format, available at and for Sale 231 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).

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Truthout: Contaminated Water Supplies, Health Concerns Accumulate With Fracking Boom in Pennsylvania

Friday, 14 March 2014 09:28
By Roger Drouin, Truthout | News Analysis

An open wastewater impoundment in Washington County, Pa. (Photo: Vanessa Lamers)

As the first official research is published that confirms water contamination by hydraulic fracturing, an alarming amount and array of hazardous chemicals and compounds – including arsenic, chloride, barium and radium – are found in Pennsylvania groundwater.

Shortly after a gas company in Donegal, Pennsylvania, began storing fracking wastewater in an impoundment pit, a water well at a nearby home showed some alarmingly elevated levels of barium and strontium.

The Southwest Pennsylvania home sits within 2,000 feet of the impoundment pit, which began leaking in late 2012, Kathryn Hilton told Truthout. Hilton is a community organizer at the Mountain Watershed Association, a nonprofit dedicated to water conservation in the state’s Indian Creek Watershed.

In August, 2012, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) test results showed levels of barium and strontium above EPA standards. “Those are hazardous chemicals that can cause health problems when exposed to for extended periods of time,” Hilton said.

The unidentified property owners were unable to comment about the incident because they are involved in active litigation with the gas company, WPX Energy. The company has since removed the impoundment pit, but the homeowner is still “using a water buffalo” for drinking water, Hilton told Truthout. In June, 2013, the DEP’s Oil and Gas Program issued a determination letter concluding that the high chemical levels were caused by the nearby fracking activity, according to an agency spokesperson.

Environmentalists, scientists and residents worry that other homeowners may be facing similar, often unknown, threats from contamination throughout Pennsylvania – where the fracking boom has positioned the state as the third-largest producer of natural gas. Those concerns are growing as shale development continues to expand and transforms Pennsylvania communities that were once quaint rural areas into areas filled with drilling equipment and trucks.

“These drilling sites are really industrial sites,” said David Brown, a toxicologist at the Environmental Health Project in Washington County, Pennsylvania. “There is a lot of diesel fuel around, a lot of chemicals brought in to frack the rock, and it is all dumped in water or the air.”

Significant Findings
At the well in Donegal, the levels of chemicals such as strontium that were measured in the well could be high enough to cause some skin or gastrointestinal reactions,
environmental scientist Vanessa Lamers told Truthout. An elderly person or infant would be even more susceptible.

“That’s a lot of strontium and barium,” Lamers said after reviewing the sample results. “The chloride is four times over the limit.”

This case is not the only example of chemicals and compounds contaminating drinking water in areas with fracking activity. Between 2008 and fall 2012, state environmental regulators determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses.

The findings in Pennsylvania are significant because they are some of the first official research to show confirmed water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing – an industry environmental groups say the Environmental Protection Agency and feds are not taking a serious look at and that state regulators are not equipped to adequately regulate.

Last year, state Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale announced his office is conducting a performance audit of the Pennsylvania DEP’s water testing program to “determine the adequacy and effectiveness of DEP’s monitoring of water quality as potentially impacted by shale gas development activities” between 2009 and 2012.

Two Sources
Keystone State environmentalists, along with biologists and toxicologists, associate health concerns with two possible streams of contamination.

Leaks of drilling fluids and other contaminants from well casings is the first potential source of pollution. “One in 20 wells leak immediately, and over time the percentage increases,” said Anthony Ingraffea, an engineering professor at Cornell University.
“Casing is a very big issue,” Lamers told Truthout. Intense pressure – sometimes as high as 18,000 to 20,000 psi – is put on the well during the hydraulic fracturing process.

“You have all this pressure from the fracking and drilling,” Lamers said. “Then at the end of the process, which can take three weeks or three months, they are going to pull the wastewater back up. That wastewater will go back up through that casing. And if the casing is not still in great shape, after all that pressure, that’s a concern [for possible contamination].”

The second possible stream is the millions of gallons of wastewater produced during fracking. Monika Freyman, a water program scientist with Ceres, is one of those experts. Freyman worries about the way wastewater is stored, transported and treated. “And now they are talking about barging it,” Freyman said. The scientist spent months studying the effect of the industry on water resources, including the multitude of pathways the fracking fluids can go after a well is fracked.

Hilton points to a Duke University study conducted last year that shows some of the Marcellus shale wastewater pours directly downstream into water sources for Pittsburgh and other cities, with uncertain health consequences.

And violations issued by the state DEP to companies, ranging from failure to report a spill to inadequately storing wastewater, shows just how dangerous the industry is in Pennsylvania, Hilton told Truthout.

During her graduate studies at Yale, Lamers spent about a year in Washington County studying the impacts of fracking on water. In summer 2012, the scientist and a research team tested water samples at 140 households and conducted 180 anonymous health surveys.

Some of Lamers’ research is under peer review and will be made public soon in two articles. Lamers found an alarming amount and array of hazardous chemicals and compounds in the groundwater. Those included arsenic, chloride, barium and radium, a radioactive element loosened during the fracking process.

“We found more stuff in the water than we expected to find,” Lamers told Truthout. Linking the chemicals to fracking activity, however, is difficult because before hydraulic fracturing, there has been a history of mining and oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania – industries that also could be responsible for leaving behind hazardous compounds.

“It is a little suspicious finding large quantities of arsenic in the groundwater,” Lamers said.

“There is so much bad stuff in the ground in Pennsylvania,” Lamers said. “We found everything you would expect and everything you wouldn’t expect. But it was very hard to pinpoint where it came from, without pre-drilling tests.”

Researchers and scientists have pushed for the use of tracing fluids by the industry. These tracing fluids would be used to track fracking fluids and wastewater throughout a region’s water system. But the industry has been unwilling to use tracing fluids. “Such tracers would hold companies accountable to the environment, to landowners and to stakeholders,” Lamers told Truthout.

Not Enough Oversight
Scott Perry, director of the state Department of Environment Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas Management acknowledged to Truthout that impoundment spills have happened on some rare occasions, especially at the older impoundments called open “pits.”

The industry in Pennsylvania appears to be making the shift to a closed system to hold wastewater before it is treated or shipped to the deep injection waste wells in Ohio. But companies still use large impoundment ponds to store wastewater. These newer impoundment ponds meet stricter requirements enacted in 2012 requiring double-lined walls and spill detection, Perry said.

Industry representatives say development of abundant and affordable natural gas from shale formations like the Marcellus has led to a more secure energy future for the entire country. New technology in the field – such as closed storage systems and mobile filtration plants designed to filter flowback – is allowing the industry to do a better job at treating wastewater produced during fracking, Joe Massaro, a field director with Energy in Depth told Truthout. The new filtration equipment is becoming an industry “best practice.”

Wastewater storage, treatment and disposal, however, remains one of the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management’s “more significant environmental concerns” when it comes to fracking, Perry said. For that reason, regulators and inspectors have been “pushing the industry as far as anyone has” to try to prevent wastewater spills,” Perry told Truthout.

Based on what she is seeing in southwest Pennsylvania, Hilton is concerned that some tougher regulations aren’t enough and that the state agency is not equipped to keep watch on thousands of wells across the region. “[Are] there enough people to effectively monitor these wells or impoundment pits, or are the laws adequate to protect our health? Absolutely not,” the environmentalist said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has little oversight over fracking fluids and wastewater because under President George W. Bush in 2005, the industry was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

But that could change after the federal agency concludes a multiyear study probing the industry’s dangers posed to drinking water. The study will examine the impact of chemicals injected deep into the Earth during the full water cycle in the industry that is largely exempt from federal regulation. While the study could prompt consideration of new guidelines for fracking, any changes to current federal regulation of the industry would require federal legislative action.

Special thanks to Richard Charter NORTH CAROLINA: Carolina Beach Adopts Resolution Opposing Seismic Air Gun Testing

BASE Boston
Serving Seafood

March 5, 2014 — CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. — The Carolina Beach Town Council unanimously adopted a resolution at their February 28th, meeting opposing seismic air gun testing for off shore oil and natural gas exploration.

During the Council’s February 11th, meeting Ethan Crouch – chair for the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation – asked the Council to consider opposing the use of seismic air guns in the Atlantic Ocean due to impacts on marine life. According to, “Seismic air guns are used to find oil and gas deep underneath the ocean floor. Air guns are so loud that they disturb, injure or kill marine life, harm commercial fisheries, and disrupt coastal economies. These dynamite-like blasts-which are repeated every ten seconds, 24 hours a day, for days and weeks at a time-are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine. Seismic airgun testing currently being proposed in the Atlantic will injure 138,500 whales and dolphins and disturb millions more, according to government estimates.”

The sound waves that return to the vessel towing monitoring equipment are used to determine if oil or natural gas are located beneath the ocean floor.
A crowd of approximately 300 people rallied at Kure Beach Town Hall on January 27th, to voice their opposition to Mayor Dean Lambeth signing a letter in December 2013 supporting seismic airgun testing for off shore oil and natural gas exploration. The entire Carolina Beach Town Council attended that meeting sitting in the audience hearing from residents both in favor and opposition.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams via Oil Industry Conjures Illusion of Public Support for KXL Using ALEC Politicians
Published on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 by
by Nick Surgey

keystone pipeline protestors
According to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other oil industry groups have been directing state legislators to make public and legislative statements in favor of the pipeline project. Millions of U.S. citizens have voiced their opposition to the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline in recent months, with more than 2 million public comments opposing the project hand delivered to the State Department last week. At the same time, hundreds of state legislators have been lining up in favor of KXL, seemingly just as passionate and as heartfelt as those opposed to the project. But many legislators have been tasked with promoting the project by oil industry lobbyists who provide them with model bills, talking points and draft op-eds.

According to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other oil industry groups have been directing state legislators to make public and legislative statements in favor of the pipeline project, and have provided legislators with draft legislation, language for op-eds and testimony to be presented as their own. Central to these efforts is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), through which lobbyists — such as those from API — can meet in secret with state legislators from across the country.
Consumer Energy Alliance Gives Marching Orders at ALEC

During the most recent annual ALEC meeting in August 2013, held in downtown Chicago, oil-industry lobbyist Michael Whatley provided legislators at the group’s International Relations Task Force meeting with a briefing on the KXL pipeline, urging legislators for their help in getting the project approved. Whatley — a lobbyist for the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) — has regularly attended ALEC meetings in recent years, and has presented to the organization on KXL in the past. CEA receives funding from the two leading U.S. oil lobby groups — the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) — and lists among its members leading oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell and BP amongst many others. Whatley’s lobbying firm HBW Resources also has a somewhat unexplained relationship with the Alberta Government – see Salon.

According to the internal minutes from the ALEC meeting provided to CMD, Whatley called on legislators to help push the pipeline project to approval. Much as environmental groups view KXL as being a line in the sand, as symbolic of how serious the Obama administration is about tackling climate change, the oil industry considers the project to be a possible harbinger of things to come. “We’re very concerned about the precedential impact of this refusal,” Whatley told the group.

Whatley and CEA have briefed ALEC legislators on Keystone before. When speaking at the group’s conference in Arizona in December 2011, Whatley gave a presentation to the International Relations task force, titled “Keystone XL – A Critical Project for America.”

At the 2013 meeting, Whatley explained to legislators that it was important for the State Department to hear their individual support for KXL. “It is crucial that they hear from state legislators” said Whatley. “We will have information for you to submit letters to the State Department.”

In recent months, state legislators seem to have heeded the industry’s marching orders.

On February 13, 2014, 75 state legislators from Michigan, led by ALEC member Aric Nessbit, wrote to the State Department calling for the pipeline to be approved. Then on March 4, 2014, a letter was sent from 29 State Senators in Nebraska, led by Senator Jim Smith, who has been a vocal and controversial figure in the fight for Keystone XL in his state. Smith was one of nine state legislators to attend a 2012 ALEC Academy trip to Alberta to view the tar sands — a trip organized by CEA through ALEC and funded by TransCanada.

Letters supporting Keystone were also sent from state elected officials from the Kentucky Senate, Ohio Senate, Ohio House of Representatives, Texas Assembly and the Wisconsin Assembly as well as letters from Governors in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Montana and Maine.
ALEC Pushes State Resolutions as Oil Industry Ghostwrites Opinion Pieces for Legislators

So far, in the 2014 session, legislative resolutions supporting the pipeline have been introduced in Kansas, Missouri and Florida. That’s in addition to resolutions introduced in Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota during 2013.

ALEC has encouraged its members to introduce its own “model” legislation supporting KXL, titled the “Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline.” Since that language was written in 2011, ALEC told its members by email in 2012: “If you would like to introduce a similar resolution in your state legislature, we have suggestions to update it given all that has happened.” The bills that have appeared since then have varied in language somewhat, with the updated version alluded to in the ALEC email not yet made public. Many of the pro-KXL bills introduced in 2013 and 2014 closely follow a set of TransCanada’s own talking points, as CMD has previously reported.

Since many of these states do not allow for much disclosure through state public record laws, it is difficult to fully document the influence of oil industry lobbyists. However, what can be documented is extremely revealing of their role.

CMD previously reported on the pro-KXL resolutions in the 2013 session in a series of articles, including reporting about Rep. John Adams from Ohio who, after attending an ALEC/TransCanada trip to Alberta, was asked by ALEC to send “thank you notes” to the lobbyists who paid for the trip and took him for dinner. As CMD documented, not long afterward, Rep. Adams introduced a pro-KXL resolution provided to him by a TransCanada lobbyist.

In Florida, freshman representative Walter Bryan ”Mike” Hill sponsored a pro-Keystone resolution, HM 281 in December 2013. Laying the ground for his bill, in December Hill published an opinion piece in the Pensacola News Journal in Florida, his local newspaper.

According to emails obtained by CMD under the Florida Public Records law, the language for Hill’s opinion piece came directly from API lobbyist David Mica, who sent Hill’s staff member, Ryan Gorham, a draft version on November 26th. “I have ideas for distribution… please give me a holler,” wrote Mica attaching the draft.

An hour later, Gorham emailed the draft opinion piece to Hill. According to the exchange, the only change made by Hill and his staff was to spot a missing preposition in one sentence — the word “to” had been left out. The piece was published under Hill’s name on December 27, 2013. Staff from API and related projects funded by the organization such as “Energy Tomorrow” celebrated the piece on social media. A very proud — but oh so modest — David Mica tweeted: “@MikeHillfl nails his op-ed viewpoint! Way to go Representative Hill.”

This industry-legislator-opinion strategy was explicitly expressed in August 2013 by CEA’s Whatley at the ALEC conference in Chicago. According to ALEC’s own meeting minutes, obtained by CMD, Whatley called on ALEC legislators to publish op-eds in support of the project. “Put an op-ed in any paper in your district talking about the positive values of Keystone XL,” Whatley said. ALEC has also directly asked its members to publicly speak out in support of Keystone. In a 2012 email to members, Karla Jones, Director of International and Federal Relations, wrote: “Senator Pam Roach has been quoted in the media about Keystone, and I would like to encourage and provide information to any of you that would like to do the same.”
Politicians Parrot Industry Talking Points, “Part of a Nationwide Effort to Show Washington States Support the Pipeline”

In July 2013, Jim Snyder, who was writing for Bloomberg, reported on a dozen Republican federal and state lawmakers repeating the same talking points from CEA in letters they sent to the State Department during its previous review of the Keystone XL project in 2013:

“In doing so, they (the lawmakers) often pointed to the same facts and the used the same language. ‘Keystone XL will be critical to improving American energy security and boosting our economy,’ Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio wrote. So did Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana. And Steve Daines of Montana. And John Carter of Texas. And Phil Gingrey of Georgia.

The wording similarities aren’t coincidental. The letters are all based on correspondence written by the Consumer Energy Alliance, a Washington-based coalition of energy producers and users, including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) in Irving, Texas, and Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) in Midland, Michigan.”

Those talking points appeared again during a hearing for the pro-KXL resolution in Kansas HCR 5014. The bill sponsor, Rep. Hedke’s testimony to the Kansas State Senate Utilities Committee on February 13, 2014, parroted the same CEA language, writing: “Keystone XL will be critical to improving American energy security and boosting our economy.” CMD asked Hedke for a comment on the source of his testimony, but as of publication the representative had not responded.

When not working as a legislator, Hedke runs a company called Hedke-Saenger Geoscience, which according to the representative’s most recent financial disclosures feature a long list of oil industry clients including Hess Oil Company, Prospect Oil, Landmark Resources, and Trans Pacific Oil Corp.

Hedke told CMD by email that he was given the initial language for his resolution by a lobbyist from the Kansas API affiliate, before he “passed it out for reviews with numerous individuals, including a lobbyist representing TransCanada.”

At the hearing, Ken Peterson, Executive Director of the Kansas Petroleum Council (the API affiliate) stated as part of his testimony that “(t)his resolution is part of a nationwide effort to show Washington that states support the pipeline.” Truer words have never been spoken. API and the organizations that it funds including CEA have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to create the impression of a groundswell of passionate opposition to KXL.
© 2014 Center for Media & Democracy
Nick Surgey

Nick Surgey is director of research for the Center for Media & Democracy. He work has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian.

Oceana: Bradley Beach town council takes action concerning Seismic Airgun Blasts


Contact: Nancy Pyne 202.467.1903 or

Seismic Airgun Testing Threatens Marine Life and Coastal Economies

Bradley Beach, NJ – Last night, the Bradley Beach town council met to discuss the proposed use of seismic airguns, which are currently being considered to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching all the way from the southern tip of New Jersey to Florida.

They unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the use of seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Seismic airguns shoot extremely loud and repeated blasts of sound, each 100,000 times more intense than what one would experience if standing near a jet engine. The Department of the Interior estimates this testing to injure or kill 138,500 marine mammals like dolphins and whales. Estimates include injury to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which there are less than 500 left worldwide.

Below is a statement from Oceana’s Grassroots Manager, Nancy Pyne:

“I commend Mayor Englestad and the Bradley Beach Borough Council for adopting this resolution. Seismic airgun testing is the first step toward offshore drilling, and could be disastrous for New Jersey and other East Coast states.

Seismic airguns emit one of the loudest man-made sounds in the oceans. To this day, we’re still learning about their true impact, including how far their sound travels and how they affect marine animals, especially when they occur every 10 seconds for days, to weeks on end. The Department of Interior itself estimates that seismic airgun testing could injure or possibly kill as many as 138,500 dolphins, whales and other marine mammals.

Seismic airguns are loud enough to harm fish eggs and larvae, and scare fish away from important fishing grounds. In fact, the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council called on President Obama to oppose the use of seismic airguns in the Atlantic last year. We have also seen their impact off the coasts of Namibia and Australia which has caused declines in tuna catch and decreasing productivity for the scallop fishery.

Millions of people flock to the beaches of New Jersey every year to walk the boardwalks and lie in the sand-my family included. We can’t put our marine resources and coastal communities at risk by allowing seismic testing off the East Coast. We encourage other coastal mayors to speak out against seismic blasting and enact similar proposals in their communities. ”

Last week, right on the heels of the Obama administration releasing the final version of its proposal to allow seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean, the town of Carolina Beach enacted a proposal opposing seismic testing off the coast of North Carolina. In addition, more than 100 scientists called on President Obama and his administration to wait on new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals, which are currently in development by the National Marine Fisheries Service. These guidelines are 15 years in the making and aim to provide a better understanding of how marine mammals are impacted by varying levels of manmade sound as well as demonstrate the measures that are needed to protect them.

In September, Oceana delivered more than 100,000 petitions opposing seismic airguns to Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Fifty members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have also called on President Obama to stop the use of seismic airguns.

For more information about Oceana’s efforts to stop seismic airguns, including an infographic and animation about how they work, please visit

Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit

Nancy Pyne
Grassroots Manager, Climate and Energy Campaign

OCEANA | Protecting the World’s Oceans
1350 Connecticut Ave. NW, 5th Floor | Washington, D.C., 20036 USA
D +1.202.467.1903 | C +1.202.486.6406
E | W

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Wild West Oil Boom Video of the Week from Gasland Grassroots, Dakota Resource Council

This week, we’d like to share the film This Is Our Country: Living with the Wild West Oil Boom by the Dakota Resource Council.
Like many of the families in the GASLAND films, the people of North Dakota are seeing their livelihoods destroyed in the mad race to extract oil and gas.

Please watch and share this incredible film that shows the true cost of extreme energy extraction.
Watch This Is Our Country: Living with the Wild West Oil Boom

While you’re at our blog, check out our past videos of the week and be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter so you don’t miss our posts.

We have a Video of the Week because sharing films like these can make a big difference. Meeting the affected families and seeing their struggle makes it very clear that extreme energy extraction is not the path we want to take our country down.
So go ahead, forward this on to a few friends. Help us share the stories that can bring positive change.
Watch and share This Is Our Country: Living with the Wild West Oil Boom
Lee Ziesche, Gasland Grassroots Coordinator

Press Telegram: Long Beach to be site of anti-fracking rally on Wednesday

By Andrew Edwards, Press-Telegram
POSTED: 03/10/14, 8:23 PM PDT |

LONG BEACH >> Environmentalists will demand the California Coastal Commission order a stop to the fracking of offshore oil wells on Wednesday during a demonstration at City Hall in which protesters plan to cover themselves in hazmat suits and tote boogie boards.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group with offices in California and several other states, announced on Monday its plans for the protest at the Coastal Commission’s next meeting site in Long Beach.

Fracking, slang for hydraulic fracturing, refers to the controversial process of injecting a highly pressurized mixture of water, sand and other chemicals into oil wells to break up the Earth’s crust and facilitate the extraction of oil and natural gas. Although oil industry advocates such as the Western States Petroleum Association say fracking is safe, many environmentalists say it increases the risks of groundwater contamination and earthquakes.

Although the Coastal Commission’s two-day agenda does not appear to have much room for a discussion of California fracking rules outside of the possibility of the issue being brought up during a briefing on offshore oil and gas activities, Center for Biological Diversity spokesman Patrick Sullivan said speakers from the public will seek a response when the panel holds its public comment session. “The Coastal Commission has been talking about fracking at recent meetings,” he said. “We’re not sure whether the commission itself will address the topic this month.”

Fracking has taken place in the Long Beach area since 1994. Sullivan said records pulled from FraFocus, an online registry of fracking activities, show fracking took place four times in December in waters near Long Beach. California law requires the development of permanent regulations to govern fracking by the start of next year. At present, interim rules require the industry to evaluate well casings and cement linings for safety prior to fracking, among other regulations.

Coastal Commission officials want to ensure that whatever regulations are developed apply to offshore drilling, Coastal Commission legislative liaison Sarah Christie said. State Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, last month introduced a bill that would temporarily halt fracking in the state, pending scientific study.

The rally is planned to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The Coastal Commission is set to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Council Chambers.

Contact Andrew Edwards at 562-499-1305.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Star-Ledger: Renewed search for offshore oil along Atlantic coast raises concerns in NJ

sonic ship
An oil exploration surveying ship towing an air gun and acoustic receivers used to search for undersea oil and gas formations through seismic shock waves. The oil industry is looking to resume exploration in the Atlantic, south of New Jersey, for the first time in 30 years. (International Association of Geophysical Contractors)

By Ted Sherman/The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 10, 2014 at 6:45 AM, updated March 10, 2014 at 8:58 AM

Thirty years ago, after spending billions to drill a series of dry holes, the oil industry abandoned a costly search for new oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic coast.
Now, armed with new technology and computerized modeling data, it wants to take another look.

Last month, the Interior Department endorsed a plan that would allow sophisticated seismic testing from Delaware Bay to Florida’s Cape Canaveral – a controversial decision urged by the industry, but angering environmentalists who fear potential harm to marine life – which could lead to renewed drilling in the coastal waters south of New Jersey.

State environmental officials, neither opposing nor supporting the plan, noted New Jersey is not in the immediate survey area, and said they were reviewing the federal report. “It is preliminary exploration to look at the subsurface geological framework and could have some scientific value that could benefit the state in the future,” said a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection.

Gov. Chris Christie, who has repeatedly opposed any drilling off the New Jersey coastline, has not changed his position on the issue, said Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the governor.

The Atlantic Coast had long been off limits for oil exploration, under a federal moratorium continued in the wake of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. But for the past four years, the Interior Department has been holding hearings to determine whether to reopen at least parts of the East Coast to exploratory testing. Officials said newer studies were needed to make informed decisions regarding future oil and gas leases, through the use of seismic testing.

Such testing involve ships that use blasts of compressed air to generate sonic waves aimed at the seabed. The reflected sound is picked up by a towed array of acoustic sensors, providing a 3D image of the underlying geology.

“They are sonograms of the earth,” explained Rutgers University deep-sea geologist Greg Mountain, a member of the university’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, who uses similar technology in researching sea level changes. “We’re looking at the top half mile at most. The oil companies are looking 3 to 5 miles deep,” he said.

Mountain said such surveys must be done under strict federal guidelines, including the use of observers, to make sure there is no harm to marine animals.

“There is a lot of the economy that depends on a clean and healthy ocean.”

Oil industry officials say the survey technique lessens the environmental impact of exploration. But opponents say the high energy sound pulses used by the industry can deafen marine mammals and disrupt habitats. Cindy Zipf executive director of Clean Ocean Action, expressed disappointment with the Obama administration for green-lighting the testing. “There is a lot of the economy that depends on a clean and healthy ocean,” she said. “We’ve been working since 1984 to keep this at bay.”

The testing itself would adversely affect the marine environment, asserted Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, and could be especially harmful to marine mammals, such as dolphins and the North Atlantic Right Whale.
“It also can change migratory fish patterns,” he said.

David Pringle, New Jersey Campaign Director for Clean Water Action, said the only reason to be doing seismic testing would ultimately be to drill for oil. “The testing area begins at the Delaware-New Jersey border and the areas they want to explore are within 100 miles of New Jersey,” said Pringle, who warned that even without drilling directly off the coast, prevailing ocean currents would bring an oil spill from wells further south directly to the Jersey Shore.

“It is very much a New Jersey issue,” he said.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.), a long-time opponent of offshore drilling, said any oil spill would destroy the beaches in New Jersey. He said while the oil and gas industry is pushing to open the Atlantic to drilling, the proven sources discovered in the past were very limited and involved deep water drilling.

“I maintain that the technology doesn’t exist to prevent the real possibility of a spill,” he said.

The decision by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management does not actually authorize any survey activities. It only proposes rules governing seismic testing of the ocean floor.

“The Department and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have been steadfast in our commitment to balancing the need for understanding offshore energy resources with the protection of the human and marine environment using the best available science as the basis of this environmental review,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau in a statement. “Our scientific knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean is constantly building, and new information and analyses will continue to be developed over time.”

The bureau said new data would be used to not only to locate oil and gas resources, but also site renewable energy facilities.

The area in question was the focus of a four-year exploration effort beginning in 1978, when a number of wells were drilled 100 miles east of Atlantic City in the Baltimore Canyon, and elsewhere off the Continental Shelf in the early 1980s. While some of the holes yielded natural gas, geologists concluded that whatever was there was not economically feasible to develop.

Kenneth Miller, a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers, who also studies rising sea levels, said data from those drilling sites recorded significant amounts of gas in five of the wells.

“They know there’s gas. They don’t know how much, but they know it’s worth looking into,” he said.

Officials at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association that represents the country’s oil and natural gas industry, said new technologies offer the ability to get a clearer picture of the seabed geology. At the same time, Andy Radford, API’s senior policy advisor for offshore issues, said there are new geologic theories based on discoveries in off the coasts of West Africa and Brazil, driving the effort to go back to the East Coast.

“It’s really just an effort to see what’s out there,” he said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: New England on ‘High Alert’ After Canadian Pipeline Reversal Approved

Published on Friday, March 7, 2014
Environmental groups raise alarm over potential transport of tar sands oil from western regions to New England coast
– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Enbridge buried pipeline marker (Adam Scott/Environmental Defense)The tar sands oil industry scored a regulatory victory on Thursday when the Canadian National Energy Board approved a plan by energy giant Enbridge to reverse the flow of Canada’s ‘Line 9’ oil pipeline eastward from Ontario to Montreal.

The decision has regional environmental groups sounding the alarm, warning the industry is now one step closer to being able to transport tar sands and other corrosive crude oil from the west, through Ontario and Quebec, over the border into Vermont, and then to the Maine coast for export.

The ruling, which comes four months after the government held public hearings on the proposal, will bring oil from western regions of Canada and the U.S., including tar sands from Alberta and heavy Bakken crude from North Dakota.

Groups such as The Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra Club, 350 Maine, 350 Vermont and Environment Maine say the reversal of Line 9 is “the final link” before the Maine-based Portland Pipe Line Corp. reverses its own pipeline that runs through New England, completing “energy giant Enbridge’s path from the oil sands of Alberta to tankers in the Atlantic port of South Portland,” the Bangor Daily News reports.

Fears that the New England pipeline would soon be reversed to transport Canadian tar sands to the Maine coast were sparked last year when oil companies poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign that ultimately defeated an anti-tar sands referendum in the coastal town of South Portland, Maine. The referendum would have barred a proposal to construct a tar sands pipeline terminal on the city’s waterfront.

So now, as the Canadian National Energy Board has taken the next step towards bringing tar sands to the New England border, many are alarmed.

“Thursday’s decision brings toxic tar sands oil right to New England’s doorstep, and one step away from flowing south through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine,” said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This decision should put Maine on high alert for the threat of tar sands transportation through our state. That would be unacceptable. Now is the time for the U.S. State Department to commit to an environmental review of any tar sands project in our state.”

While the pipeline reversal and expansion will only be officially allowed when Enbridge fulfills 30 conditions laid out by the Energy Board, including an emergency response plan, many say a spill within the fragile habitats the pipeline runs through will be inevitable. One dissenting board member raised concern over the possibility of a spill, saying Enbridge should first be required to demonstrate that it has “legally enforceable access to financial resources which are and will continue to be adequate to fund any reasonably foreseeable NEB-regulated obligations which arise as a result of a spill.”

“People have serious concerns about the safety of this pipeline because it’s old and leaky,” said Gillian McEachern, a spokeswoman for Canada’s Environmental Defense. “Our process for reviewing major pipeline projects is seriously broken. This decision puts people across Ontario and Quebec at serious risk of oil spills. If there is a spill, tar sands oil is much harder to clean up and more expensive to clean up than conventional oil that’s going through it now.”

And as the Bangor Daily News reports, should Enbridge attempt to bring oil through New England, several Maine towns have already passed resolutions “declaring opposition to the transportation of oil sands bitumen across their borders, including Casco, where the pipeline passes near Sebago Lake, the source of drinking water for 15 percent of all Mainers.”

“Tar sands pose the most significant threat to Sebago Lake that I’ve seen in my 34 years of fishing on the lake,” said Eliot Stanley, a board member of the Sebago Lake Anglers Association. “The fact is that a tar sands pipeline spill into the Sebago-Crooked River watershed would devastate the lake, its fisheries and southern Maine’s clean drinking water supply.”

“We cannot permit another Kalamazoo River catastrophe,” said Stanley in reference to Enbridge’s massive 2010 pipeline spill into the Michigan river. “This irresponsible action by the Canadian Energy Board poses a threat to all Maine citizens and public officials.”

Vermonters in more than a dozen towns took similar action this year on “Town Meeting Day,” voting to oppose the reversal of the pipeline.

“Vermonters have already loudly signaled opposition to transporting tar sands across our rivers and farms, alongside lakes, and through communities of the Northeast Kingdom,” said Jim Murphy, National Wildlife Federation Senior Counsel. “A spill would have a devastating impact on our water supplies, wildlife habitat and tourism industry. And any transport of tar sands through Vermont would encourage growth of an industry that contradicts all of our state’s leadership and hard work on moving toward cleaner sources of energy.”

______________________ BP Is Biggest Loser Among U.S. Government Contractors

By Jonathan D. Salant and Kathleen Miller – Mar 10, 2014

BP Plc (BP/), once the Pentagon’s top fuel supplier, is now the biggest loser among U.S. government vendors. A combination of no big contracts awarded and promised military work withdrawn left BP with a net loss of $654 million in federal contracts in the year that ended Sept. 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compared with $2.51 billion in awards in fiscal 2012.

“I have never heard of a contractor falling in anything remotely like the distance from plus $2 billion to minus $600 million,” said Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore law professor and former member of the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting. “The government has come down on BP because it needs to see that BP does not merely talk the talk of behaving responsibly but actually walks the walk.”

The London-based company was temporarily barred from new federal contracts and other work after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. While BP has sued to get the suspension lifted, the U.S. has said it wants to continue the ban, which also affects oil and gas leases coveted by the supplier. The suspension cost BP the ability to win new federal work that might be worth billions of dollars. The Defense Department, by far the government’s biggest buyer of petroleum products, also withdrew obligations, or promised funding, of more than $400 million last year after one of its offices didn’t buy a minimum amount of fuel required under the contracts.

No Extensions
Government agencies that don’t make such minimum purchases usually extend contracts rather than cancel them, said Rob Burton, a partner at the law firm Venable LLP and deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy under President George W. Bush. “They feel it’s a high risk to terminate and find alternative sources,” Burton said in an interview.
Instead, the Defense Logistics Agency, part of the Pentagon, chose to let the agreements expire.

“Suspended contractors cannot have the duration of their contracts extended without a compelling reason to do so,” Mimi Schirmacher, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an e-mail. Three of the defense agency’s contracts, originally valued at a total of $2.15 billion, were awarded between May and September 2012 before BP’s temporary ban in November 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The three contracts weren’t extended “as a result of the suspension, which we are challenging in court,” Geoff Morrell, a BP spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

BP Sues
The company in August sued the Environmental Protection Agency in federal court in Houston to try to get the suspension lifted. “We believe that the EPA’s disqualification and suspension decisions should be invalidated because they are arbitrary and capricious,” Morrell said.

The government in January asked the court to continue the ban, saying BP hasn’t yet demonstrated it would act responsibly.
The EPA imposed the suspension after determining that the company hadn’t fully corrected problems that led to the fatal explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. “Given this history, it was wholly reasonable” for the agency to “conclude that BP’s latest round of plans and promises is insufficient to demonstrate that BP is a responsible federal contractor,” the Justice Department said in the court filing. With BP temporarily blacklisted, the government is turning to other companies.

Largest Sellers
In fiscal 2011, BP was the largest seller of fuel to the military, with $1.37 billion in prime, or direct, contracts. A year later, it ranked just below No. 1 Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), based in the Hague, Netherlands — which had $2.86 billion.
Closely held Refinery Associates of Texas, based in New Braunfels, Texas, was the No. 1 supplier last year, with $1.34 billion. It was followed by Miami-based World Fuel Services Corp. (INT), with $1.19 billion, and National Fuel Inc., based in Kabul, Afghanistan, with $912.7 million.

The federal data measure contract obligations, or funding that is set aside for later spending. The data is published by the U.S. government and compiled by Bloomberg. BP, in the meantime, received just $31 million in contracts from federal agencies, while $685 million in planned orders disappeared, most of it from the withdrawn military work. The company’s reversal of fortune is unusual, said Brian Friel, a Bloomberg Industries analyst. Its fall in the rankings shows “the extraordinary circumstance of the Gulf oil spill that led to BP’s fall from grace with the U.S. government,” he said.

Natural Gas
Among federal agencies, the U.S. Justice Department had the most contract obligations with BP in fiscal 2013 — $341,225 for natural gas at the Bureau of Prisons. Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, didn’t return e-mails seeking comment.
Suspended companies are allowed to continue to sell to the government under existing contracts or when no alternatives exist.
The suspension may cost BP opportunities to expand its foothold in the Gulf of Mexico. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Interior Department, has scheduled an auction March 19 for more than 40 million acres for oil and gas exploration.
BP is the second-biggest oil producer in the Gulf with 63.6 million barrels in 2013, second only to Shell, according to Interior Department figures. Chevron Corp. (CVX) is No. 3. “It’s been a core strength for them,” Brian Youngberg, an energy analyst with Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis, said in a telephone interview. “They’re anxious to get back into the Gulf.”

More Oil
BP produced more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day in the fourth quarter from its 10 rigs in the Gulf, Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley said on Feb. 4 during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call. It expects to eventually produce more than 300,000 barrels of oil a day in the area, he told investors.

In an investor call last year, Dudley called the Gulf drilling “central to the portfolio for decades to come.”
The suspension won’t prevent BP from bidding March 19, only from winning, Jessica Kershaw, an Interior spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.If the company is the high bidder and the suspension is lifted during an evaluation period after the auction, BP will win the leases. If the suspension remains in place, it won’t.

BP pleaded guilty in January 2013 to 11 counts of felony seaman’s manslaughter, two pollution violations and one count of lying to Congress in connection with the offshore spill, the worst in U.S. history. It agreed to pay $4.25 billion in related criminal and civil penalties and faces additional fines, in addition to thousands of claims by individuals and companies.

Analyst Youngberg said the U.S. may want the ban in place until all the lawsuits are settled. “EPA may be saying as long as there’s litigation, they won’t lift the suspension,” he said. “Is that an incentive for BP to settle? Possibly.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at; Kathleen Miller in Washington at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephanie Stoughton at Stephanie Stoughton, Mark McQuillan

Special thanks to Richard Charter

EPA notice on rules for confidentiality on GHG emissions from oil and gas operations:

EPA reporting

ACTION: Proposed rule.

SUMMARY: The EPA is proposing revisions and confidentiality determinations for the
petroleum and natural gas systems source category and the general provisions of the Greenhouse
Gas Reporting Rule. In particular, the EPA is proposing to revise certain calculation methods,
amend certain monitoring and data reporting requirements, clarify certain terms and definitions,
and correct certain technical and editorial errors that have been identified during the course of
implementation. This action also proposes confidentiality determinations for new or substantially
revised data elements contained in these proposed amendments, as well as proposes a revised
confidentiality determination for one existing data element.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

WLOX: Florida files suit against BP related to 2010 Gulf oil spill

Posted: Mar 06, 2014 12:01 PM EST Updated: Mar 06, 2014 12:01 PM EST

PANAMA CITY, FL (AP) – Florida has joined a multi-state lawsuit stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, seeking to hold British oil company BP accountable for damage to the state’s natural resources.

The complaint was filed Wednesday in Panama City federal court by the state’s secretary of environmental protection and the head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

It’s separate from a lawsuit Florida’s attorney general filed against BP last year over economic losses related to the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

Along with BP, the new complaint lists minority partner Anadarko and rig owner Transocean as defendants responsible for harm the spill caused to Florida’s ecosystems and wildlife.

BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said the company is reviewing Florida’s lawsuit and continues to evaluate potential spill-related environmental damage.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Advocate: Committee being formed to promote Gulf drilling

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Advocate staff report

A new offshore committee is being formed by the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association to promote energy production and responsible development of energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

The initiative will be coordinated by consultant Lori LeBlanc, of Lori LeBlanc LLC in Thibodaux, association Chairman Jim Hutchison said. LeBlanc served as deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources from 2008 to 2010.
She became executive director of the Gulf Economic Survival Team, which was formed in June 2010 to push for a full return to energy production in the Gulf after a drilling moratorium resulted from the BP disaster.

“The Gulf is America’s energy workhorse, and its economic impacts are astounding,” Hutchison said. “Thirty percent of our nation’s domestic oil is produced in the Gulf of Mexico and energy activity in the Gulf contributes $5 (billion) to $8 billion per year to the U.S. Treasury.” The economic impact in Louisiana is $44.3 billion, he said. “To continue this great success story, it’s imperative that we increase our outreach efforts with federal leaders and have a seat at the table when key policy decisions are being made,” Hutchison said.

“Lori LeBlanc has had great success working with federal leaders on regulatory issues and promoting energy production in the Gulf as part of the Gulf Economic Survival Team, and we are very pleased to have her on board to lead this exciting effort for our group,” association President Chris John said.

The offshore committee will focus on policy, partnership, public input and positive communication in support of oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. Activities will include developing and maintaining relationships with federal policymakers and members of Congress. monitoring and commenting on federal rules that affect Gulf development, collaborating with members, other trade associations and other Gulf Coast states on energy policy initiatives and communicating the significance of Gulf energy production to the nation’s economy and energy supply.

Targeted policy issues may include the Rigs to Reef program, national ocean policy, effects of new mitigation requirements, outer-continental-shelf lease sales, revenue sharing, and industry safety and technology. The committee also will maintain LMOGA’s involvement in Louisiana’s coastal restoration and protection efforts.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Turn offshore platforms into fish farms, urges Malaysian academic

By Rod Sweet on Mar 5, 2014

Oil and gas platforms in Malaysia could be used for deep-sea fish farming, giving companies an alternative to decommissioning, says a Malaysian academic.

By Ayshe Ismail

Dr. Sharul Sham Dol, head of mechanical engineering at Curtin Sarawak’s School of Engineering and Science, said his team is working on a project to “breathe new life” into disused platforms by turning them into mariculture facilities for deep-sea fish farming.

Most offshore oil and gas platforms in Malaysia are built to last for approximately 25 to 30 years and decommissioning activity is expected to rise because 600 of the 900 now there are over 20 years old.

Writing in the Borneo Post, he said oil companies are keen to find alternative options for platforms as the cost for decommissioning a medium-sized structure is approximately $3m.

The idea is that the platform would be used as an operational hub for fish-farming facilities and crew. The structure itself would be used as an anchor for mooring cages and nets, and as a hatchery.

Dr. Dol said he hopes to collaborate with oil and gas companies, and aquaculture and mariculture businesses, to develop the idea.
– See more at: US DOE OKs FTA application for ConocoPhillips’ Alaska LNG project
Washington (Platts)–28Feb2014/225 pm EST/1925 GMT

The US Department of Energy has approved an application by ConocoPhillips to ship the equivalent of 40 Bcf of natural gas as liquefied natural gas over a two-year period from its plant on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage to countries which have free trade agreements with the US.

The approval, however, is seen largely as a technicality since ConocoPhillips is expected to target Japan, a country which does not have a free trade agreement with the US, for the LNG from the Alaskan facility.

A separate application from ConocoPhillips to ship to non-FTA countries, such as Japan, is still pending before DOE.

LNG market sources said that while the approval was promising, it would take an approval for exports to non-FTA economies like Japan to have an impact on pricing.

However, market participants noted that South Korea was an FTA partner, and could be a home for the volumes from Kenai, if non-FTA approval was not granted.

The DOE approved ConocoPhillips’ application to ship to FTA countries in a February 19 order, which was posted to the agency’s website late Thursday.

DOE is required to approve applications to ship LNG to FTA countries quickly, but can block or modify applications to ship to non-FTA countries if it determines they are not in the public interest.

The ConocoPhillips application to ship to non-FTA countries is being considered outside the controversial queue DOE has set up for LNG export projects hoping to ship to non-FTA countries. DOE has approved only six applications from that queue since 2012 and at least 24 applications remain in the queue.

ConocoPhillips plans to operate its plant on a seasonal basis when regional demand is low, the company said.

The Alaska plant was built in 1969 by Phillips Petroleum and Marathon Oil, with ConocoPhillips eventually buying out Marathon’s stake. The plant operated until 2012, when the export license expired and declining gas production in Cook Inlet limited the gas available.

–Brian Scheid, –Desmond Wong, –Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,

Special thanks to Richard Charter

National Review: Keystone XL pipeline protesters tie themselves to White House fence as police arrest dozens of people, photos

Emily Stephenson, Reuters | March 2, 2014 6:38 PM ET

Several hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are arrested outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, March 2, 2014.

XL Pipeline Protest
AP Photo/Susan WalshSeveral hundred students and youth who marched from Georgetown University to the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline are arrested outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, March 2, 2014.

Police arrested dozens of young people protesting the Keystone XL project on Sunday, as demonstrators fastened themselves with plastic ties to the White House fences and called for U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the controversial oil pipeline.

Participants, who mostly appeared to be college-aged, held signs reading “There is no planet B” and “Columbia says no to fossil fuels,” referring to the university in New York.

Another group, several of whom were clad in white jumpsuits splattered with black ink that was meant to represent oil, lay down on a black tarp spread out on Pennsylvania Avenue to stage a mock spill.
Keystone XL Pipeline Protest
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaProtesters who are strapped to the White House fence in Washington, chant during a protest against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Sunday, March 2, 2014.

Organizers estimated 1,000 people protested and said several hundred agreed to risk arrest by refusing to leave the sidewalk in front of the White House.

“If the Democratic Party wants to keep our vote, they better make sure President Obama rejects that pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a 23-year-old student at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says Keystone sales pitch hindered by lax greenhouse regulations
John Ivison: Keystone pipeline not likely to be approved until after Obama, former Tory minister says
If Barack Obama doesn’t approve the Keystone pipeline, another president will, says Stephen Harper
Keystone XL environmental review didn’t breach rules: U.S. Inspector General

Canadian energy firm TransCanada Corp is behind the proposed pipeline that would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Supporters say it would create thousands of jobs.

The project already weathered a State Department environmental review, which was required because the project would cross international borders. Several other agencies also are doing reviews, and Obama has final say.

Environmental groups, who fear oil spills along the pipeline and say it could hasten climate change, have staged a number of protests at the White House over Keystone.
APTOPIX Keystone XL Pipeline Protest


Alex Smiley, Katy Hellman

Keystone XL Pipeline Protest

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty ImagesStudents protesting against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline chant slogans in front of the White House in Washington,DC on March 2, 2014.

Sunday’s event, which was planned by students with support from environmental groups and the Energy Action Coalition, began with a rally at Georgetown University, where Obama unveiled a new climate change plan last summer.

The group marched to the White House, where police began arresting protesters, pulling them aside in small groups into tents set up on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Organizers said they intended to remind the White House that young people are a key voting demographic of the president’s party and their peers do not want to inherit environmental damage caused by current leaders.

“Our future is on the line. The climate is on the line,” said Aly Johnson-Kurts, 20, who is taking a year off from Smith College in Massachusetts. She said she had decided to get arrested on Sunday. “When do we say we’ve had enough?”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Ledger: Endangered And Drained In Polk. Oil Drilling On Land In Florida Is Controversial, Too

Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 5:43 by Tom Palmer
Most of the talk about oil drilling in Florida has involved concerns about spills from offshore rigs despoiling our beaches and chasing away tourists.

The recent news that marine life as far south of the southwest coast of Florida was affected by the Deep Horizon spill certainly shows the concerns weren’t overstated.

But there’s another, less-publicized oil drilling dispute under way in southwest Florida at the edge of the Everglades.

This one involves a proposal to drill wells in Collier County near rural residential areas and in the middle of some the remaining Florida panther habitat.

The main concerns are over the potential for groundwater pollution, increased water consumption in an are where water supplies are already stressed and new road construction that could disrupt wildlife corridors.

This issue is all being sorted out in administrative hearings that are under way to secure state and federal permits required before the project can proceed.
Oil drilling is not a new enterprise in this part of Florida.

There has been some drilling in southwest Florida since 1943 in the Sunniland area, but production has never been at the levels you hear about in Texas and other big oil-producing areas.

What’s different now and what’s causing activists to organize is new drilling and extraction techniques such as fracking and the fact that people are living in the area and worry how the work will affect their private wells.

These local concerns reflect concerns that have been raised nationally about the environmental impacts of newer oil and gas extraction methods.

The concern over road construction is tied to the fact that one of the key causes of panther deaths is collisions with vehicles.

Punching more roads into panther habitat can’t help, critics contend.
The controversy reminded me of a local case in 1976 when an oil driller obtained a lease to drill an exploratory oil well under Lake Pierce near Lake Wales.

That plan involved drilling at an angle from lakefront property in an area occupied at the time by an attraction called Masterpiece Gardens on the lake’s southern shore. It involved a process described at the time as slant drilling.
Florida’s proposal to grant a mineral lease under the lake drew protests from environmentalists, but the permit was issued and drilling occurred.

However, apparently the exploration produced nothing promising and that was the last anyone heard of the effort.

At the time I learned there had been earlier prospecting efforts involving using equipment to gather seismic data along the U.S. 27 corridor, but nothing came of that, either.

In all of these cases the counterargument is that a successful venture will aid the local economy in some way, but critics wonder whether it’s worth it.

If you want to know more about the oil well controversy, go to or

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Christian Science Monitor: IEA chief: Only a decade left in US shale boom

28 February 2014

By David J. Unger, Staff writer

The United States is awash in hydrocarbons, the result of good geology, supportive prices, a favorable regulatory and investment climate, and technology innovation. But the US energy boom is temporary, and not easy to replicate in other parts of the world, Maria van der Hoeven, chief executive of the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), says in a Feb. 22 interview with The Christian Science Monitor. Here are edited excerpts:

Q: The energy industry has undergone a revolution in drilling techniques that has opened up vast new sources of so-called “tight oil” and “shale gas,” particularly in North America. Is the promise of this unconventional oil and gas overhyped?
A: The light tight oil revolution in the United States is changing the geographical map of oil trade. But we also mentioned [in an IEA analysis] that this growth would not last – that it would plateau, and then flatten and go down. That means that from 2025 onward, it’s again Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that will come back. Because of the changing trade map, this oil will almost completely go to Asia – China, India, Korea and Japan.

There are some people who really think they can replicate the United States shale gas boom. It’s not as easy as that. The land ownership and the resource ownership go together here in the United States – the only country where that is the case. It’s also about having the right gas industry, the right knowledge, the right infrastructure, the water, the human skills, the geological information, etc. And geology in this part of the world, especially where the shale gas boom is, is quite different from Ukraine or Poland. You can learn from it, but it’s not a copy-and-paste. The United Kingdom is changing its attitude to shale gas. China wants to develop its shale gas, but it’s in a very dry part of the country. South Africa is looking to its shale gas resources. The point is there’s a lot of shale gas in the world, but it’s not as easily accessible as it was in the United States.

Q: California is 36 months into its worst drought ever, threatening power outages in a state that gets 15 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric dams. How critical is water to the future of global energy security?
A: The use of water in producing energy is a big issue, but it is also the use of cooling water in power plants. Sometimes there is a lack of water, and hydroelectric dams are not producing as much power as they should. Sometimes there is too much water, and it threatens infrastructure. So we are working with a number of countries on the resilience of energy infrastructure to climate conditions including water – rising sea levels or storms or whatever it is. The other issue is water use in unconventional gas production [hydraulic fracturing]. We started a high level forum on unconventional gas last year, and water will be the focus of its second meeting this year in Calgary. The water-energy nexus is underestimated at this moment. The energy-food nexus is looked into from many sides, but I think the awareness for the water-energy nexus is growing and rightfully so.

Q: Countries like Spain and Germany are second-guessing ambitious plans to transition to renewables as electricity costs rise. Is Europe backtracking on its clean-energy goals?
Europe paid the price of a decarbonization policy in a time frame that made costs quite high. This is something we have to realize. You have to choose your renewable energy sources based on the indigenous sources you have. Solar in the south of Europe – in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy and in Greece – is much more available than in the northern part of Europe, like the Netherlands or Germany. But wind is more available in the north than it is in the south. There is hydropower in the Alps, in the Pyrenees, and in the Scandinavian countries. It’s important to choose your technologies based on resources you have because otherwise your feed-in tariffs will be quite high. And when you have a feed-in tariff that is paid for by part of your population like in Germany, then you have to see to it that the burdens are divided among your population in a way that is acceptable.

If you have a feed-in tariff, that’s fine, but put a cap on it. And see to it that when your technology costs come down your tariffs go down, because normally the tariffs are in place for quite some years and you pay a lot of money. At the same time, you need subsidies for renewables because we are not there yet, by far. You need subsidies not only for technologies that are economically more or less viable, but also for new technologies to come. Governments need to use their money to really push technology development and new types of renewable energy that are still in a lab stage or in a pilot phase.

Q: Parts of sub-Saharan Africa are coming into new sources of oil and gas. Can countries like Kenya and Uganda reap the benefits of their own resource wealth without falling victim to the “resource curse” that has hurt countries like Nigeria?
A: Without good governance you can’t guarantee that you are not going to end up in the same situation as Nigeria. And that’s a very difficult one. This is a very poor region of the world, and in our view it’s important that you are on good terms with local populations, host populations, and with host governments. And that means that you share benefits. That can be sharing benefits of fossil-fuel resources, and that can also mean, for instance, that you invest in renewable technology to bring electricity to the people. There are more solutions than one, but we will be working on this, and will come up with a number of proposals in our World Energy Outlook 2014.

Q: About 550 million people in Africa are without electricity. Can African nations leverage renewable energy – and “leapfrog” traditional electric grid development – to increase electricity access and spur growth?
A: They need to leapfrog in Africa and they can. Why should they make our mistakes? There are quite a lot of remote areas where you have to find mini-grid, off-grid solutions, and you need to have storage capacity. It’s not always big storage capacity, but the costs have to come down. So it’s absolutely vital that we look into a myriad of options. That involves solar, it involves geothermal, hydro, wind, and other renewable and fossil sources. Let’s not close our eyes and think that because we did a number of things in Europe that it must be done the same way in other countries. We’re not only talking about renewables in Africa – it’s a mixture. And of course some countries have their own indigenous resources. The point is how can they get the money out of it to pay for the solutions for electrification.

Interview conducted and edited for clarity by David J. Unger
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Florida Today: Guest column: Seismic testing could harm marine life…East Coast research aimed at identifying oil, gas deposits

Feb. 27, 2014 |

Hands Across the Sand, sponsored by the Cocoa Beach Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, will take place May 17 at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach. / FLORIDA TODAY FILE

Written by Jackie Beatty, Guest columnist

The decision on whether or not to allow seismic testing from the New Jersey to Florida’s coastline will be made this spring.

The U.S. Department of the Interior wants to perform surveys to detect offshore oil and gas deposits. If approved, boats towing airguns will send high-decibel sound blasts through the ocean every 10 seconds for months on end.

Dolphins and whales rely on their hearing to catch food, communicate and reproduce. Airgun blasts kill fish eggs and larvae and scare away fish from habitats. It will disrupt the vital behaviors of millions of other marine animals including sea turtles. Imagine trying to carry out your day with a deafening blast every 10 seconds.

In a press release about the testing, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stated: “Interior is taking steps to assess the renewable energy resource potential in the Mid- and South Atlantic.”

Oil and gas are nonrenewable resources. Solar energy, wind power, and hydropower are renewable energies. Salazar referred to seismic surveying as “safe exploration.” That’s ironic since the Department of the Interior was the government agency that estimated seismic testing in the Atlantic will injure or kill as many as 130,000 marine mammals. This press release reported nothing about how damaging seismic testing is to our ecosystem.

Oceana, an international organization focused on ocean conservation, states, “In addition to being devastating for marine life, seismic airguns are the first step toward dangerous and dirty offshore drilling with associated habitat destruction, oil spills and contribution to climate change and ocean acidification.”

After the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico almost four years ago, that ecosystem remains in crisis and will be for the rest of our lifetimes and beyond.

Drilling for oil will not solve our nation’s energy needs. The Department of Energy has said that fully developing all of our nation’s offshore oil reserves would lower gas prices by only 3 cents.

Oceana states: “Instead of making drilling safer, Congress chooses to give Big Oil billions of dollars in tax breaks each year and allow those companies to expand drilling.”

The people who are padding their pockets with this money don’t care about our environment, us, or investing in renewable resources. We cannot leave the state of our environment in the hands of our government. We must create change and take action. We have to fight against these attacks on our ecosystem.

Visit to sign a petition.

Also please join us at Hands Across the Sand on at 11 a.m. May 17 at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach to say no to off shore drilling, dirty energy and dirty corporations destroying our Earth for profit.


Beatty is a member of the executive committee of the Cocoa Beach Surfrider Chapter. The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Los Angeles joins Dallas, NY, VT, Colorado cities trend to halt fracking

February 28, 2014

Los Angeles, CA – The Los Angeles City Council was unanimous in its support of a motion for a moratorium on fracking this morning after over 100 presentations were made by its residents who reported complaints ranging from nose bleeds, to headaches, to cracks in their homes associated with when fracking began in the city. Many of the citizens were organized by Californians against Fracking, Americans against Fracking, 350, Credo, Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club CA, Physicians for Social Responsibility LA and other various neighborhood groups who sought representation by City Councilman Paul Koretz District 5 with co-author Bonin District 11. Mayor Eric Garcetti has 10 days to sign to make the motion an ordinance.

Councilman Koretz stated, “Unregulated fracking is crazy- we have seen the danger of earthquakes take place in states that normally don’t have earthquakes, and now we are taking what causes earthquakes where they normally don’t happen, to a place where they do happen.”

Korez continued, “Just wasting this water [used for fracking- as much as millions of gallons per well] is a bad idea already, but turning it into toxic water is absolute insanity. People are getting sick, their homes are cracking; it does makes no sense to continue.”
Co-author Bonin supported the motion by saying, “This is about neighborhood safety, envivronmental justice, and about common sense. The term ‘fracking’ refers to fracturing in an area riddled with earthquakes. This is energy production by Dr Stangelove, this is an experimental technology wildly unregulated by the state.”

Fractivists React

Linda Capato 350 national fracking campaign coordinator was excited, “Clearly momentum is building in California. After a year of wildfire and record breaking drought, people are realizing that fracking should have no place in our state’s energy future. Today the LA City Council took the first big step to ban fracking in California’s largest city. Governor Brown should follow their lead. Thousands of Californians will be in Sacramento on March 15th pushing the Governor to stop fracking and protect our communities and climate.”

Governor Brown no response yet

Today’s decision comes just three weeks before a giant anti-fracking rally in Sacramento intended to pressure Governor Jerry Brown into reversing course and honoring his commitments to water conservation, a safer environment and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Strangely enough @govjerrybrown showed only a picture of the Governor taking out papers for re-election and @govpressoffice showed no response. Communications staff did not have a statement prepared.

A National, Worldwide Trend

The vote today comes on the heels of a growing trend of home and land owners becoming ‘fractivists’ – as the list of cities and countries either placing moratoriums or banning is growing around the nation and around the world. The trend within the United States began with Vermont and New York, to Hawaii, and various cities such as Dallas, TX and recently 3 cities in Colorado. An updated list is kept by the Keep Tap Water Safe organization.

Activists were fired up the evening before in a webcast as Bill McKibben was joined by Becky Bond, Vice President and Political Director of CREDO, and three activists, Rodrigo Romo, Anabel Marquez and Javier Cruz from the area outside Bakersfield where most of the state’s well stimulation activity is currently taking place a few hours drive down Highway 5 where San Benito Uprising residents are getting ready to pass what Kate Woods says will be the first ban on fracking in a front line district, Santa Cruz having placed the first city ban following the County of Marin Supervisor’s vote though these two latter are not actually being fracked, whereas San Benito County is.

“If political leaders keep indulging the oil and gas industry in their endless search for new energy sources, the planet is toast,” McKibben said today. “We know fracking sucks water from an already drought-ridden state, pours toxic chemicals into the environment, and is a climate disaster. Governor Brown knows this too, and it’s time for him to act accordingly.”

Recent UCSB Physics graduate Damien Luzzo explained, “the burning of fossil fuels causes climate change, which threatens California’s way of life with long term megadrought, shrinking of Sierra ice and snowpack, wildfires, and sea level rise along California’s iconic coast, such that the scientific consensus has thus asserted that 80% of the world’s known fossil fuels must be left in the ground to avoid further climate destabilization and warming the planet beyond 2º C – a tipping point for our climate.”

Fractivists aren’t resting after today’s victory however, the next step for fractivists will be a visit from well-known Hollywood environmental activist Daryl Hannah and more than 50 organizations are gearing up for the Don’t Frack California rally in Sacramento Saturday, March 15.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Reaction to State Department Inspector General Report on KXL–This Sunday, nearly 1,000 youth will protest outside Secretary Kerry’s house in Washington before risking arrest in a sit-in at the White House

February 27, 2014
8:05 AM


WASHINGTON – February 27 – Pipeline opponents are pledging to turn up the heat on Secretary Kerry in reaction to the State Department’s Inspector General report. The report confirms that the State Department knowingly hired a tar sands industry contractor to assess the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impact, but deems such dirty dealings business as usual.

“The real scandal in Washington is how much is legal,” said co-founder Bill McKibben. “This process has stunk start to finish. It’s good that its now in the hands of the Secretary Kerry and President Obama so there’s at least an outside chance of a decision not based on cronyism.”

“Far from exonerating the State Department of wrongdoing, the Inspector General report simply concludes that such dirty dealings are business as usual,” said Policy Director Jason Kowalski. “While allowing a member of the American Petroleum Institute to review a tar sands oil pipeline may technically be legal, it’s by no means responsible. Secretary Kerry and President Obama can let their climate legacies be tarred by this dirty process or they can do the right thing and reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.”

This Sunday, nearly 1,000 young people will rally outside of Secretary Kerry’s house in Washington with a banner that reads “Secretary Kerry: Don’t Tar Your Climate Legacy,” before marching to the White House, where at least 300 youth are expected to risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience.

Secretary Kerry had a long record as a climate champion as a Senator from Massachusetts and recently called climate disruption the world’s most dangerous weapon of mass destruction. He has yet to express a position on the Keystone XL pipeline.

More information about the XL Dissent weekend of action can be found below. Still-Fresh Remnants of Exxon Valdez Oil 25 Years after Oil Spill, Found Protected by Boulders

Posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Twenty-five years after the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, beaches on the Alaska Peninsula hundreds of kilometers from the incident still harbor small hidden pockets of surprisingly unchanged oil, according to new research being presented here today.

Valdez oil
Oil trapped between rocks on a beach in the Gulf of Alaska. New research being presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting finds that beaches on the Alaska Peninsula hundreds of kilometers from the site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill still harbor small hidden pockets of oil. (Credit: Gail Irvine, USGS)

(From ScienceDaily) – The focus of the study is to learn how oil persists long after a spill. Researchers presenting the work caution that the amount of oil being studied is a trace of what was originally spilled and that results from these sites cannot be simply extrapolated to the entire spill area.

The rocky, high-energy coastlines in the Shelikof Strait, southwest of the spill, contain small remnants of the spill which appear to be protected by a stable boulder and cobble “armor,” says Gail Irvine of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center.

“To have oil there after 23 years is remarkable,” said Irvine. “We have these marked boulders whose movement we’ve been studying for more than 18 years. The oil itself has hardly weathered and is similar to 11-day-old oil.”

The oil was positively identified as that from the Exxon Valdez by chemists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Auke Bay Laboratory and in Christopher Reddy’s lab at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which specializes in investigating oil spills of all kinds – particularly those which are decades old.

“Very old oil spills can be found to still have oil,” said Reddy. “We were capable of fingerprinting that oil.”

The new findings from this study – about where oil can persist and which chemical compounds in the oil are more and less durable – offer some “silver linings” to the disastrous spill, said Reddy. The researchers are presenting the new research today at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society and the American Geophysical Union.

“One lesson is that if you are responsible for cleaning up a spill, you want to be proactive about cleanup behind the boulders,” said Reddy. Another is that response efforts should try to prevent oil from stranding in these areas where oil may persist for years or decades.
“We are taking advantage of these samples as a natural laboratory,” he said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: Passing the baton in oil spill research on the Gulf Coast; Students find 1250 lb Tar mat found on Pensacola Beach (with images)

FDEP Monitoring Report_02.27.14_FLES2-005_SOM

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute picked a perfect day to go to Pensacola Beach. Our DEP boys found a 1250 lb Tarmat. Had to remove it by hand, since bp clean up team, OSRO, wasn’t allowed into waist high water to mitigate. Captain Walker, former FOSC is supposed to be there tomorrow AM. BP is working on getting long arm excavator to remove additional oil.

Oh the irony! FL DEP is discontinuing these efforts June 30, 2014 due to lack of $ had these men not been out doing their observations/ we would have missed this incident. Also terrible management that CG and OSRO teams cannot go in water to remove. This is why I have been pushing for updates to OPA and improving response due to real life scenarios.

Hope this is the moment people will remember and take action in helping our state with continued response issues.

Susan Forsyth

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Environmental News Network

From: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Media Relations Office
Published February 26, 2014 09:30 AM

As part of on-going research nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will team up with a group of high school students in Florida to collect remnants of oil from Gulf Coast beaches this week. Marine chemist Chris Reddy studies how the many compounds that compose petroleum hydrocarbon, or oil, behave and change over time after an oil spill. He and his researchers have collected and analyzed about 1,000 oil samples from the Gulf Coast since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“With an iconic and wide-ranging spill like Deepwater Horizon, the need to perform such long-term studies is a top priority for me,” said Reddy. He has already catalogued many of these samples in an on-line database to make the data available to the public and scientific community.

How the compounds react and weather in the environment also can help inform the chemical industry, governments, and cleanup efforts when future oil spills occur.

“Spilled oil undergoes a series of changes due to Mother Nature called ‘weathering.’ Weathering differs from one site to another based on several factors including the type of oil spilled and the local climate. Therefore, each location is a living laboratory that allows us to interrogate how Nature responds to these uninvited hydrocarbons.”

On Feb. 28, the group of students will work alongside Reddy’s team and colleagues from the Florida State University in one such living laboratory at a Pensacola, Fla. beach. This field expedition is part of a new education initiative called the Gulf Oil Observers (GOO), which trains volunteers to be effective citizen scientists. GOO mentors are educators and scientists associated with the Deep-C Consortium research project – a long-term study investigating the environmental consequences of oil released in the deep Gulf on living marine resources and ecosystem health.

The students from West Florida High School of Advanced Technology in Pensacola will collect samples of small, round clumps of sand mixed with crude oil. These oiled sand patties can be easily overlooked on the beach. No bigger than a silver dollar, they resemble small dark rocks, driftwood, and other beach debris.

“But if you know what to look for, they’re not difficult to identify,” said Reddy. That’s why he and WHOI researcher Catherine Carmichael will train 23 high school students, the first group of GOO volunteers, on-site in Pensacola, Fla. to help conduct this research.

Read more at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Deepwater Horizon sand samples image via WHOI.

Miami Herald: Feds support air gun blasts to find Atlantic oil, gas

Thursday, 2/27/14whale

A study of what the controversial seismic tests would do to whales, dolphins and fish is on track for release at the end of February, an Interior Department official told lawmakers on Friday. Pictured is a North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES / NOAA/MCT

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department is endorsing seismic exploration for oil and gas in Atlantic waters, a crucial move toward starting drilling off the Carolinas, Virginia and possibly down to Florida.

The department released its final review Thursday, favoring a plan to allow the intense underwater seismic air gun blasts that environmentalists and some members of Congress say threatens the survival of whales and dolphins.

The oil industry wants to use the air guns to find out how much oil and gas lies along the U.S. Atlantic seabed. Federal estimates of a relatively modest 3.3 billion barrels of oil date from the 1970s and 1980s and are considered too low.

“The currently available seismic information from this area is decades old and was developed using technologies that are obsolete,” said Tommy Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The federal government wants to use the information to decide whether to open up the mid- and south Atlantic to oil and gas drilling for the first time in decades. President Barack Obama had planned to start allowing drilling at least off the coast of Virginia, but he postponed consideration of the idea after the massive 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Interior Department’s plan is to start allowing underwater seismic air gun tests in an area from Delaware to Florida’s Cape Canaveral, though most of the push for offshore drilling involves the waters off the Carolinas and Virginia.

The seismic tests involve vessels towing an array of air guns that blast compressed air underwater, sending intense sound waves to the bottom of the ocean. The booms are repeated every 10 seconds or so for days or weeks.

The echoes are used to map the locations of subsea oil and gas deposits.

The Interior Department received more than 55,000 public comments on the proposal. Environmental groups warn that the blasts make whales and dolphins deaf, preventing them from feeding, mating and communicating. More than 50 members of Congress, including a few Republicans, have sent letters to the president opposing the seismic air gun tests and saying that up to 138,500 marine mammals could be injured by them.

Interior Department officials said their plan protected the endangered North Atlantic right whale by closing areas along the whales’ main migratory route to the air gun testing. Beaudreau said the tests would be monitored closely.

“We’re really going to require and demand a high level of environmental performance,” he said.

The environmental group Oceana said the protected area was too small and the endangered whales would suffer from the “dynamite-like blasts.”

“They are like the American bison of the ocean. They deserve protection. There are only 500 of them left,” said Matthew Huelsenbeck, a marine scientist for Oceana.

Oceana last week spearheaded a letter from more than 100 marine scientists and conservation biologists that urges the Obama administration not to approve the seismic tests until the National Marine Fisheries Services releases upcoming new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is expected to give the final approval to the seismic testing plan in April. At that point the government would start reviewing the nine applications from companies that want to conduct the testing and decide whether their specific proposals should go forward.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash.,, said the seismic testing plan was a major milestone for efforts to open the Atlantic to oil and gas drilling.
“While it has taken far too long, this step today will help put America on a path to open new areas to more American energy production,” Hastings said.

The Obama administration is weighing whether to include mid- and south Atlantic oil and gas drilling in the next federal offshore leasing plan, which runs from 2017 through 2022.
The National Ocean Industries Association, a group that’s lobbying for offshore drilling,
said the Interior Department’s approval of seismic testing appeared to be a huge step. But the group said it needed to review the plan to make sure its restrictions didn’t make testing unworkable.

The industry group said seismic testing had been used for decades in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere in the world to make informed decisions about where to drill for oil.

There’s been controversy along the Gulf of Mexico, though, where the industry, environmental groups and government agencies settled a lawsuit last summer by putting some areas off limits to air gun testing for 30 months while environmental studies are conducted.

Email:; Twitter: @seancockerham

Read more here:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams, The Guardian: Why We Need an Outright Ban on Fracking–Convicted on Monday after supergluing herself to a fellow anti-fracking protester at Balcombe in the UK, activist says more people should stand up against the risks
Published on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by The Guardian

by Natalie Hynde

Fracking protest at Balcombe, West Sussex. ‘Taking part in non-violent direct action will cause the investors to think twice.’ Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian. Getting arrested for taking part in direct action at Balcombe was the most liberating experience I’ve ever had. Nothing I’ve ever done in my life has made me feel so empowered and alive.

Anyone can Google the “List of the Harmed” or look at the Shalefield Stories detailing what’s happened to people in the US as a result of fracking – the nosebleeds, the cancers, the spontaneous abortions in livestock, the seizures and silicosis in the worker’s lungs. Not to mention the farming revenue lost from sick and dying cattle. When you have exhausted all other channels of democratic process – written letters, gone on marches and signed petitions – direct action seems the only way left to get your voice heard.

In the US, this industry has buried people’s stories and threatened their livelihoods if they dare to speak out. Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have found that a number of toxic, and carcinogenic, petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near fracking wells include benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene, which cause acute and chronic health problems for those living nearby.

In the UK we are told that it will bring energy prices down. Most people do not understand that the exploration wells that we are seeing at the moment are just the start. Unconventional gas will require tens of thousands of wells over huge areas of the country. Production will require pipelines, compressor stations and waste disposal on a massive scale. The tiny exploration companies will be replaced by massive firms when they sell the information and licences they have gathered.

Fracking releases methane into the Earth’s atmosphere which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, between 20 and 100 times more so, than CO2. This is a time when we should be meeting our climate change obligations, not worsening the situation by injecting a chemical cocktail of carcinogens into the earth’s crust.

A lot of us want the moratorium that was lifted in 2012 to be reinstated – due to new evidence and significant Royal Society/RIE recommendations not having been followed. We’ve already had two earthquakes in Blackpool and the property market in the town has tanked as a result of the fracking. In the exploratory drilling process, the range of chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, pose a massive threat if they escape from the well. All wells leak eventually – 6% of gas wells leak immediately and 50% of all gas wells leak within 15 years.

Following on from the Lock the Gate protest in Australia, communities are being inspired to spread information and prepare for when fracking is introduced to their area. Taking part in nonviolent direct action will cause the investors to think twice – we need more people to get involved, even at the risk of getting arrested.

Nothing is in place in the UK at the moment to deal with all the radioactive toxic waste water that we’re left with after the land has been fracked. In other words, they’ve said yes to fracking without having all of the necessary waste water treatment procedures in place. Some believe it won’t be possible to treat it at all, in which case they will end up dumping it in estuaries and elsewhere. Once that water is contaminated it can’t be reversed – it is in the water cycle forever.

Many people think UK shale gas would provide us with energy security, but what does that mean? People don’t realise the Chinese have already invested in iGas and Cuadrilla. The environment is not considered at all. Do we want to leave this mess for the next generation? Why hasn’t the public been informed of the risks? Why are they rushing it through? Why are they offering bribes to local communities? Why has France banned fracking? Why is the French company Total investing in fracking in the UK? Why is the French-owned EDF allowed to build nuclear power stations in the UK? We need an outright ban on fracking – or at the very least, a moratorium. Report: ‘Perfect storm’ of oil risks in U.S. arctic waters

Feb. 27, 2014 at 6:56 AM |

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) — With Shell uncertain about its future in U.S. arctic waters, a consortium of environmental advocacy groups said the region presents a “perfect storm of risks.”

Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said in January a series of mishaps in its drilling campaign off the Alaskan coast meant his company lacked a “clear path forward” in the arctic. “I am not prepared to commit further resources for drilling in Alaska in 2014,” he said.

Oil Change International, Greenpeace, Oceana, Platform, Pacific Environment and ShareAction issued a 36-page report Wednesday saying the long-term capital investments needed and the “uniquely challenging” arctic environment suggested the region may be out of reach.

“The U.S. Arctic Ocean presents almost a perfect storm of risks,” their report stated. Shell’s arctic drill ship Kulluk ran aground off the Alaskan coast while being towed to Seattle in December 2012. The grounding followed a 2012 exploration season in the arctic waters of Alaska that was complicated by equipment failures.

A January decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has headquarters in San Francisco, against environmental aspects tied to Shell’s work in Alaska could delay the company’s plans “by several years,” the environmental groups say.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

E&E: Enviros petition EPA to ban chemical discharges off Calif. coast

Scott Streater, E&E reporter
Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An environmental group wants U.S. EPA to ban the discharge of chemicals
off the California coastline that are used by some offshore oil and gas
drilling operators as part of the hydraulic fracturing process.

The Center for Biological Diversity today submitted the 44-page
petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Jared Blumenfeld, the
agency’s regional administrator in San Francisco, requesting that the
agency amend a general permit covering offshore oil and gas exploration
off the South California coast to prohibit discharges of “dangerous
fracking chemicals into the ocean just off the coast of California
directly into sensitive habitat for blue whales, leatherback sea
turtles and many other endangered species.”

EPA last month approved an updated version of the general permit that
allows oil companies to discharge more than 9 billion gallons of
wastewater into the ocean each year, according to the environmental
group’s petition.

“EPA must revoke or modify” the permit, which authorizes 23 offshore
oil and gas platforms to discharge into federal waters off California,
“because offshore fracking and its associated discharges endanger human
health and the environment,” the petition said.

The Center for Biological Diversity says oil companies have used
fracturing on more than a dozen offshore wells in California and that a
CBD analysis of 12 offshore sites in the state found that a third of
the fracking chemicals used are suspected of ecological hazards.

“It’s disgusting that oil companies dump wastewater into California’s
ocean,” said Miyoko Sakashita, CBD’s oceans program director in San
Francisco. “You can see the rigs from shore, but the contaminated
waters are hidden from view. Our goal is to make sure toxic fracking
chemicals don’t poison wildlife or end up in the food chain.”

The general permit that EPA updated last month and that is at the
center of the CBD petition was revised to include better oversight of
offshore drilling in the state in response to concerns from state
legislators and others over “the risks to the marine environment from
potential releases of hydraulic fracturing fluids and the adequacy of
the existing information and requirements,” according to the agency
(E&ENews PM, Jan. 9).

The updated general permit, among other things, requires oil and gas
drillers operating offshore in California to maintain an inventory of
the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing and other drilling
operations and to report those results if the fluids are released into
the surrounding water.

But the updated permit also allows it to “be reopened and modified if
new information indicates that the discharges (including chemicals used
and discharged in hydraulic fracturing operations offshore) could cause
unreasonable degradation of the marine environment,” according to EPA.

While the updated EPA rules “were a step in the right direction,”
Sakashita said, chemicals used in the fracking process have no business
being discharged into federal waters.

The CBD petition said that the “hazards posed to the environment from
fracking operations are too great to allow the continued dumping of
wastewater with unlimited fracking chemicals into the ocean,” and that
“reporting alone is insufficient” to protect waterways and the marine
life in them.

“The toxic chemicals used for offshore fracking don’t belong in the
ocean,” Sakashita said, “and the best way to protect our coast is to
ban fracking altogether.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Times-Picayune: BP begins oil production at major Gulf of Mexico deepwater hub

big rig
BP’s Na Kika offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico in November 2013. The company said it started new oil production at the platform on Feb. 19, 2014. (BP p.l.c.)

By Jennifer Larino, | The Times-Picayune
on February 25, 2014 at 4:31 PM, updated February 25, 2014 at 4:32 PM

BP has started production at a key offshore oil and gas hub, its third major deepwater drilling project to begin flowing oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico this year, the company said this week.

The project falls in line with the oil giant’s broader strategy to ramp up high-margin oil and gas production at four of its platforms in the region.

The recent activity centers on BP’s Na Kika field and production platform located about 140 miles southeast of New Orleans, in which BP owns a 50 percent interest. Royal Dutch Shell owns the remaining stake.

This is the third and latest phase of development at the Na Kika field, which started producing oil in 2003. The Na Kika platform sits in more than 6,000 feet of water.

BP has grown its operations there in recent months, drilling two new wells and building a system of subsea pipe and other equipment needed to tie the new wells back to the Na Kika platform.

BP brought the first oil well under the latest development phase into production on Feb. 19. A second well is expected to start up in the second quarter.

The company is also installing new equipment to boost production at an existing well at the site.

The investment could boost Na Kika’s daily production from up to 130,000 barrels of oil equivalent to up to 170,000 barrels.

The Na Kika project is among a number of projects expected to come online in the Gulf in coming years, potentially pushing the area to record high oil production by 2016.
BP has started up two other major deepwater projects so far this year, its Chirag oil project in the Caspian Sea and the Mars B project also in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell, which operates Mars B, started production at the field’s Olympus platform, a move that is expected to boost production by 100,000 barrels per day, according to a report by FuelFix this month. BP owns a 28.5 percent working interest in the project.

BP plans to invest about $4 billion annually in the Gulf over the next decade, with much of the spending centering on four of the platforms it operates in the area – Thunder Horse, Na Kika, Atlantis and Mad Dog.

New leasing could also factor into the company’s spending plans.

BP America Inc. CEO John Minge, in a speech to the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association in New Orleans on Feb. 19, said that the company was nearing an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice that would again allow the company to bid on federal contracts, according to The Associated Press.

The suspension was put in place in November 2012 after BP pleaded guilty to criminal counts tied to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 men and unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

It’s still unclear whether the parties will reach an agreement prior to federal lease sales in the central and eastern Gulf planned for March 19 in New Orleans.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Washington Post: McAuliffe will join coalition pushing for off-shore drilling


February 24 at 10:56 am

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) (Mike Theiler/Reuters)
Governors from Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, including Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe (D), urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday to finalize rules that will eventually allow dramatically expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, bringing new industry – and millions in new tax revenue – to some states that have been shut out of the U.S. energy boom.

Jewell and senior Interior Department officials met with McAuliffe, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (D), Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Monday. The Interior Department is expected to release a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement within days that would allow oil and gas companies to begin surveying the outer continental shelf for natural resources.

Once the PEIS is issued, seismic surveys for oil and gas deposits could begin within a matter of months.

“We want to find out exactly what’s out there, but we also want to do it in an environmentally sound way,” McCrory said in an interview. He called the meeting “very positive.”

McCrory heads the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group of mostly Republican governors pushing to expand offshore oil drilling. McAuliffe told The Washington Post he would join the coalition – the first Democrat to do so – as he sped out of the meeting Monday.

Expanding offshore oil and gas production could lead to “tens of millions” of dollars in royalties on both leasing agreements and production for states like North Carolina and Virginia, McCrory said. McAuliffe made a point to ask Jewell how much money Virginia could expect from the new drilling operations.

The exact amount of revenue that would fall to the states remains up in the air, subject to revenue-sharing agreements to be worked out between the states and the federal government.

Jewell told governors that the revenue-sharing part of any new production would be out of her hands. She urged the governors to “make the case legislatively,” according to one person in the meeting.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has proposed legislation that would codify a revenue-sharing agreement. McCrory said coastal states are looking to revenue-sharing agreements between the federal government and inland states as models.

The new drilling could also mean thousands of new jobs for rural coastal communities. “There’s a potential to bring new industry closer in to our coast that is desperately needed,” McCrory said.

But before drilling or exploration can commence, states will have to consider objections from environmentalists, who are concerned about the impact on wildlife. The states will also be required to work with the U.S. military, which conducts training operations and manages shipping lanes near areas that could be opened to drilling.

As new technology has led to an energy production boom in states like North Dakota and Texas, coastal states that need federal permission to expand offshore drilling have lagged. Virginia produced 146 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2012, according to the Department of Energy, and no oil. North Carolina, too, has yet to begin setting rules for hydraulic fracturing and other new techniques that could expand oil drilling.

The Obama administration has been criticized for being slow to open new territory to oil and gas exploration, but the amount of energy produced in the United States has risen to record levels in recent years. Jewell, a former executive at REI and an avid environmentalist, assured the governors that the administration wouldn’t block future development.

“We’re not here to get in the way of energy development,” Jewell said, according to the person present in the meeting.

The governors also urged Jewell to expand offshore wind power, and to set concrete rules for producers who want to expand drilling operations in the Arctic. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R), who faces reelection this year, sent a representative from his office to the meeting.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Oil Spill Shuts Down 65 Miles Of The Mississippi River


An oil spill has shut down 65 miles of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, as authorities work to clean up the oil.

The spill occurred on Saturday when a barge carrying oil crashed into a tugboat between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Authorities closed the stretch of river on Sunday and still can’t say exactly how much oil was spilled, though a light sheen of oil is being reported. No injuries were reported from the crash.

In St. Charles Parish, public drinking water intakes along the Mississippi were closed as a precaution, but a news release Sunday assured the public that the water supply “remains safe” in the parish. As of Sunday night, the closure was stalling 16 vessels waiting to go downriver and 10 waiting to go upriver.

This isn’t the first time the Mississippi River has experienced an oil spill due to a barge crash. Last year, a barge carrying 80,000 gallons of oil crashed into a rail bridge, spilling oil and causing a sheen as far as three miles from the crash site. That spill closed the Mississippi River for eight miles in each direction. In February 2012, an oil barge crashed into a construction bridge, spilling less than 10,000 gallons of oil into the river. In 2008, according to the AP, a major spill occurred on the Mississippi, when a barge broke in half after a collision and spilled 283,000 gallons of oil into the river, closing it for six days.

In this aerial photo, river traffic is halted along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Vacherie, La., due to a barge leaking oil in St. James Parish, La., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014.


The Coast Guard reopened the stretch of river affected by the spill on Monday, and officials said about 31,500 gallons of light crude oil spilled into the river. The Coast Guard also said that as of now, there have been no reports of wildlife affected by the spill. This post has been changed to reflect new information on the size of the spill.


Special thanks to Richard Charter

Oceana: 100+ Scientists Urge Obama to Wait on New Science before Permitting the Use of Seismic Airguns in the Atlantic Ocean New Science is Essential to Protecting Marine Life from Seismic Testing for Oil and Gas

February 21, 2014
12:12 PM


Dustin Cranor, 202.341.2267 or

WASHINGTON – February 21 – Today, more than 100 marine scientists and conservation biologists sent a letter to President Obama and his administration urging them to “use the best available science before permitting seismic surveys for offshore oil and gas in the mid- and south Atlantic.”

The letter, which comes days before the Department of the Interior is expected to release its final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on seismic airgun testing off the East Coast, calls on the Obama administration to wait on new acoustic guidelines for marine mammals, which are currently in development by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Excerpt from the letter:

“It is essential to incorporate these guidelines into this PEIS in order to accurately estimate auditory injuries and disturbances to marine mammals from proposed seismic surveys, so that this important information can guide the most appropriate mitigation measures.

If the PEIS moves forward without the newly established acoustic guidelines it will be scientifically deficient and quickly outdated. It will fail to accurately assess the true scope of marine mammal impacts from proposed seismic surveys, which is a primary purpose of the PEIS. The mid- and south Atlantic is home to a diversity and abundance of marine mammals, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale which could be impacted by proposed seismic survey activity. We implore you to take this opportunity to integrate NMFS’ new Marine Mammal Acoustic Guidelines into the PEIS for proposed seismic survey activity in the mid- and south Atlantic.”


The use of seismic airguns is currently being considered to look for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor in an area twice the size of California, stretching all the way from Delaware to Florida.

Seismic airguns are towed behind ships and shoot extremely loud and repeated blasts of sound to search for buried oil and gas in the Earth’s crust. The dynamite-like blasts occur every ten seconds, for days to weeks at a time. The government itself expects this testing to possibly injure 138,500 marine mammals like dolphins and whales along the East Coast. Estimates include injury to nine critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which there are only approximately 500 left worldwide. New acoustic data from Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program recently found that right whales off the Virginia coast are in the path of proposed seismic airgun use.

In September, Oceana delivered more than 100,000 petitions opposing seismic airguns to the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, as well as approximately 50 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, also called on President Obama to stop the use of seismic airguns last year.

For more information about Oceana’s efforts to stop seismic airguns, including an infographic and animation about how they work, please visit


E&E: Interior proposes near-doubling of spill liability cap

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014

The Interior Department today announced plans to nearly double the current $75 million oil spill liability cap for offshore oil and gas development to keep pace with inflation, marking the cap’s first increase since passage of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

The proposed rule, which environmentalists called long overdue, would also spell out how Interior implements future increases to the cap.

“This proposed change is the first administrative increase to the liability cap since the Oil Pollution Act came into effect 24 years ago and is necessary to keep pace with the 78 percent increase in inflation since 1990,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau. “This adjustment helps to preserve the deterrent effect and the ‘polluter pays’ principle embodied in the law.”

Companies involved in a spill are legally responsible for the full cost of containing and cleaning up a spill. But Congress has capped companies’ liability for economic damages — people put out of work by the spill, fishermen who cannot fish, empty hotel rooms on the beach at high season — at $75 million. The BOEM proposal would raise the cap to $134 million, the largest increase allowed without legislation.

The proposal comes more than three years after a presidential BP PLC spill commission recommended that Congress “significantly” raise the liability cap, a proposal that has sputtered on Capitol Hill and has not seen serious consideration in years.

House Democrats in 2010 passed a bill to eliminate the cap, but oil state Democrats particularly in the Senate expressed concerns that such proposals could harm smaller operators. Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) worked hard on a compromise, but the issue seems to have dropped off Congress’ radar.

“Increasing the liability is long overdue,” said Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s lands protection campaign. “The $75 million cap was too low, especially when you consider catastrophic spills such as the Deepwater Horizon spill.”

The American Petroleum Institute and National Ocean Industries Association didn’t comment on the proposal this morning.

The liability issue is complex and harks back to the legislation passed in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The president’s seven-member BP spill panel did not specify how high the liability cap should be lifted, but it noted that the “relatively modest” cap “provide[s] little incentive for oil companies to improve safety practices.”

Although the panel has since disbanded, members issued a report last year finding there is still an “obvious need” for companies to face more responsibility for damage to coastal communities.

“The Gulf states and the country at large were fortunate that BP, the well’s owner, ignored the cap and had both the resources and the willingness to bear the full costs of responding to the spill,” the members said in the report. “The commission recommended that the liability cap be significantly increased, which requires congressional legislation. But Congress took no action to even consider such an amendment during the past year.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Politifact The Truth-O-Meter Says: On oil drilling off Florida’s coast: Charlie Crist mostly opposed oil drilling except in 2008 he called for a study of it

Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald

Charlie Crist on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 in newspaper articles

In April 2010, Deepwater Horizon exploded, resulting in a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill raised questions about policy positions on oil drilling for several politicians, including then Gov. Charlie Crist.

At the time of the spill, Crist was struggling in a Republican U.S. Senate primary against soon-to-be Sen. Marco Rubio; he ended up switching to “no party affiliation.” In 2013, Crist announced that he was running for governor again — this time as a Democrat.

We decided to look back at Crist’s statements on oil drilling through his tenure and place them on our Flip-O-Meter, which evaluates whether a politician actually changed position. We leave it to voters to decide the significance of our findings.

Overall, Crist expressed opposition to drilling throughout much of his career, from state senator to education commissioner to U.S. Senate candidate to attorney general. A sampling:
* June 20, 1998, in a Florida Times-Union interview during his first U.S. Senate campaign against Bob Graham: “Having grown up here, it’s hard not to feel strongly about the beauty that is Florida. I would and already have fought offshore drilling in Florida, and would continue that fight in Florida.”
* An Oct. 10, 2006, interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board: “Offshore oil drilling, I’m adamantly opposed to it. I think a lot of that has to do with growing up here. I’m a Gulf Coast guy. … I remember when I was in elementary school, we had an oil spill in Tampa Bay. You may recall that. I literally remember cleaning birds off when that happened.”
* Oct. 20, 2006, at a press conference, on the qualities Floridians want in a president: “Making sure that we don’t drill for oil off our beautiful shore, and, of course, the other traditional things that go along with it.”
In his inaugural address as governor in January 2007, Crist called for “clean rivers, beautiful beaches and coastlines free of oil drilling. This is a vision we can make a reality.”

Crist as vice presidential contender in 2008
In 2008, with gasoline prices hovering near $4 a gallon and Crist being mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate (on a ticket that would popularize the phrase “drill, baby, drill!”), Crist backed off his previous unflinching opposition.

After Republican presidential contender John McCain gave a June 17 speech in Houston calling for opening up more waters to drilling, Crist said:
“We have to be sympathetic to the pocketbooks of Floridians and what they’re paying at the pump for gas and balance that with any way that our state might be able to contribute in terms of resources to have a greater supply and therefore lower prices,” Crist said. “I think an open-minded person understands that we ought to at least study (offshore drilling).”

Crist offered some caveats at the time: “It would all depend on the parameters,” he said. “How far off the coast, how safe it would be, how much it would protect our beaches.”

To environmentalists and Democratic leaders, Crist’s statement was a major reversal.

“It seemed that he would be the last person to change course on this,” said Eric Draper, policy director for Audubon of Florida, at the time.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, called Crist’s position “a 180-degree flip-flop.”

“I don’t understand Gov. Crist’s Flip-Flop on this,” she said. “The risk to our environment and to our economy — I mean the governor, of all people, should know better.”

The next week Crist delivered a speech at a global climate change summit in Miami. “We must have an open discussion – without compromising Florida’s sensitive ecosystems and natural beauty,” Crist said of offshore drilling. “As I stated last week, only when we are able to do so far enough from Florida’s coast, safe enough for our people and clean enough for our beaches, should we consider increasing our oil supply by drilling off Florida’s shores. Let me repeat that – far enough, safe enough and clean enough.”

Crist witnesses 2010 spill
But in 2010, after flying over the gulf and seeing the Deepwater Horizon spill firsthand, Crist withdrew his support for any form of drilling off Florida’s coasts.

“It could be devastating to Florida if something like that were to occur,” Crist said. “It’s the last thing in the world I would want to see happen in our beautiful state.”

Crist also repeated the criteria laid out in his 2008 climate change address, saying the gulf spill proved drilling isn’t yet far enough away, clean enough, or safe enough.

“Clearly that one isn’t far enough, and that’s about 50 to 60 miles out, it’s clearly not clean enough after we saw what we saw today – that’s horrific – and it certainly isn’t safe enough. It’s the opposite of safe,” Crist said.

Crist summoned legislators to a special session in July with hopes that they would put an oil drilling ban on the November 2010 ballot. But the Republican-dominated Legislature delivered him a defeat within hours of convening.

Post 2010
Crist lost his U.S. Senate race in 2010 and Republican Rick Scott became the governor. In February 2011, Crist returned to Tallahassee to stand with Democrat Alex Sink and environmentalists to announce his support for a state constitutional amendment to ban oil drilling.

“This puts it in the hands of the people and that’s exactly where it should be,” Crist said.

At an October 2012 gathering with several former governors, Crist said Florida shouldn’t consider oil drilling.

He declared the BP oil spill to be “the greatest wake-up call of all time.”
“There are just too many other ways to produce energy – solar, wind, things that the Sunshine State of all places should be leading in,” he said, according to the Gainesville Sun.

Crist announced in November 2013 that he would run for governor again.
In an interview with Watermark, a central Florida publication that covers the gay community, a reporter asked Crist if elected if he would continue to support the ban on offshore drilling.

“Yes,” Crist replied in the interview published in December. “How could you be governor during the BP oil spill and not get that right. That was a wake-up call.”

We sent a summary of our findings to Crist’s campaign and received a response from former sen. Steve Geller, a Democrat advising Crist. Geller said the BP oil spill convinced Crist that nothing near Florida would be “safe enough, far enough, and clean enough.”

Did Crist flip?
For most of his career Crist has opposed offshore oil drilling in Florida. He spoke against drilling repeatedly between 1998 and 2006. But in 2008, he was a potential Republican vice presidential contender amid high gas prices. At that time, Crist said Florida should study drilling and have an “open discussion” about it — though in a speech he offered caveats that it would have to be “far enough, safe enough and clean enough.”

Even that suggestion was enough to anger environmentalists, but in the end that’s all it amounted to — a suggestion to study it.

The 2010 explosion put the lid on that discussion for Crist, and he again returned to his adamant stance against drilling — a position he has reiterated as recently as late 2013.

Crist did wobble in 2008, but ultimately he went back to his original position so we rate him No Flip.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Local Biz Owners Say Offshore Drilling is Bad for Business

February 19th, 2014

by Chris Carnevale
Who knows what good and bad for business on the coast better than the coastal businesses? And the coastal businesses know that offshore drilling is bad for business. Pleasure Island Rentals in Carolina Beach, NC stands against seismic testing for offshore oil and gas.


Photo courtesy Randy Sturgill.

Who would you say is the most qualified entity to talk about what’s good and bad for business on the coast of the Southeastern U.S.? President Obama? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce? Maybe Governor McCrory in Raleigh, North Carolina or Governor Haley in Columbia, South Carolina, or Congressmen who live hundreds of miles from the coast? How about businesses and business owners that live, work, and raise families actually on the coast?

While Big Oil tries to persuade public officials that offshore oil and gas drilling would be a good thing for the coastal economy, too often the voices from the coast itself are pushed aside and not represented at the table when big money is at play. We think it makes sense to ask our coastal businesses what they think.

In North Carolina, coastal businesses recently made themselves heard in a letter to the Obama administration, spurred by Governor Pat McCrory’s push for opening the Atlantic coast to offshore oil and gas drilling and recent meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz to see it through. In response to these actions, 60 North Carolina businesses-30 from the coast and 30 inland-delivered a letter to President Obama and Secretary Moniz offering the locals’ perspective and not surprisingly, they unanimously and vigorously proclaim that offshore drilling will jeopardize the coastal economy.

An excerpt from the letter:
We are writing as businesses that depend upon a healthy coast as the foundation of our economy. Visitors come to North Carolina’s coast to experience our national and state parks and engage in recreational diving, boating, fishing and surfing, among many other activities. The North Carolina Department of Commerce estimates that coastal tourism and recreation in North Carolina support more than 25,000 jobs and contribute more than 2 billion dollars to the state economy annually. Commercial fishing is also a major industry that supports more than 5,000 jobs and has an estimated annual economic impact of 336 million dollars. These industries depend on a healthy coast and thriving natural resources. […] As coastal business owners, we believe that the Governor’s push for offshore exploration is misguided and presents significant risks to our economy.
About 300 citizens showed up to the Kure Beach town council meeting to oppose the mayor’s support for seismic testing of offshore oil and gas. Photo courtesy Alan Cradick, Wilmington Star News.

At about the same time this letter from the business community was being delivered to Washington, DC, coastal citizens made their sentiments about offshore drilling quite clear in the normally peaceful town of Kure Beach, NC. The Kure Beach mayor had signed on to a letter from the American Petroleum Institute (Big Oil’s lobbying arm) in support of offshore oil and gas exploration. Hundreds of citizens showed up (notable in a town of just 2,000 residents) to a subsequent town council meeting to let the council know that they do not support offshore drilling along North Carolina’s coast nor undertaking the risky exploration process. Interestingly, Kure Beach also passed a resolution in support of offshore wind energy, showing that offshore energy can be a sound economic development opportunity, as long as its done right-with wind, not drilling. The popularity of offshore wind with coastal residents is proven with scientific polling carried out by Clemson University.

The business community’s letter and the display of public outrage about offshore seismic testing show that coastal businesses and residents are not going to put up with the pro-drilling agenda pushed by Big Oil and repeated by politicians that could leave coastal citizens and our natural resources high and dry while padding faraway pockets. These events show that coastal businesses and residents are taking a stand for what we love about the coast, how we want to sustain our economy and way of life, and what we hope to pass down to future generations. We hope that the McCrory administration and Obama administration are listening with genuine intentions of serving the public interest.

– See more at:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Promises of Prosperity, Fracking Delivers Devastating Toxic Emissions New investigative report highlights the impact of the drilling boom on Texas residents

Published on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Fracking flares around the Eagle Ford Shale sit just meters from area residences. (Photo: Earthworks/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)Residents living near the Eagle Ford Shale were promised riches and jobs when the fracking boom exploded in their region of southern Texas. However, according to a new investigation published Tuesday, with the wells came unchecked toxic emissions that would devastate both their health and the quality of their ‘easy country life.’

While much of the reporting on the negative impact of fracking has focused on the danger it poses to drinking and groundwater resources, this eight-month, joint study by the Center for Public Integrity, Inside Climate News, and the Weather Channel reveals the lesser-known impact on air quality and the unchecked and potentially lethal amounts of toxic chemicals emitted from the wells.

“What’s happening in the Eagle Ford is important not only for Texas, but also for Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Dakota and other states,” where fracking has been sold as an “absolute-game changer” for often depressed rural regions.

Since 2008, over 7,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the Eagle Ford Shale and, with another 5,500 approved wells on the way, it has become “one of the most active drilling sites in America.” And though the shale covers 20,000 square miles, the state has installed only five permanent air monitors, which reportedly sit on the “fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.”

According to the report, chemicals most commonly released during oil and gas extraction include: hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas found in abundance in Eagle Ford wells; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene, a known carcinogen; sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which irritate the lungs; and other harmful substances such as carbon monoxide and carbon disulfide. VOCs also mix with nitrogen oxides emitted from field equipment to create ozone, a major respiratory hazard.

While there are some federal safety standards for workers who encounter these chemicals, there are no protections for people living near the drilling sites. Further, guidelines are typically set for one compound at a time without taking into account the impact of simultaneous exposure to multiple chemicals.

Through a series of interviews with area residents, the report describes a host of negative health impacts which include migraine headaches, nosebleeds and respiratory problems.

According to Robert Forbis Jr., an assistant professor of political science at Texas Tech University, the health issues faced by those living near drilling wells—not just in Texas but throughout country—”simply don’t carry enough weight to counterbalance the financial benefits derived from oil and gas development.”

“Energy wins practically every time,” Forbis said. “It seems cynical to say that, but that’s how states see it—promote economic development and minimize risk factors.”

“This crap is killing me and my family,” said Mike Cerny, a former oil company truck driver who lives a mile within 17 oil wells. The fumes from the nearby wells make Cerny and his wife “dizzy, irritable and nauseous,” while their teenage son suffers from frequent nosebleeds.

“We went from nice, easy country living to living in a Petri dish,” Myra said.

map tx fracking
An image from an earlier report on the Eagle Ford Shale, “Reckless Endangerment While Fracking the Eagle Ford: Government fails, public health suffers and industry profits from the shale oil boom.” (Image: Earthworks Action/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

The Virginian-Pilot: Crucial study nears for offshore drilling in Virginia

By Bill Bartel

© February 19, 2014

Drilling for gas and oil off Virginia’s coast is still forbidden, but proponents hope a federal study due within two weeks will let them at least start looking for places to set up drilling rigs.

Industry officials are seeking federal permits to conduct seismic testing – using airguns to bounce sound waves off the ocean floor and deeper formations – to explore anomalies that could indicate the presence of oil and gas deposits.

A long-awaited environmental impact statement needed in advance of the testing will be released this month, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The analysis will examine how seismic surveys in the mid- and south Atlantic would affect marine life and what must be done to mitigate possible harm.

Nine companies have requested permits to conduct seismic surveys.

The process involves ship-mounted devices firing compressed air into the water to generate sound waves that reflect off rock formations, with the echoes monitored by equipment on the surface. Geophysicists and geologists can use the data to “see” subsurface formations with geological structures that might hold oil and gas.

The impact study, which began three years ago, included eight public hearings along the Eastern Seaboard.

At a hearing in Norfolk in April 2012, opponents objected to seismic testing, saying it would be disruptive and harmful to whales, sea turtles and other marine life. Proponents said the tests could be done safely and are needed, noting that existing oil and gas information is outdated.

For environmentalists, what may be of greater concern than seismic testing itself is what it represents: a tangible step toward drilling more than 50 miles off the coast.

“It’s the camel’s nose under the tent,” said Glen Besa, state director of the Sierra Club. He and other opponents say the environmental risks of drilling operations can’t be ignored, and he worries that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change and rising sea levels.

Meanwhile, oil and gas industry officials say they’re gaining ground in building political support for drilling.

“From our perspective, it is moving in the right direction,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association.

Luthi said opposition to testing and drilling “goes with the territory. We face it all the time.”

Federal sales of Virginia leases for offshore drilling were expected to begin in 2011. They were put on hold by President Barack Obama’s administration until at least 2017 after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. That explosion killed 11 workers and caused the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history.

The moratorium also includes waters off North Carolina and other areas of the Atlantic, as well as large sections of the gulf near Florida’s west coast.

Some predict that any decision to sell leases in the Atlantic will depend on the willingness of the next president, who will take office in 2017.

Several of Virginia’s federal legislators and state leaders have unsuccessfully lobbied the Obama administration to end the moratorium. The U.S. House passed at least two bills in recent years that would have permitted lease sales, but the Senate didn’t consider them.

If the government gives a green light to seismic tests, companies likely wouldn’t get on the water for six months to a year – depending on how long it takes to obtain federal and state permits and move equipment to the region, said Gail Adams, spokeswoman for the International Association of Geophysical Contractors.

Surveying all of the mid- and south Atlantic could take a year, Adams said in an email. Then there’s the onshore work of estimating the size and location of potential oil and gas deposits, which might not be completed until spring 2016, she said.

Updated mapping could make the lease sales more lucrative for the government. Better information about specific locations and quantities of hydrocarbon deposits would spur more bids and higher prices for lease sales, an industry executive told a congressional subcommittee last month.

For example, the tests would reduce the odds of expensive “dry holes,” where companies drill but don’t find significant oil or gas, said Richie Miller, president of Houston-based Spectrum Geo.

U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, who supports offshore drilling along with Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, says offshore exploration would diversify the region’s defense-centric economy.

Rigell said industry improvements, particularly since the Deepwater Horizon accident, convince him that drilling and production can be done safely and without harming the environment.

The Virginia Beach Republican, who contends that the energy industry could generate thousands of high-paying jobs in the state, is planning to bring a delegation of government and oil industry officials from Louisiana to Hampton Roads this year.

“All we’re asking for, in a reasonable way, is for the federal government to get out of the way,” Rigell said.

However, opposition remains strong.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott said environmental concerns are too great. He opposes offshore drilling.

“I still, to this day, don’t understand why people get so excited about what’s happened on the Gulf Coast,” said the Newport News Democrat. “When people say it will create jobs, I say, ‘You’re exactly right. See all those cleanup jobs?’ There’s billions spent on cleanup.”

Walter Cruickshank, deputy director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said during the House hearing last month that there are no guarantees.

“I believe we made a lot of reforms and changes over the last few years that have greatly improved safety of operations on the outer continental shelf,” he said, “but we have not and cannot eliminate all risk.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Radio New Zealand: Anti-oil protesters take to the beaches and other similar articles

Radio New Zealand: Anti-oil protesters take to the beaches
Updated at 10:07 pm on 15 February 2014

Greenpeace says beach demonstrations around the South Island on Saturday are a clear message New Zealanders don’t want offshore drilling.

The Texan company Anadarko is about to begin drilling its first test well off the Otago-Southland coast in the search for a possible gasfield.

Greenpeace says more than 2000 people gathered on 21 South Island beaches in protest on Saturday afternoon.

Energy campaigner Steve Abel says protesters, including families, fishermen, tourism operators and iwi representatives, demonstrated they want a clean energy future for New Zealand.

He says the biggest turnouts were at beaches in Dunedin, with 600 people, Christchurch, with 500, and Kaikoura, 350.

Mr Abel says this shows people are very much saying they don’t want dozens of oil rigs dotted around the coastline.

He says they want jobs for New Zealand that don’t risk ruining fishing grounds or leave oil washing up on beaches.



Anti-oil protests at South Island beaches
18:29 Sat Feb 15 2014

Anti-oil protest have been held around South Island beaches as US oil company Anadarko continues its exploration of New Zealand waters.

Greenpeace says there were more than 2000 people at 20 beaches on the Mainland on Saturday, with the biggest crowds in Dunedin, Christchurch and Kaikoura.

The numbers showed New Zealanders did not want deep sea drilling off the coast, said Greenpeace energy campaigner Steve Abel.

“We don’t want to see dozens of oil rigs dotted off our coastlines – that is the awful vision of John Key and Anadarko. We want jobs for New Zealanders that don’t ruin our fishing grounds or risk oil washing on our beaches.”

Anadarko’s chartered ship the Noble Bob Douglas is now exploring the Canterbury Basin after failing to find oil off the west coast of the North Island.

It says it will most likely find natural gas in the Canterbury Basin, rather than oil.

The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association says finding commercial quantities of oil and natural gas is not easy, but drilling can be done safely in deep water.

In November last year, six boats protested against the Noble Bob Douglas off the Waikato coast. A subsequent Greenpeace legal challenge to the exploration permit failed.

Anti-oil protesters are again planning a sea-going protest off the Otago coast.

They say deep sea drilling for oil and gas is extremely risky for the environment and question the safety record of Anadarko, which was one of the companies behind the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.


video at:

TV New Zealand

Oil Exploration Protesters Take to the Beaches

Anti-oil protesters across the South Island have continued their fight against Texan oil giant Anadarko today.

The Noble Bob Douglas will arrive close to New Zealander’s southern shores in the coming weeks for oil and gas exploration.

Over 2,000 people on 20 beaches across the South Island took part in the ‘Banners on the Beach’ protest against the ship’s arrival.

Last week Oil Free Otago sent a flotilla of yachts out to the drill-ship in an attempt to stop the exploration vessel.

Protesters from Kaikoura say seismic testing creates noise pollution that they fear will distress Kaikoura’s whales, dolphins and marine life.

Greenpeace energy campaigner, Steve Abel, said today’s turnout has sent a strong message to the Government and oil industry.

“Over 2000 people and families that have joined in today show that Kiwis don’t want deep sea drilling off our coasts. That’s not the future we want for New Zealand.

“We don’t want to see dozens of oil rigs dotted off our coastlines – that is the awful vision of John Key and Anadarko. We want jobs for New Zealanders that don’t ruin our fishing grounds or risk oil washing on our beaches.

“It’s about defending the way people put food on the table in New Zealand now and not selling out our kids’ future to foreign oil companies. We belong as part of the solution – sticking true to our clean green values and innovating a way forward – not as another oily backwater run for the benefit of US drillers.”

Last November over 5,000 people turned up to protest Anadarko’s drilling off the coast of Raglan.


The Eastern Tribune

Anti-oil protestors gather across the South Island
Mashaal Lakhani

KAIKOURA: The Anti-oil protesters across the South Island are still fighting against the Texan oil giant Anadarko. The Noble Bob Douglas will soon arrive near New Zealander’s southern shores in the next few weeks for oil and gas exploration.

Around 2,000 people on 20 beaches throughout the South Island took part in a protest, ‘Banners on the Beach’, against the arrival of the ship. Earlier it was reported that Oil Free Otago had sent a fleet of yachts out towards the drill-ship in an effort to stop the exploration vessel. Kaikoura protesters believe the seismic testing creates noise pollution that will distress Kaikoura’s marine life.

Steve Abel, Greenpeace energy campaigner, said the turnout on the beaches has sent a strong message to the Government and oil industry. He said around 2000 people and families have come together which shows that Kiwis do not want deep sea drilling to be done off their coasts. That was not the future they wanted for New Zealand.

The protestors demand that they did not want to see dozens of oil rigs dotted off on their coastlines. That is an awful vision of John Key and Anadarko. They want jobs for New Zealanders that do not ruin their fishing grounds or have the risk of oil washing on their beaches. Steve Abel said that this fight was about defending how people put food on the table in New Zealand and not selling out their kids’ future to foreign oil companies. He said they were sticking true to their clean green values and finding a way forward with innovation and not as another oily backwater run for the benefit of US drillers.

Over 5,000 people had turned up to protest Anadarko’s drilling off the coast of Raglan.

– See more at:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

State Impact–Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas: Fracking with Acid: Unknown Quantities Injected in Texas

FEBRUARY 12, 2014 | 6:30 AM

Acid solutions are trucked to drill sites and injected deep underground

Read about the history of oil drilling in Texas and you’ll find references to how wildcatters would pour barrels of hydrochloric acid into their wells. The acid would eat through underground rock formations and allow more oil to flow up the well.

That was decades ago. While a lot has changed in the drilling industry since then, using acid has not. It’s only gotten bigger. And in Texas, no one seems to have any idea of just how much hydrochloric, acetic, or hydrofluoric acid is being pumped into the ground.

“During my years with Shell, we did not have to go to the Railroad Commission [the state oil and gas regulator] to get approval for an acid job,” said Joe Dunn Clegg, a retired engineer who now teaches at the University of Houston. In his well drilling class, you’ll learn all about what the oil and gas industry calls acidizing.

Acidizing involves pumping hundreds of gallons of an acid solution down a well to dissolve rock formations blocking the flow of oil. After a number of hours, the solution is then brought back up to the surface and handled as a waste product.

In what’s called matrix acidizing, the solution is injected at a lower pressure so that it dissolves rather than fractures the rock formations, explained Clegg. But he said acidizing is also used in conjunction with high-pressure hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
“I consider it a relatively safe operation. But it does involve handling acid, which you don’t want to spill on yourself,” said Clegg.

In fact, in 2011, a drilling industry group issued a “safety alert” warning of the dangers of pumping acid solutions at drilling sites.

No Statewide Data
Acidizing remains largely unregulated in Texas. According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, drilling operators are required to report the use of acid, but spokesperson Ramona Nye told StateImpact Texas in an email that the commission doesn’t track the data. Therefore, the commission said it couldn’t provide statewide data for how much or what types of acids are injected into wells annually, nor can the commission determine what counties have the highest amounts of acidizing.

Texas lawmakers passed a bill in 2011 that now requires drilling operators to report some chemicals used in the fracking process. But the bill doesn’t mention acidizing, and one of its authors said the technique wasn’t even on their radar.

“Acidizing is not nearly as widely discussed as fracking. It could in fact be as problematic as the fracking,” says Rep. Lon Burnam, a Democrat from Fort Worth. He’s a frequent critic of the drilling operations that have taken off dramatically in his district over the last decade.

New Acidizing Law in California
One place where acidizing has attracted more discussion is California. Though the state ranks fourth for oil production, far behind Texas (which leads the country), it’s got reason to be cautious: California has bigger earthquakes than Texas.

“What happens if there’s another earthquake and you’re injecting acid down into the shale? I just think those are questions no one has answered,” said Kate Gordon, Director of the Energy and Climate Program for Next Generation, a climate change and family advocacy group based in San Francisco.

“It’s hard to hear about acid going into the ground under the state’s major aquifers and not be a little freaked out by it,” Gordon told StateImpact Texas.

Next Generation commissioned a report on acidizing and supported a California law that took effect last month. It regulates fracking and acidizing, requiring drillers to alert adjacent landowners and monitor groundwater.

“Oil is very important to both Texas and California. I get that. It’s a big part of our state GDP. But we should have an honest and fact-based conversation about what it means to be getting at this stuff,” said Gordon.

Gordon couldn’t point to any drilling sites where groundwater has been contaminated by acidizing in California. And in Texas, a statewide inventory of groundwater contamination does not list any instances of acid contamination linked to drilling. Both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Railroad Commission of Texas said they know of no such cases.

Drilling Industry: It Only Sounds Bad
Halliburton and Baker Hughes are among the big drilling services companies that provide “well stimulation” that includes acidizing. An industry group, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said that the term acidizing is a “harsh” sounding word that makes an easy target for critics. But Steve Everly, a spokesperson for Energy In Depth, an industry-funded research and publicity arm of the association, said environmental groups “don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“This is a technology that has been used in the oil fields since before we had a federal income tax. According to countless energy professionals across the country, who have been stimulating wells their entire careers, it’s a safe and well-understood process,” Everly wrote in an email to StateImpact Texas

Special thanks to Richard Charter