Miami Herald: Way cleared for medical claims in 2010 BP spill
Miami Herald > Business > Business Breaking News
Posted on Thursday, 02.13.14

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court has cleared the way for thousands of workers to be compensated for medical treatment for exposure to crude oil or chemical dispersants during the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ action Tuesday involves a settlement approved by a federal judge in January 2013 between BP, workers and some coastal residents from specified beachfront and wetlands areas who said they were injured or sickened during the spill cleanup.

Objections by some members of the settlement class were withdrawn over the past year, resulting in the formal dismissal of appeals. The medical settlement is separate from a larger economic damages settlement, which remains the subject of an appeal.

Among provisions in the medical settlement are programs providing cash payments for physical conditions associated with exposure to oil, such as respiratory problems, skin rashes and neurological issues; comprehensive medical evaluations once every three years for 21 years; and procedures under which covered workers or residents who develop spill-related illnesses in the future could file suit for compensatory damages.

Members of the affected class have a year from Wednesday’s effective date to file claims. Neither side estimated the potential monetary value of the settlement. It was unclear how many people might be eligible but the plaintiffs have estimated the number could reach 200,000.

BP said the medical settlement also provides $105 million for groups working to increase the availability of health care in 17 affected Gulf Coast counties and Louisiana parishes.

Company spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a news release the settlement resolves a substantial majority of medical claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident.

“It’s been a long four years, but now hundreds of thousands of people will finally get the medical care and compensation they need,” attorneys Stephen Herman and James Roy, who represent plaintiffs in the oil spill litigation, said in a joint statement.

The April 20, 2010, blowout of BP’s Macondo well killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

EcoWatch: Scientist Takes a Closer Look at the Deep-Sea Impacts of BP Gulf Oil Spill

Ocean Conservancy | February 12, 2014 8:33 am

By Alexis Baldera

Most images related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster are of oil floating on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico or washing up on its shores, but what has happened in the deep-sea environment? Dr. Paul Montagna of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi explores that question. In a recent publication in PLOS ONE, he estimated the size of the deep-sea “footprint” left behind by the BP Deepwater Horizon Macondo well blowout. He has documented severe impacts to bottom-dwelling animals over a nine-square-mile area (equivalent to 4,356 football fields) and moderate impacts within another 57 square miles, an area twice the size of Manhattan.

Ocean Conservancy: What do your findings tell us about impacts from the BP oil disaster?

Dr. Montagna: We discovered that oil did reach the bottom, and it did have a very large impact on the organisms that live on the bottom. We could identify a footprint of the oil spill. We saw increased hydrocarbons, increased metals associated with petroleum activity, and reduced diversity and abundance of some key indicator organisms.
OC: What were the specific impacts to organisms?

Dr. M.: The primary one that I focused on is about a 30 percent reduction in diversity in an area about nine square miles around the blowout site. What that means is that the organisms that were sensitive just disappeared.

OC: Do the impacts to the deep sea have impacts to the rest of the Gulf ecosystem?

Dr. M.: Yes, the things that live on the bottom are very important for different reasons. They serve as food for higher trophic (food chain) levels, particularly for fish and other organisms that come and feed on the bottom sediments. Additionally, the deep sea is characterized as a depositional environment. In other words, material is constantly falling on the deep sea. The deep sea is very important in recycling organic matter and generating new nutrients. Deep-sea organisms also play a role in carbon sequestration. In that regard, they are important for helping maintain the climate and productivity of the ocean in general.

OC: How do your findings relate to other deep-sea impacts studies, for example those showing dead or dying coral near the Deepwater Horizon site?

Dr. M.: The key is that both the coral studies and the sediment invertebrate studies that independent researchers have done both show that bottom-dwelling organisms were impacted by the spill.

OC: What does recovery mean for this deep-sea environment?

Dr. M.: One interesting thing about the deep sea is that it is uniformly cold. The entire deep sea is about the same temperature as a refrigerator, it is about 4 to 5 degrees Celsius [39 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit]. You know we put things in a refrigerator so they don’t degrade. Through my own past studies and other work, we know that metabolic rates in this environment are ridiculously slow, so I would imagine that any oil that wound up on the bottom is going to be around for quite a while. It is entirely possible for it to take a very, very long time for recovery to occur via natural degradation. Another way the deep-sea environment could recover would be through deposition: in other words, the oil just gets naturally buried. That is something we definitely want to be able to look at in the future.

OC: Are you still collecting samples?

Dr. M.: We collected samples in June of 2011, and we’re working on those right now. They will tell us a little about change through time. We’re considering going back out in the summer of 2014.

OC: Is there uniform coldness below a certain depth?

Dr. M.: The depth doesn’t matter; it relates to the density. Seawater is most dense at about four degrees Celsius, so that is why that water sinks. And once it gets to the deepest parts of the ocean, it kind of just sits there.

OC: How should we define the deep sea for this blog?

Dr. M.: Two ways: In the Gulf of Mexico, it is below about 200 to 300 meters, or say, beyond the edge of the continental shelf. It might be best to include both descriptors because the shelf break occurs at different distances from shore and different depths in different places.

OC: What can we do to restore, or compensate for injury in, the deep-sea benthic environment?

Dr. M.: This has to be one of the most challenging things about the situation. We have never had an accident of this scale and scope in the deep sea before, and the deep sea is difficult to work in because it is largely inaccessible. There is a real concern about what we can and should do for restoration. Under the state and federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment laws and regulations and restoration planning process, we are required to restore natural resources. I’m not sure that the types and amounts of restoration have been determined yet. I think there are several possibilities.

One option would be primary restoration of resources in place. Another option is compensatory restoration in other places; in other words, do something somewhere else to try and mitigate impacts. The third alternative may be some habitat creation or restoration projects; it may be possible to create some artificial habitats offshore. Since deposition will occur over time, it could be a matter of waiting. However, how long this will take I don’t know.

OC: Do we also need additional research to help develop strategies and policies that can effectively promote and maintain the productivity and health of the Gulf ecosystems you study? What is highest on your list of research that still needs to be done? And how critical is this scientific work to the future of the Gulf and the communities that depend on it for their livelihoods.

Dr. M.: Although deep-sea studies have been going on for many decades, we still don’t know some fundamental facts. Because it is so expensive to do deep-sea research, we haven’t sampled the same locations at different times, so we know little about how communities change over seasons, years or decades. Biodiversity of the deep-sea is large, yet we have identified very few of the species that are new to science. So, classical systematic studies are critical to improve our understanding of diversity.

There are still some unanswered questions in the shallow regions. Coastal restoration projects are an experimental manipulation of the environment, yet we seldom collect sufficient data after a project to learn from our experiences, so I think we should require extensive follow-up studies to improve our abilities to restore the coast. I also have a concern about known biodiversity and productivity hot spots, such as areas where there are bottom features such as pinnacles and reefs.

The Gulf is “America’s Sea” with many, many users. There will always be competing interests, so we need a fuller understanding of the Gulf’s bounty and how to manage its resources to benefit future generations.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Monterey County Weekly: Judge allows oil test well near Pinnacles; lawyer says fracking is already happening, just not here.

Robert Parry
The first test well at Project Indian was drilled on Jan. 24. Steam injection can’t start under permitting for a propane-fired steam generator is completed.

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 12:00 am
Sara Rubin

Oil executive Armen Nahabedian isn’t inclined to take environmental groups seriously. “If they want to go live in a cave and take their life back to a third-world means and be righteous, then I’ll salute them,” he says.

As it happened, David Hobstetter, a lawyer for the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, which is battling Nahabedian’s latest project just south of Pinnacles National Park, drove his car from San Francisco to Monterey and back on Jan. 27. He burned that gas to get to Monterey County Superior Court, where he was asking Judge Lydia Villarreal to block the first of 15 test wells approved by the San Benito County Board of Supervisors last year.

Hobstetter lost.

“One well has been drilled,” Villarreal said. “It doesn’t quite seem to rise to the level of public interest to stop the work on that one well.”

Nahabedian’s company, Citadel Exploration Inc., is in the early phase of a pilot project, Project Indian, on arid yellow ranchland in the Bitterwater region. The project could ultimately recover as much as 40 million barrels of oil, according to Citadel’s website.

First, they’ve got to prove to investors that it’s worth the trouble and expense to employ cyclic steam injection, also called huff-and-puff, to heat and thin heavy crude oil and bring it to the surface. That costs about $25-$30 a barrel, Nahabedian says, but it’s too early to know the steam-to-oil ratio at Project Indian, and whether it’s economically viable. (The company spent $500,000 to get its first test well up and running, attorneys said at the Jan. 27 hearing.)

To do that, Citadel got a permit for 15 test wells. It would take a separate application to state oil and gas regulators and the county for permits to scale up to commercial production. But the Center for Biological Diversity appealed the test well approval, then sued San Benito County last July.

“To me [a test well] is largely indistinguishable from a production well,” Hobstetter argued. “You don’t need multiple wells to have environmental impact.”

Villarreal also required Citadel to provide Hobstetter with a detailed agenda of its plans for future phases of the project, allowing him to challenge the project at future points.

The Center for Biological Diversity had asked Villarreal to halt Citadel’s first test well, drilled on Jan. 24, until the court rules on the lawsuit this spring. The nonprofit argues the county should have conducted a more rigorous environmental analysis of the test project, considering potential impacts to condor habitat, water consumption and potential spills.

Attorneys for Citadel told Villarreal there are even more controversial techniques happening in South Monterey County oilfields. “They’re even doing fracking, under or around the Salinas River,” said Debra Tipton of Anthony Lombardo & Associates.
Lombardo says he’s not sure if fracking is happening, but that huff-and-puff is no big deal: “There’s nothing new or unusual or dangerous.”

As to concerns about condors, he says there won’t be puddles of oil on the site: “It’s not like the old days of John Wayne movies. The site looks far cleaner and neater than when they’re drilling a water well.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Otago Daily Times New Zealand: Protesters exhorted to ‘say no’

By David Bruce on Fri, 14 Feb 2014
The Regions: North Otago

Greenpeace hopes thousands will flock to protests in the South Island tomorrow to oppose deep-sea oil drilling off the Otago coast.

Individual communities, under the umbrella of Greenpeace’s ”Banners on the Beach” campaign to ”say no to the deep sea oil gamble”, have organised 17 protests at venues stretching from Golden Bay to Bluff.

Greenpeace public engagement co-ordinator Genevieve Toop told the Otago Daily Times from Auckland about 5000 people were at similar protests in November at 45 beaches in the North Island, opposing exploratory drilling off Raglan by Anadarko, also off the Otago coast.

In North Otago, two beaches will be used for protests, Friendly Bay in Oamaru Harbour and one of the region’s most popular tourist spots, the Moeraki boulders. St Clair is the Dunedin venue.

One of the organisers of the Moeraki protest, Bronwyn Judge, said drilling offshore in very deep and rough water posed a higher risk of an oil spill than on land or in shallow water.

Development of clean energy sources and a significant reduction in the dependence on fossil fuels was also needed to combat catastrophic global climate change, not seeking more fossil fuel, she said.

Those wanting to protest have been urged to gather at the two sites at noon, meeting at Friendly Bay and the Moeraki Boulders reserve car park.

They are asked to prepare and bring their own banners, face paint or sand building tools, cameras or videos to record the protest, a picnic lunch and swimming clothes if the day is good.

At Moeraki, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher would explain the Waitaki District Council’s thinking and other councillors had been invited for the discussions, then walking along to the boulders for photographs.

Another speaker will be University of Otago associate professor Bob Lloyd. director of the energy studies programme in the physics department, whose work has included renewable energy.

Other protests at noon tomorrow are planned for Timaru’s Caroline Bay, the Waitati Festival at Bland Park and Bluff’s Marine Parade.


Special thanks to Richard Charter

Department of Interior: Obama Administration to Offer 40 Million Acres in the Gulf of Mexico for Oil and Gas Development–Final Notice of Sales for Central and Eastern Planning Areas

Press Release


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

Capitol News Service: Cecil Whig: Cardin calls for water regulation in wake of West Virginia chemical spill

At last! A ray of hope!

Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 7:15 pm | Updated: 7:43 pm, Sun Feb 9, 2014.

By Justine McDaniel Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin called Tuesday for federal regulation and oversight of drinking water in the wake of the West Virginia chemical spill, which left residents exposed to chemicals and without water for days.

Chairing a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, Cardin said safe drinking water is an interstate issue that must be addressed by the federal government. Current federal laws do not require regular updates on risks, or plans for protecting citizens, in areas where chemicals are stored.

It is difficult to know how many chemical storage tanks are located near water supplies in the United States, said witness Erik Olson, a strategic director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and it is likely that hundreds of other water utilities would not be able to handle a spill like the one in West Virginia.

Cardin said the government’s first priority should be preventing these types of disasters.
“Our laws are just not strong enough to deal with the current situation,” said Cardin, a Maryland Democrat.

About 300,000 West Virginians were left without water when a storage tank leaked chemicals into the Elk River on Jan. 9.

The spill, which involved two chemicals, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) and PPH, came from storage tanks owned by Freedom Industries, a company whose plant is just a mile and a half upriver from a water source for a major utility.

Residents in Charleston and surrounding areas could not drink, cook with or bathe using the water for days, and many remain concerned about the long-term effect of chemical exposure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said the water is safe to drink but recommended that pregnant women continue to drink bottled water until the levels of chemical in the water are “non-detectable.”

In Maryland, drinking water for major population centers, including Baltimore and Prince George’s County, comes from out of state, either traveling down the Potomac River from a reservoir in West Virginia or coming from the Susquehanna River from sources in Pennsylvania.

“Our biggest concern is the Maryland laws can’t impact what goes on in Pennsylvania or D.C. or Virginia,” said Sue Walitsky, communications director for Cardin. “Not having control of those water sources (makes) it important for Maryland especially that we have a national standard.”

Committee Chair U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both West Virginia Democrats, introduced legislation last week aimed at protecting drinking water.

The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act would require every state to make risk assessments at chemical facilities, plan for state inspections and prepare for emergencies, Boxer said.

Cardin said the current regulatory system, which hadn’t required a risk assessment of the area by the state since 2002, failed in the West Virginia crisis. That assessment did not list the risks of MCHM.

“In West VirginiaŠ a lot of different things could’ve been done if that information was available and we’d acted on that information,” he said.

West Virginia congress members, state politicians and environment and chemical experts testified about the protection of drinking water and the impact of the spill in the state.

“We need answers now,” West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said. She added that the spill is still causing problems for businesses and tourism and anxiety among residents.

Above-ground chemical storage tanks like the one that leaked into the Elk River sit all over the U.S., but both Olson and R. Peter Weaver, vice president of government affairs for the International Liquid Terminals Association, whose members include chemical-owning companies, said they don’t know how many of them there are.

“It’s basically impossible to know that right now, but we’ve reviewed literally scores these sourcewater assessments and virtually every one of them has some storage tanks that are near… the surface water supplies, often done because it’s convenient,” said Olson, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Boxer said more than 80,000 chemicals are out there that could become potential pollutants.

“We’ve got a massive problem, and we don’t know how massive it is,” Boxer said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

The Guardian: Fracking is depleting water supplies in America’s driest areas, report shows From Texas to California, drilling for oil and gas is using billions of gallons of water in the country’s most drought-prone areas

The harmful use of precious water, along with the great potential to pollute other sources of water, are my greatest concerns with fracking. DV

Wednesday 5 February 2014 11.01 EST
Aerial of Fracking Drill Shale Sites in Colorado
An aerial photograph shows a large field of fracking sites in a north-western Colorado valley. It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well. Photograph: Susan Heller/Getty images

America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users.

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Prof James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage.”

It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts. Half of the 97bn gallons of water was used to frack wells in Texas, which has experienced severe drought for years – and where production is expected to double over the next five years. Farming and cities are still the biggest users of water, the report found. But it warned the added demand for fracking in the Eagle Ford, at the heart of the Texas oil and gas rush, was hitting small, rural communities hard.

“Shale producers are having significant impacts at the county level, especially in smaller rural counties with limited water infrastructure capacity,” the report said. “With water use requirements for shale producers in the Eagle Ford already high and expected to double in the coming 10 years, these rural counties can expect severe water stress challenges in the years ahead.”

Local aquifer levels in the Eagle Ford formation have dropped by up to 300ft over the last few years.

A number of small communities in Texas oil and gas country have already run out of water or are in danger of running out of water in days, pushed to the brink by a combination of drought and high demand for water for fracking.

Twenty-nine communities across Texas could run out of water in 90 days, according to the Texas commission on environmental quality. Many reservoirs in west Texas are at only 25% capacity.

Nearly all of the wells in Colorado (97%) were located in areas where most of the ground and surface water is already stretched between farming and cities, the report said. It said water demand for fracking in the state was expected to double to 6bn gallons by 2015 – or about twice as much as the entire city of Boulder uses in a year.

In California, where a drought emergency was declared last month, 96% of new oil and gas wells were located in areas where there was already fierce competition for water.
The pattern holds for other regions caught up in the oil and gas rush. Most of the wells in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were also located in areas of high water stress, the report said.

Some oil and gas producers were beginning to recycle water, especially in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, the report said. But it said those savings were too little to offset the huge demand for water for fracking in the coming years.

Shortage of water and fracking in Texas

Large hoses run from hydraulic fracturing drill sites in Midland, Texas. Fracking uses huge amounts water to free oil and natural gas trapped deep in underground rocks. With fresh water not as plentiful, companies have been looking for ways to recycle their waste. Photograph: Pat Sullivan/AP

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Huffington Post: U.S. Oil Companies Fined For Mislabeling Crude Shipments In First Move After Series Of Derailments

Posted: 02/05/2014 8:43 am EST Updated: 02/05/2014 8:59 am EST

By Patrick Rucker

WASHINGTON, Feb 4 (Reuters) – Three oil companies operating in North Dakota were fined $93,000 on Tuesday for wrongly classifying fuel shipments in the first sanctions since a series of fiery derailments put the energy industry under a spotlight.

The Department of Transportation said Hess Corp, Marathon Oil Corp and Whiting Petroleum Corp were cited for wrongly classifying cargo tanks that were hauling crude oil from the field to a railhead.

Fuel shipments must be designated with a hazard class to alert emergency responders in the event of an accident. Eleven of eighteen samples of one survey were mislabeled, the DOT said in a statement.

“The fines we are proposing today should send a message to everyone involved in the shipment of crude oil: You must test and classify this material properly,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

A spate of explosive derailments, including one in Quebec last July which killed 47 people, has led to concerns over the safety of shipping crude oil by rail and improper labeling.

Officials have already warned that some fuel found in North Dakota’s energy patch, the Bakken, could be more volatile and explosion-prone than other crude oil and that shippers should take precautions.

Typically, crude oil carries a ‘hazard class 3’ classification and can be shipped in a standard tank car. The shipments are further assigned a ‘packing group’ to alert to dangers – that portion of the shipping paper was faulty, the DOT said.

While the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has been testing crude samples for months and issued several industry warnings, Tuesday’s action is the first sanction.

Phmsa Administrator Cynthia Quartersman said the fines reflected “initial findings” and that officials would scrutinize the corrosivity, pressure and other traits of Bakken crude.

The DOT did not specify which companies would be expected to pay what share of the $93,000 fines but by any measure the sums were small for large energy companies.

Officials from Hess and Marathon could not immediately be reached for comment.
Jack Ekstrom, a spokesperson for Whiting, said that the company had not yet been contacted by the DOT about a possible fine.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Inside EPA: Superfund Report — As EPA Eyes Oil Spill Rule Rewrite, Citizens Coalition Steps Up Pressure

YES I support the effort to review the use of dispersants, especially Corexit, and encourage placing limits on the amount of dispersants that can be applied. Some deep water benthic communities in the Gulf are still blanketed in this chemical, preventing growth of the most basic forms of life in the food chain. DV

Posted: January 17, 2014
EPA is preparing revisions governing the authorization of oil spill response agents, but citizen activists say even more changes are necessary to address how spill response agents interact with tar sands and other non-conventional fuels during spills, although they say pursuit of a broader overhaul will be an “uphill battle.”

The changes EPA is eyeing include revisions to the the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan’s (NCP) oil spill agent product listings, known as Subpart J, in response to a 2012 petition, as well as possible clarification of where and in what amount dispersants can be used as the result of ongoing mediation with environmentalists in pending litigation.

But prompted by recent spills of non-conventional fuels, a citizens activist coalition plans to soon ask the agency to take additional steps to address the efficacy and toxicity of spill response agents when applied to non-conventional fuels such as tar sands and oil-fracking fluid mixtures during inland spills, and not just in their use to treat heavy crude oil spills off the coasts, a toxicologist with the coalition says. The coalition also plans to ask EPA to create a public health mandate when considering responses to fuel spills.

The Citizens’ Coalition to Ban Toxic Dispersants, which has collected more than 3,000 signatures from citizen activists and regional environmental groups, filed the original petition to EPA in 2012, and the group expects to expand and update its petition soon.

The move could step up pressure on the agency at a time when environmentalists and others are closely watching for EPA’s proposal to change Subpart J, with activists hoping for significant changes in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon/BP 2010 oil spill disaster that released 210 million gallons of oil. Following the spill, BP used at least 1.8 million gallons of dispersants in the Gulf to break up the oil spill on the water’s surface. But environmentalists and some lawmakers heavily criticized the use of the petroleum-based dispersant Corexit. The action prompted lawsuits by Gulf Coast residents, workers and companies who claimed adverse health effects from their exposure to the dispersants.
“EPA has been dead in the water” on new policy for many years, one environmentalist says, attributing the lack of action to various causes: the Bush administration’s general policy positions, EPA’s traditional status-quo stance and the absence of any major oil spill accidents after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, up until the 2010 BP spill. But the source says there is now a window to make improvements.

“Everyone knows” that a “green” dispersant is needed, the source says. The question is: will that door, “which has been locked so long at EPA,” open? the source says.

EPA late last year gave notice in the Unified Agenda that it would propose revisions to Subpart J in February, although at press time it was unclear if EPA would be able to reach that deadline. An EPA spokeswoman says the changes are currently under senior EPA review. The rule may then have to go to the White House Office of Management & Budget for review before the proposal can be published in the Federal Register.
The revisions have been long-anticipated — with initial work started in 2001. One non-governmental organization (NGO) source notes the agency has failed to meet previous deadlines it has set, and the agency last fall said the revisions were not among its imminent priorities.

Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), EPA is required to develop a schedule identifying dispersants, and other spill mitigating devices and substances that may be used under the NCP and which waters and at what quantities they may be used, according to the Unified Agenda notice. The agency in the Unified Agenda says it is “considering revising Subpart J of the NCP to address the efficacy, toxicity, and environmental monitoring of dispersants, other chemical and biological agents, and other spill mitigating substances, as well as public, State, local, and Federal officials[‘] concerns on their authorization and use.”

The schedule is significant because, according to the coalition source, industry can use only those items listed on the NCP product schedule for spill response, although citizen activists note the Coast Guard effectively has a waiver that allows it to use any product, even if not listed on the product schedule. The CWA requires EPA to develop the NCP schedule of products that “may be used” to mitigate spills, also requiring EPA to identify the waters and quantities of dispersants and other chemicals that can be used safely, but EPA in a 2007 fact sheet notes that the product schedule “does NOT mean that EPA approves, recommends, licenses, certifies, or authorizes the use of the [Product Name] on an oil discharge. The listing means only that data have been submitted to EPA as required by Subpart J of the [NCP].”

EPA has been under continuing pressure from citizen activists and environmentalists to tighten its review of dispersants and response agents and is in mediation with environmentalists over litigation on the matter. While the case, which sought to force EPA to collect data on the appropriate locations for using dispersants and quantities that can be used in oil spills, was dismissed on procedural grounds last year by a lower court, environmentalists have appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), et al. v. EPA, environmentalists charge EPA was violating the NCP by failing to publish a schedule identifying spill control agents eligible for spill response, identifying the waters they may be used in, and identifying the quantities that may be used.

EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has also previously called for the agency to better assess risks posed by dispersants and better track those that are used (Superfund Report, Sept. 5, 2011).

The revisions already under review at EPA are expected to respond to the 2012 petition from the citizens coalition, which asked the agency to amend the NCP product schedule by creating a “delisting” process for removing products from the list that are failing to perform as expected, pose unacceptable health risks to workers, the public and environment or were discontinued by the manufacturer but are still stockpiled for disaster response; and act to immediately delist certain products. While EPA currently has the authority to remove a product from the list, it lacks an active delisting process, the NGO source says.

In addition, the petition asked EPA to require the use of mechanical containment and recovery as the primary response to oil spills, strengthen efficacy testing protocols, and update toxicity criteria and testing of products on the list.

“The emerging science from the BP Gulf oil disaster demonstrates the gross inadequacy of current regulations,” the coalition’s petition says. “Emerging science is confirming that products [that] were used in the BP disaster response, especially unprecedented amounts of dispersants, created more harm to humans and the environment than the oil release alone–yet these same dispersant products are stockpiled for future oil spill response. The EPA has both the authority and the duty to ensure a greater level of preparedness.”

The agency in a summary of its planned rule revisions says it is considering amendments to effectiveness and toxicity testing protocols used for response agents, as well as setting new effectiveness and toxicity thresholds for listing certain products on the schedule.
EPA in a Jan. 3, 2013, letter responding to the petition also notes the agency is considering modifying the procedures for authorizing dispersants’ use in response to oil spills,.

“The revisions being considered are intended to increase the overall scientific soundness of the data and the availability of information on dispersants and other chemical and spill mitigating substances used to respond to oil discharges, including on the efficacy, toxicity, long-term environmental impacts and on other concerns raised during the Deepwater Horizon spill and as a result of recent research,” it says.

The coalition plans to expand its petition to call on EPA to conduct efficacy and toxicity testing of all products on the schedule when applied to non-conventional fuels, prompted by recent tar sand spills and railcar explosive accidents carrying crude oil mixed with fracking fluids and what the coalition toxicologist says have been inadequate responses. Fracking fluids, for instance, are being used to aid in extracting light crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota, which creates the potential for volatile explosions, the coalition source says. Federal Department of Transportation regulators earlier this month issued a safety alert warning that a string of railcar derailments and resulting fires carrying crude oil from the Bakken region indicate that the type of crude oil being shipped may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil.

While the OIG has suggested EPA update the NCP based on lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill, it does not mention how non-conventional fuel spills such as the 2010 inland Enbridge tar sands oil spill in Michigan should prompt changes to the NCP, the source contends. The Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill released more than 1 million gallons of tar sands, with oil eventually flowing into the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup costs are estimated at $725 million. The source says the spill has resulted in the most costly per gallon spill response ever, and is still ongoing.

While the NCP currently only addresses conventional oil, EPA should broaden it to also cover tar sand spills, the source says, noting that the legal mechanism for including non-conventional fuels exists in the CWA’s language on dispersants and other spill response agents, contained in section 311(d).

In addition, the citizens coalition plans to ask EPA to create a public health mandate in its NCP revisions, to make public health a consideration in spill response and to include a feedback loop to determine whether there is a link between illnesses in the aftermath of spills and dispersants, according to the source.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents the oil and natural gas industry, declined to answer specific questions about the upcoming regulatory revisions, the coalition’s petition, or whether the regulation should be broadened to include non-conventional fuels. An API spokesman, however, issued a statement, stressing the importance of safety and saying, “Dispersants are one of many tools used to protect people and the environment in the event of a spill, and they have proven to be safe and effective when used appropriately.”

In addition, the spokesman says: “America’s refineries are designed to process heavy crudes like those from Venezuela and Canadian oil sands, and dispersants, when used properly, are designed to address these and lighter crudes.” — Suzanne Yohannan

Originally published in the January 20, 2014 issue of Superfund Report.
Inside EPA Public Content, Vol. 28, No. 2

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

blue whale

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

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

Risks of Offshore Fracking

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

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

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

Fracking in California Waters

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

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

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

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

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

Fracking in Federal Waters

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

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

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

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

calif offshore fracking

Coastal Commission Available Actions

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

Published on Friday, January 31, 2014 by Common Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the Sierra Club:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Brune @bruneski

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 31, 2014
5:21 PM

CONTACT: Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Thomas Homer-Dixon
Toronto Globe and Mail, December 20, 2013

For years, NASA has produced a composite photograph of North America at night. Taken by satellite, the photo shows huge patches of light marking New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Smaller patches mark cities like Denver, Seattle, and Calgary.

Recently something strange has appeared in this image. Another patch of light°©larger than Chicago’s°©now glows in a sparsely populated region just south of the Canada-US border near Saskatchewan.

The light comes from thousands of gas flares at oil wells tapping North Dakota’s Bakken shale. Farther south in Texas, a broad swath shaped like a scimitar marks the Eagle Ford shale play. In both places, drillers are mainly seeking oil. But because it’s often too costly to capture the natural gas associated with the oil, they burn it.

This flaring is a staggering waste of energy and a significant source of carbon emissions. But waste and environmental damage get short shrift in the popular discussion of these energy plays. Instead, the buzz is about how new hydrofracking technologies that liberate oil from shale have changed our energy future. The US is on course to be the world’s biggest oil producer and to achieve energy independence, the story goes. Shale plays around the planet mean we’ll soon be awash in oil, and prices will plummet.

But evidence is accumulating that fracking, at least when it comes to oil, has been hyped. Yes, the US is experiencing a short-term production boom, lasting perhaps another ten to fifteen years. Then its output will fall steeply. Globally, fracking isn’t going to change the fundamentals of the planet’s worsening oil-supply crunch. As the International Energy Agency says, fracking “does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance.”

No technology, no matter how ingenious, can repeal geology. It takes a huge amount of energy to drill long curving wells that follow horizontal strata kilometers from the well head, then crack the shale with high-pressure water and chemicals, and finally bring the liberated oil to the surface. Also, output from these wells drops quickly.

In a recent optimistic analysis, the US Energy Information Administration says drillers are learning how to put holes in the ground faster and release more oil from each hole; rig productivity in the Bakken field has quadrupled since 2007. But a close look at the data suggests that the EIA exaggerates the trend: rig productivity has actually varied wildly, and it may have been higher in 2009. Also, output from wells over a month old is declining 6.3 percent each month, for an annual rate of 53 percent.

A 53 percent annual decline is worse than analysts’ most pessimistic estimates. Canadian geologist David Hughes has examined Bakken drilling data closely and puts the figure at 44 percent. Either way, when it comes to shale oil, exploration companies face the ultimate Red Queen energy race: they have to run flat out just to stay in place. In an industry magazine, Lynn Westfall, EIA’s director of energy markets, acknowledges the problem. “For every 100 barrels you produce from new Bakken wells, 70 barrels of that go just to replace the decline from old wells.”

But the problems don’t end there. So much energy is needed to drill these wells that only the best produce a large energy surplus. Egan Waggoner, a graduate researcher working with Charles Hall at State University of New York, has done preliminary calculations. For wells in Bakken’s “sweet spot,” which makes up roughly a third of the field’s total area, the energy return is around 12 to 1°©about the return of US conventional oil wells. For wells outside the sweet spot, the return is 4 to 1 or less. As a result, drillers generally tap the sweet spot first and move to less-productive zones later. Hughes estimates that Bakken’s output will peak before 2020 and that, if drilling continues at current rates of about 2,000 wells a year, the field will be saturated with wells by 2025.

The price of Brent crude, which is the international benchmark, has stayed between 100 to 125 dollars a barrel for the last three years despite a struggling world economy. An OECD analysis released earlier this year projects a price of 190 dollars by 2020, given reasonable estimates of oil demand in India and China. Fracking may change the oil supply balance in North America for a while, but it’s not going to change the underlying global reality: cheap oil is a thing of the past.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Gulf Restoration Network blog: Drilling for Florida Oil by Cathy Harrelson
Blog – Energy / Global Warming
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 11:55


Florida Panther at Big Cypress Reserve – photo Ralph Arwood Flickr An endangered Florida Panther in Big Cypress National Preserve, which is the site of some of the proposed drilling activities. Photo credit: Ralph Arwood/NPS.

As we guard our coastlines against drilling, Texas oil companies are quietly drilling for oil in our backyards. In fact, oil drilling in Florida’s Everglades and Big Cypress Preserve has been going on since the 1930’s. However, recent permits issued in Collier County, east of Naples, represent a new threat. These operations involve drilling for oil at depths up to 25,000 feet using a mix of chemicals the state wants to exempt from disclosure. The waste chemicals resulting from oil drilling include Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene (BTEX). These carcinogenic BTEX chemicals endanger our aquifer and people’s lives. In addition to chemical injection, the use of salt water threatens intrusion into the Naples wellfield – the drinking water supply for thousands.

Although not ‘fracking’ as we typically consider it, Florida Acid Fracking involves injecting massive quantities of fresh water, toxic chemicals and even salt water into the limestone below our aquifer – dissolving it to free up dirty fossil fuels. Thirty percent of these injection fluids are not returned to the surface. This stew of acid fracking chemicals is injected into an aqueous layer below the Floridan Aquifer called the “Boulder Zone.” This zone is so named because its cavernous spaces are the size of boulders. This salty, aqueous layer doesn’t prevent the upward migration of lighter-than-water chemicals into our groundwater aquifer. And, because the salinity and temperature of the Boulder Zone is similar to that of modern seawater, it is thought to be connected to the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean.

Over 115,000 acres have been leased for wells in Collier County, including a permit to drill a 16-25,000 foot injection well, known as the Golden gate disposal well, in a neighborhood east of Naples. Other leases are close to the Fakahatchee Strand and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. There is no federal protection against fracking or its chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act because Congress passed an exception for fracking in 2005. That must change. Although the permit for the Golden Gate disposal well sailed through Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, a local community group, Preserve Our Paradise, has filed suit against the disposal well with the EPA. Florida Senator Bill Nelson has called for an EPA hearing, but EPA has pulled back from confirming the hearing date and location and has shown an unwillingness to stand up to the fracking industry.

EPA needs to do the right thing and set a field hearing date for the Golden Gate disposal wells. The risk to our water is not worth the reward for these destructive efforts. Since swamp drilling began in Florida in the 1930’s, all the oil produced has not added up to one day of current U.S. production. In fact, when asked about Florida drilling, Edward Glab, Florida International University professor and former Exxon executive asked, “the question in my own mind is whether the juice is worth the squeeze.” The risks to Florida’s fragile ecosystem just don’t justify the “reward” and are not restricted to Naples. We’ve learned from the Tampa Bay Times that drilling, mining and groundwater rights have been sold under housing developments elsewhere in Florida. GRN continues to support efforts to protect Florida’s water, people and climate from drilling and dirty fuels.

Cathy Harrelson is Gulf Restoration Network’s Florida Organizer.

Common Dreams: No Pipe Dream: Why We’re All Living on the Frontlines of Fracking

Published on Thursday, January 30, 2014 by

Is Fracking About to Arrive on Your Doorstep?
by Ellen Cantarow

For the past several years, I’ve been writing about what happens when big oil and gas corporations drill where people live. “Fracking” — high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which extracts oil and methane from deep shale — has become my beat. My interviewees live in Pennsylvania’s shale-gas fields; among Wisconsin’s hills, where corporations have been mining silica, an essential fracking ingredient; and in New York, where one of the most powerful grassroots movements in the state’s long history of dissent has become ground zero for anti-fracking activism across the country. Some of the people I’ve met have become friends. We email, talk by phone, and visit. But until recently I’d always felt at a remove from the dangers they face: contaminated water wells, poisoned air, sick and dying animals, industry-related illnesses. Under Massachusetts, where I live, lie no methane- or oil-rich shale deposits, so there’s no drilling.

But this past September, I learned that Spectra Energy, one of the largest natural gas infrastructure companies in North America, had proposed changes in a pipeline it owns, the Algonquin, which runs from Texas into my hometown, Boston. The expanded Algonquin would carry unconventional gas — gas extracted from deep rock formations like shale — into Massachusetts from the great Marcellus formation that sprawls along the Appalachian basin from West Virginia to New York. Suddenly, I’m in the crosshairs of the fracking industry, too.

We all are.

Gas fracked from shale formations goes by several names (“unconventional gas,” “natural gas,” “shale gas”), but whatever it’s called, it’s mainly methane. Though we may not know it, fracked gas increasingly fuels our stoves and furnaces. It also helps to fuel the floods, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and ever-hotter summers that are engulfing the planet. The industry’s global-warming footprint is actually greater than that of coal. (A Cornell University study that established this in 2011 has been reconfirmed since.) Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) and an ecological nightmare due to its potential for dangerous leaks.

According to former Mobil Oil executive Lou Allstadt, the greatest danger of fracking is the methane it adds to the atmosphere through leaks from wells, pipelines, and other associated infrastructure. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found leakage rates of 2.3% to 17% of annual production at gas and oil fields in California, Colorado, and Utah. Moreover, no technology can guarantee long-term safety decades into the future when it comes to well casings (there are hundreds of thousands of frack wells in the U.S. to date) or in the millions of miles of pipelines that crisscross this country.

The energy industry boasts that fracking is a “bridge” to renewable energies, but a 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that shale gas development could end up crowding out alternative energies. That’s because as fracking spreads, it drives natural gas prices down, spurring greater consumer use, and so more fracking. In a country deficient in regulations and high in corporate pressures on government, this cascade effect creates enormous disincentives for investment in large alternative energy programs.

The sorry state of U.S. renewable energy development proves the case. As the fracking industry has surged, the country continues to lag far behind Germany and Denmark, the world’s renewable-energy leaders. A quarter-century after the world’s leading climate change scientist, James Hansen, first warned Congress about global warming, Americans have only bad options: coal, shale gas, oil, or nuclear power.

Living in Gasland

There’s been a great deal of reporting about “the drilling part” of fracking — the moment when drills penetrate shale and millions of gallons of chemical-and-sand-laced water are pumped down at high pressure to fracture the rock. Not so much has been written about all that follows. It’s the “everything else” that has turned a drilling technology into a land-and-water-devouring industry so vast that it’s arguably one of the most pervasive extractive adventures in history.

According to Cornell University’s Anthony Ingraffea, the co-author of a study that established the global warming footprint of the industry, fracking “involves much more than drill-the-well-frack-the-well-connect-the-pipeline-and-go-away.” Almost all other industries “occur in a zoned industrial area, inside of buildings, separated from home and farm, separated from schools.” By contrast, the industry spawned by fracking “permits the oil and gas industries to establish [their infrastructures] next to where we live. They are imposing on us the requirement to locate our homes, hospitals, and schools inside their industrial space.”

Wells, flanked by batteries of vats, tanks, and diesel trucks, often stand less than a mile from homes. So do compressor stations that condense gas for its long journey through pipelines, and which are known to emit carcinogens and neurotoxins. Radioactive waste (spewed up in fracking flow-back and drill cuttings) gets dumped on roads and in ordinary waste sites. Liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals that move this energy source for export are a constant danger due to explosions, fires, spills, and leaks. Every part of the fracking colossus, it seems, has its rap sheet of potential environmental and public health harms.

Of all these, pipelines are the industry’s most ubiquitous feature. U.S. Energy Information Administration maps show landscapes so densely veined by pipelines that they look like smashed windshields. There are more than 350,000 miles of gas pipelines in the U.S. These are for the transmission of gas from region to region. Not included are more than two million miles of distribution and service pipelines, which run through thousands of cities and towns with new branches under constant construction. All these pipelines mean countless Americans — even those living far from gas fields, compressor stations, and terminals — find themselves on the frontlines of fracking.

Danger Zone

The letter arrived in the spring of 2011. It offered Leona Briggs $10,400 to give a group of companies the right to run a pipeline with an all-American name — the Constitution — through her land. For 50 years Briggs has lived in the town of Davenport, just south of the Susquehanna River in New York’s Western Catskills. Maybe she seemed like an easy mark. After all, her house’s clapboard exterior needs a paint job and she’s living on a meager Social Security check every month. But she refused.

She treasures her land, her apple trees, the wildlife that surrounds her. She points toward a tree, a home to an American kestrel. “There was a whole nest of them in this pine tree out here.” Her voice trembles with emotion. “My son was born here, my daughter was raised here, my granddaughter was raised here. It’s home. And they’re gonna take it from us?”

Company representatives began bullying her, she says. If she didn’t accept, they claimed, they’d reduce the price to $7,100. And if she kept on being stubborn, they’d finally take what they needed by eminent domain. But Briggs didn’t budge. “It’s not a money thing. This is our home. I’m sixty-five years old. And if that pipeline goes through I can’t live here.”

The Constitution Pipeline would carry shale gas more than 120 miles from Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County through New York’s Schoharie County. This would be the first interstate transmission pipeline in the region, and at 30 inches in diameter, a big one. Four corporations — Williams, a Tulsa-based energy infrastructure company, Cabot Oil & Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas, and WGL Holdings — are the partners. Williams claims the pipeline “is not designed to facilitate natural gas drilling in New York.” But it would connect with two others — the Iroquois, running from the Long Island shore to Canada, and the Tennessee, extending from the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast into Pennsylvania’s frack fields. This link-up, opponents believe, means that the Constitution would be able to export fracked gas from New York, the only Marcellus state to have resisted drilling so far.

In 2010, a high-pressure pipeline owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company exploded in San Bruno, California, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. It was the same size as the proposed Constitution pipeline. What makes that distant tragedy personal to Briggs is her memory of two local pipeline explosions. In the town of Blenheim, 22 miles east of her home, 10 houses were destroyed in 1990 in what a news report called “a cauldron of fire.” Another pipeline erupted in 2004 right in the village of Davenport. From her front porch, Briggs could see the flames that destroyed a house and forced the evacuation of neighbors within a half-mile radius. “That was an 8-inch pipe,” she says. “What would a 30-inch gas line do out here?”

Carl Weimer, executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, a non-profit watchdog organization, says that, on average, there is “a significant incident — somewhere — about every other day. And someone ends up in the hospital or dead about every nine or ten days.” This begs the question: are pipelines carrying shale gas different in their explosive potential than other pipelines?

“There isn’t any database that allows you to get at that,” says Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert and consultant of 40 years’ experience. “If it’s a steel pipeline and it has enough gas in it under enough pressure, it can leak or rupture.” Many pipelines, says Kuprewicz, aren’t bound by any safety regulations, and even when they are, enforcement can often be lax. Where regulations exist, he continues, corporate compliance is uneven. “Some companies comply with and exceed regulations, others don’t. If I want to find out about what’s going on, I may [have to] get additional information via subpoena.”

In 2013 alone, Williams, one of the partners in the Constitution pipeline, had five incidents, including two major explosions in New Jersey and Louisiana. These were just the latest in what an online publication, Natural Gas Watch, calls “a lengthy record of pipeline safety violations.” As for Cabot, its name has become synonymous with water contamination in Dimock, Pennsylvania. Even that state’s Department of Environmental Protection, historically joined at the hip to gas companies, imposed sanctions on Cabot in 2010. (The corporation later settled with 32 of 36 Dimock families who claimed contamination of their water supplies.)

About 40 miles northeast of Davenport lies the town of Schoharie, where James and Margaret Bixby live on a well-tended, 150-year-old farm. The day I visited, their 19-acre pond glimmered in the early fall sunlight. As we talked, Bixby listed all the wildlife in the area: bear, raccoon, beavers, muskrats, wood ducks, mallards, mergansers, cranes, skunks, and Canadian geese. He began telling me about the last of these. “Pretty soon they’re going to come in by the hundreds, migrating north. A dozen will stay, hatching their young. We have wild turkeys, just about everything. I don’t care to live no place else.”

The Bixbys were offered more money than Briggs — more than $62,000 — for a pipeline right of way and they, too, turned it down. He and his wife are holding fast and so, he says, are 60 neighbors. “They don’t want it to bust up this little valley.” Pointing, he added, “There’s gonna be a path up our woods there as far as you can see, [and] there’s gonna be another one over there. That’s nothing nice to look at.”

Driving around New York and Pennsylvania you’ll spot odd, denuded stretches running down hillsides like ski jumps. On the crests of the hills, the remains of tree lines look like Mohawk haircuts on either side of shaved pipeline slopes. This is only the most obvious sign of pipeline environmental degradation. The Constitution pipeline would also impact 37 Catskills trout streams, endangering aquatic life. According to Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director at Riverkeeper, one of the state’s most venerable environmental watchdog organizations, the pipeline would “cross hundreds of streams and wetlands by literally digging a hole through them… Any project that jeopardizes multiple water resources in two states is clearly against the public’s interest.”

Holding the Line

Longtime residents aren’t alone in opposing the building of the Constitution pipeline. This tranquil region has been attracting retirees like Bob Stack, a former electrical engineer. In 2004, he and his wife, Anne, bought 97 acres near Leona Briggs’s home. Their dream: to build a straw bale house, a sustainable structure that uses straw for insulation. No sooner had engineers visited the land to start planning than the couple got a letter from Constitution Pipeline LLC. “We were absolutely clueless. We knew nothing about fracking or about pipelines. Fracking was about as remote from us as oil in Iraq or someplace else,” says Anne. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘What an outrage!’” The Stacks, who moved east from Nevada, are now living in limbo.

“Once you have this pulsing fossil fuel energy coming through, it will… industrialize the Susquehanna River valley,” says Anne Marie Garti, who in June 2012 co-founded a local activist group, Stop the Pipeline. (“The unConstitutional Pipeline” reads the organization’s website banner.) “They’re going to start building factories. There’s an interstate, a railroad, there’s cheap labor, and there’s a river to dump the toxins in.”

Garti, a small, quietly assertive former interactive computer software designer, is now a lawyer; her aim: helping people like Briggs and the Bixbys. She grew up in the town of Delhi, near Briggs’s home. In 2008, she found herself among a small group of activists who convinced New York’s then-Governor David Paterson to impose a moratorium on fracking. Under the measure’s shelter a powerful grassroots anti-fracking movement grew, using zoning ordinances to ban drilling in municipalities.

Mark Pezzati, a graphic designer, helped get his town, Andes, in New York’s Delaware County to enact a fracking ban. “Pipeline news wasn’t high on the radar [then],” he says. “Most people were concerned about drilling.” In 2010, Pezzati was shocked to discover that a pipeline called the Millennium had penetrated his state.

It turned out that local land use laws govern only drilling. Under the 1938 Natural Gas Act, pipelines and compressor stations represent interstate commerce. “Suddenly there was this frantic flurry of emails, where people were saying, ‘We’ve got to meet and make people aware.’” (The meeting took place and 200 people flocked to listen to Garti.) “As time went on,” adds Pezzati, “it became apparent that you really can’t frack without a pipeline. There’s no point in drilling if there’s nowhere for the gas to go. So a light bulb went on. If you could stop pipelines you could stop fracking.”

That was when Pezzati and his friends, used to arguing for bans at town board meetings, came up against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which, among other responsibilities, regulates interstate natural gas transmission. It tilts to corporations, and even Garti found the bureaucratic hurdles it posed daunting. “I have some experience and training in environmental law and it took me a month to figure out the intricacies of FERC’s process,” she told me.

Because FERC refused to disclose the names of landowners in the pipeline’s path, Garti, Pezzati and about a dozen other volunteers had to pore over county tax databases, matching names and addresses to the proposed route. “First we sent letters, then we did door-to-door outreach,” says Garti. Her basic message to landowners along the right of way: “Just say no.”

“People are kind of impressed that you came all the way to their house,” Pezzati points out. “There’s not that many landowners in favor.”

Garti attributes local resentment against the pipeline corporations and their threats to exercise eminent domain to a “fierce” regional “independence” dating back to the anti-rent struggles of tenant farmers against wealthy landlords in the nineteenth century. “People don’t like the idea of somebody coming on their land and taking it from them.”

The activists drafted a letter refusing entry to corporate representatives and circulated it to local landowners. By October 2012, Stop the Pipeline was able to marshal a crowd of 800 for a public hearing called by FERC — “a big crowd for a sparsely populated rural area,” Garti recalls. The vast majority opposed the pipeline’s construction. By January 2013, 1,000 people had sent in statements of opposition.

The organization has created a website with instructions about FERC procedures and handouts for local organizing, as well as a list of organizations opposing the pipeline. These include the Clean Air Council and Trout Unlimited. Among state and federal agencies expressing concerns to FERC have been the Army Corps of Engineers and New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, known in earlier fracking battles for its collusion with the gas industry.

“Just like we have a fracking story that’s different in New York State, we have a pipeline story that’s different,” says Garti. “The force of the opposition to pipelines is in New York State. And we have a shot at winning this thing.”

Coming Home

Having covered the environmental degradation of Pennsylvania’s shale gas fields, the wastelands that were Wisconsin’s silica-rich hills, and tiny New York towns where grassroots fracking battles are ongoing, I now have a sense of what it means to be in the crosshairs of the fracking industry. But it was nothing compared to how I felt when I learned Spectra Energy had its sights set on my hometown, Boston.

Fracking isn’t just about drilling and wells and extracting a difficult energy source at a painful cost to the environment. Corporations like Spectra have designs on spreading their pipelines through state after state, through thousands of backyards and farm fields and forests and watersheds. That means thousands of miles of pipe that may leave ravaged landscapes, produce methane leaks, and even, perhaps, lead to catastrophic explosions — and odds are those pipelines are coming to a town near you.

Spectra’s website explains that the Algonquin pipeline “will provide the Northeast with a unique opportunity to secure a… domestically produced source of energy to support its current demand, as well as its future growth.“ Translation: Spectra aims to expand fracking as long as that’s possible. And a glance at any industry source like Oil & Gas Journal shows other corporations hotly pursuing the same goal. (A new New-York-based group, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, is the center of opposition to this project.)

It remains to be seen whether the people of Massachusetts will undertake the same type of grassroots efforts, exhibit the same fortitude as Bob and Anne Stack and Leona Briggs, or demonstrate the same organizing acumen as Anne Marie Garti and Mark Pezzati. But Massachusetts citizens had better get organized if they want to stop Spectra Energy and halt its plans to run the Algonquin all the way from Texas northward to Boston and beyond. Fracking is on its way to my doorstep — and yours. Who’s going to hold the line in your town?
© 2014 Ellen Cantarow
Ellen Cantarow

Ellen Cantarow, a Boston-based journalist, first wrote from Israel and the West Bank in 1979. Cantarow has written on women in the labor force, social activism, and the Middle East. Her work has been published in the Village Voice, Grand Street, and Mother Jones, among other publications, and was anthologized by the South End Press. More recently, her writing has appeared at Counterpunch, ZNet, TomDispatch and Common Dreams.

Common Dreams: Showering in Formaldehyde? Fresh Fears in West Virginia

Published on Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Scientist says there’s ‘a lot more we don’t know’ about the safety of West Virginia water
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

“What we know scares us, and we know there’s a lot more we don’t know,” a West Virginia environmental scientist said Wednesday after revealing he had found formaldehyde in water samples taken after officials had declared the water safe for drinking.

Scott Simonton, a Marshall University environmental scientist and member of the state Environmental Quality Board, told a joint legislative committee on water resources that he found traces of formaldehyde in water samples taken from a restaurant in downtown Charleston, the Charleston Gazette reported.

“I can guarantee that citizens in this valley are, at least in some instances, breathing formaldehyde. They’re taking a hot shower. This stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they’re inhaling it.” -Scott Simonton, EQB

Though he did not say exactly when he took the sample or how much was found, Simonton’s statement comes weeks after local officials declared the water safe to drink following the spill of over 10,000 gallons of coal processing chemicals MCHM and PPH into regional water source, the Elk River.

Crude MCHM has methanol as one of its main components and methanol breaks down into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, Simonton explained.

“We know that (crude MCHM) turns into other things, and these other things are bad,” Simonton told reporters Wednesday. “And we haven’t been looking for those other things. So we can’t say the water is safe yet. We just absolutely cannot.”

“I can guarantee that citizens in this valley are, at least in some instances, breathing formaldehyde,” he added. “They’re taking a hot shower. This stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they’re inhaling it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, brief exposure to formaldehyde can elicit symptoms such as eye irritation and a sharp burning sensation of the nose and throat which may be associated with sneezing, difficulty in taking a deep breath, and coughing. Longer exposure to the chemical at 50 to 100 parts per million might cause serious injury to the lower respiratory passages.

In response to Simonton’s warning, University of Washington public health dean and environmental health specialist Dr. Howard Frumkin told the Associated Press that officials should “use caution” when interpreting the results of the water tests because such chemicals may have been present in the region’s waters even before the spill.
“There’s a lot of possibilities there,” he said.

Frumkin’s comments allude to the fact that, in a region that is now known as much for its lax regulatory oversight as it is for its coal mines and mountaintop removal, such water contamination may have previously existed.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Times reporter Sarah Wheaton writes:

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

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

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

Giant pipeline currently circling White House, a reminder before tonite’s SOTU of what’s brought environmentalists into the streets
12:14 PM – 28 Jan 2014 “After 8,400 Gallon Oil Spill, Safety Standards On Norwegian Offshore Rigs Questioned”

After 8,400 Gallon Oil Spill, Safety Standards On Norwegian Offshore Rigs Questioned

By Emily Atkin on January 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm


The Statfjord C rig.
CREDIT: Statoil

Approximately 32 cubic meters, or 8,400 gallons, of oil spilled into the sea early Sunday morning following a leak at a Statoil-owned rig off the coast of Norway, according to media reports and a company statement.

“It has been confirmed that a limited amount of oil has leaked into the sea,” the Norway-based company said, noting that the leak had been stopped. “We are currently working on mapping the extent of the leak. The platform has been shut down.”

Though weather was not indicated as the cause, Statoil confirmed that harsh conditions and high waves were preventing emergency response teams from adequately observing the area immediately following the spill, and that it would inspect the area from the air. The spill originated from an area in the rig’s drainage system that was supposed to trap liquids, the company said, but did not note how or why the drainage system failed. The rig’s crew of 270 people were ordered onto lifeboats, Statoil said.

Statoil said it would launch an in-house investigation of the spill’s cause. Norway’s police and Petroleum Safety Authority also said it would probe the incident.

“We view an oil leak into the sea as serious,” company spokesman Morten Eek told Bloomberg News. “Statfjord C is shut and won’t be started again before we’ve had the system verified.”
statfjord location

CREDIT: Statoil

The Statfjord C platform is part of the Statfjord fields, which produce about 80,000 barrels of oil a day through its A, B, and C platforms, according to Statoil’s website. Though Statoil does not give production value of the oil obtained via the Statfjord platforms, Statfjord holds the record for the highest daily production ever recorded for a European oil field outside Russia.

Statoil’s production has also likely helped Norway’s recent influx of riches. The country’s sovereign wealth fund ballooned in the last year because of high oil and gas prices, with the fund — which collects taxes from oil profits and invests the money, mostly in stocks — exceeding 5.11 trillion crowns ($905 billion) in value last week. Theoretically, that made everyone in Norway worth a million crowns per person, or about $177,000 per Norwegian.

Safety on Norway’s offshore rigs, however, has been an issue for some in the country. Just one day after Sunday’s spill, four unions that represented Norwegian offshore oil rig workers decided to withdraw from an industry-sponsored safety group, saying the offshore rig industry was ignoring critical safety standards.

The group, called the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association’s Network for Safety and Emergency Response Training (NSOB), was originally established in the wake of a 1980 platform disaster that killed 123 people. But now, the four unions — Fellesforbundet, Industri Energi, Lederne and SAFE — said NSOB had recently made “a number of changes that impair safety and emergency training on the Norwegian continental shelf.”

“For us, it appears that cost savings and superficiality have taken precedence at the expense of safety and emergency response,” Fellesforbundet Secretary Mohammed Afzal said in a statement to UPI news.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Times-Picayune: Volunteers use airborne patrols, satellite photos to spot oil spills along Louisiana coast

The Lens

By Bob Marshall, Staff writer 8 HOURS AGO

Jonathan Henderson was shouting to be heard over the engine noise in the small plane as it circled above an oil rig just off the Louisiana coast. A ribbon of colored water extended from the rig for about 100 yards, and Henderson had asked the pilot for a closer look.

“Right there, that’s sheen,” Henderson yelled. “In fact, rainbow sheen tells us it’s oil, and it’s probably coming from that platform.”

He snapped a few pictures and jotted on a notepad.

“When we get back, I’ll make a report,” says Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental group based in New Orleans.

In the last three years, after 200 surveys by air, boat and foot, Henderson has made hundreds of oil pollution reports as part of the Gulf Monitoring Consortium. In what has developed into an almost 24/7 effort, members use private boats, planes and even satellite imagery to spot and evaluate insults to Louisiana’s coastal environment – all at no cost to taxpayers.

“They’re operating pretty much on the honor system out there. The Coast Guard has limited resources. If the amount is small, they are less likely to go out and take a look.”
-David Manthos, SkyTruth

Their effort would be noteworthy solely for its altruistic nature. But what may be more remarkable is that they are the only ones doing this work.

No state or federal agency has cops regularly walking this beat. Instead, state and federal governments, which collect billions in royalties from the permit holders each year, rely on companies to turn themselves in for violating environmental law or the terms of their permits.

“We don’t have people whose job it is to go out looking for spills; we rely on people to report things,” said Gregory Langley, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which says its mission is to protect public health, safety and welfare “while considering sound policies regarding employment and economic development.

The state Department of Natural Resources has 12 inspectors who check wells along the coast for compliance with regulations, a spokesman said. Though those checks are conducted without notice, the industry is so large that the department’s goal is to inspect each one every three years.


The federal Clean Water Act literally requires anyone who drops anything into the water that creates a sheen of any size, or falls as a solid to the bottom, to report it to the National Response Center, which is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“That’s our gold standard because that’s what the law says,” said Michael Anderson of the Coast Guard’s Gulf Coast Incident Management Team, which is based in New Orleans.

If oil spills onto land, however, state law applies. Louisiana says permit holders only have to make a report if the amount spilled reaches a “reportable quantity,” designated as one barrel, or 42 gallons.
“Basically they get to pollute for free to a certain level,” said Andy Zellinger, an analyst for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a member of the monitoring group.

When the National Response Center receives a report, it notifies the proper state and federal agencies.
Typically, state agencies relay the information to a local first responder, which could be the State Police or sheriffs’ offices, which conduct on-site inspections. But if the polluter thinks there’s a risk to human health or a serious threat to the environment, the company must immediately notify the Coast Guard or the state agency as well.


Records show there’s a lot to report each year in coastal Louisiana.

The Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office estimates that about 330,000 barrels, 20 percent of all the oil spilled in the nation each year, leaks from Louisiana facilities. The agency says that amount comes from 1,500 reports each year – but that’s far lower than Coast Guard records show.

Anderson said his office responded to 23,371 reports in Louisiana over the last five years. Even taking out the 5,781 from 2010, the year of the Deepwater Horizon spill, that averages about 4,400 per year.

Most of that pollution takes place in the coastal zone – the interior wetlands and open Gulf – which is where most of the 290,000 oil and gas wells permitted over the years are located, according to a database at the state Department of Natural Resources.

The concentration of the industry in Louisiana means more spills are likely to happen here, but Henderson said that until the Deepwater Horizon disaster, even environmental groups were not fully aware of how routine spills are.

“Many times if we don’t make a report, the company won’t – and I can say that because there are many times when they make a report after we do.”
-Jonathan Henderson, Gulf Restoration Network

It was during the months after the spill, as Henderson made almost daily flights to survey where oil was headed, that he realized there was a less dramatic but more widespread and persistent problem.

“I’d be going over the marsh to check on what was happening in the open Gulf and I’d look down and see sheen in places where we knew BP’s oil hadn’t reached – or at least hadn’t reached yet,” Henderson said. “That’s when I thought, ‘Hey, who’s keeping an eye on this?’

“And the answer to that, of course, is ‘No one.’ So we had to do something about that.”
Henderson began to make regular flights over the coast, becoming expert at recording the types of data that help the Coast Guard respond.

Meanwhile, other environmental groups were homing in on the same issue, including the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper and SouthWings, a group of private pilots who donate their time and aircraft for environmental monitoring.

Those groups often got help from SkyTruth, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that uses satellite photographs to analyze National Response Center reports and find unreported trouble spots nationwide.

Those environmental groups formed the Gulf Monitoring Consortium in 2011 to share information and plan events.

Gallons spilled in one year, according to companies
1.5-2.5 million
SkyTruth’s estimate
When a member of the consortium makes a report to the National Response Center, SkyTruth often quickly finds the location on a satellite image. Using a calculation accepted by oil spill experts, its analysis typically indicates that a spill is 10 times larger than the company’s report, said David Manthos of SkyTruth.

According to a consortium report, the companies that filed 2,093 spill reports from October 2010 through September 2011 estimated the total pollution at about 250,000 gallons. The SkyTruth evaluation put the figure between 1.5 and 2.2 million gallons.

“We have problems with non-reporting, but also with under-reporting,” Manthos said. “They’re operating pretty much on the honor system out there. The Coast Guard has limited resources. If the amount is small, they are less likely to go out and take a look.

“That’s where we try to focus our efforts.”


The consortium’s efforts have led to several regularly-updated websites that chart the widespread nature and frequency of oil spills in Louisiana’s coastal zone and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s iWitness Pollution Map and SkyTruth’s national Alerts Map show a series of red dots spreading across the Louisiana coast like a rash.

By clicking on the dots visitors see the NRC record, including the polluter’s original estimate of the spill and SkyTruth’s evaluation.

“Everything is right there,” said the Bucket Brigade’s Zellinger. “You don’t have to wade through the NRC site; these interactive maps take you right to the history of that report in your area, including what we believe is the real size of that release.”

The consortium has been especially effective in locating trouble spots during the tropical storm season. Henderson and Gulf Monitoring Consortium colleagues were in the air and on the water as soon as conditions were safe after Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

Their report, “Gulf Coast Coal and Petrochemical Industries Still Not Storm Ready,” catalogued the 341,044 gallons of oil, chemicals and untreated wastewater that were reported to have been leaked into wetlands. The group said the actual amount spilled likely was much greater because only 20 percent of the 139 reports included size estimates.


No one knows the efficacy of the monitoring alliance better than Henderson, who estimates he has taken more than 75 monitoring flights since attention turned from the Deepwater Horizon to the rest of the Gulf and the coastal wetlands in 2011.

Now 38, Henderson still makes each flight with the enthusiasm of a rookie because he believes the work is making a difference.

“Many times if we don’t make a report, the company won’t – and I can say that because there are many times when they make a report after we do,” he said.

“Sure, there’s a logistical problem for the companies. We’re talking about thousands of facilities spread out over tens of thousands of square miles. Most of those don’t have personnel on them, and most of them are not serviced on a daily basis. So sometimes, I just beat them to the spill.”

He continued, “But then you have to ask, ‘How many spills are we missing? How much oil has been leaking into the wetlands that nobody knows about because they don’t find it until days after it’s begun?'”

And while proud of the job he and his peers are doing, he resents that nonprofits must “beg for money to do a job that government should be doing.”

Henderson pointed to a similar independent monitoring program that has been in place in Alaska since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. That program is funded by a fee on the users of the Alyeska Pipeline.

The independent monitoring is done by the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, established by the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

“Those councils were established only for Alaska. The Gulf was left out,” Henderson said. “I think it’s time for Congress to take a look at what we’re finding here – at the size of the industry and the risk to this valuable ecosystem – and do the same thing here.”

In the meantime he said, he’ll keep flying and looking.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

Media release – January 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metropolis: Why We’re Suing the Oil Companies. A former member of the flood protection authority in New Orleans explains why legal action is being taken against the petroleum industry operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

John M. Barry

leaking oil
A leaking oil facility in the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Production facilities like this, along with the barge traffic that they create, have helped degrade the wetlands of southern Louisiana. These protective wetlands are disappearing at a rate of about a football field-size area every 50 minutes.
Courtesy Gulf Restoration Project

Architecture fits human society into a place. In most instances, that “place” is at least relatively stable, although both it and the society that makes a home there may have to adjust to each other. In and around New Orleans, however, humans chose to develop a society and make homes in one of the most impermanent and environmentally dynamic places in the world. That society has not only failed to adjust to its environment, but has exacer-bated the place’s natural dynamism.

In essence, New Orleans is not much more than a mud castle surrounded by a roil of water, but only in the wake of Hurricane Katrina did people living there begin to recognize that reality. And only this past July did any public entity take a concrete step to address the problems that humans themselves created. That’s when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPAE)-the levee board responsible for protecting metropolitan New Orleans on the east bank of the Mississippi River-filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, Marathon, and 92 other oil, gas, and pipeline companies. What’s at stake in this lawsuit is the future of much of coastal Louisiana, including its port traffic (18 percent of all commercial shipping in the United States passes through Louisiana) and energy infrastructure (roughly 20 percent of the nation’s oil refining capacity).

Until mid-October, I was vice president of the SLFPAE and one of the architects of the lawsuit, an action that is the culmination of geologic history, engineering, and law-and which has opened up great seismic faults that are shifting politics in Louisiana.

No serious person, including those in the fossil fuel industry, disputes that oil and gas operations have caused substantial land loss.

First, the geology: The Gulf of Mexico once reached north to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. As the sea level fell, the Mississippi River system built land from there to the present mouth of the river by depositing sediment into what had been water. In total, the river built approximately 40,000 square miles of land in seven states, including all of coastal Louisiana. There are no rocky cliffs on Louisiana’s coast; the entire shoreline is basically sediment held together by plant life. In Louisiana, the most densely populated areas are inland from the Gulf itself inland from the mix of water and earth that is called marsh. In the New Orleans metropolitan area, people live within a levee system as well.

Second, the engineering: Multiple human triumphs-at least they seemed so when accomplished-have been destroying this coast for decades. Approximately 1,900 square miles of land have melted back into the ocean, and land loss is continuing at the rate of about one football field-size portion every 50 minutes. Causes of the land loss include the construc-tion of the levee system, which prevents river sediment from replenishing the land it made by flooding; the decline of sediment in the river-the river now carries less than half its historic sediment load and just six dams built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the upper Missouri River retain about half of all that missing sediment; various engineering works built to benefit the shipping industry, including the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which runs from Texas to Florida; and jetties that extend two and a half miles out into the Gulf and escort half the sediment remaining in the river into deep water where it is of no use replenishing the land.

There is also one other major factor in land loss: the operations of the oil and gas industry. The industry has dredged about 10,000 miles of canals and pipelines through coastal Louisiana, every inch of which has allowed salt water intrusion, changed salinity, interfered with natural hydrology, and killed plant life-thus leading to the erosion of land.

No serious person, including those in the fossil fuel industry, disputes that oil and gas operations have caused substantial land loss. A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study in which industry scientists participated concluded that energy industry activities accounted for 36 percent of all the state’s land loss. Evidence is growing that oil and gas companies have extracted so large a volume of material that the land has actually sunk; the impact of Big Oil’s role in subsidence may not be entirely reflected in the USGS study.

Now, finally, the law: The SLFPAE filed suit because of this land loss. Its argument is simple-and essentially irrefutable. Even the suit’s opponents don’t dispute the reasoning. There is a slogan down here: “The levees protect the people, and the land protects the levees.” The lost land once served as a buffer, which protected metro New Orleans from hurricanes by cutting down storm surges; without that protection, more devastating storm surges pound against the levee system. The increased-and increasing-storm surges require the levee board to spend more money to protect lives and property. No one disputes this either.

The board’s case is further strengthened by two facts: Most industry operations were conducted under permits, and those permits required the companies to minimize the damage they caused and restore the land when they were done. Beginning in 1985, Louisiana law imposed virtually identical requirements. (No one in Louisiana ever bothered to enforce any of this language; however, the oil and gas companies did honor both the permits and the law in the breach.) In addition, Louisiana jurisprudence is based on civil law, as opposed to the common law tradition of the other 49 states. In civil law there is a doctrine called “servitude of drain,” which prohibits one party from altering the natural flow of water on another party’s property. To the extent they increased storm surge, oil and gas operations did just that.

The board is suing to get the industry to restore the land it destroyed or, in places where this is impossible-where what was once land is now open water and no sediment is available for restoration-to compensate it so it can augment the flood-protection system. That will likely cost billions of dollars.

More importantly, the SLFPAE’s area has suffered less damage from the oil and gas industry than has any other part of the Louisiana coast. If other entities farther south follow the board’s lead, the industry’s liability rises to several tens of billions.

Thus we get into politics. Not surprisingly, the lawsuit-and the very question of “place”-is shaking Louisiana politics. People used to say, “The flag of Texaco flies over the Louisiana capitol.” We’re in the process of seeing whether that’s still true. Hours after the lawsuit was filed, Governor Bobby Jindal- at the time, he happened to be at an event in Aspen with such donors (and defendants) as the Koch brothers demanded it be withdrawn.

If it wasn’t, he threatened, he would gut the board and seek legislation to kill the lawsuit when the state legislature meets in March of 2014.

The board refused to withdraw the suit, and he has tried to gut it. But the SLFPAE was created after Hurricane Katrina by reformers who insulated it from political pressure by making sure that, unlike nearly all other boards in the state, its commissioners do not serve at the governor’s pleasure. Jindal has nevertheless been able to replace three members, including me, because our terms expired, and the three new appointees passed a “litmus test” of opposition to the suit. But a 6-3 majority of the board still supports it. That majority has resisted tremendous pressure to cave in, and I am confident it will continue to resist that pressure. Now what happens to the lawsuit will be determined as much by state legislators as by the courts.

Initially, no elected official spoke up for the lawsuit. Many condemned it. It looked like we had no chance of surviving the legislature. But the logic of our arguments, and the illogic of the governor’s, seems to be eroding his position even faster than the sea is eating away at the coast.

Our lawsuit is designed to provide funding for the Master Plan, not to interfere with it.

Garret Graves, Jindal’s point man on the issue, has warned that the suit will cost jobs, end cooperation with the industry, and interfere with the state’s Master Plan to restore the coast-a plan with a $50 billion price tag for a bare-bones effort and $100 billion to do it right. But everyone knows the oil industry will operate in Louisiana as long as there’s oil in Louisiana, and the Master Plan has one great weakness: there is no funding for it. Our lawsuit is designed to provide funding for the Master Plan, not to interfere with it. True, the industry is cooperating in many areas and, true, that cooperation is worth millions of dollars a year. But with liability in the tens of billions, that amounts to letting the industry off for less than one-tenth of a penny on the dollar. Even in Louisiana, that’s a sweet deal.

Meanwhile, not only do the state’s arguments against the suit make no sense, Graves himself has been making our case for us. First, he conceded by telling local newspaper the Advocate, “I’m the first one to admit there’s liability there. The scars are on the land.” Then, a couple months later, he said, “Businesses should be operating in compliance with existing regulations.” Exactly what our lawsuit demands. Remind me, Mr. Graves, why the state opposes the suit?

Soon after we filed our lawsuit, James Carville told me that we had permanently changed the political conversation in the state. As I write this today, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes filed their own lawsuits against oil companies. Both parishes are heavily Republican, and Jefferson has the second largest popu lation in the state with the best-organized delegation in the legislature. I expect more parishes to file lawsuits in the future. This place may have a chance to survive after all.

John M. Barry is the author of Rising Tide and the former vice president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPAE).

Special thanks to Richard Charter

South Florida Sun Sentinel: Cuba presses ahead on offshore oil drilling,0,5002666.story

By William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
4:40 a.m. EST, January 21, 2014

WASHINGTON – Cuban officials are preparing to resume offshore oil drilling in deep waters as close as 50 miles from the Florida coast, posing a threat to the state’s beaches and marine life, former Gov. Bob Graham said Monday after a trip to Havana.

The Cubans, he said, are negotiating with energy companies from Angola and Brazil to drill exploratory wells along the maritime border where U.S. and Cuban waters meet, starting next year. Graham warned that if drilling in that area produces a major oil spill, the powerful ocean current known as the Gulf Stream would drag any slick north to the Florida Keys and along the coast to South Florida’s coral reefs and beachfront.

“If there were a spill of any significant size, without question it would impact Florida,” Graham said.

The former Florida governor and U.S. senator, who co-chaired a presidential commission on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, said Cuba is aiming for high safety standards but may lack the capacity to contain a major spill.

“This is an inherently risky operation when you are drilling two or more miles under the ocean,” he said.

Graham went to Cuba along with staff members of the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank, and met with Cuban energy and environmental leaders.

The Cubans, desperate for an economic lifeline, are convinced that crude oil worth billions of dollars is deposited near their shores, despite failed efforts to find it.

After spending nearly $700 million over a decade of exploration, energy companies from around the world all but abandoned the search last year. The initial results brought relief to environmentalists alarmed about the prospect of a spill and the complications of dealing with it amid the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

A floating rig built in China and operated by Repsol, a Spanish firm, found oil in waters north of Havana, but not enough to be worth the expense of extracting it. A Russian company, Zarubezhneft, also searched without success in shallow waters closer to shore.
But Cuba is determined to keep trying, Graham said, because of seismic testing that indicates sizable deposits north of the island.

“In fact, they have either made a commitment or are negotiating commitments for drilling in 10 additional blocks of the area north of the Cuban coast, and they hope to have some drilling started as early as 2015,” Graham said. “They are satisfied that these [seismic tests] show enough commercially promising oil deposits that they are proceeding forward aggressively.”

Their latest target, he said, is near the maritime border, midway between Cuba and Key West. That would push the exploration into deeper water closer to Florida – and increase the risk of a spill.

“What is contemplated is an area north of Cuba that could be 10,000 to 12,000 feet deep,” Graham said. “It could be considerably deeper. And the deeper it gets, the riskier it is.”
The Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico was in water more than 5,000 feet deep. It spewed 210 million gallons of crude oil, causing billions of dollars of damage to five coastal states, slathering beaches, ruining the area’s tourist season, devastating its fishing industry and causing lasting harm to marine life.

Gulf currents carried part of the oil slick toward the Florida Keys, but an eddy shut it off, sparing South Florida from damage.

Oceanographers who study the currents share Graham’s concern.

“If you do have an oil spill anywhere north of Havana, in all likelihood you would end up with oil reaching the U.S. coast,” Frank Muller-Karger, a marine scientist at the University of South Florida said Monday. “If the oil reaches the coast, it’s a disaster. We have the largest coral reef in the continental U.S. there. It’s a tremendous wildlife resource, a fishing resource, a tourism resource, huge cities that depend on those beaches. So it would have a very big impact.”

To guard against disaster, the U.S. Coast Guard plans to skim, burn or spray chemical dispersants on any slick that forms in the Caribbean to stop it from reaching the Florida coast. The Coast Guard’s contingency plan also calls for placing floating booms along the entrance to marine sanctuaries and inlets to protect mangroves and hatching waters for fish and other wildlife.

But the task is complicated by the embargo and frosty relations between the countries, which could block U.S. companies from going to the site of a potential spill without Cuban permission.

Coast Guard and other U.S. officials have been meeting with counterparts from Cuba, Mexico, the Bahamas and Jamaica to confront these barriers and form a regional response plan.

“In terms of safety issues, their standards are high – in some instances they even exceed U.S. standards,” Graham said. “The question is their capability to meet those standards.” or 202-824-8256

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Prominent Canadians Join Neil Young’s Call: Honor the Treaties, Stop the Tar Sands

Published on Tuesday, January 21, 2014
‘Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws?’ asks open letter
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A group of prominent Canadians has added support to Neil Young’s challenge to Canada’s tar sands exploitation and to the country’s disregard for First Nations treaties.

(Photo: Light Brigading/cc/flickr)In an open letter issued Monday, the musicians, authors and scientists say the Canadian rocker’s campaign has raised questions the government should be forced to answer about whether it will have laws “written by powerful oil companies” or be a nation that respects the environment and the treaties it signed over 100 years ago.

Among the signatories are authors Naomi Klein and Michael Ondaatje, scientist David Suzuki and actor Neve Campbell.

Young’s “Honour the Treaties” tour, which just wrapped up, raised $500,000 to help the Athabasca Chipewyan legal challenges to the tar sands industry, which they say has brought “devastating environmental impacts” to their land.

“The Federal Government’s continued approval of new tar sands mines such as Shell’s Jackpine mine despite the devastating environmental impacts and inadequate consultation with First Nations is insulting and unlawful. We are encouraged and grateful for all the support we are receiving from across Canada. This is just the beginning,” said Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.

Just ahead of the tour’s closing, the Athabasca Chipweyan First Nations (ACFN) held a teach-in to explain why they need to raise the legal funds, and also explain how their fight is a fight for all of us.

“If you breathe air and drink water, this is about you,” Crystal Lameman told the teach-in audience.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to Young’s criticisms during his tour by saying that “the lifestyle of a rock star relies, to some degree, on the resources developed by thousands of hard-working Canadians every day.”

In their open letter, the group writes:

“Instead of focusing on Neil Young’s celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations. This means ensuring the water, land, air, and climate are protected so the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and other First Nations communities be able to hunt, fish, gather plants and live off the land. Canada signed a treaty with them 114 years ago, and this must be honoured.

“The world is watching as we decide who we will become. Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws, silence scientists, and disassemble civil society in order to allow reckless expansion of the oil sands?”

* * *

The full letter is below:

On his Honour the Treaties tour, Neil Young is doing what poets do—forcing us to examine ourselves. This is hard enough on a personal level and it can be even more difficult when we are being asked to examine the direction in which our country is headed.

The time has come for Canada to decide if we want a future where First Nations rights and title are honoured, agreements with other countries to protect the climate are honoured, and our laws are not written by powerful oil companies. Or not.

Neil’s tour has triggered the Prime Minister’s Office and oil company executives. They have come out swinging because they know that this is a hard conversation and they might lose. But that should not stop the conversation from happening.

Instead of focusing on Neil Young’s celebrity, Prime Minister Harper should inform Canadians how he plans to honour the treaties with First Nations. This means ensuring the water, land, air, and climate are protected so the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations and other First Nations communities be able to hunt, fish, gather plants and live off the land. Canada signed a treaty with them 114 years ago, and this must be honoured.

The world is watching as we decide who we will become. Will we disregard the treaties we have with First Nations? Will we continue to allow oil companies to persuade our government to gut laws, silence scientists, and disassemble civil society in order to allow reckless expansion of the oil sands?

We are proud to stand with Neil Young as he challenges us all to think about these larger, more profound and humane questions.

Now is the time for leadership and to honour promises that we have made, not personal attacks.

Michael Ondaatje, author, Officer of the Order of Canada
Margi Gillis, dancer,
Member of the Order of Canada
Clayton Ruby, lawyer, Member of the Order of Canada
Dr. David Suzuki, scientist,
Companion of the Order of Canada
Dr. David Schindler, scientist, Officer of the Order of Canada
Stephen Lewis, Companion of the Order of Canada
Joseph Boyden, author
Gord Downie, musician
Sarah Harmer, musician
Naomi Klein, author
Dr. John Stone, scientist
Tzeporah Berman, author
Amanda Boyden, author
Neve Campbell, actor
Wade Davis, author
Dr. Danny Harvey, climate scientist
J.B. MacKinnon, author
Dan Managan, musician
Sid Marty, author
Andrew Nikiforuk, author
Rick Smith, author
John Valliant, author
Ronald Wright, author

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the letter:

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

As the Post reports:

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

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

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

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

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

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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

Thu Jan 16, 2014 4:44pm EST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Huffington Post: Trinidad Oil Spills Leave State-Owned Energy Company Scrambling To Clean Up

The Huffington Post | By Nick Visser
Posted: 01/14/2014 3:38 pm EST | Updated: 01/14/2014 4:14 pm EST

At least 11 oil spills have crippled parts of Trinidad and Tobago, coating miles of beach with crude as the state-owned energy company scrambles to control what’s being called one of the country’s worst environmental disasters.

Petrotrin, Trinidad’s state-owned oil company, first responded to an oil spill near La Brea on Dec. 17, according to a report from the Trinidad Guardian. Over the past month, the company has confirmed at least 11 spills and was slapped with a $3.1 million fine from the country’s Environmental Management Authority last week, which the company’s president, Khalid Hassanali, called “harsh.”





Here’s where it gets weird.

The pipeline responsible for the first of the leaks at Petrotrin’s Point-a-Pierre facility, which resulted in an initial spill of more than 7,000 barrels, may not have undergone any inspections for the past 17 years, according to a confidential report commissioned by the company and obtained by the Trinidad Guardian. Of the other 10 leaks, Petrotrin has accused saboteurs of causing at least 2 while releasing a series of media releases praising what they describe as “significant progress” during clean-up efforts, saying the beaches would be clean one to two weeks after the spill.

Petrotrin did not return requests for comment in time for publication.

However, local officials have accused the company of trying to downplay the extent and size of the spill, according to the Trinidad Express. Two former energy ministers also came forward earlier this month, saying Petrotrin did know about the state of its aging infrastructure after a government audit was ordered in 2010.

“There was no question of sabotage, it was all a question of bad operations on the part of Petrotrin,” MP Paula Gopee-Scoon said. “It was a cover-up from day one.”

Petrotrin has since used the controversial dispersant Corexit 9500 to control the spill, used in record quantities by BP during 2010’s Gulf oil spill. Many scientists have said the chemical becomes far more toxic than oil alone when the two are mixed, harming marine life, but Petrotrin’s president has defended the use of the dispersant, saying “all the chemicals we are using are approved chemicals and we are using them in the approved manner.”

Petrotrin’s chairman denied the occurrence of any more spills in the region this week and insisted claims that oil had spread to neighboring Venezuela were false. But government officials have demanded the Minister of Energy commission an independent investigation into the cause of the spill “by people who don’t have anything to protect and no rear end to cover.”

Trinidad’s energy department approved a new national oil spill contingency plan in January 2013.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Californians Submit 100,000 Public Comments Opposing Gov. Brown’s Dangerous Fracking Regulations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 14, 2014 4:51 PM

CONTACT: Environmental Groups
Alec Saslow:, (720) 319-4948
Sarah Lane,

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – January 14 – In the wake of the driest recorded year in California’s history, concerned Californians submitted more than 100,000 public comments today denouncing Governor Brown’s proposed fracking regulations and urged him to ban the water-intensive drilling activity. At today’s event, Californians Against Fracking delivered boxes filled with tens of thousands of public comments to DOGGR while chanting, “Climate leaders don’t frack,” a clear message to Gov. Brown, whose legacy as a climate leader is on the line as he green-lights a massive expansion of fracking in the state.

“As California faces a massive drought, the last thing Gov. Brown should be doing is letting oil companies frack our state and contaminate our drinking water,” said Zack Malitz, CREDO’s Campaign Manager. “The only way to protect Californians is with a ban on fracking, not weak regulations that will only encourage more drilling.”

“In order to protect our water, farms, and public health from toxic contamination Governor Brown should ban fracking now,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch.

“The days of Big Oil calling the shots in Sacramento are over. Californians are rising up in record numbers to say no to these dangerous oil extraction techniques,” said Ross Hammond, Senior Campaigner, Friends of the Earth.

“Governor Brown needs to make a choice. He can stand with thousands of Californians for a safe climate future and stop fracking up our state, or he can stand with Big Oil and for more droughts, wildfires and threatened communities,” said David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International.

“The tide of history is quickly turning against Governor Brown on fracking,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The question is whether he’ll be remembered as the governor who unleashed fracking’s nightmare on California or the man who stood with his fellow Californians and protected the places we all love.”

“We’re told this is a record-breaking number of comments on environmental and health policy in the state,” said Victoria Kaplan, Civic Action Campaign Director. “Governor Brown can listen to the voters and ban fracking, or he can be remembered as the governor who paved the way for more climate change and drought.”

“If Governor Brown wants California to continue to hold its reputation as national leader in environmental standards, banning fracking should be a no brainer,” said Democracy for America Chair Jim Dean.

“The Central Valley has some of the most impacted communities in California, who are a key part of the movement to stop fracking. Today, we’re showing our grassroots power,” says Valley Resident Juan Flores Organizer at Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.

“2013 was the driest year in California’s history, and opening the state to fracking will only make the problem worse. If Governor Brown wants to get serious about stopping climate change, he should listen to the thousands of Californians calling for a ban on fracking, and stand up to big oil,” said Linda Capato, Fracking Campaigner at

Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of environmental, business, health, agriculture, climate, labor, environmental justice and political organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking in California. Groups that participated in today’s delivery include CREDO, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Civic Action, Friends of the Earth, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment,, Oil Change International, Greenpeace, Democracy for America, and 350 Bay Area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Offshore oil rig (Stock.xchng)

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

Related Video
Anti oil drilling protesters gather in Dunedin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

Former Sen. Bob Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many Democrats hope that doesn’t happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New 42 lbs of Deepwater Horizon oil product removed from Florida beaches

The Legal Examiner

BP Oil Spill Beach Report: December 31, 2013
Posted by Tom Young
January 2, 2014 5:40 PM

The following is a summary of a daily beach oiling report issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). We will endevour to publish this summary each day the FDEP issues such a report. While the media and public believe that the effects of BP’s Deepwater Horizon Blowout and Oil Spill have been largely eradicated, this data suggests otherwise.

It is important to note that these reports of daily oil discoveries come at a time when BP is attempting to renege on its oft-stated “Commitment to the Gulf.” The company is repudiating the Contract it made with area businesses and individuals that compensates them for economic losses associated with BP’s spill.

Now BP claims that it is the victim. You be the judge.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Oiling Report December 31, 2013

Today FDEP personnel conducted post-response monitoring surveys along parts of Escambia County, Florida beaches.

Numerous Surface Residue Balls (SRBs) were found throughout the area. A significant amount was collected during the first 20 meters surveyed, and it was immediately clear that there were too many SRBs to fully mitigate. The team continued into other parts of the beach and found similar levels of oiling. As such, the team met with United States Coast Guard personnel in the field later that morning. The USCG decided to deploy an oil spill response team to clean the area.

As a result of today’s activities, 42 lbs of Deepwater Horizon oil product was removed from the beach. See below for an image of some of the collected oil.

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

see video at:

Salinas, California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

EPA Will Require Offshore Frackers to Report Chemicals Discharged Into Pacific

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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


Orange County Register

Fracking foes sound off at hearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact the writer: or 562-310-7684

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bellingham Herald
Bellingham, Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right whales are estimated to number less than 500.

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOEM did not indicate whether that would occur.

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New York Times via Fracking Wells Abandoned in Boom/Bust Cycle. Who Will Pay to Cap Them?

January 4, 2014
The companies that once operated the wells have all but vanished into the prairie, many seeking bankruptcy protection and unable to pay the cost of reclaiming the land they leased. Recent estimates have put the number of abandoned drilling operations in Wyoming at more than 1,200, and state officials said several thousand more might soon be orphaned by their operators.

Wyoming officials are now trying to address the problem amid concerns from landowners that the wells could contaminate groundwater and are a blight on the land.

This month, Gov. Matt Mead proposed allocating $3 million to pay for plugging the wells and reclaiming the land around them. And the issue is expected to be debated during next year’s legislative session as lawmakers seek to hold drilling companies more accountable.
“The downturn in natural gas prices has forced small operators out of business, and the problem has really accelerated over the last couple of years,” said the governor’s policy director, Shawn Reese. “Landowners would like their land to be brought back to a productive status and have orphaned wells cleaned up.”

Drilling companies in Wyoming typically lease land from the state, private owners or the federal Bureau of Land Management, depending on who owns the mineral rights.

The state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission already budgets $1 million a year to plug abandoned wells. And under the governor’s proposal, the commission would appropriate another $3 million over the next four years in an effort to restore property value and reduce the risk of contamination.

The money would come from a conservation tax that oil and gas companies pay.
Still, given the number of wells already abandoned and the concern that more will soon be deserted, the money is not expected to go far. The state estimated that closing the 1,200 wells already abandoned would cost about $8 million.

One such company, Patriot Energy Resources, which owns about 900 idle wells on state and private land, said in an October letter to Governor Mead that it was $1.9 million short of full bonding on those wells after the bankruptcy filing of Luca Technologies, its parent company.

Patriot has proposed allowing another drilling company to take on a part of its debt, saying it will have to abandon its wells otherwise. “Without this deal or something similar, Patriot will be forced to file for bankruptcy and turn these wells and reservoirs over to the state of Wyoming,” a company official wrote in the letter.

Renny MacKay, a spokesman for Mr. Mead, said the state was weighing the offer.

State Senator John J. Hines, a Republican who represents mineral-rich Campbell and Converse Counties, said it was vital for lawmakers to take up the issue swiftly, because natural gas was so important to Wyoming’s economy.

“All of this just came to a head at once,” said Mr. Hines, who heads the Senate’s minerals committee.

Last spring, Mr. Hines was told by Patriot that the hum of gas drilling activity on his own sprawling cattle ranch would soon grow quiet.

Soon after, the company, which leased parcels of Mr. Hines’s land, disappeared completely – leaving behind more than 40 coal-bed methane wells and a jumble of pipes and pumps.

“They informed me that they were shutting down because they were short of funds,” Mr. Hines said. “All of it, in my opinion, needs to be cleaned up.”

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

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

By Paul Shukovsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposals Double Coal Exports

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

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

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

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

Northwest Governors, EPA Rebuffed

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

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

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

Contradictory Evidence.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Passive’ Policy Making?

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

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

Obama Touts Natural Gas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I Don’t Believe CEQ Did Anything.’

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

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

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

‘Cooked-in Accusation.’

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

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

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

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

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

CEQ, BLM Consult on Coal Leases

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

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

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

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

China Will Get Coal From Somewhere

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

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

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

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

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

Dueling Princeton Economists

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

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

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

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

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

Economically Rational About Energy

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

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

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

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

Long-Term Effect Is Greater

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

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

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

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

‘They Simply Wave a Wand.’

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

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

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

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

Coal Industry Supports Regulatory Approach

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

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

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

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

‘It’s Speculative at this Point.’

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

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

CEQ Has Statutory Authority

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

By Richard Charter, for the H2oover Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

An Industry Dodging Fiscal Responsibility:

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

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

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

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

Hidden Adverse Impacts:

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

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

Can Oil Companies Really “Improve on Nature”?

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

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

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

Promises Not Kept:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The wise use of water is quite possibly the truest indicator of human intelligence, measurable by what we are smart enough to keep out of it. Including oil, soil, toxics, and old tires.”
-David Orr, Reflections on Water and Oil Digital Journal: Offshore Accident Lawyer William Gee III Comments on Report Faulting Black Elk Energy for Fatal Fire

>PRWEB.COM Newswire

Lafayette, LA (PRWEB) December 17, 2013

Responding to news that an oil rig operator and its contractors were at fault in an oil platform explosion that killed three welders, offshore accident lawyer William Gee III of The Law Office of William Gee III said today, “operators and contractors have a responsibility to take all steps necessary to avoid similar accidents in the future.”

Gee, who represents victims injured in offshore accidents, commented on an Associated Press report published in The Times-Picayune (“Federal agency blames Black Elk Energy, contractors in fatal oil platform fire,” November 4). According to AP, the federal offshore safety bureau issued a report stating that Black Elk Energy and its contractors did not take proper safety precautions, failed to identify hazards, and communicated poorly prior to the accident.

“Oil rig operators and contractors who show a disregard for the safety of their workers are a clear and present danger on oil platforms and other offshore drilling locations. Safety is a shared responsibility at these dangerous worksites. The safety of the workers cannot be overlooked,” Gee said.

According to The Times-Picayune, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued the report in early November, which ruled that Black Elk Energy – the oil rig’s operator – and its subcontractors did not follow federal regulations and failed to follow the operator’s own “hot-work” plan, which calls for a worksite’s thorough inspection before any type of work with a heat source, such as welding, was to begin.

The BSEE reported that the explosion happened because storage tanks near the workers weren’t purged of flammable liquid before the crew was cleared to perform welding with torches on nearby pipes. The pipes ignited due to gas vapors, according to The Times-Picayune.

“Safety violations should never be tolerated on an oil platform. If a company does break the law or violates regulations, the results can be catastrophic. A fatal accident can occur in a matter of seconds,” said Gee, a lawyer who handles offshore and maritime accident injury cases nationwide.

Gee said, “attorneys can help victims pursue compensation and closure for their losses. A lawyer also can hold the negligent company accountable and send a message that careless behavior will not be tolerated.”

About The Law Office of William Gee III
Louisiana maritime accident lawyer William Gee III has earned a reputation as an offshore accident lawyer who tirelessly fights to protect the rights of those injured at sea. William Gee has been serving injured workers for more than 20 years. He is highly dedicated to the maritime/offshore personal injury sector of his law practice. Gee is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an honor reserved for trial lawyers who have obtained settlements or verdicts for clients totaling over two million dollars.

If you’ve been injured in a maritime or offshore accident, contact the Law Office of William Gee at 1-800-CALL-GEE today for a free case consultation.
The Law Office of William Gee III is located at:
2014 W. Pinhook Road, Suite 501
Lafayette, Louisiana 70508
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Special thanks to Richard Charter

University of Missouri: MU Researchers Find Fracking Chemicals Disrupt Hormone Function

Endocrine-disrupting activity linked to birth defects and infertility
University of Missouri researchers have found greater hormone-disrupting properties in water located near hydraulic fracturing drilling sites than in areas without drilling. The researchers also found that 11 chemicals commonly used in the controversial “fracking” method of drilling for oil and natural gas are endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s endocrine system, which controls numerous body functions with hormones such as the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone androgen. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as those studied in the MU research, has been linked by other research to cancer, birth defects and infertility.

“More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function,” said Susan Nagel, PhD, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at the MU School of Medicine. “With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”

The study involved two parts. The research team performed laboratory tests of 12 suspected or known endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and measured the chemicals’ ability to mimic or block the effects of the reproductive sex hormones estrogen and androgen. They found that 11 chemicals blocked estrogen hormones, 10 blocked androgen hormones and one mimicked estrogen.

The researchers also collected samples of ground and surface water from several sites, including:
* Accident sites in Garfield County, Colo., where hydraulic fracturing fluids had been spilled
* Nearby portions of the Colorado River, the major drainage source for the region
* Other parts of Garfield County, Colo., where there had been little drilling
* Parts of Boone County, Mo., which had experienced no natural gas drilling

The water samples from drilling sites demonstrated higher endocrine-disrupting activity that could interfere with the body’s response to androgen and estrogen hormones. Drilling site water samples had moderate-to-high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, and samples from the Colorado River showed moderate levels. In comparison, the researchers measured low levels of endocrine-disrupting activity in the Garfield County, Colo., sites that experienced little drilling and the Boone County, Mo., sites with no drilling.

“Fracking is exempt from federal regulations to protect water quality, but spills associated with natural gas drilling can contaminate surface, ground and drinking water,” Nagel said. “We found more endocrine-disrupting activity in the water close to drilling locations that had experienced spills than at control sites. This could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”

The study, “Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region,” was published in the journal Endocrinology.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Gulf Restoration Network: Bird’s Eye View: More Pollution Incidents to Report with New Photos

photos at:

story at:

Blog – General
Friday, 13 December 2013 12:43

As I wrap up things before heading off for a much needed holiday vacation, I wanted to be sure to share with you some photos of GRN’s most recent Gulf monitoring trips. As you look at the photos, please be sure to read the included descriptions for important details. After you have finished reading this blog and viewing the photos, if like me you are feeling angry, sad, frustrated, and motivated to do something, please take a minute to take action. There are many ways that you can help and I have included some options for you at the end of this blog. But first, below is a brief summary of our most recent watchdogging trips.

On November 26th a buddy of mine, Edwin Miles, and I drove down to Grand Isle to look for ongoing BP impacts. We went to Grand Isle State Park and it didn’t take very long to find hundreds of tar balls presumed to be ongoing impacts from the BP disaster. I filed a report with the National Response Center (NRC) and the next morning received a call from the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s office. I was informed that based on my report, which included GPS coordinates, that a clean-up crew was on the way to remove the oil. Please click below to view a slideshow of the photos then click “Show Info” to read the descriptions.
On December 11th, I accompanied Debbie Elliot, a national reporter with National Public Radio (NPR), to Elmer’s Island. Debbie is doing a news report about ongoing BP clean-up operations. In addition to me, Debbie conducted several interviews with other individuals for a story that is scheduled to air nationally on Sunday, December 22nd during NPR’s Weekend Edition. Check your local NPR affiliates for listings, and be sure to check their website to listen online and view photos. On this trip to Elmer’s Island, thousands of tar balls could be found on the shoreline. It took me less than three minutes to fill an entire sample jar. It was disgusting. Also on Elmer’s Island that day there was a staging area for a BP oil excavation operation currently underway on a private beach adjacent to Elmer’s. An estimated 200,000 pounds of oily material has been removed so far from this location in the last couple of weeks. The oil is buried deep in the sand on the beach. While I was not allowed to go and document the excavation operation, as you will see if you keep reading I had something else up my sleeve!

On December 12th, I conducted an overflight as part of GRN’s ongoing watchdogging of pollution in the Gulf. A very special thank you is in order for GRN member Lamar Billups for sponsoring this flight. With me on this flight was Bob Marshall, who covers environmental issues for The Lens. While at The Times-Picayune, Bob’s work chronicling Louisiana’s wetlands was recognized with two Pulitzer Prizes and other awards. Bob is working on a report about the ongoing efforts by GRN to document and report new leaks and spills and our involvement with the Gulf Monitoring Consortium. Be on the lookout for Bob’s written report which will appear in The Lens as well as his radio report which will air sometime in the next couple of weeks on NPR affiliate WWNO. On this flyover, we transected coastal wetlands, bays, offshore, and along the Mississippi River looking for pollution incidents. While it was a gorgeous day on the Louisiana coast, it was windy, which makes it tricky to spot oil sheens, especially smaller ones. Take a look at the photos and read the descriptions to see what we found. Based on our findings, I filed two reports with the National Response Center: one for coal and petroleum coke in the Mississippi River, and one for the ongoing Taylor Energy leak 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana. I did spot several other locations such as a platform in Barataria Bay that may have been leaking but the wind and waves made it too difficult to know for sure. As such, no NRC reports were filed for those. As for that ‘something up my sleeve’ regarding the BP oil excavation operation on Grand Isle of which I was not permitted to access, I flew over that location and have included photos in the slideshow.

Finally as promised, here are some ways to take action if you don’t like what you see in the photos:

1. BP has spent millions of dollars on glossy ads saying everything is ok in the Gulf. Help us counter BP’s lies with real, documented truth. Share this report with your friends and family and share on social media such as Facebook. Also, be sure to “Like” GRN’s Facebook page so you can receive daily updates from the Gulf.

2. As the trial for the BP disaster continues, it’s more important than ever that the Justice Department holds BP accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Take action by clicking here to send a letter to the Justice Department. We’ve made it easy for you so all you have to do is enter in your information and click send.

3. GRN is committed to ongoing monitoring and reporting of pollution in the Gulf. However, the monitoring trips are very expensive, especially for a small environmental nonprofit. Make a donation and become a member by clicking here. Your tax deductible contribution gives us the tools and the resources to do this work.

4. Report any leaks, spills, and tar balls you encounter in the Gulf region to the National Response Center.

Happy Holidays!
Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for Gulf Restoration Network.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

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

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

Greenland Melting: Climate Change’s Disasterous Effects

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

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

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

The Fossil Fuel Resistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Fossil Fuel’s Wastewater Creating Earthquake Boom
Published on Friday, December 13, 2013

Pumped underground using disposal wells, the leftover water from oil and gas drilling is literally shifting the ground beneath communities
– Jon Queally, staff writer

Joe Reneau showing damage from two earthquakes to his home in Sparks. (Photo: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)In Oklahoma, the oil and gas industry have drilled more than 4,000 “disposal wells” designed to hold wastewater produced from the tens of thousands of extraction drilling sites scattered throughout the state.

But as those wells have grown in number and the millions of gallons of wastewater—generated as an inevitable bi-product from the fossil fuel industry—are pumped into the seems of the earth beneath, something else is happening. Earthquakes. And lots of them.

As the New York Times reports Friday:

Oklahoma has never been known as earthquake country, with a yearly average of about 50 tremors, almost all of them minor. But in the past three years, the state has had thousands of quakes. This year has been the most active, with more than 2,600 so far, including 87 last week.

While most have been too slight to be felt, some […] have been sensed over a wide area and caused damage. In 2011, a magnitude 5.6 quake — the biggest ever recorded in the state — injured two people and severely damaged more than a dozen homes, some beyond repair.

Though hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is among the many extractive practices now believed to cause earthquakes, Austin Holland, a seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, told the Times that “disposal wells pose the biggest risk.”

“Could we be looking at some cumulative tipping point? Yes, that’s absolutely possible,” Dr. Holland said.

As the Times explains, experts say that wastewater wells are especially pernicious because of their number and size:

Along with oil and gas, water comes out of wells, often in enormous amounts, and must be disposed of continuously. Because transporting water, usually by truck, is costly, disposal wells are commonly located near producing wells.

Though the disposal of oil and gas wastewater has been ongoing for some time, experts say that the scale and locations of the practice that have changed, mostly because of the boom in oil and gas fracking, which is being done in places with unique underground shale formations.

“People are disposing of fluids in places they haven’t before,” Cliff Frohlich, a University of Texas scientist, told the Times.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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

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

Automatically add your name to sign the petition below.

Free John Podesta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for taking action.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

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

ENN: Massachusetts Legislature moves on fracking moratorium

Environmental News Network

Published December 1, 2013 09:16 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

amazing moonscape video at:

Shared by Melissa Troutman on December 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namibian Tuna Catch Plunges On Oil Exploration

Namibia, November 27, 2013

Namibia’s tuna catch has been slashed after oil and gas exploration took place in the nation’s southern waters. According to a study commissioned by the government, Namibia’s tuna harvest dropped to just 650 metric tons so far this year, from 1,800 tons in 2012 and 4,046 tons in 2011.

Anna Erastus, Policy Planning Director at the Fisheries and Marine Resources Ministry said: “With increasing amounts of seismic exploration in Namibian waters recently, tuna catches have dropped.” Around 90 percent of the country’s catch is albacore tuna, with the rest made up from bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack.

The fishing industry is one of Namibia’s biggest sources of foreign exchange for the country’s economy. Namibia earned USD 400 million from fish exports in 2012, according to Paarl, South Africa-based NKC Research.

A group that has been put together to investigate ecological effects of seismic exploration is recommending that the government should delay a proposed seismic survey for oil and gas in Tripp Seamount, a main tuna fishing ground. Erastus said that fishing should be put back until after March 2014 to avoid a time where as much as 70 percent of Namibia’s tuna catch is taken.

She added that another oil and gas company is intending to conduct a seismic survey just across the border in South African waters in February. “This is in direct path of tuna migrating from South Africa to Namibian waters,” she said. Erastus explained that sound blasts during seismic surveys “could send the tuna into avoidance mode, so that they are not able to be caught by fishing vessels during what would normally be the height of the pole and line tuna season.”

The Australian tuna industry has also announced that a seismic survey undertaken in 2011/12 in the Australian Bight returned the worst ever result for the nation’s bluefin tuna fishery. A further study proposed for October 2014 to June 2015 would be directly in the Southern bluefin migration path. Erastus continued by saying that Namibia has “alerted South Africa to the seriousness of the issue” and has requested the neighboring country to consider the same approach. “Tuna migrates up through South African waters to Namibia, and the South African industry is similarly affected”, she said.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Huffington Post & NRDC: Holidays on the Oil Spill Front Lines

video at:

Huffington Post

Rocky Kistner
Media associate, NRDC

Posted: 11/25/2013 12:10 pm

This will be J.J. Creppel’s last Thanksgiving at his home in Plaquemines Parish, a sliver of marshy land that juts out from the southeast corner of Louisiana and hugs the Mississippi River as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. But J.J. says after 60 years, he’s finally leaving the Cajun fishing community he loves so dearly. For many like him, life has changed since the BP oil disaster errupted more than three years ago. “The oil spill finished off the shrimp,” he says in a whisper.

Although domestic shrimp prices are up this year, giving a much-needed boost to fishermen down on their luck since the blowout, catches remain depressed in the areas like the Barataria Bay region, a productive fishing ground hard hit by BP oil. Lower catches combined with damages from storms and rising seas makes it harder to make a living fishing in the bayou these days. “I used to make nets for the people,” J.J. says. “But not too many people are buying nets anymore.”

While BP continues to spend millions on slick TV commercials touting the good times in the Gulf, communities in Plaquemines are still feeling the effects of the country’s worst oil spill in history. This year, cleanup crews collected more than 3 million pounds of oily material and tar balls from Louisiana coasts and marshlands, three times what it collected last year. Fishermen worry that in places like Barataria Bay, where fishing is still off limits in some areas due to oil contamination, the impacts will continue to ripple through the ecosystem. They are especially worried about future generations of shrimp, crab and oysters that could be hurt by the massive oil and chemical dispersant mix that poured into the Gulf after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded three years ago.

“We’re only three years out since the spill and everybody knows the oil is still out there,” says Clint Guidry of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, which represents shrimpers across the state. “The issue is what’s happening in the most affected areas. If you look at a map where most of the oil went, we’re still having problems.”

Fishermen also continue to report that some shrimp have what appears to be oil contaminated cavities and tumors they link to the oil spill. Barataria Bay shrimper Randy Varney says his shrimp catch has declined 50% in some areas this year. He says he occasionally finds shrimp with tumors and a black oil-like substance that he’s never seen before the spill.

But that’s not all that bothers him. Since he spends much of the hot summer of 2010 working on oil cleanup boats during the BP blowout, Randy says he continued to have health problems he never had experienced before, including chronic respiratory problems, rashes, dizziness, memory loss and sore eyes that plague him to this day. Randy says he was not allowed to wear a respiratory while he was handling toxic oily boom during the cleanup, and he blames the chemical cocktail of Corexit dispersant and BP crude for his ongoing health problems. “I don’t know what it is, but I never feel good, it’s like I constantly have a cold, my eyes bother me and I always have a sore throatŠ.doctors don’t what it is but I feel like I’ve been poisoned.”

Shrimp with tumors and a black substance caught in Barataria Bay in October.

That’s an ongoing refrain of some fishermen who found themselves at ground zero of the BP disaster, health problems that were chronicled in this detailed investigation released this year by the Government Accountability Project. Most of the media has moved on and ignored the plight of the fishing community in the Gulf. But reporters like Dahr Jamail of Al Jazeera continue to track problems in the fisheries and among residents in the Gulf. Here’s what he reported last month:

“It’s disturbing what we’re seeing,” Louisiana Oyster Task Force member Brad Robin told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have any more baby crabs, which is a bad sign. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before.” Robin, a commercial oyster fisherman who is also a member of the Louisiana Government Advisory Board, said that of the sea ground where he has harvested oysters in the past, only 30 percent of it is productive now. “We’re seeing crabs with holes in their shells, other seafood deformities. The state of Louisiana oyster season opened on October 15, and we can’t find any production out there yet. There is no life out there.”

Oiled beaches of Grand Isle, LA, October 2013. Photo: Gulf Restoration Network.

It will be years before the massive amount of science now underway in the Gulf becomes public, but already there is evidence that the oil disaster will have a lasting impact on the ocean environment for decades to come. Many fishermen still don’t know what the future holds for their livelihoods, a threat that looms over their holiday season for the third year in a row.

But communities in the Gulf aren’t the only residents battling oil spills that have changed their communities and their lives this Thanksgiving. In Mayflower, AR, many residents have complained of health problems they link to a massive tar sands leak from a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline last March. The blowout spewed over 200,000 gallons of sticky black Canadian tar sands crude through the small town into a marsh in nearby Lake Conway, one of the prized fishing locations in the state.

After Exxon ripped up much of the vegetation in the area this summer, much of the oil still remains embedded in the marsh. Residents say every time it rains, tar sands residue washes toward the culvert that drains into the main body of Lake Conway.

Oil in cove of Lake Conway in October. Photo: Genieve Long

Genieve Long, who lives near the oil-soaked cove, has suffered repeated health problems she blames on the oil (check out this recent documentary on the Mayflower oil spill from Inside Climate News). She continues to worry about the health of her family of four kids. Exxon and state authorities insist they are not in danger while the environmental testing continues. But that is little consolation to people like the Long family, and Genieve says she’s not sure where her family will celebrate their Thanksgiving meal.

“I don’t really want to invite people to my house and expose them, knowing what’s really going on here,” Genieve says. “We’re not the only family around here this spill has taken a huge toll on. It’s just heart-breaking to seeŠ. I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams have thought this is the way things would be around the holidays.”

For those who want to help families suffering this holiday season from toxic oil spills in their backyards, join the Front Line Holiday campaign on Facebook, organized by Gulf coast community and environmental advocate Cherri Foytlin. The campaign plans to deliver gifts and assistance to needy children and families across the country where their air, water and environment has been hit hard by impacts of the fossil fuel industry and other climate-related disasters.

Watch this video of J.J. produced by NRDC in 2010 in collaboration with StoryCorps and BridgetheGulf as part of its Stories from the Gulf project.

J. J. Creppel repairing shrimp nets. Photo: Lisa Whiteman/NRDC

Follow Rocky Kistner on Twitter:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Houston Business Journal: 2012 explosion cost Black Elk millions

Nov 21, 2013, 2:41pm CST

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC has spent millions so far this year on costs associated with the 2012 explosion at its West Delta 32 Gulf of Mexico platform.

Olivia Pulsinelli
Web producer-
Houston Business Journal

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC has spent millions so far this year on costs associated with the 2012 explosion at its West Delta 32 Gulf of Mexico platform, and it’s still dealing with the repercussions of the incident.

According to regulatory filings, Black Elk spent $4.7 million in the third quarter – and a total of $12.4 million in the first nine months of the year – on costs associated with the Nov. 16, 2012, explosion, which killed three subcontractor workers. The Houston-based company operated the platform, located 17 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La.

In addition to reporting a net loss of $18.4 million for the third quarter, Black Elk noted the following in its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission:
Total oil, natural gas and plant product production declined 18 percent for the third quarter and 23 percent for the first nine months of year, compared to the same periods a year earlier, “as a result of downtime in the fields requiring hot work, which was delayed due to the (Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement) requirements for approval after the West Delta 32 incident, pipeline repairs, and the asset field sales to Renaissance on March 26, 2013, and July 31, 2013. The year-to-date variance was also a result of a longer winter weather season.”

“As of Nov. 12, 2013, several civil lawsuits have been filed as a result of the West Delta 32 Incident. Š We believe we have strong defenses and cross-claims and intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”

“On Oct. 15, 2013, the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a subpoena pertaining to all physical evidence collected and maintained by (Black Elk) and ABSG Consulting as part of the investigation of the West Delta Incident.”

In August, Black Elk released the results of the ABSG investigation, which said contractor Grand Isle Shipyard violated its contract by hiring a subcontractor to perform construction work.

Black Elk filed its third-quarter report on Nov. 14, the same day BSEE issued incident of noncompliance citations against the company and its contractors on the West Delta 32 platform. Black Elk said in a Nov. 15 statement it “does not agree with the basis for the INC (citations) and is evaluating its options for response.” The companies have 60 days to appeal the citations.

Earlier this month, BSEE released a report of its investigation into the incident, and Black Elk said in a statement that it is fully cooperating with BSEE in the investigation and will be carefully reviewing the report.

“Black Elk Energy always has in its thoughts and prayers the victims of this tragic accident last November,” John Hoffman, Black Elk’s president and CEO, said in the statement.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chemicals listed as hazardous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Huffington Post: Fracking Industry Campaign Contributions At Record Levels, Report Shows

The Huffington Post | By Jared Gilmour
Posted: 11/20/2013 4:21 pm EST | Updated: 11/20/2013 6:45 pm EST

Fracking industry contributions to congressional campaigns spiked 231 percent between 2004 and 2012 in districts and states with fracking activity, according to a report released Wednesday.

Compiled by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and based on MapLight’s collection of federal campaign contribution data, the report showed a smaller, 131-percent uptick in fracking industry contributions to candidates outside of fracking areas. The fracking industry’s level of contributions increased steadily from $4.3 million to just under $12 million between 2004 and 2012, according to the report, just as fracking’s importance to the U.S. energy industry grew.

“Like many industries under increasing scrutiny, the fracking industry has responded by ratcheting up campaign donations to help make new friends in Congress,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial process of injecting water, sand and chemicals into oil and gas wells to unlock fossil fuels trapped in layers of rock. The process has revolutionized oil and gas production in the U.S., but faces strong criticism from environmentalists, who worry the chemicals used in fracking could harm the environment.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) received the most in contributions, the report found, raking in $509,447 between the 2004 and 2012 elections. Barton is a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

During his tenure as chairman of the committee, Barton was a sponsor of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, according to the CREW report. The act exempted fracking from federal oversight under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was another major recipient of fracking money, with $384,700 in contributions in the 2004-2012 period.

Republican congressional candidates benefited most from the fracking industry’s largesse, the CREW report showed, garnering almost 80 percent of total contributions.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Russian court grants bail to 9 foreign Greenpeace activists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

New Zealand: Protesters’ flotilla awaits drillship



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter Black Elk Energy opposes rig disaster findings

Nov. 18, 2013 at 8:37 AM

HOUSTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) — Black Elk Energy said it didn’t agree with violations outlined by a federal safety regulator in response to a deadly fire on an offshore platform in 2012.

Three of the 24 rig workers on a platform operated by Black Elk Energy died in a November 2012 accident off the coast of Louisiana.

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said Nov. 4 the company lapsed on several safety requirements on the rig and operated “a climate in which workers feared retaliation if they raised safety concerns.”

Black Elk said in a statement Friday it was committed to a safe and compliant offshore working environment.

“Black Elk Energy does not agree with the basis for the [incidents of noncompliance order issued by BSEE] and is evaluating its options for response,” the company said.
In August, Black Elk said a third-party investigation found contractors failed to follow basic safety standards.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

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

Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ►

Dear DeeVon,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

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Learn more about this campaign

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter

WWLTV: Black Elk, contractors issued 41 violations following report & Forbes: Fail, Fine, Repeat: Business As Usual For Some Offshore Drillers

black elk

GULF OF MEXICO – Commercial vessels spray water to extinguish a platform fire on board West Delta 32 approximately 20 miles offshore Grand Isle, La., in the Gulf of Mexico. First responders medevaced nine of the platform’s 22 personnel to nearby rigs. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Posted on November 13, 2013 at 4:34 PM
Updated yesterday at 6:00 PM

David Hammer / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @davidhammerWWL

PLAQUEMINES, La. — Following up on a damning investigation report last week, federal offshore regulators issued 41 formal violations against Black Elk Energy and its contractors for their role in causing an explosion last year that killed three welders on a platform off Plaquemines Parish.

Three Filipino nationals – Ellroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo and Avelino Tajonera – were killed by the explosion on Black Elk’s West Delta 32 E Platform on Nov. 16, 2012. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued its investigation report Nov. 4, finding that Black Elk and contractors Compass Engineering and Consultants, Grand Isle Shipyards/DNR and Wood Group PSN failed to follow their own basic safety plans.

The investigation concluded that Black Elk failed in its supervisory role and its contractors communicated poorly about whether flammable gas had been properly purged from tanks and pipes before the workers started cutting with blow torches.

The report states that Wood Group’s supervisor left a lower-level employee without proper training to sign and approve a welding permit to cover the entire platform, rather than each welding location as rules require. Then, that employee turned the job over to a Grand Isle Shipyards supervisor based on a faulty understanding from a Compass consultant that all areas had been purged and were ready for hot work.

In fact, nobody had cleared the areas for hot work. The report describes how gas detectors that were supposed to be used to check the hot-work areas were not functioning properly and were left in their charging stations, but when workers complained, their Grand Isle supervisor told workers not to forget about it.

“According to the DNR workers, the GIS/DNR supervisor instructed the construction workers to hang the non-functioning gas detector up like a ‘decoration’ so everyone could at least see that they had one,” the report says.

The most serious violations still were issued to Black Elk, which is the lease-holder and ultimately responsible. Black Elk got 12 violations, or Incidents of Non-Compliance. Wood Group received 11 INCs and Compass and Grand Isle Shipyards got nine each.



ENERGY | 11/14/2013 @ 9:53AM |456 views
Fail, Fine, Repeat: Business As Usual For Some Offshore Drillers

In the Gulf, an operator’s safety track record doesn’t seem to matter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every oil company operating in the Gulf of Mexico must be terrified today after the harsh crackdown on Black Elk Energy by federal regulators. The feds hit the Houston-based offshore oil producer and three of its contractors with 41 citations related to a rig explosion last year that killed three workers. The companies could face – that’s right could face – civil penalties. Don’t worry, though, Black Elk and its contractors have 60 days to appeal the citations for “incidents of noncompliance.” Such fines often are negotiated down.

Black Elk has plenty of experience dealing with these types of citations. While 41 may seem like a lot, at the time of last year’s fatal accident, Black Elk already had been cited 315 times in the previous two years for rules violations and risky procedures. As recently as one month before that accident, regulators found that Black Elk “showed a disregard for the safety of personnel” in another accident that sent six workers to the hospital.

In addition to Black Elk, the latest round of citations included its contractors, Grand Isle Shipyard of Galliano, La., which employed the workers who were killed, Compass Engineering & Consultants of Lafayette, La., and Wood Group PSN of Aberdeen, Scotland.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement found that the contractors didn’t clear pipes of flammable hydrocarbons before they began welding. As the operator, though, Black Elk is responsible for the overall safety on its rigs, and BSEE found that Black Elk’s safety procedures were lacking. One regulator described Black Elk as having “the antithesis of the type of safety culture that should guide decision-making” in offshore operations. The feds also told Black Elk to come up with a safety plan.

Shortly after the accident, Black Elk chief executive John Hoffman told me that BSEE’s investigation would vindicate his company and “shed light where it needs to be.” Clearly, he was wrong about the first part, but the BSEE investigation certainly sheds light on one of the dark realities of offshore safety – lax accountability. Federal regulators largely ignore the role of recidivism in safety violations. For all the talk of creating a “safety culture” the only consequences for not having one is being told to get one and, perhaps, some civil fines.

Even for small companies like Black Elk, the size of those fines is minimal. In 2011, for example, the average fine levied by BSEE for offshore safety violations was about $62,000. Black Elk, by comparison, had a fine last year that topped $307,000 after an inspection found a gas leak on one of its platforms that the company didn’t fix for more than 100 days. Black Elk has had three more civil penalties so far this year totaling more than $250,000.

The citations pile up like traffic tickets on the windshield of an abandoned car while lives continue to be lost.

Nuisance fines allow lax safety to persist in the Gulf because operators can engage in their usual tactics of denial – blaming contractors and complaining about burdensome regulations. What we have seen, though, both in shallow water operations like Black Elk’s, and deepwater disasters like BP’s Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010, is a steadfast refusal of regulators to consider an operator’s safety track record in allowing them continued access to the Gulf. That’s the one thing they care about most.

Until there’s stiffer consequences for major safety violations, business as usual will continue in the Gulf: fail, fine, repeat.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Greenpeace: Absolute must-read from the Philippines


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

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


Phil Radford
Greenpeace USA Executive Director

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


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

Dear friends,

Destruction in the Philippines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is also not the first time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Von Hernandez
Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive

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

video at:

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

By 3 News online staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 News

Read more:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Environmental News Network: Deep sea Drilling in New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special thanks to Richard Charter Flesh Eating Bacteria Tied to BP Oil Spill Tar Balls

Posted: Nov 07, 2013 12:02 PM EST Updated: Nov 07, 2013 2:25 PM EST
By Peter Albrecht – bio | email

The Alabama Gulf Coast attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, and since the 2010 BP Oil Spill, tens of thousands of tar balls.

A couple hundred miles away at Auburn University, Dr. Cova Arias, a professor of aquatic microbiology, conducts research on the often-deadly and sometimes flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio Vulnificus. Arias’ research at Auburn, and through the school’s lab at Dauphin Island, has focused on Vibrio’s impact on the oyster industry which was brought to a standstill three years ago by the BP Oil Spill. In 2010, out of curiosity, Arias set out to discover if Vibrio were present in the post-spill tar balls washing up on the Alabama and Mississippi coasts. She was highly surprised by what she found.

“What was clear to us was that the tar balls contain a lot of Vibrio Vulnificus,” said Arias. Arias can show an observer Vibrio in the lab as it appears as a ring on the top of the solution in a test tube. Vibrio is not something, though, that a person can see in the water, sand, or tar balls. But, Arias’ research shows it there, especially in the tar balls, in big numbers. According to Dr. Arias’ studies, there were ten times more vibrio vulnificus bacteria in tar balls than in the surrounding sand, and 100 times more than in the surrounding water. “In general, (the tar balls) are like a magnet for bacteria,” said Arias. Arias’ theory is that Vibrio feeds on the microbes that are breaking down the tar.

She and researchers looked at tar balls that washed in to the same areas they had previously studied so they could therefore make valid comparisons to before the oil spill. “What we also found was in water, the numbers were about ten times higher than the numbers that have reported before from that area,” said Arias. So the water alone had ten times as much Vibrio as before the oil spill, and the tar balls themselves had 100-times more Vibrio than the water.

Dr. John Vande Waa , an infectious disease specialist at the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile says a person can get Vibrio two ways, by eating infected seafood, usually raw oysters, or by being in infected waters, either salt water or brackish. In this form, Vibrio is a fast-acting flesh-eating bacteria.

“The destruction in arms and legs, the flesh eating component, it’s two parts ,” said Vande Waa. “One is that the organism itself can destroy the tissues. The other is sepsis. The bacteria is in their bloodstream, it affects all the organs. Within my own experience of cases, the mortality has been approaching 40-50 percent.”

When entering through the skin, Vibrio is contracted thru some sort of cut or abrasion. The young or old, or someone with a compromised immune system, is more likely to get Vibrio. Dr. Vande Waa says exposure to Vibrio should be taken seriously by everyone in marine environments, due to the random, but deadly, nature of bacteria. “It can be very little exposure,” he said. “Just the wrong place at the wrong time.” It’s not a way anyone would want to die.

“I hope and pray to God I never have to see something like that again in my life,” said David Cox. His stepfather Wayne Anderson of Irvington was killed by Vibrio in September. Anderson was a life-long fisherman. It was something in the water where he spent his life that took his life. Cox says it started as a small bump on Anderson’s leg. “It spread very quickly,” said Cox. “The pain was unbearable. You could just see the redness getting darker, the blisters getting bigger.” Anderson was dead in less than 48 hours. “He wasn’t one to complain about pain and to see him there begging for someone to do something, it was very helpless,” said Cox. “Honestly, it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.”

There have been almost two dozen cases of Vibrio in Alabama over the last five years, according the Alabama Department of Public health. Florida recorded 160 Vibrio cases from 2007-20012, with 54 of them being fatal. There have been more than 30 cases in Florida this year. An Escambia County man died in October. A 43-year-old Milton woman, Tracy Lynn Ray, died on November 1st. Relatives tell News-5 she was a frequent beach goer.

Arias recommends that people at the beach not touch the tar balls with their bare skin. “You may have micro-abrasions so you don’t even know you have a cut,” said Arias. “So, I would stay away from the tar balls.” But the results of Arias’ research have not been widely reported. As Tropical Storm Karen last month washed in a new batch of tar balls at Orange Beach, sunbathers and beach walkers were oblivious to the dangers. “No, not really, it doesn’t seem to be a concern,” said Mike Hadley of St. Louis Mo. “I don’t think that a tar ball that has sand and shells on it is going to impact my health or me enjoying the beach at all,” said another beach goer.

The bacteria-filled tar balls are an object of beach goer curiosity.”I was just looking for shells in the sand and came across it,” said Tara Hadley of St. Louis. “Just looking, I picked it up thinking it was a shell.” Martha Ellison of Prattville, walking the beach with her teenage daughter, admits to handling tar balls on a routine basis. “Yeah. I’ve gotten them all over our fingers, stepped on them, gotten them on our feet.”

So far, there has been no documented case of someone getting the flesh-eating disease from tar balls. Still, Arias urges caution.
“We don’t know if you can get infected with Vibrio Vulnificus by touching a tar ball, but the possibility is there,” she said.
BP stresses that there has been no human case of Vibrio attributed to contact with tar balls. A BP statement sent to News Five read: “The Arias study does not support a conclusion that tar balls may represent a new or important route of human exposure for Vibrio infection, or that the detection of Vibrio in tar balls would impact the overall public health risk, since there are other far more common sources of Vibrio, such as seawater and oysters.”

BP says it asked the Alabama Department of Public Health in 2012, if its beach clean-up workers were at risk. Dr. Thomas Miller, ADPH Deputy Director for Medical Affairs, replied in a letter that there was no evidence of increased cases of Vibrio since the oil spill. Miller indicated, however, that could have been a result of fewer tourists being at the beach.
Arias says the only other significant study of Vibrio and tar balls was conducted following a spill off the coast of Nigeria and showed similar results. Arias has not done any follow-up work since 2010, citing a lack of funds, but says she would like to do further research.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

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

Photograph by America, Alamy

Joe Eaton

For National Geographic

Published November 4, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Published on Thursday, October 31, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In June President Obama declared :

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

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

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

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

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


Common Dreams: New Neighbors to Millions of Americans: Fracking Wells

Published on Monday, October 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

New analysis reveals over 15 million homeowners now have a fracking well in their ‘backyard’
– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Screenshot from Gasland Part II)Over 15 million homeowners have a natural gas or oil well within a mile of their home—according to a Wall Street Journal analysis published Saturday—thanks to the fracking gold rush that has pushed the fossil fuel industry into Americans’ backyards.

“At least 15.3 million Americans live within a mile of a well that has been drilled since 2000,” said the WSJ analysis, which looked at well location and population data for more than 700 counties in 11 major energy-producing states. “That is more people than live in Michigan or New York City.”

The story credits the toxic process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for spurring the expansion of the fossil fuel industry into the small towns and neighborhoods over the Niobrara Shale in Colorado, the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the Barnett Shale in Texas, among others.

“The change can be dramatic,” the WSJ writes.

In Johnson County, Texas, in 2000, there were fewer than 20 oil and gas wells. Only a fraction of the residents of this mostly suburban county, south of Fort Worth, lived anywhere near a well or could tell you where to find one.

Today, more than 3,900 wells dot the county and some 99.5% of its 150,000 residents live within a mile of a well. Similar transformations took place in parts of Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wyoming, according to Journal data.

According to DrillingInfo, a data provider to the oil industry, in 2010 some 23 counties, with more than four million residents, each had more than three new wells per square mile.

The WSJ quotes a number of homeowners who have either permitted by lease onto their own property or watched the oil industry move in to adjacent land. Describing the new wells as little more than an “irritation” focusing particularly on the noise and “influx of truck traffic,” the report fails to emphasize the long-term impact of these new neighbors.

Documented in environmental journals and films such as director Josh Fox’s Gasland and Gasland Part II, communities which have already been ravaged by the fracking boom report widespread water contamination—resulting in sickness, dead livestock and flammable tap water.

In late July, environmental groups uncovered a leaked EPA report that said fracking caused methane to leak into drinking-water aquifers in Dimock, Penn. Dimock, which is featured in Gasland, has become the exemplar of a community casualty of the toxic fracking boom.

Waking Times: Setting the Record Straight About BP’s Failed Gulf of Mexico Cleanup

October 23, 2013 | By WakingTimes |

Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog
Waking Times

The second phase of hearings in the legal battle over the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico ended on October 17th. Following two weeks of testimony by the U.S. Department of Justice and BP, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier will determine what quantity of oil was spilled into the Gulf. He will also decide whether BP was simply negligent or grossly negligent.

The Justice Department claims 176 million gallons of oil were spilled; BP argues that it only spilled 103 million gallons. Under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Control Act, Judge Barbier can fine BP and its partners $1,100 per barrel should he find they were negligent in their actions leading up to the spill and in the cleanup afterwards. The fine would rise to $4,300 per barrel if he finds the companies were grossly negligent or acted with willful misconduct, as the State Department alleges.Using the State Department’s numbers, the fine could be $18 billion; if BP’s numbers are accepted, the fine could be $10.5 billion.

The outcome of the case will play a role in all subsequent litigation around the BP disaster, including the case of Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood, the largest shrimp buyer and wholesaler in the Gulf region. Blanchard’s company in Grand Isle, Louisiana is all but shut down now. Blanchard keeps a small fraction of his staff employed – more of them than he needs to keep his dwindling operation going. He doesn’t have the heart to make further cuts.

Blanchard estimates his company’s loss at over $100 million. He estimates that his business is now 15 percent of what it was before the spill. He keeps his doors open only because he can’t bring himself to close down. He recently moved part of his business to a different area where some shrimpers are still able to harvest product, but he faces an uphill battle against BP, and an uncertain future, along with many other Gulf fishermen.
Dean Blanchard talks about the use of the chemical dispersant Corexit during the BP oil spill:

This fall, BP launched a new PR campaign depicting itself as a victim of fraud. The BP ads accuse people of filing fraudulent claims, and asks upstanding citizens to turn them in. Blanchard doesn’t doubt there are fraudulent claims, but holds BP responsible for allowing that to happen.

He and others in the fishing industry offered to help BP figure out who the real fishermen were since they know their community well, but BP turned them down. Blanchard suggests that BP may have wanted to create chaos, initially giving a token payment to anyone who wore a pair of white boots into the claims offices so they could play victim later, just as they are doing now. On Facebook, activists encourage those affected by the spill to call the BP fraud hotline set up for this campaign and choke the company’s line with calls accusing BP of fraud.

BP’s other commercials claim that all fishing areas have reopened, although the waters near Grand Isle are not. Blanchard wonders why the government continues to allow the company to lie in its advertising.

BP’s “Make it Right” campaign, which asserts that things are back to normal, is a source of rage for many along the Gulf Coast. And Dean Blanchard doesn’t pull punches about it:

Some of the shrimpers who sell to Blanchard periodically monitor the areas they used to work in. They have caught deformed shrimp with no eyes and oil in their gills, and other fish with lesions.

Recently, a fisherman gave him a fish with a hole in the middle of its body that Blanchard has kept on ice to show people as an example of the abnormalities in the seafood he has seen since the spill.

fish with hole
Image Source
Fish with mysterious hole in its side caught by a fisherman and given to Blanchard.

Despite the government and company assurances that the seafood is safe, Blanchard’s insurance company dropped his product liability insurance. Blanchard wont be covered if the product he is selling turns out to be unsafe.

Besides the fiscal strain, Blanchard worries about the health of his family. He says everyone he knows on the island now has sinus and breathing problems.

Many have moved, including longtime resident Betty Doud, her daughter and grandchildren. She and Blanchard both tell me they can breathe better when they travel away from Grand Isle. Doud and her daughter are renting homes near New Orleans.

Over lunch, they rule out places to resettle that are sites for potential environmental disasters, crossing off all the states that have fracking activity, for instance. Doud recently sold off her Grand Isle home and won’t ever move back. Like Blanchard, she’d rather sue BP than accept the meager settlement it offered for her loss.

BP has been forced to take some responsibility for the health issues faced by residents and cleanup workers. In May 2012, as part of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, $36 million in grant money was earmarked for behavioral and mental healthcare needs, making it possible for residents and cleanup workers to file claims in a class action suit against BP for their health issues.

Meanwhile, more tar mats containing BP oil were discovered by the Coast Guard after the recent tropical storm Karen.

The amount of oil recovered in the cleanup process in Louisiana has grown this year. Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, suggested in an interview with Reuters that the initial cleanup had clearly been insufficient since the amount of recovered oil increased this year.

Oil turning up on these beaches is no surprise to residents like Betty Doud, who witnessed activities in 2010 that suggested to her that cleanup workers were burying the oil rather than taking it away.

Dean Blanchard isn’t surprised either. He has no doubt that the reason there are no shrimp left in the area rests on the fact that Corexit was used to chemically disperse the oil, letting it sink to the sea floor where the shrimp reproduce.

The use of dispersant by BP irks Blanchard the most. He believes that if the government hadn’t allowed BP to disperse the oil, it could have been cleaned up.

“I never knew you could buy a branch of the government, but BP bought the Coast Guard,” he says. “They were complicit in letting BP do what they wanted.”

Blanchard is irked by the fact that BP was making tons of money and still cutting corners – putting the health of Gulf Coast residents and the economy at risk. And the fact that BP was allowed to do so by the government also riles him.

“Someone at the top needs to go to jail,” Blanchard says.

graveyard BP
Graveyard erected to those who died in the BP blowout.

message to BP on Main St
Message to BP on Main Street
Special thanks to Richard Charter

RigZone: API: 67% of US Voters Support Offshore Drilling

Even though this poll was done by a reputable pollster, knowing the American Petroleum Institute commissioned it leads me to question these figures… DV

by American Petroleum Institute
Press Release
Monday, October 21, 2013

Sixty-seven percent of voters nationwide support offshore drilling for domestic oil and natural gas resources, according to a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Petroleum Institute’s ( API’s) “What America is Thinking on Energy Issues” series. This support bridged party lines, with clear majorities of Republicans (79 percent), Democrats (57 percent) and Independents (67 percent) all supporting offshore drilling.

“Americans get it: domestic oil and natural gas development is a key driver for new jobs, economic growth and energy security,” said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for API. “Our country is now firmly positioned as an energy superpower, and most Americans want our nation to seize opportunities to build upon that status.”

Four state-specific polls showed similar levels of support for offshore oil and natural gas development in Virginia (67 percent), North Carolina (65 percent), South Carolina (77 percent) and Florida (64 percent). Nationwide, 90 percent of voters say producing more oil and natural gas here at home is important. Increasing domestic oil and natural gas production is also important to 88 percent of Virginians, 89 percent of North Carolinians, 91 percent of South Carolinians, and 87 percent of Floridians.

“Americans are eager to put more of our offshore energy resources to work,” said Milito. “If exploration and development is allowed to safely expand to new areas, domestic oil and natural gas could provide more energy, jobs and government revenue than ever before.”

The Obama administration will soon begin work on its next five-year offshore leasing plan, in which areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico could be included for oil and natural gas leasing. Early next year, the administration is also expected to decide whether to permit seismic surveys in the Atlantic from Delaware to northern Florida for the first time in 30 years.

Seismic surveys, which have been used safely around the world for decades, are the most accurate method available to prospect for oil and natural gas reserves offshore apart from drilling. More accurate survey data makes offshore energy production safer and more efficient by reducing its environmental footprint. Technological advances and data collection improvements since seismic surveys were last conducted in the U.S. Atlantic OCS have rendered old resource estimates obsolete.

– See more at:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Inside Climate News–Behind Russia vs. Greenpeace Furor, Unreported Oil Pollution of the Arctic

A Russian Coast guard officer is seen pointing a knife at a Greenpeace International activist as five activists attempt to climb the 'Prirazlomnaya,' an oil platform operated by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom platform in Russia s Pechora Sea.  This is one example of the disproportionate use of force by the Russian authorities during a peaceful protest. The activists are there to stop it from becoming the first to produce oil from the ice-filled waters of the Arctic.
About 4 million barrels of spilled oil, as much as BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill, is flowing into the Arctic Ocean every year, Greenpeace says.
By Zahra Hirji, InsideClimate News
Oct 16, 2013

A Russian Coast guard officer points a knife at a Greenpeace activist as protesters attempt to climb the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Arctic Ocean’s Pechora Sea. Credit: Greenpeace

An environmental organization with a $350 million war chest, a giant protest vessel, 28 activists and a rubber raft have succeeded in drawing Russian President Vladimir V. Putin into a very public global dispute.

Attention is now focused on the Greenpeace activists-who were arrested last month by Coast Guard agents for trying to hang a protest banner on an Arctic Ocean oil platform-and whether they will languish in prison for up to 15 years each on dubious piracy charges.

“They are obviously not pirates,” Putin said in a speech to the International Arctic Forum last month. Yet Russian authorities so far seem to be throwing the book at the activists as international outrage grows to secure their freedom. Protests have been held at Russian consulates in about a half dozen cities worldwide to release the activists.

While the unfolding drama is now focused on issues of civil disobedience and human rights, underneath the uproar is a tangle of issues around Arctic drilling that Greenpeace has been campaigning to address for many years. And now it has secured the world’s attention and a chance to spark a discussion-and the stakes are high.

Earlier this year in a report called Point of No Return, the confrontational organization identified oil drilling in Arctic waters as one of the biggest climate threats being ignored by the world’s governments.

“Oil companies plan to take advantage of melting sea ice … to produce up to 8 million barrels a day of oil and gas,” Greenpeace said in the report. “The drilling would add 520 million tons of CO2 a year to global emissions by 2020.”

That Greenpeace would target Russia’s Prirazlomnoye oil platform-which this fall is expected be the world’s first offshore Arctic well-should not come as a surprise. And it is equally unsurprising that Russia, currently the world’s biggest oil producer, would react so sharply to protect its oil interests and the flagship project of its multibillion-dollar quest to drill, especially as the United States is overtaking Russia as the No. 1 energy producer.

“This is probably the strongest reaction we’ve gotten from a government since the French government blew up one of our ships [in 1985 in an anti-nuclear protest],” said Philip Radford, executive director of Greenpeace USA.

Hidden from view so far, however, has been the environmental damage the Arctic is already suffering at the hands of the Russian oil industry, a degradation that would likely get worse if the oil boom there continues without better regulation, according to Greenpeace and other Russian environmentalists and scientists.

Every year, according to Greenpeace, about 30 million barrels of oil products leak from wells and pipelines in Russia. An estimated four million barrels of that, roughly the size of BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill, flows straight into the Arctic Ocean through tributaries.

The precise impact of these spills on the fragile Arctic environment and its people is unknown but is likely substantial, Greenpeace says. For them the leaks-and the alleged lack of adequate means to deal with them-are an example of an inadequate safety culture in the country’s oil industry. And they’re causing deep concern about Russia’s aggressive push to start drilling for oil in open Arctic waters.

“Russia will not be ready for effective monitoring, supervising and working in the Arctic Ocean,” said Vladimir Chuprov, a Russian citizen and the head of energy for Greenpeace Russia in Moscow, the country’s main energy industry watchdog. Chuprov has been monitoring oil spills for the past decade.

Poor Record
While Russia produces 12 percent of the world’s oil, it is responsible for roughly half the world’s oil spills, according to Greenpeace Russia figures. Broken down, the numbers reveal that some 30 million barrels of petroleum leak from 20,000 inland spills each year.

Official government records paint a different picture. Russian environmental officials say there are only hundreds of inland spills a year. Among other omissions, however, those figures don’t include spills that dump less than 56 barrels, because companies aren’t required to report those incidents.

The two Russian oil companies that already received government approval to drill the Arctic have notorious records for oil accidents and spills.

The Prirazlomnoye platform in the Arctic’s Pechora Sea that Greenpeace targeted is owned and operated by Gazprom Neft Shelf LLC, a subsidiary of the state-run energy giant OAO Gazprom. Gazprom Neft was responsible for the country’s worst offshore oil disaster in December 2011, when a floating rig sank in the Sea of Okhotsk, killing 53 workers.
According to the company’s 2012 sustainability report, the company reported 2,626 pipeline ruptures that year and 3,257 ruptures in 2011.

Gazprom has landed several other licenses to build exploratory drilling wells and platforms in a half dozen other Russian Arctic seas.

Rosneft, another major state-run oil company and the country’s biggest oil producer, has also secured licenses and is expected to begin drilling its first well in early 2014.

Last year, Rosneft was named Russia’s worst environmental polluter by the regional paper Bellona after a government report found that the company had 2,727 reported spills in 2011 in a single northwestern province.

In an interview with InsideClimate News, Vladimir Antoshchenko, a Gazprom Neft Shelf spokesperson, said the Prirazlomnoye project was “based on strict demands on environmental and industrial safety.” He said the rig has Arctic-specific ice-crushing machines to blast floating icebergs and special boats to safely navigate the icy waters.

Alexey Knizhnikov, an environmental policy officer based in the Moscow office of the World Wildlife Fund, said he “has not seen any effective technology to combat an oil spill in ice conditions.”

Either way, environmentalists and other critics of Russia’s Arctic energy plans say there are deeper reasons why the country’s oil industry isn’t ready for Arctic drilling.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that substantial environmental regulations for energy companies were introduced in Russia. The end of Communism brought the establishment of environmental advocacy in the country, which, among other factors, led to the roll out of more and better rules, such as financial penalties for oil spills, but they’re not enough.

For decades the government has been harshly criticized for concealing petroleum spills from the public and the media, levying meager fines that hardly discourage violators, and for failing to require companies to have adequate emergency response plans and spill response tools, among other criticisms.

Valentina Semyashkina, former chair of the Save the Pechora Committee, an environmental organization that works in the Arctic Komi Republic told InsideClimate News that “concealment of accidental oil spills” by energy companies is a regular occurrence. So is the government’s “turning a blind eye,” she said.

The Komi Republic, a province the size of Germany with a largely indigenous population, has been on the frontlines of Russia’s oil rush for years. Accidents have been prevalent, including a vast spill of as much as 2 million barrels from a corroded pipeline in 1994. The incident was first made public by a U.S. Department of Energy official who revealed the spill to the New York Times, prompting accusations of a Russian government cover-up.

“The power is always on the side of big businesses and never on the side of the citizens,” Semyashkina said.

She pointed to a recent oil spill in the Komi Republic. In late May this year, a local Komi resident on his way to work spotted a big blob of black gooey oil in the area’s Kolva River from a pipeline that tore apart in the early winter months. The pipeline’s operator, the Russian- and Vietnamese-owned company Rusvietpetro, had detected the rupture in November but nothing happened.

More than a dozen community members ran the cleanup, shoveling oil into barrels and putting them on the shore before the government emergency response officials arrived and took over about a week later. By late June, Rusvietpetro had repaired the line, which it said broke due to a drop in pressure in the line. The government response ended on July 25, after 3,500 barrels of oil spilled out.

A resident helps clean up the Kolva River oil spill/Credit: Greenpeace
The oil is still threatening the fish and cows that the local indigenous Komi people depend on to earn their living, according to Semyashkina. And several residents are still cleaning up the mess without compensation.

Rusvietpetro didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Local authorities say some of the oil and oil products have reached the Pechora River, a tributary of the Arctic Ocean, as is typical following spills in the Russian tundra, the country’s biggest oil-producing area, Greenpeace’s Chuprov said.

Arctic Challenges
About 13 percent of the planet’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its natural gas lie under Arctic land and water, most of it offshore, according to projections.

One-third of that oil and more than half of the gas is buried on and off Russia’s coastline. And for the first time, the trove of energy is accessible to drilling, a result of both global warming-which has turned the northern ice cap into mush in the summer months-and advanced drilling technology.

Drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean poses new and difficult challenges for industry, and this is particularly worrying for conservation advocates who oppose Russia’s advance into the Arctic.

“We saw how hard it was to respond to the serious offshore drilling incident in the Gulf of Mexico with the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Doug Norlen, director for Pacific Environment, an advocacy and research organization that supports a moratorium on Arctic drilling. Now imagine a spill in the Arctic, where “you are dealing with places that are far away from response capabilities. … It’s a recipe for a disaster.”

Although drilling conditions vary across the ocean’s 5.4 million square miles, the risk of a blowout and a catastrophic spill are threatening all over. Fast-developing storms can wield hurricane-force winds. Icebergs up to a mile in length drift across its choppy currents.
Water temperatures typically hover well below zero. If an accident were to occur in countries lacking emergency response infrastructure along their Arctic coastlines-as in Russia-it could take emergency response crews several hours to arrive at the site under the best conditions and perhaps days.

Marilyn Heiman, director of the U.S. Arctic program at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said that to respond to spills immediately all countries bordering icy Arctic waters would need emergency response centers that are located within a few hundred miles of a drilling site.
These centers would have to be manned by response workers 24 hours a day, because once oil enters the sea, the dark slime can be carried to distant shorelines via strong ocean currents or sink to the depths of the ocean floor.

No country with icy waters has a center this close. In Alaska, the nearest Coast Guard response unit is around 1,000 miles from planned Arctic drilling locations. (It is unclear whether U.S. Arctic drilling regulations, to be released later this year, will require closer emergency centers at planned U.S. drilling sites.)

Knizhnikov of the environmental organization WWF said he’s skeptical that adequate centers will be built in Russia. “It will be very difficult to become reality because [the centers are] very costly,” he said. “It will take many, many years before they will be created, if they will be created.”

Companies in Control
Still, on July 1, Russia passed stricter safety standards and pollution cleanup regulations for offshore drillers than it has in place for inland operations.

Russia now requires companies to have more and better equipment to collect spilled oil-such as booms and skims on hand at all times at drilling sites. The rules also require companies to react to spills faster. According to Russian law, drilling operators must respond to spills at sea within four hours of discovering them, whereas companies have six hours to respond to spills on land.

Most experts say the regulations are not sufficient to address serious concerns about a major spill in the Arctic, one of Earth’s last pristine wilderness areas. For instance, regulations dictating the type of safety equipment and spill response operators must use are too general to be effective, many say.

Even those experts who say Russia’s rules are adequate have their worries.
“The regulations are good,” said Alexei Bambulyak, a Russian environment expert at the Norwegian environment research institution Akvaplan-niva. However, “whether they are followed or not is up to the [drilling] operators.”

The five counries with major Arctic claims-Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States-are moving somewhat slower than Russia, either because of uncertain energy prospects or environmental security and safety concerns.

Norway is the exception, but it has the world’s most stringent standards for offshore drilling safety and is drilling in warmer waters than Russia with less sea ice. In 2007, Norway’s Statoil became the first driller in the world to produce natural gas in Arctic waters.

According to Eric Haalan, a spokesperson for Statoil, Arctic drillers everywhere have “absolutely everything to lose” by working in the Arctic Ocean unprepared.

“Meaning, if we don’t do it properly, we lose more than anyone else. And we have seen the consequences of accidents that have happened in the past, and what effect that has had on even large companies,” he said.

Extreme Consequences
Greenpeace has a long history of taking a strong stand against Arctic drilling and other issues and accepting the consequences, according to Radford, the Greenpeace USA executive director.

“But the consequences by Russia are unbelievably extreme and illegal and unjust,” he said.
Twenty-eight Greenpeace activists and two journalists from 18 countries are sitting in prison and facing charges of piracy, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Two of the activists tried to scale the tower on the Gazprom Neft platform before the Russian Coast Guard fired 11 warning shots into the water near their raft and ordered them to come down. They descended before they were able to hang a banner and were immediately arrested. The Coast Guard waited a day before raiding the Arctic Sunrise protest ship, where the other activists were located.

This week Russia denied bail to the U.S. captain of a Greenpeace ship and another activist.

The harsh reaction reflects Russia’s new urgency to tap its Arctic resource. Almost exactly one year ago, six Greenpeace protestors climbed the same Arctic platform and hung a banner, and the Coast Guard did nothing. In fact, oil company crew members reportedly gave them soup.

Radford said he hopes people see that the arrested Greenpeace activists were acting for the benefit of the world.

“They were doing this to alert the world of the first ever offshore deep Arctic well drilling that could cause radical climate change and could cause a huge oil spill that the [Russian] Coast Guard thinks is their nightmare scenario,” Radford said. “Now, that wasn’t for private gain, that was for the benefit of all of us.”

Special thanks to Richard Charter–Times-Picayune: Tar mat discovered at Fourchon Beach after Tropical Storm Karen

oil mat

Grand Isle, La. – A Deepwater Horizon Response Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Team delineates the edges a surface residual ball colony, Oct. 8, 2013. The 12 foot by 3 foot SRB colony was uncovered by the increased tides of Tropical Storm Karen and located during a Deepwater Horizon Post-Storm Rapid Assessment Survey. (Coast Guard/Michael Anderson)

By Katherine Sayre, | The Times-Picayune
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on October 16, 2013 at 5:52 PM, updated October 16, 2013 at 9:33 PM

The Coast Guard says it has recovered 4,100 pounds of a tar mat discovered under the sand at Fourchon Beach. The oily material was found by crews inspecting Louisiana’s coast after Tropical Storm Karen.

The oily mixture is assumed to be left over from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill three years ago, said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Anderson, spokesman for the Gulf Coast Incident Management Team. Karen’s storm surge, although weak, was enough to cause some erosion and expose the area.

The tar mat consists of a mixture of 80 percent to 90 percent sand, shell and water and 10 percent to 20 percent oil, Anderson said.

High tides temporarily stopped the cleanup work at the site today, but the effort will continue this week, Anderson said. The exact size of the tar mat hasn’t been determined.
“We’re expecting a significant amount of product,” Anderson said.

He said the Coast Guard does not expect it to be as large as the massive tar mat discovered around Isle Grand Terre in June.

The cleanup effort will include removing the tar mat and sending out snorkeling swimmers to search the waters nearby, he said.

Tar balls have been collected in other areas of Louisiana’s coast after Karen moved through the Gulf of Mexico and dissipated earlier this month.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: Fossil Fuel Euphoria: Hallelujah, Oil and Gas Forever!

Published on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 by TomDispatch

by Michael T. Klare

For years, energy analysts had been anticipating an imminent decline in global oil supplies. Suddenly, they’re singing a new song: Fossil fuels growing scarce? Don’t even think about it! The news couldn’t be better: fossil fuels will become ever more abundant. And all that talk about climate change? Don’t worry about it, they chant. Go out and enjoy the benefits of cheap and plentiful energy forever.

Climate justice advocates rally across from the White House, July 27, 2013. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr)This movement from gloom about our energy future to what can only be called fossil-fuel euphoria may prove to be the hallmark of our peculiar moment. In a speech this September, for instance, Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission (that state’s energy regulatory agency), claimed that the Earth possesses a “relatively boundless supply” of oil and natural gas. Not only that — and you can practically hear the chorus of cheering in Houston and other oil centers — but many of the most exploitable new deposits are located in the U.S. and Canada. As a result — add a roll of drums and a blaring of trumpets — the expected boost in energy is predicted to provide the United States with a cornucopia of economic and political rewards, including industrial expansion at home and enhanced geopolitical clout abroad. The country, exulted Karen Moreau of the New York State Petroleum Council, another industry cheerleader, is now in a position “to become a global superpower on energy.”

There are good reasons to be deeply skeptical of such claims, but that hardly matters when they are gaining traction in Washington and on Wall Street. What we’re seeing is a sea change in elite thinking on the future availability and attractiveness of fossil fuels. Senior government officials, including President Obama, have already become infected with this euphoria, as have top Wall Street investors — which means it will have a powerful and longlasting, though largely pernicious, effect on the country’s energy policy, industrial development, and foreign relations.

The speed and magnitude of this shift in thinking has been little short of astonishing. Just a few years ago, we were girding for the imminent prospect of “peak oil,” the point at which daily worldwide output would reach its maximum and begin an irreversible decline. This, experts assumed, would result in a global energy crisis, sky-high oil prices, and severe disruptions to the world economy.

Today, peak oil seems a distant will-o’-the-wisp. Experts at the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) confidently project that global oil output will reach 115 million barrels per day by 2040 — a stunning 34% increase above the current level of 86 million barrels. Natural gas production is expected to soar as well, leaping from 113 trillion cubic feet in 2010 to a projected 185 trillion in 2040.

These rosy assessments rest to a surprising extent on a single key assumption: that the United States, until recently a declining energy producer, will experience a sharp increase in output through the exploitation of shale oil and natural gas reserves through hydro-fracking and other technological innovations. “In a matter of a few years, the trends have reversed,” Moreau declared last February. “There is a new energy reality of vast domestic resources of oil and natural gas brought about by advancing technology… For the first time in generations, we are able to see that our energy supply is no longer limited, foreign, and finite; it is American and abundant.”

The boost in domestic oil and gas output, it is further claimed, will fuel an industrial renaissance in the United States — with new plants and factories being built to take advantage of abundant local low-cost energy supplies. “The economic consequences of this supply-and-demand revolution are potentially extraordinary,” asserted Ed Morse, the head of global commodities research at Citigroup in New York. America’s gross domestic product, he claimed, will grow by 2% to 3% over the next seven years as a result of the energy revolution alone, adding as much as $624 billion to the national economy. Even greater gains can be made, Morse and others claim, if the U.S. becomes a significant exporter of fossil fuels, particularly in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Not only will these developments result in added jobs — as many as three million, claims energy analyst Daniel Yergin — but they will also enhance America’s economic status vis-à-vis its competitors. “U.S. natural gas is abundant and prices are low — a third of their level in Europe and a quarter of that in Japan,” Yergin wrote recently. “This is boosting energy-intensive manufacturing in the U.S., much to the dismay of competitors in both Europe and Asia.”

This fossil fuel euphoria has even surfaced in statements by President Obama. For all his talk of climate change perils and the need to invest in renewables, he has also gloated over the jump in domestic energy production and promised to facilitate further increases. “Last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003,” he affirmed in March 2011. “And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half of the liquid fuel we consumed. So that was a good trend. To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production.”

Money Pouring into Fossil Fuels

This burst of euphoria about fossil fuels and America’s energy future is guaranteed to have a disastrous impact on the planet. In the long term, it will make Earth a hotter, far more extreme place to live by vastly increasing carbon emissions and diverting investment funds from renewables and green energy to new fossil fuel projects. For all the excitement these endeavors may be generating, it hardly takes a genius to see that they mean ever more carbon dioxide heading into the atmosphere and an ever less hospitable planet.

The preference for fossil fuel investments is easy to spot in the industry’s trade journals, as well as in recent statistical data and anecdotal reports of all sorts. According to the reliable International Energy Agency (IEA), private and public investment in fossil fuel projects over the next quarter century will outpace investment in renewable energy by a ratio of three to one. In other words, for every dollar spent on new wind farms, solar arrays, and tidal power research, three dollars will go into the development of new oil fields, shale gas operations, and coal mines.

From industry sources it’s clear that big-money investors are rushing to take advantage of the current boom in unconventional energy output in the U.S. — the climate be damned. “The dollars needed [to develop such projects] have never been larger,” commented Maynard Holt, co-president of Houston-based investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Company. “But the money is truly out there. The global energy capital river is flowing our way.”

In the either/or equation that seems to be our energy future, the capital river is rushing into the exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels, while it’s slowing to a trickle in the world of the true unconventionals — the energy sources that don’t add carbon to the atmosphere. This, indeed, was the conclusion reached by the IEA, which in 2012 warned that the seemingly inexorable growth in greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide is likely to eliminate all prospect of averting the worst effects of climate change.

Petro Machismo

The new energy euphoria is also fueling a growing sense that the American superpower, whose influence has recently seemed to be on the wane, may soon acquire fresh geopolitical clout through its mastery of the latest energy technologies. “America’s new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength,” crowed National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in an April address at Columbia University. Increased domestic energy output, he explained, will help reduce U.S. vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price hikes. “It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

A new elite consensus is forming around the strategic advantages of expanded oil and gas production. In particular, this outlook holds that the U.S. is benefiting from substantially reduced oil imports from the Middle East by eliminating a dependency that has led to several disastrous interventions in that region and exposed the country to periodic disruptions in oil deliveries, starting with the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74. “The shift in oil sources means the global supply system will become more resilient, our energy supplies will become more secure, and the nation will have more flexibility in dealing with crises,” Yergin wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

This turnaround, he and other experts claim, is what allowed Washington to adopt a tougher stance with Tehran in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. With the U.S. less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, so goes the argument, American leaders need not fear Iranian threats to disrupt the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf to international markets. “The substantial increase in oil production in the United States,” Donilon declared in April, is what allowed Washington to impose tough sanctions on Iranian oil “while minimizing the burdens on the rest of the world.”

A stance of what could be called petro machismo is growing in Washington, underlying such initiatives as the president’s widely ballyhooed policy announcement of a “pivot” from the Middle East to Asia (still largely words backed by only the most modest of actions) and efforts to constrain Russia’s international influence.

Ever since Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency of that country, Moscow has sought to sway the behavior of its former Warsaw Pact allies and the former republics of the Soviet Union by exploiting its dominant energy role in the region. It offered cheap natural gas to governments willing to follow its policy dictates, while threatening to cut off supplies to those that weren’t. Now, some American strategists hope to reduce Russia’s clout by helping friendly nations like Poland and the Baltic states develop their own shale gas reserves and build LNG terminals. These would allow them to import gas from “friendly” states, including the U.S. (once its LNG export capacities are expanded). “If we can export some natural gas to Europe and to Japan and other Asian nations,” Karen Moreau suggested in February, “we strengthen our relationships and influence in those places — and perhaps reduce the influence of other producers such as Russia.”

The crucial issue is this: if American elites continue to believe that increased oil and gas production will provide the U.S. with a strategic advantage, Washington will be tempted to exercise a “stronger hand” when pursuing its “international security goals.” The result will undoubtedly be heightened international friction and discord.

Is the Euphoria Justified?

There is no doubt that the present fossil fuel euphoria will lead in troubling directions, even if the rosy predictions of rising energy output are, in the long run, likely to prove both unreliable and unrealistic. The petro machismo types make several interconnected claims:

* The world’s fossil fuel reserves are vast, especially when “unconventional” sources of fuel — Canadian tar sands, shale gas, and the like — are included.

* The utilization of advanced technologies, especially fracking, will permit the effective exploitation of a significant share of these untapped reserves (assuming that governments don’t restrict fracking and other controversial drilling activities).

* Fossil fuels will continue to supply an enormous share of global energy requirements for the foreseeable future, even given rising world temperatures, growing public opposition, and other challenges.

Each of these assertions is packed with unacknowledged questions and improbabilities that are impossible to explore thoroughly in an article of this length. But here are some major areas of doubt.

To begin with, those virtually “boundless” untapped oil reserves have yet to be systematically explored, meaning that it’s impossible to know if they do, in fact, contain commercially significant reserves of oil and gas. To offer an apt example, the U.S. Geological Survey, in one of the most widely cited estimates of untapped energy reserves, has reported that approximately 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% percent of its natural gas lie above the Arctic Circle. But this assessment is based on geological analyses of rock samples, not exploratory drilling. Whether the area actually holds such large reserves will not be known until widespread drilling has occurred. So far, initial Arctic drilling operations, like those off Greenland, have generally proved disappointing.

Similarly, the Energy Information Administration has reported that China possesses vast shale formations that could harbor substantial reserves of oil and gas. According to a 2013 EIA survey, that country’s technically recoverable shale gas reserves are estimated at 1,275 trillion cubic feet, more than twice the figure for the United States. Once again, however, the real extent of those reserves won’t be known without extensive drilling, which is only in its beginning stages.

To say, then, that global reserves are “boundless” is to disguise all the hypotheticals lurking within that description. Reality may fall far short of industry claims.

The effectiveness of new technologies in exploiting such problematic reserves is also open to question. True, fracking and other unconventional technologies have already substantially increased the production of hard-to-exploit fuels, including tar sands, shale gas, and deep-sea reserves. Many experts predict that such gains are likely to be repeated in the future. The EIA, for example, suggests that U.S. output of shale oil via fracking will jump by 221% over the next 15 years, and natural gas by 164%. The big question, however, is whether these projected increases will actually come to fruition. While early gains are likely, the odds are that future growth will come at a far slower pace.

As a start, the most lucrative U.S. shale formations in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Texas have already experienced substantial exploration and many of the most attractive drilling sites (or “plays”) are now fully developed. More fracking, no doubt, will release additional oil and gas, but the record shows that fossil-fuel output tends to decline once the earliest, most promising reservoirs are exploited. In fact, notes energy analyst Art Berman, “several of the more mature shale gas plays are either in decline or appear to be approaching peak production.”

Doubts are also multiplying over the potential for exploiting shale reserves in other parts of the world. Preliminary drilling suggests that many of the shale formations in Europe and China possess fewer hydrocarbons and will be harder to develop than those now being exploited in this country. In Poland, for example, efforts to extract domestic shale reserves have been stymied by disappointing drilling efforts and the subsequent departure of major foreign firms, including Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil.

Finally, there is a crucial but difficult to assess factor in the future energy equation: the degree to which energy companies and energy states will run into resistance when exploiting ever more remote (and environmentally sensitive) resource zones. No one yet knows how much energy industry efforts may be constrained by the growing opposition of local residents, scientists, environmentalists, and others who worry about the environmental degradation caused by unconventional energy extraction and the climate consequences of rising fossil fuel combustion. Despite industry claims that fracking, tar sands production, and Arctic drilling can be performed without endangering local residents, harming the environment, or wrecking the planet, ever more people are coming to the opposite conclusion — and beginning to take steps to protect their perceived interests.

In New York State, for example, a fervent anti-fracking oppositional movement has prevented government officials from allowing such activities to begin in the rich Marcellus shale formation, one of the largest in the world. Although Albany may, in time, allow limited fracking operations there, it is unlikely to permit large-scale drilling throughout the state. Similarly, an impressive opposition in British Columbia to the proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline, especially by the native peoples of the region, has put that project on indefinite hold. And growing popular opposition to fracking in Europe is making itself felt across the region. The European Parliament, for example, recently imposed tough environmental constraints on the practice.

As heat waves and extreme storm activity increase, so will concern over climate change and opposition to wholesale fossil fuel extraction. The IEA warned of this possibility in the 2012 edition of its World Energy Outlook. Shale gas and other unconventional forms of natural gas are predicted to provide nearly half the net gain in world gas output over the next 25 years, the report noted. “There are,” it added, “also concerns about the environmental impact of producing unconventional gas that, if not properly addressed, could halt the unconventional gas revolution in its tracks.”

Reaction to that IEA report last November was revealing. Its release prompted a mini-wave of ecstatic commentary in the American media about its prediction that, thanks to the explosion in unconventional energy output, this country would soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer. In fact, the fossil fuel craze can be said to have started with this claim. None of the hundreds of articles and editorials written on the subject, however, bothered to discuss the caveats the report offered or its warnings of planetary catastrophe.

As is so often the case with mass delusions, those caught up in fossil fuel mania have not bothered to think through the grim realities involved. While industry bigwigs may continue to remain on an energy high, the rest of us will not be so lucky. The accelerated production and combustion of fossil fuels can have only one outcome: a severely imperiled planet.
Copyright 2013 Michael T. Klare
Michael T. Klare

Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. His newest book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, has just recently been published. His other books include: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum. A documentary version of that book is available from the Media Education Foundation.

The Hill: Shutdown delays BP lawsuit over federal contracts freeze & New York Daily News: Former Halliburton manager pleads guilty to destroying evidence of BP’s massive oil spill

The Hill: Shutdown delays BP lawsuit over federal contracts freeze
By Ben Geman – 10/14/13 07:08 AM ET

A federal court has extended the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) looming deadline to respond to BP’s lawsuit challenging the freeze on winning new federal contracts that the agency imposed over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The EPA had faced an Oct. 15 deadline to respond to the lawsuit but asked for a stay last week, citing the lapse in funding for the Justice Department during the government shutdown.

On Friday, Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted the EPA’s motion. She extended all deadlines in the case “commensurate with the duration of the lapse in appropriations” that began Oct. 1. BP, a major fuel supplier to the U.S. military, sued the EPA in August to end its ongoing suspension from winning new federal procurement contracts.

The EPA imposed the suspension in late 2012, shortly after BP’s $4.5 billion plea agreement to resolve criminal and securities claims, citing the oil giant’s “lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct” in the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Former Halliburton manager pleads guilty to destroying evidence of BP’s massive oil spill

Anthony Badalamenti, the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., faces a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine after prosecutors charged he instructed two employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP’s blown-out Macondo well.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2013, 12:24 PM

NEW ORLEANS – A former Halliburton manager pleaded guilty Tuesday to destroying evidence in the aftermath of the deadly rig explosion that spawned BP’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Anthony Badalamenti, 62, of Katy, Texas, faces a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine after his guilty plea in U.S. District Court to one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence. His sentencing by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey is set for Jan. 21.

Badalamenti was the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., BP’s cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Prosecutors said he instructed two Halliburton employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP’s blown-out Macondo well.

Last month, a federal judge accepted a separate plea agreement calling for Halliburton to pay a $200,000 fine for a misdemeanor stemming from Badalamenti’s conduct. Halliburton also agreed to be on probation for three years and to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, but that payment was not a condition of the deal.

The April 20, 2010, rig explosion killed 11 workers and led to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

In May 2010, according to prosecutors, Badalamenti directed a senior program manager to run computer simulations on centralizers, which are used to keep the casing centered in the wellbore. The results indicated there was little difference between using six or 21 centralizers. The data could have supported BP’s decision to use the lower number.

Badalamenti is accused of instructing the program manager to delete the results. The program manager “felt uncomfortable” about the instruction but complied, according to prosecutors.

A different Halliburton employee also deleted data from a separate round of simulations at the direction of Badalamenti, who was acting without company authorization, prosecutors said.

Halliburton notified investigators from a Justice Department task force about the deletion of data. Efforts to recover the data weren’t successful.

Badalamenti wasn’t the first individual charged with a crime stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but he is the first to plead guilty.

BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine await a trial next year on manslaughter charges stemming from the rig workers’ deaths. They botched a key safety test and disregarded abnormally high pressure readings that were glaring signs of trouble before the well blowout, prosecutors say.

Former BP executive David Rainey is charged with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was spewing from the blown-out well in 2010. Former BP engineer Kurt Mix is charged with deleting text messages and voicemails about the company’s response to the spill.

Two floors down from the courtroom where Badalamenti pleaded guilty, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is presiding over a trial for spill-related civil litigation. For the trial’s second phase, Barbier is hearing dueling estimates from experts for BP and the federal government about the amount of oil that spewed into the Gulf.

Read more:

Fuelfix: Report: US oil growth having limited effect on energy security

Posted on October 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

WASHINGTON – The United States may soon claim the throne as the world’s top crude and gas producer, but America’s dependence on oil leaves the nation at risk, according to a global energy security assessment issued Monday.

According to the analysis by Roubini Global Economics and Securing America’s Future Energy, the nation’s heavy reliance on petroleum fuels threatens to undo U.S. gains in efficiency and oil and gas production.

“Heavy oil dependence still renders the country highly vulnerable to price fluctuations in the short-to-medium term, particularly as economic growth – and fuel demand – recovers,” according to the report.

While physical supplies of oil may be more dependable in the United States – particularly with hydraulic fracturing allowing production of newly recoverable crude and gas resources – the nation’s overall dependence on oil and inefficient use of it leaves the economy “exposed to high and volatile oil prices.”

Of 13 countries evaluated in the report, the United States ranks No. 5, behind Canada and the relatively oil efficient nations of Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. The United States effectively climbed in the rankings ahead of Australia, Brazil, China and other countries because of its relatively high levels of domestic oil production, which helped make up for bottom-tier scores tied to consumption.

SAFE CEO Robbie Diamond said the oil security index underscores that “the path to true oil security is not paved by production alone.” Even despite the domestic oil boom, U.S. oil security is “only middle-of-the-road,” he said.

The disconnect between oil production and security also are illustrated by Saudia Arabia’s dead-last position, at No. 13. Like the United States, the oil-rich nation is a big consumer of crude. Saudia Arabia’s long status as a leading global oil producer also means the country is heavily dependent on crude exports for revenue.

The report’s release kicks off a week of events tied to the 40th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo. An interactive online version of the oil security index allows users to dig into quarterly data and rankings dating back to 2000.

Overall, countries were assessed for their structural dependency on oil, their economic exposure to oil price volatility and their vulnerability to physical supply disruptions.
For instance, analysts evaluated the structural importance of oil in individual countries by looking at per-person fuel consumption and the volume of oil consumed per unit of gross domestic product.

The economic exposure was assessed by looking at total spending on oil and net oil imports as a percentage of GDP, among other factors. In analyzing supply security, Roubini Global Economics looked not only at how vulnerable countries were to physical supply disruptions but also their capabilities to respond, such as by tapping emergency inventories.

Low fuel demand wasn’t enough to secure a high spot. While India has the lowest fuel consumption per person of all the nations assessed in the report, it is near the bottom of the rankings because of the country’s oil consumption and spending.

Nouriel Roubini, chairman of the group, said the security index is meant to capture a range of diverse factors affecting how nations might be affected by changes in oil supply and demand.

“Changes in the supply and cost of oil, and the demand for it, impact individual nations in different ways due to unique national strengths, weaknesses, advantages, and disadvantages,” Roubini said.

Some of the report’s findings about the United States dovetail with warnings from lawmakers that the U.S. can attain energy security but will never be truly energy independent. Oil prices are still set globally, so even soaring domestic production means that when prices climb, Americans get hit with the added cost too.

A report issued last month concluded that the United States’ rigid dependence on oil to fuel cars and trucks meant that Americans kept buying the stuff over the past decade, even as prices rose, at a cost of $1.2 trillion in additional federal debt.

Here are how 13 nations stacked up in the oil security index, from most secure to most vulnerable:
1. Japan
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Germany
5. United States
6. South Africa
7. Australia
8. Brazil
9. China
10. Mexico
11. India
12. Russia
13. Saudi Arabia

Common Dreams: Chevron Retaliation Trial Opens Against Victims of Pollution in Ecuador Protestors rally for justice in Ecuador; Decry Chevron’s abuses Protest in Foley Square, New York City: 9 am Tues., Oct. 15th


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 14, 2013 1:53 PM
CONTACT: Amazon Watch

Paul Paz y Miño, 510-773-4635,
Caroline Bennett, 510-520-9390,
Han Shan, 914-418-4133,

NEW YORK – October 14 – Tomorrow (Tuesday) Ecuadorian villagers from the Amazon rainforest region ravaged by Chevron’s oil contamination will join supporters for a large rally in Foley Square across from the courthouse where a trial will open in the California-based oil giant’s retaliatory RICO lawsuit against the Ecuadorians and their U.S. based legal advocates.

The Ecuadorians are representing 30,000 plaintiffs who won a landmark judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadorian court in 2011 in which the company was ordered to pay more than $18 billion for cleanup of widespread contamination, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The case holding Chevron accountable for toxic dumping by its predecessor company, Texaco, has been upheld by appellate courts in Ecuador.

After nearly 20 years since the case was filed in 1993, Chevron refuses to pay for a cleanup and is waging a scorched earth legal, PR, and lobbying campaign to crush its victims and their advocates and supporters. The oil giant stripped its assets from the country, forcing the Ecuadorians to pursue enforcement of the judgment in countries where the company maintains assets.

“This trial is merely Chevron’s latest cynical ploy to evade accountability for its crimes in Ecuador,” said Paul Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch. “Chevron’s legacy in the Amazon has caused enough environmental ruin and human suffering already; it’s time the company to pay for a cleanup, rather than for more abusive efforts to run from its responsibility.”

Villagers from the Ecuadorian Amazon living amidst hundreds of Chevron’s abandoned toxic waste pits that litter the region will gather along with supporters to speak out at the protest in Foley Square. The rally is being organized by members of New York’s large Ecuadorian community, along with human rights supporters and environmental activists who will be supporting them with a massive ‘Lady Justice’ figure and other visuals.

Forty-seven ‘named plaintiffs’ – all of them indigenous rainforest residents and rural villagers – who represent tens of thousands of affected people have been named in Chevron’s lawsuit, which alleges that the entire case is a conspiracy to extort the company. Two of the Ecuadorian villagers have accepted personal jurisdiction in the case in order to fight the allegations. Fearing a public backlash for suing victims of its pollution, Chevron has focused its smear campaign on New York-based human rights attorney Steven Donziger, who has advised the Ecuadorians in their efforts since first visiting the contaminated region in 1993.

“I lost two children to Texaco’s pollution and the company now calls me a criminal for daring to demand justice,” said Emergildo Criollo, a leader of the Cofan indigenous tribe in whose ancestral lands the oil company first explored for oil in 1964. “Since the company arrived, our culture has been decimated, our children poisoned, our rainforest ruined, and Chevron dares to call us criminals?”

The Ecuadorians and their supporters have called for an end to Chevron’s retaliatory lawsuit, and are calling this latest effort a “rigged show trial” before a federal judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, who has displayed outright hostility to the Ecuadorians’ legal efforts to demand a cleanup. Judge Kaplan has also made repeated disparaging on the record comments about Ecuador’s judicial system.

Texaco operated in Ecuador until 1992, and Chevron absorbed the company in 2001, assuming all of its predecessor’s assets and liabilities.

Chevron has admitted to dumping nearly 16 billion gallons of toxic wastewater – the byproduct of oil drilling and pumping – into rivers and streams relied upon by thousands of people for drinking, bathing, and fishing. The company also abandoned hundreds of unlined, open waste pits filled with crude, sludge, and oil drilling chemicals throughout the inhabited rainforest region. In other countries at the same time as it was operating with no environmental controls in Ecuador, the company re-injected wastewater, and used easily-deployed technology to deal with toxic byproducts of its oil drilling.

Multiple independent health studies have shown an epidemic of oil-related birth defects, cancers, and other illness. It is estimated that the contamination has directly led to at least 1,400 deaths.

More Information:


Amazon Watch is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. We partner with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the Amazon’s ecological systems

Common Dreams: Over 865,200 Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public in Dark for Days Due to Government Shutdown

Published on Friday, October 11, 2013 by DeSmogBlog

by Steve Horn

Over 20,600 barrels of oil fracked from the Bakken Shale has spilled from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in Tioga, North Dakota in one of the biggest onshore oil spills in recent U.S. history.

Though the spill occurred on September 29, the U.S. National Response Center – tasked with responding to chemical and oil spills – did not make the report available until October 8 due to the ongoing government shutdown.

“The center generally makes such reports available on its website within 24 hours of their filing, but services were interrupted last week because of the U.S. government shutdown,” explained Reuters.

The “Incident Summaries” portion of the National Response Center’s website is currently down, and the homepage notes, “Due to [the] government shutdown, some services may not be available.”

At more than 20,600 barrels – equivalent to 865,200 gallons – the spill was bigger than the April 2013 ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline spill, which spewed 5,000-7,000 barrels of tar sands into a residential neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas.

So far, only 1,285 barrels have been cleaned, and the oil is spread out over a 7.3 acre land mass.

Kris Roberts, environmental geologist for the North Dakota Department of Health Division of Water Quality told the Williston Herald, “the leak was caused by a hole that deteriorated in the side of the pipe.”

“No water, surface water or ground water was impacted,” he said. “They installed monitoring wells to ensure there is no impact now or that there is going to be one.”

Roberts also told the Herald he was impressed with Tesoro’s handling of the cleanup.

“They’ve responded aggressively and quickly,” Roberts commented, also noting that the cleanup will cost upward of $4 million. “Sometimes we’ve had to ask companies to do what they did right off the mark. They’re going at this aggressively and they know they have a problem and they know what they need to do about it.”

Tesoro Logistics Chairman and CEO Greg Goff also weighed in on the spill.

“Protection and care of the environment are fundamental to our core values, and we deeply regret any impact to the landowner,” said Goff in a press release. “We will continue to work tirelessly to fully remediate the release area.”
Pipeline to Albany Refinery, Barging on the Hudson

Tesoro’s six-inch pipeline was carrying oil obtained via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process to the Stampede, ND rail facility. From Stampede, Canadian Pacific’s freight trains take the oil piped from Tesoro’s pipeline and ship it to an Albany, NY holding facility by Global Partners located along the Hudson River.

Albany, NY Global Partners Facility; Image Credit: Google Maps

“Over five years, the equivalent of roughly 91 million barrels of oil will be transported via CP’s rail network from a loading facility in Stampede, N.D., to a Global terminal in Albany,” explained a September story appearing in the Financial Post.

Albany’s holding facility received its first Canadian Pacific shipment from the Bakken Shale in December 2011, according to Bloomberg, with 1.4 million barrels of storage capacity. The facility receives 149,000-157,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day from Canadian Pacific.

Once shipped to Global’s Albany holding facility, much of the oil is barged to market on tankers along the Hudson from the Port of Albany.

“As much as a quarter of the shale oil being produced in North Dakota could soon be headed by rail to the Port of Albany,” explained an April 2012 article appearing in the Albany Times-Union. “The crude oil…will be loaded onto barges to be shipped down the Hudson River to refineries along the East Coast.”
North Dakota Petroleum Council Responds

North Dakota Petroleum Council’s response to the largest fracked oil spill in U.S. history and one of the biggest onshore spills in U.S. history? Ho-hum.

“You know, this is an industrial business and sometimes things happen and the companies are certainly responsible to take care of these things when they happen,” Petroleum Council President Ron Ness told KQCD.

John Berger, Manager of Tesoro’s Mandan, ND, refinery, sits on the Petroleum Council’s Board of Directors.

DeSmogBlog will post continuing updates on the spill: stay tuned.

Photo Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Wikimedia Commons
© 2013 DeSmogBlog blog

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty: Russia: Families Say Detained Greenpeace Crew ‘Ordinary, Peaceful People’ & Interview: Greenpeace Head Says Biggest Crime Is Arctic Drilling

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Russia: Families Say Detained Greenpeace Crew ‘Ordinary, Peaceful People’

By Claire Bigg and Aleksandra Vagner
October 11, 2013

When her husband left for the Arctic last month to cover a Greenpeace protest against offshore oil drilling, Alina Zhiganova watched him go with a heavy heart.

She knew the reporting trip would keep him away from home for several weeks.

But neither of them suspected how dramatically the protest would end for all those involved, including for Zhiganova’s husband, distinguished Russian photojournalist Denis Sinyakov.

On September 19, Russian authorities detained all 30 people on board Greenpeace’s icebreaker, “Arctic Sunrise,” and charged them with piracy for attempting to stage a protest on an oil platform owned by Gazprom.

The defendants, many of whom are foreigners, have all been remanded in custody for two months pending trial.

They face up to 15 years in prison.

Zhiganova was able to pay a brief visit to her husband at his pretrial detention center in the northern Russian city of Murmansk.

What she saw deeply alarmed her.

“He’s holding his head high,” Zhiganova says, “but as someone who has known him for a long time, I can see that he’s not well at all. He has lost a lot of weight. He has huge black circles under his eyes. You can tell he’s having a hard time.”

‘The Death Of Freedom Of Speech’

A court in Murmansk denied bail to Sinyakov on October 8, saying he was a flight risk although he and Zhiganova have a 3-year-old son.

Speaking by videolink from his detention center, he told the court that he had only been covering the protest as a journalist and that his prosecution “spells the death of freedom of speech in Russia.”

At the same hearing, a Greenpeace spokesman and the doctor onboard the “Arctic Sunrise” were also denied bail.

Sinyakov had been documenting the protest for the Russian news website and also took pictures for Greenpeace on a freelance basis.

Another freelance journalist, British national Kieron Bryan remains in detention after the court turned down his bail appeal on October 11.

The charges of piracy leveled against the environmental activists and the two reporters, widely denounced as disproportionate, have sparked a barrage of criticism worldwide.

Under Greenpeace’s plan, two activists who began to scale the Gazprom platform were to unfurl a banner reading “Don’t Kill the Arctic.”

Russian Coast Guard personnel eventually descended onto the ship from helicopters and threatened the crew with guns before towing the vessel to Murmansk.

The group says it had no plan to take control of the platform and that its ship was in international waters when it was seized.

Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace International, described all 30 detainees as prisoners of conscience and demanded a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

INTERVIEW: RFE/RL Speaks With Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo

In Russia, Sinyakov’s jailing has caused particular dismay.

Fellow journalists have rallied to his defense, staging pickets, launching petitions, and publishing black squares in place of photographs on their websites as a sign of solidarity.
More than 300 journalists sent a note to the court in Murmansk calling for his release.

They say his prosecution sets a dangerous precedent that could embolden authorities to punish reporters simply for covering protests critical of Kremlin policies.

Putin’s own human rights council condemned Sinyakov’s detention as “a crude violation of the law on mass media” and noted that journalists covering news events “cannot bear responsibility for the actions of those participating in this event.”

Zhiganova, however, says her husband is all but cut off from the outside world and was unaware of the campaign until his lawyer briefed him during a recent prison visit.

“Denis did not know about what was going on in Moscow — about the protests, about the fact that newspapers were publishing black squares instead of photos,” she says. “He didn’t know any of that. He is isolated from society. He’s in pretrial detention together with criminals and, apart from his lawyers, he has no contact with anyone.”

Agonizing Separation

For the families of foreign activists detained on the “Arctic Sunrise” the separation has been just as agonizing.
Anita Litvinov, the wife of Swedish national Dmitry Litvinov, says she is currently waiting for a Russian visa to visit him in detention.
Litvinov last spoke to her husband on September 19, when he called to congratulate their son on his 14th birthday. The couple lives in Stockholm and has two other children.

Since then, the family has received only sporadic news from him through the Swedish Embassy in Russia.

“Based on everything I hear, I’m very, very worried, and very anxious,” she told RFE/RL. “I’m very eager to have him back home.”

Anita Litivnov stresses that Greenpeace has a long history of nonviolent protests.

Last month’s stunt at the Gazprom oil platform, she says, was no exception:

“I know my husband and I know some of the other people who were on the ‘Arctic Sunrise,'” she said. “They are ordinary peaceful people. They wanted to draw attention to a problem that is connected to environmental pollution and global warming. Their intentions are, and have always been, peaceful.”
EXPLAINER: Five Things To Know About Russia’s Greenpeace Drama

Some observers believe that Russian authorities are seeking to deter Greenpeace from staging further protests in the Arctic — which Russia wants to turn into its top source of oil and gas over the next decade – and that the activists will soon be released.

Putin has defended their detention. But he has also said the activists were not pirates, fuelling hopes they would be spared jail sentences.
Sinyakov’s wife, at any rate, has no intention of giving up her battle to free him: “If I didn’t have hope, I would go mad.”


Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Interview: Greenpeace Head Says Biggest Crime Is Arctic Drilling

October 11, 2013

Russian authorities are keeping 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists in detention after the environmental group attempted to stage a protest against offshore oil drilling in the Arctic at a platform owned by Russia’s Gazprom. All 30 detainees have been charged with piracy.

RFE/RL’s Mark Krutov spoke to Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International.

RFE/RL: Greenpeace activists have been campaigning on environmental issues for decades now. What kind of legal issues have you run into over the years?

Naidoo: Probably the worst impact of any action taken against Greenpeace was the murder of one of our activists, Fernando Pereira, when French intelligence bombed the “Rainbow Warrior” 27 years ago in Auckland, New Zealand. We have had activists that have been in prison. In Copenhagen, for example, some of our activists were held for 21 days over Christmas and New Year’s.

We have activists who engage in peaceful protests around the world who often are arrested, but often the charge is trespassing and that usually carries a fine rather than prison time. The worst prison time, as far as I understand, that any of our colleagues have served is six months.

RFE/RL: Have piracy charges ever been leveled against Greenpeace activists?

Naidoo: We have never been charged with piracy. There have been cases where sometimes a government might start talking about piracy and then quite quickly realize that “these guys are peaceful, they are not armed, and they are not acting for personal gain, so therefore they don’t meet a lot of the basic definitions of piracy” and it’s struck.

RFE/RL: The Russian authorities accuse the activists of violating Russian and international law. You have expressed the desire to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. If Putin agrees to this meeting but makes it a precondition for the activists’ release that Greenpeace admits guilt, will you comply?

Naidoo: It depends [on] admitting the guilt for what, right? If it is to admit the guilt for piracy, definitely not.
Clearly, if we were to admit that we broke the law at the level of breaching the exclusion zone, for example, and to admit that — which is a violation — we would be happy to admit that. But to say that we tried to storm the rig, to say that we are pirates, and so on, and that we were risking property and people — all of which is not true — that we cannot honestly concede to, even if it means getting the people released.

The biggest crime being committed is the environmental crime of pursuing drilling in the Arctic for oil, when in fact the threats — of climate change on the one hand, but also to the environment of the Russian Arctic — [are] so potentially devastating that history will judge this is the biggest crime that went unpunished and unregulated.
RFE/RL: You have said that Greenpeace is not picking a fight with the Russian government and that your protest focused on Gazprom. Are you aware, though, of the close ties between Putin and Gazprom?

Naidoo: Yes, we are aware of that. But our focus is not on the presidency or the government per se. Our focus is on a company that, we believe, might be operating within the law, but is engaged in environmental destruction and will lead the planet to climate disaster.

Especially when just recently the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that we are running out of time, there has to be more urgency, and that known fossil fuel reserves — a significant chunk of it — [need] to stay underneath the ground where they are if we are to prevent runaway catastrophic climate change.

And runaway catastrophic climate change, just to be clear, means that life on this planet as we know it will be threatened and we will put at risk our [children’s] and grandchildren’s future. That’s what is at stake. And that is why the Artic is so important and that is why we have been taking these actions.

RFE/RL: Could you clarify the status of Russian national Denis Sinyakov, one of the two freelance journalists who were detained during Greenpeace’s protest last month. Can he be considered an activist, too?

Naidoo: The Greenpeace activists made a conscious decision — they knew that there are potential consequences whenever Greenpeace activists take action. But we don’t expect the journalists to get arrested. That’s why in my letter to President Putin I said that it’s not fair. As Denis said: “The crime I’m accused of is called journalism, and I will continue to do it.”

E&E: Green group warns feds that Calif. offshore fracking breaks the law

Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013

Hydraulic fracturing operations in the waters off California’s coast
break multiple environmental laws, a green group warned yesterday in a
letter to two federal agencies.

The Center for Biological Diversity asked the Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to
halt offshore operations that use unconventional drilling, including
the process known as fracking.

Oil and natural gas company operations in the Pacific Ocean need to go
through a supplemental National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
analysis, the letter said. That would look at potential threats to
environment and wildlife in the area, “which hosts the world’s densest
summer concentrations of blue whales,” Center for Biological Diversity

The agencies need to take corrective action or face a lawsuit from the
green group, said the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Oil companies are fracking California’s beautiful coastal waters with
dangerous chemicals, and federal officials seem barely aware of the
dangers,” Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney and director of the Center’s
oceans program, said in a statement. “We need an immediate halt to
offshore fracking before chemical pollution or an oil spill poisons the
whales and other wildlife that depend on California’s rich coastal

The Associated Press in August reported that companies including Venoco
Inc. and Chevron Corp. have fracked offshore wells. Federal regulators
have permitted at least a dozen instances of hydraulic fracturing in
the Pacific Ocean since the late 1990s, AP reported, citing federal
documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

At a California Coastal Commission meeting a week later, Brian Segee,
staff attorney with the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense
Center, said that most of the leases in question have existed for years
and have changed ownership several times. California bans new leases
for offshore drilling (EnergyWire, Aug. 16).

The center’s letter went to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Pacific
Region Director Ellen Aronson and Bureau of Safety and Environmental
Enforcement Pacific Region Director Jaron Ming. Neither immediately
responded to reporter inquiries sent after business hours local time in

The Western States Petroleum Association, a trade group for oil and
natural gas companies, also did not immediately reply to a request for
comment. WSPA, as it’s known, has argued that the California
Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, has not applied to onshore fracking

Kassie Siegel, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity,
said that NEPA applies to offshore fracking under the same theory used
in a recent lawsuit in California. In that case, a federal judge ruled
that the Bureau of Land Management improperly issued oil and gas leases
in California’s massive Monterey Shale without considering the effects
of hydraulic fracturing on leased lands (EnergyWire, April 9).

“That suit focused on onshore fracking on public land in central
California, but the judge made it clear that NEPA applies to fracking,”
Siegel said.

The Center for Biological Diversity subsequently filed a similar case.
It has been in settlement talks with BLM on the remedy in the first
case and on merits and remedy in the second case, said Brendan
Cummings, the CBD attorney in the case.

“As with onshore leases issued by BLM where the agency never looked at
fracking, offshore fracking has also never been analyzed in any NEPA
document, as fracking wasn’t considered at all in the old
[environmental impact statements] or [environmental assessments] for
the original lease sales, nor in the more recent, very cursory NEPA
done for more recent drilling permits on those leases,” Cummings said.

“Approving any offshore drilling that involves fracking without new
NEPA is unlawful, and this letter puts the agency on notice of such,”
he added.

Yesterday’s letter sent to the agencies said that under NEPA, agencies
not only must perform analyses prior to taking federal action but must
conduct supplemental review whenever “[t]here are significant new
circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and
bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.”

The green group also noted provisions in the Outer Continental Shelf
Lands Act (OCSLA).

“The Bureaus are required to ‘[p]revent damage to or waste of any
natural resource, property, or the environment,'” the letter said,
citing the law, “and have the authority to suspend ‘any operation or
activity, including production, pursuant to any lease or permit … if
there is a threat of serious, irreparable, or immediate harm or damage
to life (including fish and other aquatic life), to property … or to
the marine, coastal, or human environment.'”

Common Dreams: Shut It All Down: Report Calls for Nationwide Ban on Fracking

Published on Friday, October 4, 2013
Hydraulic fracturing gas drilling turning America’s water into cancer-causing, radioactive waste
– Jon Queally, staff writer

The explosion of hydraulic fracturing in the last several years, according to a new report, is creating a previously ‘unimaginable’ situation in which hundreds of billions of gallons of the nation’s fresh water supply are being annually transformed into unusable—sometimes radioactive—cancer-causing wastewater.

According to the report, Fracking by the Numbers, produced by Environment America, the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts betray all claims that natural gas is a “cleaner” or somehow less damaging alternative to other fossil fuels.

The report explores various ways in which gas fracking negatively impacts both human health and the environment, including the contamination of drinking water, overuse of scarce water sources, the effect of air pollution on public health, its connection to global warming, and the overall cost imposed on communities where fracking operations are located.

“The bottom line is this: The numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said John Rumpler, the report’s lead author and senior attorney for Environment America. “For our environment and for public health, we need to put a stop to fracking.”

In fact, the report concludes that in state’s where the practice is now occurring, immediate moratoriums should be enacted and in states where the practice has yet to be approved, bans should be legislated to prevent this kind of drilling from ever occurring.

Though the report acknowledges its too early to know the full the extent of the damage caused by the controversial drilling practice, it found that even a look at the “limited data” available—taken mostly from industry reports and government figures between 2005 and 2012—paints “an increasingly clear picture of the damage that fracking has done to our environment and health.”

So what are the numbers?

The report measured key indicators of fracking threats across the country, and found:

• 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012,
• 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year,
• 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005,
• 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005,
• 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005.

“The numbers don’t lie,” said Rumbpler. “Fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If this dirty drilling continues unchecked, these numbers will only get worse.”

The Environment America report comes on the heels of a study released by researchers at Duke University earlier this week that found a “surprising magnitude of radioactivity” in the local water near a fracking operation in Pennsylvania.

And ClimateProgress adds:

The report also pointed out the weaknesses of current wastewater disposal practices — wastewater is often stored in deep wells, but over time these wells can fail, leading to the potential for ground and surface water contamination. In New Mexico alone, chemicals from oil and gas pits have contaminated water sources at least 421 times, according to the report.

Those toxic chemicals are exempt from federal disclosure laws, so it’s up to each state to decide if and how the oil and gas companies should disclose the chemicals they use in their operations — which is why in many states, citizens don’t know what goes into the brew that fracking operators use to extract oil and natural gas. Luckily, some states are beginning to address this — California recently passed a law ordering fracking companies to make their chemicals public, an order similar to laws in about seven other states.

The report also noted the vast quantities of water needed for fracking — from 2 million to 9 million gallons on average to frack one well. Since 2005, according to the report, fracking operations have used 250 billion gallons of freshwater. This is putting a strain on places like one South Texas county, where fracking was nearly one quarter of total water use in 2011 — and dry conditions could push that amount closer to one-third.

In addition to the impact on surface and ground water supplies, fracking is a well-known contributor to global warming and numerous studies have shown that the methane emissions created by the extraction and transportation of natural gas far outweighs any benefit generated by its ability to burn “cleaner” than oil or coal.

Download or read the complete report here (pdf). EA_FrackingNumbers_scrn

Common Dreams: Oil Drilling in Planet’s Most Biodiverse Area Gets Green Light

Published on Friday, October 4, 2013
“Countless future generations will not understand why we carelessly destroyed the most biologically diverse areas of our planet, nor why we destroyed the indigenous cultures of people who lived in them.”
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A view of the Yasuní National Park. (Photo: sara y tzunky/cc/flickr)

Ecuador gave the OK on Thursday to oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park, an area some consider the most biodiverse place in the world.

The authorization by Ecuador’s parliament follows President Correa’s announcement in August that the country was abandoning an innovative conservation plan to use international funds to not drill in the Amazonian nature preserve.

Matt Finer, a scientist at the U.S.-based Center for International Environmental Law, had called the conservation initiative “the lone exception to the relentless expansion of hydrocarbon projects deeper into the most remote tracts of the western Amazon.”

Now, however, two areas of the reserve will be open for fossil fuel exploitation.

The plans to bail out of the conservation plan have been met with strong opposition, and Reuters reports that 680,000 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum.

In addition, over 100 scientists from around the globe have voiced opposition to the oil drilling plans, issuing a statement to the Ecuadoran government in which they warn of threats to biodiversity and isolated tribes in the area.

Among the points the “Scientists Concerned for Yasuní” list in their letter are that

There are 153 amphibian species documented for Yasuní National Park—”a world record at the landscape scale.”
“A single hectare of forest in Yasuní National Park is estimated to contain at least 100,000 arthropod species, approximately the same number of insect species as is found throughout all of North America. This represents the highest estimated biodiversity per unit area in the world for any taxonomic group.”
“Oil – related activities and contamination may impact the Giant Otter and Amazonian Manatee, two Threatened large aquatic mammals. Both species have been documented in the Tiputini and Yasuní Rivers, which would likely be the principal access routes and infrastructure sites for oil development in ITT and Block 31.”

“Countless future generations will not understand why we carelessly destroyed the most biologically diverse areas of our planet, nor why we destroyed the indigenous cultures of people who lived in them,” stated Stuart Pimm of Duke University. “Yasuní is exceptionally rich in species and home to diverse cultures— including some living in voluntary isolation. Its protection defends nature and peoples: destroying it would be a particular tragedy.”


Fox News: Joint U.S.-Mexico Gulf Oil Drilling Deal Held Up Over Disagreements In Congress

Published October 03, 2013Fox News Latino


Along with the budget and immigration, one more thing that the Senate and House can’t mutually agree upon is the proposed joint U.S.-Mexico effort to develop offshore oil and gas fields along the two countries’ maritime border in the Gulf of Mexico.

Both the Mexican government and many in Washington want to nail down the agreement soon, but its ratification by the U.S. Congress has been delayed by a dispute between the House and Senate over whether oil and gas producers should be required to publicly disclose their payments to foreign governments.

Mexico almost immediately ratified the treaty but the agreement has stalled on Capitol Hill as the House-passed version exempts oil and gas companies from disclosing their payments.
The U.S. and Mexico have tried for decades to figure out a plan for divvying up the oil and gas resources in the Gulf, but a 2000 moratorium was placed on drilling in the region to allow time for the development of a joint plan. From that point on, the U.S. began expanding its drilling operations closer and closer to the maritime border in the Gulf, as Mexico grew increasingly concerned that the U.S. could be siphoning from deposits located on their side of the border.

“It is the hope that, through this Agreement and the proposed energy reforms in Mexico, the energy revolution the U.S. is currently experiencing can extend throughout the Western Hemisphere,” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a statement Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “This would make our region more competitive and less reliant on politically tumultuous states for obtaining energy.”

The U.S. and Mexico have tried for decades to figure out a plan for divvying up the oil and gas resources in the Gulf, but a 2000 moratorium was placed on drilling in the region to allow time for the development of a joint plan. From that point on the U.S. began expanding its drilling operations closer and closer to the maritime border in the Gulf, as Mexico grew increasingly concerned that the U.S. could be siphoning from deposits located on their side of the border.

The joint agreement is meant to set explicit guidelines for where each country can drill and provide the United States “substantial geopolitical, energy security and environmental benefits, while potentially helping the U.S. oil and gas industry gain access to a huge market that may offer jobs and gains across a long value chain,” the Brookings Institution stated earlier this year.

For Mexico, a ratified agreement would provide Latin America’s second-largest economy with new technology and investment needed to develop hard-to-reach regions along with giving a major boost to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s push for energy reform that includes opening the country’s state-run oil company -Pemex – to foreign investment.

“The motive for the U.S. is ‘We’re ready to drill, but we don’t want to drill ourselves into a legal nightmare,'” said George Baker, publisher of Mexico Energy Intelligence, an industry newsletter based in Houston, according to the Christian Science Monitor. “For Mexico, it’s ‘We want to make certain our oil rights are protected so that if they start drilling on the U.S. side – and discover crossborder oil – we have architecture in place to protect our interests.”

Besides the exemptions for oil and gas companies, the specter of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill looms heavy over drilling in the Gulf. Environmental activists argue that the U.S. and oil companies have not learned their lessons from the BP spill that left 11 people dead and dumped around 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“[O]ur continued emphasis on expanding offshore drilling is slowing the necessary investment in clean energy projects that will stimulate the economy without the attendant risks, and help to alleviate the worst impacts of climate change,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. oceans at the conservation organization Oceana during Tuesday’s hearing.

If finally approved, the agreement will be the first major test to Peña Nieto’s energy reform plan. The Mexican leader has already taken heat for his proposal to open Pemex up to foreign investment – with opponents claiming the move is tantamount to Mexico losing its sovereignty.

If the agreement is not ratified by Congress by Jan. 17, 2014 then the moratorium in place will expire and it is unlikely that either country will drill in the region.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Cause: Nobel Laureates to EU: Classify Tar Sands Oil As ‘Dirty Fuel’ It Is

Published on Thursday, October 3, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Extraction of unconventional fuels is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change,’ say noted scientists and peace advocates
– Jon Queally, staff writer

There is no proposed pipeline to pump Canada’s tar sands oil direct to customers in Europe, but that hasn’t kept twenty-one Nobel Prize laureates from demanding the European Union make a stand against the dirty and damaging fuel source.

In a letter this week to the EU president José Manuel Barroso, EU ministers and heads of state, the prominent group of peace advocates and scientists implored the government leaders to enact a law that would classify the heavy bitumen that comes from tar sands mining as a dirtier fuel than conventional crude oil. Such a move, the letter argues, would provide incentives for cleaner energy choices within the EU and also help discourage further development of Canada’s destructive tar sands industry.

“The world can no longer ignore, except at our own peril, that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing life on this planet today,” the letter reads. “The impacts of climate change and extreme resource extraction are exacerbating conflicts and environmental destruction around the world. The extraction of unconventional fuels—such as oil sands and oil shale—is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change.”

The letter highlights the European Commission’s own scientific research which found that one of the unconventional fuel sources identified in the proposed policy, tar sands, produces an average of 23% more greenhouse gas emissions than average conventional oil.

On the particulars of the law the group is pressing on, The Guardian reports:

EU member states approved legislation in 2009, called the fuel quality directive, with the aim of cutting greenhouse gases from transport fuel sold in Europe by 6% by 2020.

In October 2011, the commission proposed detailed rules for implementing the law, including default values to rank fuels by their greenhouse gas output over their wells-to-wheels life cycle.

So far the commission has said it is standing by its value for tar sands – of 107 grams per megajoule – making it clear to buyers that the fuel source had more greenhouse gas impact than average crude oil at 87.5g.

Intense Canadian lobbying and an inconclusive EU vote on the law forced the commission to announce an assessment of the impact of the fuel quality directive in April 2012.

EU sources say the assessment has been concluded, but not yet made public, so the law is still in limbo.

The Canadians have argued the EU law discriminates against Canadian oil and have taken every opportunity to press their case.

The commission has said repeatedly it would stand firm on the law, but the pressure to weaken the measure is intense.

The full letter follows:

EU climate legislation and unconventional fossil fuels

The world can no longer ignore, except at our own peril, that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing life on this planet today. The impacts of climate change and extreme resource extraction are exacerbating conflicts and environmental destruction around the world. The extraction of unconventional fuels—such as oil sands and oil shale—is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change.

For this reason, we are writing to urge you to support the immediate implementation of the European Union’s (EU) Fuel Quality Directive in order to fulfill its 6% reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions from fuels used for transportation by 2020. We have no doubt that the Directive must be applied fairly to unconventional fuels to ensure their climate impacts are fully taken into account. It follows that the fuel-producing companies should report their climate emissions and be held responsible for any emissions increase.

We welcome the EU’s scientific analysis—as it is now proposed for the implementation of the EU Directive—that the extraction and production of fuels from unconventional sources fuels including oil sands, coal-to-liquid, and oil shale leads to higher emissions and that this should be reflected in the regulations.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and is concerned that these fuel sources are now increasingly competing on a par with conventional fuel sources. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the IEA calculates that two thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground.

Now is the time to transition swiftly away from fossil fuels, with a special focus on those that pollute the most. We must all move toward a future built on safe, clean and renewable energy. Fully implementing the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive will send a clear signal that the European Union is committed to action that supports the rights of future generations to a healthy planet.

It is not too late to avert our actions that only amount to palliative care for a dying planet. The time for positive action is now. The European Union can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership by upholding its climate principles. We look forward to working together as we move forward to confront this frightening challenge to our global survival.

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1976, Ireland

Roger Guillemin, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1977, France

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize 1980, Argentina

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize 1984, South Africa

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize, 1992, Guatemala

Richard Roberts, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1993, United Kingdom

Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1995, Netherlands

Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1996, United Kingdom

José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996, East Timor

John Walker, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1997, UK

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997, USA

John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize, 1998, Ireland

Paul Greengard, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2000, USA

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003, Iran

Gerhard Ertl, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2007, Germany

Mark Jaccard, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada

John Stone, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Peace Prize, 2007, Canada

Martin Chalfie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008, USA

Thomas Steitz, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009, USA

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Liberia

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize, 2011, Yemen


NBC News: Science- Fracking wastewater contaminated- and likely radioactive

Douglas Main LiveScience


Melanie Blanding

This water was contaminated by fracking operations in Pennsylvania.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, extracts oil and gas from deep underground by injecting water into the ground and breaking the rocks in which the valuable hydrocarbons are trapped. But it also produces wastewater high in certain contaminants – and which may be radioactive.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers found high levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in the water and sediments downstream from a fracking wastewater plant on Blacklick Creek in western Pennsylvania.

Among the most alarming findings was that downstream river sediments contain 200 times more radium than mud that’s naturally present upstream of the plant, said Avner Vengosh, a co-author of the study and a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University. Radium is a radioactive metal naturally found in many rocks; long-term exposure to large amounts of radium can cause adverse health effects and even diseases such as leukemia. [5 Everyday Things that Are Radioactive]

Contaminated waters
The concentrations of radium Vengosh and his team detected are higher than those found in some radioactive waste dumps, and exceed the minimum threshold the federal government uses to qualify a disposal site as a radioactive dump site, Vengosh told LiveScience. While the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility removes some of the radium from the wastewater, the metal accumulates in the sediment, at dangerously high levels, he added. Radium can make its way into the food chain by first accumulating in insects and small animals, and then moving on to larger animals, like fish, when they consume the insects and smaller animals, Vengosh added. But it’s not known to what extent this is happening, since this study didn’t address that question, he said.

For two years, the team monitored sediments and river water above and below the treatment plant, as well as the discharge coming directly from the plant, for various contaminants and levels of radioactivity. In the discharge and downstream water, researchers found high levels of chloride, sulfate and bromide.
Levels of salinity in the plant’s discharge were up to 200 times higher than what is allowed under the Clean Water Act – and 10 times saltier than ocean water, Vengosh said. But fracking wastewater is exempt from that law, Vengosh said.

The high bromide concentrations that were found were particularly concerning, since bromide can react with chlorine and ozone – which is used to disinfect river water and produce drinking water – to yield highly toxic byproducts. But there’s no direct evidence that this has happened yet, Vengosh said.

Several of these contaminants, particularly radium and bromide, may be present in high enough concentrations to cause harm to human health and the environment, but that wasn’t addressed in this study, Vengosh said.

“The occurrence of radium is alarming – this is a radioactive constituent that is likely to increase rates of genetic mutation” and poses “a significant radioactive health hazard for humans,” said William Schlesinger, a researcher and president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, N.Y., who wasn’t involved in the study.

Researchers say they are sure the contaminants are coming from fracking because the Josephine facility treats this oil and gas wastewater, and the water contains the same chemical signature as rocks in the Marcellus Shale Formation, Vengosh said. This wastewater is often called “flowback,” as it’s the water that flows back to the surface from underground after being injected into rocks in the fracking process.

In Pennsylvania, some of this water is transported by oil and gas companies to treatment locations such as the Josephine facility, where it is processed and released into streams and rivers. However, much of the water used in fracking is treated by oil and gas companies and reused, or injected into deep wells, said Lisa Kasianowitz, an information specialist at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The treatment facility did remove some contaminants, including some of the radium, though enough made it through to accumulate in high levels in sediments, Vengosh said. It also “did nothing” to remove certain salts, like bromide, he said. Traditional wastewater plants are not built to remove these contaminants, he added.

The study “really seals the verdict that it’s flowback waters that are contaminating the streams,” Schlesinger told LiveScience.

The Pennsylvania DEP confirmed that the Josephine facility is accepting and discharging “conventional oil and gas wastewater in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations,” Kasianowitz said.

Vengosh said that the research suggests that similar contamination may be happening in other locations with discharge of fracking wastewater throughout the Marcellus Shale formation, which underlies parts of Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio.

Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.

fracking 2
Plants that treat oil and gas wastewater are shown in red. The Josephine water treatment plant is shown in black.
Special thanks to Richard Charter UPDATE 1-Oil, gas firms begin to shut U.S. Gulf production on storm threat

Thu Oct 3, 2013 12:36pm EDT

By Kristen Hays

Oct 3 (Reuters) – Energy companies in the Gulf of Mexico started shutting in production on Thursday and were evacuating some workers as Tropical Storm Karen headed toward a region producing nearly a fifth of daily U.S. oil output.

The National Hurricane Center expected the storm to move through one of the most productive areas of the Gulf to reach the Gulf Coast between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle over the weekend. It said the storm could become a hurricane before hitting the coast.

In the Gulf Coast cash gasoline market, differentials surged about 3.00 cents per gallon on storm concerns, traders said. The Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 19 percent of U.S. daily oil production and about 6 percent of daily natural gas output, according to the U.S Energy Information Administration.

“All storm hype,” a Gulf refined products trader said on the rise in differentials, which came despite a 1.85-million-barrel inventory build last week in the well-supplied region.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp said it halted production at its Neptune platform, with capacity to produce up to 14,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil and 23 million cubic feet per day of natural gas.

Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell also were evacuating some workers, but said production was not affected.

Chevron did not say which installations were being partially evacuated, but all four of its platforms were in the projected path of the storm. Those include Tahiti, which can produce up to 125,000 bpd of oil and 70 million cubic feet a day of natural gas.

Shell also did not identify affected platforms, but five of the company’s six producing installations were in the storm’s projected path as well as its newest platform, Olympus, which was anchored in the Gulf in August. It is slated to start up next year.

Anadarko was also evacuating workers not essential to production from Neptune and other platforms, including the natural gas-only Independence Hub, with capacity to produce up to 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

The Independence Hub is at the easternmost part of the Gulf where oil and gas producers can operate, about 185 miles (297 km) southeast of New Orleans. It and much of Chevron, Shell and BP Plc’s operated platforms are in a Gulf area known as the Mississippi Canyon, which is home to much of the basin’s energy infrastructure.

BP said on Thursday it was continuing evacuations of some workers, but no production had been shut. ConocoPhillips, which operates a single platform far west of Mississippi Canyon, said on Thursday it did not expect any impact from Karen.

Onshore, a crude distillation unit at Chevron’s Pascagoula, Mississippi refinery with capacity of 210,000 bpd was shut early on Thursday, market intelligence service Genscape said, though the company did not confirm the stoppage or say if it was storm-related.

Phillips 66, Shell and Motiva Enterprises also said their refineries in Texas and Louisiana were monitoring the storm.

Destin Pipeline Co LLC on Thursday declared force majeure because it was unable to provide natural gas services from its offshore Gulf of Mexico receipt points due to Tropical Storm Karen. The pipeline receives output from some BP platforms, including Thunder Horse.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Voice of America News: Greenpeace Crackdown Part of Moscow’s Arctic Cold War?

James Brooke
September 30, 2013

SALEKHARD, RUSSIA – Icy blasts of water greeted Greenpeace protesters climbing Russia’s lone offshore oil platform in the Arctic.

Then, Russian police fired warning shots.

And then arrested 30 activists.Today, 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists from the ship are serving 2 months detention terms in Murmansk, where their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, also is impounded.

Greenpeace Russia lawyer Anton Beneslavski says last year there were no legal penalties after Greenpeace boarded the same platform and unfurled a protest banner.

He said that last year, border police never reacted. This year, police are accusing Greenpeace of piracy.

But Russia is increasingly flexing its muscles in its vast Arctic region.

In September, Russia’s only nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser led a flotilla to the Novosibirsk Islands, where Russian soldiers reopened a military base that had been closed 20 years ago.

As Arctic ice melts more, the base will check on ships passing in summer.

Last summer, China’s first icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, made the Arctic passage. This summer, the first Chinese freighter passed over the top of Russia.

Last May, at a meeting in Sweden, the Arctic Council admitted China as an observer.

That meeting also drew Greenpeace protesters. They called for a ban on drilling and mining in the fragile Arctic environment.

Recently, at Salekhard, a Russian city on the Arctic Circle, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at an Arctic Forum. He rejected Greepeace’s protest tactics.

He said: “They are obviously not pirates, but formally, they did attempt to board the platform.”

After Putin spoke, Vera Orlova of the Russia Geographical Society told foreign reporters that their permits to visit the Russian Arctic had expired.

She said that it was an absolutely normal procedure for reporters to receive permits to visit Salekhard for only the two days of the conference.

No other nation restricts visits to its Arctic cities. But Putin’s Russia is taking the road of more and more government controls.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

FuelFix: Feds to release new rules for offshore emergency equipment this year

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The blowout preventer stack (right) and lower marine riser stack (left) from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill (AP file photo/Gerald Herbert)

The nation’s top offshore drilling regulator said he hopes to unveil new requirements for blowout preventers by Dec. 31, nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster revealed vulnerabilities in the emergency devices.

The hulking devices sit atop wells and can be activated in an emergency to cut drill pipe and block off the hole, trapping oil and gas inside. But a forensic investigation of the blowout preventer used at BP’s failed Macondo well concluded that a powerful rush of oil and gas caused drill pipe to buckle and shift, ultimately preventing powerful shearing rams on the device from cutting the pipe and sealing the hole.

In response, the nation’s three main blowout preventer manufacturers are developing and selling newly robust shearing rams and other designs to slash through thick pipe connections and debris. But a new federal rule would give those voluntary changes the force of law.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement aims to issue those proposed requirements by the end of 2013, said agency director Brian Salerno.

“Blowout preventers are an integral part of the safety systems on drilling rigs,” Salerno said in a letter to Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, and other lawmakers. The safety bureau “is working to continue to advance blowout preventer improvements.”

In July, the lawmakers told the safety bureau they were concerned that regulators were “failing to provide clarity for rig operators” while preparing potentially “sweeping new rules” for blowout preventers.

Response ready: Spill containment system headed for Texas coast

Regulators at the safety bureau are likely to lay out specific performance standards for the devices, such as a mandate that they be capable of cutting through casing and drill pipe and effectively sealing a well. Officials could insist that companies use a second set of shearing rams, potentially boosting the odds of successfully cutting drill pipe – a method already being used by some operators in the Gulf of Mexico.

The measure also could require the use of real-time technologies that could aid in diagnosing problems or detecting unexplained surges of oil and gas.

Salerno said his agency is consulting with the manufacturers of blowout preventers and the oil companies that use them as it writes new requirements. The consultation officially began with a public forum in May 2012.

“BSEE has received significant input and specific recommendations from stakeholders, such as industry groups, operators, equipment manufacturers and environmental organizations,” Salerno said.

When a notice of proposed rule making is issued, Salerno said, stakeholders will have a chance to comment further.

Offshore operators say they want to make sure there is a sufficiently long on-ramp for compliance, with plenty of time to redesign blowout preventers and retrofit existing drilling rigs with the devices.

Regulators previously have vowed to give the oil industry plenty of time to adapt, especially given the prospect that requirements could hasten the retirement of some older industry equipment. For instance, a mandate for a second set of shear rams could grow the size of blowout preventers beyond the available space in some rig cellars at shallow-water operations.

The safety bureau is also drafting new standards for oil and gas activity in U.S. Arctic waters, with hopes to unveil that proposal by the end of the year.

(Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle)
Employees at National Oilwell Varco work on a lower blowout preventer stack (left) and lower marine riser package (right).

Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Jennifer A. Dlouhy covers energy policy, politics and other issues for The Houston Chronicle and other Hearst Newspapers from Washington, D.C. Previously, she reported on legal affairs for Congressional Quarterly. She also has worked at The Beaumont Enterprise, The San Antonio Express-News and other newspapers. Jennifer enjoys cooking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and toddler son.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Common Dreams: The Yes Men — Pipeline Company’s PR Dream Turns Into a Nightmare

September 30, 2013
12:21 PM

CONTACT: The Yes Men

TransCanada’s “community consultation” squad dogged by activist lookalikes

WASHINGTON – September 30 – In towns across Canada, troupes of mischievous activists are successfully derailing the attempts of TransCanada—the company building the stalled Keystone XL pipeline—to ram through their latest proposed project, the Energy East pipeline, which would bring over a million barrels of Tar Sands oil to the East Coast for export, primarily to Europe and Asia.

During previous pipeline projects, stakeholders were able to express concerns in front of their whole community. To impede the type of opposition that has stalled past projects, this time TransCanada has changed the format of community consultations, turning them into trade-show-like promotional events where stakeholders can only speak one-on-one with company representatives (or PR contractors hired for the occasion).

To outwit this latest ploy by TransCanada, local activists all along the pipeline route have been swarming these events dressed just like TransCanada reps, but with lookalike “SaveCanada” name tags and brochures. Instead of promoting the pipeline, the SaveCanada reps communicate risks.

“Since TransCanada has come up with a new way to lie to the public, we had to come up with a new way to tell the truth,” said North Bay farmer Yan Roberts, who helped to launch the unusual protest. “We’re friendly folks, so our solution is to dress like them, outnumber them, and ‘out-friendly’ them in every community they’re trying to scam.”

The series of SaveCanada actions began at TransCanada’s open house in North Bay, where roughly 30 TransCanada reps were surprised to see their meeting overwhelmed by newcomers wearing nearly identical shirts and also carrying slick PR materials, but with a twist.

Now, ten other towns have orchestrated their own versions of the prank. When TransCanada came to the Montréal area on September 24, members of the Québécois SaveCanada counterpart, “SansTransCanada,” nearly outnumbered the TransCanada reps. A Global TV segment even identified a SansTransCanada activist as a TransCanada rep.

The Montréal SaveCanada action came to a carnivalesque conclusion when attendees were invited to play “pin the bitumen spill on the pipeline” and a crowd formed around TransCanda’s large route map to see where the sticky-note spill would end up.

NASA’s James Hansen has said of the Keystone XL pipeline that, if built, it will be “game over” for the climate. This is truer still for the Energy East pipeline, as it’s designed to carry a greater volume. The new pipeline also threatens the local communities in its path with inevitable leaks.

“In the next few weeks TransCanada is holding more of these so-called ‘consultations,’ and we are looking forward to seeing them derailed by every community they hope to fool.” said Roberts. “Then we’ll see what they try next, and we’ll derail that, too.”

Upcoming TransCanada “consultations” are scheduled in: Saint-Honoré-de-Témiscouata, Québec (Oct. 1); Kemptville, Ontario and St-Onésime-d’Ixworth, Québec (October 2); Montmagny, Québec and Horton, Ontario (Oct. 3); and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s capital city (Oct. 10). To help derail one of these events, please visit

“Companies may try to invent new ways to fool people, but citizens will always be more powerful because we care more,” said Shona Watt, a local organizer of the Montréal SaveCanada/SansTransCanada action. “What’s guaranteed is that, ultimately, people will win.”
### Special thanks to Common Cause

Los Angeles Times: Californians wary of fracking, poll says,0,7679192.story

By Chris Megerian
September 26, 2013, 7:00 a.m.

SACRAMENTO — Californians want stricter regulation of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial method of oil and natural gas extraction, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

In addition, a majority of likely voters surveyed opposed the increased use of fracking, which involves injecting water and chemicals into the ground to remove the resources locked underneath.

The issue is gaining increased attention in California because energy companies are eyeing an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil in the massive Monterey Shale rock formation.

Sixty-one percent of likely voters said they favor stricter rules, and 53% said they’re against the expansion of fracking in the state.

The PPIC poll was conducted over the phone Sept. 10-17 and included 1,703 Californians.
The results echo a June poll conducted from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. At that point, 58% of registered voters said they supported a moratorium on fracking until its environmental effects had been studied.

Legislative efforts to halt fracking in the state have repeatedly fallen short, but Gov. Jerry Brown did sign legislation earlier this month to increase scrutiny of the practice.

In addition to requiring an environmental study, the bill, SB 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), requires new permitting of wells and notification of neighbors close to fracking sites.

Special thanks to Richard Charter Research links health, oil spill & Mississipppi River Conservation Organizations demand BP Accountability for Gulf Oil Disaster & Oil Spill Claims Investigation

By Xerxes Wilson
Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Oil spill cleanup workers could be at risk for developing liver and blood disorders, according to new research published in the American Journal of Medicine. The study, conducted by the University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers in Houston, found that participants exposed to oil had altered blood profiles and liver enzymes, and other symptoms compared to an unexposed group.

In the months following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf, BP hired a small army of locals and others to help deploy protective measures and gather oil that has spewed from the runaway well. Since some research has linked exposure to oil to health issues, more long-term research of the issue is underway. The study estimates that more than 170,000 workers contributed to cleanup efforts.

This latest research looked specifically at the link between oil exposure and blood and liver functions in people who had participated in the cleanup, said Mark D’Andrea, lead investigator for the University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers.
The center compared 117 people who had been exposed to the oil and dispersants used in the aftermath with a control group at least 100 miles away from Louisiana’s coast. Their various blood and liver functions, plus other benchmarks, were tested.
“Oil and secondary products are easily absorbed and can produce damage,” D’Andrea said, especially with people’s bone marrow, livers and kidneys.

The research found there were no significant changes in white blood cell counts. But platelet counts, blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels were “substantially lower” in the exposed groups. The study also found other indicators of liver damage by comparing other biochemical benchmarks, D’Andrea said. “Phosphatases, amino transferases and dehydrogenases play critical roles in biological processes. These enzymes are involved in detoxification, metabolism and biosynthesis of energetic macromolecules that are important for different essential functions,” D’Andrea said. “Alterations in the levels of these enzymes result in biochemical impairment and lesions in the tissue and cellular function.”

In the months following the spill, much was made about the potential health problems the nearly 2 million gallons of dispersants such as Corexit spread in the aftermath to break down the oil. Corexit is banned in the United Kingdom because of potential risk to cleanup workers.

A series of interviews by the Government Accountability Project released earlier this year noted those involved in cleanup reported health problems such as kidney and liver damage, heart palpitations, bloody urine and memory loss. The report also took issue with the method and monitoring conducted by BP in its use of dispersants. At least some of the symptoms are shared with subjects of D’Andrea’s research. Those participants also reported headaches most frequently, followed by shortness of breath, skin rash, cough, dizzy spells, fatigue, painful joints, night sweats and chest pain.

D’Andrea said the research doesn’t specifically hinge on exposure to dispersants because some participants claimed they were heavily exposed to them and others noted they had little to no contact with the compounds. “The results of this study indicate that oil spill exposure appears to play a role in the development of hematologic and hepatic toxicity. However, additional long-term follow-up studies are required to understand the clinical significance of the oil spill exposure,” the study says.
The findings, like much of the research tied to the spill, are limited by a lack of pre-spill data for comparison, the report notes. Conclusions are also limited by the short-term snapshot nature of the project. “If they haven’t been screened they need to do some screening. Some we saw right after the screening and the others were perhaps years later. It will probably be a lifelong following. Who knows when that incident will cause an aberration in the DNA?” D’Andrea said.

A long-term study into the potential effects of oil and dispersant exposure is being conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. That organization has recruited more than 33,000 people who had some connection with the oil spill cleanup. “We actually know very little about very little exposures to oil, such as what someone who would have experience in cleanup would see,” said Dale Sandler, the study’s chief of epidemiology and principal investigator. “So it is important that we invest in this and do it right.”

Sandler said researchers are trying to create a systematic examination over about a decade to yield results that can accurately depict exposure risk and can be used to characterize risk in other oil exposure situations.
But coming up with such thorough and accurate results takes time. Participants in the study will be observed in different ways over different periods of time. Some will be part of phone interviews. Others have participated in in-home visits, and about 4,000 people will take part in a more rigorous clinical examination. Results will be released through the course of the research, Sandler said.

Conservation Organizations Demand BP Accountability for Gulf Oil Disaster
September 27, 2013 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Media Resources
Contact: Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543,
Erin Greeson, National Audubon Society, 503.913.8978,
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781,
Conservation Organizations Demand BP Accountability for Gulf Oil Disaster
Deepwater Horizon civil trial resumes, groups reinforce need to restore

(New Orleans, LA-Sept. 27, 2013) On Monday, Sept. 30, phase II of the Deepwater Horizon civil trial will begin to determine how much BP will be required to pay in fines for the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. Today, leading national and local conservation organizations Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation released the following statement:

“Nearly three and a half years since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion killed 11 men and caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, the Gulf still waits for restoration. BP’s misleading advertising campaigns omit truths and facts: Gulf Coast communities, wildlife and ecosystems are still harmed and need to be restored. Tar mats continue to surface, miles of Louisiana shoreline remain oiled and the full effects of the oil spill may not be known for years to come.

“It is time for BP to accept full responsibility for the Gulf oil disaster. The natural resources of the Gulf, which sustain and bolster regional and national economies, need restoration now. We cannot wait any longer for our ruined wetlands and barrier islands to be restored.

“Restoration cannot begin in earnest until BP is brought to justice. The company has not paid a penny in Clean Water Act civil fines, which it owes for the millions of barrels of oil it spilled into the Gulf. These fines will be the primary funding for Gulf restoration projects under the RESTORE Act.

“A portion of the RESTORE Act funding, overseen by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, will be spent on large-scale ecosystem restoration projects. The Mississippi River Delta region was among the hardest hit by the oil disaster and is essential to regional and national economies, including navigation, energy and seafood. The delta is invaluable to our communities and our environment; it provides vital habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife and birds along the Mississippi and Central Flyways, world-class fresh- and saltwater fishing opportunities and a home to millions of Americans. The Mississippi River Delta is truly a national treasure and one of the most important areas in North America.

“BP must be held responsible for its actions so that Gulf Coast ecosystems and economies can recover and rebuild. It’s been nearly three and a half years. We have waited long enough.”

– See more at:

Oil Spill Claims Investigation
By: Andrea Williams – Email
Updated: Fri 5:56 PM, Sep 27, 2013

Meridian, Miss. An investigation is continuing into some settlement claims for people who were affected by the 2010 BP Oil Spill. Within the last week Meridian police have received numerous calls about solicitors collecting personal information and money from citizens to file claims. One businessman from California says he is now in Meridian to set the record straight.
The Meridian Police Department is spearheading the local investigation. In all, 11 people including a man from Neshoba County were killed in that 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Carlos Crump is a Regional Claims Manager for the company, ClaimsComp. Aside from the fatal victims, he says that many other people were affected by the spill in various ways. In turn, he says those individuals are eligible for compensation.

“They can qualify for something called a business economic loss claim, an individual economic loss claim, and a real estate property claim. Those are the only claims that we are even focusing on, but they must be gainfully employed; they must be in certain industries.”

Crump says his company is filing settlement claims. Although he contends that his agency is legitimate, he says others may not be. “If someone is asking you for money to submit a claim, run because they’re not supposed to do that. I flew from Los Angeles, California to Little Rock and drove from Little Rock to Meridian to show my face to show that there is integrity out here and we’re going to still keep pushing. We’re going to help people become aware that they can possibly qualify.”
Meanwhile, Meridian police are advising residents to use extreme caution when filing for claims.

“I would advise everyone in Meridian, to not give out personal information until you are absolutely sure that this is a legitimate claim,” says MPD Chief James Lee. “Protect your information: your name, your social security number and your date of birth. In today’s environment that’s worth money in the bank. Please Meridian, be careful!”

At this time the final day to file for settlement claims is April 22, 2014. For more information on the BP Oil Spill Settlement log onto

Find this article at:

Special thanks to Richard Charter

AP: Russian court jails 6 more Greenpeace activists

Charlotte, Channel 9

Updated: 9:43 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013 | Posted: 9:43 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013

The Associated Press
MOSCOW – A court in the northern Russian city of Murmansk on Sunday sent six more Greenpeace activists to jail for two months and showed no sign that the remaining two activists would be treated any differently for a protest at a drilling platform in Arctic waters.

Twenty other activists and two journalists were ordered jailed for two months during a marathon court session on Thursday that stretched late into night, but the court ruled to hold the remaining eight only until new hearings could be held on Sunday.

No charges have been brought against any of the activists, who are citizens of 18 countries, including Russia. Russian prosecutors are considering whether to charge them with piracy, among other offenses, and the activists are being held pending the investigation.

The Russian Coast Guard disrupted an attempt on Sept. 18 by two of the activists to scale a platform owned by Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom to call attention to the environmental risks of drilling in Arctic waters. The next day, the Coast Guard seized Greenpeace’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and towed it to Murmansk with the crew and activists aboard.

Greenpeace Russia campaign director Ivan Blokov has described the seizure of the ship as “the most aggressive and hostile act” against the environmental organization since French government agents bombed the Rainbow Warrior ship in 1985, killing one man.
Peter Wilcox, an American who captained the Rainbow Warrior, also is the captain of the Arctic Sunrise. He was ordered held in custody during Thursday’s court session.

Those ordered jailed on Sunday include Dima Litvinov, Greenpeace International spokesman, who has dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship; Finnish activist Sini Saarela, who was one of the two who tried to scale the platform; a British activist; two Dutch citizens and a Ukrainian cook.

The platform, which belongs to Gazprom’s oil subsidiary, is the first offshore rig in the Arctic. It was deployed to the vast Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea in 2011, but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom said this month it was to start pumping oil this year, but no precise date has been set.

Copyright The Associated Press



Greenpeace activists demonstrate near the Russian embassy in Paris, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. They are demonstrating against the ruling of a Russian court that led to the jailing of the environmental group’s activists for a protest, by Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, near an oil platform in the Arctic. On Thursday, the court in the city of Murmansk jailed 22 members of the Greenpeace team who were protesting near the platform last week. The demonstrators are holding photos of the activists who were aboard the Arctic Sunrise.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Akron Beacon Journal: Support grows for pipeline, drops for fracking, Pew survey says

By BOB DOWNING Published: September 27, 2013
From the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

Most Americans (65%) continue to favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps the most politically contentious energy issue in Barack Obama’s second term. Yet when it comes to another issue making headlines – a proposal to tighten greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – the public favors stricter limits, by exactly the same margin as the Keystone pipeline (65% to 30%).

Opinions on these two hotly debated issues underscore the complexity of public attitudes on U.S. energy policy. Support for increasing energy production from some traditional sources remains strong: 58% favor increased offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters.

Yet over the past year, opposition to the drilling process known as fracking has increased, as has opposition to nuclear power. Just 38% favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed, the highest level of opposition since the question was first asked in 2005.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 4-8 among 1,506 adults, finds that, as with other energy-related issues, there is a sharp partisan divide on the Keystone pipeline. But while an overwhelming majority of Republicans (82%) favor construction of the pipeline, so too do 64% of independents and about half of Democrats (51%).

President Obama’s decision about whether to go ahead with the pipeline is expected in the next few months. Environmental groups staunchly oppose the project, while GOP lawmakers are stepping up pressure on Obama to approve it.

The survey was conducted before the EPA announced its proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Nearly two-thirds of the public favors stricter emissions limits on power plants, including 74% of Democrats, 67% of independents and 52% of Republicans.

Overall, 44% favor and 49% oppose the increased use of fracking, the drilling method that uses high-pressure water and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. In March, there was more support (48%) than opposition (38%) for more extensive use of the drilling process. The rise in opposition to fracking has come among most demographic and partisan groups.

In terms of broader priorities for the nation’s energy supply, a majority of Americans (58%) say it is more important to develop alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology, while just 34% say expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas is the more important priority. These views are little changed from February, when 54% said more important to develop alternatives and 34% said more important to expand production from traditional sources.

There are age differences in opinions about a number of energy policies, but they are particularly stark in views of overall energy priorities. Fully 73% of those younger than 30, and 61% of those 30 to 49, say it is more important to develop alternative energy sources; among those 50 and older, only about half (48%) view alternative energy as the greater priority.

The survey finds that the recent energy boom in the United States has not registered widely with the public: only 48% correctly say that U.S. energy production is up in recent years and just 34% attribute it mainly to greater oil, coal and natural gas, even though oil and gas exploration has been the primary driver of this trend.

There is no indication that awareness of the nation’s growing energy production is related to energy policy attitudes. For instance, among those who know that energy production is growing mostly from traditional sources, 57% prioritize developing alternative energy sources. That is about the same percentage (58%) among those who do not know this.

Keystone XL Support Remains Broad
Support for the Keystone XL pipeline has remained fairly stable during the past six months (65% today, 66% in March), though opposition has risen from 23% to 30%.

During this period, the Obama administration has continued to weigh whether to allow completion of the pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s oil sands through the Midwest to refineries in Texas. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the northern leg requires federal approval. The southern portion does not, and much of it has been constructed.

In June, President Obama for the first time linked the pipeline debate to climate change, saying he would approve the project only if it would not “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Republicans overwhelmingly support constructing the pipeline. Eight-in-ten conservative Republicans (84%) and 76% of GOP moderates and liberals favor building the pipeline. As was the case in March, Democrats are internally divided: By 58% to 41%, conservative and moderate Democrats favor construction of the pipeline. Liberal Democrats oppose the proposal, by 54% to 41%.

While majorities across all age groups back the Keystone XL pipeline, there is less support among young people. Among those younger than 30, 55% favor building the Keystone XL pipeline while 39% are opposed. People 30 and older favor it by more than two-to-one (67% to 28%).

The balance of opinion favoring the pipeline is roughly the same in the six states it would pass through as in other parts of the country. In the six states the pipeline would traverse – Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas – 69% support its construction while 28% are opposed. Those in other states support it by a margin of 64% to 31%.
Changing Views of Fracking
Since March, opposition to increased fracking has grown significantly across most regions and demographic groups. Overall, 44% now favor increased use of fracking while 49% are opposed. In March, support exceeded opposition by 10 points (48% to 38%).

Opinion about the increased use is now divided in the Midwest and South. In March, support exceeded opposition by 23 points in the Midwest and 18 points in the South. Opposition also has risen in the West, from 44% to 55%. In the Northeast, more continue to oppose (51%) than favor (42%) increased fracking.

While opposition among both men and women has increased since March, there continue to be wide gender differences over the increased use of fracking. About half of men (51%) favor more fracking compared with 38% of women.

Independents and Republicans are more likely to oppose fracking now than in March (by 13 points and 12 points, respectively). Democrats’ views have shown less change, but a majority of Democrats continue to oppose increased use of the drilling method (59%).
Overall, people who are aware that U.S. energy production is growing – and that the increase is mostly coming from traditional energy sources (34% of the public) – have about the same views of fracking as do the majority of Americans who are not aware of this.

However, opinion is more divided along partisan lines among those who know that energy production is increasing from traditional sources. Fully 69% of Republicans and Republican leaners who know that the energy supply is increasing and that the growth is mostly from sources like oil, coal and natural gas favor increased use of fracking.

Conversely, a nearly identical percentage of Democrats and Democratic leaners (68%) who are aware of trends in domestic energy production oppose increased use of fracking.
Opinion is less sharply divided among Republicans and Democrats who are unaware that the domestic energy supply is increasing, mostly as a result of more production among traditional sources.
Support for Alternative Energy Research, More Offshore Drilling
By nearly three-to-one (73% to 25%), the public supports requiring better vehicle fuel efficiency. An identical percentage (73%) favors federal funding for alternative energy research, while two-thirds (67%) back more spending on mass transit.

A majority (58%) also favors more offshore oil and gas drilling. That is lower than last year, when 65% supported more offshore oil and gas drilling. But it remains significantly higher than it was in June 2010, following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, when just 44% of people wanted to allow more drilling in U.S. waters

Nuclear power has lost support over the past year. Currently, 38% favor the increased use of nuclear power while 58% are opposed. In March 2012, opinion was more closely divided (44% favor, 49% oppose). As recently as February 2010, significantly more favored (52%) than opposed (41%) the increased use of nuclear power.
Sharp Partisan Divide over Energy Policies
There are substantial partisan differences in opinions about each of the energy policies on the poll – and in many cases those differences have widened over time.
As in previous Pew Research Center polls, one of the largest gaps between the parties is on the question of offshore drilling. Nearly eight in-ten Republicans (79%) – and 90% of Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party – support allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling, compared with 44% of Democrats.

Democrats are far more supportive than Republicans of stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change; 74% of Democrats favor this compared with 67% of independents and 52% of Republicans. Still, even among Republicans there is more support than opposition to emission limits (52% favor, 43% oppose).

And when asked which should be the more important priority for addressing the nation’s energy supply, large majorities of both Democrats (71%) and independents (60%) say it is more important to develop alternative sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology. A smaller majority of Republicans (53%) say the priority should be expanding exploration of oil, coal and natural gas.
Partisan Differences Widen on Alternative Energy, Fuel Efficiency
Just a few years ago, there was broad agreement on some – though not all – energy policy objectives. In 2006, during George W. Bush’s presidency, comparable majorities of independents (85%), Republicans (82%) and Democrats (77%) favored increasing federal funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen technology.

The bipartisan consensus on alternative energy research and other policies – including better fuel efficiency standards – was noted in a February 2006 report, “Both Reds and Blues Go Green on Energy.”

Since then, support for funding alternative technology research has fallen by 24 points among Republicans (to 58%) and 10 points among independents (75%), while increasing slightly among Democrats (84%). Much of the change in opinions among Republicans came after Barack Obama took office in 2009. In September 2008, 85% of Republicans and 77% of independents favor increased funding for alternative energy research; in May of 2010, 61% of Republicans and 73% of independents favored more funding for alternative energy research.

There has been a similar trend in opinions about requiring better fuel efficiency for cars, trucks and SUVs. Seven years ago, large majorities across all partisan groups (87% of independents, 86% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans) favored higher fuel efficiency standards. The percentage of Democrats favoring this has changed little over this period (currently 84% favor), while falling 25 points among Republicans and 13 points among independents.

On some energy policy-related issues, however, such as nuclear power and offshore drilling, partisan differences have remained fairly steady over the years. Currently, 49% of Republicans, 39% of independents and 29% of Democrats favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power. In 2006, 56% of Republicans, 38% of independents and 39% of Democrats supported more nuclear power.

In September 2008, 87% of Republicans, 67% of independents and 55% of Democrats favored more drilling in U.S. waters. Today, there is less support across all three groups, but the partisan gap is about as large as it was then (35 points now, 32 points in September 2008).

Special thanks to Richard Charter