Mining & Fracking World Whirl: 24 Feb 2015
Rachel Maddow on two major oil fires on either side of the country.
*Big News: President Obama has vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline bill.
*Worldwide. Sand is disappearing around the world, through legal and illegal means. It’s becoming yet more natural resources we are consuming far too fast. Preview from PBS’ up-coming full-length feature on Sand Wars.
*Worldwide. Ocean acidification (OA) satellite mapping reveals the Arctic and Antarctic “are particularly sensitive to OA”, the Greater Caribbean Reef is under attack by human impact, and the “Amazon plume” “is the largest freshwater discharge source in the world.”
*Worldwide. A rolling one-day Lenten fast is planned “to raise awareness of climate change.”
*USA. The Obama Administration has issued proposed rules for exploratory drilling in the Arctic. Whether the stricter ones proposed will avert disaster in the Arctic—well, we’ll have to find out as yet another unplanned “experiment” is allowed to run its course.
*USA. Hot diggity dog! TransCanada, Keystone XL pipeline parent, now wants a second pipeline, the Upland Pipeline, moving Bakken crude oil from North Dakota into Canada where it’ll connect with their Energy East Line in Saskatchewan. Environmentalists are calling it the Upland Pipedream.
*USA. “A northern Alberta doctor warned U.S. Senators on what he says have been the devastating health impacts of the tar sands on families—effects, he says, that have been willfully ‘ignored’ by the Canadian and Alberta governments.” He cited peer-reviewed statistics, including “for rare cancers . . . that have shot up 400 times” above normal in the Fort Chipewyan community.
*USA. Science Guy Bill Nye appeals to conservatives about climate change and global warming.
*USA. Those small fracking-related earthquakesaround the country “simply increases the odds we’re going to have a more damaging event.” US Geological Survey scientists are saying it’s fracking wastewater wells that are causing many of those earthquakes. Apparently, this thing has rocked (pardon the pun) along so long now that even fracking-friendly officials are taking “action to manage wastewater wells.”
*USA. So that’s his price: “Over the last 14 years Willie Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, received . . . $1.25m from Exxon Mobil, Southern Company [big coal-fired electricity], the American Petroleum Institution . . . and a foundation run by the ultra-conservative Koch brothers”.
*USA. A “previously unreported [!] analysis by the Department of Transportation . . . predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol [across the US] will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly [!] killing hundreds of people”. An acting DOT administrator said “we need to move as quickly as possible getting these regulations in place”. The railroad industry called the estimates “inflated” and “exaggerated” and complain about costs.
*USA. Popular Mechanics: “Why We Need Better Oil-Carrying Train Cars Now.” Though oil-carrying cars in the recent WV conflation “were not DOT-111s, but CPC-1232s”, the latter “is just a reinforced, purportedly tougher version of the DOT-111”, but obviously not that tough. Rather than continuing to put people at risk, it’s time for industry-wide regulations ensuring use of crude oil tankers “that will not puncture in a crash.”
*USA. NBC News is also piling on, noting that the WV conflagration “has sparked fears about America’s surge in oil train traffic. And soon those trains could be rumbling through populated areas with just a single person at the controls. As one BNSF employee asks, “Why would you compromise the safe passages of these trains for profit?” Why indeed.
*USA. After all the disasters and almost-disasters associated with the old DOT-111s, we learn that “the Obama administration [is] considering tougher rules for tank cars.” Considering? “Oil and rail industries said the brakes alone could cost up to $21 billion for minimal benefits.” Oh.
*USA. United Steelworkers said industry’s latest proposal “failed to improve safety at refineries and chemical plants in an ‘enforceable way.’” 11 plants struck thus far. Update: As of Saturday, the Steelworkers were preparing to strike at Shell and Motiva refineries in LA, and at Motiva’s Port Arthur TX refinery. Update: Around 20% “of the country’s refining capacity” is affected so far.
*AK. The Gwich’in (or Caribou People among the Athabascan) report on dramatic changes observed in recent years as permafrost melts, salmon are diminishing, and their ages-old relationship with the caribou is threatened by global warming. Beautiful video, in their own voices.
*AZ. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has taken notice of the deal that the two senators from AZ (John McCain and Jeff Flake) arranged so that Apache sacred land can exploited by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton mining companies. Rep. Grayson is not pleased; he estimates the deal is worth “over $130 billion” and identifies three possible pitfalls.
*IA. Good old fashioned prairie-grown switchgrass removes up to 40% of PCBs in contaminated soils. Nature is our friend.
*KY. Whoa! Bill flying through the Legislature “would tighten standards for . . . fracking, with new rules for landowner notification, water-quality testing an drill site reclamation.”
*MA. 7 Harvard students filed suit against “Harvard’s continued holdings in the oil, gas, coal and related sectors”, claiming that is a ‘mismanagement of charitable funds’ . . . a direct violation of its obligations to the future of the university’s financial health as well as the planet’s well-being.” Many students and faculty members support divestment.
*MD. Dominion Resources is “building a power plant, gas refinery and liquefaction train” on its Cove Point site in a “densely-populate residential community”. Opposition is growing while Calvert County appears to be accommodating Dominion. Protests have led to 20-day suspended sentences, 3 years probation, $500 fine.
*NC. Duke Energy facing federal prosecution “over years of illegal pollution from coal ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants”, including 9 “felony violations of the Clean Water Act”. A pipe collapse, e.g., released so much coal ash sludge that the entire Dan River was coated with the stuff for 70 miles.
*NY. Towns in upstate NY want the financial benefits of fracking so much they “are threatening to secede and join neighboring Pennsylvania, where fracking is continuing full steam ahead.”
*OR. Allegations that “millions of dollars in federal funds intended to secure water for fish in the Klamath Basin were instead used to directly compensate local farmers and ranchers”.
*SC. Workers’ drills damaged a nuclear reactor being built near Jenkinsville. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is undertaking a “special inspection this week.”
*TX. Frackers claim they are recycling their wastewater, but nobody, apparently including regulators, knows for sure.
*VA. Oil trains quietly re-routed through VA as word is getting out about “how ubiquitous oil trains have become in the United States, where crude-by-rail is an essential, yet sometimes explosive, fix for an overwhelmed pipeline network.” A price for “energy independence”?
*VA. Remember the CSX oil train derailment and conflagration in Lynchburg April 30, 2014? 29,000 gallons of crude, 98% of which burned? VA’s Dept of Environmental Quality says CSX will pay a fine of $361,000 for that.
*WV. Natural gas producers may be able to frack without property owners’ permission if a pending bill is passed. Big Oil&Gas sez: “If we are going to maximize our opportunity with the shale industry, . . . We can’t allow one mineral owner who wants to hold out to shut down a drilling operation.”
*WV. The 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion killed nine men. Don Blankenship (Massey Energy), who owns the mine, faces charges of “conspiring to violate safety and health standards” at the mine. The judge in the case has issued a gag order, but the Associated Press and others are appealing.
*Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are warning that the “‘anti-petroleum’ movement [is] a growing and violent threat to Canada’s security”. They’re even claiming that “foreign-funded groups are . . . blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction”.
*Canada. Oh, lord: “Saskatchewan is the most attractive jurisdiction for mining investment in Canada, and the second best worldwide”.
*Canada. Oil production in Quebec’s tar-sandsis humming along, with an anticipated growth rate of 3.5% in 2015, though not all agree it’s that rosy. Update: Rosy? Red is more like it: “Canada’s oil sands cash flows are set to drop by $21 billion in the next two years”.
*Mexico. Here’s a new twist: there’ve been so many thefts of oil from pipelines—a 70% increase in one year, to 3,674 taps—that Mexico’s Pemex “will no longer ship finished, usable gasoline or diesel through its network of ducts.”
*South Africa. 389 of 486 workers trapped underground during a fire at the Kusasalethu mine have been rescued. No injuries reported so far. Mine closed while they try to find the other 97 workers.
*Belgium. Problems with reactor pressure vessels on two nuclear units, in addition to previously reported flaws. The reactors have been down since March, 2013.
*Hungary. Hungary is “relieved” that Russia agreed to roll-over their existing Hungary-Russia 20-year gas deal. Hungary needs the gas, but can’t afford to antagonize the EU over the Ukraine issue.
*Australia. Applause, whistles and cheers! Labor government in Queensland appoints the “first ever reef minister as it steps up plan to avoid the UN listing the ecosystem as ‘in danger.’” Tough new regulations are promised, aimed at slashing the nitrogen flow to the reef “by 80% by 2025, while also cutting total suspended sediment . . . by 50%”