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Mining & Fracking World Whirl

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. {More}

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