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Dollarocracy: U.S. Congressmen Refuse to Address Keystone XL Southern Half Spill Concerns

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

What's the U.S. congressional response to the safety issues with the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline raised by Public Citizen's Texas office? Mostly what Simon & Garfunkel called "The Sound of Silence" in their famous song.

Keystone XL Fork in the Road: TransCanada's Houston Lateral Pipeline

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Only Barack Obama knows the fate of the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  But in the meantime, TransCanada is preparing the southern half of the line to open for commercial operations on January 22.

New "Frackademia" Report Co-Written by "Converted Climate Skeptic" Richard Muller

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The conservative UK-based Centre for Policy Studies recently published a study on the climate change impacts of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for shale gas. The skinny: it's yet another case study of "frackademia," and the co-authors have a financial stake in the upstart Chinese fracking industry.

Titled "Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking" and co-authored by Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth "Liz" Muller, it concludes that fracking's climate change impacts are benign, dismissing many scientific studies coming to contrary conclusions.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Richard Muller — a self-proclaimed "converted skeptic" on climate change — said he and Liz had originally thought of putting together this study "about two years ago."

"We quickly realized that natural gas could be a very big player," he said. "The reasons had to do with China and the goal of the paper is to get the environmentalists to recognize that they need to support responsible fracking."

The ongoing debate over fracking in the UK served as the impetus behind the Centre for Policy Studies — a non-profit co-founded by former right-wing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1974 — hosting this report on its website, according to Richard Muller.

"They asked for it because some environmentalists are currently opposing fracking in the UK, and they wanted us to share our perspective that fracking is not only essential for human health but its support can be justified for humanitarian purposes," he said. 

This isn't the first time Liz Muller has unapologetically sung the praises of fracking and promoted bringing the practice to China. In April, she penned an op-ed in The New York Times titled, "China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas." 

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon Buys Fracking Wells In Ohio's Utica Shale

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO and Founder Aubrey McClendon is back in the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") game in Ohio's Utica Shale in a big way, receiving a permit to frack five wells from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on November 26.

TransCanada Begins Injecting Oil Into Keystone XL Southern Half

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Keystone XL's southern half is one step closer to opening for business. TransCanada announced that "on Saturday, December 7, 2013, the company began to inject oil into the Gulf Coast Project pipeline as it moves closer to the start of commercial service."

Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A 1991 report tracked down by DeSmogBlog from the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) was created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), raising additional questions over both organizations' Internal Revenue Service (IRS) non-profit tax status. 

Tar Sands' Next Frontier: Shipments on the Great Lakes

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Great Lakes, drinking water source for over 40 million North Americans, could be the next target on tar sands marketers' bullseye according to a major new report out by the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Firm with History of Spill Cover-Ups Hired to Clean Up North Dakota Oil Spill

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Tesoro Logistics — the company whose pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of fracked Bakken Shale oil in rural North Dakota in September — has hired infamous contractor Witt O'Brien's to oversee its clean-up of the biggest fracked oil spill in U.S. history.

The oil was obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the Bakken Shale basin.

US Court Denies Halt on Pipeline Set to Replace Keystone XL Northern Half

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The ever-wise Yogi Berra once quipped "It's like déjà vu all over again," a truism applicable to a recent huge decision handed down by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. 

Fracking Lobby’s Tax Forms: Big Bucks to Media, “Other ALECs,” Democratic PR Firms

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) - the public relations arm of the oil and gas fracking industry - has released its 2012 Internal Revenue Services (IRS) 990 form, and it's rich with eye-opening revelations, some of which we report here for the first time. 

Public Citizen: Dents, Holes in Keystone XL Southern Half Weeks Before Planned Startup

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is supposed to begin pumping up to 700,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day through the Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX route within weeks. But is it ready to operate safely?

Public Citizen has released a chilling report revealing that the 485-mile KXL southern line is plagued by dents, faulty welding, exterior damage that was patched up poorly and misshapen bends, among other troubling anomalies.

In conducting its investigative report, "Construction Problems Raise Questions About the Integrity of the Pipeline," Public Citizen worked on the ground to examine 250 miles of the 485 mile pipeline's route. The group and its citizen sources uncovered over 125 anomalies in that half of the line alone. These findings moved Public Citizen to conclude the southern half of the pipeline shouldn't begin service until the anomalies are taken care of, and ponders if the issues can ever be resolved sufficiently.

MSNBC "Leans Forward" Into Running "Native Ads" Promoting Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Three years into its "Lean Forward" re-branding campaign, MSNBC has given new meaning to the catchphrase, leaning forward into running branded content promoting hydraulic fracturing ("fracking)

Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post

Revealed: Never Before Seen Photos of Tesoro Fracked Oil Spill in North Dakota, Pipeline Restarted Today

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A month after over 865,200 gallons of oil spilled from Tesoro Logistics' 6-inch pipeline near Tioga, North Dakota, the cause of the leak is still largely unknown to anyone but Tesoro. The pipeline resumed operations today.

US Court: Transcanada's Keystone XL Profits More Important than Environment

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In a major ruling that's flown under the radar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline

The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline in February 2012. 

Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline crossing 2,227 streams?

In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."

Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush and President George H.W. Bush, respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.

U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes; Photo Credit: The White House

Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen. 

Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014. 

NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval

After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12. 

This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.

The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012, directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard.

President Barack Obama speaks in Cushing, OK in March 2013; Photo Credit: White House

"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes. 

Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."

"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes; Photo Credit: Sierra Club

Why, I asked Hayes? 

"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."

NWP 12 has also been utilized by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline, a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines. 

Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process. 

"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes. 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez - an Obama appointee - did not, pulling no punches in doing so. 

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez; Photo Credit: Judgepedia

"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.

"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law." 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water. 

There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.

Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment. 

"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.

"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."

Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.

"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).

U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists 

Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."

While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects. 

"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman

"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."

Photo Credit: tankist276 | ShutterStock

Over 865K Gallons of Fracked Oil Spill in ND, Public In Dark For Days Due to Government Shutdown

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

 Photo Credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Wikimedia Commons

Martin O'Malley and the Poisoning of the Children of Baltimore

Baltimore's poorer neighborhoods have been dealing with Martin O'Malley for years and years, as I can recall from when I worked in ACORN's national office and heard all about the trouble this man was from our Maryland chapter.  O'Malley, once mayor of Baltimore and now governor of Maryland, may run for president of the United States on a what's-left-of-the-left-wing-of-the-Democratic-Party kind of platform.  His current and former constituents will have the usual warnings about who the newly packaged candidate has really been.  Perhaps they'll be heard, although that's not usually how these things work.

One of many angles worth observing about O'Malley is his position toward the natural environment. He's been pushing for fracking and for a coal liquid natural gas terminal on the Chesapeake Bay at Cove Point (Obama just approved it!). My friend and Baltimorean Diane Wittner says she thinks O'Malley is after campaign money "at the expense of a livable bioregion." 

One of O'Malley's destructive proposals is of particular interest because of the resistance to it organized by young people.  O'Malley wants to stick a giant incinerator into a poor neighborhood in Baltimore.  This monstrosity, called the Energy Answers Incinerator, would be the largest trash-burning incinerator in the nation, consuming 4,000 tons of trash a day including plastic, rubber, vinyl, metal, and household waste.  In violation of state law this worse-than-a-major-coal-plant pollution machine would be situated less than a mile from Benjamin Franklin High School and Curtis Bay Elementary School. The incinerator would flood the air with mercury, nitric oxide, lead, dioxins, and particulate matter, producing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, respiratory problems, and -- if all the stars align -- just possibly a single uncomfortable question in a presidential "debate." 

The neighborhood to be victimized, Curtis Bay, already has the highest toxic air pollution in Maryland and among the worst in the nation. Here's a map I've just made because I think people who visit Baltimore's tourist area would appreciate knowing how close this less favored area is:

Now check out this great website where I've learned about this outrage:

Stop the Incinerator:

"For the health of our community and our children we are calling on Governor Martin O’Malley to stop the proposed trash burning incinerator from being built in Curtis Bay. If built the Energy Answers Incinerator would be the largest of its kind in the nation, producing more pollutants per hour of energy produced than the largest coal plants in Maryland. Worse still, the project is set to be built less than a mile from Benjamin Franklin High School and Curtis Bay Elementary School, in violation of Maryland state regulations. It is this kind of recklessness that has led Baltimore to be ranked number one in air pollution related deaths per capita.

"Energy Answers was required to begin construction in August. While the Maryland Department of Environment investigates if they failed to do so, we are calling on Governor O’Malley to intervene and protect our children’s health and the health of our community.

"Please contact Governor O’Malley if you want to stop the nations’ largest incinerator from being built less than a mile from schools.  Let him know that our community is not a dumping ground.  Let him know that the Energy Answers incinerator needs to be STOPPED."

Governor’s office phone # 410.974.3901 / 1.800.811.8336
Governor O’Malley’s contact page: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/mail/


Watch this terrific video:

A PETITION

To:
The Governor of MD
Gov. Martin O'Malley, Maryland
Anthony Brown, Lt. Governor
Don't trash our community. Go green. Stop the incinerator!

Building the nations' largest trash burning incinerator less than a mile from our schools, recreation center, businesses, and homes is wrong.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

SIGN HERE

And visit the FaceBook page.

Big Oil PR Pros, Lobbyists Dominate EDF Fracking Climate Study Steering Committee

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Alongside releasing its controversial findings on fugitive methane emissions caused by hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on September 16, University of Texas-Austin also unveiled an industry-stacked Steering Committee roster for the study it conducted in concert with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Frackademia: The People & Money Behind the EDF Methane Emissions Study

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The long-awaited Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)-sponsored hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") fugitive methane emissions study is finally out. Unfortunately, it's another case of "frackademia" or industry-funded 'science' dressed up to look like objective academic analysis.

'Video: James Marriott presents Platform's new book: The Oil Road'

Tuesday, Sept. 10, Charlottesville, VA: In a unique journey from the oil fields of the Caspian to the refineries and financial centres of Northern Europe, Platform tracks the concealed routes along which the lifeblood of our economy is pumped. The stupendous wealth of Azerbaijani crude has long inspired dreams of a world remade. From the revolutionary Futurism of Baku in the 1920s to the unblinking Capitalism of modern London, the drive to control oil reserves -- and hence people and events -- has shattered environments and shaped societies. Sponsored by Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, Charlottesville Sierra Club, WarIsACrime.org, and Charlottesville Amnesty International.

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