Good information on the nature of Bakken crude

Repost from DeSmogBlog

Permit Shows Bakken Shale Oil in Casselton Train Explosion Contained High Levels of Volatile Chemicals

On January 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a major safety alert, declaring oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale may be more chemically explosive than the agency or industry previously admitted publicly.

This alert came three days after the massive Casselton, ND explosion of a freight rail train owned by Warren Buffett‘s Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and was the first time the U.S. Department of Transportation agency ever made such a statement about Bakken crude. In July 2013, another freight train carrying Bakken crude exploded in Lac-Mégantic, vaporizing and killing 47 people.

Yet, an exclusive DeSmogBlog investigation reveals the company receiving that oil downstream from BNSF — Marquis Missouri Terminal LLC, incorporated in April 2012 by Marquis Energy — already admitted as much in a September 2012 permit application to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The BNSF Direct “bomb train” that exploded in Casselton was destined for Marquis’ terminal in Hayti, Missouri, according to Reuters. Hayti is a city of 2,939 located along the Mississippi River. From there, Marquis barges the oil southward along the Mississippi, where Platts reported the oil may eventually be refined in a Memphis, Tennessee-based Valero refinery.

According to Marquis’ website, its Hayti, Missouri terminal receives seven of BNSF Direct’s 118-unit cars per week, with an on-site holding terminal capacity of 550,000 barrels of oil.

Marquis was one of many companies in attendance at a major industry conference in Houston, Texas in February 2013, called “Upgrading Crude By Rail Capacity.” Its September 2012 Missouri DNR permit application lends additional insight into how and why BNSF’s freight train erupted so intensely in Casselton.

“Special Conditions”

Rather than a normal permit, Marquis was given a “special conditions” permit because the Bakken oil it receives from BNSF contains high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the same threat PHMSA noted in its recent safety alert.

Among the most crucial of the special conditions: Marquis must flare off the VOCs before barging the oil down the Mississippi River. (Flaring is already a highly controversial practice in the Bakken Shale region, where gas is flared off at rates comparable to Nigeria.)

It’s a tacit admission that the Bakken Shale oil aboard the exploded BNSF train in Casselton, ND is prone to such an eruption.

“Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) emissions are expected from the proposed equipment,” explains the Marquis permit. “There will be evaporative losses of Toluene, Xylene, Hexane, and Benzene from the crude oil handled by the installation.”

Benzene is a carcinogen, while toluenexylene and hexane are dangerous volatiles that can cause severe illnesses or even death at high levels of exposure.

Scientific Vindication

In a December 31 Google Hangout conversation between actor Mark Ruffalo, founder of Water Defense, and the group’s chief scientist Scott Smith, Mr. Smith discussed the oil samples he collected on a previous visit to North Dakota’s Bakken Shale.

“What I know from the testing I’ve done on my own — I went out to the Bakken oil fields and pumped oil from the well — I know there are unprecedented levels of these explosive volatiles: benzene, toluene, xylene,” said Smith.

“And from the data that I’ve gotten from third parties and tested myself, 30 to 40 percent of what’s going into those rail cars are explosive volatiles, again that are not in typical oils.”

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Smith said Marquis Energy’s Missouri DNR permit application is in line with his own scientific findings, a vindication of sorts in the aftermath of the Casselton explosion.”We must work to better understand the risks involved with the transportation of unconventional crude oil, whether diluted bitumen or Bakken fracked oil,” Smith told DeSmogBlog.
“It all starts with scientifically and transparently understanding exactly what is in these crude oils, and working to set new safety standards to protect human lives and all waterways, wetlands, marshes and sensitive ecosystems.”It may be the dead of winter in North Dakota, but the Casselton explosion has shined a bright light on the myriad serious threats of Bakken oil rolling down the tracks through the backyards of thousands of Americans. The industry’s secrecy about the explosiveness of this oil just went up in flames.
But how will the public react to the news that industry knew this could happen all along? With the Dec. 30 explosion in Casselton, and the deadly Bakken oil train explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec last July, all North Americans ought to question the wisdom of extracting and transporting this highly dangerous oil.

Photo Credit: Kyle Potter | Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

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10 Days to change course: Earth Day to May Day

Repost from Global Climate Convergence

People, Planet, Peace over Profit!


Mission Statement

The Global Climate Convergence for People, Planet and Peace over Profit is an education and direct action campaign beginning this spring, with “10 days to change course,” running from Earth Day to May Day. It provides coordinated action and collaboration across fronts of struggle and national borders to harness the transformative power we already possess as a thousand separate movements. These grassroots justice movements are sweeping the globe, rising up against the global assault on our shared economy, ecology, peace and democracy. The accelerating climate disaster, which threatens to unravel civilization as soon as 2050, intensifies all of these struggles and creates new urgency for collaboration and unified action.

The Convergence creates a unifying call for a solution as big as the crisis barreling down on us – an emergency Green Economic Transformation through a Global Green New Deal including universal jobs, health care, education, food and housing security, economic and political democracy, demilitarization, an end to deportations, and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.  Clearly the time for action is NOW.

Sign up here to begin organizing for the continuum of justice from Earth Day to May Day in your community.

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Pittsburg City Council re-opens public comment on WesPac EIR

Repost from Pittsburg Defense Council

Congrats, Pittsburg – a HUGE WIN! City to re-open public comment on the EIR!

February 18, 2014

At tonight’s City Council meeting, City Manager Joe Sbranti announced that today the City of Pittsburg sent a letter to WesPac saying that they plan to re-open public comment on portions of the EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

What this means is that, as Mayor Sal Evola put it, “the ball is in WesPac’s court”. They may choose not to proceed further with the project, which would be the best course of action for everyone. If they don’t, we’ll have more opportunity to get our objections on the record, and the project will be delayed by a few months, perhaps up to a year. And of course there are elections this year….

We will keep on pushing until we kill this project once and for all, but for now, raise your glass to yourself, Pittsburg, California! This is a major win!

And thank you to the City Council and City Manager for this decision – you did the right thing!

The letter as a PDF

As text

City of Pittsburg 65 Civic Avenue • Pittsburg, California 94565

February 18, 2014

Art Diefenbach WesPac Energy 2355 Main Street, Suite # 210 Irvine, CA 92614

RE: WesPac Project Status, Review of Recirculated Draft EIR Comments

Dear Mr. Diefenbach:

The public comment period for the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report (RDEIR) closed on September 13, 2013.  Based upon the comments received to date, City staff anticipates the addition of information to one or more sections of the RDEIR.  In light of this, and in order to afford the public additional opportunity for review and comment, the City plans to open a new public review and comment period for the applicable portions of the RDEIR.

The City, as the lead agency for CEQA compliance on the WesPac project, is committed to protecting the community and in prioritizing safety.  Therefore, ensuring a complete and comprehensive environmental review for the proposed project is of utmost importance.  Accordingly, City staff will want to meet with you to discuss the appropriate next steps.  Kristi Pollot, the City’s lead planner on this project, will contact you this week to discuss further.



Joe Sbranti City Manager

cc:     City Council Planning Commission City Attorney Planning Department

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For safe and healthy communities…