Tag Archives: American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM)

White House agency under pressure from big oil & rail – accused of “coddling” the industries

Repost from DESMOGBLOG
[Editor: The influential White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is reviewing the newly-proposed oil-by-rail safety regulations rolled out by the DOT and PHMSA.  Significant quote: “A DeSmogBlog review of OIRA meeting logs confirms that in recent weeks, OIRA has held at least ten meetings with officials from both industries on oil-by-rail regulations. On the flip side, it held no meetings with public interest groups.”  See also important statements by BNSF and the DOT on the need for an entirely new tank car design near the end of this article.   - RS]

Meeting Logs: Obama White House Quietly Coddling Big Oil on “Bomb Trains” Regulations

Sun, 2014-06-15  |  Justin Mikulka and Steve Horn

When Richard Revesz, Dean Emeritus of New York University Law School, introduced Howard Shelanski at his only public appearance so far during his tenure as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Revesz described Shelanski as, “from our perspective, close to the most important official in the federal government.”

OIRA has recently reared its head in a big way because it is currently reviewing the newly-proposed oil-by-rail safety regulations rolled out by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

During his presentation at NYU, Shelanski spoke at length about how OIRA must use “cost-benefit analysis” with regards to regulations, stating, “Cost-benefit analysis is an essential tool for regulatory policy.”

But during his confirmation hearings, Shelanski made sure to state his position on how cost-benefit analysis should be used in practice. Shelanski let corporate interests know he was well aware of their position on the cost of regulations and what they stood to lose from stringent regulations.

Regulatory objectives should be achieved at no higher cost than is absolutely necessary,” Shelanski said at the hearing.


Howard Shelanski; Photo Credit: White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

With the “cost-benefit analysis” regarding environmental and safety issues for oil-by-rail in OIRA’s hands, it appears both the oil and rail industries will have their voices heard loudly and clearly by the White House.

A DeSmogBlog review of OIRA meeting logs confirms that in recent weeks, OIRA has held at least ten meetings with officials from both industries on oil-by-rail regulations. On the flip side, it held no meetings with public interest groups.

Cost-Benefit”: A Brief History

OIRA was created in 1980 by President Ronald Reagan with the goal of getting rid of “intrusive” regulations.

“By instructing agencies to clear drafts of regulations through OIRA, Presidents have made the agency…a virtual choke point for federal regulation,” explains the Center for Progressive Reform, a think-tank critical of OIRA and its cost-benefit analysis.

Cost-benefit analysis was put on the map by Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein, “regulatory czar” and head of OIRA for President Barack Obama before Shelanski.

The ideology, which is embraced by President Obama, is inspired by the “Chicago School” of free market economics, unpacked in depth in Naomi Klein’s book, “The Shock Doctrine.

He’s a University of Chicago Democrat, so he’s very attuned to the virtue of free markets and the risks of free-market regulation,” Sunstein told The Wall Street Journal about Obama in 2009. “He’s not an old-style Democrat who’s excited about regulations.”


Cass Sunstein; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Washington Post described Sunstein as Obama’s “intellectual mentor” who “had a major influence on Obama’s view of government — stressing pragmatism over ideology.”

But of course, the “Chicago School” has its own ideological roots: neoliberalism.

Big Oil Meet and Greet

The first on-the-books meeting OIRA held in the second quarter of 2014 about the newly-proposed oil-by-rail safety regulations written by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) was with lobbyists, economists and attorneys representing both the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Chevron on May 19.

Attendees of that meeting included Misty McGowen, Director of Federal Relations for API and Michael Yoham, Manager Rail Transportation Services for Chevron.

This API-Chevron White House visit parallels the one they made together when OIRA mulled over new rules on sulfur in gasoline. In 2012, a group led by API president Jack Gerard went to the White House to discuss this issue with another of President Obama’s closest advisers, Valerie Jarrett.

This visit clearly paid dividends for the industry when the new regulations were delayed.

Akin to what is currently happening with the oil-by-rail regulations regarding Bakken shale oil and the DOT-111 tank cars, it was coordinated with a big public relations push trashing the regulations as unnecessary.

History, as they say, has repeated itself in the oil-by-rail sphere.

A new report touting the safety of oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale was released by industry groups the same week as the API-Chevron visit with OIRA.


Image Credit: ShutterstockTrueffelpix

Less than two weeks later on May 30, OIRA met with representatives from the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and Tesoro, among others. Stephen H. Brown, a Tesoro lobbyist, represented the company — which has a multi-pronged oil-by-rail footprint — at the meeting.

AFPM has also gone on the record saying Bakken fracked oil is safe for railway transportation, also concluding DOT-111 tank cars are “fine” for moving Bakken crude to market.

Can we have an intellectually honest discussion about mechanical and track integrity on the rails?,” AFPM president Charles Drevna asked rhetorically in a May 19 Railway Age article. “You shouldn’t blame the cargo for an accident.”

Other Big Oil companies that got the ear of OIRA in June included Phillips 66 (purchased as a wholly-owned subsidiary by ConocoPhillips in 2001) and ExxonMobil.

BNSF Lands Two Meetings in One Week

Records also reveal OIRA met twice in one week with Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF), the oil-by-rail behemoth owned by Warren Buffett. The first was held on June 3 and the second on June 6.

Buffett was a major donor to President Obama for both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. He also gave big money to Hillary Clinton — former Secretary of State for the Obama Administration and likely presidential candidate in 2016 — during the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries, and has already endorsed her for 2016.


Warren Buffett (L), President Barack Obama (R); Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

BNSF Executive Chairman Matthew Rose came to the June 3 meeting flanked by two BNSF lobbyists: Amy Hawkins and Cliff Rothenstein (who maintains BNSF as a client on behalf of K&L Gates). Some speculate Rose could succeed Buffett as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company that bought BNSF in 2009.

On June 6, Roger NoberBNSF Executive Vice President for Law and Corporate Affairs, landed a one-on-one meeting with Shelanski. Before working for BNSF, Nober passed through the government-industry revolving door, serving as an attorney for the Department of Transportation.

According to an article published in EnergyWire, BNSF supports an “aggressive phase out” of its DOT­-111 tank cars.

”[BNSF] believe[s] the next ­generation tank cars should exceed the 2011, stronger new standard known as the CPC­-1232 tank car,” Roxanne Butler, a spokeswoman for BNSF told EnergyWire.

Butler did not respond to questions from DeSmogBlog about what BNSF discussed with OIRA in the meetings, nor did she specify what she meant by an “aggressive phase out.”

The CSX Corporation oil-by-rail train that exploded in Lynchburg, Virginia in late-April, though, had CPC-1232 “next ­generation tank cars.”

On the May 14 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx told Maddow that he does not believe the CPC-1232 is the solution.
Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx interview with Rachel Maddow, via YouTube.

I can tell you that I don’t have confidence in the DOT-111 [and] I’m unconvinced that the 1232 — which is the upgraded car — is the absolute solution,” said Foxx. “I think there’s going to have to be a new type of tank car established to keep this country as safe as possible.”

Oil Exports Connection

For its first oil-by-rail meeting of June, DOT officials and OIRA officials sat alongside Russell Smith, lobbyist for oil and gas industry capital investment firm Quantum Energy; FTI Consulting lobbyist John Cline; and John Whitcomb, legislative analyst for FTI Consulting.

Cline formerly headed up C2 Group, a Washington, DC-based lobbying group purchased in March 2013 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of FTI Consulting.

BNSF is one of C2 Group’s clients.

As his C2 Group biography explains, Cline has also passed through the revolving door, formerly working for both the White House and DOT

John served in the White House as a Special Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs under President George H.W. Bush,” Cline’s bio states.

Prior to his service in the White House, he was Director of the Office of Congressional Affairs for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)… John entered public service in 1989 upon his selection by President Bush as Associate Administrator for the Federal Transit Administration at DOT.”

FTIoverseer of public relations efforts for fracking front group Energy in Depth — published a report promoting oil exports in June 2013.

Many prospective coastal crude oil export terminals rely on oil-by-rail to move product to the coast.

For example, the exploding CSX Corporation oil-by-rail train in Lynchburg, Virginia owned by Plains All American was on its way to the Yorktown facility. Yorktown has been marked a potential export terminal if the ban on exporting U.S. oil is lifted.

Map Credit: CSX Corporation

Cui Bono?

While Shelanski’s remarks at NYU discussed cost-benefit analysis, he also talked about how the question over regulatory policy often boils down to shifting costs.

A more honest debate and better policy will emerge if the debate acknowledges the difference between creating costs and shifting costs back to their source to reduce harmful externalities,” he said.

Which raises the big questions on oil-by-rail regulations, or lack thereof: cui bono? And who pays the costs?

A case in point is Lac-Mégantic, Quebec — site of the massive “bomb train” explosion which killed 47 people on July 6, 2013 — where the cost to clean up and rebuild the town is estimated at $2.7 billion.


Lac-Mégantic Disaster; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

With all six of the oil and rail companies involved refusing to pick up the tab, the cost has been transferred to taxpayers from the oil and rail industries.

Exactly what API, Chevron, ExxonMobil, BNSF and other powerful factions discussed in their meetings with OIRA remains unknown for now.

But one thing remains clear: the only side OIRA has listened to so far in official meetings is Big Oil and Big Rail.

This is consistent with the trend-lines unpacked in the Center for Progressive Reform’s study titled, “Behind Closed Doors at the White House,” a comprensive review of OIRA meeting logs between 2001-2011.

“Over the last decade, 65 percent of the 5,759 meeting participants who met with OIRA represented regulated industry interests — about five times the number of people appearing on behalf of public interest groups,” stated the report.

“[E]ven under this ostensibly transformative President [Obama]…industry visits outnumbered public interest visits by a ratio of almost four to one.”


Table Credit: Center for Progressive Reform

As the old adage goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“The oil-by-rail situations illustrates the way that the process is, all too often, stacked in favor of industry,” Daniel A. Farber, professor at University of California Law School, scholar for the Center for Progressive Reform and critic of OIRA‘s version of cost-benefit analysis, told DeSmogBlog.

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Oil field developer proposes to strip Bakken crude of volatile natural gas liquids

Repost from EnergyWire, E&E Publishing
[Editor: Two significant quotes: “We’re not really taking a position on the tank car rule.  All we’re saying is, in making the rule, please consider what’s going in the car in addition to the car itself.” and “‘Right now, they [American Petroleum Institute] are kind of the lone soldier among the players involved here saying volatility isn’t an issue.  Everyone else is saying, “We know it’s an issue — now we have to figure out how we solve it.”‘”  Well, one way to solve it is to leave the stuff in the ground and invest in renewable energy.  Duh.  – RS]

Oil groups line up at White House over tank car standards

Blake Sobczak  |  E&E News  |  Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Quantum Energy Inc. claims to have no position on proposed oil tank car standards — yet the oil field developer stopped by a White House office last week to discuss them anyway.

Russell Smith, Quantum’s executive vice president of public affairs, said he met with the small but influential Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to make sure regulators knew about the company’s plans for “stabilizing” hot-to-handle crude from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale play.

Bakken crude has earned a volatile reputation after a string of oil train derailments and fires. A 72-car oil train jumped the tracks and exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, last July, killing 47 people and prompting regulators to warn that Bakken crude may be less stable than other types.

The deadly crash also set the stage for the “comprehensive” oil-by-rail rulemaking package now weaving its way through OIRA, part of the Office of Management and Budget. White House records show several oil companies, refiners and industry groups have met with administration officials and transportation regulators to shape new standards for the type of DOT-111 tank car long faulted for its puncture-prone design.

“We’re not really taking a position on the tank car rule,” said Smith, who attended June 2′s meeting with lobbyists from FTI Consulting, OIRA representatives and Department of Transportation regulators. “All we’re saying is, in making the rule, please consider what’s going in the car in addition to the car itself.”

Smith’s company hopes to set up “21st-century energy centers” in North Dakota’s Williston Basin capable of stripping the most volatile natural gas liquids out of Bakken crude before the commodity is loaded onto rail cars.

Oil producers have contested claims that Bakken crude is more volatile than other types, and the North Dakota Petroleum Council has conducted tests that it says show the crude is safe (EnergyWire, May 21).

Last month the oil industry’s top lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, met with OIRA to air its views on tank car rules that could have a big impact in the Bakken, where well over 600,000 barrels of oil leaves the state daily by rail (EnergyWire, May 28). API said in a later statement that it is “critical” that the proposed rule should “achieve measurable safety improvements by using science and data to address accident prevention, mitigation and response.”

Since then, several refiners, chemical companies and trade groups, including the American Chemistry Council and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), have also met with OIRA about the tank car rules.

AFPM has conducted its own study of Bakken crude volatility and concluded even older-model DOT-111 rail tank cars can safely handle the oil, although the refining group detected Reid vapor pressure levels as high as 15.4 pounds per square inch (absolute) in some samples.

Reid vapor pressure offers a good indication of flammable gas content in a liquid such as crude. While 15.4 psi is well within even the oldest DOT-111 tank cars’ safe pressure capacity, AFPM said in its survey of Bakken crude characteristics that vapor pressures of 10 psi or lower “are in the best interests of AFPM members.”

Smith said Quantum intends to strip Bakken crude down to a Reid vapor pressure of 6 psi or lower and sell the separated gas liquids. The Tempe, Ariz.-based holding company also hopes to set up five micro-refineries modeled after a new joint project run by MDU Resources Group Inc. and Calumet Specialty Products Partners (EnergyWire, April 11, 2013). Once completed, that diesel facility will mark the first new refinery built in the United States in nearly 40 years.

“Since we’re stabilizing [Bakken oil] upstream of our refineries, our refineries will actually be receiving ‘stripped’ crude,” Smith said. “With a reasonably small increase in investment, we could be capable of stripping every drop of oil coming out of the Bakken.”

The API said in a statement that “NGL removal is among the topics being considered by the experts who are developing with [the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's] participation the new standard for classifying, handling, and transporting crude by rail, and API intends to review their work on the issue before taking a position.”

API has repeatedly emphasized that Bakken crude poses no greater risk than other light oil varieties, a position Smith called “short-sighted.”

“Right now, they are kind of the lone soldier among the players involved here saying [volatility] isn’t an issue,” Smith said of API. “Everyone else is saying, ‘We know it’s an issue — now we have to figure out how we solve it.’”

Blake Sobczak

Reporter, EnergyWire

bsobczak@eenews.net

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202-737-5299 (f)

@BlakeSobczak (Twitter)

Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC

122 C St. NW, Suite 722, Washington, DC 20001

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About Quantum Energy, Inc.

QUANTUM ENERGY, INC. is a development stage, publicly traded, diversified holding company with offices in Williston, North Dakota. Quantum places an emphasis in refinery development, land holdings, oil and gas exploration, drilling, well completion and fuel distribution www.quantum-e.com.

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Refiners’ lobby says DOT-111 is “fine” for shipping Bakken crude

Repost from Railway Age

Refiners’ lobby says DOT-111 is “fine” for shipping Bakken crude

Written by  David Thomas, Contributing Editor  | May 19, 2014

Operators of the U.S. fleet of DOT-111 tank cars are fighting the emerging consensus that the cars and their contents are the key culprits in the succession of oil train conflagrations that started last July 6 at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

Keeping trains on the tracks should be the priority in the reform of crude-by-rail, said the Washington-based policy advocate for the petroleum refiners that own much of the North American tank car fleet.

Too much focus is on the presumed weaknesses of the DOT-111 general-purpose tank car and on the particular properties of crude oil fracked from Bakken shale, said the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) in a May 14 submission to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Both are safe for haulage, the refiners argue in a contrarian view that rubs against the otherwise unanimous opinion of accident investigators, regulators, and railroaders that the DOT-111 and Bakken oil are an unacceptably risky pairing.

In an interview with Railway Age May 16, AFPM president Charles Drevna asked: “Can we have an intellectually honest discussion about mechanical and track integrity on the rails? You shouldn’t blame the cargo for an accident.”

At the same time, Canada’s oil shippers are resisting any requirement that they cover their consignments with public liability insurance. Legal and financial responsibility for the consequences of rail accidents should remain entirely with railroads and railroad insurers, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Canadian Fuels Association argued in a joint submission to a Transport Canada review arising from the Lac-Megantic accident.

Both Canadian Class I railroads and the Railway Association of Canada submitted that shippers should indeed insure their cargos against loss of life and environmental damages. Furthermore, CN and CP want the right to refuse consignments they judge to be too dangerous. Currently, as common carriers, railroads in both the U.S. and Canada are obliged to haul any legal cargo in authorized containers.

Thus, as the anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic catastrophe approaches, what had seemed to be a public consensus that the ultra-light Bakken crude is inherently too volatile for DOT-111 carriage is fracturing into open dispute between oil shippers and rail carriers.

“As the standards are today for flammable liquids, Bakken crude fits right in, and the DOT-111 cars should be fine,” Drevna said.

While the AFPM supports regulatory adoption of the 2011 standard proposed by a cross-industry committee, Drevna said he doubts that Canada’s phase-out of DOT-111s can be accomplished within the three-year timeline. Any additional new tank car specification beyond the industry-sponsored CPC-1232 standard should be delayed until comprehensive derailment data has been collected and analyzed.

No practical tank car would have survived the 64-mph derailment of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic’s runaway at Lac-Mégantic, said Frits Wybenga of Dangerous Goods Transport Consulting, who on behalf of AFPM analyzed a survey of Bakken oil samples by organization members. “You can’t design-out a tank car rupturing in those circumstances. You can make them heavier and heavier and make a tank car that would withstand those forces, but you wouldn’t be able to carry much crude oil in it.”

Products considerably more hazardous are routinely and legally transported in DOT-111 cars and Bakken crude should continue to be classified and transported like any other Class 3 flammable liquid under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), said the AFPM.

“Bakken crude oil currently is transported in compliance with the HMR as a Class 3 Flammable Liquid in either Packing Group I, II, or III. In conclusion, there is no identifiable basis for regulating Bakken crude differently than other flammable liquids regulated by the DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations,” says the AFPM submission to DOT.

The AFPM report included an assessment of routine assays performed by its own members in the course of loading and receiving Bakken crude. With just one exceptionally high concentration of hydrogen sulfide among the 1,400 samples drawn between loading terminals and destination refineries, the AFPM concludes that Bakken crude falls comfortably within Class 3 Flammable Liquid specifications for carriage in DOT-111 cars. Furthermore, the DOT-111 was a safe vessel for any flavor of crude oil—providing railroads keep the cars on the tracks.

“Bakken crude oil was found to be well within the limits for what is acceptable for transportation as a flammable liquid,” the AFPM reported. “Bakken crude oil was compared with other light crude oils and determined to be within the norm in the case of light hydrocarbon content, including dissolved flammable gases. Measured tank car pressures show that even the older DOT-111s authorized to transport Bakken crude oil are built with a wide margin of safety relative to the pressures that rail tanks may experience when transporting Bakken crude oil.”

The report relies substantially on the “Reid Vapor Pressure” test, which was abandoned in 1990 for U.S. hazmat classification in favor of the dual criteria of whether a material is liquid or gas at 20°C (68°F) or, alternatively, has a vapor pressure of more than 300 kPa (43.5 psia) at 50°C (122°F). The Reid test remains a common industry measure of vapor pressure at 100°F (38°C) and transposes accurately to the HMR-approved pressure scale, says the AFPM.

“AFPM and its members appreciate the concerns raised in relation to rail transport of Bakken crude oil and stand ready to work cooperatively with DOT and other governmental organizations to ensure the safe transportation of Bakken crude oil,” the report says. “This survey shows that Bakken crude oil does not pose risks that are significantly different than other crude oils and other flammable liquids authorized for transportation as flammable liquids.”

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