Tag Archives: American Petroleum Institute (API)

Oil firms dig deep to battle Colo. anti-fracking initiatives

Repost from The Coloradoan

Significant funding gap in Colorado fracking fight

By Jacy Marmaduke, August 18, 2016 11:17 a.m. MDT
Anti-fracking protesters
Anti-fracking protesters

Committees fighting proposed Colorado ballot measures that would limit fracking have raked in about $15 million in donations this year, more than 35 times the contributions of groups backing the measures.

About 90 percent of the anti-ballot measure donations have come from energy companies, including $10.5 million from Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Noble Energy alone.

“We’ve never seen a number like this from the opposition,” said Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch, the state government watchdog group that released the numbers confirmed by the Coloradoan. “It shows that (businesses) are ready to spend a lot of money in the best interest of the company’s bottom line.”

In contrast, individual donations of less than $1,000 have been the primary fuel for the pro-ballot measure efforts, bolstered by support from U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, his father and the executive director of the fundraising committees. The pro-ballot measure committees have received about $424,000 in donations this year.

Petitioners submitted signatures for proposed ballot measures 75 and 78 on Aug. 8, the day they were due. The Secretary of State will declare the signatures sufficient or insufficient by Sept. 8. If the office confirms petitioners collected about 98,500 valid signatures for each measure, they’ll appear in the November election.

Measure 75 would amend the state constitution to allow local control of oil and gas development, effectively overturning the Colorado Supreme Court’s denial of Fort Collins’ fracking moratorium and Longmont’s fracking ban.

Measure 78 would amend the state constitution to increase setbacks for oil and gas development from 500 feet to 2,500 feet from occupied structures. The measure would also require a 2,500-foot setback from “areas of special concern,” a category that includes most water sources and riparian areas, parks, sports fields, playgrounds and public open spaces.

The current setback of 500 feet is about the length of 1 1/2 football fields. The proposed setback of 2,500 feet is about a half-mile. It would apply only to new development — but the ballot measure includes reentry of existing wells in its definition of “new development.”

Two committees are working on each side of the proposed ballot measures: Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking and Yes for Local Control Over Oil and Gas are on the pro-ballot measure side. Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence and Vote No on 75/78 are on the anti-ballot measure side.

About 30 percent pro-ballot donations were in the form of services from organizations like Food and Water Watch and Greenpeace. Those services are assigned cash values for record-keeping purposes.

“A successful ballot initiative usually costs at least a million dollars,” Toro said. “That might be an indication of where they’re headed.”

The committees could see a cash infusion if they’re approved for the ballot, Toro added. Committee representatives weren’t available for comment.

The anti-ballot measure committees have received about $15 million in donations this year, not including about $746,000 Protect Colorado had on-hand on Jan. 1. About 10 percent of those donations were in the form of services.

“These measures are so extreme and such a threat to Colorado’s economy that we’ve got the commitments to spend $24 million to fight them,” Protect Colorado spokeswoman Karen Crummy said. “We’ve been very upfront about that from the beginning.”

The anti-ballot measure committees have spent 20 times more than the pro-ballot measure groups as of Aug. 1 — $5 million versus about $250,000, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office. Also as of Aug. 1, the anti-ballot measure side had roughly $9.1 million to the opposition’s $43,000.

Lists of top monetary donors for each side of the issue give you a good idea of how their fundraising has taken shape.

Top monetary donors for pro-ballot measure committees:

  1. Patricia Olson (founder of both committees): $60,300
  2. J. Christopher Hormel (Boulder philanthropist): $60,000
  3. (tie) Lush Cosmetics: $25,000
  4. (tie) Jared Polis: $25,000
  5. (tie) Fracking Fund of the New World Foundation: $25,000
  6. (tie) Stephen Schutz (physicist, greeting card designer, Jared Polis’ father): $25,000

Top donors make up 52 percent of 2016 contributions.

Top monetary donors for anti-ballot measure committees

  1. Anadarko Petroleum Corporation: $5.5 million
  2. Noble Energy: $5 million
  3. PDC Energy: $750,000
  4. Synergy Resources Corporation: $650,000
  5. Bayswater Exploration and Production: $500,000
  6. Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation: $300,000

Top donors make up 85 percent of 2016 contributions.

The American Petroleum Institute, the national trade group representing the oil and gas industry, funded about $1.1 million worth of consulting and other services for Vote No on 75/78 but isn’t on this list because the donations were considered non-monetary.

    Trump energy policy: more fossil fuels, less regulation

    Repost from ThinkProgress

    Trump ‘Completely Rethinks’ U.S. Energy Policy By Doubling Down On Fossil Fuels

    By Ryan Koronowski, August 8, 2016
    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers an economic policy speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, in Detroit. CREDIT: AP/EVAN VUCCI

    On Monday in Detroit, Donald Trump sought to reset his campaign again with a speech about the economy to begin “a great conversation about economic renewal for America,” portraying Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as “a nominee of yesterday.”

    Trump aides told Politico prior to the speech that Trump economic vision also involved “a complete rethinking of our energy policy.”

    What does this “complete rethinking” look like?

    More fossil fuels. And less environmental regulation. A Trump administration would follow the same rhetorical stance on energy as the RNC and the Romney campaign, and the Bush administration’s policy playbook.

    The 2016 Republican presidential nominee cited “energy reform” as a priority midway through the speech, attacking “the Obama-Clinton war on coal” and boasting how his own plan to cut regulations on the fossil fuel industry would create jobs.

    “I am going to cut regulations massively,” Trump said. “Massively.”

    Beyond vague anti-regulatory rhetoric, Trump’s speech cited studies from the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research, the Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation, and the American Petroleum Institute, all purporting to prove the economic ruin wreaked by the Obama administration’s environmental actions.

    Further detail was provided by a Trump campaign email sent to the press which outlined “policy highlights” from Trump’s economic vision:

    CREDIT: TRUMP CAMPAIGN EMAIL

    While Trump may not be able to accomplish all of his stated energy agenda, these policy highlights are essentially the same as the energy plan he outlined in May. His vision lines up almost perfectly with that of the fossil fuel industry.

    “Donald Trump’s energy proposals read like a gift registry for the fossil fuel and financial industries,” Greenpeace executive director Annie Leonard said in a statement. “If a U.S. president would attempt to enact any of these proposals it would not only undo the the progress millions of people around the world have achieved on climate change, it would set this country on a path to economic ruin and environmental devastation.”

    Trump would “immediately cancel” President Obama’s executive actions, singling out the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule. Trump doesn’t mention that the Climate Action Plan’s carbon rule would lower electricity bills and the Waters of the U.S. rule actually helps protect small farmers against pollution from big agribusiness.

    He promises to “save the coal industry” — though international coal market dynamics are to blame and U.S. coal jobs are not coming back even with a President Trump.

    Bringing back the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf are goals that have been on the conservative drawing board for decades — hardly something that belongs in a completely rethought economic vision.

    Cancelling the Paris Climate Agreement and defunding U.S. contributions to United Nations climate programs would drag the United States and the world back decades.

    “Lift restrictions on American energy,” to Trump, means fossil fuels and not renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which are growing faster than fossil fuels and getting cheaper at a truly astonishing rate. Trump, however, said last week that renewable energy “is not working so good.”

    What the billionaire did not mention on Monday is how much climate change is projected to hurt the global economy: the United States will take a 36 percent GDP hit by the end of the century if its leaders allow it to suffer an unmitigated climate, according to research from ICF International and NextGen Climate Action. Globally, that number jumps to $44 trillion by 2060, according to Citigroup.

    Trump called Clinton “the candidate of the past” while his own campaign was “the campaign of the future.”

      Rail Industry Requests Massive Loophole in Oil-by-Rail Safety To Extend Bomb Trains Well Beyond 2025

      Repost from DeSmogBlog

      Rail Industry Requests Massive Loophole in Oil-by-Rail Safety To Extend Bomb Trains Well Beyond 2025

      By Justin Mikulka, July 21, 2016 – 13:00

      In the most recent oil-by-rail accident in Mosier, Oregon the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) concluded that the tank cars involved — the jacketed CPC-1232 type — “performed as expected.” So an oil train derailing at the relatively slow speed of 25 mph should be “expected” to have breached cars resulting in fiery explosions.

      Current regulations allow those tank cars to continue rolling on the track carrying volatile Bakken crude oil and ethanol until 2025 with no modifications.

      Yet industry lobbying group the Railway Supply Institute (RSI) has now requested the Federal Railroad Administration to essentially allow these jacketed CPC-1232 tank cars to remain on the tracks for decades beyond 2025.

      This was just one of the troubling facts that came to light at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) roundtable on tank car safety on July 13th, and perhaps the one of greatest concern to anyone living in an oil train blast zone like Mosier, Oregon.

      Just Re-Stencil It and Call It a DOT 117

      One of the biggest risks with Bakken oil train accidents is that often the only way to deal with the fires is to let them burn themselves out. This can result in full tank cars becoming engulfed in flames for hours or days in what is known as a pool fire. This can lead to a “thermal tear” in the tank and the signature mushroom cloud of fire so often seen with these derailments.

      The new regulations address this issue by requiring tank cars to have a layer of ceramic insulation covering the entire tank car to prevent the oil from heating up to the point of creating a thermal tear (ceramic shown in pink in the image below.)


      Image credit: NTSB

      However, the RSI has requested the FRA to allow the existing jacketed CPC-1232 cars, like the ones in the Mosier accident, to not require the ceramic thermal protection.

      The industry’s argument is that the current fiberglass insulation on the CPC-1232 is sufficient protection. However, the fact that the fiberglass insulation was not designed to protect the contents of a tank car from fire does not seem to bother the RSI.

      At the same time the RSI is arguing against thermal protection for CPC-1232s, the RSI has helpful videos on its website explaining the new safety features for DOT-117 tank cars — including “thermal protection.”

      The NTSB’s Robert Sumwalt summed up what this request would mean in one simple statement at the July 13 round table event saying, “the same type of cars as in Mosier can be re-stenciled as DOT-117R with nothing more than a new bottom outlet valve.” [R stands for retrofit.]

      So, they are essentially asking to paint over the CPC-1232 label on the tank cars with a DOT-117 while doing nothing more than changing the bottom outlet valve. Which means we should expect many more accidents like Mosier in the future since most of these CPC-1232 cars are only a few years old and they have an expected working life of 30-40 years.

      As Robert Sumwalt said in his opening statement explaining why we should expect many more fiery oil train derailments with the existing tank car fleet, “just do the math.”

      Industry Arguments Laughable If Not For the Consequences

      Would you believe that one of the arguments made at the roundtable in favor of not requiring thermal protection on these cars was that the oil itself acts as a heat sink? Which is true. Until the point where the oil absorbs so much heat from the fire that the tank car explodes.

      However, the reason this argument is given credibility is that the regulations only require a tank car to endure sitting in a pool fire for 100 minutes without exploding. Forget the fact that many of the Bakken oil train accidents have involved fires that burned for days.

      This 100-minute limit was the same reasoning used to justify the fiberglass insulation on the current jacketed CPC-1232 as offering sufficient protection, as per the industry request. Which led to the following exchange between the NTSB’s Sumwalt and RSI representative John Byrne.

      Byrne: “In our own modeling the fiberglass insulation system met the federal requirement for thermal protection.”

      Sumwalt: “But in reality in the fiberglass situation, doesn’t the fiberglass all just melt… doesn’t it also melt and all end up pooling down in the bottom in the void between the blanket and the shell?”

      Byrne: “Basically yes…but at the same time, that whole system acts as a thermal protection system in that it meets the requirement based on the federal law.”

      Sumwalt: “Ok, thanks. So it meets the requirements.”

      So, along with the oil itself being offered as adequate thermal protection, we also get fiberglass that melts in a fire being offered as protection for anyone in the blast zone.

      So what did the regulators have to say about this absurd argument?

      FRA’s Karl Alexy made it clear that “industry” concerns were receiving serious consideration saying, “we’re not taking it lightly, we understand what it means to industry… be certain that we are taking this very seriously.”

      Well, we do understand what it means to the industry. Adding ceramic thermal protection would cut into profits. And one thing that was made clear repeatedly during the day’s discussion was that this was all about the money and that safety was only for people worried about “risk.”

      As usual when there is a discussion about oil train safety, the oil industry lobbying group the American Petroleum Institute had a seat at the table. API representative Susan Lemieux cut to the heart of the issue with some actual honesty.

      “In the industry we don’t see transportation as a risk, it is just a function of business.”

      Why try to improve the situation when you don’t see any risk?

      The FRA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have informed DeSmog that they will issue a formal response to the industry’s request to allow the fiberglass to qualify as thermal protection in the near future.

      The Ground Rules – Profits Over Safety

      In the above slide shown of the DOT-117, there is one other important thing to note. The shells on those tank cars are 9/16th of an inch thick. The shells of the jacketed CPC-1232 are 7/16th of an inch thick. This difference has safety implications as the thinner shells rupture more easily.  The RSI points out this fact in a video on its website about the advantages of the thicker shells on the DOT-117 which they say are “less prone to puncture.”

      But the more important difference, as we have pointed out repeatedly at DeSmog, is that safer car designs are heavier, which means they can transport less oil per car. That lower capacity again cuts into profits. This point was made by ExxonMobil in a slide they presented to regulators arguing against thicker tank shells.

      While Exxon was not at the roundtable, plenty of oil and rail industry representatives were, and they made this point very clear.

      Gabe Claypool, President of oil train operators Dakota Plains, explained why it made economic sense to use CPC-1232s over DOT-117s.

      “A lot of it’s economics as well…we were just having a conversation around the sizing of the car, the 1232 car type is very much in abundance and it is also a larger car. In the current category of still trying to be profitable, if I can get that extra volume in a larger car that is still regulatorally [sic] compliant, they’re [sic] gonna stick with that.”

      Richard Kloster of rail consulting firm Alltranstek was one of the more vocal participants during the roundtable and he repeatedly made points about the economics of retrofitting the CPC-1232 over buying the new DOT-117 saying, “The retrofit is always going to win economically.”

      Kloster also made it clear where the industry put its priorities when it came to safety versus profit saying, “There has got to be a balance between safety and the economic viability of moving these products by rail” and that there were a “lot of cases, you know, where economics wins all the time but risk trumps economics in some cases.”

      Economics wins all the time.

      There was one representative from labor at the roundtable who did not offer a comment until the final closing segment, but he also shared the reality of what was driving the decisionmaking when he discussed the need for safety but stated, “I know it’s about money.”

      ExxonMobil Wins Again

      So, in the end, ExxonMobil and the oil industry have won again. Watching this roundtable and the many congressional hearings and previous NTSB events in the past few years and seeing the lack of progress on real safety improvements, it almost seems like this all was orchestrated from the start.

      In the years leading up to the latest tank car rulemaking, the industry essentially ordered a whole new fleet of CPC-1232 cars which they are currently using. The CPC-1232 cars have the thinner tank shells which makes them more prone to puncture and also more profitable. And they are ok to use, unchanged, until 2025. If the industry request is approved, those cars will just need new bottom outlet valves after 2025.

      Regardless, they will always have the thinner tank shells, like Exxon wanted.

      At the end of the July 13 event, Robert Sumwalt made an interesting statement. He said, “some of us met yesterday to go over the ground rules.”

      The meeting where they went over the ground rules was not open to the public or media. If one were to hazard a guess as to what the first and foremost ground rule set was, it would be a safe bet to posit it was that “economics wins all the time.”

      Blog Image Credit: Dawn Faught via NTSB