Tag Archives: California League of Conservation Voters

Dangerous energy gamble: Pipelines vs. rail

Repost from the Washington Examiner
[Editor: One significant quote among many: “In the last five years, 423 oil trains have crashed in the U.S. Since 2010, those crashes have cost about $45 million in damages. In just the first six months of 2015, 31 oil train crashes cost almost $30 million in damages…. It’s 5.5 times more likely that oil will be spilled during rail transport than from a pipeline, according to a study by the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian think tank. The risk of deaths, injuries and spills are higher with rail and trucks since vehicles can hit other vehicles, they travel through population centers and the drivers can err. None of those factors exist for pipelines.” – RS]

Dangerous energy gamble: Pipelines vs. rail

By Kyle Feldscher, 11/2/15 12:01 AM
Fire burns at the scene of a train derailment, near Mount Carbon, W.Va., on Feb. 16. Fires burned for nearly nine hours after the train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in a snowstorm. (AP Photo/WCHS-TV)

Energy companies increasingly have turned to rail to ship crude oil during the fracking boom, but with train crashes becoming more frequent, they are pushing for construction of more pipelines beyond the Keystone XL.

However, that effort is being stymied by the collapse of oil prices and concerns about pipeline safety.

On Wednesday, Shell announced it would stop construction on a site in Alberta, Canada, that potentially holds 418 million barrels of bitumen oil. The company blamed the project’s expense in a time of cheap oil as well as a lack of pipeline infrastructure.

It’s one example of low prices and lack of pipelines prompting companies to reconsider drilling for oil, especially in the Canadian tar sands, where it’s more expensive to drill. Pipeline transportation is typically cheaper than rail, which costs about $30 a barrel more.

Fifty pipelines have been proposed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this year. They would carry the light, sweet crude from shale regions as well as the natural gas that has helped make the U.S. the world’s energy leader. ”

Because of the costs associated with [rail], it’s going to drive up the cost of oil and it’s going to be significantly higher than pipelines on a per barrel basis,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the conservative Institute for Energy Research.

Another calculation oil companies must make is the safety of their highly flammable product.

In the last five years, 423 oil trains have crashed in the U.S. Since 2010, those crashes have cost about $45 million in damages. In just the first six months of 2015, 31 oil train crashes cost almost $30 million in damages, mostly due to a major crash in West Virginia.

It’s 5.5 times more likely that oil will be spilled during rail transport than from a pipeline, according to a study by the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian think tank. The risk of deaths, injuries and spills are higher with rail and trucks since vehicles can hit other vehicles, they travel through population centers and the drivers can err. None of those factors exist for pipelines.

The August study also found oil and natural gas production is rising faster than existing American and Canadian pipelines can handle. Those pipelines would be even busier if production increased in the Canadian tar sands.

Keystone XL, proposed by TransCanada in 2007, would be able to transport 830,000 barrels per day from the tar sands to the Gulf Coast to be refined. Due to the viscous nature of bitumen oil, it’s much easier to transport it by pipeline than by rail, experts say.

When a train carrying oil derails, it’s often catastrophic.

In West Virginia, oil burned for days after 26 oil tanker cars derailed in February. Nineteen of those cars caught on fire and oil spilled into a nearby river. The damages from that crash totaled more than $23 million.

A train derailment in a Quebec community that killed 46 people in July 2013 prompted calls for better rail safety and led some to question whether to transport highly flammable oil at all.

The State Department estimates rail transportation of oil is responsible for 712 injuries and 94 deaths per year, while oil pipelines are responsible for three injuries and two deaths per year.

“For our society, we have to evaluate the value we place on human life and we should make that a priority,” said Diana Furtchgott-Roth, a conservative economist who is the director of the Manhattan Institute’s e21 program.

“The families of those 46 people killed in Lac-Megantic would have been happy to have less oil and having the lives of their family members back.”

Dangerous derailments led the Obama administration to introduce new regulations to make tanker cars safer. The rule, announced in May, requires improvements to braking systems, making tanker cars thicker and more fire resistant and new protocols for transporting flammable liquids.

The number of crashes steadily increased during the last five years, as more trains shipped crude and natural gas, rising from nine crashes in 2010 to 144 crashes in 2014. But as the price of oil plummeted, the amount of crude oil being drilled and shipped leveled off in 2015, according to the Energy Information Administration.

If drilling in the Canadian tar sands in Alberta were to pick up in earnest, State Department officials believe rail transport would lead to 49 more injuries and six more deaths per year. If that oil were to be moved by the Keystone XL pipeline, there would be one additional injury and no fatalities.

Environmentalists, who have been fighting the Keystone XL, point to the State Department’s finding that pipeline spills are often bigger than those from trains and trucks.

They also point to declining oil use and the collapse of prices as great excuses to leave it in the ground.

Zach Drennen, legislative associate at the League of Conservation Voters, said with oil prices as low as they are, it’s economic folly for oil companies to drill in the Canadian tar sands. Without high oil prices, companies can’t afford to build pipelines. They also can’t afford to ship by rail.

That is why green groups think oil companies could be willing to leave the oil in the earth.

“If you look right now, a lot of oil companies are just deciding that’s not where they want to put their money at,” Drennen said.

To Kish, environmentalists’ goal is to make it too expensive to drill.

“They’re going to try and fight against every damn pipeline they can,” he said, “because if they can choke off production and delay construction of pipelines, it causes disruptions.”

But Ken Green, senior director of natural resource studies at the Fraser Institute, said environmentalists’ dream of keeping oil in the ground isn’t feasible.

“The oil in the ground has a market value and everyone knows what the market value is,” he said. “It’s not hard to calculate that market value … My assumption is sooner or later, that value will be sought.”

Share...

    Oil Industry Spending Millions on California Lobbying

    An email alert from California League of Conservation Voters (EcoVote.org)

    Home
    EcoVote.org

    From: Sarah Rose, Chief Executive Officer,  California League of Conservation Voters
    Sent: Saturday, August 15, 2015 8:01 AM
    Subject: BREAKING: In California, Oil Industry Spends Millions on State-Level Lobbying

    Breaking news:

    In a report just released by the California Secretary of State, we can see for the first time just how far the oil industry is willing to go to influence state lawmakers. Here what we know:

    • Oil industry lobbyists spent $6.2 million − in just the first six months of this year – to push their agenda on state-level issues in California.
    • Oil companies are spending more than $1 million per month to stop Californians like us from cleaning up the air we breathe, protecting our drinking water supplies, shifting to renewable energy, and preventing future oil spills.
    • They’re not slowing down. In fact, this week the oil industry’s main lobbying group WSPA (Western States Petroleum Association) launched an all-out attack on climate change bills in the statehouse right now. Under the mask of their front group “California Driver’s Alliance,” WSPA’s deceptive and manipulative ads are now running on television, internet, and radio in several key legislative districts throughout the state.
    • We can beat them, but we need your help. Right now, we’re fighting to pass a historic package of climate change laws that will thrust California back into the forefront of global climate leadership. Here at CLCV, we’ve faced off against WSPA in countless battles over our 40-year history. We’ve beat them enough times to know what works – and it’s you  (yes, you!) persistently contacting your lawmakers, speaking your mind, and personally insisting that your life and your family’s future are more important than the profit margins at Chevron and Shell. Take action and send your message to lawmakers right now. >>

    Last year, the oil industry spent a record $20 million in lobbying to try to stop the full implementation of California’s first landmark climate and clean energy law, AB 32 – but they failed, because we fought back. Thousands of us in the California League of Conservation Voters stood side-by-side with our allies and fought back against WSPA’s cynical propaganda. Together, we defeated their pro-pollution agenda, and now transportation fuels (which are responsible for 40% of carbon pollution and 80% of smog-causing pollution produced in CA) are included under the “cap” in cap-and-trade.

    I’m proud of our victory last year, but the real story is we won that battle by the skin of our teeth. Things very easily could have gone the other way if we didn’t have so much help from voters like you. Now, the stakes are even higher, and the oil industry is on track to break last year’s spending record to lobby against us. We need your help today: Stand with us now. >>

    Sincerely,

    Sarah Rose Chief Executive Officer California League of Conservation Voters

    P.S. As they attempt to hide from public scrutiny, oil companies funnel most of their California lobbying cash through the industry lobbying group WSPA (Western States Petroleum Association). But one oil company − Chevron – went above and beyond. In addition to their WSPA contributions, Chevron spent $1.5 million lobbying for influence over California laws. That means two spots on California’s top-five list for big-spending lobbyists belong to Big Oil. We can’t let them win. Please, speak out about climate change right now: http://ecovote.org/ActOnClimate >>

    Additional background: CLCV supports Senate Bill 32 (Pavley) and Senate Bill 350 (de León) to combat climate change, reduce pollution, create clean energy jobs, and ensure that all California communities are prepared for the future. Specifically, these important bills call for bold but achievable new climate goals:

    • Increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources
    • Reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent
    • Double the energy efficiency of existing buildings
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050

    With help from thousands of CLCV supporters like you, these important bills have already passed the State Senate. Now both bills are facing critical votes in the Assembly. Make sure your Assemblymember hears from you: Speak out now!

    We need to keep making progress to address the challenges presented by climate change, especially in our hardest-hit communities. Senate pro Tem Kevin de León put it best: “For too long, poor and working class families in California’s most polluted communities do not have the opportunity to invest in clean, efficient transportation … We need to move the state away from fossil fuels, away from the grip of oil … This is common sense climate policy.”

    Since 1972, the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) has protected our land, air, water, and public health as the non-partisan political arm of the environmental movement. CLCV’s mission is to protect and enhance the environment and the health of all California communities by electing environmental champions, advancing critical priorities, and holding policymakers accountable. You can unsubscribe at any time, but we hope you’ll stay. You make a big difference with CLCV, because our political strength comes from members like you. Thanks for reading, and thank you for everything you do to make California a cleaner, safer, and healthier place to call home.

    Share...

      Letter: Moratorium on fracking in California

      Repost from The Los Angeles Times, PolitiCal
      [Editor: Note that Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community is among the more than 100 environmental and community groups signing on to this letter.  – RS]

      Groups pressure Legislature to back California fracking moratorium

      Patrick McGreevy  |  May 22, 2014

      More than 100 environmental and community groups Thursday sent a letter to the California Legislature urging lawmakers to support a moratorium on the oil-production method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California.

      Led by the national progressive group CREDO, the coalition is supporting SB 1132 by state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), which is pending in the Senate and would halt fracking to allow more studies to determine whether the method poses health hazards.

      “This bill presents lawmakers with a clear-cut choice that will show whether they are on the side of oil industry lobbyists or Californians concerned about public health and safety,” said Zack Malitz, the campaign manager for CREDO. “It’s clear from the broad support across California that residents know a moratorium is the right path to protect our communities from the well-documented dangers of fracking.”

      Groups that signed on to the letter include the Burbank Green Alliance, the California League of United Latin  American  Citizens, the California  League  of  Conservation  Voters, the Center  for  Biological  Diversity, and the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.

      “Given  these  techniques’  long-term  consequence  and  known  harmful  impacts  elsewhere,  it  is  entirely  appropriate  for  California  to  impose  a  moratorium  on  fracking,  acidizing  and  all  well stimulation  while  the  state  reviews  the  current  and  future  effects  here,” the letter said.

      Meanwhile, a new statewide poll found that 68% of Californians support a fracking moratorium until the practice can be studied more, and that a majority would be more likely to vote for a legislator who voted in favor of such a measure.

      “This poll shows that most Californians have heard about fracking, and they don’t want it to create the same problems here that it has caused in other states,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. The group commissioned the poll from the firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

      Share...