Yesterday we celebrated the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.
And you can’t think of the earth without thinking about the way Big Oil’s business model is based on exploiting resources that belong to us all.
Case in point: Kern County’s depleting oil fields is a symptom of ecological overshooting. And Big Oil adds insult to injury when they contaminate our precious water supply with their toxic waste.
Perhaps actor Ed Begley, Jr., summed it up best, “I don’t understand why when we destroy something created by man we call it vandalism, but when we destroy something created by nature we call it progress.”
This Earth Day let’s tell Big Oil to knock it off – for the sake of every person living here. Find plug-and-play tweets and posts below to help get the word out.
Twitter: #BigOil illegally dumps chemical waste in hundreds of unlined pits in #Kern. #WaterNotOil #CAdrought #StopFoolingCA pic.twitter.com/ZiDDiXcY9W Facebook: Big Oil illegally dumps chemical waste into hundreds of unlined pits in Kern County. You know, so it can seep back into the ground.Why? How do you dispose of your toxic waste?#WaterNotOil
Twitter: #BigOil’s waste forced farmers 2 pull up crops. Just. Stop it. #WaterNotOil #StopFoolingCA pic.twitter.com/pomWu2PSwg Facebook: Mike Hopkins had to pull up his cherry trees in 2013 and filed a lawsuit against the oil companies with injection wells around his orchards.“We’re farmers,” Hopkins said. Pulling up the withered fruit trees “broke our hearts.”
Read about Mike here: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/3489997-181/california-allowed-oilfield-dumping-into?page=3
Twitter:Of all the ways to waste water, #fracking is definitely the dumbest. http://bit.ly/1DpwYyo #StopFoolingCA #CADrought pic.twitter.com/vvUeOsZdjH Facebook: Out of all the ways to waste water in California, oil extraction is possibly the worst and definitely the dumbest. #StopFoolingCA
Twitter: Looks like an action movie. It’s actually just @BP_Press making “safe” #energy http://lat.ms/1zCsbEQ pic.twitter.com/3FKIwIkKYM Facebook: It’s been five years since BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and spilling millions of gallons of crude oil.Yet the risk to the Gulf of Mexico is as high as ever.How’d Big Oil pull that off?http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0420-smith-bp-20150420-story.html
By Roger Straw, Editor, The Benicia Independent, April 22, 2015
My initial alarm over Valero’s proposal to build a crude-by-rail offloading facility here in my hometown came almost two years ago now, when I learned of the destruction in Alberta Canada caused by the mining and processing of tar sands. It was plain to me that a decision to permit Valero Crude By Rail here, thousands of miles from those dirty bitumen mines, would position my hometown as a valued partner in the world’s most toxic oil extraction and transport operation. I joined with others here in Benicia to organize so that we would have no part in that dirty game.
For me and for many along the rails in the U.S., our focus shifted gradually – or in some cases suddenly – to public safety issues surrounding Bakken shale oil train derailments and the resultant catastrophic explosions and fireballs.
Lately, I’m thinking that even thoughthese safety concerns will not go away with the eventual passage of a few new laws and long-delayed safety regulations, we all might want to consider renewing and strengthening our original focus.
What we decide here along the tracks and in refinery towns has EVERYTHING to do with the situation in Alberta and the Upper Midwest where tar sands bitumen and shale oil is being produced. People there, the land there, the wildlife, the air and water … these are the first and lasting victims of our thirst for cheap oil.
We hear so much about the oil boom’s contribution to “energy independence.” Well, let’s focus on REAL energy independence: leave the oil in the ground, tax carbon, invest in clean energy.
The Benicia Independent has always been concerned with climate change, the air we breathe and the water and land that sustains life. But our focus, like that of much of the media, has been primarily on the oil train derailments that have understandably shocked and frightened the public since July, 2013. As editor and publisher, I’m serving notice this Earth Day, that the Benicia Independent is taking on a renewed commitment to cover the ongoing environmental damage and the increased risks of pollution if we permit oil trains.
You will begin to see more stories about proposed carbon taxes, polar ice, the destruction of land and lives in Alberta and the Upper Midwest and more.
Note that I fully expect my work to be dominated from time to time by the NEXT BIG EXPLOSION, and the NEXT ONE…. As long as oil trains rumble through our neighborhoods, city centers, mountains and wetlands and into our refinery industrial centers, we WILL see derailments. And no matter the new federal safety rules and the efforts of the rail and oil industries, NOTHING can prevent the massive weight of a moving chain of these monstrous tank cars from coming off the tracks occasionally, accordion jackknifing, flipping and puncturing, setting off horrific explosions, and endangering human life and our natural world. It will happen, and I will cover the news.
But for every day that you DON’T see a news report with fiery skies and black billowing smoke, please understand that the not-so-silent killer strip-mines and the fracking and horizontal drilling continue, too often unreported. Far from most of us, but up close and real to the people who live there, our earth is groaning under the weight of our permitting decisions and our corporate desire for continued crude-oil profitability.
Here in Benicia, we will say NO to crude by rail. It’s a tangible way to have a small say in the welfare of our town, our state, our nation and our beautiful planet earth.
Leave the oil in the ground. Tax carbon. Invest in clean energy.
Tar sands are found underneath Canada’s great boreal forest and consist of heavy crude oil trapped in a mixture of sand and clay. To extract oil from tar sands, companies must destroy fragile forest ecosystems and then use a very energy-intensive upgrading and refining process to turn that sludge into transportation fuel….
Canada’s tar sands is one of the largest industrial projects on the planet, and its environmental footprint is growing by the second. At a time when the world needs to transition to cleaner energy, the tar sands is the poster child of what we should not be doing. It’s time to put a healthy environment above corporate profit and the endless drive for more oil….
Argonne National Laboratory Tar sands (also referred to as oil sands) are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil. Tar sands can
be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands Oil sand is either loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone
containing a naturally occurring mixture of sand, clay, and water,
saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum
technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially tar due to its
similar appearance, odour, and colour).
www.ran.org/what-are-tar–sands Rainforest Action Network The Keystone XL pipeline is a disastrous project of tar sands oil
companies that will do serious damage to our country and
climate. If built, the spill prone …
The Economist Sep 6, 2014 – ONE of the bleakest scenes of man-made
destruction is the strip mining of oil sands in the forests of
Alberta, Canada. The sand is permeated …
Press release, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) [Editor: Food & Water Watch supports the bill with a petition here. “We know that this is just a first step — that in this political climate it seems like it’s nearly impossible to move things forward — but together we can build momentum to protect the lands that are such an important part of our country.” – RS]
On Earth Day Pocan and Schakowsky Introduce Strongest Federal Fracking Ban in the U.S.
April 22, 2015
WASHINGTON, DC — On Earth Day, U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), members of the Safe Climate Caucus, introduced the Protect Our Public Lands Act, H.R. 1902. The legislation is the strongest anti-fracking bill introduced in Congress to date and would ban fracking on public lands.
“Our national parks, forests and public lands are some of our most treasured places and need to be protected for future generations,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “It is clear fracking has a detrimental impact on the environment and there are serious safety concerns associated with these type of wells. Until we fully understand the effects, the only way to avoid these risks is to halt fracking entirely. We should not allow short-term economic gain to harm our public lands, damage our communities or endanger workers.”
“Today is Earth Day – a time to renew our commitment to protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we all call home,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky. ‘Our public lands have been preserved and protected by the federal government for over one hundred years. We owe it to future generations to maintain their natural beauty and rich biodiversity. I believe the only way to do that is to enact the Protect Our Public Lands Act, and I will continue to fight to see that happen.”
“Our public lands are a shared national heritage, and shouldn’t be polluted, destroyed, and fracked to enrich the oil and gas industry,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Ironically, the President is speaking in the Everglades today, a unique and fragile ecosystem that is threatened by nearby fracking on public land. Congress must follow Congressman Pocan and Congresswoman Schakowsky’s bold leadership and ban fracking on these lands, so that future generations can enjoy these special places.”
Mounting evidence shows that fracking threatens our air, water and public health. To make matters worse, reports have shown that existing fracking wells on public lands aren’t being adequately inspected, creating even more potential for disastrous accidents. Right now, about 90 percent of federally managed lands are available for oil and gas leasing, while only 10 percent are reserved for conservation, recreation, wildlife and cultural heritage.
The Protect our Public Lands Act, H.R. 1902prohibits fracking, the use of fracking fluid, and acidization for the extraction of oil and gas on public lands for any lease issued, renewed, or readjusted. The legislation is endorsed by the Food and Water Watch, the American Sustainable Business Council, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Center for Biological Diversity, Progressive Democrats of America.
Repost from Crosscut, News of the Great Nearby [Editor: This is an excellent broad analysis of the intermingled risks of increasing rail, marine and pipeline delivery of North American crude to ports in the Pacific Northwest. Recommended reading. (Note that comments on increasing export of crude appear in the bulleted section, 9 paragraphs into the article.) Be sure to view the Friends of the Earth infographic showing regional impacts of multiple proposed fuel transport projects. – RS]
Guest Opinion: Dirty fuel exports darken NW’s Earth Day
By Fred Felleman, March 31, 2015
Some hailed President Barack Obama’s recent veto of the Keystone pipeline authorization legislation as an early Earth Day gift, spelling the project’s death knell. However, his decision was actually based on process, not policy. While Obama has articulated the science behind climate change better than any predecessor, his all-of-the-above energy strategy has opened the floodgates to unprecedented levels of domestic fossil fuel extraction with lax oversight.
These policies resulted in disasters such as BP’s indelible mark on the Gulf of Mexico five Earth Days ago. In typical fashion, regulators responded with some of the long-needed oversight, but offshore production soon came roaring back.
Recent oil train derailments, exposing communities to elevated risks, also reflect the administration’s policies in the face of the gusher of under-regulated fracked oil as it became cost-effective to bring to market by rail. While Bakken oil is the primary source of this incendiary risk, there are still only proposed national regulations on fracking without consideration of climate impacts. Despite the growing number of oil-train accidents, only weak requirements for safer tanker cars are being developed though Sen. Maria Cantwell just introduced legislation beginning to address this deficiency.
Leases are also being let on public lands at bargain-basement rates for coal extraction and risky Arctic oil exploration. Even after Shell Oil’s calamitous attempts to drill in the Chukchi Sea three years ago, resulting in eight felony convictions and $12.2 million in fines, the company is pursuing Arctic development this year.
Closer to home, Shell has secured the ability to use Terminal 5 from the Port of Seattle to maintain their oil rigs. This is yet another reflection of how the Northwest is being broadly targeted as the gateway for oil, coal and liquefied natural gas to Asian markets – all of which contribute unacceptable climate impacts.
Not since the late 1970s, when NW refineries switched from receiving crude oil from Alberta by pipeline to tankers from Alaska and elsewhere, have Washington’s waters and communities been exposed to such a growth in vessel casualties and oil spill risk. Despite the abandonment of four coal terminal proposals, there are still nearly 20 proposals for oil, coal, propane and LNG terminals either under review or recently permitted.
There is a major difference between the proactive safety planning that preceded the arrival of Alaskan oil tankers in the 1970s with the ad hoc gold-rush mentality that pervades today’s permit decisions.
The last time there was such a growing threat of catastrophic spills, the late Sen. Warren Magnuson took the lead in protecting the Sound from spills. He restricted the size and number of tankers transiting east of Port Angeles and worked on other national and local safety measures, like the 1978 Port and Tanker Safety Act and the creation of an international vessel traffic system in North America, enabling the Coast Guard to serve as ship traffic controllers in the Pacific Northwest. These measures lasted the test of time and continue to contribute to our admirable oil spill record – a legacy to endure. However, it is critical not to rest on our laurels especially since frequency of incidents and accidents are a far better indication of risk exposure than rare spills.
In contrast, today, while new risks accumulate, we see reductions being made in rail and marine safety measures, despite efforts by Sen. Cantwell and others. Such reductions include:
Rail companies are trying to negotiate with unions to reduce the number of crew from two to one required for the operation of 100-plus-car oil trains. The Federal Railroad Administration has not even defined the minimum crew size required for safe operations despite years of requests by the NTSB.
The Obama administration recently published clarification as to the seven ways in which domestically produced crude can be exported from the U.S. Despite this liberalization of exports, oil companies are pushing Congress for complete elimination of the longstanding ban on exports of U.S. oil.
The U.S. Army Corps asserted in the draft environmental impact statement, 10 years in the making, for the construction of BP’s second tanker dock at Cherry Point that the agency’s permit did not violate a Magnuson amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. But the amendment seems to explicitly prohibit such actions. They have also yet to respond to the Lummi’s tribe call to abandon the Gateway coal project due to impacts to their treaty-protected rights.
The Washington State Pilotage Commission recently reduced the training required of pilots allowed to guide oil tankers in and out of Grays Harbor — despite growth in vessel traffic and three newly proposed oil terminals there.
Gov. Jay Inslee and local governments failed to require full environmental impact statements evaluating the chronic train and cumulative vessel impacts of the numerous oil terminal proposals prior to issuing permits. The only time such analysis has been required is in response to lawsuits. (An infographic was produced by Friends of the Earth and Protect Whatcom to visualize this increase associated with new terminals.)
One recent exercise of state authority was the Utilities and Trade Commission’s (UTC) fines against BNSF’s series of oil spills from oil trains calling on Washington. While such leadership is encouraging, in reality we don’t need their money as much as we need to be freed from their leaky oil trains. Similarly, on the marine front there is state legislation calling for tugs to escort the growing number of oil barges moving through Washington waters.
The combined vessel traffic currently bound to and from ports in Washington and British Columbia make the Strait of Juan de Fuca the second busiest waterway in North America.
While Washington’s regulatory agencies are overwhelmed by the onslaught of new terminal proposals and the fate of the Keystone pipeline nationally remains uncertain, there is a major threat coming from Canada to Washington and British Columbia’s Salish Sea. Former Enron executives acquired the Kinder Morgan pipeline that currently connects the vast Alberta tar sand reserves with a port near Vancouver, British Columbia. They are now seeking permits from Canada’s National Energy Board to triple its capacity, making it comparable in volume to the far better known Keystone proposal.
A spur in the Trans Mountain pipeline has also directly connected Washington’s four largest refineries in Whatcom and Skagit counties to Albertan oil since the 1950s. This helps explain why the refineries were constructed in the navigationally challenging waters through the San Juan Islands, rather than along the much broader Juan de Fuca Strait.
This expansion would result in a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic transiting through the San Juan Islands and the core area of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale community. The tankers would go from about one per week to one per day. Researchers at the George Washington University and Virginia Commonwealth University calculated this would result in a 51 percent increase in the amount of oil transported through the Salish Sea and increases in the risks of oil spills from collisions and groundings.
Tar Sands pose unique challenges to the response community. In order to get the heavy bitumen produced in Alberta to flow into pipelines, rail cars and tankers, it needs to be mixed with highly volatile diluents. This mixture, known as dilbit, has been shown to be explosive during accidents. And, during spills, the evaporation of volatile vapors poses health risks to responders, while the heavy remainders sink in water, complicating clean-up efforts.
Despite risks of Trans Mountain’s proposed expansion to the Salish Sea, the U.S. Coast Guard has been reluctant to release incident data in these boundary waters, claiming that is up to Canada – including when incidents occurred in U.S. waters. The lack of this data has underrepresented the vessel casualty risk in the analysis conducted for several terminal proposals.
Building a cross-Cascades pipeline to bring Alaskan oil to the Rocky Mountain states was part of the original plan to construct the state’s largest refinery (ARCO, now BP Cherry Point) north of Bellingham in the 1970s. This would have significantly increased the number of tankers calling on our waters that Magnuson’s efforts successfully thwarted. Now there is state legislation introduced to study sending oil over the cascades in the other direction, thereby connecting Washington refineries to Midwest oil. A recent series of major pipeline leaks has demonstrated how regulations have also lagged behind this oft-touted safest form of oil transportation. Since 2012, according the AP, 50 pipelines have been constructed – adding 3.3 million barrels of daily pipeline capacity, dwarfing Keystone’s 800,000. Between 2004 and 2012, U.S. pipelines spilled three times as much crude as oil trains.
As restrictions on the export of domestic oil are lifted, any purported benefits of pipelines will be quickly eclipsed by the risks associated with the increased volumes of oil being shipped overseas.
Based on statements in the President’s State of the Union address calling on Congress to send him something more than just a pipeline bill, it appears that he is willing to horse trade the completion of the Keystone pipeline for Republican support of his other priority infrastructure projects. Regardless, the uncertainty about Keystone has only emboldened Kinder Morgan to influence Canadian government decision-makers to get one of the world’s largest, most destructive and energy inefficient oil sources to international markets, risking the Salish Sea waters Washington shares with Canada.
As we look toward Earth Day, it’s sobering to remember the failures of oil shipment policies the country has seen. It was 26 years ago last week (March 24) that the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of North Slope crude into the biological oasis of Prince William Sound. After that, Congress finally required tankers to be double hulled. It took until this year to complete the phase out of all single-hulled tankers, each carrying up to 33 million gallons of crude through Washington waters. One of Magnuson’s last actions was to write to Congress on his deathbed following Exxon’s abject failure to prevent or respond to their despoiling of Prince William Sound, calling on that body to require double hulls for oil tankers.
Obama’s priority trade deal, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), will require compensating fossil fuel extractors for potential lost revenues if they are required to “keep it in the ground.” This subsidy undermines an essential step for combating catastrophic climate impacts.
The great legacy, from Magnuson and others, of protecting of Puget Sound is under threat. We need stronger local, state and congressional leadership on energy and the environment. And we need our next president to redefine an “all of the above” energy policy into one that transfers subsidies from peddlers of fossil fuel to peddlers of bicycles and for energy truly coming from above, such as wind and solar power. Otherwise, our children will lose the benefits of the natural capital we are jeopardizing by our lack of long-term vision.