Tag Archives: Marine transport

Pittsburg Defeats WesPac: Biggest California Crude Oil Project Stopped in its Tracks

Repost from ForestEthics, Ethan Buckner’s blog
[Editor:  Also check out ForestEthics’ blog post by Eddie Scher, “Bay Area activists celebrate WesPac withdrawal of oil terminal proposal.” – RS]

Pittsburg Defeats WesPac: Biggest California Crude Oil Project Stopped in its Tracks

By Ethan Buckner, Dec 11, 2015

In the final days of 2015 the victories for the climate justice movement are coming fast and furious — fracking bans to pipeline wins to breakthrough climate policies. This week, after years of a hard-fought community-led campaign, we learned that the oil services company WesPac has withdrawn their permit applications to build the biggest oil terminal on the West Coast in Pittsburg, CA!

That means 242,000 barrels a day of toxic and explosive extreme crude oil from the tar sands and the Bakken will stay in the ground, and off the tankers, oil trains, and pipelines WesPac would have built to bring this dangerous crude to Bay Area refineries.

This is an extraordinary victory, and one that demonstrates that grassroots organizing can overcome the power of big oil. I remember two years ago hearing that “no one can organize in this town,” because for so long Pittsburg had been dominated by heavy industry after heavy industry, from petrochemical plants and waste dumps to power stations and oil facilities.

The campaign started out small, led by two courageous neighbors Kalli Graham and Lyana Monterrey, who started knocking on doors and enrolling more and more community members to the fight. I remember my first day canvassing outside the Pittsburg seafood festival in August 2013, thinking to myself, how the hell are we ever going to win this thing?

But as these brilliant and resilient grassroots leaders kept organizing, and it started working. Within months our volunteer base jumped from a handful to dozens, and then to hundreds. Petition signatures jumped from dozens to hundreds to thousands. At nearly every door I knocked on I met another community member sick of Pittsburg’s reputation as an industrial wasteland, tired industry control. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere where opposition to industry was so strong. When WesPac brought a company man to town to host a three hour informational meeting, community members showed up en masse and drove him out of town. Hundreds of citizens showed up at city council meetings, week in and week out. We hosted toxic tour, dozens of community meetings, and the biggest march Pittsburg has seen in many, many years. We turned the WesPac campaign into a regional and statewide issue, leveraging the power built in Pittsburg to inspire and support other campaigns fighting extreme oil infrastructure in the Bay Area and beyond.

In January 2014, WesPac agreed to take oil trains off the table. That was a big victory, but WesPac still wanted to build a crude oil tank farm, tanker berth, and pipelines, and we stood ready to continue the fight. But WesPac was not, and will officially pull their applications before a city council meeting on December 14.

Hats off to everyone who contributed to this extraordinary effort: especially the community leaders at the Pittsburg Defense Council and Pittsburg Ethics Council, and also Communities for a Better Environment, Sunflower Alliance, Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter, Natural Resources Defense Council, and 350 Bay Area, among others. This victory belongs to our movement, but most of all to the tireless, resilient, creative, and courageous people of Pittsburg.

Let WesPac’s demise serve as a warning to Valero, Phillips 66, and other oil giants that are trying to build oil train terminals in California right now: our movement will not stop until all oil trains projects are halted in their tracks, and extreme oil stays in the ground where it belongs.

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    Bay Area activists celebrate WesPac withdrawal of oil terminal proposal

    Repost from ForestEthics
    [Editor:  Also check out ForestEthics’ blog post by Ethan Buckner, “Pittsburg Defeats WesPac: Biggest California Crude Oil Project Stopped in its Tracks.”  (Great photos.)  – RS]

    WesPac Energy Withdraws Pittsburg, CA, Oil Terminal Proposal

    Activists to attend the upcoming city council meeting at Pittsburg City Hall on Monday, December 14 at 7:00pm

    By Eddie Scher, ForestEthics, Wednesday Dec 9, 2015
    [Pittsburg, CA] On November 16, WesPac Energy formally withdrew its proposed 242,000 barrel-per-day oil storage and transfer facility in Pittsburg, California. The crude oil facility would have included a marine port for oil tankers, more than a dozen oil storage tanks, an oil train offloading terminal, and multiple pipelines to local refineries.

    In 2014 WesPac agreed to remove the oil train component to the project due to mounting community pressure and a scathing letter from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, but still planned to move ahead with the tank farm, marine berth, and pipeline extensions.

    To celebrate the victory local activists will attend the upcoming city council meeting at Pittsburg City Hall on Monday, December 14 at 7:00pm.

    Members of the coalition of citizen organizations working to protect the people and environment of Pittsburg released the following statements:

    “We knew that WesPac was not good for our community and having them as our neighbor would do nothing to make Pittsburg a better place to live” saysKalli Graham, co-founder of the Pittsburg Defense Council.  It was time for us to roll up our sleeves and take action. We had homes to protect and families to keep safe. We did everything we could to tell everyone who would listen that this project was wrong. We canvassed our neighborhoods, lobbied our city and county officials and educated our community on the dangers this project would have on our town. We organized a grassroots movement, created a non-profit organization and rallied our community into action. We stood together as neighbors to fight this project until we’d stalled it for so long that it was no longer viable. We took a stand against the biggest, dirty industry this planet has known so far and we WON!”

    “The citizens of Pittsburg stood toe to toe with the oil industry, they did not blink, they did not flinch, and today they have won,” says Ethan Buckner, ForestEthics extreme oil campaigner. “Thanks to the leadership of Kalli Graham and the Pittsburg Defense Council, and thousands of Pittsburg residents, it is clear that oil trains, tankers, tank farms, and pipelines are not welcome here. Here’s a message to Phillips 66, Valero, and other oil companies with dangerous oil trains projects in the works: The people of California and across North America don’t want your extreme oil, we want clean energy and climate solutions.”

    “The WesPac crude by rail project was clearly designed to import dirty Canadian tar sands to Bay Area refineries,” says Andrés Soto, Richmond organizer with Communities for a Better Environment. “This victory is not enough. To protect us from future dirty oil projects, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District must adopt strict limitations on refinery emissions now.

    “Thanks to the people of Pittsburg for sending this clear signal to the City of Benicia and Valero that Valero’s dangerous crude by rail project is not only a bad idea, it is no longer economically viable,” says Katherine Black, organizer with Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community.

    “WesPac’s own environmental review documents, inadequate as they were, showed that the project would harm this community and the environment by polluting the land, air, and water” says Jackie Prange, Staff Attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council. WesPac made the right choice to give up now rather than face defeat in court.”

    “I’ve often considered the WesPac project to be the Bay Area’s Keystone XL – a perfect example of new fossil fuel infrastructure that would enable the oil industry to grow,” says community organizer Martin Mackerel. I couldn’t be happier that we stopped this project from being built. I hope our victory inspires others to block all new fossil fuel infrastructure in their backyards. Together we can stop this industry from murdering humanity’s future.”

    “WesPac’s dangerous and grandiose plans for a mega-oil terminal in Pittsburg have been thwarted not only by market forces—OPEC and faltering oil barrel prices—but by a force of nature commonly known as People Power, the combined efforts of nameless individuals driven not by profit motives but by fierce love of community and desire for ecological sanity,” says Shoshana Wechsler of the SunFlower Alliance.

    “The WesPac oil storage facility would have posed significant pollution threats to San Francisco Bay. San Francisco Baykeeper is proud to have been part of the team that stopped WesPac, and we’ll continue our work to protect the Bay from the expansion of oil refining and oil transport in the Bay Area,” says Sejal Choksi, San Francisco Baykeeper.

    “Pittsburg is a strong community, and one that determined that we were not going to allow the hazardous WesPac project to be placed in our backyard,” says Gregory Osorio of the Pittsburg Ethics Council. “Many people worked countless hours – first Lyana Monterrey who started the organizing in Pittsburg before the WesPac project was on ANYONE’s radar. To George Monterrey for his ‘fire’, and Danny Lopez, the graphics artist for the movement. The credit for this victory belongs to the nonprofit environmental groups such as Forest Ethics, NRDC, Sierra Club, and Sunflower Alliance, who all made enormous contributions. We wish to thank everyone who labored tirelessly to keep this potentially catastrophic project from being dumped in our backyard.”

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      Oil, gas, coal industries want Washington, British Columbia as permanent home ports

      Repost from SeattlePI
      [Editor: Note that at the time of this posting, the link to SeattlePI is ok, but it carries an advertisement at top promoting Energy East Pipeline –  a project to bring nasty Western Canadian tar sands oil to Eastern Canada.  Supposedly all the “facts” and “benefits” of this tar sands disaster.  Ironic, eh?  – RS]

      Oil, gas, coal industries want Washington, British Columbia as permanent home ports

      By Joel Connelly, June 4, 2015

      Shell’s exploration fleet is due to depart Seattle soon for the Arctic, but other energy industries are planning their own home ports up and down the West Coast, from the Columbia River to the Salish Sea to British Columbia’s North Coast.

      The public’s attention will wane at its peril.  Public understanding of the gains and pains of Big Oil and Big Coal’s plans for the Northwest is strongly advised.

      Spill response boats work to contain fuel leaking from the bulk carrier cargo ship Marathassa, anchored on Burrard Inlet, Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia. The City of Vancouver warned that the fuel is toxic and should not be touched. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

      The waters of Puget Sound, Georgia Strait and the Inland Passage are fast becoming a chosen path for shipment of coal, liquid natural gas, and — if many in Congress have their way — oil to China and other fast-developing Asian markets.

      The drilling rigs Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer will almost certainly be in Alaskan waters when legal and administrative challenges to Shell Oil’s Seattle home port are heard in July.

      In recent months, the resistance to Shell has overshadowed the proposed oil train terminus in Vancouver, Washington, the coal port and refinery proposed for Longview, the growing number of oil trains through Seattle, and the enormous pipeline terminus and oil export port proposed just east of Vancouver, B.C.

      The invasion of the energy industry has drawn sporadic public attention. A crowd of 2,300 showed up for a Seattle meeting to scope out the Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental studies of the proposed Gateway Pacific coal export terminal north of Bellingham.

      Ignored south of the border, more than 100 demonstrators were arrested last November at a park on Burnaby Mountain, just east of Vancouver, B.C. They were protesting sample drilling by a Houston company that wants to make Burnaby the terminus of a pipeline carrying Alberta tar sands oil.

      The proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline, beginning in Edmonton, has at least 890,000 barrels a day a higher capacity than the vastly more-publicized Keystone XL project in the Midwest.

      A sight that won't be stopped by sit-ins and City Council resolutions:  A coal train passes an oil train after tanker cars derailed in Magnolia this morning.  Oil and coal could become the Northwest's "supreme shipping commodities" crowding our trade dependent economy..

      The oil would not stay in British Columbia.  Thirty-four tankers a month would carry it through the international waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait, the boundary between the U.S. San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands.

      Governments, on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, do not inspire public confidence.

      The U.S. Department of Transportation, in recent safety rules on oil trains, proposes to allow three years — THREE YEARS — for explosion-prone, 1964-vintage DOT-111 tanker cars to finally be off America’s railroad tracks.

      The USDOT is “laser focused” on safety, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.  Still, the DOT has sided with the railroads and rebuffed requests by first responders for full information on cargoes being carried from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through Puget Sound cities.

      “Because of the detailed and sensitive nature of the safety and security analysis information, the federal government requires that the information be treated as Sensitive Security information that cannot be publicly disclosed,” Foxx told Cantwell.

      Nor do the USDOT rules require removal of potentially explosive gases from tank cars carrying shipments of oil.

      The situation is even more alarming in Canada. The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to turn the Great White North into a global petro power.  And that means bringing Alberta oil to tidewater for export.

      Oil tanker cars derailed beneath the Magnolia Bridge in July of 2014.

      The National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) has approved (with conditions) an oil pipeline that would carry Alberta tar sands crude to an oil port at Kitimat, at the head of the long, treacherous Douglas Channel in northern British Columbia.

      The NEB is now considering the 890,000 barrels-a-day, $5.4 billion (Canadian) Kinder Morgan pipeline.  Vancouver and Burnaby are trying to get full information on environmental consequences. A major spill in Burrard Inlet could cost Vancouver as much as $1.25 billion.  However, the British Columbia government has barely intervened with the project.

      While watching hockey’s Stanley Cup playoffs, American viewers have been exposed to pro-pipeline propaganda on Canadian TV.  The government promises “world class” marine safety.  A stud-muffin Kinder Morgan employee talks about how much he loves the out-of-doors.

      Don’t believe Canada’s claims for a New York minute.

      While pushing an oil port, the Harper government has shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver and is in the process of closing the Coal Harbor marine traffic and communications center.  The oil would be routed to Burnaby, while Coast Guard operations are being moved to Victoria.

      The vast Alberta oil stands project, along with oil development in North Dakota, is outstripping the capacity of North America's pipelines.  Hence, oil is increasingly being moved by rail.  A disaster in Quebec raises questions for the Northwest. (Getty Images)

      The British Columbia government has its sights set on something else — development of huge liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals on the coast. The gas would be exported to China.

      An Indian band near Prince Rupert recently rejected a $1 billion, long-term deal to roll over and allow an LNG terminal.

      The B.C. government is more pliable.  It is pledging to freeze in place environmental and safety regulations for the duration of the LNG terminals’ operation.  It’s forging ahead with the big, nature-wrecking Site C hydro project on the Peace River to supply electricity to the LNG industry.

      So far, the most sustained resistance has come from Native American and Aboriginal First Nations tribes.

      The tribes have managed to unite across the border, understanding that disruption, oil spills and damage to natural resources will be felt on BOTH sides of the border.

      The Swinomish tribe is challenging Anacortes-bound oil trains, which cross its reservation, in federal courts. The Lummi Indians have steadfastly resisted Gateway Pacific.

      Newborn J51 with her mother J19 off San Juan Island. Photo: Dave Ellifrit, The Center for Whale Research.

      Up north, the Tsleil Wauth First Nation, with land on Burrard Inlet, fielded a study by experts.  It found there is a 37 percent chance of a spill of 100,000 barrels or more, which could kill between 100,000 and 500,000 sea and shorebirds.

      The basic point for residents of this much-envied corner of the Earth:

      Full, accurate information on the real and possible consequences of major energy projects is not going to come from government.

      Given the scope of the projects, two words of wisdom come immediately to mind: Question authority.

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        NRDC Attorney: The tar sands invasion that can be stopped

        Repost from NRDC Switchboard, Danielle Droitsch’s Blog

        The tar sands invasion that can be stopped

        Danielle Droitsch
        Danielle Droitsch, senior attorney with NRDC, Canada Project Director, International Program.

        By Danielle Droitsch, April 28, 2015

        Many across the United States are aware of the tar sands threat posed by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline but what many may not know is the U.S. faces a looming threat that is bigger than just this one pipeline. We call it a tar sands invasion. The plan would be to complete a network of pipelines (both new and expanded), supertankers and barges, and a fleet of explosive railway tank cars. What is at risk? San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and other places we all call home. While the threat of this invasion is already here with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the good news is that citizens across North America are rising up to respond and repeal the assault with a clear message: Not by pipeline, not by rail, not by tanker. The good news is that public opposition to tar sands oil is rising and projects like Keystone XL and Northern Gateway have been delayed. The tar sands assault is not inevitable. In fact, the U.S. doesn’t need this dirty form of fuel and neither does Canada. The time has come to limit tar sands expansion in favor of a cleaner and brighter energy future.

        Tar Sands Invasion Map 4-27-15.jpg

        A new report released by NRDC reveals that the amount of tar sands crude moving into and through the North American West Coast could increase by more than 1.7 million barrels per day if industry proposals for pipelines, tankers and rail facilities move forward. For more information about this new information see posts by my colleagues Anthony Swift and Josh Axelrod. Why the west coast? With the majority of the world’s heavy oil refinery capacity, the United States including the west coast is a critical market for the tar sands industry. To be clear, Keystone XL still remains at the heart of the industry plan to expand tar sands and gain access to the global market. But industry is still pushing hard for other ways to expand especially as KXL flounders. It is important to keep in mind the tar sands industry – which currently produces about 2 million barrels per day (bpd) – plans to triple production to exceed 6 million bpd in the next fifteen years. The oil industry has made clear it needs all of its rail and pipeline proposals to achieve its massive production goals.

        We know that the tar sands industry and Canadian government has long had a plan to quadruple or more tar sands extraction in Canada. KXL has always been a huge part of that. But it is now very clear that they also plan to access the U.S. and global market through every means possible.

        This threatened invasion puts our communities, waters, air and climate in jeopardy. The Tar Sands Solutions Network has done an outstanding job outlining many of the different campaigns that are emerging across North America. This plan threatens to expose communities from California to New York to health, safety and environmental risks unless the public rallies to stop it. Here are some of the specific impacts that North America faces as a result of the tar sands invasion:

        • Across the West Coast, tar sands laden tanker and barge traffic could increase twenty-five fold, with a projected 2,000 vessels along the Pacific West Coast– including the Salish Sea and the Columbia River–shipping nearly two million barrels of tar sands crude every day.
        • A dozen proposed rail terminals would substantially increase tar sands by rail traffic going through densely populated American citizens like Los Angeles and Albany New York risking explosive derailments of hazardous crude unit trains
        • Nearly a million barrels of tar sands would be destined for California and Washington refineries, exposing fenceline communities in Anacortes, San Francisco and Los Angeles to increasing toxic air pollution.
        • In the Midwest, the pipeline company Enbridge is moving to nearly double the flow of tar sands moving through the Great Lakes region, an area that already has suffered from a 2010 spill of more than 800,000 gallons of the tar sands into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan sending hundreds of residents to the hospital. Four years later, the cleanup, which has cost more than $1 billion, is still unfinished.
        • On the East Coast, the tar sands industry is seeking to build the Energy East pipeline across Canada. The pipeline would run from Alberta east across Canada to New Brunswick and Quebec, carry 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil per day and require hundreds of oil tankers traveling along the East Coast and Gulf Coast annually, through critical habitat of the extremely endangered Right Whale.
        • In Albany, New York, a proposed oil transfer facility could lead to the shipment of tar sands oil on barges down the Hudson River or rail cars along the river destined for facilities in the New Jersey and Philadelphia areas.
        • In Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, the constant threat of a proposed reversal of the aging Portland-Montreal Pipeline is likely to arise again as Enbridge completes work on a pipeline reversal that will connect the tar sands directly to Montreal this summer.
        • This network of pipelines will feed refineries that produce millions of tons of hazardous petroleum coke waste – known as “petcoke” – which are piling up in residential neighborhoods like Chicago.
        • In Canada, pipeline companies are trying to access the west and east costs with pipeline proposals that would ship the heavy tar sands oil across pristine landscapes in British Columbia or across the Prairies into Ontario and Quebec. Communities are raising concerns about the threat of a spill to waters from the pipeline or tankers leaving the Bay of Fundy of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
        • And last but not least, communities in Alberta at ground zero have been facing the enormous consequences of tar sands development which has brought about significant contamination of water, air, and land. Increasingly, there are calls for a moratorium on development.

        Targeting at risk communities

        The tar sands invasion puts a high toll on low-income and aboriginal communities located in railway corridors, near oil refineries, and next to petcoke waste sites. In refinery fence-line communities, emissions associated with tar sands are suspected to be even more detrimental to human health than existing harmful emissions from conventional crude. Derailments of tar sands unit trains – mile long trains carrying over a hundred tankers full of explosive tar sands crude – pose a catastrophic risk for communities throughout the country. And as more tar sands oil is refined in the United States, the public will also face increased health and environmental risks from massive piles of petroleum coke, a coal-like waste full of heavy metals that results from tar sands oil refining and can cause serious damage to the respiratory system.

        Industry would like for you to believe that tar sands development is inevitable and there is nothing that can be done. Wherever they turn today they are being faced with public opposition. Expansion is not inevitable, especially because of this growing and formidable opposition.

        A climate problem

        It is clear that tar sands reserves – some of the world’s most carbon intensive – are at the top of the list of reserves that must remain in the ground. Mounting scientific and economic analysis shows that the tar sands industry’s proposed expansion plan is incompatible with global efforts to address climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that 75% or more of discovered fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground in order to limit warming to the international two degrees Celsius goal. The clear inconsistency between tar sands expansion and efforts to address climate change have made opposition to tar sands expansion projects a clear rallying point for a broad group of allies advocating for action on climate.

        A water problem

        A tar sands spill from train, pipeline, or tanker could devastate local economies, pristine wilderness, harm human health, and lead to an especially costly and challenging cleanup. Tar sands spills have proven more damaging than conventional spills, as heavy tar sands bitumen sinks below the water surface making it difficult to contain or recover. A spill from shipping the tar sands crude could devastate communities, contaminate freshwater supplies or marine habitats and damaging local economies.

        Undermining efforts to grow our clean energy economy

        The growing exploitation of Alberta’s tar sands threatens to undermine North American efforts to build a clean energy economy and combat global climate change. Because most tar sands crude is destined for the United States, its expansion would create a greater dependence on the world’s dirtiest crude oil and undermine our transition to environmentally sustainable energy and a cleaner transportation fleet. Responding to the tar sands invasion will require solutions reduce fossil fuel use and spur low-carbon transportation and energy solutions such as broadened electric vehicle use and development of renewable and clean fuels.

        This tar sands invasion can be stopped: Clean Transportation Solutions

        The good news is this tar sands invasion can be stopped starting with leadership from government officials to embrace climate and sustainable transportation solutions. NRDC’s report for the west coast outlines detailed recommendations for decision-makers at all levels. The first step is for decision-makers at all levels to become familiar with the unique issues associated with tar sands oil and then to actively identify the full range of solutions to confront this problem. Without action, the U.S. will unintentionally become a thoroughfare for this oil undermining climate policies and presenting risks to communities and water. With support for regional clean energy policies, we can prevent the influx of tar sands crude and build the green infrastructure and public support necessary to begin transitioning to a clean energy economy.

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