Tag Archives: TransCanada

FBI: Oil Trains At Risk of “Extremist” Attacks

Repost from DeSmogBlog
[Editor: DeSmog refers here to an October 2014 article by Curtis Tate of McClatchy News that first broke this story.  I regret that the Benicia Independent failed to take note of this important article back then.  I will add that I have mixed feelings about this report.  Folks my age are aware of a long history of rogue investigations by the FBI, and we’ve become understandably wary of government agencies that serve the needs of corporate interests.  Nonetheless, I fear that there are in fact real and horrendous risks of security attacks by unbalanced individuals on the left and the right – and abroad.  For me, this is only one more reason to ban oil trains.  – RS]

FBI Advisory: Oil Trains At Risk of “Extremist” Attack, But Lacks “Specific Information” To Verify

By Steve Horn, July 18, 2015 – 05:58
First responders in Lac Megantic. Photo: Transportation Board of Canada.

A documentmarked “Confidential” and published a year ago today, on July 18, 2014, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concluded that “environmental extremists” could target oil-by-rail routes, as first reported on by McClatchyBut the Bureau also concedes upfront that it lacks “specific information” verifying this hunch.

Rail industry lobbying groups published the one-page FBI Private Sector Advisory as an exhibit to a jointly-submitted August 2014 comment sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT), which has proposed “bomb trains” regulations currently under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

FBI Oil by Rail Advisory

Image Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation

We’ve heard overtures like this one before from the FBI, other agencies and from industry players themselves.

As reported here on DeSmog, the FBI worked alongside TransCanada to take photos and monitor Tar Sands Blockade-affiliated activists and other anti-Keystone XL pipeline activists back in 2012 and 2013. The Guardian, Bloomberg and Earth Island Journal have also recently published stories, based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, further confirming that the FBI worked closely alongside TransCanada to monitor and disrupt activists opposed to the pipeline.

In August 2014, DeSmog also reported that in Maryland, rail company Norfolk Southern submitted a July 23, 2014 legal filing to the Maryland Department of the Environment citing Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in its attempt to justify keeping oil-by-rail routes a trade secret. Norfolk submitted that filing merely five days after the FBI published its Private Sector Advisory.

And at a 2011 industry public relations conference in Houston, a communication manager at a major company involved in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas told the audience his community affairs employees use psychological warfare (PSYOPs) techniques in local communities, while another compared fracking opponents to “insurgents” who should be fended off by PR campaigns modeled after counterinsurgency warfare.

ISIS, AQAP, Bin Laden

While Norfolk Southern cited Biden Laden and Al Qaeda in its affidavit, the FBI honed in on the Islamic State (IS), also sometimes referred to as the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL). It also mentioned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — and Osama Bin Laden.

Like Maryland, the rail industry lobbying groups cited the FBI Advisory as a way to argue against disclosing oil-by-rail routes to the public.

“It is not just environmental extremists who pose a threat to the transportation of crude by rail.  Foreign terrorists are also a risk,” wrote the industry lobbying groups. “Two publications reportedly by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula contain threats against crude oil trains…Furthermore, information from Osama Bin Laden’s compound indicates that Al-Qaeda has contemplated attacks on trains.”

Louis Warchot, an attorney for the Association of American Railroads, co-authored the comment submitted to DOT.

Before working for the association, Warchot “served in the United States Armed Forces and retired in the rank of Colonel in the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps.” On top of his law, business masters and undergraduate degrees from University of California-Berkeley, Warchot also has a masters from the U.S. Army War College in Strategic Studies.

“Extremism” or Peaceful Activism?

In the FBI‘s advisory, it never uses the term “activist” or “advocate,” opting instead for the term “extremist.” So what does an “extremist” do and what exactly constitutes an extremist?

“Environmental extremists,” explains the Bureau, “believe the use of fossil fuels contributes to the destruction of our environment and may believe that transport of crude oil creates the potential for environmental hazardous train derailments and oil spills.”

It’s a definition that almost anyone who understands the science of climate change or is concerned about oil train explosions could fall under. The FBI then lays out what these “extremists” do.

According to the FBI, they use social media to spread awareness of oil-by-rail routes (like sharing a link to the ForestEthics website “Oil Train Blast Zone”) and make or send “threatening” phone calls or emails to industry, contractors or others associated with moving crude by rail.

“[T]actics to disrupt, obstruct or interrupt rail traffic to delay crude oil transportation” also makes the FBI cut, which is an activity that anti-coal activists sometimes take part in as a means of delaying coal trains.

FBI Oil by Rail Advisory
Image Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation

“The FBI should be looking carefully at the imminent threat oil trains pose to millions of Americans living in the blast zone, but they should then turn their attention to the lax rules from the Department of Transportation and the oil and rail industry who fight common sense safety steps and hide train routes from emergency responders,” Ross Hammond, US Campaigns Director for ForestEthics, told DeSmog.

Speaking of threats, perhaps the FBI should concern itself with the explosive oil-by-rail trains that pass underneath West Point and right next to nuclear missile launch sites, rather than things that fall under the purview of First Amendment-protected speech threatening to industry profits.

*An earlier version of this article cited Chemical Security News as the first website to report on the FBI document. McClatchy DC was actually the first news outlet to report on the document’s existence as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation oil-by-rail rulemaking docket back in October 2014. We regret the error.

Photo Credit: First responders in Lac Megantic via Transportation Board of Canada.

Share...

    Alberta’s possible pivot to the left alarms Canadian oil sector

    Repost from Reuters

    Alberta’s possible pivot to the left alarms Canadian oil sector

    By Scott Haggett and Nia Williams, May 4, 2015 7:07am EDT
    Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley meets with Mayor Naheed Nenshi in his office in Calgary, Alberta, April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Todd Korol

    (Reuters: CALGARY, Alberta) – Canada’s oil-rich province of Alberta is on the cusp of electing a left-wing government that can make life harder for the energy industry with its plans to raise taxes, end support for key pipeline projects and seek a bigger cut of oil revenues.

    Polls suggest Tuesday’s election is set to end the Conservative’s 44-year reign in the province that boasts the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves and now faces recession because of the slide in crude prices.

    Surveys have proven wrong in Canadian provincial elections before and voters may end up merely downgrading the Conservatives’ grip on power to a minority government.

    Yet the meteoric rise of the New Democratic Party and the way it already challenges the status-quo of close ties between the industry and the ruling establishment has alarmed oil executives. The proposed review of royalties oil and gas companies pay the government for using natural resources and which could lead to higher levies, is a matter of particular concern.

    “Now is not the time for a review of oil and natural gas royalties,” Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the country’s top oil lobby, said in a statement.

    A 2007 increase in the levy was rolled back when the global financial crisis struck and oil executives say today the time is equally bad to try it again.

    Yet the left’s leader Rachel Notley, a former union activist and law school graduate, has shot up in popularity ratings in the past months advocating policies that have been anathema for many conservative administrations.

    She says she would not lobby on behalf of TransCanada Corp’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline or support building of Enbridge Inc’s Northern Gateway pipeline to link the province’s oil sands with a Pacific port in British Columbia. Citing heavy resistance from aboriginal groups to the Enbridge line, Notley says Alberta should back those that are more realistic such as TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline to the Atlantic ocean.

    PACKING UP?

    Notley also advocates a 2 percentage point rise in Alberta’s corporate tax rate to 12 percent to shore up its budget that is expected to swing from a surplus to a C$5 billion deficit in 2015/2016 as energy-related royalty payments and tax revenues shrink.

    Even with the proposed corporate tax hike Alberta’s overall taxes would remain the lowest nationally. Oil executives warn, however, that any new burdens at a time when the industry is in a downturn, shedding jobs and cutting spending, could prompt firms to move corporate head offices out of the province.

    “Business is mobile,” said Adam Legge, president of the Chamber of Commerce in Calgary where most of Canada’s oil industry is based. “Capital, people and companies move.”

    Ironically, the challenge the oil industry and the Conservatives face is in part a by-product of Alberta’s rapid growth fueled by the oil-sands boom.

    The influx of immigrants from other parts of Canada and overseas has changed the once overwhelmingly white and rural province. Today Alberta is one of the youngest provinces and polls show younger and more diverse population is more likely to support left-wing causes such as environment and education and more critical of big business. The New Democratic Party still only got 10 percent of the votes in the 2012 vote, but an election of a Muslim politician as a mayor of Calgary in 2010 served as an early sign of the changing political landscape.

    The Conservatives themselves and their gaffe-prone leader Premier Jim Prentice also share the blame for the reversal of fortunes with one poll showing them trailing the left by 21 percent to 44 percent.

    Prentice angered voters when he told Albertans to “look in the mirror” to find reasons for the province’s fiscal woes and then passed a budget in March that raised individual taxes and fees for government services but spared corporations.

    Scandals – Prentice’ s predecessor left last year because of a controversy over lavish spending – and blunders added to the party’s woes.

    The NDP vaulted to the top of the polls after Notley’s strong performance in an April 23 televised debate, when Prentice, former investment banker, drew fire for suggesting his rival struggled with math.

    Then there is voter fatigue with a party seen as too comfortable and scandal-prone after decades in power.

    “It’s still the same gang, the same policy, same procedures, the same concept of entitlement,” said one executive at a large oil and gas producer who declined to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the media. “I know some extremely neo-conservative guys who have said enough is enough.”

    (Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Mike De Souza in Ottawa; Editing by Amran Abocar and Tomasz Janowski)
    Share...

      Proposed new pipeline: Both pipelines, trains too risky for tarsands oil

      Repost from The Leader-Post, Regina, Saskatchewan
      [Editor:  See also, Huffington Post: “Nearly 300 Pipeline Spills In North Dakota Have Gone Unreported To The Public Since January 2012.”  – RS]

      Pipelines, trains risky for oil

      By Florence Stratton, April 24, 2015

      TransCanada is promoting Energy East (April 20 commentary), a pipeline that will cut through Harbour Landing in Regina.

      Using an old natural gas pipeline for the Saskatchewan portion, Energy East will transport 175 million litres of tarsands oil per day from Alberta to Eastern Canada, mainly for export.

      TransCanada claims its pipelines are safe, but in its initial year of operation, TransCanada’s first Keystone pipeline, constructed in 2010, had 12 spills, including one that dumped 79,493 litres of oil in North Dakota. [Editor: See Wall Street Journal report.  Also ClimateProgress.]

      Energy East is especially risky. The Saskatchewan section of the pipeline is 43 years old and was constructed to carry natural gas, not tarsands oil, a thicker substance requiring higher pumping pressure.

      Should Energy East be approved, the question is not if, but when there will be pipeline leaks and spills. What happened in North Dakota could happen right in Regina.

      TransCanada also claims that pipeline transport of oil is safer than rail transport. In truth, both are safety hazards.

      Moreover, both modes of transport facilitate the expansion of tarsands production, an environmental hazard. Indeed, climate scientists warn that, if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must leave at least 80 per cent of tarsands oil in the ground.

      Citizen safety, health, and welfare must take precedence over corporate profit.

      Regina should follow the good example of Toronto and ban the transport of tarsands oil through our city by rail or pipeline.

      Florence Stratton, Regina

      Share...