Tag Archives: The Center For Biological Diversity

As California pumps out oil, Gov. Brown says world must cut back

Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate)
[Editor:  The San Francisco Chronicle ran three (!) stories on the Vatican Conference on climate change, including two rather stiff challenges to California Governor Jerry Brown.  See below for one.  See also: Editorial-A climate pilgrimage, …and Mayor touts city’s green vehicles at pope’s event.  – RS]

As California pumps out oil, Gov. Brown says world must cut back

By David R. Baker, July 21, 2015 4:02 pm
Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his speech during the conference at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press
Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his speech during the conference at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press (1st of 10 images – click for more).

One-third of the world’s oil must stay in the ground if humanity hopes to avoid the worst effects of global warming, Gov. Jerry Brown told a climate conference at the Vatican Tuesday.

“We are going to have to set a clear goal,” Brown told a crowd of mayors and public officials from around the world. “And that goal is almost unimaginable. One-third of the oil that we know exists as reserves can never be taken out of the ground. Fifty percent of the gas can never be used and over 90 percent of the coal. Now, that is a revolution.”

For an American politician of Brown’s stature, it was a rare statement. Even those who acknowledge the threat of climate change prefer not to address the idea that tapping all of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves would trigger catastrophic levels of warming, a notion widely embraced in the environmental movement.

But Brown’s comment was particularly noteworthy for another reason.

California, for all its efforts to fight climate change, remains America’s third-largest oil producing state, out-pumped only by Texas and North Dakota. And while Brown wants to cut California’s use of oil by 50 percent in the next 15 years, he has generally supported oil production within the state’s borders.

Brown has for years refused to ban hydraulic fracturing, preferring to regulate it instead. He has argued that finding a way to tap the oil trapped within California’s Monterey Shale formation could produce an economic boom for the state. His stance has infuriated many environmentalists, even as they laud his efforts to boost renewable power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So Brown’s comments, at the Vatican global symposium on climate change and modern slavery, raised a few eyebrows back home.

“We agree, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups pushing for a fracking ban. “That’s why Gov. Brown can’t be a climate leader and expand fossil fuel production in his own state. Climate leaders do not frack.”

Brown urged the gathered mayors to push for climate action within their own countries, saying they needed to “light a fire” under their national leaders. And he took aim at opponents of such action, saying they were “bamboozling” the public with a well-financed disinformation campaign.

“We have very powerful opposition that, in at least my country, spends billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,” Brown said.

Third Fiery Accident in Three Weeks Shows Need for Immediate New Federal Regulations

Repost from The Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Biological DiversityYet Another Oil Train Derails, Catches Fire, This Time in Illinois

Third Fiery Accident in Three Weeks Shows Need for Immediate Major Safety Upgrades for Shipments of Crude by Rail

GALENA, Ill.— An oil train transporting more than 100 cars of highly volatile crude oil derailed and caught fire today in northwest Illinois near the Mississippi River — the third explosive oil train accident in three weeks. Billowing columns of dark smoke and fireballs shooting hundreds of feet into the air were visible this afternoon as at least two tank cars caught fire. Early reports are that first responders had to pull back from the fire due to the heat and ongoing danger of more tank cars catching fire and exploding. The incident follows in close succession fiery oil train derailments in Ontario and West Virginia.

“The only thing more mind-boggling than three such accidents in three weeks is the continued lack of action by the Obama administration to protect us from these dangerous oil trains,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The government has the authority to take immediate action to address this crisis — which puts homes, waters and wildlife at risk – and yet it has sat back and watched.”

The Center for Biological Diversity recently released a report on the danger of oil trains traveling tracks throughout the United States. Among the findings were that some 25 million people live within the one-mile “evacuation zone” of tracks carrying oil trains and that the trains pass through 34 wildlife refuges and critical habitat for 57 endangered species.

The Illinois accident joins a growing list of devastating oil train derailments over the past two years. There has been a more than 40-fold increase in crude oil transport by rail since 2008, but no significant upgrade in federal safety requirements. Oil transport has increased from virtually nothing in 2008 to more than 500,000 rail cars of oil in 2014. Billions of gallons of oil pass through towns and cities ill-equipped to respond to the kinds of explosions and spills that have been occurring. Millions of gallons of crude oil have been spilled into waterways.

Today’s derailment happened where the Galena River meets the Mississippi River. There are no reports of injuries or fatalities, or of drinking water intake closures, although there are communities in the area that draw water from the Mississippi. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe train included 103 tank cars transporting volatile crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

Loaded oil trains on this particular line first must pass through densely populated areas such as Minneapolis-St. Paul and La-Crosse. The trains also pass through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, about 50 miles upstream of the derailment site. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Mississippi River corridor “provides productive fish and wildlife habitat unmatched in the heart of America.”

“There are simply no excuses left for the Obama administration. The fact that these trains are still moving on the rails is a national travesty,” said Matteson. “The next explosive wreck — and there will be more, so long as nothing changes — may take lives, burn up a town or level a city business district, and pollute the drinking water of thousands of people. Enough is enough.”

A series of fiery oil-train derailments in the United States and Canada has resulted in life-threatening explosions and destructive oil spills. The worst was a derailment in Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people, forced the evacuation of 2,000 people, and incinerated portions of a popular tourist town.

Ethanol shipments by rail have also raised safety concerns. On Feb. 4, a train transporting ethanol derailed along the Mississippi River in Iowa, catching fire and sending an unknown amount of ethanol into the river.

In February the U.S. Department of Transportation sent new rules governing oil train safety to the White House for review, prior to public release. However, the proposed rules fail to require appropriate speed limitations, and it will be at least another two and a half years before the most dangerous tank cars are phased out of use for the most hazardous cargos. The oil and railroad industries have lobbied for weaker rules on tank car safety and brake requirements. The industries also want more time to comply with the new rules.

Yet, without regulations that will effectively prevent derailments and rupture of tank cars, oil trains will continue to threaten people, drinking water supplies and wildlife, including endangered species.

The Center has also petitioned for oil trains that include far fewer tank cars and for comprehensive oil spill response plans for railroads as well as other important federal reforms, and is also pushing to stop the expansion of projects that will facilitate further increases in crude by rail.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Are Regulators Ignoring California’s New Fracking Law, SB4?

Repost from NBC Bay Area, Investigative Unit

Are Regulators Ignoring California’s New Fracking Law?

An analysis of oil wells fracked and reported by industry since the beginning of the year shows dozens of those wells are not showing up on the State’s website, as required by new state law.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014  |  By Stephen Stock, Liza Meak, Scott Pham and Mark Villarreal

As many as 77 different oil wells that the gas and oil industry reported were fracked in January and February had yet to show up on the website run by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) by May 20, 2014. Stephen Stock reports in a video that aired on May 27, 2014.

As many as 77 different oil wells that the gas and oil industry reported were fracked in January and February had yet to show up on the website run by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) by May 20, 2014.

That apparently flies in the face of a new law, titled [Senate Bill Four] or SB4, which requires the state to notify residents within 60 days of any well stimulation. SB4 also was supposed to require that oil and gas companies notify neighbors about upcoming well stimulation activities.

Well stimulation includes things such as hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), the use of gravel or hydrochloric acid, or other acids to stimulate well production.

Governor Brown signed the bill into law last September [pdf] and it took effect January 1, 2014.

Environmental Group, The Center For Biological Diversity analyzed publicly available fracking records. NBC Bay Area verified the analysis and found a total of 116 oil wells that have been fracked and voluntarily reported on the industry’s own website, Frac Focus.

Those fracking operations took place in January and February of 2014, after the new law took effect and long past the 60-day notification period.

As of May 20, 2014, 77 of those 116 wells had not yet been posted on the State of California’s website run by DOGGR.

The Center for Biological Diversity and NBC Bay Area also independently verified 62 separate wells where local air quality management records show hydrochloric acid was used. Those 62 wells don’t show up on the DOGGR website either, as of May 20, 2014.

That hydrocholoric acid data comes from the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Southern California (SCAQMD).

The new state law only requires that DOGGR post the use of hydrochloric acid on wells when the technique is used to stimulate well production.

State officials deny DOGGR is dragging its feet in implementing the new law, even though there are a number of wells that should have been listed on the state’s website before May 20th of this year.

“We’re hitting all of our marks,” said Jason Marshall, Chief Deputy Director of California’s Department of Conservation, which oversees DOGGR and the implementation of SB4.

“The requirements of SB4 is for the operators [oil and gas companies] to report to Frac Focus within 60 days after completing the stimulation job, the fracking, or other forms of stimulation,” said Marshall. “Then there’s an additional 15 days after that for it to show up on our site.”

“We are working diligently,” Marshall told NBC Bay Area. “As the operators are reporting the stuff on Frac Focus, we’re working diligently with them to get that additional information, so then that we can link that up so we can post it on our site.

Marshall also said that the reporting requirements for activities such as the use of hydrochloric acid are different between DOGGR and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“There’s actually a difference of reporting requirements down in the South Coast Air district, and from that versus what’s in Senate Bill Four (SB4),” Marshall said, “And there have been a number of operations that are not reportable under Senate Bill 4, but are under the South Coast rule and we’ve been working with South Coast so we have a little bit better continuity. We hope to remove the confusion for the public on well, how come it’s reported here but not there.”

Marhsall admitted that “some” the department’s reporting may confuse an already confused public. “But we can only control what we’re handed, in terms of implementation of SB4,” he said.

Hollin Kretzmann with the Center for Biological Diversity said all this is a smokescreen. Kretzmann, an attorney, who originally analyzed the fracking and well stimulation data, said the state simply isn’t following the new law.

The bottom line is these legislations aren’t working,” said Kretzmann. “They aren’t keeping communities safe from the dangers of fracking.”

That’s why Kretzmann says The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown, citing these discrepancies as reason to call for an immediate halt to fracking throughout California.

“Basically, fracking communities across California are being kept in the dark about what’s happening in their communities,” said Kretzmann. “Fracking is a dangerous practice and to not know where it’s happening or how frequently is a huge concern to not just me but to all Californians.”

Living Next Door to a Drilling Operation

At first glance St Andrews Gardens Apartments in Los Angeles appears like any other neighborhood in California.

But beyond the cinderblock wall and behind a stretched tarp next to the parking lot, St Andrews Gardens’ resident Don Martin only recently discovered that an oil drilling operation was using hydrochloric acid to treat the well behind a wall.

“The only barrier between this particular site and our apartment units is this wall,” Martin said. “It angers me because first of all, we weren’t informed there were chemicals at this particular location. Absolutely, we have a right to know what’s going on in our back yard behind that tarp.”

“SB4 is still a new law, it doesn’t happen overnight,” said State Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, who co-sponsored SB4.

Even so, Senator Leno is concerned about what NBC Bay Area and The Center for Biological Diversity found in the analysis of the data.

He says that’s why he is now calling for a halt to all well stimulation including fracking until the issue can be studied further.

“I’m concerned and it only reinforces why we should consider a moratorium while we gather the information that’s required in SB4,” Leno told NBC Bay Area.

When asked if the point of SB4 was to inform, educate and clear up public confusion, Jason Marshall of California’s Department of Conservation agreed but said DOGGR is complying with the law as it is currently written.

“It absolutely is the point,” said Marshall. “One of the central points of SB4 is to increase public transparency. But again, we can’t impose more reporting requirements on operators.”

Los Angeles resident Don Martin says he just wants himself and his neighbors living next to the well to be informed.

“It started to be a concern to our health and safety,” said Martin. “In order to protect the residents here, it [SB4] absolutely needs to be enforced. And that’s part of the problem is the lack of enforcement.”

The Department of Conservation’s Jason Marshall does admit the law could and should be tweaked to help clear up confusion and San Francisco State Senator Leno says he will work to make that happen.