Coastal Town Banned Tar Sands And Sparked War With Oil Industry

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By Sabrina Shankman for Inside Climate Change – Hundreds of miles from the nearest oil field or fracking well, the answer to this question is playing out here, as a longrunning David-and-Goliath battle over plans to pipe tar sands oil from Canada to Maine for export nears a pivotal moment. On one side is South Portland, a picturesque waterfront city of 25,000, which approved an ordinance in 2014 to outlaw heavy crude exports from its harbor in an overwhelming City Council vote. On the other is the Portland Pipe Line Corporation, the company behind the project, and its allies, including the American Petroleum Institute, whose members include most major oil and gas companies. API spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat a ballot measure in 2013 that would have blocked the project. The City Council approved the ordinance a year later. The Portland Pipe Line Corporation is now suing the city, with support from API and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, arguing the ban was unconstitutional. A federal judge is expected to rule in the coming weeks. A decision in favor of the company could effectively open a gateway for the flow of carbon-heavy tar sands oil to one of the East Coast’s largest oil ports. For other cities seeking to restrict oil and gas activities, South Portland’s four-year fight to fend off the oil industry offers perhaps a cautionary tale.

Deadly Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Disaster Was Avoidable Corporate Crime

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By Justin Mikulka for Desmog – Damning new testimony from an engineer of the locomotive involved in the deadly 2013 oil train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, reveals several ways corporate cost-cutting directly led to the accident, which claimed 47 lives. We already knew for certain that a fire on the locomotive, which had been left parked and running for the night, per standard practice, was the direct cause of the disaster. That blaze resulted in the local fire department, directed by a rail company employee, to turn off the power to the locomotive. However, that action also shut off power to the air brakes, which eventually failed and caused the train to roll down the tracks into downtown Lac-Mégantic, where it exploded and leveled the area. However, in newly released testimony reported by CBCNews, we learn about a troubling exchange between train engineer François Daigle, who had driven the oil train two days before its fiery derailment, and his supervisor: Daigle said on that trip he noticed the locomotive kept losing speed and produced black smoke. Daigle told the court he reported the problems to his supervisor, Jean Demaître, and sent a fax to the repair shop in Maine at the end of his shift. Daigle said he asked Demaître to change the lead locomotive because of the repair issues.

New Tar Sands Oil Pipeline Isn’t Worth The Risks, Minnesota Officials Say

Construction started this summer in Canada on Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, meant to carry tar sands crude from Alberta through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. Minnesota officials are challenging the project. Credit: Marc Chalifoux/Epic Photography for the Government of Alberta

By Phil Mckenna for Inside Climate News – The Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended this week that a major tar sands oil pipeline should not be expanded and that the old, existing line should be shut down. Its reason: the state’s refineries don’t need additional crude oil, so there’s no point in taking on extra risks. The recommendation is the latest sign of opposition to fossil fuel pipelines at the state level, just as the federal government is strongly supporting them. The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s report, submitted to state regulators who will eventually decide whether or not to approve the pipeline, cites a consulting firm that determined Minnesota’s refineries are already running at peak capacity and that there’s no sign of a long-term increase in local demand for fuel. The analysis concludes that the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project, from Hardisty, in Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin, isn’t worth the risks. “In light of the serious risks and effects on the natural and socioeconomic environments of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries, it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built,” the department states. Environmental advocates said that the line might still be approved, despite the report’s conclusions.

China Readies Yuan-Priced Crude Oil Benchmark Backed By Gold

A service truck drives past an oil well in North Dakota, November 2014.
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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oil Price – The world’s top oil importer, China, is preparing to launch a crude oil futures contract denominated in Chinese yuan and convertible into gold, potentially creating the most important Asian oil benchmark and allowing oil exporters to bypass U.S.-dollar denominated benchmarks by trading in yuan, Nikkei Asian Review reports. The crude oil futures will be the first commodity contract in China open to foreign investment funds, trading houses, and oil firms. The circumvention of U.S. dollar trade could allow oil exporters such as Russia and Iran, for example, to bypass U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan, according to Nikkei Asian Review. To make the yuan-denominated contract more attractive, China plans the yuan to be fully convertible in gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges. Last month, the Shanghai Futures Exchange and its subsidiary Shanghai International Energy Exchange, INE, successfully completed four tests in production environment for the crude oil futures, and the exchange continues with preparatory works for the listing of crude oil futures, aiming for the launch by the end of this year. ? “The rules of the global oil game may begin to change enormously,” Luke Gromen, founder of U.S.-based macroeconomic research company FFTT, told Nikkei Asia Review.

Superfund Sites And Oil Refineries Already Poisoning Storm-Wracked Houston

The Flint Hills Resources oil refinery near downtown Houston on, Aug. 29, 2017. (AP/David J. Phillip)

By Whitney Webb for Mint Press News – Houston is still struggling to cope with the impact of Hurricane Harvey, as many parts of the city are still under water. But the worst damage done by the storm may be yet to come, as receding floodwaters have revealed widespread chemical contamination stemming from the city’s petrochemical plants. As the “apocalyptic” floodwaters in Houston and other parts of east Texas have been rising thanks to Hurricane Harvey, media attention has been largely focused on the immediate human impact, such as displacement and property damage. However, with much of Houston underwater, the environmental impact – and its short- and long-term effects on public health – deserve substantial attention as well. Houston is home to several toxic Superfund sites, as well as numerous petrochemical and oil refining facilities, many of which were found to be leaking during the storm. Though water levels are starting to decline, concern is growing that a new, more persistent crisis may be beginning for Houston residents. Texas is home to numerous Superfund sites, areas identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as containing highly hazardous waste. Such sites are usually targeted for cleanup efforts.

Big Oil’s Bi-Partisan Helpers: A Refiner’s Fire 5 Years Later

By Matt Jiggins | CC BY 2.0

By Steve Early for Counter Punch – Five years ago, my wife and I moved to Richmond, CA and soon learned about the local emergency response protocol known as “shelter in place.” When large fires break out in Bay Area refineries, like the century old Chevron facility near our house, first a siren sounds. Then public officials direct everyone nearby to take cover inside. Doors must be closed, windows taped shut, if possible, and air conditioning turned off. August 6th is the fifth anniversary of such self-help efforts in Richmond. On that day in 2012, we looked up and saw an eruption worthy of Mount Vesuvius. Due to pipe corrosion and lax maintenance practices, a Chevron processing unit sprang a leak. The escaping petroleum vapor reached an ignition source. This led to a raging fire that Contra Costa County (home to four refineries) classified as a “Level 3 incident,” posing the highest level of danger. Nineteen oil workers narrowly escaped death at the scene of the accident. It sent a towering plume of toxic smoke over much of the East Bay and fifteen thousand refinery neighbors in search of medical attention for respiratory complaints, While local property values took a hit, Chevron stayed on track to make $25 billion in profits that year.

Water And Oil, Death And Life In Louisiana

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By Nora Belblidia for Uneven Earth – Six months ago, a routine public hearing was scheduled in a nondescript gray government building in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Normally these hearings go over really quietly,” said Scott Eustis, the Wetlands Specialist for Gulf Restoration Network (GRN). “Usually it’s me, my associates, and like ten people.” Instead, over 400 people showed up to the Baton Rouge hearing, and stayed for nearly six hours. The debate centered on the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a proposed route that would run 163 miles from Lake Charles to St. James, forming the “tail” of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and effectively connecting oil fracked in North Dakota to Louisiana refineries. If built, Bayou Bridge would cross 11 parishes, 600 acres of wetlands, 700 bodies of water, and the state-designated Coastal Zone Boundary. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is behind both the Bayou Bridge project and the more infamous DAPL, but the parallels run deeper than a mutual stakeholder. Just like in DAPL, those who resist the project are drawing connections between past wrongdoings, conditions today, and a future climate. Residents cite safety concerns, environmental racism, pollution, and threats to the region’s wetlands and seafood industries as reasons to oppose its construction.

Gas-Powered Cars Will Vanish In 8 Years, Big Oil Will Collapse: Stanford Study

Rick Wood A stead stream of Uber cars dropped fans off at Summerfest Wednesday, on day 1 of a three-day strike by county bus drivers.

By Staff of Anti-Media – The reason for this, as he explains in thorough detail, is that the market for self-driving electric vehicles (EVs) is simply growing too fast. “What the cost curve says is that by 2025 all new vehicles will be electric, all new buses, all new cars, all new tractors, all new vans, anything that moves on wheels will be electric, globally,” Professor Seba writes in his report. It’s a matter of economics and innovation, Seba says. EVs are cheaper and easier to manufacture, their few moving parts require almost zero maintenance, and they can actually outperform their fossil fuel guzzling counterparts. “The electric drive-train is so much more powerful,” writes Seba. “The gasoline and diesel cars cannot possibly compete.” The professor says the only thing currently stopping this grand shift to electric is consumer price. Seba says the “tipping point” will come in the next few years when the cost of an EV will be down to around $30,000. But by 2022, when low-end models are $20,000, the changing tide will be unstoppable. In the near future, only nostalgics like car collectors will have a use for the old models, Seba predicts.

Trump Trade Pact Pushing Natural Gas To China

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By Audrey Fox for Friends of the Earth – WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump administration announced today it has reached an agreement to promote natural gas exports and to lower food safety standards related to Chinese cooked chicken and similar products. In response Friends of the Earth Senior Political Strategist Ben Schreiber issued the following statement: It’s no surprise that Donald Trump is yet again sacrificing American’s health for fossil fuel profits. Increasing natural gas exports means more fracking that will poison our water and add fuel to our ever-worsening climate crisis. Trump continues to push the dirty fossil fuels of the past as the rest of the world moves towards clean renewable energy.

Gusher In The Lobby

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By Reverend Billy Talen for The Stop Shopping Choir – Why is the stain of the oil giving us such a jolt? We all notice it. Today when Amadeus lay back on the floor of the bank and the crude oil stains her, the security guard shouts into his walkie-talkie like she’s a new species of vampire. Al is rumbling in his low voice, “Take your money out of TD. They put 360 million into the Dakota Access Pipeline…” David pours the anointing oil, the blood of the Earth on the vampiress… An investor at a desk in the corner sat there with his head in his hands like he’s going to be sick. Police cars drive by on 14th Street; no-one gets out. The bank manager accuses us of defacing her bank with our flyers. But the tellers – they are smiling. And we are harmonizing, “Earthalujah! This is our fourth Oily Banking action, and we invite you to try it. We leave in under ten minutes, cleaning up after, throwing a coat over our walking drip painting. The action is a sticky gash in hushed altar of banking. That blind gap between us and the fatal crimes that our money becomes is religiously maintained. It is an information gap but it is also a deadening of our feelings. It is a virulent form of fundamentalism.

In Norway, A Growing Movement Builds An Oil-Free Future

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By Truls Gullowsen for The Leap – As a Norwegian, I admit to being kind of proud to see Norway at the top of the UN’s latest global happiness index. And the ranking makes sense: We’re blessed with snow, water, and mountains, effective public education and health care systems, plentiful jobs in a well-regulated economy, and a free and open democracy not too hobbled by fake news or Trumpian bluster. However, it seems our beautiful country has become complacent in its happiness. In spite of the climate crisis and the ever-growing need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, last year the Norwegian government—for the first time in 20 years—opened up a new oil frontier in the melting and vulnerable Barents Sea above the Arctic Circle. And last month, the government announced yet another push for Arctic oil, inviting oil companies to bid for 93 new licenses. The happy Norwegian government knows that burning oil causes climate change. They know there’s already more oil in existing fields than we can afford to burn. They know that burning oil melts Arctic ice and fuels extreme weather events like typhoons and droughts, causing immense suffering around the world.

Government’s “Ministry Of Oil” Charges Russel Norman And Two Other Greenpeace Swimmers

Pump jacks are seen at the Lukoil company owned Imilorskoye oil field outside the West Siberian city of Kogalym

By Staff of Green Peace – “Three of us who got in the water yesterday in front of a climate-destroying oil ship have been charged. We have been charged, not by the police, but by “The Ministry of Oil” (the petroleum division of MBIE) – the Government’s ministry responsible for supporting, subsidising and propping up the oil industry here in New Zealand, using public money. The science of climate change is unequivocal. It tells us that if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change we cannot burn even known fossil fuel reserves, let alone new oil – which is exactly what The Amazon Warrior is looking for. The oil industry is the most powerful industry in the history of humanity and they have huge influence on governments. Ours is no different.

Oil Drillers Face An Angry Mob In Mexico’s Guerrilla Country

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By Adam Williams for Bloomberg – When an angry mob torched City Hall in the southern Mexican town of Tecpatan last month, it sent a warning flare across a country already thrown into turmoil by Donald Trump. The outrage was over oil, specifically the government’s plan to auction off a swath of land around their farming community to private drillers. The locals say they weren’t informed that a date—July 12—had been set. When they found out, they set fire to the two-story town hall, which now sits charred and abandoned, its windows smashed and the iron gate chained shut. The clock on its tower stopped at 10:55. In some ways, the unrest set clocks all the way back to the 1990s, when Zapatista rebels were roaming the region and declaring war on Nafta. But the fact that today’s target is the government’s energy policy could spell trouble ahead. President Enrique Pena Nieto is trying to revive Mexico’s struggling oil industry by bringing in foreign capital—that’s why the land around Tecpatan is up for grabs. The frontrunner in next year’s presidential election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is vowing to roll back the changes.

Utility Survey: Trump Will Not Stop the Clean Energy Transition

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By Gavin Bade for Utility Dive. Today, President Trump is poised to release a long-anticipated executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature climate initiative. The order is expected to be accompanied by directives to lift a moratorium on federal land coal leases and to cease the use of the social cost of carbon — all part of a broad campaign to dismantle environmental regulations on the power sector that Trump blames for the decline of the coal economy in the United States. But while rescinding the rules could help slow coal power’s decline in the short term, analysts say it is unlikely to reverse its long-term downturn, mostly due to the economics of natural gas and renewables. That attitude is shared not just by market observers, but by electric utilities themselves.

Southern Communities Brace For Impact Of Big Oil’s Expansion Plans

Exxon Mobil's expansion plan means more than jobs — it also means more pollution for fence-line communities. (Photo of Exxon Mobil's Baton Rouge refinery by Jim Bowen via Flickr.)

By Sue Sturgis for Facing South – President Donald Trump kicked off this week with a Monday morning tweet hailing — and seeming to wrongly take credit for — Exxon Mobil’s plan for a $20 billion expansion of its refineries, chemical plants and liquefied natural gas operations along the U.S. Gulf Coast. “We are already winning again, America!” Trump tweeted after the Texas-based company released the latest details of a plan first announced in 2013 in response to rising natural gas supplies. He went on to tweet, “Buy American & hire American are the principals at the core of my agenda, which is: JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.” The company says the expansion, which includes projects at 11 proposed and existing sites in the region…