The federal government will raise the bar for oil companies operating off the East Coast and in the Arctic, increasing the limit on their liability for environmental and other damage from a blowout or oil spill to $1 billion.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the $1 billion cap – up from $30 million in the Atlantic and $40 million in the Arctic – is part of the government's "polluter pays" approach to resource development. But environmental groups complain it could still leave taxpayers on the hook for massive costs, noting the cleanup from BP PLC’s Gulf of Mexico spill has cost more than $40 billion.
The U.S. oil boom is moving Congress closer than it has been in more than three decades to easing the ban on exporting crude imposed after the Arab embargo.
Advances such as hydraulic fracturing are leading to record production that may outstrip refinery capacity within 18 months to three years, said Benjamin Salisbury, a senior energy policy analyst at FBR Capital Markets Corp. in Arlington, Virginia. Net petroleum imports now account for about 40 percent of demand, down from 60 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department research unit.
Environmental groups and a dozen states and cities said Monday they will delay planned legal action against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying they will wait to see if the White House soon unveils a climate policy strategy.
The attorney generals of New York and nine other states, along with three major green groups, had planned to sue the EPA this week because it missed a deadline in April to finalize emissions standards for new electric power plants.
Two months after notifying the agency they intended to sue, the consortium had expected to file as early as Monday, but backed off temporarily to allow the White House to disclose its climate plans.
Protesters against the Keystone Pipeline were arrested at a downtown federal building Monday morning.
Some 22 people were arrested for blocking the doors to the Metcalfe Federal Building, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., police said. They were cited for criminal trespass and released, police said.
Protesters had planned the Chicago demonstration, in the hometown of President Barack Obama, to launch a campaign to pressure him to block the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry tar sands fuel from Canada to Nebraska on the way to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast and eventual export.
The latest Climate Commission report has warned that 80 percent of global fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground if the planet is to avoid dangerous climate change.
The paper says global emissions need to trend downward by the end of the decade to keep temperatures at a "manageable" level.
Professor Will Steffen, a climate commissioner who co-authored the report, says reaching the goal will be a challenge, given greenhouse gas concentrations are now at the highest level on record.
"We have to get global emissions trending downward by the end of the decade to have any reasonable chance of meeting that 2 degree target. We need to make the right investment decisions," he said.
The company at the center of two major Alberta oil pipeline ruptures in recent years is cleaning up this weekend after a new 950-barrel spill of a very light oil called condensate, which is used to thin down heavy oil sands bitumen so it can be transported via pipeline.
Plains Midstream Canada reports that 40 cleanup and containment workers are at the spill site in the remote area approximately 90 kilometers north west of Manning, a town in northwestern Alberta, responding to the condensate release on its Kemp pipeline system.
With his administration under pressure from environmentalists to reject the Keystone XL pipeline project, President Obama plans to unveil a package of separate actions next month focused on curbing US greenhouse gas emissions.
At closed-door fund-raisers held over the past few weeks, the president has been telling Democratic party donors that he will unveil new climate proposals in July, according to people who have attended the events or been briefed.
Obama's promise frequently comes in response to pleas from donors to reject TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL project, a $5.3 billion pipeline that would carry tar-sands oil from Canada to US refineries. Opponents of the pipeline say it would increase greenhouse-gas emissions by encouraging use of the tar sands.
A pipeline that leaked in northern Alberta was only five years old and designed to last for 30, according to top executives with Apache Canada, the company responsible for a large spill of toxic oil and gas waste.
The massive 9.5-million litre leak in a region that has produced oil and gas since the 1950s immediately drew suspicions that poorly-maintained infrastructure was to blame. But the spill, which was detected June 1, stemmed from relatively new equipment, Apache said in an interview Thursday.
The emergency response plan Exxon Mobil Corp. used to stop the leak of tar sands crude in Arkansas last March was not formally approved by federal regulators and included a 50 percent extension in response time, documents released today by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) show.
Exxon had submitted a revised plan to federal regulators, extending response time from 12 to 18 minutes, and was using it when the spill occured, even though it had yet to be approved. Exxon says it took them 16 minutes to shut down the ruptured pipeline. As much as 10,000 barrels -- more than 400,000 gallons -- may have spilled from the pipeline during that time.
"How much additional oil do you estimate could be discharged during a scenario in which the rupture detection and pipeline shut down takes 12 minutes as compared to a scenario in which it takes 18 minutes?," Markey asked in a letter he sent today to Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of the oil company.
The Congressman, who is facing Republican Gabriel Gomez in a Senate special election June 25, posted the correspondence with Exxon and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on his web site.
Rising seas and increasingly severe weather are expected to increase the areas of the United States at risk of floods by up to 45 percent by 2100, according to a first-of-its-kind report released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday. These changes could double the number of flood-prone properties covered by the National Flood Insurance Program and drastically increase the costs of floods, the report finds.
The report concludes that climate change is likely to expand vastly the size and costs of the 45-year-old government flood insurance program. Like previous government reports, it anticipates that sea levels will rise an average of four feet by the end of the century. But this is what's new: The portion of the US at risk for flooding, including coastal regions and areas along rivers, will grow between 40 and 45 percent by the end of the century.