Three years after an oil pipeline rupture in Michigan spilled 843,000 gallons of sludge, government regulators still haven’t produced promised rules to compel operators to detect leaks.
An oil spill in North Dakota last month and the continued debate over construction of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL Pipeline have led to renewed criticism to the government’s inaction on safety measures.
"It's outrageous," Rick Kessler, Pipeline Safety Trust’s president and a Washington lobbyist, said in an interview. "This is glacial. It's incredibly frustrating, and there never is a straight answer about where the bottleneck is."
On October 11, ExxonMobil released its investigative report on the results of soil and sediment tests from Mayflower and Lake Conway. The company submitted the 81-page report to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) as part of its cleanup obligations, and the document is supposed to provide a definitive picture of the environmental situation in the wake of the Pegasus oil spill.
ADEQ has been studying the report in the weeks since, and on Monday, it sent a reply to Exxon asking that the oil giant to reevaluate some of its conclusions and continue testing. The agency also forwarded a letter from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) with more critiques of the report. To assist in conducting an independent evaluation of the data, AGFC hired two environmental consulting companies with a history of investigating oil spills.
Perhaps the most important point in either regulator's reply is the Game and Fish Commission's rebuttal of how Exxon's report treats a class of pollutant called polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Game and Fish says that Exxon's figure for PAH contamination may misrepresent the amount of toxins still in the environment.
These chemicals are found in petroleum and are especially dangerous for two reasons: They're toxic in low doses, and they don't easily degrade — that is, they stick around in the environment. As with many complex organic compounds, PAHs come in a great assortment of varieties, each one detectible as a distinct species with its own intimidating name ("Acenaphthene," "Acenaphthylene," "Anthracene," "Benzo(a)Anthracene," etc).
Exxon's report examines the toxicity effects of 38 separate PAHs, 16 of which are designated as "priority PAHs." But, says the letter from AGFC to Exxon, that is only about half of the total PAHs present in the source oil. That is, Exxon may have failed to analyze some compounds that should be factored into the overall toxicity picture.
ADEQ's requests to ExxonMobil for more testing:
AGFC's letter to ADEQ, weighing in on Exxon's results:
The number of safety-related incidents involving federally regulated Canadian pipelines has doubled in little more than a decade, with the number of reported spills tripling during that time, according to an investigative report at the CBC.
According to data obtained by the network from the National Energy Board, the number of annual incidents rose to two per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline by 2011, up from one per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline in 2000.
There were 142 pipeline incidents in 2011, up from 45 in 2000.
The data covers only those pipelines that are federally regulated, meaning those that cross provincial boundaries.
The news comes as debate heats up over which method of transporting oil and gas — rail or pipelines — is best for the environment, and the least risky.
The governors of Pacific coastal U.S. states and a Canadian province official are joining forces in a new effort to fight climate change.
In an agreement announced Monday, the governors of California, Oregon, Washington and the environment minister of British Columbia, Mary Polak, will place a price on greenhouse gas pollution and mandate the use of cleaner-burning fuels. Polak and the governors gathered in San Francisco in the hope of stimulating a clean-energy economy in the region, which has a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion.
Polak and the governors gathered in San Francisco in the hope of stimulating a clean-energy economy in the region, which has a combined gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion.
Over the summer, something sprang up in the view from Dorsey Johnson's back deck north of Denver, where she watches sunsets over Colorado's front range.
It was a noisy, towering rig, drilling a new oil well.
"There was clanking. There were trucks going by," she says. All she wanted was for the rig to go away.
Across the U.S., new oil and gas wells have turned millions of people into the petroleum industry's neighbors. For many, the oil and gas companies are welcome newcomers bearing checks. Others consider the new arrivals loud, smelly and disruptive. The drilling boom is firing up resentment in some communities when one person's financial windfall means their neighbors abut a working well.
The Wall Street Journal analyzed well location and census data for more than 700 counties in 11 major energy-producing states. At least 15.3 million Americans lived within a mile of a well that has been drilled since 2000. That is more people than live in Michigan or New York City.
The federal government has confirmed that the fastest-growing sector of the oil sands won't come under federal environmental assessment, one day after acknowledging it won’t come close to meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets.
A final list of the types of projects that will require a federal environmental assessment was released Friday. The list contains no mention of in-situ oilsands mines, which are expected to be the industry's most common type of development in the future.
"This is the largest single source of (greenhouse gas) growth in the country and yet the federal government is not going to be playing a role there,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace.
North Dakota, the nation's No. 2 oil producer behind Texas, recorded nearly 300 oil pipeline spills in less than two years, state documents show. None was reported to the public, officials said.
According to records obtained by The Associated Press, the pipeline spills — many of them small — are among some 750 "oil field incidents" that have occurred since January 2012 without public notification.
"That's news to us," said Don Morrison, director of the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental-minded landowner group with more than 700 members in North Dakota.
Former White House energy and climate czar Carol Browner on Thursday predicted President Obama will say no to building the controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
"Whether or not he will say no—well, you know how the White House functions," Browner said at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) anniversary meeting in Washington. "At the end of the day he is going to say no but there will be some more twists and turns before we get there."
Browner is now a senior fellow with CAP, which celebrated it's 10-year anniversary on Thursday. She was joined by "Crossfire" co-host Van Jones and billionare environmentalist Tom Steyer on a panel at the event. All three voiced their dismay with the Keystone pipeline.
Canada is falling well short of its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and will need major new action to offset rising oil industry emissions and meet the 2020 target adopted by the Harper government, Environment Canada said Thursday.
In its annual update, the government projected that, without new measures, the country's GHG emissions in 2020 will total 734 megatonnes, virtually unchanged from 2005 level of 737 megatonnes. It said the federal and provincial government policies already adopted since 2005 will reduce emissions by 128 megatonnes in 2020 compared to what they would have been without such action.
The full emissions report:
A newly published study says air downwind from a cluster of petrochemical plants northeast of Edmonton contains pollutants at levels equal to some of the world’s largest cities.
Other pollutants, including some known to cause cancer, also measured well above normal. And cancer rates linked to those chemicals were found to be higher in communities closest to the so-called Industrial Heartland.
Although scientists don’t definitively link the two, one of the report’s co-authors said the findings raise concern about the possible long-term effects of exposure to petrochemical emissions.