Federal officials have issued a $1 million penalty against Exxon Mobil Corp. for safety violations stemming from a pipeline rupture in 2011 that spilled 63,000 gallons of crude into Montana's Yellowstone River.
The Department of Transportation order issued Friday reduces the penalty as originally proposed by about $700,000. That comes after the Irving, Texas-based oil company challenged some claims that it didn't do enough to prevent the accident.
The pipeline break during summer flooding near Laurel left oil along an 85-mile stretch of the Yellowstone, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a cleanup that took months.
Safety regulators said in part that Exxon Mobil had failed to adequately heed warnings that its 20-year-old Silvertip Pipeline was at risk.
The Obama administration will propose setting aside the 1.4 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness, the White House announced Sunday, a move that will spark a fierce battle with the new Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman, Lisa Murkowski, and other Alaska Republicans.
“Alaska’s National Wildlife refuge is an incredible place — pristine, undisturbed. It supports caribou and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries it supported many Alaska native communities. But it’s very fragile,” said President Obama in a just released White House video on the move.
Following a tense night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to limit debate on legislation to green-light the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, setting up a final vote next week.
Senators stayed at the Capitol past midnight Thursday as McConnell swiftly moved to table a series of Democratic amendments to the pipeline bill, which has now been under debate in the Senate since the new Congress convened at the start of the month.
Minutes before midnight, McConnell filed cloture on the underlying bill, a procedural move that will trigger an additional 30 hours of debate prior to a final vote.
Nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater generated by oil drilling have leaked from a North Dakota pipeline, an official said Wednesday, the largest such spill since the state's current oil boom began and nearly three times worse than previous record spills. Two creeks have been affected, but the full environmental effect might not be clear for months.
Operator Summit Midstream Partners LLC detected the pipeline spill on Jan. 6, about 15 miles north of Williston and told health officials then. Officials say they weren't given a full account of the size until Tuesday.
Cleanup has begun and inspectors have been monitoring the area, but it will be difficult to measure the effects on the environment and wildlife until the ice melts, said Dave Glatt, chief of the North Dakota Department of Health's environmental health section. Some previous saltwater spills have taken years to clean up.
United States senators are now on the record on the question of whether climate change is "a hoax." But a majority of the Senate, including 15 Republicans, are also on record stating that human activity contributes to climate change.
The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure stating that "climate change is real and is not a hoax" by a margin of 98-1.
The Senate also voted down two amendments to the bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline stating that human activity contributes to climate change. (Each amendment needed 60 votes to pass.)
Here are the parts of President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address that were about energy and climate change, taken from the delivered text:
...And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we've been in almost 30 years.
...At this moment, with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy production, we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.
...We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.
21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure...So let's set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline; let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come.
...And no challenge, no challenge, poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.
2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.
Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists, that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist either. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and at NOAA and at our major universities, and the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action.
In Beijing, we made a historic announcement: the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we've got.
TransCanada, the company that wants to build the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline, filed court documents Tuesday in nine Nebraska counties starting eminent domain proceedings to get the 12 percent of easements it still needs here.
The Canadian company had until Thursday to begin the condemnation process or lose its eminent domain powers given by former Gov. Dave Heineman when he approved the pipeline route in Nebraska two years ago.
Last week, landowners filed lawsuits seeking to stop eminent domain and invalidate the 2012 law that gave the governor power to approve the pipeline route. An earlier lawsuit that brought up similar arguments was thrown out by the Nebraska Supreme Court on a technicality, letting the law stand by default.
Truckloads of drinking water were being shipped to the Montana city of Glendive on Monday after traces of a major oil spill along the Yellowstone River were detected in public water supplies.
Preliminary tests at the city’s water treatment plant indicated that at least some oil got into a water supply intake along the river, according to state and federal officials. About 6,000 people are served by the intake, Glendive mayor Jerry Jimison said.
Officials stressed that they were bringing in the shipments of drinking water as a precaution and did not know yet whether there was any health threat. Results of further tests to determine the scope of the danger were expected in coming days.
Montana officials said Sunday that an oil pipeline breach spilled up to 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, but they said they are unaware of any threats to public safety or health.
The Bridger Pipeline Co. said the spill occurred about 10 a.m. Saturday. The initial estimate is that 300 to 1,200 barrels of oil spilled, the company said in a statement Sunday.
Some of the oil did get into the water, but the area where it spilled was frozen over and that could help reduce the impact, said Dave Parker, a spokesman for Gov. Steve Bullock.
"We think it was caught pretty quick, and it was shut down," Parker said. "The governor is committed to making sure the river is cleaned up."
At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a "safe operating space" for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.
The paper contends that we have already crossed four "planetary boundaries." They include the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean.