Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 13:00 • Justin Mikulka

In the most recent oil-by-rail accident in Mosier, Oregon the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) concluded that the tank cars involved — the jacketed CPC-1232 type — “performed as expected.” So an oil train derailing at the relatively slow speed of 25 mph should be “expected” to have breached cars resulting in fiery explosions.

Current regulations allow those tank cars to continue rolling on the track carrying volatile Bakken crude oil and ethanol until 2025 with no modifications.

Yet industry lobbying group the Railway Supply Institute (RSI) has now requested the Federal Railroad Administration to essentially allow these jacketed CPC-1232 tank cars to remain on the tracks for decades beyond 2025.

This was just one of the troubling facts that came to light at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) roundtable on tank car safety on July 13th, and perhaps the one of greatest concern to anyone living in an oil train blast zone like Mosier, Oregon.  

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Sunday, July 24, 2016 - 04:58 • Farron Cousins

It was renowned English writer Samuel Johnson who once said “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Unfortunately, the original context of his quote has been lost to history, but he did clarify during his life that he was not referring to patriotism in general, just false patriotism. Even though we don’t have the original context, it is easy to apply this quote to the latest activities of The Heartland Institute.

Recently, Heartland unleashed a new project called #OurAmerica, a hyper-nationalist movement claiming to extoll the virtues of American life and the American capitalist system. Joined by several other right wing organizations, it appears that the goal of the project is to revamp the tarnished image of Heartland.

Heartland explains the new project as follows:

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Saturday, July 23, 2016 - 04:58 • Steve Horn

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) — the controversial horizontal drilling technique used to extract oil and gas in shale basins around the U.S. and the world — has sat at the center of the debate over the Democratic Party's draft platform set for a vote at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.

That platform was drafted and debated by a 15-member committee, with four members chosen by DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, five by Bernie Sanders and six by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. After a fracking moratorium clause failed in a 7-6 vote at the DNC Platform Committee meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri from June 24-25, an amendment calling for President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan not to incentivize fracked gas power plants also did not pass at the July 8-9 DNC Platform Committee meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that two members of the committee chosen by Hillary Clinton work for a consulting, lobbying and investment firm with a financial stake in fracking. Those members — Carol Browner and Wendy Sherman — work for Albright Stonebridge Group. Clinton campaign energy policy adviser Trevor Houser, who introduced a regulate fracking amendment (introduced as a counter to the one calling for a ban) also has industry ties via his fellowship at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.  

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Friday, July 22, 2016 - 11:38 • John Mashey
Copy Paste, Plagiarism in Melania Trump's Convention Talk
Copy Paste, Plagiarism in Melania Trump's Convention Talk

Three deadly sins in academe and journalism are Falsification, Fabrication and Plagiarism (FFP).1  Political speechwriters normally take great pains to avoid obvious text-copy plagiarism,2 but on Monday Melania Trump's speech plagiarized text from Michelle Obama. Trump employee Meredith McIver took responsibility, but new analysis here raises more doubts.

Climate denial is pervaded by FFP examples, the most famous likely that around the Wegman Report, where plagiarism and reactions to its exposure resemble those in the Trump case.

First, high-profile work is trusted to inexperienced people, who can make silly errors. Competent organizations check.
Then, exposure generates contradictory excuses, some clear fabrications, such as personal attacks on irrelevant people.
Finaly, the organization takes surprisingly long to produce official explanations, about which doubts may be raised.

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Friday, July 22, 2016 - 10:48 • Sharon Kelly

Nineteen now-pending pipeline projects, if constructed, would let enough natural gas flow out of the Appalachian basin to cause the entire US to blow through its climate pledges, ushering the world into more than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, a newly released report by Oil Change International concludes.

Even if the Environmental Protection Agency's recently-announced methane rules manage to slash leaks from new natural gas infrastructure as planned, building those pipelines would be catastrophic for the climate, the researchers warn.

“All together, these 19 pending pipeline projects would enable 116 trillion cubic feet of additional gas production by 2050,” the report, entitled A Bridge Too Far: How Appalachian Basin Gas Pipeline Expansion Will Undermine U.S. Climate Goals, says. “The currently planned gas production expansion in Appalachia would make meeting U.S. climate goals impossible, even if the [Obama] Administration’s newly proposed methane rules are successful in reducing methane leakage by 45 percent.”

Why do these pipelines matter so much?

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Friday, July 22, 2016 - 10:03 • James Wilt

Count on Hawaii — tied for No. 1 as the the state with the highest percentage of renewable energy — to deliver yet another blow to B.C.’s lofty liquefied natural gas (LNG) ambitions.

On July 15, the state’s public utilities commission recently shot down a proposed $4.3 billion takeover of the Hawaiian Electric Companies (which provide 95 per cent of the state’s electricity) by Florida-based NextEra Energy in a 265 page ruling.

NextEra, the largest provider of the wind power in the U.S., was positioned to play a key role in financing the importing of 800,000 metric tons per year of LNG from FortisBC’s Tilbury LNG storage facility in Delta for use in an upgraded power plant on the west coast of Oahu.

The deal, struck in May between a Fortis subsidiary and the Hawaiian Electric Company, would have lasted for 20 years beginning in 2021. The LNG would have been exported by WesPac Midstream via its proposed terminal on the Fraser River.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 04:58 • Larry Buhl

Nine months after the blowout that led to the largest emission of the greenhouse gas methane in U.S. history another leak was discovered at the same facility, the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility north of Los Angeles. The leaking pipeline was found during a “routine inspection” according to the operator, Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), and it was stopped within a day.

This was a very small leak and did not present a safety risk to SoCalGas employees or nearby communities,” SoCalGas spokesperson Melissa Bailey said in a statement after the event.

The company’s words did little to reassure residents living downwind in the nearby Porter Ranch community.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - 14:31 • Brendan DeMelle

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) today expanded its website SmokeandFumes.org, featuring a new video and more internal industry documents dating back to the 1950s that reveal the nexus between the oil and tobacco industries’ shared campaigns to undermine science to delay accountability and political action to curtail their deadly products.

CIEL has uncovered new evidence showing that it was the work performed for the oil industry by PR firms (particularly Hill & Knowlton) that attracted the tobacco industry to follow suit — in contrast to the prevailing narrative that Big Oil deployed the Tobacco Playbook to ward off responsibility for climate change resulting from its fossil fuel pollution.

Again and again we found both the PR firms and the researchers worked first for oil, then for tobacco,” said CIEL President Carroll Muffett in a statement. “It was a pedigree the tobacco companies recognized and sought out.”

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 12:36 • Farron Cousins

If elected President of the United States, Donald Trump would be the only leader in the industrialized world who openly denies the existence of climate change. Not only could a Trump presidency be a disaster for the environment, but it could also put the brakes on the forward progress made on climate change negotiations with the rest of the world.

This is just one of the reasons why climate activists and labor unions have decided to team up to do everything possible to prevent a Donald Trump presidency in the United States.

Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have announced a $10 million campaign blitz aimed at taking down Trump and to replace members of Congress with more progressive thinkers. Steyer is quoted as saying that “stopping the Party of Trump is our number 1 priority this year.”

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 11:58 • Itai Vardi

In a potential conflict of interest, a contractor hired by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to review a proposed Spectra Energy natural gas pipeline project had already been working for the company it was reviewing on a different but interconnected pipeline. Spectra then directly hired the contractor, Natural Resource Group (NRG), for no fewer than five other projects during the review period.

These revelations raise questions about the contractor’s ability to impartially review Spectra’s application on behalf of the government regulator.

In June 2013, FERC approved the hiring of NRG as a third-party contractor to conduct a comprehensive environmental review for Spectra’s then-proposed Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project, a major capacity upgrade for its Algonquin Pipeline carrying fracked gas from Pennsylvania through New York and into New England.

While third-party contractors are paid by the pipeline company seeking FERC approval, they are considered independent analysts who work under the direct supervision of FERC staff.

Yet DeSmog has found that during the time of its hiring for AIM, NRG was providing environmental consulting services for two of Spectra’s pipeline testing and renewal projects on its Texas Eastern Transmission Pipeline, which interconnects with the Algonquin Pipeline.

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