Friday, September 23, 2016 - 08:14 • Sharon Kelly
Donald Trump on stage.

The shale gas and oil industry gathered in Pittsburgh this week for a major annual East Coast conference, Shale Insight 2016, and to hear the words of presidential candidate Donald Trump, who served as the keynote speaker.

“It's great to be with so many of my friends,” Trump began. “Oh, you will like me so much.”

Then, right out of the gate, Trump botched his facts about the shale industry he was there to address.

Sunday, September 25, 2016 - 04:58 • Itai Vardi

A private firm that conducted the environmental review for the highly contentious Dakota Access Pipeline was simultaneously working for Energy Transfer, the company behind the project, on a connecting pipeline.

A DeSmog investigation also found that during the review period, the firm — Perennial Environmental Services LLC (“Perennial”) — advocated for opening new regions for oil and gas drilling.

In 2014, Energy Transfer hired Perennial, a Houston-based environmental consultancy, to perform the Environmental Assessment (EA) for its then-proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, a four-state project that will carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region to Illinois.

Yet Perennial was already working at the time for another subsidiary company of Energy Transfer, Trunkline.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - 23:08 • Ashley Braun
Anti-coal protests in the Philippines.
Anti-coal protests in the Philippines.

On September 21, 31 countries, including Brazil and Mexico, ratified the Paris climate agreement at a United Nations event in New York City. They joined the U.S., China, and 27 other nations which had previously committed to the agreement, bringing the total to 60 and surpassing the first of two thresholds, requiring 55 nations to ratify it. In addition, their combined greenhouse gas emissions represent 47.76 percent of the needed 55 percent of global emissions for the agreement to enter into force.

But, practically speaking, what did the now 60 countries actually agree to when they said they would limit warming to “well below 2°C” and strive for 1.5°C? 

A new report from Oil Change International calculates that, in order to accomplish those goals, governments need to stop permitting and building all new fossil fuel projects and retire early some existing oil and gas fields and coal mines. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - 11:06 • Larry Buhl
Sign in front of Great Lakes protests Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline
Sign in front of Great Lakes protests Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline

Public pressure is mounting to decommission two 63-year-old underwater pipelines that rest in an environmentally sensitive waterway between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

About 540,000 barrels of oil and liquid natural gas flow daily through the 20-inch pipelines, called Line 5, which lie in an exposed trench on the public bottomlands of the Mackinac Straits west of the Mackinac Bridge.

Built in 1953, Line 5 is now owned by the Alberta, Canada-based petroleum company Enbridge, Inc. Many fear the aging pipeline is an accident waiting to happen, with recent modeling showing a single oil spill could impact more than 150 miles of coastline.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - 10:57 • Justin Mikulka

The people of Albany, New York, got some good news last Friday about their port's oil-by-rail facilities.

“Global Companies must restart its environmental review process, given the significant new information about the benzene levels in Albany’s South End community and the hazards of crude oil transport,” said Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC will ensure that this process includes a meaningful and thorough opportunity for public engagement.” 

Global Companies and Buckeye Partners are the two companies operating oil-by-rail facilities at the Port of Albany. While the letter last week was addressed to Global, the DEC has announced both will have to restart the environmental review process.

In 2014 DeSmog reported that the “residents of the Ezra Prentice apartments in Albany, N.Y., have been complaining about air quality issues ever since the oil trains showed up in the Port of Albany two years ago.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 18:09 • Graham Readfearn
Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters.
Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters.

The federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating how oil giant ExxonMobil calculates the value of its assets in a world looking to force stricter rules on fossil fuel emissions, according to multiple reports.

According to the Wall St. Journal, which broke the story, the SEC asked ExxonMobil and its auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, for documents last month.

The SEC probe is examining how the oil company’s financials allow for international efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and how the company “evaluates the economic viability of its projects” under climate change laws, the WSJ reported.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 03:58 • Steve Horn
Left, Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and right, U.S. President Barack Obama
Left, Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and right, U.S. President Barack Obama

On September 9, the Obama administration revoked authorization for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) on federally controlled lands and asked the pipeline's owners, led by Energy Transfer Partners, to voluntarily halt construction on adjacent areas at the center of protests by Native Americans and supporters.

However, at the same time the pipeline and protests surrounding it were galvanizing an international swell of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its Sacred Stone Camp, another federal move on two key pipelines has flown under the radar.

In May, the federal government quietly approved permits for two Texas pipelines — the Trans-Pecos and Comanche Trail Pipelines — also owned by Energy Transfer Partners. This action and related moves will ensure that U.S. fracked gas will be flooding the energy grid in Mexico.

Monday, September 19, 2016 - 12:57 • Justin Mikulka
DOT-111 as part of ethanol unit train
DOT-111 as part of ethanol unit train

This is the third article in a series looking at why oil trains derail at higher rates than ethanol trains. More ethanol was moved by rail from 2010–2015 than oil, but oil trains derail at a higher rate and with more severe consequences. Part one addressed train length as a factor and part two addressed “sloshing.” 

On January 25, 2011, a notice appeared in the Federal Register announcing a change in the rules on allowable weight for a rail tank car transporting hazardous materials. It declared the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) approval to increase this weight limit, bumping it up to 286,000 pounds gross rail load (GRL) from the previous limit of 263,000 pounds.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but this rule change was well-timed for the Bakken oil-by-rail boom that was taking off at that point. Regardless, it had immediate impacts on the ability of the industry to move oil in long unit trains with cars that were heavier than previously allowed. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016 - 03:58 • Sharon Kelly
Chevron refinery
Chevron refinery

In the city of Richmond, California, Chevron Corp. not only processes up to 250,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the largest refinery on the West Coast — it also writes the news.

The Richmond Standard, an online paper focused on local news for the roughly 100,000 residents of this San Francisco Bay area city (neighboring Berkeley and Oakland), is produced entirely by Chevron's public relations firm.

The Standard mostly prints local-interest stories: announcing library construction, highlighting missing persons, and profiling area businesses.

But unlike a traditional newspaper, the Standard also runs a dedicated section called “Chevron Speaks” — used to introduce friendly Chevron reps, attack investigative reporting projects, and talk electoral politics. And unlike other media outlets, the Standard consistently lacks mention of industrial accidents and problems at the refinery. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016 - 00:54 • Julie Dermansky
Contents from a flooded home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, awaiting removal on Sept 9.
Contents from a flooded home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, awaiting removal on Sept 9.

In the aftermath of the 1000-year flood that hit southern Louisiana in August, environmental and public health concerns are mounting as the waters recede.

Residents want to know why many areas that never flooded before were left in ruin this time, raising questions about the role water management played in potentially exacerbating the flood. The smell of mold lingers on streets where the contents from flooded homes and businesses are stacked in piles along the curbside, as well as in neighborhoods next to landfills where storm debris is taken.

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