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Mon, 2012-07-16 13:21Carol Linnitt
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Albertans Seek Pipeline Safety Investigation, Launch Spill Tipline

After three major spills in Alberta occurred over the span of one month, questions are surfacing regarding the integrity of the province’s aging pipeline infrastructure. Last week, a collective of more than 50 organizations from Alberta called upon Premier Alison Redford to initiate an independent inquiry of pipeline safety.

In an open letter sent to the Premier, representatives from a cross-section of landowners, farmers, environmental organizations, health and labour groups and First Nations asserted that “Albertans deserve assurances that our pipeline infrastructure is safe, and that appropriate regulations and oversight are in place.”

“The recent spate of pipeline spills has been a wake-up call for all Albertans,” Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group said in a press release. “We know that we have a problem with pipeline safety in this province, and we can’t afford to wait another year before starting to look at the solutions or diagnosing the problem.”
 
The letter comes on the heels of an initiative lead by the Alberta Surface Rights Group, Greenpeace Canada, The Council of Canadians and the Sierra Club (all signatories of the open letter) to make pipeline spills a matter of public knowledge. These groups recently launched an anonymous oil spill tipline, urging individuals to report information on pipeline ruptures or leaks in their area. The information collected will, in turn, be made available to the public.
Sun, 2012-07-15 07:00Carol Linnitt
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"Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives": Climate Crock Video on Extreme Weather Events

Since January more than 40,000 hot weather temperature records have been broken in tihe U.S. while fewer than 6,000 cold records have been broken. More than 3,000 of those hot weather records were broken in June alone. Over 2.1 million acres of land across the country has burned in raging wildfires and two-thirds of the country is experiencing extreme drought.

As fires, droughts, floods and extreme hurricane-like weather events have plagued the West and the Midwest for the past five months, the conversation surrounding climate change and its relation to evolving weather patterns worldwide has been steadily scaling up.

Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona told the Associated Press: “this is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level.” Adding, “the extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfires. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

This week conservative commentator and climate change skeptic George Will dismissed the significance of the last month's heat wave, saying, “we're having some hot weather. Get over it.”

The latest installment of Peter Sinclair's Climate Denial Crock of the Week video series connects the dots between extreme weather and climate science.

If for nothing else, this video is worth watching to see the movement of a derecho - a freakishly strong storm front with unnaturally high wind and energy levels - as it gallops across the nation. The storm left millions without electricity and killed more than 20 people.

Fri, 2012-07-13 13:19Carol Linnitt
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Enbridge Mismanagement Caused Kalamazoo Tragedy, Says NTSB

Enbridge, the Canadian company poised to build the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline, received a scathing assessment this week from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after an inquiry into a 2010 pipeline rupture in Michigan revealed the company’s mismanagement of what unfolded into a “tragic and needless” disaster.

A combination of “human error” and miscommunication culminated in the reckless release of over 843,000 gallons of Albertan diluted bitumen from the Enbridge Line 6B into the Kalamazoo River. The investigation found that 81 percent of the tar sands oil spill was the result of the company’s baffling response to rupture alerts, which prompted monitors to pump additional oil into the line – twice – rather than close the line’s remote controlled valves. The rupture went undetected for over 17 hours, leading to the most expensive onshore clean up effort in American history, with a price tag approaching $800 million.
 
In her opening remarks, NTSB’s chair Deborah Hersman likened Enbridge to the incompetent Keystone Kops of silent film, suggesting their bewildering response amounted to nothing more than a pantomime. “Why didn’t they recognize what was happening,” Hersman asked. “What took so long?”
 
According to the Board’s investigation, Enbridge knew about the ailing condition of Line 6B for at least five years before the rupture. A 2005 report identified about 15,000 defects with the aging pipeline that extends for 471-kilometers from Ontario to Indiana. Although nearly 900 of those defects had since been addressed, the NTSB found the 2010 rupture was caused by external corrosion at a site overlooked during the course of repairs.
Tue, 2012-06-26 05:00Carol Linnitt
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Maps Show Tar Sands Sprawl in Caribou Habitat: Could Resolve Problem with 1% of Industry Profits, says Scientist

This post is part of DeSmog's investigative series Cry Wolf.

Alberta’s threatened caribou herds will stand a significantly better chance of surviving the province’s development of the Tar Sands, according to a group of scientists, if the oil and gas industry is willing to spare 1 percent of its potential development profits to make it happen.

According to a recent study from the University of Alberta’s Richard Schneider, 50 percent of the caribou habitat threatened by Tar Sands development could be easily preserved if only the industry and government would be more strategic in their land use planning. But ‘strategy’ has had little to do with the way the Tar Sands region has been managed, according to Schneider, who suggests that caribou have become an unintended victim of the government’s thoughtless industrial leasing program.
 
The effort to recover caribou largely relies on securing critical habitat for the species. But habitat has proven difficult to conserve in an area like Fort McMurray where the government has leased the majority of the land to individual companies without any longterm land use strategy. 
 
To understand why caribou recovery is so difficult and why industry is so resistant to habitat protection (see our extensive coverage of this problem here), you have to understand the way oil and gas leases are awarded in Alberta, Schneider told DeSmogBlog. 
 
Fri, 2012-06-22 11:48Carol Linnitt
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American Nurses Band Together to Expose Health Risks of Fracking and Fossil Fuel Energy

Nurses from the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) are proposing they take on a more prominent role in connecting the dots between human health and fossil fuel-based energy. Their public policy proposal, “Nurses Role in Recognizing, Education and Advocating for Healthier Energy Choices,” was passed by the American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates last week. Developed in Pennsylvania, one of North America’s fracking hotspots, the proposal suggests nurses take on an educational role, acting as a conduit between those affected by energy pollution and medical professionals.

“Human and ecological health risks are directly related to the use of coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal of coal, offshore and onshore oil and natural gas drilling, and hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’” the PSNA writes in a press release. The nurses association proposes nurses use “evidence-based information to educate other health professionals, the public and policy makers about the relationship between energy choices and human health.”
 
This proposal arises in response to a recent ‘muzzling’ of medical professionals in Pennsylvania where new laws prevent doctors from relaying information to patients affected by fracking chemicals. In Pennsylvania doctors are legally bound to protect the confidentiality of proprietary chemical information protected as a trade secret by fracking companies.
 
Thu, 2012-06-21 11:46Carol Linnitt
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Howarth and Ingraffea: Gas Industry Fracking Study So Biased it is 'Almost Useless'

Two of the largest gas industry lobbying bodies in the US, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), released a ‘study’ earlier this month claiming methane emissions from natural gas production to be 50 percent lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 estimates.  However, according to a joint statement prepared by professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea and released by the Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) this week, the study is nothing more than industry-purchased propaganda that does not adhere to basic standards for scientific accuracy and consistency.  

The industry report, entitled “Characterizing Pivotal Sources of Methane Emissions from Unconventional Natural Gas Production,” was commissioned by API and ANGA and co-authored by the URS Corporation and The LEVON Group. The report’s findings, pounced upon by gas industry advocates, like the virulent astroturf group Energy In Depth, were based upon API and ANGA survey responses and, according to Howarth, Ingraffea and the PSE, therein lies their downfall.

Here is a brief outline of the study’s ‘fatal flaws’ as outlined in the PSE joint statement:

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