Justin Mikulka's blog

“We Need Not Be Polite” Hears First National Conference On Oil Train Threats

oil train conference

On November 12th, I boarded a train headed to Pittsburgh, PA to attend the first national independent gathering focused on the topic of oil trains. The trip would take me through Philadelphia where an Amtrak train crashed in May resulting in eight fatalities and over 200 injuries. 

There is general consensus that the accident would have been avoided if positive train control technology had been in place. In 2008, Congress mandated that positive train control be installed by the end of 2015. However, the railroads failed to do this and were recently given a three to five year extension by Congress after the rail companies threatened to shut down rail service if the mandate were enforced.

Poll Shows African Americans Support Clean Power Plan and Climate Action, But Not Exxon-Funded National Black Chamber of Commerce

One tactic of the fossil fuel industry’s attack on the proposed Clean Power Plan is to say it unfairly targets minority communities when in fact the opposite is true. Industry-funded groups like the National Black Chamber of Commerce are among the groups making these claims.

In the past National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) president Harry Alford dismissed climate change by quoting Stevie Wonder, saying, “When you believe in things you don't understand; you suffer. Superstition ain't the way.”

And while Alford may equate science to superstition, there is no doubt that he understands one thing very well – collecting oil industry money. The NBCC has received over $1 million from ExxonMobil alone.

Breaking: Trans-Pacific Partnership Ignores Climate, Asks Countries to Volunteer to Protect the Environment

In March, the White House was touting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on its blog stating:

Through TPP, the Obama administration is doubling down on its commitment to use every tool possible to address the most pressing environmental challenges.”

Reviewing the environment section of the just-released TPP, one thing becomes quite clear. Climate change is not considered one of the “most pressing environmental challenges.”

Risky Shale Oil-by-Rail Expands Despite Lack of Spill Response Preparedness

The worst onshore oil spill in United States history was the Kalamazoo River tar sands pipeline spill in 2010 with estimates of one million gallons of oil spilled. In comparison, the oil-by-rail accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec was 50% bigger.

With the oil-by-rail industry proposing large expansions to West Coast destinations, it is understandable that some local communities are worried about the risks of a spill causing major environmental damage and threatening human health.

Shutdown Spin: Oil and Coal Industries Confident Congress Will Concede to Rail Industry

When it comes to effective lobbying groups, the American Petroleum Institute has to be near the top of the list with its relentless quest to preserve oil company profits at all costs. However, with the current threat of a rail shutdown over the rail industry’s failure to implement positive train control (PTC), which would effectively shut down much of North Dakota’s Bakken oil production, the API isn’t getting involved.  

Apparently they aren’t worried. As masters of the game of spinning stories for profit, perhaps the API knows a good bit of spin when it sees one.

Ivy League Universities Pushing Oil Industry Agenda With No Accountability

Columbia CGEP Oil Export Debate

Harold Hamm isn’t the kind of guy you’d expect to be name dropping Ivy League schools. Born in Oklahoma, his education ended with his graduation from high school. Which didn’t stop him from becoming a multi-billionaire by building his own oil and gas fracking company, Continental Resources — a company that bills itself as “America’s Oil Champion.”

So for a self-made man from oil country, it wasn’t surprising to see a PowerPoint slide with the bullet points “Rigs, Rednecks, and Royalties” during his presentation this June at the annual Energy Information Administration conference in Washington, D.C. Although when he referred to the oil producing sections of the U.S. as “Cowboyistan” it didn’t get the laugh he was probably expecting.


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