Justin Mikulka's blog

Bernie Sanders Calls for National Fracking Ban, Addresses Fracking Related Methane Pollution

As Bernie Sanders attempts an upset in New York’s April 19th primary, he has begun to increase his focus on the issues of fracking and climate change.

And since the state of New York banned fracking in 2015 and a recent Gallup poll reports only 25% of Democrats nationwide support fracking this would appear to be smart politics.

In his second of three rallies across New York on April 11th, Sanders took the time to address the issue and highlight the major differences on the issue between himself and Secretary Clinton for the audience in Albany. With the number of anti-fracking signs in the building, the strong response to the message was not surprising.

Sanders introduced the topic noting that when it came to fracking he and Clinton have “some very significant differences” and then congratulated the people of New York for standing up to the fossil fuel industry to ban fracking.

While Lobbying Against Safety Regulations, Exxon Admits to Potential for Stranded Assets

After learning that Exxon misled the world about its advanced understanding of climate change science for decades, it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that the company is being less than truthful about what the reality of climate change means to its oil-based business model now.

In the wake of the Paris Agreement to meet or beat a two degree Celsius limit on global warming, the science is clear that to achieve this goal, a lot of known fossil fuel reserves will have to remain in the ground. From the industry's perspective, that will mean “stranded” assets.

And while groups like Ceres have made progress to get oil and gas companies to acknowledge this reality via investor led efforts, Exxon has adamantly claimed that none of its assets will be stranded.

New Poll Finds Growing Opposition To Fracking

A new study from Stanford has confirmed that fracking operations are contaminating drinking water sources in Wyoming.

“This is a wake-up call,” said lead author Dominic DiGiulio, a visiting scholar at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “It's perfectly legal to inject stimulation fluids into underground drinking water resources. This may be causing widespread impacts on drinking water resources.”

Of course this comes soon after a Pennsylvania jury awarded $4.24 million to two families in Dimock, PA who sued Cabot Oil for contaminating their drinking water via fracking operations. And a new study that has found fracking — and not just frack waste injection — is causing earthquakes in Canada.

Reuters recently reported that Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy revealed that, “Methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and gas sector are substantially higher than we previously understood.”

So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a new poll from Gallup finds that opposition to fracking among the American public has increased in the past year and now a majority of Americans oppose fracking.

New Pilgrim Oil Pipeline Proposed for New York and New Jersey Raises Many Questions

It isn’t hard to find news these days about how the crash in oil prices is impacting investment in new oil infrastructure and development. Headlines like “Big oil to cut investment again in 2016” and “Big Banks Brace for Oil Loans to Implode” appear regularly.

So why is a group fronted by two former Koch Industries executives moving forward with plans to build a new oil pipeline from Albany, NY to Linden, NJ? That is a good question. And the lack of answers as the permitting process moves forward is troubling.  

The actual proposal is for two pipelines. One to supposedly handle Bakken crude oil that arrives in Albany by train. The other would return refined products to Albany from Linden, NJ.

Investors Urge Oil Companies to Stress Test Portfolios Against Two Degree Scenario

Earlier this month Bill McKibben wrote that “Across the northern hemisphere, the temperature, if only for a few hours, apparently crossed a line: it was more than two degrees Celsius above “normal” for the first time in recorded history.”

Of course this comes on the heels of February breaking temperature records in such a stunning fashion that it resulted in a comment from NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of simply - “Wow.”  

Seeing as the Paris climate agreement set a goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius above “normal” this would appear to stress the urgency of addressing climate change and ending our dependence on fossil fuels.

That's why many investors in oil companies are now asking the companies to address this reality by stress testing their portfolios against a scenario where the two degree goal is achieved. The only way to achieve this goal is to leave a significant amount of oil company assets “stranded” or “in the ground.”

Audit of Federal Railroad Administration Enforcement Reveals Serious Failures

In January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released the report “Rigged Justice - How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy” detailing what is known as regulatory capture.

A key point made in the report is that serious corporate offenses — even those resulting in massive environmental contamination or deaths — almost never result in criminal charges against the individuals involved. The most likely outcome is always a small fine that, when compared to the corporation’s annual profits, is nothing more than a rounding error.

While “Rigged Justice” did not specifically focus on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), an audit of the FRA’s policies on hazardous material transportation by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Transportation released in February found many of the same issues.

Echoing the message of Warren’s report, the audit notes that “penalties have little deterrent effect, and criminal penalties are not being pursued.”

The audit notes that within the sample of cases reviewed, 17 cases could have been referred for criminal investigation and yet none were. The audit estimates that over 20% of all violations could be reviewed for criminal investigation.

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