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The Moment Environmentalists Forced A 'Sea Change' At Oil Giant Shell

In this DeSmog UK epic history article we tell the inside story of how the rising tide of environmentalism in the 1990s caused a “sea change” at oil behometh Shell. 

The environment movement in 1997 appeared at its most confident and confrontational. In Britain, Greenpeace launched an audacious and effective international media campaign against Shell after the oil company was given permission by the British Government to sink a huge North Sea storage bouy into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Scotland.

United Steelworkers Oil Refinery Strike Spreads

Workers at Shell and Motiva refineries in Norco, Louisiana, about 30 miles west of New Orleans, have joined the growing national United Steelworkers Union (USW) strike. In total, 15 facilities are now striking, making this the largest refinery strike since 1980.

On the second night of the strike in Norco, a giant flare at the Shell refinery illuminated the workers on the picket line, serving as a reminder of the dangers that come with working at refineries.

“There are a lot of hazards out here,” Bryan Shelton, a media liaison for the union, said. “If you have that much hydrocarbon in one area, you have a chance for a lot of things to go wrong, so if you have someone working too many hours that is a dangerous thing.”

Obama Administration Hopes Third Time’s A Charm For Chukchi Sea Lease Despite Major Risks

The US Department of the Interior released the final supplemental environmental impact statement for Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193 yesterday, continuing to move the process of affirming the leases originally sold in 2008 forward despite acknowledging the major risks of allowing drilling in the Arctic.

The story of the US government's attempts to sell off its stake in the Arctic Ocean to oil companies eager to exploit the oil reserves beneath the waters is a strange and sordid saga.

The Bush Administration originally leased 30 million acres of the Chukchi Sea for oil drilling in 2008 while relying on incomplete information about the local wildlife. A judge with the Federal District Court in Alaska determined the leases violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in 2010.

The judge ordered the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to reconsider the leases, but a year later, the Obama Administration made the decision to let them stand and issued the first Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193 in 2011.

In January of 2014, the Court Of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled once again that the leases violated the law by failing to adequately consider the potentially catastrophic effects of drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. A new draft analysis was released by BOEM in October 2014, and this time it conceded that there was a 75% chance of one or more large oil spills (defined as more than 1,000 barrels) occurring if the leases were developed.

In response, the environmental group Earthjustice issued a statement saying, “There is no way effectively to clean up or contain an oil spill in Arctic Ocean conditions.” The group also says that millions of Americans responded to the draft analysis by calling on the Obama Administration to stop drilling in the Arctic Ocean once and for all.

Instead, BOEM released the second final supplemental environmental impact statement, marking the federal government’s third attempt to justify Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193 even while acknowledging how disastrous oil drilling in the region could be. Environmentalists were quick to point out that the new analysis did not correct the problems identified in the initial draft.

“Today’s impact statement confirms again that drilling in the Chukchi Sea puts Arctic people and wildlife at risk from major oil spills,” Earthjustice staff attorney Erik Grafe said in a statement. “It concludes there is a 75 percent chance of one or more major oil spills if the Chukchi Sea is developed, and there is no way to clean or contain such a spill.”

You'll Never Guess Who Attended Britain's First Major Climate Denial Conference

DeSmog UK’s epic history series looks back at the conference that marked the first major event where climate sceptic views were promoted in England.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Britain's first major climate denial conference. You'll never guess who attended – and who paid for it.

In October 1995, John Blundell – the newly appointed director of free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) – opened his second major conference Environmental Risk: Perception and Reality at the four-star Stakis St Ermin's Hotel on Caxon Street in London.

The advertised speakers included Blundell’s old friend Fred Smith, the founder of the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), who had flown over from the United States along with the coal-funded sceptic scientist Dr Patrick Michaels.

How Tobacco Shills Inspired Climate Denial

DeSmog UK’s history series examines how the tobacco industry’s PR tactics proved inspirational for the army of climate change deniers.

Dr Fred Singer and his sceptic Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) would become an increasingly important platoon in the army assembling against climate science.

Along with the late Dr Frederick Seitz – a founder of the Marshall Institute – the SEPP would use PR tactics developed by the tobacco industry to question and undermine climate science.

Seitz, for example, accused the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of producing scientific summaries “exaggerating risk… solely – we suspect – to satisfy an ideological objective of aggressively constraining the use of energy.”

Fracking Failure: Frackers In Pennsylvania Violate Health And Environmental Regulations On A Daily Basis

From the American Petroleum Institute’s claim that fracking is “safely unlocking vast U.S. reserves of oil and natural gas” to Chris “Frack Master” Faulkner himself insisting “fracking isn’t contaminating anything,” the oil and gas industry constantly tells us that fracking can be done safely, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

But just to be sure the public understands how seriously they considered public health, a group of oil and gas companies fracking in Pennsylvania formed the Center for Sustainable Shale Development in 2013. According to its website, CSSD is dedicated to “the development of rigorous performance standards for sustainable shale development and a commitment to continuous improvement to ensure safe and environmentally responsible development of our abundant shale resources.”

“Rigorous performance standards for sustainable shale development” certainly sounds great. The only problem is, none of the four companies that founded CSSD — Chevron Appalachia, Consol Energy, EQT Production and Shell — seems to have actually adhered to those standards.

According to a new report by Environment America titled “Fracking Failures: Oil and Gas Industry Environmental Violations in Pennsylvania and What They Mean for the U.S.,” ever since those four companies “told the public they would adhere to higher standards” in 2013, they have collectively committed as many as 100 violations of Pennsylvania’s existing oil and gas regulations.

Was Shell the First Big Oil Company to Publicly Accept the Science of Climate Change and its Consequences?

The DeSmog UK epic history series investigates the divide that opened up between chief executives and shareholders who were anxious that company operations and profits could be undermined by climate change.

The heavy-handed attack from lobbyists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that arose during the 1990s presented a new risk: that the oilmen would become isolated from other leaders of industry.

As early as 1995, a deep divide began to open up between the chief executive officers and shareholders of major corporations in the United States and Britain who were anxious that their own operations and profits could be undermined by climate change.

The Delphi Group in London, a major investments advisor, published a landmark report that year, warning banks, insurers and institutional investors to immediately withdraw investments from oil and coal.

Fossil Fuel Industry Arguments for Carbon Sequestration Cause Uproar at COP20 UNFCCC Climate Talks

UNFCCC COP20

A side event at the UNFCCC COP20 climate negotiations in Lima, Peru was disrupted Monday when climate activists and individuals representing communities on the frontlines of energy development flooded the presentation hall and staged a ‘walk out’ on fossil fuels.

The event was hosted by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) and the Global CCS Institute and featured Lord Nicholas Stern and David Hone, Shell’s chief climate advisor, as speakers.

The talk, originally entitled “Why Divest from Fossil Fuels When a Future with Low Emission Fossil Fuel Energy Use is Already a Reality?,” was inexplicably renamed “How Can we Reconcile Climate Targets with Energy Demand Growth” and focused on the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a technological solution to carbon emissions that cause global warming.

A citizen group formed outside the venue holding a banner that read “get fossil fuels out of COP” and used the acronym CCS to spell out “Corporate Capture ≠ Solution.”

Shell’s Top Climate Advisor Says Company “Values” Relationship with Climate-Denying ALEC at COP20

David Hone, Shell’s top climate advisor told an audience at the COP20 climate negotiations underway in Lima, Peru today that the company enjoys its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a contentious corporate ‘bill mill’ known for its climate change denial and aggressive efforts to counteract emissions reductions and regulations.

More than 90 companies have parted ways with ALEC since 2012, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, after ALEC’s contentious position on climate science drew the ire of shareholders, citizen groups and unions.

Perhaps most famously, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt accused ALEC of “literally lying” about climate science and publicly announced the company’s decision to forego renewing its ALEC membership. The decision prompted a ‘tech exodus’ from ALEC which saw companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo!, and AOL cut ties with the free market group.

The Kochtopus Spreads its Tentacles To Strangle Climate Science

DeSmog UK tells the story of how the ideologically matched and politically inseparable Blundell and Dr Fred Singer became close and controversial allies, in our epic history series.

One evening John Blundell arrived at the Hickory Farm neighbourhood watch meeting in Virginia, and to his surprise discovered he was living close to Dr S Fred Singer, who he had met on the free market think tank circuit.

Singer was with his new wife Candice Crandall, who Blundell had met separately as a press officer at the Koch funded George Mason University (GMU).

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