oil spill

Fri, 2013-04-05 10:37Ben Jervey
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Colbert Report on the Exxon Pegasus Tar Sands Oil Spill

A quick break for some Friday afternoon comic relief. As only Colbert can, he highlights the absurdity and somehow culls the funny out of a freaking oil spill. And he hits the most important points, too: the Pegasus-Keystone XL comparisons and the fact that it's not an “oil spill,” but a “bitumen spill.” Oh, and “oil soaked Neils.” 

Here's Stephen Colbert on the spill:

Wed, 2013-04-03 16:34Carol Linnitt
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Tar Sands Tax Loophole Cost US Oil Spill Fund $48 Million in 2012, Will Cost $400 Million by 2017

A tax loophole exempting tar sands pipeline operators from paying an eight-cent tax per barrel of oil they transport in the US is costing the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund millions of dollars every year. With expected increases in tar sands oil production over the next five years, this loophole may have deprived US citizens of $400-million dollars worth of critical oil-spill protection funds come 2017.

According to a report by the US Natural Resources Committee the federal government pays for immediate oil-spill response from the Liability Trust Fund which is supported by an excise tax on all crude oil and gas products in the US.

But in 2011 the Internal Revenue Service exempted tar sands oil from the tax, saying the substance did not fit the characterization of crude oil.

This exemption has come under scrutiny this week after Exxon Mobil's Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, releasing 300,000 litres of tar sands oil and water into a residential neighbourhood and surrounding wetlands. Because the line carried tar sands-derived oil from Alberta, Exxon was exempt from paying into the spill liability fund for the corrosive fuel's potential cleanup.

Wed, 2013-04-03 13:51Ben Jervey
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Can We Trust Exxon To Pay for Pegasus Tar Sands Spill Cleanup? Their History Suggests Otherwise

ExxonMobil is getting defensive about its response plans for the tar sands pipeline spill in Arkansas. The company took to Twitter this afternoon to respond to what it called “allegations” that Exxon isn't liable for the full costs of cleaning up their tar sands crude spill in Mayflower, Arkansas.  

Here's the tweet from @exxonmobil sent in response to critics who pointed out that, because of a major loophole that needs to be closed, bitumen is not considered crude oil, and therefore tar sands pipeline operators like Exxon aren't required to pay into the oil spill cleanup fund

A couple of things to unpack here.

Tue, 2013-04-02 15:30Carol Linnitt
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Because 'Bitumen is not Oil,' Pipelines Carrying Tar Sands Crude Don't Pay into US Oil Spill Fund

As Think Progress has just reported, a bizarre technicality allowed Exxon Mobil to avoid paying into the federal oil spill fund responsible for cleanup after the company's Pegasus pipeline released 12,000 barrels of tar sands oil and water into the town of Mayflower, Arkansas.

According to a thirty-year-old law in the US, diluted bitumen coming from the Alberta tar sands is not classified as oil, meaning pipeline operators planning to transport the corrosive substance across the US - with proposed pipelines like the Keystone XL - are exempt from paying into the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

News that Exxon was spared from contributing the 8-cents-per-barrel fee to the clean-up fund added insult to injury this week as cleanup crews discovered oil-soaked ducks covered in “low-quality Wabasca Heavy Crude from Alberta.” Yesterday officials said 10 live ducks were found covered in oil, as well as a number of oiled ducks already deceased.

Thu, 2013-03-07 05:00Farron Cousins
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EPA Accused Of Blocking Scientific Advancement of Corexit In BP Cleanup

Oil Spill Eater International (OSEI), through the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference group, issued a press release this week saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effectively blocked or otherwise delayed scientific advancement in the cleanup of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster by refusing to acknowledge the toxicity of the oil dispersant Corexit.

According to OSEI, the EPA is guilty of violations to the Clean Water Act because they knowingly used the toxic dispersant instead of opting for cleaner, less toxic methods of oil spill cleanup.

OSEI is actually not off base with their accusations.  Reports from late 2012 revealed that using oil dispersants like Corexit make oil spills less visible, but when combined with the oil, create a mixture that is 52 times more toxic than the oil itself.  The studies revealed that even in small amounts, the combination of oil and Corexit reduced the number of egg hatchings in small marine invertebrates by 50%.  These are small creatures like krill, shrimp, and other crustaceans that form the bottom of the oceanic food pyramid.

Those results were just from small doses of the mixture.  And as I wrote in 2011, the amount of Corexit dumped into the Gulf was anything but “small”:

Mon, 2013-01-07 10:14Ashley Arden
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W&T Offshore Fined $1 Million for Using Coffee Filters to Doctor Water Samples

W&T Offshore Oil & Gas Logo

Bizarre new details of just how W&T Offshore Oil & Gas contractors doctored water samples came to light last Thursday when W&T officially pled guilty to criminal charges under the Clean Water Act for tampering with water samples and failing to report a spill back in 2009 off of their Ewing Banks Block 910 platform, 175 miles south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.

W&T admitted that their contractors ran contaminated water samples through coffee filters to remove oil and other pollutants before turning them over for testing.

While the company had secured a permit to dump waste water back into the Gulf, W&T Offshore was required to monitor and report the oil levels in the liquid.

W&T also admitted to failing to report a sheen of oil around the 910 platform that they tried (but failed) to clean up for several weeks after another incident in which an angry worker shot off a flare in November of 2009, which they also failed to report to the Coast Guard.

David Hammer at Eyewitness News reported that when Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Officers inspected the platform, they still found oil staining on the platform deck and a visible sheen in the water, all of which W&T failed to report as required.

As part of the guilty plea agreement, W&T Offshore was ordered to pay $1 million (a fine of $700,000 and $300,000 for community service), will be under probation for three years and will be required to implement an environmental compliance program.

W&T Offshore is headed by founder and CEO Tracy Krohn and operates some 107 platforms in the Gulf.

Wed, 2012-12-12 12:05Farron Cousins
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Internal BP Emails Could Expose Extent Of Corporate Cover-Up Of Gulf Oil Disaster

Attorneys for Kurt Mix, a former engineer for BP, claim that a spate of previously unreleased emails will “exonerate” their client in the current criminal case being pursued against Mix. Mix is the first person in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and leak to be brought up on criminal charges for his role in the cover-up of the extent of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice formally charged Mix with obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence, specifically text messages, relating to how much oil was flowing from the broken wellhead in the Gulf.  The amount of oil flowing into the Gulf waters determined the size of the fines that BP would face from the federal government, so the company could have benefited substantially from under-reporting the true volume of the flow rate.

The new emails that will be released during Mix’s criminal trial allegedly show that Mix repeatedly warned his superiors at BP that they were under-reporting the true scope of the spill to the government and the media, undermining the federal government’s case against Mix.  While these emails could show that Mix did the right thing in one arena, it is unlikely that it will “exonerate” him, as his attorneys claim.  After all, the charges against Mix are for deleting text messages related to the disaster, which were evidence.

The one thing that is almost guaranteed from these emails, assuming they exist in the form that Mix's attorneys are claiming, is that they could expose the cover-up by BP executives, and tell the story of how they intentionally misled everyone about the nature of their oil geyser. And given what we already know, it seems incredibly likely that the oil giant's leadership knew from the start how much oil was flowing from the broken wellhead.

Tue, 2012-12-11 17:02Carol Linnitt
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Northern Gateway Pipeline Hearing Exposes Gaps in Enbridge Evidence

It looks like islands aren't the only thing Enbridge overlooks these days.

A report released today by ForestEthics Advocacy summarizes all of the information missing from Enbridge evidence brought before the Joint Review Panel in the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearing. The ongoing hearings, which began in September, address the proposed project's economics, construction plans, operations, environmental impacts, risks to marine life and First Nations' rights.
 
However ForestEthics suggests the evidence submitted by Enbridge is far from comprehensive. In fact, the company has “a frightening number of gaps in its information that won't be prepared until after approval is granted” to the project, says the report.
 
Below is an abridged version of ForestEthics' Pipelines and Promises, which outlines the evidence Enbridge has so far failed to submit to the Northern Gateway hearings:
Mon, 2012-12-10 12:31Carol Linnitt
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Documents Reveal Alberta Colludes with Industry in Pipeline Safety Review

A pipeline safety review conducted by the Alberta government last summer was done with the oil and gas industry's interests in mind, according to recent documents released to Greenpeace through Freedom of Information legislation. The documents (PDF) show the review, commissioned after a series of back-to-back pipeline incidents across Alberta raised public concern, was coordinated internally between government and industry, and appears to have required industry consent.

Greenpeace campaigner Keith Stewart told the Canadian Press “there's a difference between talking to industry and asking for their approval.”

Private communications suggest government officials worked behind the scenes to develop a review plan that would please industry.
 
“It looks like industry got to write the terms for this review,” said Stewart.
 
The review was commissioned by the Alberta government after a collective of more than 50 prominent environmental, land rights, First Nations and union representatives called upon Premier Alison Redford to initiate an independent review of the province's pipeline safety. The groups, including the Alberta Surface Rights Group, The Council of Canadians, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace Canada also launched an anonymous oil spill tipline, urging individuals to make rupture and spill information public. The Alberta government does not make such information available on a public database.
 
Between May and June the pipeline industry suffered three major incidents in Alberta. The first saw 3.5 million liters of oil leaked into muskeg near Rainbow Lake. In June, a tributary of Red Deer River, which provides drinking water to many Albertan communities, was flooded with 475,000 liters of oil from an unused pipeline. Not two weeks later, more than 230,000 liters were spilled from a leaking line near Elk Lake
 
Mon, 2012-12-03 21:27Brendan DeMelle
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Shell's Arctic Oil Spill Gear "Crushed Like a Beer Can" In Simple Test

Royal Dutch Shell, the massive multinational oil company, badly wants to be ready to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean next summer. This year, the company's plans to begin drilling in the treacherous seas of the Arctic were thwarted by its late start and repeated failures to get even basic oil spill response equipment into place. 

But the full extent of the company's failed attempts to test oil spill response gear was recently revealed by Seattle's NPR radio affiliate KUOW. Shell has faced repeated criticism and regulatory scrutiny over its cavalier attitude towards Arctic drilling, and the KUOW investigation makes clear why Shell is not “Arctic Ready” by a long shot.

Documents obtained by KUOW through FOIA requests indicate that Shell's oil spill response gear failed spectacularly in tests this fall in the relatively tranquil waters of Puget Sound. 

The containment dome - which Shell sought to assure federal regulators would be adequate to cap a blowout in the event of emergency at its Arctic operations - failed miserably in tests.  The dome “breached like a whale” after malfunctioning, and then sank 120 feet. When the crew of the Arctic Challenger recovered the 20-foot-tall containment dome, they found that it had “crushed like a beer can” under pressure.
 

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