Pre-emption: How and Why Rail Companies Are Above The Law

CSX is one of the major rail companies that is profiting from the oil-by-rail boom led by North Dakota’s Bakken crude oil. On September 28th, a day that is apparently national “good neighbor day,” CSX broadcast the following message on Twitter.

Oil-by-Rail Giant BNSF Threatens Shutdown Over Safety

In June of 2014, a representative of oil-by-rail giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) attended a meeting with regulators where the American Association of Railroads (AAR) lobbied against any speed limits for oil trains. One of the slides from that presentation – titled “Far Reaching Economic Impacts” (image below) — predicted dire consequences to the American economy if speed limits were put in place.

There was no mention of the safety benefits of such a speed limit in the presentation. 

And now BNSF is back at it, informing regulators that if a congressionally mandated requirement from 2008 that requires all railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) by the end of 2015 isn’t extended, they may just shut down BNSF.

A Flaring Shame: Obama Could Close Gas Flaring Loophole, But Will He?

This is a guest post by Lukas Ross from Friends of the Earth

Big Oil has been subsidized to the hilt for over a hundred years. In the U.S. the spoils include everything from special interest tax breaks and accounting gimmicks to royalty-free leasing and government sponsored R&D. Add them all together and every year the costs run into the billions.

But one subsidy never seems to make the list, which is a shame because it is hardly small and incredibly polluting. What is it? Royalty-free flaring on public and tribal lands is a giant loophole that President Obama has the power to close before he leaves office.

North Carolina Settles With Duke Energy Over Coal Ash Groundwater Contamination, Ratepayers May Shoulder Costs

Rhiannon Fionn

This is a guest post by Rhiannon Fionn, an independent investigative journalist and filmmaker in post-production on the documentary film “Coal Ash Chronicles.” 

North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality today announced a settlement agreement with Duke Energy, ending a lawsuit over the department’s $25.1 million fine for groundwater contamination resulting from coal ash stored at the company’s Sutton plant near Wilmington, N.C. Although the settlement covers groundwater contamination at 14 of Duke’s coal ash facilities and requires accelerated cleanup of groundwater contamination at four sites, activists and residents I spoke with today were not impressed by the announcement.

Since a judge approved the settlement, there will be no opportunity for public comment.

I am again disappointed with the department, but not terribly surprised,” said Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins. “This is an impressive new low,” he added. “They put a proposed fine out there, but they’ve not only reduced it, they diluted it to 14 sites.”

Here’s How The US Can Rise To The Pope’s Call To Climate Action

Despite warnings by Congressional Republicans that he should stick to spiritual matters and leave politics to the politicians, Pope Francis immediately called for climate action upon arriving in the US last week.

“Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” the pope said in a speech at the White House. And that wasn’t even the most politically barbed point he would make.


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