Mon, 2015-03-09 15:36Justin Mikulka
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Tar Sands by Rail Disasters: The Latest Wave in the Bomb Train Assault

With the first crash and explosion of a unit train of tar sands oil in Canada in February, we learned that the conventional wisdom among people covering the oil-by-rail industry regarding the flammability of tar sands oil has been dead wrong. A second derailment and explosion on March 7th involved synbit, which is a form of bitumen diluted with synthetic crude oil.

While there are many examples of this mischaracterization of the dangers of moving tar sands by rail that can be found in the press, here at DeSmogBlog we didn’t have to look far. In an article last year about how to make Bakken crude less dangerous we wrote that the government had plans to allow tar sands oil to be transported in the unsafe DOT-111 rail tank cars “because it is not explosive.”

While raw bitumen from the Alberta tar sands is not volatile or highly flammable, when it is diluted with natural gas condensate to form a mixture known as dilbit, which is typically done to make it easier to transport, it appears that it can be as dangerous as the Bakken crude that has now been proven to be highly flammable and explosive in multiple train derailments.

An article in Railway Age pointing out the implications of the tar-sands-by-rail accident had the ominous title “Why bitumen isn’t necessarily safer than Bakken” and concluded with the statement that “Should TSB [Transportation Safety Board] conclude that dilbit has a volatility similar to Bakken crude, as the Alberta research suggests, the hazmat classification of crude oil could be in question.”

Mon, 2015-03-09 14:24Farron Cousins
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Court Lifts Gag Order On Coal Baron Don Blankenship in Criminal Trial

The media will finally get a glimpse into the criminal activity of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, as a federal appeals court has decided to lift a gag order that had been in place on the court proceedings that began with a criminal indictment against Blankenship in November 2014.

The gag order prevented the court proceedings from being made public, and barred the participants in the suit from speaking to the media. But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the order could not be sustained any longer, following a lawsuit by media outlets in the U.S.

Blankenship was indicted in November of last year on a host of charges, including conspiracy to violate mine safety and health laws, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the SEC, and securities fraud. These activities that Blankenship allegedly participated in are what led to the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion that claimed the lives of 29 miners. Blankenship retired from Massey eight months after the explosion.

The Brad Blog has more:

Mon, 2015-03-09 00:01Brendan Montague
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Lilley Feels the Heat Over Climate Denial and Links to Torture Regime

Peter Lilley has come under attack for his paid work for the oil-rich Kazakhstan regime responsible for torture and the suppression of free speech.

Rachel Burgin is fighting Lilley for his Hitchin and Harpenden seat at the general election, and early in the campaign, criticised his £15,000-a-year post advising the Kazakh government-funded Eurasian Council on Foreign Affairs (ECFA).

The former cabinet minister has also been accused of promoting Uzbekistan’s cotton industry, despite the claim by human rights activists that the country’s harvest is heavily reliant on state-sponsored child labour

Sat, 2015-03-07 10:58Julie Dermansky
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Will New Mexico Double Down On Dirty Energy?

The future of energy development in New Mexico’s Four Corners region is at a crossroads. The San Juan Generating Plant is slated to shut down half of its coal-burning capacity in 2017 and a new energy replacement plan must be decided upon.

The Four Corners, where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah intersect, was dubbed a national energy sacrifice zone in a report by the National Academy of Sciences during the Nixon Administration. The area has been mined for coal and uranium and drilled for oil and gas for decades.


The Four Corners Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant near the San Juan Generating Plant. ©2015 Julie Dermansky

Sat, 2015-03-07 08:58Guest
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Climate Deniers Double Down on Doubt In Defense of Willie Soon

Willie Soon Heartland

This is a guest post by Peter Dykstra cross-posted from Environmental Health News/The Daily Climate

The most remarkable aspect of Willie Soon’s soiled science scandal is that in the light of damning evidence of a serious ethical lapse, the climate denial camp shows no interest in self-policing.

When documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act showed Soon was promising “deliverables” for climate research funded by fossil fuel affiliates, the judgment outside the climate denial sphere was swift, largely because the evidence was from Soon’s own hand.

But many who embrace climate denial not only saw nothing wrong with this, they circled the wagons around their embattled Man of Science.

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