Third

Wed, 2014-06-18 07:06Justin Mikulka and Steve Horn
Justin Mikulka and Steve Horn's picture

White House Meeting Logs: Big Rail Lobbying Against "Bomb Train" Regulations It Publicly Touts

Lynchburg, Virginia Oil Train Explosion

The Obama White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has held the majority of its meetings on the proposed federal oil-by-rail safety regulations with oil and gas industry lobbyists and representatives.

But OIRA meeting logs reviewed by DeSmogBlog reveal that on June 10, the American Association of Railroads (AAR) and many of its dues-paying members also had a chance to convene with OIRA

Big Rail has talked a big game to the public about its desire for increased safety measures for its trains carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale. What happens behind closed doors, the meeting logs show, tells another story. 

At the June 12-13 Railway Age Oil-by-Rail Conference, just two days after rail industry representatives met with OIRA, American Association of Railroads President Edward Hamberg, former assistant secretary for governmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), made the case for safety. 

“Railroads believe that federal tank car standards should be raised to ensure crude oil and other flammable liquids are moving in the safest car possible based on the product they are moving,” said Hamberg.

The industry also wants the existing crude oil fleet upgraded through retrofits or older cars to be phased out as quickly as possible.”

Yet despite public declarations along these lines, proactive safety measures were off the table for all four of Big Rail's presentations to OIRA.  

Though private discussions, the documents made public from the meeting show one consistent message from the rail industry: safety costs big bucks. And these are bucks industry is going to fight against having to spend.

Mon, 2014-06-02 05:00Sharon Kelly
Sharon Kelly's picture

Loopholes Enable Industry to Evade Rules on Dumping Radioactive Fracking Waste

As the drilling rush proceeds at a fast pace in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale, nearby states have confronted a steady flow of toxic waste produced by the industry. One of Pennsylvania's most active drilling companies, Range Resources, attempted on Tuesday to quietly ship tons of radioactive sludge, rejected by a local landfill, to one in nearby West Virginia where radioactivity rules are still pending. It was only stopped when local media reports brought the attempted dumping to light.

“We are still seeking information about what happened at the Pennsylvania landfill two months ago when the waste was rejected, and about the radiation test results the company received from the lab,” Kelly Gillenwater, a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which had tracked the waste after it was rejected by a Chartiers, PA landfill because it was too radioactive. “For now this is still under investigation.”

It's one of a series of incidents involving the disposal of fracking's radioactive waste. Collectively these incidents illustrate how a loophole for the oil and gas industry in federal hazardous waste laws has left state regulators struggling to prevent the industry from disposing its radioactive waste in dangerous ways.

Mon, 2014-05-19 14:43Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

Years of Living Dangerously Takes On Climate Denial, Anti-Science Attacks on Climate Solutions

“Sometimes you can't convince people, you just have to defeat them.” That was Washington state governor Jay Inslee's message about dealing with climate deniers today at Climate Solutions' 6th annual breakfast in Seattle.

“We're not going to wait until the last person in Washington understands physics and chemistry in order to confront climate change,” Inslee said, describing his view that the climate policy debate essentially pits optimists against pessimists. Those who understand the urgent need to address climate change are the optimists who see climate solutions as beneficial for our health and economic prosperity, while those who deny the problem or think there's nothing we can do about it are the pessimists. Nobody likes a pessimist. 

Governor Inslee was joined on stage today by David Gelber, the executive producer of the must-watch Showtime climate change series, Years of Living Dangerously. These two optimists were both in agreement that “climate deniers are really back on their heels,” as Gelber said about the increasing public pressure for politicians to stop waffling and move ahead with climate solutions. 

Pacific Northwest coal export proposals were a hot topic of conversation, as usual whenever Governor Inslee makes a public appearance these days. Gelber noted that the potential climate impacts of coal expansion are “every bit as important” as the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and urged the media to be more aggressive in covering climate threats since we face “civilizational suicide” if we fail to act. 

Gelber shared several stories about the success of the Years series in its first season, and revealed plans for wider distrubtion once the Showtime run concludes. The series will be released on DVD approximately three months after the final episode of season one airs, and the producers are getting closer to securing international distribution agreements. That will be welcome news to fans outside the U.S., along with the many schools and universities that want to screen the series for their students, Gelber said. 

Governor Inslee was featured in episode 5 for his leadership as a climate-focused governor who won election on a platform of climate action promises. That episode also looked at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's refusal to acknowledge the role that climate change played in amplifying the impacts of Superstorm Sandy. The highlight of the episode is the conversion of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), a former climate skeptic who accepts the scientific consensus by the end of the episode in an interview with host Chris Hayes. 

If you happen to have Showtime or know someone who does, tune in tonight at 8pm for episode 6, which looks at two important story lines that will be familiar to DeSmog readers.

Mark Bittman hosts the “Chasing Methane” segment looking at the climate impacts of natural gas development, while America Ferrera hosts “Against the Wind,” a segment looking at the anti-science attacks on renewable energy by the Heartland Institute and other fossil fuel front groups. That segment features an interview with yours truly as well as Center for Media and Democracy executive director Lisa Graves examining the history and tactics of James Taylor and Heartland with America Ferrera.  

Mon, 2014-04-14 14:43Graham Readfearn
Graham Readfearn's picture

Tax Breaks In Australia To Fund Climate Misinformation Book

It's amazing what qualifies for a tax break in Australia these days.

The climate science misinformation promotion unit at the Institute of Public Affairs, a Melbourne-based “free market” think tank, are currently passing the hat around to raise cash to publish a book on climate change.

The IPA has been pushing and promoting climate science denial since the late 1980s, when it published an article in its magazine asking if there really was a greenhouse effect.

According to an email to supporters earlier this month from the IPA’s executive director John Roskam, the think tank has raised $144,545 towards a $175,000 target to publish a book Climate Change: The Facts 2014.

Roskam reminded supporters that their donation for the book would be “tax deductible” and those prepared to part with $400 or more more would even get their name on the back cover.

The list of chapter authors is a predictable line up of denialists and contrarians picked from the blogosphere, conservative media outlets and the associates of secretly funded conservative think tanks.

They include Nigel Lawson, Stewart Franks, Bill Kininmonth, Mark Steyn, Donna Laframboise, Pat Michaels, Jennifer Marohasy, Andrew Bolt, Richard Lindzen, Jo Nova, Anthony Watts, James Delingpole, Bob Carter, Ross McKitrick and Ian Plimer.

Yep. A few Aussies will have slightly fatter tax refunds (or thinner bills) in exchange for funding climate science denialism and contrarianism from a list of usual suspects.

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:11Graham Readfearn
Graham Readfearn's picture

Editors Resign From Frontiers Journal Over Retracted Paper That Upset Climate Science Deniers

Three university professors are resigning as editors at a scientific publisher in protest at its decision to retract research linking climate change scepticism to conspiratorial thinking.

Professors Ugo Bardi, of the University of Florence, Italy and Björn Brembs, of the University of Regensburg, Germany, launched scathing attacks on the Switzerland-based publisher Frontiers. Professor Colin Davis, of the University of Bristol, has also resigned in protest.

The academics said the journal should have stood by the authors of the research, with one saying the publishers had caved in to pressure from “delusionals.”

Frontiers staff and the three research authors, led by cognitive psychology professor Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol, had signed agreements preventing them from discussing the nature of the complaints, but DeSmogBlog revealed sceptics had claimed the research was defamatory.

Frontiers last year formed a partnership with the publishers of the high-profile Nature journal.

Brembs described Frontiers' retraction decision as “an outrageous act of a scientific journal caving in to pressure from delusionals” who, he said, were “demanding the science about their publicly displayed delusions be hidden from the world.”

Tue, 2014-04-08 05:00Julie Dermansky
Julie Dermansky's picture

Eight Members of Congress Call for EPA to Reopen Contaminated Water Studies Near Fracking Fields

Eight members of Congress, led by Democratic Representative Matt Cartwright (PA), have written to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking it to “investigate and address” water contamination in Dimock, PA, Parker County, TX, and Pavillion, WY.

The EPA's initial investigations indicated drinking water contamination was caused by oil and gas extraction. The EPA compelled industry to provide clean water to those affected, but later abandoned its investigations without issuing final reports, letting industry off the hook. 

In the letter to Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA, requesting the agency reopen its investigations, the congressmen state, “A patchwork of state regulations, exemptions from many of our federal environmental laws and a lack of enforcement have forced communities living in and near to heavily drilled areas to pay the price for the [fracking] boom.” 

This is welcome news for people like Texan Shelly Perdue, who can set her water on fire. She lives about 600 feet from the Range Resources' hydraulic fracturing site that the EPA held responsible for contaminating Steven Lipsky's well water in 2011.

Wed, 2014-03-26 11:54Steve Horn
Steve Horn's picture

Admiral Dennis Blair: "We Sent Troops to Middle East...Because of Oil-Based Importance of Region"

At the just-completed U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing titled, “The Geopolitical Potential of the U.S. Energy Boom,” Admiral Dennis Blair — former Director of National Intelligence, President and CEO of Institute for Defense Analyses and Commander in Chief of U.S. Pacific Command — admitted what's still considered conspiratorial to some.

Put tersely: the U.S. and allied forces launched the ongoing occupation in Iraq and occupy large swaths of the Middle East to secure the flow of oil to the U.S. and its global allies, explained Blair. 

Blair began his analysis lasting just over a minute after a line of questioning (beginning at 1:02:56 in the video below) coming from U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) about TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, “energy as an instrument of geopolitical power” and geopolitical tensions in Venezuela. 

Thu, 2014-02-06 19:34Graham Readfearn
Graham Readfearn's picture

Coal Industry Report On Social Cost Of Carbon Relies On Climate Science Denial

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) seems a confusing and confused organisation of major coal miners and burners - even if you only consider its oxymoronic title.

When the industry group was launched in 2008, the message was that coal — the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning globally — could be part of the future.

I believe we can limit greenhouse gases,” declared one of the wholesome American citizens depicted in the ACCCE television adverts.

One can only presume that the ACCCE has now dropped its hopes of limiting greenhouse gases, given that its latest “landmark report” claims the benefits to society of putting extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere massively outweigh the costs. Surely the message should be, “burn baby, burn”?

The Social Costs Of Carbon? No, The Social Benefits Of Carbon report by ACCCE claims the benefits of adding extra CO2 to the atmosphere are between 50 and 500 times higher than the costs.

But the report attacks climate change science using sources as ideologically tainted as the Heartland Institute – an organisation which once ran a billboard campaign with a picture of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski to claim that the “most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

At its core, the ACCCE report is one long misrepresentation of the impact of coal on the planet, from its effects on growing food crops to raising sea levels to fuelling risk-laden climate change.

Tue, 2014-01-14 22:27Graham Readfearn
Graham Readfearn's picture

Exclusive: Mont Pelerin Society Revealed As Home To Leading Pushers Of Climate Science Denial

THERE’S a popular talking point coming from climate change denialists that all people who accept the science and the need to act on it are somehow blinded by faith.

In Australia, climate science contrarian columnists can barely touch their keyboards without typing out the words “global warming faith” or explaining how human-caused global warming is some sort of “new religion”.

This “climate religion” narrative often goes hand-in-hand with another favourite denialist talking point where climate scientists are only doing what they do because there’s a dollar in it.

Presumably the laws of physics, the melting ice sheets, the increasing risk of bushfires, the hottest decades on record and the acidifying oceans are also waiting for their cash.

Maurice Newman, the man hand-picked by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be the government’s top business advisor, loves both of these debating points.

Newman has described climate scientists as being a “global warming priesthood” and belonging to a new “religion”. In a second opinion column in two weeks in The Australian, Newman repeats his cynicism over the IPCC and climate scientists, describing them as a “cartel” that “will deny all contrary evidence”.  Newman even repeats the myth that in the 1970s scientists were certain the world was heading for global cooling, when in fact, as this study shows, a healthy majority of scientific papers were predicting the opposite. 

Yet Newman has a deep belief system of his own, having long been associated with a form of “classic liberalism” – a particular world view which advocates small government and low regulation of the activities of businesses.

Not only that, but he is a member of a global society of influential business people, academics and think tank associates known as the Mont Pelerin Society who share the same broad ideology.

The Mont Pelerin Society

The Mont Pelerin Society was established in 1947 by free market economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek.

Maurice Newman, a Mont Pelerin member since 1976, has long been an admirer of the work of Hayek and fellow free market economist Milton Friedman, a past president of the Mont Pelerin Society.

Newman was responsible for bringing Friedman to Australia in the mid-1970s, at a time when Newman was helping to set up the Centre for Independent Studies – a Sydney-based free market think tank.

Mont Pelerin’s website explains that while all members don’t agree on everything, “they see danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare, in the power of trade unions and business monopoly, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation.”

The Society, which holds a meeting annually in different parts of the world, also explains how its members see their society “as an effort to interpret in modern terms the fundamental principles of economic society as expressed by those classical economists, political scientists, and philosophers who have inspired many in Europe, America and throughout the Western World.”

To become a member, individuals have to be nominated by a current member and then seek endorsement by the membership committee before being endorsed. 

DeSmogBlog has obtained a full list of the society’s members that includes senior representatives of many of the world’s foremost “free market” think tanks actively pushing back on proposed policy solutions to tackle climate change.

The list, from 2010, includes almost 500 people from 52 countries, with the bulk of members coming from the United States and the United Kingdom. The 70-page list includes private contact details. DeSmogBlog has decided to publish only extracts with contact details redacted.

Among the notable members is Charles Koch (list excerpt here), the US oil billionaire who has been a Mont Pelerin Society member since 1970.

Mon, 2013-12-30 05:00Julie Dermansky
Julie Dermansky's picture

Eagle Ford Shale: Breathe at Your Own Risk

Fracking is in full swing in the Eagle Ford Shale region of southern Texas, home to the most productive oil field in the United States.

For Cynthia Dupnik, whose Karnes County home is in the center of the region, life is no longer serene. At night, she says the landscape is frighteningly apocalyptic, marked by the roaring flares spreading pollutants across the sky from oil and gas operations.


Marathon tank battery facility in Hobson, Texas

The first time Dupnik heard about fracking was when Marathon Oil Corporation started drilling near her home. After complaining that she was getting sick, Marathon sent a team to take air samples on her property, but never returned with the test results.

Dupnik is also concerned about a nearby Marathon Challenger tank battery, a facility used in shale production, which almost constantly has a flare emitting toxic fumes into the air only six-tenths of a mile from Dupnik's home. Some nights the flare from the tank battery site is so bright she can see it from her front porch.

On the evening of December 13, Dupnik says the noise coming from the tank battery site was louder than usual and the air smelled like rotten eggs. She experienced a metallic taste in her mouth and had a hard time breathing so she called the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). No one picked up, so she called the sheriff's office, which sent a deputy over. The deputy told Dupnik the noise and smell were not out of the ordinary, but called the Texas Railroad Commission which assured Dupnik they would let the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality know.

Dupnik had already lodged a complaint about the tanker battery site with the commission in July 2013, and was assured test results were forthcoming. Despite repeated followup, Dupnik says she’s been unable to get any information about the test results.

Pages

Subscribe to Third