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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.

Everything You Need to Know About the Exxon Pegasus Tar Sands Spill [Updated]

In Greek legend, everytime the winged horse Pegasus struck his hoof to the Earth, an “inspiring spring burst forth.” Unfortunately for residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, when the Pegasus pipeline ruptured, the only thing bursting forth was a nasty tar sands oil spill.

On Friday afternoon, the Pegasus pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil ruptured, flooding an Arkansas neighborhood with thousands of barrels of Wabasca Heavy crude from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta. 

Here’s what you need to know about the spill, with links to some reporting on this awful event, which at very least ruined the holiday weekends of many Mayflower, Arkansas residents, many of whom didn’t even know the pipeline was running through their neighborhood.

Utah's Students Forced to Push Fossil Fuel Propaganda for Earth Day

Last week, Huffington Post reported a story about the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining’s ridiculous Earth Day Poster Contest. You know, the one where elementary school students were invited to submit posters around the theme, “Where Would WE Be Without Oil, Gas & Mining?

Seeing as this contest was created by a state agency, every public school in Utah was given this flyer (PDF) with instructions for how to participate.

Fortunately, it’s up to every school to decide whether to participate, and at least some Utahns are outraged at the idea. Colby Poulson, a parent in Farmington, called the contest “propaganda” in a letter to the Salt Lake City Tribune

Why is the state backing an “Earth Day” contest that celebrates fossil fuels, while completely ignoring the adverse effects that their use and extraction can too often have on our air quality, water quality, public lands and the other organisms we share the world with? Shouldn’t Earth Day be about championing things that can help reverse the negative impact of our dependence on fossil fuels?

Frankly, I’m disgusted that the state is backing propaganda like this in our schools.

Oil On The Tracks: Canadian Pacific Rail Spills 30,000 Gallons of Crude in Minnesota

Who ever saw this coming? Yesterday, a Canadian Pacific train carrying crude oil jumped the tracks in Parkers Prarie, Minnesota and immediately spilled 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of crude onto the snowy, frozen fields.

Fourteen cars of the 94-car, mile-long train (stop and picture that for a moment) left the tracks during an emergency braking maneuver, the cause of which is yet unclear. The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an immediate review.

According to Reuters, “the company did not comment as to what kind of crude the train was carrying,” and Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg said he “did not know if the oil that spilled was tar sands oil.”

Another Judge Agrees: Atmosphere Should Be Protected As a Public Trust [Updated]

Should the atmosphere be considered part of the public trust, a resource essential for our collective survival? An Iowa judge, for one, thinks that there is good reason and precedent.

Climate Disruption Tax Costs Americans Billions

Here’s a term that bears repeating: climate disruption tax. What is a climate disruption tax? It’s the cost to the American taxpayer of dealing with the impacts of climate-related weather events, as introduced by NRDC’s Dan Lashof and Andy Stevenson.  

The concept of a climate disruption tax is actually hugely important. Why? Because climate change is costing us more than trying to avoid climate change ever would, but unfortunately, this troubling little bit of economics is somehow constantly overlooked in the climate debates. We always hear about how much it will cost to transition away from fossil fuels and to slow deforestation. But the costs of inaction rarely stick in the discussion.

It’s not for lack of research or knowledge, nor for lack of bloggers bringing it up. Over the past few years, a range of voices have weighed in with warnings from all across the socioeconomic and ideological spectra. If not quite first, but foremost, the master economist Sir Nicholas Stern sounded the alarm, only to recently double down on his dire predictions.

Then there are the massive insurers and even more massive reinsurers like Munich Re and Swiss Re. There are the , of course. There are NGOs and think tanks like DARA with a cold, hard economic calculus in their Climate Vulnerability Monitor. There are academics.There’s the U.S. government itself warning of the severe costs of unmitigated climate change.

These studies and reports are written about, blogged, tweeted, and sometimes cited, but they haven’t managed to nudge their way into the mainstream climate conversation. The costs often seem too far off, too theoretical–a problem for another time.

Which is why any clever new way of framing climate-related costs should be celebrated and spread far and why. Over on Switchboard, Lashof and Stevenson are onto something.

Say it with me again: Climate Disruption Tax.

Don Blankenship, Dark Lord of Coal Country, Implicated in Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion Deaths

Just under three years ago, an explosion in the Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, West Virginia stole the lives of 29 miners. Many were quick to condemn Massey Energy – the coal giant that operated the mine – for their long record of lax safety oversight, and to bemoan the preventability of the disaster.

Blame was directed straight to the top of the company, to then-CEO Don Blankenship, “the dark lord of coal country” himself, who had grown a vile reputation in the field for systematically putting production and profit over worker safety.

Late last week, in a surprise twist during a routine plea hearing in a federal court, all that blame was seemingly justified as Blankenship was directly implicated in conspiring to skirt safety regulations. A former Massey Energy official called our his boss, Blankenship himself, for conspiring and plotting to hide safety violations from federal safety inspectors.

Drop Some Climate Reality Into the Web of Denial Myths

If you spend any time at all reading online articles or blogs about climate change (and of course you do, you’re here), and you like to punish yourself by scrolling down to the comments, you know how quickly the anti-science shysters and merchants of doubt pounce.

Having posted hundreds upon hundreds of climate-related items over the past decade or so, I can practically predict the canned comments before they’re posted. Pay any attention to them, and you’ll pretty quickly come to realize that the same talking points surface again and again and again.

There’s a good reason for this – the climate denial communications machine is very well funded, and has plenty of shadowy channels to help funnel this disinformation into comments sections and Facebook feeds and Twitter and everything else.

Well now there’s a great new weapon that the pro-science crowd can use to help fight the good battle against climate disinformation. It’s called Reality Drop, and it dropped this week from the good truth-tellers at the Climate Reality Project.

Oil Aboard! Tar Sands Industry Eyes Nexen Rail Alternative to Stalled Pipelines

Facing enormous opposition to the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, Canada’s tar sands industry is taking to the tracks to get its sticky bitumen to China. Canadian and Chinese oil companies have explored the “pipeline by rail” option for years now, but over the past month, the prospect of tar sands trains has taken a few big steps closer toward reality.

For over a year, Calgary-based Nexen, Inc. has been developing plans to load tar sands crude onto trains for transport to the West Coast, where it would be loaded onto barges and shipped to China. Late last month, the Canadian government approved the sale of Nexen to a nationalized Chinese oil company, and earlier this week, the U.S. government, which has some say because of Nexen’s major operations in the Gulf of Mexico, gave its stamp of approval.  According to Nexen, the company now has “all the requisite approvals” and the deal “is expected to close the week of February 25, 2013.” (So much for Canadian tar sands benefiting Canadians first and foremost.)

Rail is considered more and more appealing to industry insiders as numerous plans to ship tar sands crude by pipeline have grown increasingly controversial and have been stalled by climate and private property activists from British Columbia to New England to Nebraska. (See: the Keystone XL, the Northern Gateway, and Trailbreaker/Enbridge Line 9.)

In fact, the industry is growing desperate to find ways to export the heavy Canadian crude, as export pipeline capacity is currently maxed out, causing a glut in supply in Alberta, which is driving down prices and causing, according to the Globe and Mail, “billions in forfeited revenues.”

Swiss Re Tallies Huge Costs of Climate Inaction

The world’s largest insurers are tallying the costs of climate inaction, and the numbers are staggering.

Swiss Re announced recently that total economic losses in 2012 from “natural catastrophes and man-made disasters” – primarily weather events – should reach roughly $140 billion. Over 11,000 lives were lost due to the so-called “natural catastrophes” alone.

According to the Swiss Re report, “Natural and man-made catastrophes in 2012,” the top five insured loss events are all in the U.S.

“Hurricane Sandy is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record in terms of wind span. This record storm surge caused widespread flooding and damage to a densely populated area on the East Coast of the U.S. It also led to the worst power outage caused by a natural catastrophe in the history of the U.S.”

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