Julie Dermansky

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Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

Exclusive: Release of Inspection Reports From TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Expose Risk of Future Spills

The US government agency responsible for interstate pipelines recorded a catalog of problems with the construction of TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline and the Cushing Extension, a DeSmog investigation has found.
 
Inspectors at the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) observed TransCanada’s contractors violating construction design codes established to ensure a pipeline’s safety, according to inspection reports released to DeSmog under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
 
Evan Vokes, former TransCanada materials engineer-turned-whistleblower, told DeSmog the problems uncovered in the reports show issues that could lead to future pipeline failures and might also explain some of the failures the pipeline had already suffered.
 
Vokes claimed PHMSA was negligent in failing to use its powers to shut down construction of the pipeline when inspectors found contractors doing work incorrectly. “You cannot have a safe pipeline without code compliance,” Vokes said.

TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Resumes Operations Under Supervision After South Dakota Dilbit Spill

TransCanada received permission from federal regulators to re-start the Keystone Pipeline a week after a 16,800-gallon spill in South Dakota. The pipeline started back up on Sunday morning at a reduced operating pressure.
 
The incident has given ammunition to a group appealing the decision by the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (PUC) to re-certify TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, despite President Obama’s denial of a permit needed to cross international borders. 
 
The PUC reasoned that the next president could decide to issue the permit — a reminder that TransCanada has not given up on building the northern route of the Keystone XL. However, this most recent spill renews questions about the company’s ability to build safe pipelines.
 
When Evan Vokes, a former TransCanada materials engineer-turned-whistleblower, heard about a small spill along the Keystone Pipeline, he guessed that the leak would be found at a transition weld near where the pipeline crossed under a road. Transition welds connect thinner-walled pipe to thicker-walled pipe.

Keystone Pipeline Mishap Has TransCanada Scrambling Again

Landowners’ worst fears came true,” Jane Kleeb, the head of Bold Nebraska, told DeSmog after news broke about the latest Keystone pipeline oil spill. “When you have a pipe running through your farm or ranch-land all you think about is: it could break today.” 
 
On Saturday afternoon that fear was realized by a Hutchinson County, South Dakota land owner.  Loern Schulz found oil in surface water near the Keystone pipeline’s right-of-way and reported the spill. 
 
By Sunday, TransCanada had shut down the Keystone Pipeline, which originates in Alberta, Canada, and goes to Steele City, Nebraska. But the rest of its U.S. pipeline network is operational. 
 
The Keystone connects to the Cushing Extension pipeline that ends in Cushing, Oklahoma, where it connects to the Keystone XL’s southern route, renamed the Keystone Gulf Coast Pipeline when the project was split into sections. The Gulf Coast line moves product from Cushing to Nederland, Texas, providing TransCanada a route to move Canadian tar sands bitumen to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and export. 
 
Though President Obama rejected the northern Keystone XL route last year, which would have stretched from Alberta to Cushing, TransCanada has transported Canadian tar sands crude via its Keystone pipeline network since early 2014, when the Gulf Coast pipeline started operations
 
TransCanada didn’t have a representative at the potential spill site until Sunday. But by Monday, when the media broke the news, TransCanada had blocked off the area, making documenting the contaminated area from the ground impossible.

[UPDATE APRIL 8: KCCI reports that TransCanada now believes the Keystone pipeline has leaked about 16,800 gallons in South Dakota, a dramatic increase from initial estimates.]

Josh Fox 100 City Movie Tour On A Stop In New Orleans

Aria Doe, executive director of the Action Center for Education and Community Development in New York’s Rockaways, met Oscar-nominated documentarian Josh Fox, director of Gasland, a few weeks after Superstorm Sandy hit, when he came to film Sandy’s aftermath. The two have joined forces in Fox’s mission “to help communities lead a renewable energy revolution, one community at a time.”

Sandy devastated the Rockaways, an 11.5-mile oceanfront peninsula in Queens, NY near Kennedy Airport. Fox filmed Doe at work in the Action Center, a community center that provides resources to the area’s poorest residents, which morphed into the area’s largest disaster recovery center serving those in need. 
 
The housing projects near the Action Center, where residents live below the poverty line, were left without power for weeks. The neighborhood has still not fully recovered.

Environmentalists Join Forces in New Orleans To Foster A Growing Alliance to Combat Climate Change and Fossil Fuels

It is time we wake up the world to stop abusing and destroying a gift of life – before it is too late,” Chief Arvol Looking Horse from South Dakota said to a group of environmentalists from across the country who joined him at a water ceremony on the shore of the Mississippi River in New Orleans on World Water Day. 
 
The ceremony took place on the fourth day of programming hosted by the environmental advocacy group Indigena, on climate change and communities fighting against it.
 
“Creative alliances are formed when you are invited to come together,” Janet MacGillivray, Esq., with Indigena, told DeSmog. “That’s what we did with the four days of gatherings at the New Orleans Healing Center.”

Keeper of the Mountains Foundation president Paul Corbit Brown, and Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, were among the invited speakers who stressed the need for groups to come together.
 
They joined Louisiana environmental groups and activists who participated in panel discussions in the days before a protest by hundreds of Gulf Coast residents and environmentalists from across the country against the federal lease sale of 44.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil and gas industry. 

Environmentalists Converge on New Orleans To Disrupt Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas Lease Sale

Hundreds of Gulf Coast residents and environmentalists from across the country protested against a federal lease sale of 44.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil and gas industry yesterday in New Orleans.
 
The group marched from Duncan Plaza to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — where the sale was held — calling for an end to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and an immediate hiring of a thousand workers to clean up and repair aging oil infrastructure, including rigs, platforms, pipelines and refineries.
 
They included Gulf Coast residents and local environmental organizations 350 Louisiana, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Bridge the Gulf and Vanishing Earth. Members of national groups Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Oil Change International, Indigena, Bold Nebraska, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity, Rethink Energy, Tar Sands Blockade and Rainforest Action Network also took part in the protest.
 
No effort was made to stop the protesters from entering the Superdome or the room where the auction took place. While the protest had been publicized since February on social media, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) seemed caught off guard.

Momentum Builds Against Obama Admin Plans To Auction Oil and Gas Drilling Rights In Gulf of Mexico

Hundreds of Gulf Coast residents are expected to join a coalition of environmental and social justice groups on Wednesday to protest outside the Superdome, where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) intends to auction off leases for offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forty-seven organizations sent a letter to President Obama last week calling for him to cancel the planned lease auctions that would release millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling. The sales include 43 million acres set to be auctioned on Wednesday, and another 47 million acres proposed for auction in 2017. 

Extreme Weather, Widespread Flooding Hammer Louisiana as Federal Government Prepares to Lease Gulf of Mexico for Drilling

Walter Unglaub never thought flooding would threaten the carriage house he rents in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. It is on a bluff 30 feet above the Bogue Falaya River, in an area that is not considered a flood zone.
 
But that didn’t stop a flash flood from forcing Unglaub to swim for his life to get to higher ground awaiting rescue last Friday.
 
“No one is safe from extreme weather,” Unglaub told DeSmog on Sunday when he returned to sort through his belongings to see what, if anything, was salvageable. 
 
After two days of intermittent rain, 14 inches of rain fell Friday night. This extreme weather event took place 12 days before the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will auction drilling leases to 43 million acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Fracking Becomes An Issue In Presidential Primaries

Republican front-runner Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made their positions on fracking clear last weekend. Trump is all for it. Clinton too, but only if a list of conditions met. Sanders is against it.
 
Trump brought up fracking on Friday at a New Orleans campaign rally. “New York has been let down, they didn’t allow them to frack,” Trump said.  “If they fracked in New York, New York would lower its taxes, would have no debt, would have made a fortune. Instead Pennsylvania took all their money.”
 
Praising Pennsylvania, Trump said, “They took those beautiful, beautiful natural resources. They took ‘em out.” He failed to mention hundreds of reports of water contaminated by the Pennsylvania fracking industry.
  

Exclusive: Newly Released Inspection Reports on Keystone XL’s Southern Route Fuel Doubt Over ‘Safest Pipeline Ever Built' Claims

TransCanada’s claim that the southern route of the Keystone XL Pipeline is the safest pipeline ever built in the United States is challenged by the release of new documentation confirming multiple code violations.
 
Daily inspection reports on the construction of the pipeline obtained by the Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group, renew questions about the pipeline’s integrity.

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