Justin Mikulka

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Justin Mikulka is a freelance writer, audio and video producer living in Albany, NY.

Justin has a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.

Most Recent Oil Train Accidents and Spills Involved ‘Safer’ CPC-1232 Tank Cars

oil train credit Justin Mikulka

Roosevelt County chief deputy sheriff Corey Reum was one of the first responders to the recent Bakken oil train derailment in Montana, a few miles from the North Dakota border.

“We're lucky it didn't ignite,” Reum told ABC News.

That is just one of the things first responders have learned since the deadly accident two years ago in Lac-Megantic. As a Globe and Mail article marking that two year anniversary recently noted, when the train was on fire and rail cars were exploding in Lac-Megantic, no one could figure out why.

Senate Working to Strip Braking Safety Requirements From Oil Train Regulations

As documented on DeSmog, the new oil-by-rail regulations contain major concessions to the oil and rail industries as the result of relentless lobbying during the rulemaking process. One logical safety measure that the rail industry failed to block from the new rules was a requirement for modern braking systems know as electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.

However, the rail industry has a Plan B to avoid modernizing their braking systems and so far it is working quite well.

DOE: Department of Evasiveness? More Government Delay Tactics as Bomb Trains Roll On

oil train

The oil industry and the government regulators in charge of regulating the industry don’t understand the basic science of oil. This is the core of the argument used to justify why they continue to run dangerous trains filled with Bakken oil through communities across North America. Do you believe them?

Despite the audacity of this position, it is being used to delay any new regulations and to support the idea that the mystery of why Bakken crude oil explodes must be studied for years before it would be possible to make any regulatory decisions.

What is happening is that the tactic of creating doubt about basic science is being used to allow the continued transportation of dangerous Bakken crude oil by rail.

It’s an approach the industry learned quite well during several decades of climate change denial efforts.

New and Improved Bomb Trains? Oil Industry Plans to Ship Even More Dangerous Light Oils

As oil train protests continue across North America to mark the two-year anniversary of the Lac-Megantic disaster, trouble is brewing in Texas. At the recent Crude Markets and Storage Summit energy conference in Texas, Pat McGannon, vice president of Rangeland Energy, made the following statement.

Rail provides a solution for high-gravity condensates.” 

High gravity condensates are the result of the industry’s fracking for oil. Much of the product that comes out of the ground in the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas is condensate which is also referred to as ultra light oil. So why does rail provide the solution for moving this ultra light oil?

Blocking the Bomb Trains: Nationwide Protests On Lac-Megantic Anniversary

It’s corporate greed versus the common good, whether it’s rail safety or climate change.”

Those were the words of Lowen Berman, a Portland activist involved in a blockade of oil train tracks to mark the second anniversary of the Lac-Megantic oil train disaster.

Berman and 60 other activists protested in Portland today as part of a national Oil Train Week of Protests led by 350.org and ForestEthics.

The Yes Men Are Revolting, How About You?

In the third movie from the prankster activists, The Yes Men, made up of Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum, they set their sights on what they see as the biggest issue facing the world today — climate change.

However, unlike their first two films, they also turn the cameras on themselves and one of the main story lines in the film is how the two address what it means to dedicate your life to activism.

This self-examination leads to the inevitable question, “Does what we do really make a difference?”

New York State Ban On Fracking Made Official

After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative.”

Those were the words many activists in New York never expected to hear from Joe Martens, head of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, but they were included in a statement released today as New York made the state’s ban on fracking official.

Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban: Daniel Yergin and the Anatomy of an Industry Public Relations Push

Daniel Yergin

This is a historic turning point,” said Daniel Yergin. “The defining force now in world oil today is the growth of U.S. production.”

That quote is from an article from November 2014 in the New York Times, which described Daniel Yergin as an “energy historian.” As the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Prize, which BusinessWeek called “the best history of oil ever written,” it is a technically accurate but largely incomplete description of Yergin.

While Yergin has written about the history of oil and power, he is now also a major player in the game and is using this power to help shape history rather than just report on it. And, of course, to personally profit from these efforts.

Cost of Doing Business? Oil Companies Agree To Pay For Some of Lac-Megantic Damages, But Not to Solve the Real Problems

Although insisting the industry is not to blame, several of the oil companies involved in the fatal Lac-Megantic oil train accident in 2013 have agreed to contribute to a fund to compensate the families of the 47 victims in that accident.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that oil companies Shell, ConocoPhillips, Marathon and Irving have all agreed to contribute to the fund to avoid future litigation, along with General Electric and the Canadian government. While the actual amounts contributed by most companies involved are not available, the total fund is reportedly at $345 million. That sounds like a lot of money but still is less than the $400 million retirement package for Exxon’s last CEO, for example.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. hasn't agreed to the settlement, according to the Bangor Daily News, which reports that the judge in the case has delayed his decision on the settlement. Canadian Pacific has asked the court to shield it from future litigation and challenged the Quebec provincial court’s jurisdiction.

“There Could Be Trouble” As US Fracking Revolution Prepares to Go Global

A new report showing the U.S. overtaking Russia as the leading producer of oil and gas in the world should put to rest any doubt that the fracking revolution that has occurred in the U.S. is for real, or as BP’s chief economist put it, “profound.”

And now with the recent Environmental Protection Agency report on the impacts of fracking on drinking water being touted by the American Petroleum Institute as proof that fracking is safe, the industry’s insatiable greed got another boost. More recently,  the Harvard Business School has also joined in the discussion calling for the end of the ban on exporting U.S. crude oil and warning about the implications of missing the “opportunity” offered by fracking.

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