Ashley Braun's blog

News Not to Miss: Oil Train Spill, China Petrochemical Deal, Methane Leaks

Read time: 4 mins
Oil train cars

It's hard to keep up with the flood of news these days. Here's your weekly round-up of news not to miss from DeSmog.

Justin Mikulka has been on the oil train beat for years. He's documented how the oil boom and pipeline bottleneck in the Bakken Shale has led to more, longer, and heavier trains shuttling oil across North America and how various factors also have led to another type of boom: the literal “boom” of exploding oil trains. (In fact, train operators have given them the nickname “bomb trains.”)

This week, Mikulka writes about the latest oil train incident, this time involving a BNSF train carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, across northwestern Iowa.

Rick Perry Resorts to Subsidizing Coal With Measures Used in Wartime and Natural Disasters

Read time: 5 mins
Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke at 2018 CPAC

Under the purported banner of national security, Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears again to have heeded the self-described “desperate” calls of coal baron Robert Murray in order to prop up dying coal and nuclear plants. This time, Perry is planning to resort to federal emergency measures typically employed during wartime or natural disasters, according to Bloomberg.

TigerSwan Employee Applied for Security License in Louisiana Without Disclosing Ties — After Firm’s Attempt Was Denied

Read time: 7 mins
Bayou Bridge pipeline protester Ann White Hat being arrested in Louisiana

The private security firm TigerSwan, known for its controversial military-style tactics against Dakota Access pipeline protesters, is appealing the decision to deny its application for a license to operate in the state of Louisiana, where Energy Transfer Partners is building the Bayou Bridge pipeline. In November, several environmental groups opposed to the Bayou Bridge pipeline attempted to intervene in this case, saying their members were particularly vulnerable to TigerSwan’s security and surveillance practices should it be allowed to operate in support of that oil pipeline, but today the Louisiana State Board of Private Security Examiners denied this request.

However, during this process, it came to light that the state board denied another security license application from a TigerSwan employee who failed to disclose her employment with the firm after TigerSwan’s application was rejected.

Nations Won’t Reach Paris Climate Goal Without Protecting Wildlife and Nature, Warns Report

Read time: 4 mins
Sierpe river mangrove forest in Costa Rica

A sweeping new report released today emphasizes just how intertwined the challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity truly are.

The Paris Climate Agreement and several other United Nations (UN) pacts “all depend on the health and vitality of our natural environment in all its diversity and complexity,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the UN-backed organization behind the report. “Acting to protect and promote biodiversity is at least as important to achieving these commitments and to human well-being as is the fight against global climate change.”

In Trump's First Year, EPA Is Fining Polluters 49 Percent Less

Read time: 5 mins
Donald Trump with Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke

The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency has seen a measurable difference in the way the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been holding polluters accountable compared to the past 25 years. Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA has collected, on average, 49 percent less in civil penalties against violators of federal environmental laws than in the first year of the previous three administrations, according to a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project.

President Trump’s dismantling of the EPA means violators are less likely to be caught, making illegal pollution cheaper,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and former director of EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement. “The president’s ‘law and order’ agenda apparently wasn’t intended for fossil fuel companies and other big polluters.”

Here's the Teacher-Friendly Antidote to Heartland Institute's Anti-Science School 'Propaganda'

Read time: 6 mins
The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change

On a Monday morning at the end of October, Rob Ross asked a group of earth scientists and educators a question: How many of them had received copies of the Heartland Institute book Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming?

You could feel an immediate sense of frustration in the air. Roughly half of them raised their hands. The Heartland Institute is a Chicago-based think tank that rejects the scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate and has received funding from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and fossil fuel industry.

In March, it mailed, unsolicited, a 135-page book and accompanying DVD to tens of thousands of science teachers at public high schools across the U.S., with plans to keep that up until the report was in the hands of every last one.

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