Justin Mikulka's blog

Safety Officials Order Partial Shutdown of Sabine Pass LNG Export Facility After Discovering 10-Year History of Leaks

Sabine Pass LNG Export Facility

Sabine Pass, for now the only liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in the country, has reportedly been experiencing safety issues for the past decade, and yet federal safety officials were only informed of this history while investigating the terminal's latest leak in January. Owned by Cheniere Energy, Sabine Pass is located on the Gulf Coast on the border of Texas and Louisiana.

Is This New Tar Sands Technology a Game Changer for Exporting Canada's Bitumen?

Hockey pucks

A new technology has the potential to transform the transportation of tars sands oil. Right now, the already thick and slow-flowing oil, known as bitumen, has to be diluted with a super-light petroleum product, usually natural gas condensate, in order for it to flow through a pipeline or into a rail tank car. 

However, scientists at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering inadvertently found a way to make tar sands oil even more viscous, turning it into “self-sealing pellets” that could potentially simplify its transport.

EPA Chief Downplays Global Warming as Unexpected Climate Impacts Stack up

Cape Town, South Africa

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is well-known for his comments denying the established science of climate change, and this week he touted yet another talking point of the climate denial community.

“I think there's assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing,” Pruitt said in an interview with Nevada's KSNV television and as reported by E&E News. But from Cape Town, South Africa's water woes to mercury in melting permafrost, the decidedly negative impacts of global warming are already manifesting themselves, often in unexpected ways.

The Oil Industry and That Amazing Floating Tar Sands Oil

Protester holding a sign that says 'Remember the Kalamazoo'

More than seven years have passed since an Enbridge oil pipeline ruptured and spilled more than a million gallons of tar sands oil, also known as diluted bitumen, near a tributary leading to Michigan's Kalamazoo River. Once in the water, the oil — which spill responders initially did not know was tar sands oil — ended up sinking to the sediment on the river bottom and causing major environmental impacts for wildlife and plants. 

Yet even today, the oil industry still claims that tar sands oil floats.

Washington Governor Inslee Rejects Major Oil-by-Rail Project

Vancouver, Washington port

On January 29, Washington Governor Jay Inslee rejected a permit required for Tesoro-Savage to build the Vancouver Energy oil-by-rail facility, the largest such project in the nation, at the Port of Vancouver, along the Washington-Oregon border. The governor explained the basis of his decision, which followed a several year long process, in a letter to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council:

Rail Workers Acquitted in Trial on Deadly Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Disaster

Aerial view of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, after the oil train explosion and fires

The train engineer and two additional rail workers who faced charges for the deadly July 2013 oil train accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, were acquitted on Friday after the jury deliberated for nine days. If convicted of all charges, they potentially faced life in prison. 

The end of the trial of these three employees for their role in the Canadian oil train disaster that resulted in 47 deaths and the destruction of much of downtown Lac-Mégantic appears to have brought some closure to residents of the still-recovering town — although most are still waiting for justice.

As the trial began, the BBC reported the sentiments of Lac-Mégantic resident Jean Paradis, who lost three friends in the accident and thought the wrong people were on trial.

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