Bakken

Exporting Gasoline by Rail to Mexico Likely to Recreate Mistakes of Explosive Bakken Oil Trains

Read time: 9 mins
Rusty rail car reading 'Texas Mexican Railway'

The oil industry learned an important lesson from its rush to move by train the highly flammable oil drilled in North Dakota's Bakken Shale. The lesson wasn't that those oil trains were unsafe and even dubbed “bomb trains” by rail workers (although they were). The lesson wasn't that their derailments caused several major oil spills in North America as well as the tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, which killed 47 people and leveled the downtown area (although they did).

No, what the oil industry learned from this experience was that when it doesn’t have adequate pipeline capacity, its companies can still make money moving flammable petroleum products by rail, despite the well-documented risks outlined above. And the industry is now taking the same steps to move refined petroleum products — including gasoline — to Mexico by rail.

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

Read time: 15 mins
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.

Oil-By-Rail Regulators Consider Crude Oil Volatility Limits That Would Require Oil Stabilization

Read time: 9 mins

In July 2015, a train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in Culbertson, Montana resulting in an oil spill of 35,000 gallons — more than the contents of a full rail tank car.

But unlike all of the other Bakken train accidents where large amounts of oil were spilled something odd happened. There was no explosion or fire. 

So what was different about the accident in Culbertson, Montana?

Lobbyist for Dakota Access Formerly Led Army's "Restore Iraqi Oil" Program

Read time: 5 mins
Screen shot of Robert Crear.

Robert Crear, one of the lobbyists working for Dakota Access pipeline co-owners Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, formerly served as a chief of staff and commanding general for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The Army Corps and other federal agencies are currently reviewing the permit granted for the controversial pipeline's construction near the Missouri River and Lake Oahe in North Dakota, and the Army Corps has reserved final authorization to complete construction on Corps land until after formal government-to-government consultations with the tribes are completed later this month.

Before he became a lobbyist, Crear headed up the Army Corps project, “Task Force: Restore Iraqi Oil” during the early years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq under the George W. Bush administration. This finding by DeSmog comes as the law enforcement presence has become increasingly militarized and additional forces pour into North Dakota from states nationwide under the auspices of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)

Take Two: Albany’s Oil-by-Rail Facilities Must Do New Environmental Review

Read time: 4 mins

The people of Albany, New York, got some good news last Friday about their port's oil-by-rail facilities.

“Global Companies must restart its environmental review process, given the significant new information about the benzene levels in Albany’s South End community and the hazards of crude oil transport,” said Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC will ensure that this process includes a meaningful and thorough opportunity for public engagement.” 

Global Companies and Buckeye Partners are the two companies operating oil-by-rail facilities at the Port of Albany. While the letter last week was addressed to Global, the DEC has announced both will have to restart the environmental review process.

In 2014 DeSmog reported that the “residents of the Ezra Prentice apartments in Albany, N.Y., have been complaining about air quality issues ever since the oil trains showed up in the Port of Albany two years ago.”

Did an Industry Front Group Create Fake Twitter Accounts to Promote the Dakota Access Pipeline?

Read time: 9 mins
Screenshot of fake Twitter account criticizing DAPL protesters.

A DeSmog investigation has revealed the possibility that a front group supporting the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) — the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) — may have created fake Twitter profiles, known by some as “sock puppets,” to convey a pro-pipeline message over social media. And MAIN may be employing the PR services of the firm DCI Group, which has connections to the Republican Party, in order to do so. 

DeSmog tracked down at least 16 different questionable Twitter accounts which used the #NoDAPL hashtag employed by protesters, in order to claim that opposition to the pipeline kills jobs, that those protesting the pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's encampment use violence, and that the pipeline does not pose a risk to water sources or cross over tribal land.

On September 13, people began to suspect these accounts were fake, calling them out on Twitter, and by September 14, most of the accounts no longer existed.

Security Firm Guarding Dakota Access Pipeline Also Used Psychological Warfare Tactics for BP

Read time: 6 mins
Standing Rock Security

G4S, a company hiring security staff to guard the hotly contested Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), also works to guard oil and gas industry assets in war-torn Iraq, and has come under fire by the United Nations for human rights abuses allegedly committed while overseeing a BP pipeline in Colombia and elsewhere while on other assignments.

Recently, the UK-based G4S placed job advertisements on its website, announcing it would be hiring security teams to work out of offices in Mandan and Bismarck, North Dakota. These two locales are only a 45-minute drive away from the ongoing Standing Rock Sioux Tribe-led encampment unfolding along DAPL's route in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. First among the list of required experience for both locations is service related to military police, elite military forces, or “any support role in a combat zone.” 

Company Led by Donald Trump's Energy Aide Says Its Oil Will Flow Through Dakota Access Pipeline

Read time: 3 mins

Continental Resources — the company founded and led by CEO Harold Hamm, energy adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign and potential U.S. Secretary of Energy under a Trump presidency — has announced to investors that oil it obtains via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin is destined for transport through the hotly-contested Dakota Access pipeline.

The company's 37-page September 2016 Investor Update presentation walks investors in the publicly-traded company through various capital expenditure and profit-margin earning scenarios. It also features five slides on the Bakken Shale, with the fifth one named “CLR Bakken Differentials Decreasing Through Increased Pipeline Capacity” honing in on Dakota Access, ETCOP and how the interconnected lines relate to Continental's marketing plans going forward.

Senator Promoting Dakota Access Pipeline Invests In Bakken Oil Wells Named After Indian Tribe

Read time: 3 mins

U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) recently came out in support of the Dakota Access pipeline, the hotly contested Energy Transfer Partners-owned pipeline envisioned to move oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin. As the pipeline transports oil across North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, it will cross farms, natural areas, and perhaps most notably, ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is one of several tribes disagreeing with Sen. Hoeven's assessment that this pipeline is “infrastructure we need.” 

What Sen. Hoeven — an outspoken supporter of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline — did not mention, however, is his personal investment in 68 different oil-producing wells in North Dakota under the auspices of the company Mainstream Investors, LLC according to his most recent congressional personal financial disclosure form

Seventeen of those wells are owned by Continental Resources, the company whose CEO Harold Hamm also serves as a campaign energy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Those wells have a value of between $11,000–$171,000, and 14 of them, named Wahpeton, are located within 18 miles of the Dakota Access Watford City terminal site

Luck Rides The Rails: Another Near Miss with an "Insane" Bakken Oil Bomb Train

Read time: 9 mins

Luck was in abundance on Friday in Mosier, Oregon where the latest Bakken oil train derailed and erupted into flames near a 50-home residential area and a school. 

As Mosier Fire Chief Jim Appleton said, “Mosier really dodged a bullet in the last 24 hours.”

“I hope that this becomes death knell for this mode of shipping this cargo. I think it’s insane,” Appleton said. “I’ve been very hesitant to take a side up to now, but with this incident, and with all due respect to the wonderful people that I’ve met at Union Pacific, shareholder value doesn’t outweigh the lives and happiness of our community.”

It's a familiar story to those following the Bakken oil “bomb train” saga — luck.

If I had been there another second, it’d probably have killed me,” Bounds said. “Glass was flying everywhere behind me. The walls were caving in. I hadn’t run like that in years.”

That was Morris Bounds describing to The Spokesman Review how he barely escaped the derailing Bakken oil train that destroyed his home in Mount Carbon, West Virginia in February 2015. He literally saw the train derailing and ran out his front door as the train wiped out his house behind him. 

You don’t get much luckier than Morris Bounds. Or his wife, who happened to be in the hospital that day instead of at home. 

Later that year when another Bakken oil train derailed in a residential neighborhood in Watertown, Wisconsin but did not ignite, Sarah Feinberg, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration, declared, “We feel we got really lucky.”  

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