Sunday, January 21, 2018 - 03:07 • Julie Dermansky
Dean Wilson of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper next to a Louisiana cypress

Though Energy Transfer Partners has all the permits and permissions it needs to start work on the Bayou Bridge pipeline, the project still faces multiple legal challenges. 

The 162-mile pipeline, being built by the same company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, will span southern Louisiana from Lake Charles, near the Texas border, to St. James, about 60 miles west of New Orleans. This route will cut through the Atchafalaya Basin, a national heritage area that contains America’s largest swamp. 

Friday, January 5, 2018 - 05:01 • Chloe Farand
BP sign

Several top Republican lawmakers behind the new US tax bill received donations from oil giant BP’s employee political action committee (PAC), data shows. The bill gives big corporations in America a hefty tax break and opens up oil drilling in the Arctic.

Official documents from the Federal Election Committee and data from The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit and nonpartisan research group which tracks the effects of lobbying on elections and is also known as Open Secrets, show the BP employee PAC financed some of the key lawmakers sponsoring the bill adopted at the beginning of December.

PAC donations are part of a wider lobbying strategy and in this instance BP’s staff are supporting lawmakers with a questionable record on climate change. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 12:31 • Sharon Kelly

Pennsylvania today suspended permits for Sunoco Pipeline, LP's $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 pipeline project, after finding that the company committed “egregious and willful violations” of state laws.

The order directs Sunoco, a subsidiary of Dakota Access pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners, to stop Mariner East 2 construction activities across Pennsylvania. The 306-mile pipeline project would carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia to the Atlantic coast for export.

“Suspension of the permits described,” the order states, “is necessary to correct the egregious and willful violations described herein.”

Saturday, December 30, 2017 - 05:39 • Guest
Mountains and meadows in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
By Scott L. Montgomery, University of Washington

After decades of bitter struggle, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge seems on the verge of being opened to the oil industry. The consensus tax bill Republicans recently passed retains this measure, which was added to gain the key vote of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

This bill, however, stands no chance of being the final word. ANWR has been called America’s Serengeti and the last petroleum frontier, terms I’ve seen used over more than a decade studying this area and the politics around it. But even these titles merely hint at the multifold conflict ANWR represents — spanning politics, economics, culture and philosophy.

Friday, December 29, 2017 - 05:26 • Guest
ExxonMobil protesters hold signs

By Paul Griffin, University of California, Davis

Exxon Mobil Corp. has vowed to do a better job in disclosing the risks it faces from climate change starting “in the near future” after bucking pressure to do that for years.

Until now, shareholders and bondholders had no choice but to rely on informed guesswork by outsiders to divine how the nation’s largest fossil fuel company was retooling for the future — a time when taxes, regulations and competition from renewable energy and other new technology alternatives are likely to thin consumers’ demand for its products.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - 03:56 • Steve Horn
Beyond Extreme Energy protesters outside the FERC headquarters

The new chairman for the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Kevin McIntyre, says the agency plans to review its permitting process and procedures for natural gas pipelines.

FERC has come under fire for serving as a “rubber stamp” for these pipelines, which these days mostly carry gas obtained via the horizontal drilling and injection technique known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). The agency has rejected only two out of the approximately 400 pipeline applications received since 1999, when it last updated its gas pipeline review process. That's according to a report published in November by Susan Tierney, currently employed by economic consulting firm Analysis Group and former member of the Obama-era Department of Energy's Natural Gas Subcommittee.

1999 was quite a while ago, particularly in the natural gas pipeline area. So much has changed. So much has changed in our entire industry, of course, since then,” McIntyre told reporters at a December 21 FERC meeting, according to The Hill. “But it would be hard to find an area that has changed more than natural gas and our pipeline industry.”

Saturday, December 23, 2017 - 03:58 • Ben Jervey
Electric car with tax credit form

The federal electric vehicle (EV) tax credit has survived House and Senate negotiations and will not be repealed by Congress’s tax reform bill. The fate of the $7,500 tax credit had been uncertain after House Republicans voted to eliminate the financial incentive in their version of the tax bill.

The credit, which was adopted as part of the 2009 stimulus bill and which has strong bipartisan roots, has come under a renewed series of attacks in recent months, including from groups with close ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel–funded think tanks and front groups.

Friday, December 22, 2017 - 12:16 • Justin Mikulka
Fatal Philadelphia Amtrak crash in 2015

The latest fatal Amtrak accident in Washington state was another reminder of the the reality of the cost-benefit approach to regulating safety.

When the rail industry and its lobbyists are able to argue against implementing proven safety technology because they don’t want to pay for it — that is, for the sake of higher profits — preventable accidents will continue to happen. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017 - 11:14 • Justin Mikulka
Oil by rail accident, with tank cars burning, near Gogama, Canada in 2015

Nothing seems able to derail the rise in Canadian tar sands oil production. Low prices, canceled pipelines, climate realities, a major oil company announcing it will no longer develop heavy oils, divestment, and now even refusals to insure tar sands pipelines have all certainly slowed production, but it is still poised for significant growth over the next several years.

In March an analyst for GMP FirstEnergy commented, “It's hard to imagine a scenario where oilsands production would go down.”

But with pipelines to U.S. refineries and ports running at or near capacity from Canada, it's hard to imagine all that heavy Canadian oil going anywhere without the help of the rail industry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 08:49 • Sharon Kelly
US Bank logo

At a shareholder meeting this past spring, U.S. Bank announced it would be the first large American bank to completely stop issuing loans for oil and gas pipeline construction projects.

Environmental groups, indigenous activists, and divestment advocates hailed U.S. Bank's announcement as a triumph.

Yet that triumph — and the bank's commitment — seems less sure with the news that U.S. Bank has entered into a new $4 billion loan deal with the company behind the contentious Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

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