Justin Mikulka

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

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

The Fracking Industry’s Water Nightmare

Read time: 7 mins
Sign reading "hot water"

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has clearly documented the multiple risks — despite repeated dismissals from the oil and gas industry — that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) poses to drinking water supplies. However, the tables may be turning: Water itself now poses a risk to the already failing financial model of the American fracking industry, and that is something the industry won’t be able to ignore.

South Portland's Ban on Tar Sands Oil Survives Court Challenge

Read time: 7 mins
Location of proposed pollution control towers in South Portland Maine's harbor

The City of South Portland, Maine, won a major legal victory at the end of August when a federal judge ruled that the city’s effective ban on tar sands oil did not violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision, like a similar one in Portland, Oregon, has potentially widespread implications for other communities fighting fossil fuel infrastructure projects within their borders.

The Fracking Industry Is Cannibalizing Its Own Production, Increasing Spill Risks

Read time: 6 mins

In the climactic final scene in There Will Be Blood — arguably the greatest movie about the oil industry — the main character played by Daniel Day Lewis explains how he sucked the oil from a neighbor’s land by using horizontal drilling. To help his neighbor understand what has happened, he explains it by saying he took a very long straw and “Drank your milkshake!”

Well, guess what is happening with the fracking revolution built on the concept of horizontal drilling? Not only are oil producers drinking each other’s milkshakes, they are drinking their own, and in the process losing even more money and raising the odds of dangerous environmental risks.

And unlike in the movie where the main character knew what he was doing, the modern fracking industry really has no clue what to do about the problems caused by the combination of horizontal drilling and greed. 

Portland, Oregon Wins Court Battle to Ban New Oil Infrastructure

Read time: 5 mins
Portland, Oregon

In a big win for the City of Portland, Oregon, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a ruling that the city had not violated the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause by voting to ban any new fossil fuel terminals within its borders.

This is a major victory for the climate and our communities,” said Maura Fahey, staff attorney at Crag Law Center, which represented environmental groups intervening in the case, in a statement. “Industry couldn’t even get its foot in the door of the courtroom to try to overturn the City’s landmark law. This sends a powerful message to local communities that now is the time to take action to protect our future.”

This ruling could have important implications for other communities fighting fossil fuel projects because the court ruled that the city's ban did not violate the Commerce Clause, which is the main argument the oil industry has used against bans like the ones in Portland, Oregon and other cities.

Oil Industry Plans to Keep Workers Safe—by Firing Them and Having Robots Do Their Jobs

Read time: 8 mins
Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire in Gulf of Mexico

The oil and gas industry is finally acknowledging how dangerous employment can be for its workers after years of touting the sector as a beacon of worker safety. This sudden honesty about the dangers of working in the oil patch coincides with the industry’s new solution to greatly improve the safety of those workers — which is to fire them and replace them with robots.

3 Reasons the Deadly Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Disaster Could Happen Again

Read time: 10 mins
Oil trains burning in Lac-Megantic, Quebec

In the five years since the oil train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, claimed 47 lives, the world has learned much about the risks that hauling oil by rail poses. One of the clearest lessons is how little has been done to address those risks, which means that deadly event could easily happen again.

Rise of the Machines: Fracking Execs Plan Profits by Using Automation to Shrink Workforce

Read time: 6 mins
Fracking rig workers

At a recent industry conference, Terry Spencer, head of natural gas infrastructure company ONEOK, made clear the direction the fracking industry was headed: “One of these days one of these big ol’ fracs will be operated with nobody there.”

Translation: Computers and robots are going to replace all human jobs at the oil and gas fracking sites of the future.

Derailed Oil Train Spills 230,000 Gallons of Tar Sands in Flooded Iowa River

Read time: 7 mins
Iowa oil train spill and derailment

On June 22, a train carrying Canadian crude oil derailed in northwestern Iowa, releasing an estimated 230,000 gallons of oil into a flooded river. As a result of the derailment, over 30 rail tank cars ended up in the water, with 14 cars confirmed to have leaked oil.

To put the size of this spill in perspective, an Enbridge pipeline that leaked in Michigan in July 2010 released roughly 1,000,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River. Cleanup for this spill, one of the largest inland oil spills on record, took years and more than $1 billion. 

Like the Kalamazoo River spill, the train that derailed in Iowa was carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada.

Oil Pipeline CEO Tells Federal Energy Conference: 'It's a Great Time to Be in the Business'

Read time: 7 mins
Greg Armstrong

As attendees of this year's annual Energy Information Administration (EIA) conference walked into the Washington, D.C., Hilton Hotel on June 4, there was a bit of confusion. The only conference sign in sight was for a meeting on the “Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans.”  

Eventually, conference organizers remedied the problem, and the sign for the climate change conference would be the last time EIA meeting attendees would hear about the warming of the planet and its impacts.

Instead, the EIA conference, hosted by the federal agency that tracks energy industry trends and statistics, would focus on a decidedly different topic: the booming oil and gas industry.

Emails Reveal Pruitt and EPA Coordinating with Climate-Denying Heartland Institute

Read time: 4 mins
Scott Pruitt

A lawsuit filed in March by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Environmental Defense Fund has revealed new levels of coordination between Scott Pruitt's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the climate science-denying think tank the Heartland Institute.

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