Larry Buhl

Primary tabs

Federal Report Slams ExxonMobil for Safety Gaps in LA Refinery Explosion, While Activists Say Risks Remain

Read time: 6 mins
Chemical Safety Board inspectors outside the Torrance refinery after the blast in 2015

Outdated equipment, inadequate repair procedures, and a lack of safety standards led to a 2015 chemical explosion at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB). 

The explosion on the morning of February 18, 2015 released thousands of pounds of acid and caused chemical ash to rain on a heavily populated community for hours. Eight workers had to be decontaminated, and four were sent to hospitals with minor injuries.

California Bill Requiring Analysis of What Caused Aliso Canyon Gas Blowout Moves Ahead

Read time: 6 mins
People holding signs protesting Aliso Canyon and supporting SB57

More than a year and a half after the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility suffered a massive methane blowout, a California state bill that would keep the facility idled pending an exhaustive analysis of the disaster’s cause was approved Tuesday in the California Senate Energy, Communications, and Utilities Committee.

Senate Bill 57, co-authored by state Sen. Henry Stern, requires the California Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to complete a “root cause analysis” of the source of the October 2015 methane blowout as a condition of lifting Aliso Canyon’s moratorium on natural gas injections. 

Chevron, Aera Energy Sue to Block Monterey County, California’s Voter-Approved Ban on Fracking

Read time: 6 mins
Anti-fracking protest in front of California state house

Last November, voters of Monterey County, California, passed a fracking ban known as Measure Z with 56 percent of the vote, despite being outspent 30-to-1 by the industry-backed group, Monterey County Citizens for Energy Independence

Passing Measure Z makes Monterey the sixth California county to ban fracking, but the first to face a serious legal challenge. 

In December, Chevron and Aera Energy, the two biggest companies drilling in Central California’s San Ardo fields, both filed lawsuits against Monterey County to block implementation of Measure Z, alleging that it restricts how they can use their property.

Oil and Gas Lobby Fights California Regulators to Keep Injecting Drilling Wastewater into Protected Aquifers

Read time: 6 mins
Three active oil wells in a dry California landscape

Last month the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), missed its own deadline for shutting down 475 oil industry injection wells determined to be dumping toxic fluids into protected California groundwater aquifers. The division said it would continue to allow more than 1,600 other wells to continue injections into federally protected aquifers because it believes they stand a chance of being exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act protections.

Yet the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), a regional oil and gas lobbying group, is still suing the agency to prevent any wells from closing.

Pennsylvania Environmentalists Cite "Irreparable Harm" in Bid to Halt Mariner East 2 Gas Pipeline

Read time: 6 mins
A woman looks out on fracking activities in Pennsylvania

Soon after the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline received the green light from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), three environmental groups appealed to stop construction pending further review. The groups claimed the pipeline construction activities, including tree cutting and horizontal drilling, could cause “irreparable harm” to landowners and the watershed along the project route. 

Last Friday Judge Bernard Labuskes of the state’s Environmental Hearing Board denied the request of the Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Mountain Watershed Association to issue a temporary stay preventing Philadelphia-based Sunoco Logistics from starting construction.

California Residents and Lawmakers Fight Reopening of Aliso Canyon, Site of Huge Natural Gas Blowout

Read time: 7 mins
Protesters rally against the reopening of the Aliso Canyon facility with signs

It’s now a waiting game as California regulators decide whether to reopen the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Los Angeles County, the site of an October 2015 blowout that released an estimated 97,000 metric tons of methane over four months.

Oil Companies, Corrupt Governments to Benefit as Congress Guts Transparency Rule

Read time: 6 mins
Rex Tillerson sitting with Vladimir Putin and Igor Sechin

On February 3, the Republican-led Senate used an obscure procedural tool to end a bipartisan provision meant to fight corruption and overseas oil bribery, a rule opposed by Rex Tillerson as head of ExxonMobil.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) transparency rule, part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, was created to reduce corruption by requiring drilling and mining companies to disclose royalties and other payments made to governments in exchange for oil, gas, and mining extractions. Critics say overturning the rule could threaten national security.

Congress Plans Back Door Tactic to Scrap Methane Pollution Rule — and These Are the Oil Companies That Will Benefit

Read time: 6 mins
Natural gas flare

Republican leaders in Congress say they’ll use an obscure rule called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule as early as next week. The rule, finalized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in November 2016, requires oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from operations on federal and tribal lands. 

An open records request from environmental group Friends of the Earth reveals the top three companies — ExxonMobil, Devon Energy, and Encana Energy — which will profit from the rule’s rollback.

Where Is Fracked Gas Really Headed as It Passes Through Texas’ Trans-Pecos Pipeline?

Read time: 7 mins
Sections of the Trans-Pecos pipeline laid out in the desert

The consortium building the Trans Pecos pipeline (TPP) says that within months, fracked gas will be making the 148 mile journey from Texas’ Permian Basin to Mexico, where it will meet that country’s natural gas needs. As part of an agreement with Mexico’s federal electricity commission, TPP and the Comanche Trail pipeline together will send a total of 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas to Mexico every day. 

TPP’s parent company, ETP Consortium, which is comprised of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), Carso Energy, and MasTec, has also promised benefits to Texas communities in the pipeline’s path, though, as DeSmog has reported previously, few of those benefits have been realized. 

Now that the Trans-Pecos pipeline is more than 90 percent constructed, some associated with it are admitting that, unlike their promotional materials say, the ultimate goal of much of the fracked gas is not Mexico but Asia. 

How Politics and Pollution Could Push China Into the Climate Leader Role the US Is Giving up

Read time: 7 mins
Wind turbines in China

Earlier this month China halted more than 100 coal-fired power projects. Scrapping these projects, with combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, may have more to do with China’s current overcapacity in coal production than its commitment to mitigating climate change. Nevertheless, Chinese leaders are likely happy that the move is framing their nation as a green energy leader, according to experts in Chinese and environmental policy. 

That’s because, they say, the Chinese government is now eager to fill the vacuum in climate change leadership that is being left by the U.S. And, they say, China is poised to eat America’s lunch in the renewable energy sector. 

Pages