Oil: The price/the cost
* Oil prices fell again yesterday, to $42.98/barrel (WTI).
* Oil trains derail “no more frequently than those hauling containers, grain or motor vehicles,” says the industry. Of course, grain trains don’t burst into flames. Former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jim Hall, gets it, saying “This is probably the most pressing safety issue in the country. The industry has turned a deaf ear.”
* So, how many millions of gallons of oil spewed from the Deepwater Horizon into the Gulf of Mexico? The US government says 4.0 million, BP says 3.26 million and US District Court Judge Carl Barbier said 3.19 million, thus reducing the penalty BP could be charged “by almost $4 billion”. The US is appealing.
* Fracking typically requires 3 – 5 million gallons of water. Most of it comes right back up, “enriched” by the toxic fracking fluids used. Is there a way to dispose of it, safely and permanently?
* T-Rex Oil of Colorado wants to “operate [a] commercial [fracking water] disposal well on private property” in Nebraska, but there are risks, including wastewater toxicity and its possible impact on farming and drinking water.
* Three killed, one injured when an explosion rocked Parsley Energy’s site in Upton County, Texas. The state’s investigating.
* Pennsylvania, “fastest growing natural gas producing state,”, is also home to the Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team which exists to ensure Philadelphia is “the East Coast natural gas hub.” Their first hearing, per a tweet, was “stacked with business interests” and not environmental experts.
* Falling oil prices pose a major challenge for Alaska. No one wants to utter a certain three-letter word, but no one has much of an alternative—other than to wait until summer to talk about it.
* The US has issued 130 fracking permits in the San Juan Basin, right there in Four Corners, home of Chaco Canyon, “the American cradle of civilization.” Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment and others are suing. Navajo and Pueblo women are taking a very active role: “We don’t want this pipeline, we don’t want no more death, we don’t want no more disease.”
* California officials agree they “all fell down on the job” by “inadvertently” allowing injection of fracking wastewater “into hundreds of disposal wells in protected aquifers.” They’ve shut down 23 of “hundreds” of wells so far. Even the feds are shocked, and you’ll be shocked, too.
* Some $58.3 (US) million in embezzled funds from Brazil’s Petrobras have been recovered from a Swiss bank. Meanwhile, “Tens of thousands of Brazilians” marched in protest of corruption. Some advocated a military coup, which is interesting since military coups have always worked out so well in Latin America. Update: 27 people, including the Workers’ Party treasurer, have been charged with corruption.
* United Steelworkers and Shell reached an agreement to end the six-week strike at 12 refineries late last week. So far, workers at four sites have accepted the deal, but discussions continue at the other eight sites.
Keep it in the ground/divest
* Keep It In The Ground campaign has the support of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC’s backing reinforces UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s plea last November to investors to curb investment in fossil fuels. The World Coal Association has objected.
* The UK Guardian, in the vanguard of the climate change campaign, has taken on some of the top myths about divestment: it’ll end civilization as we know it; it’s hypocritical; it’s just “gesture politics”; oversight of investors will be lost; you can’t end poverty without coal, gas and oil; and so forth.
* Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global doesn’t seem keen on Keeping It In The Ground, having just increased its holdings in the oil and gas sector by £1.3bn. It did “sell off its shares in two Canadian tar sands,” though.
* US House Natural Resources Committee chair, Rep Rob Bishop (R-UT) is running in the opposite direction, proposing “to seize and sell off America’s national forests and other public lands.” Imagine the drilling! The mining! The devastation.
Pollution industry blues
* North Carolina has fined Duke Energy $25 million for groundwater pollution “for years from a pair of coal ash pits at a retired power plant.” Thallium leached into the groundwater for 1,668 days”! Will the feds be filing criminal charges? Who’ll be responsible for clean-up?
* Legislation advancing in West Virginia weakening oversight and enforcement of old above-ground chemical storage tanks. The bill also “blocks public access to key information about potential threats to public drinking water.”
* Serious toxic pollution from a 15-acre Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon, California. State regulators took limited action over decades. The feds stepped in, Exide will acknowledge “criminal conduct,” and will demolish and clean up the site as well as lead-laden soil in neighboring residential areas. Clean-up cost estimate: $50 million minimum. Videos.
* The Des Moines Water Works board is considering suing Calhoun, Buena Vista and Sac Counties “for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for water” since those counties “oversee 10 drainage districts … that help move water from fields” to the rivers and, along with the water, comes fertilizer run-off.
* Measurements from a Bolivian glacier ice core show “lead from road traffic in the neighboring countries polluted the air twice as heavily as regional mining from the 1960s onwards”—and that regional mining “historically released huge quantities of lead into the environment.”
* China has a new law allowing regular folks to file “complaints and lawsuits” against polluters. Citizens are responding with gusto. Lawsuits are being filed, too.
* Great story: the improbable, and successful, partnership of a stalwart environmentalist and a coal magnate.
* 150 households evacuated in West Virginia’s Kanawha County. Mine water was spewing from an abandoned mine “for days.” While there’s concern the old mine was being used “as a sludge storage area,” they’re diverting the water into a creek.
* Three of the kidnapped Goldcorp mine workers in Mexico’s Guerrero state have been found—dead. The fourth was freed. “The Los Filos mine’s reputation has been tained by a history of disagreements with landowners.”
Climate change developments
* Marshall Islanders are suffering from climate change as the sea rises, drought erases livelihoods, fresh water and food become “tenuous,” malnourishment and even deaths from bad water are increasing. Where will they go? Videos.
* Clouds in Guatemala’s Laguna Del Tigre National Park cloud forest are rising higher in the mountains and wildlife is following. Toucans are at levels not seen before, crowding out the magnificent quetzal. Video.
* New satellite images confirm “tropical forests from the Amazon to the Philippines are disappearing at a far more rapid pace than previously thought.”
* New discovery regarding deforestation’s impact on soil carbon release: the soil lying beneath the top layer can release carbon “for decades after a forest is cut down.”
* Arctic tundra ponds have decreased by 17% since 1948, and the average size of those remaining has decreased by a third.
* Senators Boxer (D-CA), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Markey (D-MA) officially inquired about Koch Industries’ financing of efforts to deny climate change. Koch Industries’ top lawyer responded as you’d expect. Other organizations contacted include Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell.
* Something good’s blowing in the wind in Washington. DC: “The Obama administration is setting higher goals for wind power, saying it could supply 35% of the nation’s electricity by the year 2050.”
* India was on the verge of entering the Renewables Era, but their Environment, Forests and Climate Change budget has been cut 25%—and the New and Renewable Energy budget by “more than two-thirds.” Nonetheless, they’re expecting increased renewable energy capacity by 2022.
* Here’s something we can all drink to, whether tinted green for the day or not. Happy St. Pat’s Day, all!
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