Nel's New Day

November 18, 2014

Senate Denies Keystone Pipeline

The senate Republicans lost the Keystone XL pipeline—for now. In an effort to get Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) re-elected, 14 Democrats voted for the bill to support the movement of tar sands crude oil from Canada across the United States to the Texas coast where it gets shipped overseas. The proposed route endangers a large percentage of fresh water in the United States, something that 41 senators understood. The 59 votes were short just one needed to clear a filibuster.

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said, “Congress is not — nor should it be — in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project.” Debate lasted six hours. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said, “From my state’s point of view, it’s all harm.” Sixty votes would have overridden the authority of the State Department to determine the pipeline’s fate.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that his GOP members are “committed to getting Keystone approved,” and that party has next year’s majority. The question is whether Democrats will vote the same way if they’re not trying to save Landrieu’s seat. Even the 63 votes that McConnell hopes for don’t make the bill veto-proof.

Keystone pipeline information you might not find in the mainstream media:

Jobs: Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanda that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, finally admitted the project would have only 50 jobs after it is built, but he tried to praise the nearly 9,000 jobs for the building. That’s actually fewer than 4,500 jobs per year. And TransCanada has finally admitted it. Keep these numbers in mind when the GOP and Blue Dog Dems promise “jobs, jobs, jobs.” There won’t be any jobs from making the steel pipe because those have already been purchased—from India.

Landrieu: Democrats who think that voting in favor of the pipeline need to consider that not one job—out of either the 3,900 in building the pipeline for a couple of years or the 50 jobs to maintain it after that—will be in Louisiana. Do they think that the state’s voters are so dumb that they’ll vote for Landrieu to get a few jobs in other states while their own gas prices go up?

Oil Spills: During the past four months, there have been 90 pipeline spills reported. Reports come from the corporations that own the pipeline, and not one reported found any affect on wildlife or waterways. It’s a miracle! Or more likely bad reporting from the companies in charge of admitting they screwed up.

War: The pipeline’s current trajectory crosses the Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin) Treaty lands, Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, and Congress failed to consult with this Native American nation. Tribal President Cyril Scott of the Rosebud Sioux (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) reservation declared last week’s House vote to authorize the pipeline an “act of war” on a “sovereign nation” because it breaks the treaty.

Starting in January, the GOP will earn its nickname of “Grand Oil Party.” New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, has a plan to eliminate any federal oversight of constructing border-crossing pipelines. McConnell plans to stop the EPA from any carbon restraints on the use of coal, ban federal oversight of fracking, allow drilling off the shores of Alaska and Virginia, and sell all the U.S. crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) out of the country.

Republicans have a vision that depleting the country of resources and using it for a fossil fuels conduit from Canada for sale overseas will build national power and prestige. Christie’s foreign policy was introduced in Mexico which plans to allow U.S. firms to develop its oil and gas fields for the first time since 1938.

In order to accomplish their agenda—and continue to fill their coffers from oil and gas companies—Republicans must continue their strong denial of any climate change. The oil and gas industry was the ninth largest supplier of campaign funds for the last election cycle, sending 87 percent of the $51 million to Republican candidates. Koch Industries provided $9.4 million of that donation. The coal industry sent another $10 million, 95 percent to the same party. Koch Industries provided $9.4 million of that donation. This money is only the tip of the iceberg of donations to conservatives. Secretive super PACs and supposedly non-profit are not bound by rules of direct donations. Two years ago, the Koch brothers send $407 million to these political groups, and they certainly sent as much, if not more, this year.

Leading recipients of this money were House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and McConnell as well as Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who just took a senate seat for the coming year from environmental Mark Udall. Coal money went to both Boehner and McConnell as well as helping elect Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley (R-WV).

Energy drives the economies in the 13 red states that export more than they import: Wyoming, West Virginia, Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Montana, Arkansas, Utah, and Kentucky. In the upcoming Congress, 19 of the 26 senators from these states are Republicans; one is an independent. Five of the states drove out Democrats in the senate this year. All the GOP senators will be trying to remove any federal regulations in the coming year because states have far more lax policies.

The GOP also wants massive fossil fuel extraction because members believe that it provides greater security. “Saudi America” should lower the cost of energy in the United States and give the nation more control in dealing with Iran and Russia. The current ban on exporting crude oil was adopted 40 years ago because of the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74. Exports of LNG is controlled by the lack of facilities and regulations that block rapid construction. Oil and gas are more expensive in Europe and Asia, and the industry wants to make money through exports. At the same time, integrating the North American oil systems would give U.S. companies much greater control of Mexican and Canadian production.

People who voted for GOP candidates because of promises of greater energy production at home didn’t understand that diverting output to foreign countries will cause prices in the U.S. to rise. Massive exports will also increase greenhouse gas emissions around the world. The result is a fossil-fuels-forever planet—at least briefly until everyone dies.

Almost all scientists, at least 97 percent of them, agree that the planet cannot be heated more than an average increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit during this century. The GOP carbon agenda raises that number by two to three times, making parts of the planet uninhabitable and causing deadly shortages in food and water. Although the warming seems to have slowed down during the past few years, the oceans are absorbing the heat almost as much as possible. The warming will soon resume, and the GOP plans to accelerate the process.

Some people who know how destructive the pipeline is would vote for it with the excuse that stopping the pipeline won’t stop the Koch brothers from producing the crude oil that is taking down the planet. These people could be compared to a person hired to kill someone else, that if they don’t do it, somebody else will. It’s a pitiful excuse to obliterate the only world we have.

November 17, 2014

A Pipeline in Your Front Lawn

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 10:13 PM
Tags: ,

The day before the U.S. Senate votes to support the Keystone XL pipeline through 1,700 miles of the United States, protesters put a 30-foot-long inflatable pipe on the front lawn of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). She has encouraged senate Democrats to vote for the pipeline so that she will hopefully get more votes in her December 6 election. Want a pipeline? This is what it would look like in your front lawn.



March 26, 2014

Oil Spends Money on Drilling, Not Cleanup

On the 25th anniversary of the  Exxon Valdez oil spill last Sunday, the Houston Ship Channel was closed after a barge spilled almost 170,000 gallons of tar-like crude after a collision with a ship. At this time of the year, tens of thousands of shorebirds are migrating, right into the oil that’s gone as far as 12 miles offshore. Dead and oiled birds are already showing up. History repeating itself.

Twenty-five years after the oil spill at Alaska’s Bligh Reef, the oil remains in the inner tidal zone.  The spill of 11 million gallons covered 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean. Those who lost their livelihood because of the dead fish recently settled for pennies on the dollar. Twenty years ago, they were awarded $2.5 billion; the Supreme Court decided that it should be $500 million for 32,000 people. Herring licenses worth $300,000 dropped to $15,000 after the disaster—about $625 for each year that they waited.

This coming month sees the fourth anniversary of the BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 people and dumped 210 million gallons of oil into the fragile Gulf of Mexico—almost ten times the amount of thick crude oil that polluted Prince William Sound from the Exxon Valdez. Four years later, BP oil is still being tossed in the air from waves because of the BP’s use of dispersants on the Gulf surface and a mile deep. BP claimed that it wasn’t a problem, but Science magazine published a 2011 study showing that much of the material formed plumes toward the Louisiana coastline. Tar balls are also still washing up on the beaches.

BP has paid a little over one-third of its $9.2-billion estimate to businesses affected by fouled beaches. The company tried a stall in court, claiming that payments were going to people who had no losses. In early March, however, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit appeals court ruled against BP, declaring that the class action settlement for businesses suffering losses is legal—at least for the time being. The British company goes to court again on January 20, 2015 regarding federal Clean Water Act penalties.

While BP stalls, CEO Robert Dudley’s salary has tripled since 2012 when he agreed to a massive settlement. Dudley may have deserved his $13.2 million because BP made a $13.4-billion profit last year. And the United States government has let BP off the hook by reinstating the company’s right to federal contracts and drilling.

Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, wrote:

“Today’s announcement lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against people and the environment. This is a company that was on criminal probation at the time of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and it has failed to prove that it is a responsible contractor deserving of lucrative taxpayer deals.”

BP pled guilty to 11 charges of manslaughter and lying to Congress about the disaster.  It “ruined coastal areas in five states,” according to Monique Harden of the New Orleans-based Advocates for Environmental Human Rights. “It is all about political deal-making.” The BP’s ban on U.S. contracts and new leases was done in 2012 because the company had not fully addressed the issues. After BP sued the EPA, the agency settled by allowing the contracts and releases. The deal was made just in time for the Interior Department lease sale of 40 million acres in the Gulf waters.

Not happy with polluting the Gulf of Mexico, BP has moved on to Lake Michigan. Less than a year after it “upgraded” its Whiting refinery in northwestern Indiana for heavy Canadian tar-sands oil, the refinery spewed oil into the lake. BP had already piled up petroleum coke in nearby Chicago. Lake Michigan is the source of drinking water for 7 million people. Both Illinois U.S. Senators—both Republican—took notice of the problem. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin released a joint statement:

“[T]hree weeks ago, BP announced a plan to nearly double its processing of heavy crude oil at its BP Whiting Refinery. Given today’s events and BP’s decision to increase production, we are extremely concerned about the possibility of a future spill that may not be so easily contained. We plan to hold BP accountable for this spill and will ask for a thorough report about the cause of this spill, the impact of the Whiting Refinery’s production increase on Lake Michigan, and what steps are being taken to prevent any future spill.”

Good luck with that!

North Dakota is cleaning up a 34,000-gallon oil spill 75 miles away from another accident in a wheat field last year. In Ohio, 20,000 gallons of crude recently leaked out of a pipeline onto a nature preserve. Denver-based Zavanna LLC has been fined after one of its wells spilled up to 1,400 gallons of oil near the confluence of Yellowstone and Missouri rivers during recent North Dakota flooding.

A bonus to the industry, the new head of the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee is oil-friendly Mary Landrieu (D-LA). She took the job after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) moved to chair the Finance Committee with the departure of Max Baucus. GOP may complain about the environmental bent of the Democratic party, but they’re not talking about Landrieu. These are some of her votes:

  • In favor of an amendment sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to reverse the EPA’s decision to label CO2 a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
  • Against the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
  • For an amendment to the 2012 transportation bill that would have opened up vast areas of coastline to offshore drilling, potentially damaging coastal industries and interfering with military activity.

Landrieu was missing when 31 Democratic senators had an all-night talk-a-thon about climate change this month. Her allegiance to the oil and gas industry has paid off: they’ve paid her $564,350 for this year’s campaign.

If her opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), gets Landrieu’s job, the Dems will have lost one of the 53 Democratic senators. If the Senate gains a GOP majority, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will become Energy chair. Landrieu’s lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is 49 percent, but Cassidy is at 11 percent and Murkowski at 21 percent. Even Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has a 69 percent score.

Dune Lankard is an Alaskan native, an Eyak of the Eagle clan, who has lived his entire life in Cordova, one of the hardest-hit towns by the Valdez disaster. Talking about the future of his home, he described the use of dispersants, like those used in the BP disaster.

“They spewed two million gallons of Corexit, which is more damaging to the environment than the oil spill itself because it’s like dumping carburetor fluid in the water. And so dispersants, bioremediation, using hot water washes that kills all the enzymes and all the organisms in the tidal zone, they found that that wasn’t the best thing that we could’ve done. So the best thing we can do is prevent oil spills from happening in the first place.”

As Lankard knows, however, the oil industry has put all its money into new drilling techniques and no money into handling oil spills.

Alaska’s other problem is the 35-year-old Trans-Alaska Pipeline, built to last 30 years. Lankyard’s suggestion is to clean it out and run water to the United States because of the growing shortage in the Lower 48.  If the GOP takes over the Senate, Lisa Murkowski takes over the Energy Committee. She’s from Alaska, and she loves the oil industry.

alaska_featured A bit of humor for the day: In less than a week over 25,000 Alaskans have signed an official White House petition to secede to Russia. A little less than 150 years ago, the United States bought Alaska because Russia lost so much money in the Crimean War. What might the United States buy from Russia now if Putin’s actions tank his country’s economy? It’s a thought.


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