Justin Mikulka's blog

Tue, 2014-04-15 12:34Justin Mikulka
Justin Mikulka's picture

Wine and Milk vs. Oil and Gas: Existing Industries Go Up Against Fossil Fuel Job Promises

Ken Stanton’s 400-cow dairy farm lies in the path of the proposed Constitution Pipeline, which would carry fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York.

Three generations of Stanton’s family spoke in opposition to the pipeline during a packed public comment session at a hearing at Cobleskill-Richmondville high school on March 31.

The pipeline would cut through my land. With eminent domain, there’s nothing I can do. It doesn’t feel like America anymore,” Stanton told the Daily Gazette.  

It’s people like Stanton who stand to lose in the face of new fossil fuel developments, despite the job-creation claims of industry.

Until recently, new projects were justified in the name of American energy independence, but with the new push to lift the Jones act to allow for crude oil exports and the big PR effort to ramp up liquid petroleum gas (LPG) exports, the new spin is job creation. 

Thu, 2014-04-10 08:37Justin Mikulka
Justin Mikulka's picture

Oil-By-Rail Scrutiny Ratchets Up Across United States

Two years ago, trains snaked through American towns and cities day and night often without residents, or even city officials, knowing they were carrying explosive crude oil from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota.

But now — after four serious oil train explosions in the US and Canada — the issue has exploded into public consciousness, with citizens and governments across the country raising questions about whether it’s safe to transport the flammable or explosive petroleum products through residential neighborhoods. 

Recently we have seen some major developments in the national discussion about moving oil by rail in the United States.

Yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told Congress that his agency is committed to pressing the oil-by-rail industry to come up with a safer tank car design for unconventional oil. “My target date is as soon as possible,” Foxx said, although he would not commit to a hard deadline for stricter standards when pressed by the Senate Appropriations committee.

Fri, 2014-03-28 06:26Justin Mikulka
Justin Mikulka's picture

Feds Weaken New Oil-By-Rail Safety Regulations Days After Announcing Them

Oil train in Montana

Nine days after announcing new regulations designed to improve oil-by-rail safety, the Department of Transportation quietly weakened the rules for testing rail cars and exempted shippers of bitumen from having to meet the new regulations.

The department had been under pressure from industry since announcing new regulations in response to a round of testing on shipments of Bakken crude oil that found companies had classified crudes as less hazardous than they were in 11 of 18 rail cars.

The tanker cars that exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July of 2013 were also carrying Bakken crude that was misclassified.  The result of these errors is that first responders can arrive at a scene and expect a crude oil fire and instead find a “river of napalm”, as they did in Lac-Megantic.

Thu, 2014-03-27 04:18Justin Mikulka
Justin Mikulka's picture

Oil Shipments Turn Albany Into “Houston on the Hudson” As Communities Across Country Fight Oil-By-Rail Proposals

Albany oil protest

Due to a massive increase in the movement of crude oil by rail in the past few years, communities across the country are facing the daunting prospect of becoming part of the oil industry’s infrastructure.

In Pittsburg, Calif., there is strong opposition to a proposed rail facility slated to bring in upwards of 242,000 barrels of Bakken crude daily. The state’s draft environmental review finds “significant and unavoidable risks of air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, spills and accidents,” justifying resident’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Albany, N.Y., has quietly become home to increased oil shipments without any environmental review. A rail facility is currently receiving between 20 and 25 percent of the Bakken crude from North Dakota. As Trisha Curtis, an analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, puts it, “Albany has become a big hub.” This has led to local residents referring to Albany as “Houston on the Hudson.”

In a victory for local residents, earlier this week New York’s environment agency announced it would require Global, the company proposing a heating facility for heavy crude at the Port of Albany, to disclose the source of the oil. 

Fri, 2014-03-14 13:29Justin Mikulka
Justin Mikulka's picture

Why Nothing Will Happen On Oil by Rail Safety

In the past month, there have been numerous public relations efforts suggesting that much is being done to improve oil by rail safety. Unfortunately, it seems these efforts will not involve much more than press releases and hollow promises, as regulators have made no meaningful changes to a broken and ineffective regulatory system.  

That approach, combined with the realities of the rail tank car industry, basically ensure that oil will be transported in the unsafe DOT-111 tank cars for many years to come, despite testimony at a recent congressional hearing from Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Sumwalt testified that, “multiple recent serious and fatal accidents reflect substantial shortcomings in tank car design that create an unacceptable public risk.”  

Unacceptable to the public, but apparently perfectly acceptable to the industry.

Sat, 2014-03-08 15:00Justin Mikulka
Justin Mikulka's picture

Energy Industry Leaders and Government Officials Rub Elbows at CERAWeek 2014

This week was the 33rd Annual CERAweek conference, described as “the energy industry’s preeminent gathering of industry leaders and government officials, offering new ideas, insight, and discussions on major strategic issues facing the global energy industry.”

So what happens when you get the industry leaders together with government officials at an event where tickets costs as much as $7,500?

Well, it’s always good to warm up the crowd with a joke, as Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy did in her remarks to the energy executives. She noted how they were preferable to the environmentalists because “They dress better, less flip-flops.”  

And then she got down to business, 
reassuring industry attendees:

Let me be clear about one thing: Conventional fuels like coal and natural gas are going to play a critical role in a diverse energy mix for years to come.”

McCarthy also reassured the industry that new power plant regulations would “not put the brakes on business.”

Not to be outdone, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, was giving the industry advice on how they can get the ban on exporting domestically produced oil lifted.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Justin Mikulka's blog