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Tue, 2013-03-26 05:30Steve Horn
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State Department's Keystone XL Contractor ERM Green-Lighted BP's Explosive Caspian Pipeline That Failed To Live Up to Jobs Hype

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Almost 11 years ago in June 2002, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group declared the controversial 1,300 mile-long Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline environmentally and socio-economically sound, a tube which brings oil and gas produced in the Caspian Sea to the export market.

On March 1, it said the same of the proposed 1,179 mile-long TransCanada Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline on behalf of an Obama State Department that has the final say on whether the northern segment of the KXL pipeline becomes a reality. KXL would carry diluted bitumen or “dilbit” from the Alberta tar sands down to Port Arthur, Texas, after which it will be exported to the global market

Environmental Resources Management Group, a recent DeSmogBlog investigation revealed, has historical ties to Big Tobacco and its clients include ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Koch IndustriesMother Jones also revealed that ERM - the firm the State Dept. allowed TransCanada to choose on its behalf - has a key personnel tie to TransCanada

Unexamined thus far in the KXL scandal is ERM's past green-light report on the BTC Pipeline - hailed as the “Contract of the Century” - which has yet to be put into proper perspective.

ERM is a key player in what PLATFORM London describes as the “Carbon Web,” shorthand for “the network of relationships between oil and gas companies and the government departments, regulators, cultural institutions, banks and other institutions that surround them.”  

In the short time it has been on-line, the geostrategically important BTC pipeline - coined the “New Silk Road” by The Financial Times - has proven environmentally volatile. A full review of the costs and consequences of ERM's penchant for rubber-stamping troubling oil and gas infrastructure is in order.

Thu, 2013-03-21 13:27Steve Horn
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Keystone XL Scandal: Obama State Dept. Hid Contractor's TransCanada Ties

Mother Jones has a breaking investigation out on another scandal pertaining to the Obama State Department's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. 

The skinny: the firm that DeSmogBlog revealed has historical ties to Big Tobacco and currently has a client list that includes Koch Industries, ConocoPhillips and BP, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) Group, also has a direct connection to TransCanada itself. ERM Group - DeSmog revealed - also rubber-stamped the controversial and environmentally hazardous Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline in 2003, which carries oil and gas produced in the Caspian Sea in Baku, Azerbaijan to Tbilisi, Georgia and eventually makes its way to Ceyhan, Turkey. 

Andy Kroll summed up Mother Jones' new discovery about ERM, writing,

ERM's second-in-command on the Keystone report, Andrew Bielakowski, had worked on three previous pipeline projects for TransCanada over seven years as an outside consultant. He also consulted on projects for ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips, three of the Big Five oil companies that could benefit from the Keystone XL project and increased extraction of heavy crude oil taken from the Canadian tar sands. 

Embarassed by this act of blatant corruption, the State Department redacted the “biographies” portion of its EIS, an overt attempted cover-up. Mother Jones tracked down a non-redacted version, revealing the ties that bind the study to the corporation the EIS is technically supposed to stand independent of. 

Bielakowski's ties, coming full circle, are a logical next step in the story.

Brad Johnson, writing for Grist, revealed that the State Department actually allowed TransCanada to hire a contractor on its behalf. TransCanda, of course, went to a go-to-guy who can “deliver the goods.”

“Delivering the goods,” of course, has little to do with delivering good science and is yet another act of deploying the Tobacco Playbook: make a one-sided scientific debate a farcical two-sided one. 

Thu, 2013-03-07 05:00Farron Cousins
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EPA Accused Of Blocking Scientific Advancement of Corexit In BP Cleanup

Oil Spill Eater International (OSEI), through the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference group, issued a press release this week saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effectively blocked or otherwise delayed scientific advancement in the cleanup of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster by refusing to acknowledge the toxicity of the oil dispersant Corexit.

According to OSEI, the EPA is guilty of violations to the Clean Water Act because they knowingly used the toxic dispersant instead of opting for cleaner, less toxic methods of oil spill cleanup.

OSEI is actually not off base with their accusations.  Reports from late 2012 revealed that using oil dispersants like Corexit make oil spills less visible, but when combined with the oil, create a mixture that is 52 times more toxic than the oil itself.  The studies revealed that even in small amounts, the combination of oil and Corexit reduced the number of egg hatchings in small marine invertebrates by 50%.  These are small creatures like krill, shrimp, and other crustaceans that form the bottom of the oceanic food pyramid.

Those results were just from small doses of the mixture.  And as I wrote in 2011, the amount of Corexit dumped into the Gulf was anything but “small”:

Mon, 2013-02-04 11:06Guest
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The Baffling Response to Arctic Climate Change

By David Suzuki

The Arctic may seem like a distant place, just as the most extreme consequences of our wasteful use of fossil fuels may appear to be in some distant future. Both are closer than most of us realize.
 
The Arctic is a focal point for some of the most profound impacts of climate change. One of the world’s top ice experts, Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, calls the situation a “global disaster,” suggesting ice is disappearing faster than predicted and could be gone within as few as four years.
 
“The main cause is simply global warming: as the climate has warmed there has been less ice growth during the winter and more ice melt during the summer,” he told the U.K.’s Guardian.
 
Over the past 30 years, permanent Arctic sea ice has shrunk to half its previous area and thickness. As it diminishes, global warming accelerates. This is due to a number of factors, including release of the potent greenhouse gas methane trapped under nearby permafrost, and because ice reflects the sun’s energy whereas oceans absorb it.

Thu, 2013-01-31 15:26Farron Cousins
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Record Fines For BP In Gulf Disaster Deal

After a ruling earlier this week by a federal judge in New Orleans, BP now holds the record for the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history.  The penalty, totaling $4 billion, is strictly related to the criminal conduct of the company that led to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

As part of the deal, BP agreed to plead guilty to a total of 14 counts of criminal conduct, which includes charges of felony manslaughter. However, as CNN.com points out, the charges are against the company, not any individuals involved, so prison time for those responsible will not be part of the deal.

The $4 billion criminal penalty does not affect the settlement deals for the victims along the Gulf Coast, nor does it include any environmental fines for the company. Those are separate cases that are still being worked out, and will result in several billions more in financial penalties for the company.

Fri, 2013-01-25 06:00Farron Cousins
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Renewable Energy Capacity Surging, But America Betting On Shale Gas

A report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects says that, in 2012, the capacity for renewable energy electrical generation accounted for almost 50% of all new installations for energy projects in the United States.  This includes solar, biomass, geothermal, and water-based generation capacity.

On top of making up nearly half of all new installation, renewable energy generation capacity also increased by 51% over the previous year.

However, generation capacity and actual electrical generation are two very different things, and total renewable generation for the year 2012 only amounted to about 13% of total energy production last year in the U.S.

The amount of renewable energy produced in the U.S. last year was slightly less than the global average of 15%, meaning that America is not too far off the mark compared to the rest of the world.  The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has set a worldwide goal of 30% renewable energy by the year 2030, but they currently remain pessimistic about the ability of countries to achieve that goal, and believe that there could be at least a nine-percentage point deficit between reality and their goal.

So why the pessimism in the face of good news from the U.S.?  The answer is shale gas.

Thu, 2013-01-24 10:26Steve Horn
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Smoke and Mirrors: Obama DOE Fracked Gas Export Study Contractor's Tobacco Industry Roots

At first, it was kept secret for months, cryptically referred to only as an “unidentified third-party contractor.”

Finally, in November 2012, Reuters revealed the name of the corporate consulting firm the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired to produce a study on the prospective economic impacts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

LNG is the super-chilled final product of gas obtained - predominatly in today's context - via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process taking place within shale deposits located throughout the U.S. This “prize” is shipped from the multitude of domestic shale basins in pipelines to various coastal LNG terminals, and then sent on LNG tankers to the global market

The firm: National Economic Research Associates (NERA) Economic Consulting, has a long history of pushing for deregulation. Its claim to fame: the deregulation “studies” it publishes on behalf of the nuclear, coal, and oil/gas industry - and as it turns out, Big Tobacco, too.

Wed, 2013-01-09 05:00Carol Linnitt
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DNA Tracers Could Put End to Fracking Guessing Game On Water Contamination

The oil and gas industry has just been handed an opportunity to walk the walk when it comes to 'best practices' for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for unconventional gas. BaseTrace is a cutting-edge technology that uses resiliant DNA tracers to give a unique fingerprint to fracturing fluid blends. Conflicts over water contamination often boil down to one point: was the contamination pre-existing or naturally occurring as drilling companies on the defense often claim? Or was it the industry's fault?

A technology like BaseTrace would give a definitive answer to regulators, communities, industry and policymakers alike. 

The question is, will companies like EnCana, Anadarko, Chief, BP, Chesapeake, Devon, EOGXTO (EXXON) and others actually take on the challenge? Will they walk the 'best practices' talk?

Wed, 2012-12-12 12:05Farron Cousins
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Internal BP Emails Could Expose Extent Of Corporate Cover-Up Of Gulf Oil Disaster

Attorneys for Kurt Mix, a former engineer for BP, claim that a spate of previously unreleased emails will “exonerate” their client in the current criminal case being pursued against Mix. Mix is the first person in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and leak to be brought up on criminal charges for his role in the cover-up of the extent of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice formally charged Mix with obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence, specifically text messages, relating to how much oil was flowing from the broken wellhead in the Gulf.  The amount of oil flowing into the Gulf waters determined the size of the fines that BP would face from the federal government, so the company could have benefited substantially from under-reporting the true volume of the flow rate.

The new emails that will be released during Mix’s criminal trial allegedly show that Mix repeatedly warned his superiors at BP that they were under-reporting the true scope of the spill to the government and the media, undermining the federal government’s case against Mix.  While these emails could show that Mix did the right thing in one arena, it is unlikely that it will “exonerate” him, as his attorneys claim.  After all, the charges against Mix are for deleting text messages related to the disaster, which were evidence.

The one thing that is almost guaranteed from these emails, assuming they exist in the form that Mix's attorneys are claiming, is that they could expose the cover-up by BP executives, and tell the story of how they intentionally misled everyone about the nature of their oil geyser. And given what we already know, it seems incredibly likely that the oil giant's leadership knew from the start how much oil was flowing from the broken wellhead.

Fri, 2012-10-05 06:00Farron Cousins
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BP Settlement Deal Could Put Taxpayers On The Hook For Spill Costs

A proposed settlement deal between the federal government and BP over their involvement in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil leak could shift the burden of cleanup costs away from the oil giant and onto U.S. taxpayers.

The current settlement option is just one of several being negotiated between the federal government and BP.  But this settlement option would route fine and settlement money through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), rather than fining the company directly via the Clean Water Act.

Not only could this reduce the total amount of money that the company pays in fines, but it would shift the burden of cost onto U.S. taxpayers.  While the company would still be paying out of pocket, the NRDA allows the company to write off their fines and deduct that from their yearly taxes.  Paying through the Clean Water Act would not allow the costs to be tax deductible. 

But the cost shift is just one of the problems with the proposed deal.  The provision that has residents of the Gulf Coast up in arms is the fact that the NRDA would route the money through the U.S. Treasury, instead of directly sending it to local and state governments.  This means that the Treasury, not the affected areas, would be in charge of determining how the money is spent.

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