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Thu, 2012-07-19 14:41Farron Cousins
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Texas Refineries And Chemical Plants Releasing Tens Of Thousands Of Tons Of Pollution

A damning new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) reveals some startling information regarding pollution in the state of Texas. According to the report, oil refineries and chemical plants in the state are releasing tens of thousands of tons of pollution every year, without as much as a peep from state regulators or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.)

Most of these emissions are the result of industrial accidents and other “equipment malfunctions” taking place at processing plants across the state. Among the more dangerous chemicals being released into the atmosphere and surrounding environment are sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, both of which are major contributors to ozone depletion.

A few highlights from the new report:

Every year, refineries, chemical plants, and natural gas facilities release thousands of tons of air pollution when production units break down, or are shut off, restarted or repaired. Most of these “emission events” release pollution through flares, leaking pipelines, tanks, or other production equipment. Information obtained from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the last three years shows just how significant that pollution can be.

Between 2009 and 2011, emission events at chemical plants, refineries, and natural gas operations released a combined total of more than 42,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and just over 50,000 tons of smog- forming Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), according to industry reports filed with TCEQ. See Table 1. These releases are in addition to the amounts released year-round during so-called “normal operations,” and are usually not included in the data the government uses to establish and enforce regulations, or to estimate their health impacts. Natural gas operations — which include, well heads, pipelines, compressors, boosters, and storage systems — accounted for more than 85% of total sulfur dioxide and nearly 80% of the VOCs released during these episodes. Both pollutants are linked to asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, and can form fine particles that contribute to premature death from heart disease.

Upsets or sudden shutdowns can release large plumes of sulfur dioxide or toxic chemicals in just a few hours, exposing downwind communities to peak levels of pollution that are much more likely to trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory systems. The working class and minority populations typical of neighborhoods near refineries and chemical plants bear the brunt of this pollution.
 
Sun, 2012-07-15 15:23Farron Cousins
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Romney, Obama Surrogates Spar Over Energy Policy

On Wednesday of this week, representatives from both the Obama and Romney campaigns debated issues of energy and environment, where the two campaigns’ differences on issues ranging from renewable energy subsidies to approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline were on full display.

Speaking for the Obama campaign, spokesperson Dan Reicher told us that the President believes that U.S. tax dollars can be used effectively to bolster development and investment into renewable energy technologies.

Linda Stuntz, Romney’s spokesperson who currently sits on the board of Shell Oil, said that her candidate is not completely against supporting renewable energy, but that the “free market” should really be the entity to make those decisions, not the government. Stuntz did tell us that Romney planned to end a production tax credit for wind energy that has helped keep that industry growing for more than 20 years.

Before getting into the other arguments discussed in the debate, it is important to let that previous paragraph sink in. Romney’s energy and environmental surrogate, a member of his campaign giving him advice on energy issues and acting as his spokesperson in that arena, is a board member of one of the largest oil companies in the world. This fact can't be ignored, and it indicates where Romney’s allegiance will lie when it comes to energy issues. Stuntz also served as a deputy energy secretary under President George H.W. Bush, and we know well how that administration buddied up to Big Oil.

One of the big issues, and a major talking point for industry-friendly politicians and lobbyists, was the Keystone XL Pipeline. From the Houston Chronicle:

Wed, 2012-06-06 08:36Steve Horn
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TransCanada's Latest Extreme Energy Export Pipelines in the U.S. and Canada

TransCanada was once in the limelight and targeted for its Keystone XL pipeline project. Now, with few eyes watching, it is pushing along two key pipeline projects that would bring two respective forms of what energy geopolitics scholar Michael Klare calls “extreme energy” to lucrative export markets.

Pipeline one: the southern segment of the originally proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, popularly referred to as the Cushing Extension, but officially referred to as either the Gulf Coast Project or the Cushing Marketlink pipeline. This pipeline will carry tar sands crude, or “dilbit,” extracted from Alberta, Canada's Athabasca oil sands project southward first to Cushing, Oklahoma, and then to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will be shipped off to global export markets.

While the northern Alberta-to-Cushing segment has been punted until after election season by President Barack Obama's U.S. State Department, the Cushing-Port Arthur segment has been rammed through in a secrective manner by various Obama regulatory agencies, as pointed out recently by Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE-U.S.). 

FOE-U.S. explained in a long blog post published on June 5, well worth reading in its entirity,

Sat, 2012-03-10 14:42Laurel Whitney
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Big Oil Rakes In Billions, Still Complains Taxes Are Too High

The President rolled out his FY2013 budget recently, which includes eliminating $40 billion in tax breaks from Big Oil companies, such as BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute's response would have you believe that cutting the subsidies would be the equivalent of moving back into their parents' basement.

It's propaganda at its most repetitive, crying that they are “job creators” and that it's so “unfair” to raise taxes because they already contribute millions to the economy every day, and if you do they swear to god prices will rise and the inevitable dependency on foreign oil will bring about the apocalypse itself if you don't let them have their way.

That's like Donald Trump begging to not get kicked out of rent-stabilized, low-income housing even when raking in billions annually, and then threatening to trash the place once the landlord actually puts up an eviction notice.

It's true. The combined profit of the “big 5” oil companies listed above was $137 billion last year, with ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips coming in first, fourth, and 15th, respectively, on the Fortune 100 list of most profitable companies.

Fri, 2012-03-02 16:50Farron Cousins
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U.S. Chamber Hits The Road To Promote "Oily" Highway Transportation Bill

A bitter fight has erupted in Washington, D.C. in recent weeks surrounding the fate of a much-needed transportation and infrastructure bill. Congressional Democrats wanted to pass a bill that would fund projects to help rebuild roads and bridges, but Republicans were against the idea.

So, in an attempt to get something more tangible out of the legislation, Congressional Republicans loaded the bill down with dozens of handouts to the oil industry, including immediate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and expanded access to U.S. lands for oil exploration. The amendments would also take national gas tax money away from public transportation projects, and reduce the amount of federal contributions to public employee pensions – two actions that will have devastating effects on middle class America. And with the fight bringing the discussion on the legislation to a halt, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce took it upon themselves to hit the road and sell the bill to the American public.

From the U.S. Chamber:

The business group will be hosting breakfasts, lunches and policy roundtables with local chambers and business associations this week in 12 different cities in Ohio, Idaho, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana.

Janet Kavinoky, the Chamber’s executive director of transportation and infrastructure, will be on the road trip, along with Alex Herrgott, one of the business group’s transportation lobbyists.

“The idea is to get out, give people a good sense what the bill is and get them talking to their members of Congress and have them get the bill done,” Kavinoky said. “We want Congress to feel like it needs to come back to Washington and get the bill done and put it to bed.”
Tue, 2012-02-07 21:14Farron Cousins
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China Looks To Stephen Harper For Lessons In Dirty Energy Exploitation

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in China this week to meet with Chinese leaders about how both countries can profit big by exploiting China’s shale gas reserves, as well as by importing Canadian tar sands oil. Harper is scheduled to meet with both Chinese officials, as well as heads of oil and gas companies during his four-day visit to the country.

More on the specifics of who will be attending these meetings, from Reuters Canada:

During his trip Harper will meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao as well as two important regional players - Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai and Wang Yang, the chief of Guangdong province.

The Canadian mission, which will arrive in Beijing on Tuesday, is the largest of its kind since 1998. Guests include top executives from Shell Canada, Enbridge and Canadian Oil Sands as well as uranium producer Cameco Corp and mining firm Teck Resources Ltd.

Other firms include plane and train maker Bombardier Inc, Air Canada, Eldorado Gold Corp, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, Canfor Corp and West Fraser Timber Co Ltd.

After the United States’ rejection last month of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian officials are hoping to reap a profit in the world’s largest emerging market. But any energy trade deals would certainly benefit both sides, as just last week PetroChina, parent of China’s largest oil producer, purchased a 20% stake in a Canadian shale gas project being run by Royal Dutch Shell.

Chinese oil companies are hoping that their cooperation with Shell and the Canadian government will help them use these valuable resources to teach officials more about the process of extracting shale gas, mostly through fracking.

Just last year, with some financing through other Chinese oil companies, Shell invested more than $400 million in Chinese shale gas projects, which included the drilling of at least 15 different shale extraction wells.

Fri, 2011-11-18 05:15Steve Horn
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ExxonMobil and Shell Eyeing North American LNG Export Deals

Yesterday, LNG World News reported that ExxonMobil Vice President Andrew Swiger announced, at a conference hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, that it was actively seeking LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminals throughout North America, including, but not limited to, in British Columbia and on the Gulf Coast.

In terms of exports from North America, whether it is the Gulf Coast or whether it is Western Canada, it’s something we’re actively looking at,” said Swiger.

So, where are these prospective export terminals located, what are the key pipelines carrying the unconventional gas produced from shale basins, and what are the key shale basins in the mix? Hold tight for an explanation.

Golden Pass LNG Terminal and Golden Pass Pipeline

The LNG World News article explains that ExxonMobil “has a stake in the Golden Pass LNG Terminal in Texas,” but does not explain exactly what the “stake” is.

A bit of research shows that ExxonMobil is a 17.6% stakeholder in the Golden Pass LNG Terminal, according to a March 2011 article publshed by Platts. It is co-owned by ConocoPhillips and Qatar Petroleum, who own a 12.4% and 70% stake in Golden Pass LNG, respectively.

Thu, 2011-11-17 12:28Steve Horn
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ExxonMobil and Shell Stamp Huge Oil and Gas Deals in Iraq

Just a few weeks after President Barack Obama announced U.S. troops are “leaving” the war-torn country, ExxonMobil and Shell each announced major new oil and gas production agreements in Iraq.

On November 12, ExxonMobil signed an oil production deal with the Kurdish Regional Government to drill in Iraqi Kurdistan, located in northern Iraq. This comes on top of an existing oil deal it landed in 2009, to drill for oil in the West Qurna Field, located in southern Iraq.

The New York Times explained both deals:

Exxon and its partners agreed to invest $50 billion over seven years to increase output by about two million barrels of oil per day there, at West Qurna Phase 1, bringing more new oil to market than the United States currently produces in the Gulf of Mexico. Margins, though, are low. Kurdistan offers more lucrative production-sharing agreements, allowing the company to earn a larger share of revenues and to count more of the crude on its books, which helps boost stock prices.

Days later on November 15, Royal Dutch Shell signed a $17 billion natural gas production deal with the Iraqi government. Shell will utilize the natural gas by-product from oil produced at the West Qurna Field, the Rumaila Field, and the Az Zubair Field, and transform it into a usable product. “Shell said it would sell the gas to electrical utilities in Iraq, but that it may also eventually export some,” explained The New York Times.

Tue, 2011-11-15 13:24Carol Linnitt
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Gas Industry Geologists - Not Doctors - Decide If Water Is "Safe" in Alberta Fracking Contamination Cases

Water contamination is at the heart of the fracking debate. Gas companies and their well-funded industry support groups (still) adamantly contend that ‘there are no proven instances of drinking water contamination due to fracking.’ But as Chris Mooney recently wrote about in the Scientific American, and as DeSmogBlog pointed out in our featured report Fracking the Future – this argument is based more on semantics and sly avoidance tactics than scientific evidence, or personal experience for that matter. But in Alberta the oil and gas industry’s ability to deny responsibility for instances of water contamination may be related to an even greater systemic flaw – one which leaves the final verdict in the hands of industry representatives.

In Alberta, landowners who suspect their water is contaminated by gas drilling activity are directed to contact Alberta Environment (AENV), the provincial body that oversees the Water Act, and has just recently been renamed the Ministry of Environment and Water “to emphasize the importance of protecting one of Alberta’s greatest resources.”

AENV responds to complaints in tandem with the province’s oil and gas regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), previously the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB).  Upon the event of suspected water contamination, ERCB provides AENV with relevant information about the producing well, including which company it belongs to.  AENV then contacts the company who is directed to “conduct an investigation or hydrogeology study, using a qualified professional.”
Sat, 2011-11-05 16:22Graham Readfearn
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Commonwealth Business Council Picks In-house Denier To Chair Climate Forum

IF you were going to have a serious high-level discussion about, say, improving science teaching in schools, then who would you invite to chair the meeting?

How about an astrologer? Perhaps a purveyor of crystal healing would be a good choice? Maybe a creationist, a fortune teller or a spiritual healer?

Well of course not. This would be ridiculous. But just hold that thought for a minute.

A few days ago, the Commonwealth Business Council brought its high-level bi-annual forum –hosted in Perth, Western Australia – to a close.

The CBC boasts membership from 54 countries, across five continents with more than 100 member companies. Among its goals, the CBC aims to “provide leadership in increasing international trade” and to promote “good governance and corporate social responsibility”.

Among those in attendance at the CBC forum were the Australian Prime Minister, senior Australian cabinet members, ministers from South Africa, the UK, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Rawanda and the Caribbean.

There were senior representatives from international energy and mining companies, including BP, Woodside, RioTinto, Shell and Hancock Prospecting.
 
With all of that power and influence in the one place, organisers promised that the meeting would likely spawn many multi-million dollar international business deals.
 
But the meeting also broke-up with the news that, among other things, it had failed to reach any kind of agreement on tackling climate change.
 
According to a report in The Australian, the London-based council’s director-general Mohan Kaul said this lack of an agreement was down to the “diverse views” of those businesses in attendance.
 
Mark Barnaba, the forum’s steering committee co-chairman, said the lack of consensus was “unsurprising”.
 
Indeed, this lack of agreement was unsurprising. Even an astrologer could have correctly predicted it, given the person they asked to chair the forum's climate change session.
 

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