Spill

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.

Group Sues Obama Administration Over Offshore Oil And Gas Leasing Program

A lawsuit has been filed against the Obama administration over the economic claims that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) made in their 5-year plan to open up new areas around the United States to offshore oil and gas leasing.  The suit, filed by the Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), says that the administration not only grossly exaggerated the economic benefits of increased energy exploration, but also that they failed to take all costs into account.

BOEM’s plan would lease a total of 15 new areas for exploration, including areas within the Gulf of Mexico, the Cook Inlet, Alaskan waters, and the Beaufort Sea.  But rather than focusing strictly on the environmental impact of the projects, CSE took an approach that tends to have better results in Washington – Economics.

The economic argument is very powerful, as CSE explains that the increased oil and gas exploration will cost the United States more than it will gain.  And according to federal laws (specifically Section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act), in order to grant permission for projects such as the leasing program, there must be a net public gain. 

For example, the best estimates for the amount of money to be made from oil and gas in these areas ranges from $1 to $2 billion per year.  However, these areas currently provide an economic boost of as much as $70 billion a year from fishing, tourism, and other activities, all of which could be decimated in the event of an oil spill.

EPA And TVA Nix Coal Ash Spill Cleanup Efforts

Four years after a coal processing plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) accidentally released tons of toxic coal ash into waterways in Kingston, the cleanup has finally come to an end. 

But just because cleanup efforts have ceased, that does not mean that the pollution problem is gone.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a deal with the TVA to allow the company to stop their cleanup efforts and allow “natural river processes” to dispose of the remaining toxic sludge.

Supertankers, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis, Oh My: Enbridge Has No Spill-Response Plan for Northern Gateway Pipeline

Earlier this month British Columbians were surprised to hear that Enbridge, the main proponent of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, was unable to explain how the company's world-class spill prevention and clean up practices were either world-class or preventative.

At a public hearing in Prince George, Enbridge failed to instill confidence in the audience, admitting the company had no land-based spill prevention plan at all. During cross-examination the company admitted they will not have a spill-response plan until six months before the proposed pipeline would begin operation.

The company was unable to explain how they would respond to land-based spills from a pipeline designed to cover 1,172 km, crossing more than 770 of British Columbia's pristine watercourses. 
 
BC Environment Minister Terry Lake said “the responses that Enbridge/Northern Gateway representatives are giving our legal counsel are long on promises, but short on solid evidence and action to date,” adding, “the company needs to show British Columbians that they have practical solutions to the environmental risks and concerns that have been raised. So far, they have not done that.”
 
Enbridge will be cross-examined regarding maritime spill prevention in Prince Rupert on November 22, less than one month after the town was on high emergency alert after the second largest earthquake in Canada's history threatened coastal towns with tsunami warnings. The 7.7 magnitude quake put the entire Pacific Northwest on tusnami alert, with late-night sirens prompting regional evacuations from Alaska to Hawaii.

See What the Exxon-Valdez Would Look Like on BC's Coast

Principally, I oppose the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Like a lot of other people I think it's reckless to develop the tar sands at the rate we currently are. I think it's reckless to look to export our unrefined resources to other countries. And I think it's reckless to suggest we disregard the rights of First Nations communities and the wilderness they depend upon to bolster profits for a corporation like Enbridge that has, at every turn, disappointed a watchful public. 

I am from British Columbia and have always lived a stone's throw from the ocean. As a kid, my family holidayed in Tofino, where my mother introduced me and my four siblings to the secret world of tidal pools, an aquatic universe I've never lost my wonder for.

 

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.

Enbridge Expands Ruptured Tar Sands Line to Move Bitumen East Along Trailbreaker Route

With the two year anniversary of the “Dilbit Disaster” fresh on our minds it seems improbable that Enbridge, the company responsible for the 1 million gallon spill of dilbit, or diluted bitumen, on a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, is currently pushing through a plan to expand that same pipeline. 

 
The first phase of the expansion, already underway, will see 75 miles of pipeline segments replaced. 

National Parks At Risk Of Exploitation From Oil And Gas Drilling

The U.S. National Park System currently encompasses more than 84 million acres of land in the United States, and if oil-funded politicians in Washington, D.C. get their way, those millions of protected acres could soon become the playground for the dirty energy industry.

According to a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP), oil and gas drilling is already taking place in at least 12 areas designated as “national parks” by the U.S. Department of Interior, with as many as 30 more being considered for drilling.

CAP’s chart below shows us where drilling is occurring, or could likely occur in the near future:

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As BP Tar Balls Litter Gulf Coast, Oil Giant Sells Off Gulf Of Mexico Assets

It’s been a little over two weeks since Hurricane Isaac struck the Gulf Coast, leaving flooding and wind damage in its wake. But one of the side effects of the storm that has gone largely under-reported are the tar balls that are now littering beaches all along the Gulf Coast.

Beaches from Louisiana to Florida have seen the toxic, sticky tar balls rolling in with the surf, and while some have questioned whether the tar balls are actually from BP’s Macondo well blowout, Auburn University researchers have confirmed today that they are a match.

The tar balls began washing up only days after the U.S. Department of Justice released a memo blaming BP’s gross negligence for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 men and subsequently caused close to 5 million gallons of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

In the wake of the DOJ’s accusations, and the continuous presence of tar balls that are linked directly back to BP’s negligence, it comes as no surprise that the oil giant has decided to sell off billions of dollars worth of their assets in the Gulf of Mexico.

What To Expect When You’re Electing: President Barack Obama

Part 3 in a series, see Part 1 and Part 2.

Perhaps more than any other sitting U.S. President, Barack Obama has been Commander in Chief through some of the most obvious examples of what climate change will do to America. The last few weeks alone have given us severe droughts in some areas of the country while others have seen unprecedented flooding; The state of Colorado is battling some of the worst wildfires in their history; and massive heat waves are engulfing large swaths of America. And let’s not forget the massive snowstorms in the winter of 2010 – 2011.

Then there were the manmade environmental atrocities like the BP oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico, the deadly Massey Upper Big Branch mine disaster, the Kalamazoo River tar sands spill, fracking-induced earthquakes in Ohio, water contamination from unconventional oil and gas drilling – the list could go on and on.

So in the face of these disasters, how has President Obama fared on environmental issues? Let’s take a look.

In 2008, then-candidate Obama told supporters that if elected, he would set a goal of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2050. He acknowledged that man-made climate change was a real threat to America, and signaled a change in policy from the previous administration. Voters, especially environmentally conscious voters, were relieved to finally hear a candidate expressing such bold goals for the country.
  

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