Tue, 2014-07-08 12:27Steve Horn
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America's Dairyland Turning to Petrostate: Wisconsin Oil-By-Rail Routes Published for First Time

DeSmogBlog is publishing the first documents ever obtained from the Wisconsin government revealing routes for oil-by-rail trains in the state carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale basin.

The information was initially submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) under the auspices of a May 7 Emergency Order, which both the federal government and the rail industry initially argued should only be released to those with a “need to know” and not the public at-large. 

The Wisconsin documents show the three companies that send Bakken crude trains through the state — Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific — all initially argued routes are “sensitive security information” only to be seen by those with a “need to know.”

As covered in a previous DeSmogBlog article revealing the routes of oil trains traveling through North Dakota for the first time, the rail industry used this same line of legal argument there and beyond.

Wisconsin Emergency Management did not buy the argument, though, and released the documents to DeSmogBlog through the state's Public Records Act.

Tue, 2014-07-08 09:48Kevin Grandia
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Pope Francis a Powerful Voice For Climate Change Action

Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, has taken a very strong stance recently on the need to address climate change, to protect the environment and respect “God's creation.” 

In an address at the University of Molise in Italy, Pope Francis talked about deforestation practices that have destroyed much of the world's rainforests in places like the Amazon Basin.

Francis told the crowd that:

Mon, 2014-07-07 23:59Brendan DeMelle
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Return of Climate Denial-a-Palooza: Heartland Institute Hitches Anti-Science Wagon to Vegas FreedomFest

Heartland Institute Unabomber Billboard

The Heartland Institute is reviving its global warming skeptics' gathering this week in scorching hot Las Vegas for the ninth “International Conference on Climate Change” — which DeSmog long ago dubbed “Denial-a-Palooza”.

Sin City is a fitting spot for the world's most anti-science front group to convene its friends who deny the scientific consensus that human-caused global warming is real and a grave threat to our future.

There will surely be plenty of tobacco smoke and gambling within the halls of the Mandalay Bay casino where the Heartland conference is taking place. For instance, Heartland's James Taylor is a big fan of the poker tables, as Showtime's Years of Living Dangerously episode 'Against the Wind' revealed.

I'm a bit surprised to see Heartland revive this conference given the extremely low attendance last time around, when Heartland president Joe Bast declared “no plans to do another ICCC.” Bast desperately appealed for cash from anyone's “rich uncle” to help fund the flailing organization's recovery from its Unabomber billboard debacle and public airing of its internal documents

In an effort to boost the attendance figures this time around, Heartland's climate skeptic gathering hitched its wagon to FreedomFest, a right-wing and libertarian shindig that gets rolling later this week. 

Below are links to DeSmogBlog's in-depth research on both the Sponsors and Speakers of Heartland's ICCC9 Denial-a-Palooza climate skeptic conference. Media Matters has also put together a great run-down of the Heartland conference attendees in its post Climate Denial Goes Vegas.

Stay tuned for our coverage of both of these climate denial fests as the right wing echo chamber revs its think tank engines in preparation of the 2014 mid-term Congressional elections and ongoing policy battles in Washington over EPA carbon regulations and executive actions by the Obama administration.

Mon, 2014-07-07 13:39Steve Horn
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Industry Data Show Oil-By-Rail in North America at Record Levels

On July 3, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) released June 2014 data showing oil-by-rail and petroleum products at-large are moving at record levels throughout North America

The release of the data comes on the heels of the ongoing oil-by-rail nationwide week of action launched by environmental groups.

For the 26th week of 2014 (the half year point) in the U.S., 18.5% more tank cars were on the tracks carrying petroleum and/or petroleum products than last year, a total of 15,894 cars.

Examined on a year-to-date basis, 7.0% more of those same tank cars were on the tracks in the U.S. this year than last, totaling 380,961 cars to date.

Table Credit: Association of American Railroads 

Across the border in Canada, the same trend lines exist: for the 26th week of 2014, 6.9% more cars moved petroleum and/or petroleum products by rail than in the 26th week of 2013.

Looked at in terms of year-to-date compared to 2013, that totals a 7.7% increase in tank cars moving the commodity by rail. 

Table Credit: Association of American Railroads

Bomb trains,” as some critics call them, move oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin to terminals, holding facilities and markets both in the U.S. and Canada.

Hence the upsurge in unit cars carrying petroleum and/or petroleum products both north and south of the border.

Looked at through the lens of North America, 14.6% more tank cars carried petroleum and/or petroleum products during the 26th week of 2014 compared to the same time in 2013.

And 7.0% more of those tank cars have moved petroleum and/or petroleum products to market so far this year as compared to last year. 

Table Credit: Association of American Railroads

Sun, 2014-07-06 14:14Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

One Year After Lac-Mégantic Disaster: Delay in Safety Regs, Groups Bring Oil Train Data to Communities

Lac-Mégantic oil train derailment, explosion

On July 6th, 2013, one year ago today, a train carrying oil derailed in the sleepy Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, resulting in an explosion so wild and so hot it leveled several city blocks and incinerated the bodies of many of its 47 victims. The accident put the tiny town on the international media circuit and dragged a new social concern with it: oil trains.

Whether you call them oil trains, tanker trains or bomb trains, chances are you didn’t call them anything at all before this day last year.

Before the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic, several smaller tanker train accidents across North America had already raised alarm over the danger of transporting oil and other fuels by rail in small communities with tracks often running through city centres and residential areas.

In the wake of Lac-Mégantic, however, critics, environmental organizations, journalists and concerned communities began tracking the growing movement of volatile oil shipments across the continent.

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