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Keystone XL Builder Has Explosive Problems

5:25 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

TransCanada ExplosionTransCanada, the company that would build and own the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada’s tar sand fields to the U.S. Gulf Coast, has dialed up its lobbying in Congress after a U.S. State Department report that favored the pipeline. The giant oil pipeline is perfectly clean and safe, say the lobbyists. TransCanada will be using the best, newest technology, monitoring and materials. The citizens of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and points south need not worry their little heads.

Then, BOOM! A TransCanada natural gas pipeline in Manitoba, Canada blew up in a spectacular fireball on January 25, reaching hundreds of feet into the air. It burned for 12 hours and only its rural location prevented a human catastrophe. (A nearly identical gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California killed eight people and burned a neighborhood in 2010). A TransCanada pipeline in Ontario exploded in a nearly identical manner in 2011. Another TransCanada pipe in Ontario blew up in 2009 as well.

A week after the Manitoba blast, TransCanada still didn’t know what caused it, or wouldn’t say.

Oil pipelines may fail without fireballs, but are no less dangerous to neighbors and the environment. No matter what a pipeline carries, maintenance and vigilance matter. But keeping a pipeline from exploding—or gushing a lake of flammable, toxic crude oil into local water supplies—isn’t a profit center. (What would pour out of Keystone XL is actually a slurry of corrosive tar and chemical-laced, highly flammable thinners.) To a corporation, safety spending is a dead loss. Only the lip service is free.

Ronald Reagan famously said of negotiating with the Soviet Union, “Trust, but verify.” The same goes for the promises of TransCanada, yet U.S. pipeline regulators are too strapped for staff and money to verify even existing pipeline safety, according to a New York Times story.

Another TransCanada pipeline explosion in 2009, in Ontario’s northern wilderness, was blamed on “95% corrosion” of the pipe. A Canadian government report said TransCanada’s inspection tools “failed to accurately assess” the level of corrosion.

The real question about the Keystone XL pipeline is why the United States should bear all of these risks, for no reward. A Consumer Watchdog study last year found that the pipeline, by sending Canadian oil overseas from the Gulf Coast, would actually raise gasoline prices in the U.S. The number of permanent jobs created would be paltry. Domestic oil production is rising and U.S. consumption is falling, so there is no economic rationale for more tar sands oil.

The XL pipeline, with all its attendant risks of spills, pollution–even deliberate vandalism or terrorism–is being built through America but not for America.

Canadians who understand the danger are turning down proposals for oil pipelines to their own Pacific coast.

Oh, and the U.S.State Department report that TransCanada’s lobbyists are waving so proudly? It was drafted by a subcontractor with financial ties to TransCanada. Chalk up one more reason why the U.S. should decline to be TransCanada’s beast of burden.

Posted by Judy Dugan, Research Director Emeritus of Consumer Watchdog.

Congressional Hearings Called For In Hyundai MPG Sticker Scandal

1:32 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Hyundai

Consumer Watchdog today called upon leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees to hold hearings into the revelation by the EPA that for the first time in American history large numbers of vehicles carried window stickers with false MPG claims.

The nonprofit consumer group wrote the EPA one year ago calling for retesting of the Hyundai Elantra after Hyundai’s self-tested MPG estimates were far different than many consumers’ experiences. Earlier this month, just prior to the presidential election, the EPA announced it had revised MPG claims and window stickers on many Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Consumer Watchdog today asked Congressional leaders to delve into whether the misstated mileage estimates were a direct result of a marketing strategy by Hyundai to advertise four of its vehicles, including the Elantra, as “40 Miles Per Gallon” cars.

“Americans deserve to know the whole truth when the fuel economy claims of a large number of vehicles have been misstated by one of the world’s largest automakers for the first time in American history,” wrote Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court to Senators Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison of the Senate Commerce Committee and Representatives Fred Upton and Henry Waxman of the House Commerce Committee.

The letter requests that the companies’ chief executive officers be called to testify under oath and that relevant documents be subpoenaed.

The letter, which can be downloaded here, continues:

“One year ago, in response to consumer complaints, Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing concerns about the fuel economy MPG (miles per gallon) estimates advertised on the EPA window sticker of the Hyundai Elantra and requesting that the EPA re-test the Elantra. In January 2012, after it appeared that the EPA would not perform the testing, Consumer Watchdog then called upon the White House to direct the EPA to conduct such an audit. Earlier this month, on the Friday before the presidential election, the EPA issued a brief press release announcing that it had required Hyundai and Kia to lower MPG estimates and change the window stickers for the Elantra and ‘for the majority of their model year 2012 and 2013 models after EPA testing found discrepancies between agency results and data submitted by the company.’

“According to the EPA announcement, ‘EPA’s audit testing occasionally uncovers individual vehicles whose label values are incorrect and requires that the manufacturer re-label the vehicle. This has happened twice since 2000. This is the first time where a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer have deviated so significantly.’

“As we wrote to President Obama in January, Hyundai’s deceptive MPG estimates has greatly disadvantaged American automakers, as well as the American taxpayer, whose full faith and credit have financially sustained those companies.

“We call upon you to hold hearings to give the American people more information about the Hyundai-MPG scandal.

“Unbeknownst to most Americans, automakers self-test their vehicles to determine the EPA MPG claim that appears on the EPA-mandated window sticker. Elantra drivers alerted us to the fact that their MPG experience was very different than the promised ‘EPA’ numbers.”

The “40 Mile Per Gallon Elantra” was the centerpiece of a massive television, print and radio advertising campaign aimed at convincing drivers that they would save money with $4 per gallon gasoline, when in fact drivers were routinely getting ten miles per gallon less than advertised. Hyundai widely advertised and promoted its four vehicles that received 40 miles per gallon — the Elantra, Sonata Hybrid, Accent and Veloster – but all were reported by the EPA as having falsified MPG estimates on their window stickers.

“We urge you to hold hearings in order to ascertain how Hyundai arrived at its ‘40 Mile Per Gallon’ claims and whether the South Korean company’s business strategy led to falsified mileage estimates submitted to the EPA and incorrect window stickers. The consequence of the incorrect window stickers has been a loss in sales by American car manufacturers whose MPG window stickers have not been found to be false and who played by the rules,” continued the letter.

“We believe the companies’ chief executive officers should be put under oath and documents related to the testing should be subpoenaed in an effort to understand the cause of the false mileage estimates and window stickers. The false testing that led to the conveniently round “40 mile per gallon” numbers on the window stickers of four vehicles is very likely to have its roots in a marketing decision at the highest levels of the company. Hyundai/Kia drivers and the American people deserve to know the truth and have those involved answer questions on the matter.”