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More Questions than Answers in Tesoro’s North Dakota Oil Spill

3:16 pm in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

North Dakota, long known for its cattle ranches and open spaces, has recently become one of the oil and gas industry’s most prized (and profitable) possessions, thanks to the advent of fracking. However, the price of oil and gas industry development is paid in destruction to the environment and strains to the regulatory framework meant to protect the public from a reckless industry, as Tesoro’s massive oil spill attests.

Documents from an open records request by Greenpeace have uncovered that Tesoro, a fracking giant based in San Antonio:

Possibly knew their pipeline was dangerously weak

Tesoro ran tests on the pipeline that ruptured more than 2 weeks before the spill was discovered.

A robot, known as a “smart pig,” detected weaknesses in the pipeline on September 10 and 11. Tesoro claims that they did not have ample time to digest the data before the spill, but Tesoro employees on the ground tell a different story. Furthermore, once the pipeline spill was discovered, Tesoro dispatched crews to check two other sites on the pipeline for leaks, indicating they were aware of potential fail points in the pipeline. See the documents uncovered by Greenpeace here.

Did not report the spill correctly or promptly

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This is what it’s like to live in Exxon’s Mayflower oil spill

4:09 pm in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

On March 29, ExxonMobil spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil in the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas. Exxon, the most profitable corporation in history, has yet to account for more than 126,000 gallons of the spilled oil.

Now, months after the spill, dangerous contaminants are being detected in the air, water and soil, and residents are getting sick – while Exxon claims the air and water are safe. Listen to these stories of Mayflower residents affected by the oil industry:

Exxon’s response has been typical of the oil industry. Like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Enbridge disaster in the Kalamazoo River, Exxon has stifled reporting and downplayed the damage and public health issues caused by their pipeline rupture. Immediately after the spill Exxon sought to shut down reporting and information gathering by cordoning off the area, convincing the FAA to declare a no fly zone over the spill site, even threatening journalists with arrest.

Documents obtained by Greenpeace revealed Exxon also misrepresented the extent of the contamination in nearby Lake Conway. Exxon claimed the area was “oil-free”, though their own water tests showed dangerously elevated levels of cancer causing chemicals associated with tar sands crude oil.

Exxon’s Mayflower spill is a reminder of who bears the risks of fossil fuel development like the Keystone XL pipeline. While Exxon may have to shell out a few million dollars of their more than 44 billion dollars in profit, the residents of Mayflower must now live in a contaminated environment and many families will never be able to go back to their homes.

Like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Exxon’s pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada, which is both particularly corrosive to pipelines and environmentally devastating to mine and refine.

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New documents Show Exxon Knew of Contamination, Claimed Lake Conway Was “oil-free”

11:46 am in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

Aerial photo of Lake Conway

"Oil-Free" Lake Conway

On March 29 ExxonMobil, the most profitable company in the world, spilled at least 210,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil from an underground pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas. The pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada, which flooded family residences in Mayflower in thick tarry crude. Exxon’s tar sands crude also ran into Lake Conway, which sits about an eighth of a mile from where Exxon’s pipeline ruptured.

A new batch of documents received by Greenpeace in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has revealed that Exxon downplayed the extent of the contamination caused by the ruptured pipeline. Records of emails between Arkansas’ DEQ and Exxon depict attempts by Exxon to pass off press releases with factually false information. In a draft press release dated April 8, Exxon claims “Tests on water samples show Lake Conway and the cove are oil-free.” However, internal emails from April 6 show Exxon knew of significant contamination across Lake Conway and the cove resulting from the oil spill.

When the chief of Arkansas Hazardous Waste division called Exxon out on this falsehood, Exxon amended the press release. However, they did not amend it to say that oil was in Lake Conway and contaminant levels in the lake were rising to dangerous levels, as they knew to be the case. Instead, they continue to claim that Lake Conway is “oil-free.” For the record, Exxon maintains that the “cove,” a section of Lake Conway that experienced heavy oiling from the spill, is not part of the actual lake. Exxon maintains this distinction in spite of Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel saying unequivocally “The cove is part of Lake Conway…The water is all part of one body of water.” Furthermore, Exxon water tests confirmed that levels of Benzene and other contaminants rose throughout the lake, not just in the cove area.

Though Exxon was eventually forced to redact their claim that the cove specifically was  “oil-free,” the oil and gas giant has yet to publicly address the dangerous levels of Benzene and other contaminants their own tests have found in the body of Lake Conway. The Environmental Protection Agency and the American Petroleum Institute don’t agree on everything, but they do agree that the only safe level of Benzene, a cancer causing chemical found in oil, is zero. Benzene is added to tar sands oil to make it less viscous and flow more easily through pipelines.  Local people have reported fish kills, chemical smells, nausea and headaches. Independent water tests have found a host of contaminants present in the lake.

Dead fish in a polluted creek

Dead fish in Palarm creek, which Lake Conway drains into. Palarm creek is a tributary of the Arkansas River.

According to Exxon’s data, 126,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil from the pipeline spill is still unaccounted for.

Exxon’s spill emanated from the Pegasus Pipeline, which like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, connects the Canadian Tar Sands with refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Is ExxonMobil limiting media access to their Tar Sands oil Spill?

3:41 pm in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

Greenpeace photo of Exxon’s Tar Sands oil spill, before the No-Fly zone was established
Sure seems like it. According to reports from the ground, Exxon is in full control of the response to the thousands of barrels of tar sands oil that began spilling from Exxon’s ruptured pipeline in Arkansas last weekend. The skies above the spill has been deemed a no-fly zone, and all requests for aerial photos must be approved by Exxon’s own “aviation advisor” Tom Suhrhoff.

In addition, the entire area has been cordoned off and news media have been prevented from inspecting the spill zone.

Now, Exxon is trying to limit access to the animals impacted by the tar sands crude. A wildlife management company hired by Exxon has taken over all oiled wild animal care. The company, called Wildlife Response Services, is now refusing to release pictures and documentation of the animals in their care, unless they are authorized by Exxon’s public relations department.

A dead American Coot covered in oil from Exxon’s Pegasus Pipeline

The spill, which leaked heavy, viscous tar sands oil, emanates from the Pegasus Pipeline, which was built in the 1940’s. The pipeline pumps diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, just like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. However, the Pegasus is much smaller, carrying 90,000 barrels per day (BPD), while the Keystone would carry 800,000 BPD. Tar Sands oil is shipped through pipelines in the form of Diluted Bitumen (Dilbit), which must be heated and forced through the pipeline at high pressure. Due to the corrosive nature of the tar sands oil, which contains sand, plus the high temperature and high pressure needed to pump it through the  pipes, tar sands oil pipelines are particularly dangerous.

Exxon’s control of the oil spill response is reminiscent of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, when the polluter, BP, effectively controlled the response and cleanup.

Keystone XL Coverup: Department of State Hides Oil Industry Connections

5:38 pm in Uncategorized by Jcoleman

originally posted to PolluterWatch

Keystone XL Pipeline Protest at White House

Keystone XL Pipeline Protest at White House

Mother Jones Magazine has uncovered a new twist in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. As it turns out, the authors who drafted the environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline worked for Transcanada, Koch Industries, Shell Oil, and other oil corporations that stand to benefit from building the Keystone XL. Not only did the State Department know about these conflicts of interest, they redacted this information from public filings in attempt to conceal the truth.

For background, the Keystone XL is a proposed oil pipeline that would ship sour crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf coast of Texas. The oil would then be refined and shipped abroad.

In order to build the pipeline, Transcanada, the company who proposed Keystone XL, must get the OK from the State Department. The State Department bases its decision on whether or not to approve the pipeline on an environmental review, conducted by a third party group overseen by the State Department and paid for by Transcanada.

This review, called the “draft supplemental environmental impact statement” was released earlier this month.  It has been widely criticized as downplaying the impact that building Keystone XL will have on the climate, and all but paving the way for approval for the project.

The review was conducted by a company called Environmental Resources Management (ERM). When ERM released its review of Keystone, it also released a 55 page filing claiming that there was no conflicts of interest in writing the report. However, the State Department redacted information from this filing, including the biographies of key experts involved in writing the report.

According to Mother Jones, those redactions were meant to keep ties between the report authors and Transanada a secret from the public. Here is what the State Department was covering up:

  • 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.
  • Another ERM employee who contributed to State’s Keystone report—and whose prior work history was also redacted—previously worked for Shell Oil;
  • A third worked as a consultant for Koch Gateway Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Shell and Koch* have a significant financial interest in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. ERM itself has worked for Chevron, which has invested in Canadian tar sands extraction, according to its website.

However, this is not the first time that the State Department has been criticized for conflicts of interests involving TransCanada and Keystone XL.

From Mother Jones:

In October 2011, Obama’s reelection campaign hired Broderick Johnson, who had previously lobbied in favor of Keystone, as a senior adviser. Emails obtained by Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that opposes the Keystone pipeline, revealed a cozy relationship between TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott and Marja Verloop, an official at the US Embassy in Canada whose portfolio covers the Keystone project. Before he lobbied for TransCanada, Elliott worked as deputy campaign manager on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Clinton served as secretary of state until recently.

The question is, how can the State Department get away with routinely ignoring or burying connections between the oil industry and regulators responsible for Keystone XL?
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