First Nations Oppose Northern Gateway Pipeline: “We Will Take Our Fight to the Land, Sea and Courts”
While the Canadian government’s controversial June 17th endorsement of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is “tepid,” according to the Economist, which noted that the flat five-paragraph statement lacked any ringing praise for the project, First Nations opposition is fierce.
Enbridge, already responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history (as of 2010), wants to build the $6 billion, 1,200km (730-mile) Northern Gateway pipeline to take 525,000 barrels a day of tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, on the Pacific coast of British Columbia (BC), for shipment to Asia.
At least 23 First Nations, plus 8 councils and alliances, have already gone on record vowing to stop the Northern Gateway pipeline. Crude oil tankers are illegal under First Nations law, according to the Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative’s June 16th statement Unwanted Pipeline, Unwilling Province:
“Our people have lived on this coast for 10,000 years,” said Art Sterritt, Executive Director of Coastal First Nations. “Over that time we developed laws and protocols to keep human impacts on the landscape in balance. Those laws are still in effect. Crude oil tankers are banned in our territories under First Nations law.”
First Nations have also declared the Enbridge pipeline project to be “effectively dead,” because it can’t meet the 209 conditions laid out for its approval. On June 17th, when the Canadian government announced its approval for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, First Nations leaders declared that the government’s approval is meaningless:
“It’s an approval in name only. This project is dead,” said Art Sterritt, Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations. “The project can’t proceed with these conditions. We’ve been clear there is no technology to clean up an oil spill and the dispersant that is used causes more damage than the oil itself.”
Sterritt said. “We’ve spent millions of dollars developing a sustainable economy. We’re not going to risk it by allowing oil tankers in our waters. It is those living on BC’s coast that will bear all the risks of an oil spill.”
Haida Nation Rejects Northern Gateway Decision
The Haida Nation issued their own statement on June 17th:
“We will uphold our responsibilities and Haida laws to protect our territory,” said President of the Haida Nation, Kil tlaats’gaa, Peter Lantin. “We will not allow the Northern Gateway tanker and pipeline project to proceed.”
The Haida Nation is rooted in 10,000 years of co-existence with Haida Gwaii and holds unceded Title and Rights to the marine area proposed for the tanker routes. The Haida Nation has opposed the project since its announcement in 2005. Northern Gateway’s safety record, the potential of an oil spill and increased tanker traffic threaten the environment that is the basis of a healthy economy.
“We will take our fight to the land, sea and courts to uphold and protect Haida territory, and to ensure clean water, clean air, and a healthy way of life for future generations,” he said.
Chain of Hope; “We Will Not Back Down”
The Heiltsuk Nation also issued a June 17th statement declaring that they will continue to oppose the Northern Gateway Pipeline project. Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett said, “This decision represents the end of another round in a long fight to protect our lands, waters and resources. We will not back down.”
“The community came together and everyone crocheted, to show our full support for the Gitga’at way of life, to stand up for our coast, the whales, our traditions, our food and for the future Gitga’at that will use our territory for generations to come,” said Jodi Hill, a member of the Gitga’at First Nation and Chain of Hope participant. “We stand today to take care for generations we will never meet, just as our ancestors stood up for us. The crochet line means something to us all now. We won’t stand for Enbridge or the government that supports them.”
Together, the 23 First Nations and 8 councils/alliances issued this statement on June 17th:
First Nations Going to Court United Against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project
Federal and Provincial Governments Disregard Indigenous Title and Rights
Today, we unequivocally reject the Harper Government’s decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway tanker and pipelines project and First Nations will immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project.
We have governed our lands, in accordance to our Indigenous laws, since time immemorial. Our inherent Title and Rights and our legal authority over our respective territories have never been surrendered.
Our inherent rights are human rights constitutionally enshrined, judicially recognized and embodied in international legal instruments including the United Nations’Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and our laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories. Our rights and laws compel us to act.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tanker and pipeline project exposes all communities from Alberta to the Pacific Coast to the undeniable risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills. First Nations and the majority of British Columbians believe this project poses an unacceptable risk to the environment, the health, the safety and livelihoods of all peoples throughout this province.
We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.
Council of the Haida Nation
Gitanmaax Band Council
Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs
Neskonlith Indian Band
Office of the Wet’suwet’en
Saikuz First Nation
Tsetsaut / Skii km Lax Ha
Wet’suwet’en First Nation
Williams Lake Indian Band
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council
Coastal First Nations
St’at’imc Chiefs Council
Tahltan Central Council
BC Assembly of First Nations
First Nations Summit
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Media inquiries, please contact:
kiltlaats’gaa Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation 250-626-7804
Chief Arnold Clifton, Gitgaat, 778-884-1215
Chief Councillor Ellis Ross, Haisla, 250-639-9361
Art Sterritt, Coastal First Nations, 604-868-9110
Douglas Neasloss, Kitasoo/Xaixais, 250-839-1255 ext 209
Chief Garry Reece, Lax kw’alaams, 250-625-3293
Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk Tribal Council, 250-957-2381
Nek’t (George Muldoe), Wilp of Delgamuukw, 250-842-6627
Chief Judy Wilson, Neskonlith Indian Band, 250-320-7738
Tribal Chair Terry Teegee, Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, 250-640-3256
Grand Chief Edward John, First Nations Summit, 778-772-8218)
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, 250-490-5314
Sarah Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, 604.358.3371
Courtney Daws, BC Assembly of First Nations, 604-922-7733
As advocates and residents at risk from oil bomb trains gear up for a July 9th commemoration — and protest — of the deaths and destruction last year in Lac Megantic, DeSmogBlog continues to investigate the hypocrisy of the oil by rail industry. These latest revelations from the White House Meeting Logs are an eye-opener for everyone working to protect communities from flaming tank cars full of blazing Bakken Shale oil. Reblogged in full from DeSmogBlog:
White House Meeting Logs: Big Rail Lobbying Against “Bomb Train” Regulations It Publicly Touts
The Obama White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has held the majority of itsmeetings on the proposed federal oil-by-rail safety regulations with oil and gas industry lobbyists and representatives.
Big Rail has talked a big game to the public about its desire for increased safety measures for its trains carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)in the Bakken Shale. What happens behind closed doors, the meeting logs show, tells another story.
At the June 12-13 Railway Age Oil-by-Rail Conference, just two days after rail industry representatives met with OIRA, American Association of Railroads President Edward Hamberg, former assistant secretary for governmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), made the case for safety.
“Railroads believe that federal tank car standards should be raised to ensure crude oil and other flammable liquids are moving in the safest car possible based on the product they are moving,” said Hamberg.
“The industry also wants the existing crude oil fleet upgraded through retrofits or older cars to be phased out as quickly as possible.”
Yet despite public declarations along these lines, proactive safety measures were off the table for all four of Big Rail’s presentations to OIRA.
Though private discussions, the documents made public from the meeting show one consistent message from the rail industry: safety costs big bucks. And these are bucks industry is going to fight against having to spend.
Massive War Room
Those present at the June 10 OIRA meeting included representatives from AAR, the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association, Union Pacific,Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), CSX Corporation, Norfolk Southern and theDOT.
Akin to the gargantuan war room in the film “Dr. Strangelove,” 26 people took part in the session.
Invitees included Meredith Kelsch, senior attorney for DOT; Orest Dachniwsky, associate general counsel for BNSF; Robert Schmidt, senior manager of operations and casualty analysis for Union Pacific; and Richard Theroux, who has worked at the Office of Management and Budget — parent of OIRA — for nearly three decades.
“19th Century Technology”
The heading on the first slide of CSX’s presentation for OIRA stated, “ECPbrakes are expensive and do not offer material safety advantages.”
ECP is industry shorthand for Electronically Controlled Pneumatic brakes, currently considered the best available brakes in the business.
At a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing in April, Richard Connor, safety specialist for DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), gave a presentation comparing the conventional air brake system used on most freight trains to the ECP brakes passed over by CSX.
“I’m not sure with the audience if you all understand how the current air brake systems on our freight trains out there operate today, but it’s basically 19th century technology,” said Connor.
Connor also described the performance of the brakes in an emergency situation as “painfully slow” in comparing ECP’s response time to that of the conventional braking system.
“One of the biggest advantages of ECP is that signal to apply your brakes…is going at the speed of light…it’s a much quicker signal,” he said.
Connor also discussed how ECP would “offer material safety advantages” over current technology in an oil train accident, even if expensive.
“For the purpose of why we would want ECP on, say, a unit train like these oil trains, [it’s] to reduce the impact of a derailment or reduce the damages caused by a derailment of these types of trains,” explained Connor.
“[The purpose] is you get a much quicker application, you reduce that kinetic energy involved with that train.”
BNSF serves as the Queen Bee in the oil-by-rail world.
Warren Buffett (L), President Barack Obama (R); Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
When asked about the first two meetings, BNSF spokeswoman Roxanne Butler told EnergyWire, “[BNSF] believe[s] the next generation tank cars should exceed the 2011, stronger new standard known as the CPC-1232 tank car.”
But BNSF avoided the topic of tank cars in its third meeting with OIRA and stuck to another topic instead: train speed. Namely, BNSF told OIRA that reducing train speed costs them money.
And one of the final slides in a presentation given by AAR on train speed is titled “Far Reaching Economic Impacts.”
That slide details what AAR says will be the negative impacts to the greater economy if oil trains are required to slow down on the tracks.
But what of the costs of oil trains traveling at normal speed or above that derail and spill their cargo, increasingly resulting in major explosions?
At the April NTSB conference, Gregory Saxton, chief engineer for rail tank manufacturer Greenbriar, responded to a question about how much of an issue speed was in a derailment involving tank cars.
“Kinetic energy is related to the square of velocity. So if you double the speed, you have four times as much energy to deal with,” argued Saxton. “Speed is a big deal.”
Unattended “Bomb Trains”
In its meeting with OIRA, Big Rail also argued that regulations designed to ensure that oil trains are always attended by a crew are too costly.
As an industry presentation delivered to OIRA says, doing this will “significantly drive up costs.”
The train accident that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which exploded into a massive fireball, was unattended. The cost of cleaning up the aftermath of that disaster may total up to $2.7 billion and taxpayers will foot that bill.
Lac-Mégantic disaster from outer space; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
According to the same presentation, between salary and fuel costs for idling trains, it would cost $105.64 per hour to pay a crew to attend oil-by-rail trains along their journey.
Using those predicted rates, that means it would take 25 million hours of financial compensation for crews to equal the projected clean-up costs in Lac-Mégantic.
Behind Closed Doors
The rail industry offers up claims about how much it cares about safety when speaking to the public. But behind closed doors, the June 10 OIRA meeting makes clear that public relations pitch goes by the wayside in favor of hard-nosed lobbying muscle to avoid accountability.
“With all of the oil-by-rail derailments in the past year, accompanied by deaths, fireballs, spills, toxic smoke and multiple large-scale evacuations, you’d think it’s high time for the concerns of ordinary people to be top priority,” Iris Marie Bloom, founder of Protecting Our Waters and oil train critic, told DeSmogBlog.
“These meetings reveal the opposite is happening: rail and oil industries are lobbying overtime and getting repeated access to their friends in high places while regular people, whose lives are at risk, have no access at all.”
Virginia is the latest state to join the fight to protect downstream water drinkers from upstream fracking operations. Yesterday Arlington, Virginia, right across the river from Washington, D.C., weighed in powerfully when the Arlington County Board unanimously passed the “Resolution Concerning Horizontal Fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.”
The Resolution calls for horizontal fracturing to be prohibited in the forest in order to protect the Potomac River Watershed, and particularly to protect the approximately one million residents of Arlington County, the District of Columbia, the City of Falls Church, and a portion of Fairfax County, who drink Potomac River water treated by the Washington Aqueduct.
Here is the full text of the resolution as it passed yesterday. Copycat actions are welcome and encouraged.
Resolution Concerning Horizontal Fracturing in the George Washington National Forest
WHEREAS¸ the George Washington National Forest is located in the Potomac River Watershed and plays a vital role in protecting downstream water quality; and
WHEREAS¸ the Potomac River is the sole raw water source for water treated by the Washington Aqueduct Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, serving approximately 1 million residents of Arlington County, the District of Columbia, the City of Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County; and
WHEREAS¸ Arlington County purchases its water from the Washington Aqueduct and distributes it to the over 210,000 residents that live in Arlington and hundreds of thousands of others who work and play in our community on a daily basis; and
WHEREAS¸ the Potomac River flows to the Chesapeake Bay, a vital estuary for which Arlington continues to invest substantial sums to protect from pollution; and
WHEREAS, the United States Forest Service is currently in the process of updating its George Washington National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, which will direct natural resource management for the forest for the next 10 to 15 years, including the possibility of mining the Marcellus Shale by horizontal hydraulic fracturing; and
WHEREAS¸ horizontal fracturing is currently exempted from many of the requirements of the federal laws that protect our nation’s water supply, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act; and
WHEREAS, at the request of the United States Congress, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a research study on the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas on drinking water resources; and
WHEREAS¸ numerous other stakeholders have expressed their concerns with horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest, including the EPA, the National Park Service, and many of the localities in our region that depend upon the Potomac River for their water supply; and
WHEREAS, the August 2011 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the George Washington National Forest, developed by the United States Forest Service, states “concern about the development of gas resources in the Marcellus shale formation led to Plan direction that horizontal drilling would not be allowed on any federal leases. This restriction is based on concerns about the impacts of extensive hydraulic fracturing associated with horizontal drilling on water quality, the unknown potential for developing the Marcellus shale formation on the George Washington National Forest, and the limited experience with horizontal drilling in the immediate vicinity of the GWNF.”
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE ARLINGTON COUNTY BOARD:
- Expresses our concern about the potential impact of horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest on the Potomac River Watershed, and therefore the quality of Arlington County’s water supply, and;
- Supports the United States Forest Service’s proposal, contained in the George Washington National Forest Draft Forest Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, to prohibit the use of horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.
Ripples of Celebration
Congratulations to the Arlington County Board. We expect to see more resolutions like this one throughout the Potomac River Watershed!
As the news spreads, water protectors already active in the hard work for clean water are celebrating. Robin Broder, a board member of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, commented:
“As a long time resident of Arlington, I am proud that the Arlington County Board recognizes the importance of the George Washington National Forest to the protection of the headwaters of the Potomac River. As a clean water advocate, I applaud the Board for helping the people who live downstream from the forest connect with the source of their drinking water, the Potomac River. “
Well Warned: Arlington, Texas
If Arlington, Virginia residents want more information about fracking we suggest they study impacts in Arlington, Texas, well documented by veteran writer Sharon Wilson:
Arlington, Texas is just one of thousands of places which now show how important preventive actions like this really are. Thanks to the Texans for warning the Virginians… and the Pennsylvanians… and the New Yorkers… who just overwhelming passed a three-year statewide fracking moratorium! The momentum is building.
Action Alert: Say NO to Sunoco Logistics Hazardous Gas Liquids Pipeline and Their Bid for Public Utility Status
Say NO To Pipeline Politics!
DEADLINE: Right Now
Monday, June 9, 2014 is the Public Utility Commission (PUC) filing deadline for comment on Sunoco Logistics application for Public Utility Status — not post-marked, but in PUC’s hands!
If granted public utility status, Sunoco Logistics will gain the ability to exercise Eminent Domain over the municipalities and citizens of Pennsylvania to build their controversial Mariner East pipeline. Don’t let the PUC give Sunoco Logistics a free pass on a volatile natural gas liquids pipeline project without being subject to local zoning ordinances and approvals. The Mariner East is a high-pressure, high-volume pipeline with numerous pump and valve stations. Many townships are up in arms, understandably, and residents are demanding greater transparency and adequate time for public review.
Mail Your Letter to PUC Chairman, Robert Powelson TODAY.
Media Advisory: June 5, 2014
Contacts: Nathan Sooy, Clean Water Action: 717-585-2700
Joanne Kilgour, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter: 717-232-0101
Kristen Cevoli, PennEnvironment: (215) 732-5897
Tri-State Alliance Demands Governors Authorize Susquehanna Natural Gas Cumulative Impacts Study through SRBC:
Campaign Urges Focus on Shale Gas Drilling, Waste, Infrastructure
WHAT: Groups in three states call on NY, PA and MD governors, Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), to demand a comprehensive study of shale gas operations’ cumulative impacts on water quality in the Susquehanna River Basin. The groups are holding press conferences in conjunction with meetings of the SRBC in their member state. The Pennsylvania event coincides with Thursday’s meeting of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission in Entriken, PA..
WHO: Environmental, faith-based, civic, and human rights groups: Clean Water Action, Sierra Club PA Chapter, Sierra Club MD Chapter, Protecting Our Waters, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Berks Gas Truth, PennEnvironment, League of Women Voters, PA
SPEAKERS: Guy Alsentzer, Attorney, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
Joanne Kilgour, Chapter Director, Sierra Club/Pennsylvania Chapter
Nathan Sooy, Clean Water Action/Pennsylvania
Kristen Cevoli, PennEnvironment
Jennifer Quinn, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
Susan Carty, Pa League of Women Voters
Karen Feridun, Berks Gas Truth
Iris Marie Bloom, Protecting Our Waters
Michael Helfrich, The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
WHERE: Call in to participate – 800-509-6344 Access Code: 3387374#
WHEN: Thurs. June 5th at 1 PM EST.
More information: Nathan R Sooy
Central Pennsylvania Campaign Coordinator
Clean Water Action
(717) 233-1801 office
(717) 585-2700 cell
Today’s New York Times carries a strong response to their understated editorial, “Time to Move on Dangerous Tank Cars.” Correctly identifying the scope of the problem as much bigger than old tank cars, Noah Greenwald asserts, “even stronger tanker cars are prone to puncture, leading to explosive, life-threatening fireballs and spills.” Here’s his letter in full:
To the Editor:
Re “Time to Move on Dangerous Tank Cars” (editorial, May 30):
Stronger tanker cars for transporting highly volatile crude oil will not alone protect our citizens, rivers or wildlife from this unchecked risk.
As your editorial correctly suggests, stronger federal regulations are needed immediately to counter the large increase in shipments of crude oil by rail. But as demonstrated in the recent accident in Lynchburg, Va., even stronger tanker cars are prone to puncture, leading to explosive, life-threatening fireballs and spills.
Inexplicably, the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency have failed to meet their legal duty to update response plans to account for these spills and explosions.
We know that trains will continue to derail. And with billions of gallons of explosive crude oil moving by rail across the country, we know that these dangerous accidents will continue to threaten our communities and natural resources. President Obama should demand immediate action.
Endangered Species Director
Center for Biological Diversity
Portland, Ore., May 30, 2014
Noah Greenwald’s contribution is an excellent example for the rest of us. Haven’t written your own letter about the oil trains disasters to your local, regional, statewide or national media outlets? The effort is worth it, because the regulators consistently downplay the actual dangers from the oil trains. The media also fails to connect the dots: this shale oil comes from Bakken Shale fracking and flaring, resulting in climate devastation, even as climate change is more and more recognized as Public Enemy #1. Try it your way: speak up. Speak out. Connect the dots. Stop the oil bomb trains.
Today in Philadelphia, from 12 noon to 1 pm, activists are confronting the Environmental Protection Agency to demand it do its job, “putting an end to the cycle of surface mining and water pollution.” Here’s the alert from the Sierra Club:
Join Us – Wed, June 4, 12:00 noon to 1:00 pmEPA Region 3 Headquarters at 17th & Arch in Philadelphia
Coal companies need to be held accountable for the pollution it generates and monitored to make sure they abide by the rules and regulations of the Clean Water and Air Acts. The Virginia and West Virginia Departments of Environmental Protection are tasked with enforcing these rules, but often state agencies are not up to the task, or have a conflict of interest when trying to accommodate economic growth while protecting natural resources. That’s where the EPA comes in. The EPA needs to oversee state agencies and assist in the permitting process to put an end to cycle of surface mining and water pollution.
If you missed participating in this event, you can still support it by writing a letter to the editor about it after the fact, or calling your federal legislators to urge them to make sure EPA does its job. If you’re reading this, chances are you are using electricity, and chances are good that coal is involved. So it’s all our job to step up the pressure on the EPA!
Across Pennsylvania, resistance is growing to Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East Pipeline from multiple perspectives:
- Engineers and industry insiders assess the explosion risk from the re-purposed pipeline as a “recipe for disaster”.
- Landowners and municipalities oppose Sunoco’s twisted attempt to use “public utility” status to evade local zoning regulations and to use eminent domain for land grabs,.
- Environmental groups are disturbed by the climate impacts of the pipeline, which would export more than 50% of its contents (volatile fracked gas liquids, ethane and propane) overseas.
- Community and environmental groups oppose the large-scale cumulative impacts on water, air and land from the fracking, refinery processing, pump stations, storage and export facilities which are all part of the Mariner East project.
- Public health and human rights advocates are angered by the air pollution and drinking water contamination in communities impacted by fracking from cradle to grave, exemplified by the massive toxic smoke released by the MarkWest refinery in Houston, Pennsylvania, which is the western starting point of the Mariner East pipeline.
Of course, the above groups are not separate and are increasingly coordinating efforts. In particular, the June 9th PUC deadline for public comment on Sunoco Logistics’ application to evade local zoning laws by declaring itself a “public utility” has led to increased unity among the opponents. Sample letters for you to customize, print and mail are posted here in an action alert by Protecting Our Waters boosting this effort.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is among the groups which have stepped in to legally intervene in Sunoco’s attempt to be declared a public utility:
“In late March, Sunoco Logistics, L.P. submitted petitions to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) in 31 different townships, some of which are in the Delaware Watershed, along its proposed Mariner East Pipeline requesting that it be granted status as a public utility corporation. If the PUC says yes to that status change, Sunoco would be EXEMPT from local zoning for the additions of pump and valve stations.
“Sunoco’s Petitions to PUC state the Project will require the construction of 17 valve stations in 15 different municipalities, and the construction of 18 pumping stations in 18 different municipalities. DRN has filed comments and a motion to intervene with the PUC in order to challenge this dangerous request. In response to multiple interventions and objects Sunoco has filed a motion to submit an amended Petition for Exemption. An interesting development demonstrating the power of the community attention on this important issue.”
Meanwhile, new blogs and websites opposing the Mariner East project have popped up, an indication of increasingly organized resistance from Westmoreland County in western PA and Dauphin County in central PA to Chester County in southeastern PA. The rhetoric varies from the straightforward “Just the Facts, Please” and the highly focused Chester County Community Coalition to Chester County Ramblings, which compared Sunoco Logistics pipelines to cockroaches, in their post titled “Sleazy Sunoco,” on April 30th, 2014. This argument embodies a property rights perspective:
I have learned from Chester County residents who already have the older version of the pipeline a couple of interesting things: I thought (mistakenly and incorrectly) that if Sunoco used someone’s property that they paid rent annually to the property owner. I am told they don’t. I also wondered what happened when real estate changed hands. Apparently Sunoco doesn’t pay homeowners who inherit them in their backyards anything.
So basically, letting Sunoco in is like allowing cockroaches?
An earlier post on the same site, “Will it be eminent domain and pipelines, Sunoco?” challenges Sunoco’s attempt to claim eminent domain for its pipelines. The Mariner East pipelines would benefit only Sunoco execs and investors, since the pipelines are carrying NGLs — natural gas liquids, a product of intensive fracking in western Pennsylvania — to be exported to Norway, jacking up the greenhouse gas footprint sky-high, pun intended.
Pump Stations Ignite Protest
Residents in West Goshen, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, are “fighting mad, and battling Sunoco Logistics and its plan for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project,” reports Jeremy Gerrard of the Daily Local News:
WEST GOSHEN — Township residents are organizing against the construction of a proposed natural gas pump station, voicing outrage over possible health and safety issues from the facility.
“This doesn’t just affect West Goshen, but every community from here to Marcus Hook,” resident Tom Casey said.
Sunoco is requesting a variance from West Goshen at an April 3, 2014 zoning meeting to build a pipeline pump station with 34 foot ‘flare stack’ in a neighborhood at Boot Road and Route 202. Sunoco has similar requests in 31 municipalities across Pa as it transitions a cross-state petroleum pipeline to ethane, butane, propane liquid gas use.
Mariner East Pipeline “Recipe for Disaster”
So, aside from high-impact fracking; the toxic MarkWest refinery in Western Pennsylvania; Sunoco attempting to use eminent domain to legalize stealing land from regular people — including farmers — along the way; polluting pump stations; and increased global warming, what else is not to like about the Mariner East pipeline?
An authoritative source close to the project emailed me privately to emphasize a little-known aspect of the pipeline which he says makes it a “recipe for disaster”:
Mariner East will be transporting ethane and propane exclusively in the liquid state. The operating pressures required to transport liquid propane and ethane are significantly higher than the pressures used to transport refined products, like gasoline and diesel fuel. This is because gasoline/diesel are liquids at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, while ethane/propane exist as gases. The only way to keep ethane and propane in the liquid state is to keep them under high pressure.Why does this matter? Sunoco claims to be reusing existing pipelines that previously carried refined products. This means that pipe in Mariner East will be seeing 150-200% more pressure than it has ever seen before. I’m sure that the pipe sections are rated for the increased operating pressures, but these ratings are given by pipe manufacturers for new pipe, not pipe that has been sitting in the ground for decades. When you look at the heavily populated areas that Sunoco is planning to run Mariner East through, this seems like the recipe for disaster.
Under pressure from Fossil Free Stanford, Stanford University announced on Tuesday that it would immediately divest its $18.7 billion endowment of stock in coal-mining companies. The New York Times commented yesterday on Stanford’s role as a national and global leader: “At least 11 small universities have elected to remove fossil-fuel stocks from their endowments, but none approaches Stanford’s prestige or national influence.”
Yari Greaney, 20, a Fossil Free Stanford organizer, said the group was “very proud of Stanford taking this leadership position.” Bill McKibben, leader of 350.org, emphasized that Stanford “knows the havoc that climate change creates around our planet… Other forward-thinking and internationally minded institutions will follow, I’m sure.” Maura Cowley, executive director of Energy Action Coalition, called the decision a “huge, huge victory.”
Stanford’s focus on divesting from coal includes about 100 companies wordwide which have coal mining as their primary activity. The decision came after an advisory panel of students, faculty, staff and alumni spent about five months studying the issue before making their recommendation, Deborah DeCotis, the chairwoman of the board’s special committee on investment responsibility, told the New York Times.
Fossil Fuels Meet Criteria for “Substantial Social Injury”
The university’s decision to divest from coal hinged on three elements. First: the growing clout of the campaign to divest fossil fuel investments, which now has a base on 300 campuses. Second: Stanford’s internal guidance allows its trustees to consider whether “corporate policies or practices create substantial social injury” when choosing investments. Third: the Stanford coalition was successful in using a broad-based study group, in addition to protest and pressure tactics, to achieve consensus among students, faculty, staff and alumni, giving the trustees a solid basis for their decision. It’s likely that, having witnessed this major success, other university-based groups will emulate their tactics. While coal currently stands alone in Stanford’s decision to divest, Ms. DeCotis told the Times,
This is not the ending point. It’s a process. We’re a research institute, and as the technology develops to make other forms of alternative energy sources available, we will continue to review and make decisions about things we should not be invested in. Don’t interpret this as a pass on other things.”
“Other things” should include shale oil and gas, damaging fossil fuel infrastructure, and other aspects of extreme energy extraction, such as the uranium mining which has poisoned First Nations’ lands for many decades. The vagueness of “other things” leaves us on the edge of our seats, eager to witness Act Two as Stanford begins to take its moral responsibility to stop escalating climate change more seriously.
Looking Forward: Fracking, Earthquakes, and Divestment
Yesterday’s New York Times physically positioned its prominent coverage of Stanford’s decision, “Stanford to Purge $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock,” on page A15, immediately below its major story on climate, “U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Scientists Find in Study.” But they also positioned it immediately to the left of “Scientists See Quake Risk Increasing in Oklahoma,” as if to remind alert readers that those who laughed a few years ago at the prospect of increasing frequency and intensity of earthquakes due to underground injection of fracking waste… are no longer laughing. Oklahoma has already experienced 145 “small” earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher this year, according to scientists with the United States Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. Prior to the onset of fracking waste injection wells, for thirty years — the three decades until 2009 — Oklahoma averaged only two quakes a year of magnitude 3.0 or higher. Scientists now say that the sharp rise in the number of earthquakes due to oil and gas flowback injection underground has “significantly increased the chances that a damaging quake will occur there.” Perhaps water contamination from shale gas and oil operations; massive climate-harming methane leaks throughout the extraction, processing and transportation life-cycle of shale gas; intense air pollution; and harms to public health — not to mention earthquakes — from high-volume horizontal shale fracking with multi-well pads… will soon be on Stanford’s list of fossil fuels that create “substantial social injury” as the divestment movement broadens, deepens, and wins.
Hundreds evacuated after Wash. gas plant explosion
A fire broke out on Monday at a Plymouth, Washington, natural gas storage facility operated by Williams Partners, and was followed by an explosion, a local fire department official told Reuters.
The fire started at the facility early on Monday and was followed by an explosion in one storage tank, said Ed Dunbar, a captain with the Benton County Fire District office. Messages left for Williams’ officials were not immediately returned.
Residents within a two-mile (3.2 km) radius of the area were told to evacuate, Dunbar said.
The fire’s cause was still unknown. Local media have reported some injuries.
According to its website, Williams operates a liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Plymouth. To create LNG, natural gas is cooled to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit at which point it condenses into a clear, orderless liquid, according to Williams’ website.
The LNG is stored in large tanks, built with a double-wall design, Williams said.
Shares in The Williams Cos Inc fell 1.2 percent in early afternoon trading. A Williams spokesman told CNBC the company was in the midst of responding to the incident.
–By Reuters. CNBC contributed to this report.
Posted: Mar 31, 2014 9:23 AM PST Updated: Mar 31, 2014 9:23 AM PST
PLYMOUTH, WA – Firefighters are evacuating hundreds of people in Plymouth, Washington after a fire and explosion at the Williams Northwest Pipeline facility, a natural gas plant.
Firefighters from several agencies are performing a structural strike team response at the facility at 42612 Christie Road.
We’ve heard reports of at least one injury. Plymouth has a population of around 300 people.
Over the police scanners, one first responder said a 1.2 billion cubic foot natural gas container exploded, which has created a cloud that is evaporating, and heading towards Plymouth.
911 dispatchers are contacting the Paterson, Kennewick and Umatilla School Districts to bring in school buses to help with the evacuations.
Dispatchers say they’re shutting down Christie Road and Highway 14 surrounding the plant.
Several people living around the Plymouth area, some as far as three miles away, say they felt the explosion and can see the smoke.
We have a reporter headed to the area to learn more. Stay tuned for updates.
1 hurt in natural gas blast at Washington plant
By The Associated Press Updated: Monday, March 31, 2014, 10:36 am Published: Monday, March 31, 2014, 9:38 am
PLYMOUTH, Wash. (AP) — An explosion and fire at a Williams Northwest Pipeline plant near the Washington-Oregon border have injured one worker and prompted evacuations at the facility and at nearby homes.
Company spokeswoman Michele Swaner says all employees were evacuated and accounted for after the explosion Monday morning at the Plymouth, Wash., plant, where liquefied natural gas is converted into vapor. She says one employee was burned but will recover.
Benton County Emergency Operations spokeswoman Carol Cimrhakl says people in a 2-mile radius of the plant are being evacuated.
Tri-City Herald reports Highway 14 through Plymouth is being closed.
The fire was still burning at 10 a.m. Swaner says it’s too early to determine the extent of the damage or how it happened.
Williams operates two liquefied natural gas tanks at Plymouth, which is across the Columbia River from Umatilla, Ore.