Exxon Mobil

Everything You Need to Know About the Exxon Pegasus Tar Sands Spill

Everything You Need to Know About the Exxon Pegasus Tar Sands Spill

In Greek legend, everytime the winged horse Pegasus struck his hoof to the Earth, an “inspiring spring burst forth.” Unfortunately for residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, when the Pegasus pipeline ruptured, the only thing bursting forth was a nasty tar sands oil spill.

On Friday afternoon,the Pegasus pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil ruptured, flooding an Arkansas neighborhood with thousands of barrels of Wabasca Heavy crude from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta.Here’s what you need to know about the spill, with links to some reporting on this awful event, which at very least ruined the holiday weekends of many Mayflower, Arkansas residents, many of whom didn’t even know the pipeline was running through their neighborhood.
What is Pegasus?

The 20-inch pipeline carries diluted bitumen — originating from the Alberta tar sands — for 858 miles from Patoka, Illinois to refineries in Nederland, Texas. It was built in the 1940s and can carry up to 95,000 barrels a day.

Pegasus was built to funnel crude from the Gulf Coast up to the Midwest, but the flow was reversed in 2006 to help relieve the tar sands crude bottleneck in Cushing, Oklahoma. (The same reason given by proponents for the construction of Keystone XL.)

It is worth noting that a similar line reversal has been proposed by Enbridge to potentially ship tar sands crude for Atlantic export from a port in Maine.

In 2009, Exxon Mobil successfully petitioned regulators to allow them to expand capacity on the pipeline from 65,000 barrels per day to 95,000 barrels per day, a nearly 50 percent increase.

How bad is the spill?

In 45 minutes, the spill spread through the suburban neighborhood, filling the streets and covering lawns with dilbit.

Because of the dangerous vapors emitted from the dilbit, residents of at least 22 homes were forced to evacuate.

Here’s a firsthand video account of the dilbit running over lawns and streets.

The spill was first estimated by the EPA at 84,000 gallons, but already over 189,000 gallons of oil and water (combined) have been collected.

On Mother Jones, Kate Sheppard has written about her frustrating interactions with Exxon and is properly chastising the company for its vague answers.

Is it under control?

Cleanup crews scrambled to prevent the diluted bitumen (or dilbit) from reaching Lake Conway, an important local source of drinking water and a popular recreation spot. A local judge, who was responsible for declaring a state of emergency and is coordinating response efforts, told Lisa Song of InsideClimate News that they were successful in doing so.

Dodson said emergency crews led a “monumentally successful” effort to prevent the Exxon spill from entering nearby Lake Conway, a popular recreational area. First responders set up earthen dams to contain the flow of oil, he said, and crews are working to shore up the protections as rains continue to fall and complicate the cleanup operations.

Sign of things to come?

Just last week, we wrote about how the oil spill from a derailed train in Minnesota was being used by Keystone XL boosters as an argument for the pipeline. We sarcastically ended that post with a “sure, pipelines never spill,” linking to a catalog of multiple spills along existing stretches of the Keystone pipeline system.

Pegasus provides yet another example — on top of those Keystone spills and the so-called DilBit Disaster of Enbridge’s Line 6B — of how pipelines carrying tar sands crude are more susceptible to leaks and ruptures and spills. Here’s an earlier post on the many problems with tar sands pipelines.

Who is on this story?

We’ll update this story with any new developments, but here are some of the best pieces of reporting on the Pegasus spill thus far:

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This article is written by Ben Jervey and is published at http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/04/01/everything-you-need-know-about-exxon-pegasus-tar-sands-spill

DeSmogBlog logoPhoto: AJ Zoltan on Facebook

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science

Funding climate deniersnn :  Americans For Prosperity

Climate sceptic groups are mobilising against Obama’s efforts to act on climate change in his second term. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(editor’s note:  this article refers to even more about members of the ALEC/Koch Cabal and their efforts to promote climate change denial)

How Donors Trust distributed millions to anti-climate groups

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives.

The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.

Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes.
Koch Industries Executive Vice President David H. Koch : Funding climate chang deniersThe funding stream far outstripped the support from more visible opponents of climate action such as the oil industry or the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” she said in an interview.

By definition that means none of the money is going to end up with groups like Greenpeace, she said. “It won’t be going to liberals.”

Ball won’t divulge names, but she said the stable of donors represents a wide range of opinion on the American right. Increasingly over the years, those conservative donors have been pushing funds towards organisations working to discredit climate science or block climate action.

Donors exhibit sharp differences of opinion on many issues, Ball said. They run the spectrum of conservative opinion, from social conservatives to libertarians. But in opposing mandatory cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, they found common ground.

“Are there both sides of an environmental issue? Probably not,” she went on. “Here is the thing. If you look at libertarians, you tend to have a lot of differences on things like defence, immigration, drugs, the war, things like that compared to conservatives. When it comes to issues like the environment, if there are differences, they are not nearly as pronounced.”

By 2010, the dark money amounted to $118m distributed to 102 thinktanks or action groups which have a record of denying the existence of a human factor in climate change, or opposing environmental regulations.

The money flowed to Washington thinktanks embedded in Republican party politics, obscure policy forums in Alaska and Tennessee, contrarian scientists at Harvard and lesser institutions, even to buy up DVDs of a film attacking Al Gore.

The ready stream of cash set off a conservative backlash against Barack Obama’s environmental agenda that wrecked any chance of Congress taking action on climate change.
Graphic-climate-denial-secret funding - guardian UKGraphic: climate denial funding

Those same groups are now mobilising against Obama’s efforts to act on climate change in his second term. A top recipient of the secret funds on Wednesday put out a point-by-point critique of the climate content in the president’s state of the union address.

And it was all done with a guarantee of complete anonymity for the donors who wished to remain hidden.

“The funding of the denial machine is becoming increasingly invisible to public scrutiny. It’s also growing. Budgets for all these different groups are growing,” said Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, which compiled the data on funding of the anti-climate groups using tax records.

“These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable. There is no transparency, no accountability for the money. There is no way to tell who is funding them,” Davies said.

The trusts were established for the express purpose of managing donations to a host of conservative causes.

Such vehicles, called donor-advised funds, are not uncommon in America. They offer a number of advantages to wealthy donors. They are convenient, cheaper to run than a private foundation, offer tax breaks and are lawful.

That opposition hardened over the years, especially from the mid-2000s where the Greenpeace record shows a sharp spike in funds to the anti-climate cause.

In effect, the Donors Trust was bankrolling a movement, said Robert Brulle, a Drexel University sociologist who has extensively researched the networks of ultra-conservative donors.

“This is what I call the counter-movement, a large-scale effort that is an organised effort and that is part and parcel of the conservative movement in the United States ” Brulle said. “We don’t know where a lot of the money is coming from, but we do know that Donors Trust is just one example of the dark money flowing into this effort.”

In his view, Brulle said: “Donors Trust is just the tip of a very big iceberg.”

The rise of that movement is evident in the funding stream. In 2002, the two trusts raised less than $900,000 for the anti-climate cause. That was a fraction of what Exxon Mobil or the conservative oil billionaire Koch brothers donated to climate skeptic groups that year.

By 2010, the two Donor Trusts between them were channelling just under $30m to a host of conservative organisations opposing climate action or science. That accounted to 46% of all their grants to conservative causes, according to the Greenpeace analysis.

The funding stream far outstripped the support from more visible opponents of climate action such as the oil industry or the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, the records show. When it came to blocking action on the climate crisis, the obscure charity in the suburbs was outspending the Koch brothers by a factor of six to one.

“There is plenty of money coming from elsewhere,” said John Mashey, a retired computer executive who has researched funding for climate contrarians. “Focusing on the Kochs gets things confused. You can not ignore the Kochs. They have their fingers in too many things, but they are not the only ones.”

It is also possible the Kochs continued to fund their favourite projects using the anonymity offered by Donor Trust.

But the records suggest many other wealthy conservatives opened up their wallets to the anti-climate cause – an impression Ball wishes to stick.

She argued the media had overblown the Kochs support for conservative causes like climate contrarianism over the years. “It’s so funny that on the right we think George Soros funds everything, and on the left you guys think it is the evil Koch brothers who are behind everything. It’s just not true. If the Koch brothers didn’t exist we would still have a very healthy organisation,” Ball said.

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Shareowners Press on with Anti-Fracking Campaign

Nine oil and gas companies face shareowner resolutions this proxy season requesting quantitative reporting of risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and the management of fugitive methane emissions.

Socialstop frackinigFunds.com — Nine leading oil and gas companies—Cabot Oil and Gas, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, EOG Resources, ONEOK, Pioneer Natural Resources, Spectra Energy, Range Resources and Ultra Petroleum—face shareowner resolutions this proxy season requesting that they quantifiably measure and reduce the environmental and social impacts of hydraulic fracturing, according to Ceres.

The proposals on fracking were filed by a number of organizations, including As You Sow, Calvert Investments, Green Century Capital Management, New York City Office of the Comptroller, The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and Trillium Asset Management. The resolution filed with Cabot by the New York State Common Retirement Fund has been withdrawn due to commitments on disclosure made by the company.

Since 2009, when shareowners filed the first of 21 resolutions that by 2010 had gained an unprecedented 40% support, concerns over the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have gone mainstream. Risks associated with contamination by toxic chemicals of community drinking water supplies, the disposal of massive volumes of wastewater, and increased air emissions have been widely covered in the media, threatening the social license to operate of companies engaged in the controversial practice.

Green Century, which filed this year’s resolutions with EOG Resources and Ultra Petroleum, coordinates a shareowner campaign on fracking with the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN). “Transparency is the first step, but oil and gas companies must now implement quantifiable plans to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment,” Leslie Samuelrich of Green Century said.

“State regulations do not provide adequate protection from the adverse effects of shale gas operations,” the resolution filed with EOG Resources states. “Shareholders request that the Board of Directors publish a set of systematic policies for tracking and responding to community concerns, reducing the use of toxic chemicals, disclosing violations, and reporting to shareholders, on an annual basis via quantitative indicators, the results of these policies.”

“Oil and gas firms face clear environmental and business risks, and general assurances of safety and anecdotes about site-specific actions are not sufficient for investors,” said Richard Liroff, Executive Director of IEHN. “Shareholders want to know how companies are systematically tackling environmental risk and community impact concerns and the measurable results of these efforts.”

Resolutions addressing fugitive methane emissions from the fracking process were filed with Range Resources, ONEOK, and Spectra Energy by Trillium Asset Management. “Given the high short-term climate impact of methane emissions, it is now an open question whether natural gas can serve as a bridge fuel to a more sustainable energy future,” said Natasha Lamb of Trillium. “Companies can and should reduce their emissions using new technologies with positive return on investment.”

Last year, an international coalition of institutional investors with $1 trillion in assets under management, led by IEHN, Boston Common Asset Management, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) called for the adoption of best practices by corporations engaged in hydraulic fracturing. Also last year, an international coalition of institutional investment organizations with assets under management in excess of $20 trillion called on companies and governments to minimize methane emitted in the fracking process.

“The oil and gas industry must account for its impact on natural resources, the climate and communities,” said Mindy Lubber, director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) and president of Ceres. “The environmental risks of fracking have bottom-line impacts, and investors are right to be demanding better performance from oil and gas firms.”

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This article was written by Robert Kropp and is published at http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/3741.html

Social Funds

ALEC Leads Attack on North Carolina Clean Energy with Duke Funding

Corporate polluters are taking aim this year at states with renewable energy laws, starting with an attack on North Carolina’s clean energy economy by a corporate front group known as ALEC with support from Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, and Koch Industries.

NC Rep. Mike Hager: ALEC member and former Duke Energy employee.

North Carolina state Representative Mike Hager says he is confident that he has the votes needed to weaken or undo his state’s clean energy requirements during his second term. Rep. Hager is a former Duke Energy engineer and a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Duke and Progress Energy (now legally merged) have given Rep. Hager $14,500 for his last two election bids, outspent only by the NC Republican Party.

This is where ALEC makes things awkward for Duke Energy: the law that Rep. Mike Hager is targeting (2007 SB3) was created with input from Duke Energy, and Duke explicitly opposes ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act,” the model law to repeal state Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS). Duke Energy re-asserted its support for North Carolina’s REPS law to the Charlotte Business Journal last April and Progress Energy publicly supported the law before merging with Duke. More →