Oil

Exxon Fracking Fluid Spill In Pennsylvania Dumps Estimated 13,000 Gallons Into Nearby Waterways

  • Posted on: 28 November 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Crossposted from DeSmogBlog.com, authored by Brendan DeMelle.

XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after a 13,000 gallon hydraulic fracturing fluid spill at XTO Energy's natural gas drilling site in Penn Township, Lycoming County, PA.

The spill was first discovered last week by a DEP inspector who found a valve had been left open on a 21,000-gallon fracking fluid tank, discharging fluid off the well pad into local waterways, threatening a nearby cattle herd that had to be fenced off from the contaminated pasture.  Exxon/XTO has not provided an explanation on why the valve was left open.

“This spill was initially estimated at more than 13,000 gallons by the company and has polluted an unnamed tributary to Sugar Run and a spring,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Nels Taber. “There are also two private drinking water wells in the vicinity that will be sampled for possible impacts.”

DEP's sampling confirmed elevated levels of conductivity and salinity in the spring and unnamed tributary, clear indications that the fracking fluid was present in the waterways.

Exxon paid $30 billion in its June 2010 merger with Texas-based XTO Energy, making Exxon/XTO the largest natural gas producer in the United States, with extensive holdings of "unconventional resources" throughout the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere.


Concerns over natural gas fracking
are widespread through the Marcellus Shale region and in several Western U.S. states where a boom in natural gas development is underway thanks to the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique.  Residents living near fracking operations are on the front lines as their drinking water supplies and health are threatened by the fracking process, which involves injecting a mixture of sand, water and undisclosed toxic chemicals into the shale rock to free up the trapped gas.

Pennsylvania is no stranger to fracking disasters, notably the high-profile contamination in the town of Dimock, where resident Norma Fiorentino's water well famously blew up on New Year's Day 2009, and at least 15 families have had their drinking water ruined by fracking, leading to illness, livestock deaths and other maladies.

Last week, the Pittsburgh City Council banned natural gas fracking within city limits due to concerns over the threat of water contamination and public health risks.

But Pennsylvania is hardly alone in the fracking fight. Fracking operations have contaminated water supplies across America from New York, to Wyoming, to New Mexico, to Ohio, to Virginia, to Arkansas, to Colorado and beyond.

The Environmental Protection Agency currently has no power to regulate hydraulic fracturing thanks to the Halliburton Loophole inserted into the 2005 enegy bill at the behest of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the former head of Halliburton.

Mounting evidence of the fracking threat nationwide has yet to convince lawmakers to close the loophole and hold the natural gas industry accountable for its fracking messes. As the New York Times asked in a November 2009 editorial, "if hydraulic fracturing is as safe as the industry says it is, why should it fear regulation?"

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Exxon Agrees to Pay $25 million for Superfund Cleanup in Newtown Creek

  • Posted on: 18 November 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Photo credit: Oils Well in Brooklyn

A three year New York lawsuit against ExxonMobil over the cleanup of Newtown Creek, a heavily polluted section of Brooklyn's Greenpoint area, has resulted in the oil giant's agreement to contribute $25 million to boost remediation of the area, as well as $5 million in penalties and costs.

Newton Creek was finally added to the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund National Priorities List at the end of September, well over a century after heavy industrial activity contaminated the area with millions of gallons of oil, poisonous PCBs, pesticides, and other highly dangerous substances.  Also responsible for major oil spills in the area are supermajors BP and Chevron.

The addition of many Congressional polluter-allies through the midterm elections doesn't bode well for the Superfund program, which went bankrupt in 2003 following a major loss of tax income in 1995.  While the EPA has asked Congress for a renewal of taxation on petrochemical companies in order to fund the cleanup of their ongoing messes, as opposed to using public funds to take responsibility for the pollution.  Industry opposition plays the same scare-cards we see over and over: forced outsourcing, dead jobs, and a loss of international marketplace competiton.

As ExxonMobil barely scrapes by with a 2009 profit of 19.2 billion and Chevron's meager $10.4 billion net revenue, it's understandable why the industry would be concerned.  Exxon's recent $30 million commitment sucks up a staggering 0.002% of their 2009 profit.

This story was picked up from the New York Times.

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DeSmogBlog: Valero's Ties to Tar Sands Fueled Prop 23 Funding

  • Posted on: 12 November 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

The tar sands of northern Alberta, Canada can be seen from space.  Photo credit.

DeSmogBlog's Emma Pullman recently took a look at how Valero Energy's investments in the devastating tar sands of Alberta, Canada motivated their funding of Proposition 23. 

Tar sands mining has been credited as the largest industrial project on the planet, and comes with extreme costs to the region's people, forests, waterways, animal species, and the broader specter of global warming.  If you missed it, National Geographic published a great piece on the controversies of tar sand operations.

As noted by DeSmog, Valero faces declining oil sources from Mexico and a shifty political scene in Venezuela, turning to the tar sands craze in Canada to secure more access to oil.  The rapid development of tar sands extraction has helped secure Canada as the United States' top supplier of oil--we import almost twice as much oil from Canada as from Saudi Arabia, and half of Canada's oil is sourced from tar sands mining.

As the refining of bitumen from tar sands mines creates particularly dirty fuel, Valero and the other oil companies crawling around northern Alberta aren't happy to see California's Global Warming Solutions Act survive Proposition 23.  Pullman notes:

As tar sands oil has a much larger carbon footprint than conventional oil, climate change legislation targeted by Prop 23 would limit California's imports of high-carbon fuels -- fuels that would likely include toxic tar sands oil from Alberta.  Valero's Texas refineries may be halfway across the United States, but industry worries about the 'domino effect' of climate change legislative efforts and how they may be adopted elsewhere.

While Prop 23 flopped, Proposition 26 did pass, to the delight of some of its most philanthropic financiers.  Chevron spent almost $4 million on the initiative, and ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Shell, and Occidental Petroleum added another $1,125,000.  

All of these giants are involved in tar sands production, and have just as much motivation as Valero to roadblock a low carbon fuel standard.

Be sure to check out Pullman's full article on Valero's mischief.

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Charles Koch Gives Concerned Student the Cold, Oily Shoulder

  • Posted on: 29 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Charles Koch Refuses to Accept Debate Challenge In-Person, Responds with Security Team

Making good his promise to visit Charles Koch, Cal State LA Senior Joel Francis flew to Wichita, Kansas to the headquarters of Koch Industries and personally delivered a letter re-challenging the oil CEO to a public debate on the future of California's economy. 

Of particular concern for Francis is the $1 million that Koch funneled to support Proposition 23, the ballot measure to undermine California's greenhouse gas reduction targets and clean energy implementation.  The role of wholly-owned Koch subsidiary Flint Hills in funding Prop 23, as well as Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro, has tuned California voters in to the reality of what the ballot measure truly exists to do: protect the profits of fossil fools and prevent a rapidly growing clean energy sector from ever being able to compete with dirty energy providers.

Francis certainly caught the CEO's attention with his initial challenge, as security guards and a Koch representative were ready to meet Francis once he arrived at the corporate campus.

Francis was promised--on camera--that his letter would be delivered to Charles Koch, but has not received a response, even under the condition that Charles himself could set the terms and location of the debate.  Apparently Charles doesn't feel the need to have any public accountability as he continues to work behind the scenes, pulling the strings of the tea party to upend the political system in favor of private corporate profit at the expense of human health, economic diversification and ecological integrity.

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Servants of Oil Increase Funding and Misinformation in Prop 23 Battle

  • Posted on: 25 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Following voter opposition to Proposition 23 and the recent surge in funding to counter the oily measure, Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro (who "are not oil companies," by the way)  have respectively added $1 million and $500,000 to the fight.  The dirty energy proposition would victimize clean energy jobs and development, not to mention legislative innovation and an already struggling climate.

There has been a lot of confusion about how Prop 23 relates to jobs, as the oil industry has cultivated fears of job loss through some questionable studies.  The Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, which is funded by the likes of Art Pope and the Koch brothers, has crafted a report designed to create hysteria among economically-wary Californians (read: most Californians), claiming formidable implications on jobs and state economic output. 

The funny thing, and by funny I mean dishonest, is that this report conveniently avoids looking at the economic benefits of the climate law that Prop 23 would cripple.  It also fails to mention that by the end of the decade, Proposition 23 will make California electricity cost 33% more.  And it also doesn't note that the report's author has worked for the Cato Institute, which Charles Koch founded and David Koch remains a Board member, and the Manhattan Institute, yet another think tank funded by the likes of Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.  For a deeper look, check out what Rebecca Lefton has to say about the Pacific Research Institute's selective look at California's climate law.

Beyond publishing their own flawed report, the Pacific Research Institute is also promoting another attack-study to help sell Prop 23.  This publication has been heavily scrutinized--to the point of invalidity--by California's Legislative Analyst's Office, the Business Alliance for a Green Economy, and two professors from Standford University and UCLA.

This is not the first time that the Pacific Research Institute has used flawed studies to attack clean energy progress, as they continue to do with the heavily-touted, heavily-debunked "Spanish study."  Pretty typical for one of the Kochtopus' many tentacles.

For an excellent map of the oil money fueling Proposition 23, refer to Dirty Energy Money.

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As Koch Orchestrates Political Strategy Session, Student Demands Debate

  • Posted on: 21 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Student leader, Joel Francis, challenges Charles Koch to debate Prop 23 and CA's economic future

A challenge released today from Cal State LA senior Joel Francis directly confronts Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, to a debate on Proposition 23 and the future of California's economy.

Francis calls it like it is, noting that Prop 23 is backed by dirty industry, namely Koch Industries subsidiary Flint Hills and Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro.

The student also told Mr. Koch that he could choose the terms of debate, and warned that he would not allow Charles to ignore his request:

"Please know that silence isn't an option.  I'm not going to let you hide behind your billions of dollars in Wichita, Kansas.  If I don't hear back from you by Tuesday, I will be at the front door of your office to issue this challenge again, in person.  As the CEO of one of the largest privately-owned companies in the country, I know you couldn't possibly be afraid of just one college student."

Joel Francis is calling Charles Koch out

This video comes out at a time where the Koch brothers are receiving increased scrutiny for their role in funding and orchestrating the climate denial movement and other efforts to block societal progress.  Most recently, the New York Times and ThinkProgress drew national attention to a memo sent by Charles Koch to major "titans of industry," inviting wealthy and politically influential elites to a January meeting in Palm Springs, California.  Supplemental material in the memo warns that "the proceedings of this meeting are confidential," asking guests not to leave materials laying around and noting that the media will not be allowed in (check out the full memo, signed by Charles Koch).

This meeting is the next step in a series of biannual strategy sessions that the billionaires have been running for years.  The meetings that the Koch's orchestrated in the past have included some notable public figures, including Fred Malek (Karl Rove's top attack-ad fundraiser and former Nixon campaigner), Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips, and Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and Glenn Beck, who just days later thanked Charles Koch on his show for "information" that he used to attack climate change science.

As more and more of the Kochtopus is revealed to the public eye, it is going to be increasingly difficult for David Koch to continue to act as the benevolent billionaire and for Charles to hide behind the curtain, pulling strings of influence from his Wichita headquarters.  Maybe it's time for Charles to start opening up to the world - he can begin by accepting Joel Francis' debate challenge.

 

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Chevron Relentlessly Punked by the Yes Men

  • Posted on: 20 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Chevron takes responsibility for its most eggregious externalities? No way.

In coordination with the launch of a new Chevron ad campaign aimed at boosting public approval of their perceived corporate responsibility, the Yes Men, Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch carried out an elaborate public relations jam in which Chevron appeared to be owning up to its environmental and human rights crimes around the world.  Yeah, right.

The fake webpage and press release that the Yes Men published fooled several media outlets before they realized they were a juxtaposition of Chevron's continued corporate offenses.  Chevron released a reaction to the press, but the Yes Men countered with their own statement on behalf of the oil giant through another fake webpage, causing further confusion.  The fake response drew more attention to Chevron's multi-million dollar advertising budget and the ongoing lawsuit in Ecuador over Chevron's role in cleaning up after Texaco, which it purchased in 2001.  The merger was steered by current Chevron CEO John Watson.

The Yes Men are now calling on the public to continue punking Chevron's ad campaign.  For a more detailed synopsis of how Monday's antics unfolded, check out the Yes Men's press release.

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ConocoPhillips Bayway Refinery is a Serial Polluter

  • Posted on: 4 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

New Jersey's local ABC reports on the pollution regulation and enforcement problems surrounding the Bayway refinery, the largest refinery on the east coast, owned and operated by ConocoPhillips.  The plant has been cited for numerous pollution and safety violations.

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Koch and Fiorina: Champion Climate Obstructionists and Employment Outsourcers

  • Posted on: 28 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Check out the L.A. Times' comparison of the business practices of Senate-hopeful Carly Fiorina, Barbara Boxer's challenger, and Koch Industries, whose PAC donated to Fiorina at a fundraiser last week.  Koch, Valero and Tesoro are heavily invested in Proposition 23, the effort to suspend California's climate law, desperate to stall the  transition away from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy.

Fiorina has also come out in support of Proposition 23, which would freeze the state's legal power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement clean energy until the state's unemployment rate drops drastically and remains so for a full year.  Such low and prolonged unemployment has only been seen three times in the last 40 years.

Perhaps if Fiorina hadn't fired 30,000 people and outsourced thousands of more jobs as the CEO of HP, the unemployment rate is California wouldn't be so high.

Be sure to also check out the video footage of Greenpeace (and a few other protestors) at the National Republican Senatorial Committee Headquarters last week, asking Fiorina if she will stop accepting campaign donations from major polluters.

 

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Koch Dumps Big Bucks into Elections as it Dumps Employees

  • Posted on: 23 September 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

The Huffington Post reported today that Koch Industries is being called out by the Democratic National Committee for spending millions on Republican political candidates while laying off over 100 employees.

The obvious, major irony here is just how big the oil industry plays the "job killer" card every single time anything threatens their monumental profits, exaggerating potential negative economic impacts while conveniently ignoring the benefits.

By the way, the new Forbes rankings are in--Charles and David Koch are now tied for the fifth richest Americans (each worth $21.5 billion) up from number nine (about 16 billion).  Another slap in the face to laid off employees.

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