On Thursday, the Justice Department announced the biggest environmental settlement in history with Anadarko Petroleum, reaching a $5.15 billion deal to clean up dozens of sites across the United States and compensate more than 7,000 people living with the effects of the contamination.
So how many places were touched by Kerr-McGee’s toxic legacy of uranium mining, wood treatment, rocket-fuel processing and other activities? Take a look at this map…
Click here to view the map of Kerr-McGee environmental sites. Note that Kerr-McGee’s toxic legacy touches almost every state in the country. Also, why are we not surprised that Kerr-McGee is a subsidiary of an oil company?
Fossil fuel spills, messes, accidents and even disasters occur all the time, but it’s highly likely that most aren’t reported by the media. In this feature on Scaling Green, we’re going to keep an informal, running tally of notable oil, natural gas, and coal messes in the United States that were reported in the news media. And just for run, we’ll also throw in any solar spills, aka “sunny days,” that happen to come along. For instance, today (April 3, 2014) is a beautiful, sunny day in Arlington, Virginia, where Scaling Green is headquartered.
OIL March 24, 2014:BP more than doubles estimate of oil spill in Lake Michigan (“BP, the petroleum giant, has more than doubled its estimate of how much crude oil it spilled this week into Lake Michigan, a source of drinking water for some 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs.”) March 22, 2014:Shipping Channel Opens Partially After Huge Oil Spill in Galveston Bay (“Almost 100 ships had been waiting to pass since 4,000 barrels of oil leaked into Galveston Bay on Saturday from a barge that collided with a ship.”) March 21, 2014: Hiland Crude Pipeline Spills Oil Near Alexander, ND (“Cleanup workers have contained about 34,000 gallons of crude that spewed from a broken oil pipeline in northwestern North Dakota, a state health official said Friday.”) December 30, 2013: 400,000 gallons of crude oil spilled in North Dakota train crash (“About 400,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from 18 rail cars after after a Dec. 30 derailment near Casselton, N.D…An ensuing explosion sent a massive mushroom cloud of fire above the prairie and forced the evacuation of 1,400 residents”) March 29, 2013: 2013 Mayflower oil spill (“…an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian Wabasca heavy crude from the Athabasca oil sands ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock… A reported 5,000−7,000 barrels of crude were spilled” from Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline.) March 9, 2013: 2013 Magnolia Refinery Oil Spill (“…the line between a vital pump and an oil storage container broke…a reported 15,000 barrels…of crude oil into the Little Corney Creek [near] the town of Magnolia, Arkansas. The resulting oil slick was approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long on the surface of the water…”) October 29, 2012: Arthur Kill Oil Spill: Hurricane Sandy’s Surge Dumps Diesel Into New Jersey Waterway (“…almost 350,000 gallons of fuel that spilled as a result of superstorm Sandy…a tank ruptured at a storage facility owned by Motiva Enterprises LLC, a joint venture of Shell and Saudi Refining Inc. Diesel spilled into the Arthur Kill, a narrow waterway separating New Jersey and Staten Island…”) July 1, 2011: Yellowstone River Oil Spill (“An ExxonMobil pipeline which runs from Silver Tip, to Billings, Montana ruptured about 10 miles west of Billings…The resulting spill leaked an estimated 1,500 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River…for 56 minutes before it was shut down.”) July 26, 2010: Kalamazoo River oil spill (“…a 40-foot pipe segment in Line 6B, located approximately 0.6 of a mile downstream of the Marshall, Michigan pump station, ruptured. The rupture in the Enbridge Energy pipeline caused a 877,000 US gallons (3,320 m3) spill of diluted bitumen also called tar sands or heavy crude oil originating from Canada (Alberta and Saskatchewan) into Talmadge Creek in Calhoun County, Michigan, which flows into the Kalamazoo River”)
COAL February 3, 2014: Up To 82,000 Tons Of Toxic Coal Ash Spilled Into North Carolina River From ‘Antiquated’ Storage Pit (“Duke Energy, which owns the Dan River Steam Station, retired since 2012, estimates that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from the 27-acre storage pond [into the Dan River]…Coal ash is a toxic waste byproduct from burning coal, usually stored with water in large ponds.”) January 9, 2014: 2014 Elk River chemical spill (“crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol…was released from a Freedom Industries facility into the Elk River, a tributary of the Kanawha River, in Charleston…West Virginia…up to 300,000 residents within nine counties in the Charleston, West Virginia metropolitan area were without access to potable water.”)
I’ve been working to fight the proposed Keystone XL pipeline for four years (one for Tom Steyer). But if I step back from the work for any one organization or person, I have to say that if President Obama rejects this boondoggle, we will all owe a thank-you note to TransCanada and the tar sands lobby for the cloddish way they have tried to push this dirty oil pipeline through.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that when powerful polluter lobbies start getting desperate about something they want, they often slip into a hamhandedness in their rhetoric and actions. It hurts their cause, but they just can’t seem to help themselves.
When it comes to the tar sands lobby, it’s hard to pinpoint when this quality first started to surface. Maybe it was Prime Minister Harper saying he “wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer” from our president, who actually does have the final say. Or when Mr. Harper suggested he’ll wait out President Obama for a more favorable decision from a successor.
Canadian ambassador Gary Doer helped things along by warning us that a principle-based rejection of Keystone XL by President Obama will “definitely strain” our relations with his country. How’s that for diplomacy?
Then there were the hyperbolic job claims from the across the tar sands lobby. Mapping them here, you can see the many people — particularly the president — are skeptical of the pipeline’s job creation potential.
And we shouldn’t forget the laughable sleight of hand from TransCanada CEO Russ Girling. When the truth of his company’s claims of Keystone bringing “energy from a trusted ally” were questioned, he reassured us: “Not a chance. Not in my lifetime… I have talked to every one of our customers, both producers and refiners, I’ve asked them the question again — do you have any intent of shipping any of this crude oil offshore and the answer is absolutely not.” Um, of course the crude is staying here. It’s is going to be piped to refineries for refining at export facilities on the Gulf Coast — from where it will be… exported.
The most recent kicker is TransCanada Executive Vice-President and President of Development, Alexander Pourbaix telling us that this filthy tar sands oil is just like the other types of oil — “oil is oil.” That’s ridiculous. This isn’t oil. It’s tar diluted with highly toxic chemicals to form a highly corrosive brew that increases the likelihood of pipeline leaks. And, once it spills, it’s very difficult to clean, as people in as people in Arkansas,Michigan and North Dakota can tell you. It’s pretty clear that the tar sands lobby has convinced itself that Americans are a bunch of pushovers and suckers, and that acting like a bunch of blowhards is a winning strategy. But it’s not. No matter how many lobbyists you hire or how much propaganda you push, this is our president’s decision to make.
The best thing for you to do is to stop skating around the question of how much of Keystone’s oil, once refined, will stay here. Answer it definitively — under oath — and take the decision you get like a bunch of grown-ups.
If you take a pass, then accept my thanks. There’s no way we’ll have been able to do it without you.
Recent polling has indicated strong support by the American public for approving construction of the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands export pipeline. Yet this support is based on a series of falsehoods, spread by the very people who stand to benefit from the pipeline’s approval (go figure!). Here are five of those falsehoods, and our explanation as to why they’re false.
1. A Bloomberg poll in December 2013 found that 56% of Americans described Keystone XL as “an opportunity to improve U.S. energy security.” In other words, Americans correctly believe that being addicted to foreign oil is not a good thing. The problem is that the fossil fuel industry has relentlessly propagandized people to believe there’s no credible alternative to their product. Of course, as we know, there most certainly is an alternative to large-scale oil imports: making our transportation fleet far more energy efficient than it is today; switching to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy; promoting high-speed rail, transit-oriented development, etc. Combined, those measures could slash U.S. oil consumption so that we don’t need to import any oil at all, let alone from unfriendly countries. Yet the oil industry would have us believe that we’ll be forever addicted to their product. How convenient…for them, that is.
2. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that although a plurality (47%) of Americans believe (correctly) that Keystone XL would pose a “significant risk to the environment,” a large majority (85%-10%) also believe that the pipeline will create a “significant number of jobs.” In reality, Keystone XL would create almost no jobs at all: just 35 (or possibly 50) permanent ones, as the pipeline would be mostly automated. That, in a country of 300 million people, would be utterly inconsequential. Yet the drumbeat of lies from the oil industry and its allies about the supposed bonanza of Keystone XL-related jobs has continued unabated. For instance, as Media Matters noted last March
Media are touting the claim from Rep. Paul Ryan’s new budget plan that constructing the Keystone XL pipeline would create nearly 140,000 jobs, but that figure comes from exaggerating a heavily criticized, industry-funded analysis. Reuters uncritically repeated the Ryan budget’s assertion that constructing Keystone XL would create “20,000 direct jobs and 118,000 indirect jobs.” Fox News host Sean Hannity later claimed the pipeline would create “nearly 140,000 jobs,”
This is yet another example of why Fox News President Roger Ailes has been effective at polarizing the news media viewing audience, with the Fox News demographic buying into the alternative universe created by incessantly repeated Fox falsehoods.
3. A June 2013 Harris poll (paid for by the American Petroleum Institute, so take this one with a large grain of salt) found that “82% of registered voters believe building the Keystone pipeline system is in the national interest.” There’s just one problem with that belief, and it’s a huge one: the Canadian tar sands oil slated to flow through the pipeline is not destined for the United States, but for export markets. Don’t take our word for it, though. Here’s what an independent study by Cornell University researchershad to say on this subject.
This paper is primarily concerned about jobs, but the findings below also shine light on another claim made by the industry—that KXL will get the US further on the road to energy independence. The idea of energy independence clearly resonates with the American public, and the paid advertisements depicting Canadian Tar Sands as the source of “ethical oil” (and therefore a better option than oil from dictatorships like Saudi Arabia) plays to that sentiment. But KXL is a global project driven by global oil interests. Tar Sands development has attracted investment capital from oil multinationals—with Chinese corporations’ stake getting bigger all the time. If approved, KXL will be almost certainly be constructed by temporary labor working with steel made in Canada and India. Much of the Tar Sands oil will be refined in Port refinery is half-owned by Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia. And a good portion of the oil that will gush down the KXL will, according to some studies, probably end up being finally consumed beyond the territorial United States. Indeed, the oil industry is also trying to build another pipeline, Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway, to carry Tar Sands oil across British Columbia for export to Asian markets, although this pipeline also faces serious public opposition. Clearly, Tar Sands oil and energy independence really do not belong in the same sentence.
Let’s repeat: “Tar Sands oil and energy independence really do not belong in the same sentence.” Case closed.
KXL will divert Tar Sands oil now supplying Midwest refineries, so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. As a result, consumers in the Midwest could be paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel. These additional costs (estimated to total $2–4 billion) will suppress other spending and will therefore cost jobs.
The argument made by people like Tom Steyer is the right one – this is an foreign oil export pipeline, not an American job creator. Would Midwesterners show such strong support for Keystone XL if they were as familiar with these facts as they are with the reams of paid, false oil industry ads deluging their TV screens and computer monitors? We strongly doubt it.
5. Similarly, the Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that Midwesterners and Southerners are among the least concerned that Keystone XL would pose a threat to the environment. Yet the route of Keystone XL takes it through the Midwest and South, where an oil spill could devastate communities in its path, just as this spill did. And this one. Not to mention this disaster. Of course, you’ll never hear about any of that in the Pollyana-ish propaganda paid for by our petroleum pals.
The bottom line is that the fossil fuel industry should have no credibility whatsoever on this subject, yet it’s got money to burn on a constant stream of pro-industry (and anti-clean-energy) propaganda. Calling out their outrageous dishonesty (not to mention chutzpah!) needs to be a central ingredient in any clean energy or environmental pushback. Of course, it would be great if one could just cite the facts of the matter and count on everyone to reach the correct conclusion. But, as we know, public debates are not a meritocracy. And the fact is that, to date, not nearly enough has been done to accurately explain to the American people who the proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are, and why they feel the need to spend millions of dollars convincing them to believe an alternative set of “facts.” Hence, the unfortunate poll results we just finished deconstructing.