Inland Oil Spills Could Threaten Lakes, Streams and Rivers if Keystone XL Approved
Below is a recap of this week's news related to the ongoing Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. A new report is more cause for concern regarding inland oil spills and the potential that Keystone XL could make worse and existing problem. Also, Republicans continue to slow negotiations on the transportation bill with their misguided insistence that TransCanada's tar sands pipeline be included. See below for more:
News & Developments:
This month's Risk Analysis magazine found that there is a significant risk of oil spills at inland locations that threaten lakes, streams, and rivers. This study is particularly relevant as Nebraska and other inland states determine the environmental impact of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Currently, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has no particular process or checklist for determining whether or not a pipeline is environmentally sound.
USA Today reported on the findings saying, “Despite the attention paid to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, which released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the majority of oil spills, about 60%, are inland ones…The data in the study showed that inland crude oil spills occurred way more often near small towns of fewer than 10,000 people, accounting for 77% of the spills, which might raise concerns about response times to accidents. The study evaluated several dozen 'high-risk' watershed locations, rating them as two to five times as vulnerable to spills than the great mass of other watershed locations. 'Mostly it is where there are pipelines,' Brody says, not a big surprise."
Senate conferees attempted to move forward negotiations on the transportation bill putting together a proposal for their House colleagues. However, The Hill reports House Republicans “gave it an initially cool reception" because Senators Boxer and Inhofe, the bipartisan duo who pitched the plan, did not include a provision for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
While Republicans appear prepared to risk the passage of a necessary bill with their pet project, as the White House is threatening a veto of the bill if it includes the pipeline add-on. Politico's Morning Transportation this week quoted White House spokesperson Matt Lehrich who said “the GOP needs to 'put jobs and safety ahead of partisan politics.'" Anthony Swift of the NRDC agrees. Swift summed up why “Keystone has no place in the transportation bill" in an op-ed piece in The Hill.
In an AARP interview, President Obama states that Keystone XL is an export pipeline that will not reduce U.S. gas prices and acknowledges that the best way to keep gas prices low is to reduce demand. From the President: “they want to build a pipeline to pump from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, where they can then export that oil all around the world. It's not going to make a dent in gas prices here in the United States."
Quotes of the Week:
“We're fed up with the tactics. We demand transparency. We demand EPA involvement. And we demand that our concerns be openly and publicly addressed." – David Daniel, landowner affected by the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline
“Right now, we delivered our transportation [proposal] to them. The other [issues] we'll deal with after we do that. This is a transportation bill." – Senator Barbara Boxer
In Case You Missed It:
It's Time to Move America Beyond Oil – The Sierra Club released an animation this week, narrated by actor Joshua Jackson, called "The Dirtiest Oil on Earth" which illustrates the dangers of spills, destruction of natural areas, contamination of air and water supplies and political influence exerted by the oil industry to build pipeline projects designed to transport tar sands across the U.S. to reach foreign markets.
Netroots Nation: The Last Stand Against the XL Pipeline – Esquire blogger Charles Pierce stopped by a panel held by folks taking a stand against Keystone XL at Netroots Nation.
Keystone XL: Will EPA concern over 61 water crossings go unanswered? – “An EPA letter that was once a mere blip on the radar for the Keystone XL oil pipeline may now be the last federal regulatory obstacle facing the controversial project."
The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
This month, a new era began in the fight against plastic pollution.
- Historic Agreement on Plastic Pollution Reached by 180+ Countries ... ›
- U.S. Leads the World in Plastic Waste, New Study Finds - EcoWatch ›
- EU Bans Exporting Unsorted Plastic Waste to Poorer Countries ... ›
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
- San Antonio, Texas Unveils Largest Highway Crossing for Wildlife in ... ›
- Wildlife Crossings a Huge Success - EcoWatch ›
- Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now ›
- There's a Heatwave at the Arctic 'Doomsday Vault' - EcoWatch ›
- Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires ... ›
By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>