By Tara Lohan
In January 2015 North Dakota experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in its history: A pipeline burst, spilling nearly 3 million gallons of briny, saltwater waste from nearby oil-drilling operations into two creek beds. The wastewater, which flowed all the way to the Missouri River, contained chloride concentrations high enough to kill any wildlife that encountered it.
It wasn't the first such disaster in the state. In 2006 a spill of close to 1 million gallons of fracking wastewater into the Yellowstone River resulted in a mass die-off of fish and plants. Cleanup of that spill was still ongoing at the time of the 2015 spill, nearly a decade later.
Spills like these highlight the dangers that come with unconventional fossil-fuel extraction techniques that go after hard-to-reach pockets of oil and gas using practices like horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing (otherwise known as fracking).
But events like these massive spills are just the tip of the iceberg. Other risks to wildlife can be more contained, subtle or hidden.
And while many of the after-effects of fracking have grabbed headlines for years — such as contaminated drinking water, earthquakes and even flammable faucets — the consequences for wildlife have so far been left out of the national conversation.
But those consequences are very real for a vast suite of animals including mussels, birds, fish, caribou and even fleas, and they're as varied as the species themselves. In some places wildlife pays the price when habitat is destroyed. Elsewhere the damage occurs when water is sucked away or polluted. Still other species can't take the traffic, noise and dust that accompany extraction operations.
All this damage makes sense when you think about fracking's outsized footprint.
It starts with the land cleared for the well pad, followed by sucking large volumes of water (between 1.5 and 16 million gallons per well) out of rivers, streams or groundwater.
Fracking trucks and equipment in Doddridge Co, West Virginia.
Then there's the sand that's mined for use during the fracturing of underground rock to release natural gas or oil. There are also new pipelines, compressor stations and other related infrastructure that need to be constructed. And there's the truck traffic that surges during operations, or the disposal of fracking wastewater, either in streams or underground.
The cumulative footprint of a single new well can be as large as 30 acres. In places where hundreds or thousands of wells spring up across a landscape, it's easy to imagine the toll on wildlife — and even cases with ecosystem-wide implications.
"Studies show that there are multiple pathways to wildlife being harmed," said ecologist Sandra Steingraber, a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College who has worked for a decade compiling research on the health effects of fracking. "Biodiversity is a determinant of public health — without these wild animals doing ecosystem services for us, we can't survive."
The most obvious threats fracking poses to wildlife comes in the form of habitat loss.
As rural areas become industrialized with each new well pad and its associated infrastructure, vital habitat for wildlife is altered or destroyed.
Habitat fragmentation in North Dakota's Bakken shale.
And it's not just the area containing the well. The land or water just outside of the operation, known as "edge habitat," also degrades with an increase in the spread of invasive plant species, among other concerns.
And large-scale development, such as miles-long pipelines, can change the way species move and hunt, often resulting in an increase in predation. The oil and gas development in Alberta, Canada, for example, created "wolf highways" that gave the predators easy access to an endangered herd of woodland caribou.
Roads, another kind of fragmentation, can be particularly dangerous for wildlife. A single fracked well can be responsible for 3,300 one-way truck trips during its operational lifespan, and each journey can injure or kill wildlife large and small. After all, it's hard to get out of the way of a tanker truck carrying 80,000 pounds of sand.
And then there's the big picture. Drilling within large, "core" forest areas previously located far from human development can be permanently detrimental for species such as migratory songbirds.
In one study, published in Biological Conservation in 2016, researchers examined the effects of unconventional gas drilling on forest habits and populations of birds in an area of West Virginia overlaying the Marcellus and Utica shales. The area has been at the center of the shale gas boom, with the number of unconventional wells in central Appalachia jumping from 111 in 2005 to 14,022 by the end of 2015. The study found that shale-gas development there during that period resulted in a 12.4 percent loss of core forest and increased edge habitat by more than 50 percent — and that, in turn, changed the communities of birds found in the forest.
The areas near well pads experienced an overall decline in "forest specialists" — birds that prefer interior forest habitat, among them the hooded warbler and Kentucky warbler, which are of high conservation priority, as well as cerulean warblers. These sky-blue endangered migratory songbirds have been dropping in numbers for decades, but researchers noted that the decline was 15 percent higher in their study area than in the greater Appalachian Mountains region during the same period.
Kentucky warblers prefer large core forest habitat and researchers have found they decline in numbers around shale gas development.
Andrew Weitzel / CC BY-SA 2.0
"For migratory songbirds, large blocks of forest are very important," explains Margaret C. Brittingham, a professor of wildlife resources at Penn State University who has studied the effects of fracking on wildlife. The birds do best in interior forest habitat with mature trees. They also serve as an important part of the forest ecosystem, helping to prevent or suppress insect outbreaks that can damage trees. "They're co-evolved with the forest, feeding on insects and keeping those forests healthy," she said.
Not all species declined in numbers from fracking development. The study found an increase in the kinds of birds that do well among humans and in developed areas — "habitat generalists" such as the American robin, blue jay and brown-headed cowbird, the latter of which are notorious brood parasites that leave their eggs in nests of other birds.
"I think the most alarming thing about all of this is what bird declines may indicate about the declining health of overall ecosystems," said Laura Farwell, a postdoctoral research associate in the department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lead author of the Biological Conservation study. "I know it's a cliché, but forest interior birds truly are 'canaries in the coal mine' for Appalachian forests experiencing rapid loss and fragmentation."
Farwell adds that many other kinds of development contribute to habitat loss that result in biodiversity declines. Fracking is one more added pressure, but the consequences are quite significant.
"It just happens to be disproportionately affecting some of the largest remaining areas of undisturbed, mature forest left in the eastern U.S., and these forests are incredibly valuable for biodiversity," she said.
Out West the industry is carving up a different kind of habitat, and that has other species on the ropes. Greater sage grouse, for example, depend on large home ranges composed of intact areas of sagebrush. Cattle ranching and development of all kinds have pushed the grouse near extinction, and continued unbridled oil and gas extraction in its remaining habitat could tip it over the edge.
A 2014 study co-authored by Brittingham found that oil and gas infrastructure and related disturbances to sage grouse can cause the birds' populations to decline — or even disappear in areas with particularly high levels of oil and gas development.
Sage grouse have also been shown to exhibit high levels of stress from noise.
Noise poses additional risks for birds that depend on their hearing. A study published in Biological Conservation in 2016 found that noise from compressor stations, which run 24 hours a day, reduced the ability of northern saw-whet owls to catch prey. The researchers found that for owls and other "acoustically specialized predators," noise can cause significant negative impacts on behavior, like a decreased ability to hunt, and that can ripple through the ecosystem.
Lights on a drilling site in West Virginia can affect nocturnal wildlife.
Light, too, can be a problem. Oil and gas operations in some places have turned once-dark rural areas into blazing mini-cities in quick time. A 2012 photo revealed that gas burned off from wells in North Dakota's Bakken Shale was so bright it was visible from space — something not seen just six years before. Light pollution like this can be deadly for migratory birds and disrupt other nocturnal animals.
It’s in the Water
The fracking process uses a lot of water and much of that contaminated H2O returns to the surface, bringing with it heavy metals, radioactivity, toxic chemicals (many of which are industry trade secrets) and high levels of salinity. Disposing of all that wastewater has created headaches for the industry and in some cases it's now proving to endanger wildlife.
Spills or intentional dumping of wastewater or fracking fluid released 180 million gallons into the environment between 2009 and 2014, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. Unsafe levels of some contaminants have been found to persist for years, as was the case in North Dakota.
Not all spills and intentional releases of wastewater in streams create noticeable impacts like fish going belly up — some are more subtle and harder to see — but they may still take a real toll on aquatic life.
A 2019 study in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety looked at what happens when insects called water fleas encounter a fracking-fluid spill. Researchers found that even when the fluids were diluted in a stream, their high salinity could decrease insect mobility and survival. The Canadian province of Alberta, the researchers noted, has recorded 100 such large-volume spills.
Lowly water fleas — in this case a species called Daphnia magna — may not seem like animals we should worry about, but like so many small creatures, they occupy an important niche.
"They are the basis of the freshwater ecosystem," Steingraber explained. "When the water fleas are gone, the guys that feed on them are gone — frogs and fish die, and those that feed on them die and suddenly you have a biodiversity problem because you've knocked out a species at the bottom of the aquatic food chain."
Some of this may already be playing out in other locations. A 2016 study published in Ecotoxicology that found a decrease in biodiversity of macroinvertebrates in Pennsylvania streams where fracking was occurring in the watershed — and, even worse, "no fish or no fish diversity at streams with documented frackwater fluid spills." In some cases streams that once contained large numbers of brook trout had none left. The researchers concluded that "fracking has the potential to alter aquatic biodiversity…at the base of food webs."
Brook trout have disappeared from some streams in central Appalachia following fracking spills.
Elsewhere, it's possible that contamination of surface waters has already taken a toll on the Louisiana waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla), a bird that breeds along forest headwater streams and feeds on macroinvertebrates. A 2015 study published in Ecosphere found that shale gas development had negative effects on the nest survival and productivity of waterthrushes and the researchers posited that "indirect effects on stream and terrestrial food webs from possible contamination" by the oil and gas industry could be to blame.
The research, which looked at sites in both the Marcellus and Fayetteville shale regions, showed that the birds' feathers contained elevated levels of barium and strontium — two heavy metals associated with the drilling process — in areas where fracking had taken place. Much like when lead shows up in a human's hair, the presence of these metals in the birds' feathers is a sign that contaminants in the environment are making their way into animals' bodies.
And that raises even bigger concerns.
As the researchers concluded in their paper: "Our finding of significantly higher levels of barium and strontium also suggests the possibility of surface water contamination by any of the hundreds of chemicals that may be used in hydraulic fracturing, including friction reducers, acids, biocides, corrosion and scale inhibitors, pH adjusting agents and surfactants."
A similar line of inquiry is being pursued by other researchers. Nathaniel Warner, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Penn State University, has been using the shells of freshwater mussels to read the changes in water chemistry in Pennsylvania's Allegheny River. Mussels record environmental conditions in their shells each year — much like tree rings.
Warner and his colleagues have also found elevated levels of strontium in the shells of mussels living downstream from a site where treated fracking wastewater was discharged. Strontium, which is found in high concentrations in oil and gas wastewaters, is a naturally occurring metal with some medical benefits but which in large exposures can cause bone loss and other side effects.
But Warner says they are still trying to determine what the impacts are for mussels and aquatic ecosystems — not to mention the people who get their dinner from the river.
"We haven't really gotten to the point where we can say this is harmful or not," he said. "We really focused on the hard shell itself. But now we're looking more at what happens in that soft tissue because muskrats and fish don't really eat the shell that much, but they eat the soft tissue. And so what levels of contaminants or pollution ended up in that soft tissue compared to the shell?" He said that's probably more important for determining what this really means for wildlife or even human health.
University of Wisconsin's Farwell says that she'd also like to see more research on what the accumulation of contaminants in the bodies of waterthrushes means for other wildlife and for humans. "Air pollution is another important issue to consider," she added. "I'm not aware of any current studies that have looked directly at impacts of fracking air pollution on wildlife."
You can add these topics to the long list researchers are hoping to explore, but there will still be a lot about how fracking and other extraction technologies are affecting wildlife that we don't know. And with natural gas still projected to be one of the fastest growing energy sources in the United States, the time to understand its impacts on wildlife grows short.
"The industry boomed at such a rapid pace, researchers and policymakers could barely keep up," she said. "And in most cases, we don't have baseline data at impacted sites to compare with current numbers. Unfortunately, most of us studying fracking impacts have been playing a game of catch-up since the beginning."
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
By Sharon Kelly
Roughly four years ago, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) filed a federal application to build a 1,172 mile oil pipeline from North Dakota's Bakken shale across the U.S. to Illinois at a projected cost of $3.8 billion.
Before that application was filed, on Sept. 30, 2014, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met with ETP to express concerns about the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) and fears of water contamination. Though the company, now known as Energy Transfer, had re-routed a river crossing to protect the state capital of Bismarck against oil spills, it apparently turned a deaf ear to the Tribe's objections.
Following that approach proved to be a very costly decision, a new analysis concludes, with ETP, banks, and investors taking billions in losses as a result.
"This case study estimates that the costs incurred by ETP and other firms with ownership stake in DAPL for the entire project are not less than $7.5 billion, but could be higher depending on the terms of confidential contracts," a new report, "Social Cost and Material Loss: The Dakota Access Pipeline," concludes, noting that the figure represented nearly double the initial project cost. "The banks that financed DAPL incurred an additional $4.4 billion in costs in the form of account closures, not including costs related to reputational damage."
In addition, the company's "poor social risk management" caused taxpayers and "other local stakeholders" to incur at least $38 million in costs, the report concludes.
"This is what it's all about," protestor says. "Sacred water." Not sure guys on left agree. #NoDAPL #DAPL https://t.co/vHPRC2OHU5— Wes Enzinna (@Wes Enzinna)1477599122.0
As opposition to DAPL grew from a handful of locals to a movement attracting thousands of supporters to Standing Rock and backers worldwide, construction fell behind schedule and over budget, with costs rising from a predicted $3.8 billion to at least $7.5 billion, the new report finds. Over that time, Energy Transfer's stock price fell 20 percent—at the same time as the tech investment index S&P 500 grew roughly 35 percent, the report noted. Energy Transfer's stock also underperformed other companies in the same industry.
"Across the board, this project was out of line with the existing principles outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards for resource development near indigenous peoples' lands," Carla F. Fredericks, author of the study and director of Colorado Law's American Indian Law Clinic, said. "The losses in this study underline that companies need to take those principles into account."
Making a 'Material Loss'
The study points to early decisions by ETP as the cause of those losses.
"The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe communicated their opposition to DAPL for three years and they were frustrated by the lack of meaningful consultation from Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), DAPL's parent company, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)," Fredericks, an enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, and co-author Mark Meaney of the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business wrote. "In fact, those opportunities for early engagement were ETP's, the USACE's and other investors' missed opportunities to understand the developing social risks that subsequently manifested into intense social conflict and ultimately resulted in material loss."
US / indigenous rights: @UNSR_VickyTauli urges consistent policies for projects like Dakota Access Pipeline https://t.co/fVdVZtcsnG— UN Human Rights (@UN Human Rights)1488560268.0
When it comes to human rights issues, the report's authors dismiss the notion that a company's management can adequately protect shareholders from losses or liability if they use compliance with state and federal laws as their only benchmark.
"Unfortunately, the companies and financiers behind DAPL presumed that compliance with national laws was sufficient for the project to move forward on Sioux territory rather than abiding by international human rights standards," the report finds. "Their lack of attention ultimately resulted in material loss."
The report faults Energy Transfer's management specifically for failing to disclose risks of costly delays due to public opposition to investors at an earlier stage.
"In this case, ETP's reporting concerning the project was silent or exclusively positive until the publication of its third quarterly report on Nov. 9, 2016, in which the company acknowledged that 'protests and legal actions against DAPL have caused construction delays and may further delay the completion of the pipeline project,'" the report finds. "By this time, social pressure had been mounting for months and there is evidence that the company knew of these risks long before they were disclosed to investors."
"The timeline shows that ETP made few good faith efforts to understand and integrate the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's concerns about the environmental, social, and cultural risks into their operations and that ETP did not disclose known risks to investors until a later date," it adds. "As a result, investors were not aware of the potential for delays and it is possible that this resulted in the overvaluation of ETP's stock price."
It wasn't only ETP's investors that suffered an economic blow due to DAPL. Reported account closures at banks that funded the DAPL project totaled $4.4 billion, including 150,000 personal bank account closures worth $86.2 million, with the remainder coming from city divestments.
"It is reasonable to suggest that the degree of public criticism directed towards banks—relative to the size of the transaction—was greater than expected and was underestimated during the banks' own review of the project's viability," the report says.
DAPL is now flowing oil—but legal battles continue. In early November, Energy Transfer announced that it would seek to expand DAPL's capacity from 525,000 barrels per day to 570,000 barrels a day, spurred by growing oil production from North Dakota's Bakken shale.
The DAPL fight is far from over. Lawsuits and criminal prosecutions of pipeline opponents now include a federal class action filed by five plaintiffs against private security firm TigerSwan and state and county officials, alleging that the defendants violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by closing public roads for prolonged periods in 2016 to 2017, part of an effort to quiet resistance to the DAPL project.
As DeSmog previously reported, the lawsuit "also alleged that, beyond impeding access to sacred grounds for the self-proclaimed 'Water Protectors'—the term also used by [plaintiffs' attorneys] Smith-Drelich and Harcourt in their complaint—the blockade imposed by government and law enforcement did not impact those who lived in the area or employees of Energy Transfer."
Separately, Sophia Wilansky, who was shot three times by rubber bullets and suffered severe arm and hand injuries from what she alleges was a police "flashbang" grenade at Backwater Bridge on Nov. 20, 2016, filed a lawsuit against Morton County law enforcement and other agencies this month. And more than 700 criminal cases brought against the pipeline opponents known as water protectors have been processed, with NPR reporting that "[m]any have had their charges reduced or dismissed."
In November, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe challenged the adequacy of the Army Corps of Engineers' environmental review of DAPL, arguing that the Corps' assessment of the risks, particularly the risk of an oil spill in Lake Oahe, which is on Sioux land, fell short of required standards and disregarded technical information provided by the Tribe to the Corps.
In July, federal judge Billy Roy Wilson partially dismissed a racketeering lawsuit that was initially filed in August 2017 by ETP against nonprofits Greenpeace and BankTrack, as well as the environmental movement EarthFirst! (as represented by the publishers of a magazine of a similar name).
"While the complaint vaguely attempts to connect BankTrack to acts of 'radical eco-terrorist,' an international drug distribution and money laundering enterprise, and violations of the Patriot Act, BankTrack's actual conduct in this case was allegedly writing a few letters to financial institutions and posting links to the letters on its website," Wilson wrote in a July ruling dismissing claims against BankTrack.
In August, after a ruling that EarthFirst! is an environmental movement too amorphous to be named to a lawsuit and that suing the magazine would be "futile and possibly frivolous," ETP added five individual defendants to its lawsuit, including a Greenpeace staffer.
A proposed new Bakken pipeline, dubbed the Liberty Pipeline, was recently announced by Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline LLC. That pipeline would move 350,000 barrels a day of fracked oil from the Bakken shale to Corpus Christi, Texas, near major export terminals.
The authors of the new report had advice for companies contemplating building new pipeline projects or investing in them.
"These losses show how important it is for companies to fully account for environmental, social, and governance risks before projects get going," Meaney said in a statement accompanying the report. "Social risks are clearly overlooked in the market."
#EnergyTransfer's Troubled Pipeline Projects Amass 800+ Violations https://t.co/4dRWiI7JdV @PeopleNotPipes @nokxlpledge— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1543795235.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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There's no better way to show your dog that you love them than by keeping them healthy. In addition to exercise, a healthy diet, grooming, and regular checkups at the vet, you can also help support your dog's wellbeing with CBD dog treats. Learn how CBD oils and treats can benefit your four-legged friend and see which brands made our list of the best CBD treats for dogs.
How CBD Treats and Chews Can Help Dogs (and Other Pets)
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the many naturally occurring compounds found in the hemp plant. CBD oil is derived from the leaves, flowers, and stems of the cannabis plant. This important cannabinoid compound has been found to possess both medical as well as therapeutic benefits in both humans and animals.
Like humans, dogs possess an endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a role in the body's natural processes related to mental function, mood, inflammation, pain, appetite, energy, digestion, and more.
Some of the potential benefits of CBD for dogs include support for:
- Separation anxiety and stress
- Chronic inflammation
- Arthritis and joint pain
- Digestive issues
- Seizures, tremors, or spasms
With so many potential benefits, more and more pet owners are seeking CBD for dogs as a natural way to help keep them healthy.
Related: Best CBD Oils for Dogs of 2021
Top 6 CBD Dog Treats Online
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Joy Organics Premium CBD Dog Chews
- Best for Anxiety - Charlotte's Web Calming Chews for Dogs
- Best for Mobility - Zesty Paws CBD Mobility Bites Soft Chews
- Best for Skin & Coat - R+R Medicinals Hemp Extract Dog Chews
- Best Flavor - FAB CBD Calm & Cool Dog Treats
- Best Hard Chew - Paw CBD Dog Treats
How We Review CBD Treats for Dogs
To select the best CBD dog treats, we considered specific factors around the CBD, the ingredients, the flavoring, and the brands themselves. Here are more details about how we reviewed each of CBD treats for dogs that made our list.
Source of CBD
Just like with CBD products for people, we only choose brands that use CBD from safe and trustworthy sources. We prefer brands that use CBD from hemp plants grown in the U.S., and we also look to see if the CBD is grown organically or naturally. The extraction process also matters, especially if they use clean CO2 extraction. This helps determine the type of CBD contained in their products, whether it's full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate.
In addition to the CBD, we look to see what other ingredients go into each dog treat. The best brands use all-natural ingredients and flavorings and avoid fillers or allergens like corn, wheat, and soy. We also look for additional healthy ingredients like sweet potato, flaxseed, turmeric, passionflower, sunflower oil, and more, that are known to promote better health in dogs.
A CBD dog treat won't do much good if you're dog won't eat it! We select products that come in appetizing flavors that dogs will love. It's important that these come from natural ingredients instead of artificial flavoring. We also chose different types of treats, both soft and hard chews, to give you more options depending on your dog's preferences.
We only recommend CBD dog treats from brands that we trust. All of the best CBD brands include third-party lab testing on all of their products to ensure the strength and purity of their CBD. Certain brands also offer veterinarian-formulated pet CBD treats, or are certified by the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). We also look for brands that offer affordable prices and money back guarantees.
Our Top Picks for Dog CBD Treats
Best Overall: Joy Organics Premium CBD Dog Chews
These Joy Organics Premium CBD Dog Chews are made with premium grade broad spectrum CBD. That means they contain all of the beneficial terpenes and cannabinoids to help promote wellness without any THC. Joy Organics also uses water-soluble CBD powder for these chews, making them faster and easier to absorb. They are certified organic, non-GMO, cruelty-free, and third-party lab tested for purity.
Why buy: Joy Organics CBD dog chews are our favorites overall because they include real ingredients like beef liver, brewers yeast, flax oil, and sweet potato powder, as well as broad spectrum CBD. These treats are easy to digest, making them a great option for dogs with sensitive stomachs.We also love that Joy Organics offers carbon neutral shipping.
Best for Anxiety: Charlotte's Web Calming Chews for Dogs
Charlotte's Web Calming Chews combine full spectrum CBD from U.S. grown hemp with natural botanicals like valerian root, chamomile, and passionflower extract to help relax and calm your dog. Each chew contains 2.5 mg of CBD and other cannabinoids to help promote a balanced emotional state in your pet, especially for stressful situations like boarding, traveling, or vet visits. While we wish the offered a little more information on the ingredient breakdown, as a certified B corp we trust Charlotte's Web overall.
Why buy: We love that these calming chews include so many natural botanicals to help dogs manage stress and anxiety. Charlotte's Web CBD dog treats are also NASC certified and undergo independent third-party lab testing for quality assurance. These are great for nervous or anxious adult dogs.
Best for Mobility: Zesty Paws CBD Mobility Bites Soft Chews
Zesty Paws CBD Mobility Bites Soft Chews are made with CBDistillery broad spectrum CBD. They use non-GMO industrial hemp plants grown naturally in the U.S. and extract the CBD oil solely from aerial plant parts. The Hip & Joint formula also includes glucosamine, chondroitin, and OptiMSM to support joint lubrication, cartilage formation, and muscular function. Each soft chew includes 5 mg of CBD to help improve your dog's mobility.
Why buy: We recommend these chews for dogs with joint or hip pain as they can both help relieve pain and support joint health. We love that they are NASC certified, contain no grain, corn, or soy derivatives, and are made with an organic vegetarian roast beef flavor.
Best for Skin & Coat: R+R Medicinals Hemp Extract Dog Chews
These CBD dog chews from R+R Medicinals contain full spectrum hemp extract for a potent blend of natural plant compounds including terpenes, flavonoids, and antioxidants. Each chew contains 5 mg of CBD from Colorado grown hemp to promote mental and physical wellness. Plus the natural chicken flavor offers a savory taste your dog will love.
Why buy: We love R+R Medicinals Hemp Extract Dog Chews because they are made with real, natural ingredients like sweet potato, flax seed, and chicken liver. They also include grapeseed oil to promote a healthy coat and skin. These CBD treats are ideal for natural overall health.
Best Flavor: FAB CBD Dog Treats
FAB CBD Dog Treats are a great baked treat option for dogs who prefer some crunch. They include 3 mg of broad spectrum CBD per treat, and are baked without any corn, wheat, soy, or dairy. These Calm & Cool treats are also made to help dogs relax from anxiety or stress, and include natural ingredients like passionflower and chamomile to promote calm.
Why buy: We love that these baked CBD dog treats from FAB come in a peanut butter and apple flavor that most dogs won't be able to resist. We also like that they use organically grown hemp extract with no THC. These treats are a great way to help support a calmer dog naturally.
Best Hard Chew: Paw CBD Dog Treats
Paw CBD Dog Treats are veterinarian formulated hard chews made with cbdMD broad spectrum hemp extract. They come in two different flavors, baked cheese and peanut butter, and three different strengths so you can choose the right amount of CBD for the size of your dog. All Paw CBD Dog Treats are THC-free and contain no artificial preservatives or colors.
Why buy: We love that these hard chews not only provide CBD to help support your dog's wellbeing, they also offer a satisfying crunch that can help clean their teeth too. These CBD dog treats are perfect if your pet doesn't go for soft chews. Plus, cbdMD offers a 60 day money back guarantee.
What's the Difference Between CBD Oil and CBD Dog Treats?
CBD for dogs can come in several different forms. Some brands offer CBD oil for dogs, which comes as an oil tincture that you measure using a dropper. CBD oil can either be administered orally or mixed in with your dog's food. This provides a fast way for your dog's body to absorb the CBD and to experience the mental and physical benefits. CBD oils for dogs also typically contain fewer ingredients than some other pet CBD products, just the CBD and a carrier oil, so it's easier for you to know exactly what you give to your dog.
CBD dog treats are soft or hard chews made with CBD and are meant to be more palatable for dogs than oils. Some dogs do not enjoy the earthy or natural flavor of CBD oil and respond better to a savory treat. These products also typically include other natural ingredients meant to promote your dog's health, including sweet potato and flax seed. Treats make it easier to know exactly how much CBD you give to your dog each time, as every treat will contain the same amount of CBD. Dog treats with CBD are typically an easier, less messy option than oils.
What the Experts Say About CBD and Dogs
Research has found that CBD can provide a number of different benefits for dogs, from calming dogs with separation anxiety to helping older dogs that suffer from chronic joint pain.
A 2018 study concluded that CBD oil "can help increase comfort and activity" in dogs with osteoarthritis. Another study conducted in 2019 found that CBD could help dogs with epilepsy by potentially reducing the frequency of seizures when added to their existing medication.
In addition to joint pain and epilepsy, CBD is also frequently used to help relieve anxiety and stress in dogs. Recent research has shown that CBD can help to reduce aggression in some dogs, especially through calming dogs in stressful settings like shelters.
What to Look for in CBD Dog Products
While there are a lot of CBD dog products out there, not all of them are safe or effective. Here are the things to look for when evaluating CBD for dogs.
There are a few signs that can tell you if a CBD dog treat or oil is a quality product.
First, always look to see that the product has undergone independent third-party lab testing to ensure its potency and safety. Second, try to choose CBD products that are sourced from hemp grown in the United States. Third, you can always look for the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal that indicates a product or brand meets strict standards for safety and testing.
Additionally, look for labels and certifications that you trust like USDA organic, non-GMO, and products made without wheat, corn, or soy.
How to Read Labels
When comparing CBD dog treats, make sure to check the labels for a few key pieces of information.
Type of CBD
Make sure you know what type of CBD is in the product. Full spectrum CBD offers the complete profile of cannabinoids and plant compounds found in hemp. For some, this provides more benefits and stronger relief. Broad spectrum CBD, meanwhile, all of the same cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids as full spectrum, but it is THC-free. This can be important if your dog is especially sensitive or does not react well to full spectrum products.
Amount of CBD
Next, look to see how much CBD is contained in each treat or serving. This will help you determine the right product for your dog based on their size. Some brands include serving guides on their packaging to help make sure you give your dog the appropriate amount of CBD.
List of Ingredients
Check the ingredients list as well to make sure that the CBD dog treat does not contain anything your dog might be allergic to. You can also note if the treat is made with all natural ingredients. Depending on your dog, you can also look for treats that contain additional ingredients that are good for specific health concerns, like sweet potato, turmeric, passionflower, and flax seed.
How Many CBD Treats Should Your Dog Take?
The amount of CBD contained in each treat will determine how many you should give your dog at one time. As with humans, it's best to start with a small dose, monitor your dog's response, and gradually increase slowly from there. The same rule of thumb applies for dogs and other pets: start low and go slow.
Most CBD dog treats will include a recommended serving guide based on the size of your dog. For example, for dogs under 10 lbs you may only want to give them 1.5 mg of CBD daily. If a treat contains 3 mg of CBD total, you should only give them half of a treat per day. Dogs over 60 lbs, however, may need two treats a day, or 6 mg of CBD, to experience the desired benefits. Again, start with a small amount to make sure that your dog responds positively to CBD before gradually increasing the number of treats.
Possible Side Effects
As with any natural supplement or prescription medication for your dog, there is the possibility for certain side effects. Some of the more common side effects that dogs can experience include:
- Excessive panting
- Loss of balance
If you notice that your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, then you may have given them too much CBD, as these are signs of toxicity. If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it's best to call your veterinarian right away.
CBD can offer a number of potential benefits for dogs. For those who don't want the mess of oil tinctures, or for dogs who don't like the taste of oils, CBD dog treats offer an easy and tasty solution. Whether you want to help your dog with anxiety and stress or mobility issues due to joint pain, you can find a CBD dog treat that you both will love.
By Justin Mikulka
2018 was the year the oil and gas industry promised that its darling, the shale fracking revolution, would stop focusing on endless production and instead turn a profit for its investors. But as the year winds to a close, it's clear that hasn't happened.
Instead, the fracking industry has helped set new records for U.S. oil production while continuing to lose huge amounts of money—and that was before the recent crash in oil prices.
But plenty of people in the industry and media make it sound like a much different, and more profitable, story.
Broken Promises and Record Production
Going into this year, the fracking industry needed to prove it was a good investment (and not just for its CEOs, who are garnering massive paychecks).
In January, The Wall Street Journal touted the prospect of frackers finally making "real money … for the first time" this year. "Shale drillers are heeding growing calls from investors who have chastened the companies for pumping ever more oil and gas even as they incur losses doing so," oil and energy reporter Bradley Olson wrote.
Olson's story quoted an energy asset manager making the (always) ill-fated prediction about the oil and gas industry that this time will be different.
"Is this time going to be different? I think yes, a little bit," said energy asset manager Will Riley. "Companies will look to increase growth a little, but at a more moderate pace."
Despite this early optimism, Bloomberg noted in February that even the Permian Basin—"America's hottest oilfield"—faced "hidden pitfalls" that could "hamstring" the industry.
They were right. Those pitfalls turned out to be the ugly reality of the fracking industry's finances.
And this time was not different.
On the edge of the Permian in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Journal reported the industry is "on pace this year to leap past last year's record oil production," according to Ryan Flynn, executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. And yet that oil has at times been discounted as much as $20 a barrel compared to world oil prices because New Mexico doesn't have the infrastructure to move all of it.
Who would be foolish enough to produce more oil than the existing infrastructure could handle in a year when the industry promised restraint and a focus on profits? New Mexico, for one. And North Dakota. And Texas.
In North Dakota, record oil production resulted in discounts of $15 per barrel and above due to infrastructure constraints.
Texas is experiencing a similar story. Oilprice.com cites a Goldman Sachs prediction of discounts "around $19-$22 per [barrel]" for the fourth quarter of 2018 and through the first three quarters of next year.
Oil producers in fracking fields across the country seem to have resisted the urge to reign in production and instead produced record volumes of oil in 2018. In the process—much like the tar sands industry in Canada—they have created a situation where the market devalues their oil. Unsurprisingly, this is not a recipe for profits.
Shale Oil Industry 'More Profitable Than Ever' — Or Is It?
However, Reuters recently analyzed 32 fracking companies and declared that "U.S. shale firms are more profitable than ever after a strong third quarter." How is this possible?
Reading a bit further reveals what Reuters considers "profits."
"The group's cash flow deficit has narrowed to $945 million as U.S. benchmark crude hit $70 a barrel and production soared," reported Reuters.
So, "more profitable than ever" means that those 32 companies are running a deficit of nearly $1 billion. That does not meet the accepted definition of profit.
A separate analysis released earlier this month by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and The Sightline Institute also reviewed 32 companies in the fracking industry and reached the same conclusion: "The 32 mid-size U.S. exploration companies included in this review reported nearly $1 billion in negative cash flows through September."
NINE-YEAR LOSING STREAK CONTINUES FOR US FRACKING SECTOR Oil and gas output is rising but cash losses keep flowing… https://t.co/hKBSk8v5rV— 💧Carly Woodstock (@💧Carly Woodstock)1544396672.0
The numbers don't lie. Despite the highest oil prices in years and record amounts of oil production, the fracking industry continued to spend more than it made in 2018. And somehow, smaller industry losses can still be interpreted as being "more profitable than ever."
The Fracking Industry's Fuzzy Math
One practice the fracking industry uses to obfuscate its long money-losing streak is to change the goal posts for what it means to be profitable. The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted this practice, writing: "Claims of low 'break-even' prices for shale drilling hardly square with frackers' bottom lines."
The industry likes to talk about low "break-even" numbers and how individual wells are profitable—but somehow the companies themselves keep losing money. This can lead to statements like this one from Chris Duncan, an energy analyst at Brandes Investment Partners:
"You always scratch your head as to how they can have these well economics that can have double-digit returns on investment, but it never flows through to the total company return."
The explanation is pretty simple: Shale companies are not counting many of their operating expenses in the "break-even" calculations. Convenient for them, but highly misleading about the economics of fracking because factoring in the costs of running one of these companies often leads those so-called profits from the black and into the red.
The Wall Street Journal explains the flaw in the fracking industry's questionable break-even claims: "break-evens generally exclude such key costs as land, overhead and even at times transportation."
Other tricks, The Wall Street Journal notes, include companies only claiming the break-even prices of their most profitable land (known in the industry as "sweet spots") or using artificially low costs for drilling contractors and oil service companies.
While the mystery of fracking industry finances appears to be solved, the mystery of why oil companies are allowed to make such misleading claims remains.
The US shale / fracking formula... 1.) borrow billions at low interest rates 2.) lose money forcing oil & gas from… https://t.co/FSuGXzcKN5— Ryan Popple (@Ryan Popple)1540411935.0
Wall Street Continues to Fund an Unsustainable Business Model
Why does the fracking industry continue to receive more investments from Wall Street despite breaking its "promises" this year?
Because that is how Wall Street makes money. Whether fracking companies are profitable or not doesn't really matter to Wall Street executives who are getting rich making the loans that the fracking industry struggles to repay.
An excellent example of this is the risk that rising interest rates pose to the fracking industry. Even shale companies that have made profits occasionally have done so while also amassing large debts. As interest rates rise, those companies will have to borrow at higher rates, which increases operating costs and decreases the likelihood that shale companies losing cash will ever pay back that debt.
Continental Resources, one of the largest fracking companies, is often touted as an excellent investment. Investor's Business Daily recently noted that "[w]ithin the Oil & Gas-U.S. Exploration & Production industry, Continental is the fourth-ranked stock with a strong 98 out of a highest-possible 99 [Investor's Business Daily] Composite Rating."
And yet when Simply Wall St. analyzed the company's ability to pay back its over $6 billion in debt, the stock market news site concluded that Continental isn't well positioned to repay that debt. However, it noted "[t]he sheer size of Continental Resources means it is unlikely to default or announce bankruptcy anytime soon." For frackers, being at the top of the industry apparently means being too big to fail.
As interest rates rise, common sense might suggest that Wall Street would rein in its lending to shale companies. But when has common sense applied to Wall Street?
The Chronicle notes the epic money-losing streak for the industry and how fracking bankruptcies have already ended up "stiffing lenders and investors on more than $70 billion in outstanding loans."
So, is the party over?
Not according to Katherine Spector, a research scholar at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy. She explains how Wall Street will reconcile investing in these fracking firms during a period of higher interest rates: "Banks are going to make more money [through higher interest rates], so they're going to want to get more money out the door."
How Wall Street Enabled the Fracking 'Revolution' That's Losing Billions https://t.co/oSsJmEiAa7 @FrackAction @foodandwater— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1525743905.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
Follow the DeSmog investigative series: Finances of Fracking: Shale Industry Drills More Debt Than Profit
A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.
Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.
The pipeline is part of a gathering system owned by Dallas-based oil and gas producer Petro-Hunt LLC, which discovered the leak on Wednesday.
Bill Suess with the North Dakota Department of Health told Grand Forks Herald they were able to stop the produced water from reaching a nearby dry creek bed.
Fossil fuel explorations and operations produce an incredible amount of wastewater. Oil and gas reservoirs often contain water, which is brought to the surface along with the hydrocarbons. The fracking process itself also involves large quantities of chemically laden water being shot at high pressures into shale. Once fracking is done, much of the fracking fluid comes back up the well as "flowback" wastewater.
The cause of the leak is now under investigation. The North Dakota health department has investigated the site and will continue monitoring the investigation and remediation.
Walter Roach, vice president of Petro-Hunt, told the Bismark Tribune that its workers responded quickly to the spill and the company is committed to the clean up.
"We want to get it taken care of as quickly as possible," Roach said.
Pipeline Spills More Than 8,000 Gallons of Jet Fuel Into #IndianaRiver #pipelines @Defenders @foe_us @XiuhtezcatlM… https://t.co/C64pHa8hKf— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1536591972.0
A pipeline exploded in Beaver County, Pennsylvania at approximately 5 a.m. Monday morning, causing a large fire and prompting the evacuation of dozens of homes in the area.
The valves to the pipeline were shut off and the fire extinguished itself by 7 a.m., the company said in a statement via WPXI's Mike Holden:
Statement from Energy Transfer of Texas. https://t.co/iJ4zZnV5Kk— Mike Holden (@Mike Holden)1536589054.0
"All of the appropriate regulatory notifications have been made. An initial site assessment reveals evidence of a landslide in the vicinity of the pipeline. The line has been safely isolated and depressurized until a thorough investigation can be completed." Sunoco spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger said Monday in a statement to the Daily Local.
No injuries were reported, but one home, two garages and several vehicles were destroyed by fires, according to the Associated Press. Interstate 376 was closed and the Central Valley school district also canceled classes.
"I saw the ball of flames above the trees and it was easily 150 to 200 feet up in the air. It was serious," resident Chuck Belczyk told KDKA.
An investigation into the incident is now underway. A landslide that happened near the pipeline could be a possible trigger. Nearly 5 inches of rain fell between Friday night and Monday morning, Trib Live noted, citing National Weather Service data.
More incredible video of the gas line explosion in Beaver County this morning in Center Township. https://t.co/DYC11CM435— Rick Dayton (@Rick Dayton)1536581171.0
The explosion has prompted calls from environmentalists and lawmakers to halt the Sunoco's Mariner East pipeline, which is currently under construction in Pennsylvania.
"I am calling for an immediate halt to all pipeline construction activities," State Rep. Chris Quinn (R-168) said in an online statement. "This pipeline should not be built until the real and legitimate safety and environmental concerns raised by myself and local residents have been fully addressed."
State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) tweeted that these kinds of pipelines should not be so close to schools, residential neighborhoods and community centers.
"With every week we have more and more evidence why highly volatile natural gas liquid pipelines should not be in high-consequence areas and how Sunoco and Energy Transfer Partners have an abysmal track record when it comes to public safety," Dinniman continued. "The explosion in Beaver County is a chilling reminder of just how powerful and dangerous these pipelines can be."
Energy Transfer Partners, which owns more than 83,000 miles of natural gas, crude oil, natural gas liquids and refined products pipelines, is the parent company behind the controversial Dakota Access and Bayou Bridge pipelines.
Waterkeeper Alliance noted that the energy firm has had a history of pipeline accidents.
"Waterkeeper Alliance and Greenpeace meticulously documented more than 500 spills and millions of dollars in fines and property damage by Energy Transfer Partners in a report released earlier this year," Waterkeeper Alliance staff attorney Larissa Liebmann said in a statement received by EcoWatch.
Their April report found that Energy Transfer Partners, its subsidiaries including Sunoco, and joint ventures reported 527 hazardous liquids pipeline incidents to federal regulators from 2002 to 2017, or once every 11 days on average for 16 years.
Monday's explosion, Liebmann continued, "proves that ETP is still putting lives at risk and cannot be trusted to operate pipelines safely, and is a grim reminder of our nation's need to quickly transition to clean and safe forms of energy like solar and wind."
Sam Rubin of Food & Water Watch commented to the Daily Local that the explosion "is a terrifying reminder that pipelines fail."
"Communities across the state face similar risks if the Mariner East 2 pipeline becomes operational," Rubin added. "Governor Tom Wolf has utterly failed to protect public safety so far, but there is still time to avoid catastrophe by stopping Sunoco's Mariner pipeline right now."
By Justin Mikulka
In the five years since the oil train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, claimed 47 lives, the world has learned much about the risks that hauling oil by rail poses. One of the clearest lessons is how little has been done to address those risks, which means that deadly event could easily happen again.
To mark the anniversary, Kathleen Fox, chair of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada, released a statement on oil-by-rail. "Much has been accomplished in the intervening years, but more remains to be done," she said.
Fox is correct about one thing: More remains to be done. Much more.
Here are three main reasons history may yet repeat itself.
[Read this explainer for background on what unfolded during the fiery early morning hours of July 6, 2013 in Lac-Mégantic.]
Reason #1: Inadequate Safety Regulations
The Bakken shale oil carried on the runaway train that decimated the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic is a very light and highly volatile crude oil that ignites easily. Despite many calls for regulations in the U.S. to make that oil safer via a process known as stabilization—including from Obama's Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, the issue of stabilizing oil volatility on trains remains unaddressed on either side of the border.
Similar concerns are arising for trains shipping oil from Alberta (home of the tar sands) after multiple derailed trains have resulted in fires and explosions reminiscent of those involving Bakken oil.
Another apparent safety gap in regulations involves the outdated brake systems on oil trains, which is the case in both the U.S. and Canada. Rail experts have testified repeatedly that modern electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes would be a huge improvement over the current air braking system that was considered revolutionary in the 19th century. When the U.S. Department of Transportation released an overhaul of rules governing oil trains in 2015, ECP brakes were among the requirements. However, that measure was repealed in late 2017 due to intense industry pressure.
An important point to keep in mind here is that all of the major oil-by-rail carriers (BNSF, CSX, CN, CP) move oil from both the U.S. and Canada, which leads to something known as harmonization in the regulations. Because the trains couldn't easily cross the border if the rules were different in each country, the regulatory agencies in both must work together to ensure harmonization.
Canada's TSB Chair Fox noted in her recent remarks that the DOT-111 tank cars, which were carrying the oil that destroyed part of Lac-Mégantic are no longer permitted to move crude oil, in either Canada or the U.S. Those tank cars clearly were unsafe for transporting flammable liquids—something they were never designed to do.
However, Fox also noted that rail companies have until 2025 to phase in the new rail tank cars that will replace DOT-111s, and progress on that transition has been slow. The 2015 oil train rules mandate stricter standards for rail tank cars carrying hazardous materials, which means rail companies have a decade to switch to new DOT-117 cars. Yet Fox does not address the real issue at play with tank cars.
The real problem is that DOT-117 tank cars are also proving inadequate for moving oil safely, as evidenced when an oil train of cars meeting the new standards derailed in Iowa in June 2018. Many of the cars ruptured, resulting in a spill of 230,000 gallons of oil into a flooded Iowa river. These new DOT-117 tank cars don't appear to offer any real safety benefits over the older cars. They may look nicer with the new paint and lack of grafitti, but that seems to be the only demonstrable improvement.
DOT-117 tank cars, the new rail cars that are slowly replacing the DOT-111 cars carrying oil. Justin Mikulka
Another gap involves an automatic braking technology known as positive train control (PTC), which was first recommended in 1970. The rail industry resisted moving forward with PTC for almost 40 years until 2008 when Congress mandated that rail companies install PTC on all trains, passenger and freight, by 2015. Despite the congressional mandate, the industry refused to cooperate.
Instead, the rail industry threatened to shut down the U.S. economy if required to fulfill the legislative requirement. In response, Congress granted the industry a three year extension. As the third year of that extension winds down, the largest oil-by-rail company, BNSF, has asked for another two year extension.
Why would rail companies refuse to implement this well-known safety technology that reportedly could have saved nearly 300 lives between 1969 and 2015? Because it costs money to implement and it only costs a fraction of that money to hire lobbyists to fight the regulations.
That priority was starkly revealed in a 2015 story by The Intercept, which reports that during a 2009 investor call, a Wall Street analyst told rail executives they need to do more to "further educate" Congress about why the PTC mandate was unacceptable.
That exchange occurred six years before the industry was required to implement PTC, giving rail companies plenty of time to hire lobbyists to argue against implementing a safety technology now almost 50 years after it was first recommended.
Yet another example of a regulatory gap in rail safety measures stretches back to Lac-Mégantic, which involved a runaway train parked on a hill above the town. Corporate cost cutting and a lack of rules to prevent runaway trains helped lead to the 47 lives lost in that town. In her statement reflecting on the five years since the disaster, TSB Chair Fox mentions that "the issue of additional physical defenses, which the TSB has called for to help prevent uncontrolled movements, has yet to be sufficiently addressed."
"Additional physical defenses" are ramps or locks placed in front of a train to prevent it from running away in the event something else goes wrong. A simple and proven solution. But starting and stopping trains with these safety devices in place takes longer, and because time is money in the rail industry, companies generally don't use them.
Despite being one of the easiest problems to solve, runaway trains, or "uncontrolled movements," are increasing since Lac-Mégantic. CBC News reported that Faye Ackerman, a TSB board member, noted the situation is getting worse. "… in the last five years, the number of these uncontrolled movements has been on the rise," Ackerman said.
In June 2017, an event eerily similar to Lac-Mégantic (minus the explosion and fatalities) unfolded when a 72 car train was not properly braked and ran away for "five kilometres onto a busy track just north of Toronto."
There are many factors that could eliminate runaway trains. The train in Lac-Mégantic had back-up braking systems, but no rules require their use and the company policy was to not use them. In addition, positive train control could also prevent runaway trains, and modern ECP brakes would also help. But the simplest solution would be the "additional physical defenses" that Fox referred to.
Reason #2: Oil Trains Derail More Often
Another lesson revealed in the wake of Lac-Mégantic is that oil trains derail more often than similar trains carrying ethanol, another hazardous material. The reason is likely because oil trains tend to be longer and heavier and may be subject to more sloshing forces from the liquid moving inside the not-entirely-full tank cars. Unlike tanker trucks or other types of trains, oil trains don't have to be weighed, and some evidence indicates rail companies may be overfilling oil train cars beyond the current weight limits. And no regulations exist dictating the train lengths safe for transporting flammable materials like oil.
Of course, longer and heavier trains make more money for railroads. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal notes that one of the reasons the rail industry is shifting to ever-longer trains is due to pressure from "activist investors." Activist investors—much like the one who told industry executives they need to lobby against positive train control—apparently are calling the shots about how companies operate their trains.
Given the lack of real safety improvements after Lac-Mégantic, this issue is not going away. Canada just reported record levels of oil-by-rail movements for April of this year. And that number is likely to increase significantly in the next several years, as the oil industry there continues to face pipeline constraints. U.S. oil-by-rail movements are increasing too but remain below the peak levels reached during the Bakken oil-by-rail boom, which lasted from about 2012 to early 2016.
After the recent oil train derailment in Iowa, Kevin Birn of IHS Markit, an energy analytics and consulting company, stated the obvious:
"The accident is a manifestation of increased crude-by-rail from Western Canada due to pipeline constraints."
Despite the evidence showing that long, heavy trains filled with oil derail more often, very little has been done to improve the safety of moving oil by rail since Lac-Mégantic. As oil-by-rail continues on its latest uptick, another catastrophe like the one that claimed 47 lives in a small Quebec town is likely inevitable.
Reason #3: The Rail Barons Are in Charge
In December 2016, a group came together in Ottawa, Canada's capital, to discuss Lac-Mégantic and what the industry and regulators have learned since the devastating events of July 2013.
Brian Stevens, National Rail Director for Unifor, Canada's largest private sector union, was one of the speakers. Stevens previously spent 16 years as an air-brake mechanic working on trains.
Stevens summed up the problem: "Nothing has changed. The railway barons are still there. And stronger than ever."
And while this statement was made by a Canadian at a conference in Canada about an accident in Canada, the rail barons are on both sides of the Canadian-American border.
His statement even came before the Trump administration began its efforts to remove safety measures enacted during the Obama adminstration. Since then, the rail barons successfully had the regulations for modern ECP brakes repealed. Trump appointed the former head of rail company Conrail as the new top rail regulator at the Federal Railroad Administration. If you are a rail baron, this was all great news.
In the first Congressional hearing about rail safety in the Trump era, Rep. Bill Shuster got right to the point about the goal of any changes to regulations when he said that government should "allow the railroad industry to keep more of their profits."
This statement reveals why so little has been accomplished to improve oil-by-rail safety. Moving oil-by-rail in a safe manner may be possible given the raft of potential safety measures outlined here, but it is highly unlikely that the venture would still be profitable for rail companies. As a result, the rail industry is favoring the status quo and federal regulators in the U.S. and Canada have done little to nothing to change that.
Five years after the derailment in Lac-Mégantic, all of the major risks related to moving oil by rail still exist, but the large portion of downtown Lac-Mégantic destroyed that day in 2013 does not. Its continued absence stands as a stark reminder of the very real dangers of the current oil-by-rail industry.
Lac-Mégantic before and after the oil train explosion in July 2013. Claude Grenier, Studio Numéra, Lac-Mégantic
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By Douglas Bessette
A deal involving an aging oil pipeline in Michigan reflects the complex decisions communities across the country need to make to balance the needs for energy and safety with efforts to deal with climate change.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Enbridge, a Canadian company, have reached an agreement over a leak-prone pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac, the four-mile-long waterway that divides Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Rather than shut the 65-year-old pipeline down altogether, as environmentalists are demanding, or conduct routine maintenance, as Enbridge desired, Snyder is requiring Enbridge to replace the pipeline at an estimated cost of up to $500 million without a deadline.
While the lakes, beaches and livelihoods vulnerable to harm from a potential spill are perhaps unique to Michigan, the question of what to do about a host of aging pipelines across the U.S. is not. Nearly half of the nation's pipelines currently operating were built before 1960.
Amid rising oil and gas production, there are hard compromises to make between ensuring an adequate energy supply, protecting public safety, and reducing the nation's reliance on fossil fuels—a key contributor to climate change. But my research suggests that there may be a straightforward way for both decision-makers and the public to make these choices.
Millions of Miles
Approximately 3 million miles of pipelines move crude oil, natural gas and other hazardous liquids across the U.S. Most crude oil pipelines traversing the center of the country transport oil from western Canada and North Dakota southward to refineries in Texas and Louisiana.
More of the natural gas pipelines that span the county are concentrated around the Marcellus Shale formation, in eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania. And 60 percent of the 319,000 miles of pipelines currently transporting natural gas were installed before 1970.
Compared to hauling fuel by rail or truck, the Transportation Research Board, a nonprofit that serves as an advisory body to the White House, Congress and federal agencies, considers pipelines to be safer. Yet when pipeline accidents do occur, they are typically larger and impact the environment more directly than the alternatives.
When a natural gas line exploded in Massachusetts, where many pipes are over 100 years old, it destroyed 80 homes and killed one person. In 2012, another pipeline operated by the same company—Columbia Gas, this one built in 1967, exploded.
That earlier accident in Sissonville, West Virginia, charred 800 feet of roadway along a nearby highway, wrecking three homes, and melted the siding on houses hundreds of feet away. Following an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board found many causes. Among them: corrosion and a lack of automatic or remote shutoff valves.
In 2010, one of Enbridge's Michigan pipelines ruptured, spilling 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. That pipeline was built in the 1960s, and made with the sorts of welding processes and protective coverings that have not stood the test of time. The cost to clean up that spill was more than $1 billion and spurred concerns among Michiganders over the safety of the Straits pipeline.
A big spill in the Straits of Mackinac could result in oil polluting over 1,200 miles of shoreline, cause $1.3 billion in damage and cost $500 million to clean up, Michigan Technological University researchers estimate.
Following an independent risk analysis, Snyder and Enbridge agreed that a replacement pipeline should be placed inside a tunnel and buried beneath the lakebed. Taking that step would substantially reduce the risk of a spill. But it will also take at least seven years to build. And the agreement assumes the Straits pipeline would continue to operate during the new pipeline's construction.
There's one good reason why old and dangerous pipelines aren't being shut down: the emergence of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—the process by which water, sand and chemicals are injected underground at high pressures to crack rock and release the oil and gas trapped inside.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, building the pipelines to accommodate this increase in output would require annual investments between $12-19 billion. A 2008 report prepared for the Edison Foundation predicted that modernizing the national oil and gas transmission and distribution network would cost $900 billion before 2030.
As the battles over the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines have shown, opposition to new long-term fossil fuel infrastructure projects is growing. Replacing old dangerous pipelines with new ones is not easy—or fast, even if it might reduce risks and carbon emissions.
There is also growing evidence, such as the latest report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that instead of a bigger and better pipeline network, the U.S. needs a new energy strategy, aimed at ending reliance on fossil fuels altogether by 2050. The problem is that once pipelines are built, they typically last decades. Building new ones would further lock in dependence on fossil fuels.
A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans support aggressive action on global warming. But smaller numbers back some of the specific policies or actions that might take.
As my research suggests, adopting a more comprehensive and logical process for making decisions could provide a way forward. This process helps communities identify their most important objectives first and then evaluate options according to those specific goals. It's an approach that ensures that what's most important—climate change, jobs and protecting ecosystems, for instance—gets addressed.
It could become handy the next time a state and a corporation tangle over whether or not to replace a big aging pipeline–even when this debate is less contentious than the one about Michigan's Straits of Mackinac.
Great Lakes 'At Risk' From Plan to Replace Aging Enbridge Pipelines, Environmentalists Argue https://t.co/etUxGvlp0x— The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project)1538750901.0
Douglas Bessette is an assistant professor of community sustainability at Michigan State University.
Disclosure statement: Douglas Bessette does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond his academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated the estimated cost to replace the pipeline to be $500 billion in the third paragraph. The correct figure is $500 million.
By Jen Marlowe
Chants of "St. James needs an evacuation route!" came from the dozen-plus activists gathered at Louisiana Radio Network on July 18. The activists were part of the L'Eau Est La Vie ("Water Is Life") camp, in Rayne, Louisiana. They want to stop the construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana from St. Charles to St. James, through the Atchafalaya Basin.
They were at the Radio Network because they want to get the attention of Lousiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who was holding his monthly radio call-in show there. They believe that the struggle against the pipeline is inherently connected to the struggles against extractive capitalism and White nationalism, and the movements for Native rights and Black lives.
One of the water protectors' demands is securing an evacuation route for the 5th District of St. James Parish, which is accessible by only one road. The Mississippi River hems the community in on one side, and sugar cane fields the other. Crude oil terminals, petrochemical plants, and oil tanks line the residential stretch. If an industrial accident occurred, the predominantly low-income Black residents would be trapped.
"This is on the intersection of a lot of things," said Cherri Foytlin, who calls the fight "a justice issue, right in the heart of KKK territory." Foytlin originally hails from Oklahoma and is of Diné and Cherokee descent. She's lived in Rayne for 15 years, where she raises six children.
Foytlin recalled the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She remembers finding a dying pelican and burying the bird after it expired. "I came back and took a really hard look at myself and said … 'What are you going to do?'" What she did is walk from New Orleans to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the impacts of the disaster. "I'd walk through one community and they'd be dealing with mountaintop removal," she said. "I go to the next community and they're dealing with uranium mining." It was during the walk that she deeply understood how access to clean air and water connects to poverty and racism, Foytlin said.
Anne White Hat, who is Sicangu Lakota, relocated to New Orleans from Rosebud, South Dakota, eight years ago and has been involved at L'Eau Est La Vie since the camp's opening water ceremony in December. Her native home and her adopted home are located, respectively, close to the Dakota Access and Bayou Bridge pipelines, both owned by Energy Transfer Partners. She believes it is significant that the Bakken crude oil passing through the Dakota Access pipeline will end at the Bayou Bridge pipeline, and she sees strong parallels between the communities impacted in both places. "We're communities of color, at the beginning and at the end [of the pipeline]," White Hat said.
Travis London, a Creole man from neighboring Donaldsonville, has close ties to St. James. His grandfather was born there. London serves on the H.E.L.P. Association of St. James. He also works to prevent gun violence and improve access to health care and education in his community. London views the environmental fight as embedded in all his causes and believes that greater unity in these struggles would benefit them all.
In 2017, London learned about plans to build the Bayou Bridge pipeline. He decided to go check it out. En route, he was stunned by how many petrochemical plants had sprouted up in and around St. James. London researched Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, the co-owners of the pipeline, and learned about multiple spills. He met Foytlin at a hearing in July 2017 and linked up with L'Eau Est La Vie.
Now, London conducts pipeline-related research, engages in direct action, and attends community meetings. He emceed St. James' Juneteenth celebration, which L'Eau Est La Vie attended. "Everywhere the industry tries to influence, I want to be there," he said, the youngest of his four children scrambling onto his lap. "I've got to try to fight them back with the law, and try to fight them back with direct action, and try to get people together."
The No Bayou Bridge Pipeline campaign has achieved some legal victories. In February, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ordered an injunction to halt construction of the pipeline through the Atchafalaya Basin. On April 30, St. James District Judge Alvin Turner Jr. ruled that the Department of Natural Resources had improperly issued a permit for construction and ordered DNR to ensure that Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC create evacuation plans in the event of an emergency. But now, DNR is appealing Turner's decision. And the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Dick's injunction.
Foytlin purchased the land on which L'Eau Est La Vie sits when she learned that the pipeline route was slated to go through it, and officially "launched" L'Eau Est La Vie on June 24, 2017. Truthout reports that the purchase forced the pipeline to reroute.
Now the camp serves as the base for a continuously rotating group of a few dozen water protectors. Those in camp are asked to follow the lead of local indigenous women, like Foytlin, and other people of color. Some of the water protectors from the L'Eau Est La Vie sleep in encampments in the swamp and directly block pipeline workers' construction access from kayaks in the bayou, among other actions. Others sleep in tents pitched in a grassy field in the camp, where they cook meals, care for children, orient new arrivals, and plan actions together.
"Right now, we're fighting the pipeline because we're trying to protect our land and protect folks, but this will be over, and [the camp] is our opportunity," Foytlin shared. She imagines community gardens, a space for organizers to rejuvenate, outdoor classrooms for children to rediscover indigenous ways of being in the world. And she envisions the camp serving as a humanitarian staging ground in an era of increasingly debilitating storms.
The fence outside L'Eau Est La Vie camp. Jen Marlowe
Monique Verdin sits on the L'Eau Est La Vie camp council and the tribal council for the United Houma Nation. She works on divestment for the No Bayou Bridge Pipeline campaign. Like other divestment campaigns, this campaign calls on people to move their money from Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, U.S. Bank, Citibank, and other banks funding the pipeline as a way to pressure them to divest their shares in the companies building the lines.
"We've seen the promise of progress, and we've also seen the side effects of what comes with those promises," Verdin said. For the people in St. James, she said, those effects include living next to toxic waste facilities,poor air quality, disappearing land, and, in the case of the Bayou Bridge pipeline, possibly irreparable damage to the wetlands of Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp in the U.S.
London agreed that there's a contrast between industry promises and reality. He called it "the illusion of community growth" held out by industry. Real growth, he said, would be indicated by college kids returning to give back to their communities, a reduction of domestic violence, and an expansion of small businesses.
Harassment and intimidation of water protectors is routine, Verdin and Foytlin said. Drivers shout, "White power!" as they pass camp, said Foytlin. She also remembers four occasions when women from camp were stopped by people in unmarked cars with flashing lights. L'Eau Est La Vie tweeted that an ETP contractor assaulted an activist with the butt of his shotgun.
Verdin can identify what she called "shining victories" of L'Eau Est La Vie camp. Acquiring the camp and forcing the pipeline to reroute is one. She also sees the rulings of Louisiana judges Turner and Dick as unprecedented despite higher courts challenging those rulings.
On a deeper level, Verdin sees presenting this model of resistance a success in itself. "People in south Louisiana have been so beat down and told: 'You have oil and gas or you have nothing.'" The current system is built from a plantation economy; before oil and gas, there was cotton and sugar cane. Many of today's plant workers are descendants of slaves and sharecroppers. Verdin's hope is that the pipeline resistance will remind people "that we deserve better and we don't have to just take it. That we can challenge them."
White Hat sees power in the connections between her stance for justice and those fought by her people years ago. At a recent action locking down to machines on the pipeline easement, White Hat sang songs to the spirits of the bayou. This type of spiritual expression was not permitted, she noted, until the 1978 passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. If White Hat's relatives hadn't stood and fought for their right to pray, she may not have been able to sing on the easement without fear of arrest. "I did end up going to jail anyway, but it wasn't for praying," White Hat added with a chuckle.
Felicia Teter, who was arrested outside the governor's radio show at a L'Eau Est La Vie action on July 18, still sees problems. Despite the aspirations of the camp, she said, those with privilege—especially those who are White and male—speak more during camp meetings or fail to follow the lead of people of color. "You don't shed your Whiteness just because you show up at a camp. You don't shed your maleness. … But still, it's really frustrating." Teter hopes this will be a camp conversation soon.
Verdin and London both feel that local community support must increase, but don't see how until folks are offered real alternatives for employment outside of oil and gas jobs. "Give them a small business, give them a college degree, give them a high school diploma, and I bet they pull out of the plant," London said.
Foytlin is frustrated with movement allies using L'Eau Est La Vie actions to promote their own messages, which detract from the specific goals of the actions. She points to the action outside the governor's radio show. One environmental organization brought a banner declaring independence from fossil fuel. "That wasn't the message for this action. This action was to talk about St. James," Foytlin said.
Despite the challenges, and the very real possibility that the pipeline will be completed soon (ETP's website states that the pipeline is to be completed by the end of 2018), an air of optimism and hope prevails. Foytlin finds inspiration in people putting their bodies on the line for this cause. "That's sacrifice. That's beautiful, that's amazing, and it's bringing more and more people together."
Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.
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A coalition of concerned citizens, environmental groups, and health and safety advocates successfully challenged the approval of a massive refinery and rail project that will further harm air quality in the San Joaquin Valley and subject residents in several states to the catastrophic risks of a derailment involving scores of tanker cars filled with explosive Bakken crude oil.
The Alon Bakersfield Refinery Crude Flexibility Project, approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors, would have enabled the refinery to unload crude from more than 200 tanker train cars per day, allowing it to import up to 63.1 million barrels of crude oil per year. A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Association of Irritated Residents, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club claimed that Kern County's certification of an environmental impact report (EIR) failed to meet its legal duty to fully assess the project's risks and disclose them to the public. The court agreed.
Bakken crude emits high levels of volatile organic compound emissions that lead to ozone pollution, which in turn causes respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Already one in six children in the Valley will be diagnosed with asthma before age 18.
The crude oil being transported to the Alon Bakersfield Refinery from the Bakken formation in North Dakota poses a higher risk of explosion in the event of a rail accident than heavier crudes. Kern County's EIR underestimated the likelihood of release of hazardous materials by rail accident by fivefold. It also wrongly ignored the air pollution from rail transportation. The county's EIR was set aside requiring a new one to be drafted and certified.
"We have the worst air quality in the nation," Tom Franz, president of the Association of Irritated Residents, said. "It is not fair for Alon to go through a permit process that did not reveal all of the impacts related to the transportation of crude oil by rail into Kern County."
"Kern County already boasts some of the worst air quality in the nation. This proposal would have only made it worse," said Earthjustice Attorney Elizabeth Forsyth. "The People of Kern County deserve better than to have their air further degraded, and to be placed at greater risk of danger and tragedy due to an accident from a dangerous method of crude oil transportation."
"We're glad the court saw through the county's attempt to minimize the incredible risks this crude-by-rail terminal poses to nearby communities, from explosions to hazardous chemical spills," said Maya Golden-Krasner, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
In 2013, a derailment and subsequent explosion of a train carrying Bakken crude oil in Lac Megantic, Quebec, destroyed much of downtown and killed 47 people.
The blast sent thick, dark smoke across the city and prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents 10 miles downwind of the refinery, 2 miles to the north, and 3 miles east and west. All Superior schools closed Friday due to the fire.
Roughly 15 people were injured, Reuters reported.
Husky Energy, a Canadian company based in Alberta, said all the refinery's workers have been accounted for and no fatalities have been reported. Several people have been hospitalized and are reported to be in stable condition, the company said.
MPR reported that the refinery gets heavy crude from Alberta's tar sands and lighter crude from North Dakota's Bakken region. It processes around 50,000 barrels per day and has a storage capacity of 3.6 million barrels. It produces asphalt, gasoline, diesel and heavy fuel oils.
According to the Associated Press, a tank of crude oil or asphalt exploded about 10 a.m. Thursday at the refinery. The fire was put out about 11:20 a.m., but it reignited. Firefighters successfully extinguished the fires around 6:45 p.m., after burning for about eight hours.
Second explosion sends thick black smoke into air at Husky Energy Refinery in Superior, WI. More small popping blas… https://t.co/Zc3aT7w0TZ— Chris Hrapsky (@Chris Hrapsky)1524765767.0
"All indications are that the refinery site is safe and stable and the air quality is clean and normal," Superior Mayor Jim Paine wrote in a 5:38 a.m. Facebook post on Friday.
"I am lifting the evacuation order at 6 am this morning ... " he wrote. "Welcome home."
The Minnesota Red Cross supported evacuation and shelter operations, and provided food and hydration to first responders.
The American Red Cross is helping those affected by the Husky Refinery Explosion and Fire in #Superior, WI by suppo… https://t.co/QFNFzFyLCE— Minnesota Red Cross #GiveWithMeaning (@Minnesota Red Cross #GiveWithMeaning)1524790883.0
Governor Scott Walker tweeted about his visit to evacuees in a shelter on Friday.
"Certainly there will be plenty of research done to figure out what ultimately brought about this in the first place, but to see the kind of response as much as you don't want to have this in any community. To me, any time you don't have a fatality after an explosion, that in itself is a remarkable success story," Walker said.
In Superior and Duluth to thank all the first responders and volunteers and other staff. Visited folks at the shelt… https://t.co/0BXGTyFWIQ— Scott Walker (@Scott Walker)1524795537.0
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has sent a four-person team to investigate the incident.
"The emergency situation at the refinery is now over, and our focus in the days ahead will turn to the investigation and understanding the root cause of the incident," Husky Energy CEO Rob Peabody said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with those who were injured, and their families."
"Our deepest thanks to the emergency responders and members of the community who stepped forward with assistance. We also appreciate the support of businesses, and city and county authorities."
One Dead, Three Injured in Anadarko Oil Tank Explosion https://t.co/H64UR24IO0 @yokoono @MarkRuffalo— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1495847704.0
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By Justin Mikulka
The Motley Fool has been advising investors on "How to Profit From the Re-Emergence of Canada's Crude-by-Rail Strategy." But what makes transporting Canadian crude oil by rail attractive to investors?
According to the Motley Fool, the reason is "… right now, there is so much excess oil being pumped out of Canada's oil sands that the pipelines simply don't have the capacity to handle it all."
The International Energy Agency recently reached the same conclusion in its Oil 2018 market report.
"Crude by rail exports are likely to enjoy a renaissance, growing from their current 150,000 bpd [barrels per day] to an implied 250,000 bpd on average in 2018 and to 390,000 bpd in 2019. At their peak in 2019, rail exports of crude oil could be as high as 590,000 bpd—though this calculation assumes producers do not resort to crude storage in peak months," the International Energy Agency said, as reported by the Financial Post.
To put that in perspective, however, the industry was moving 1.3 million barrels per day at the peak of the U.S. oil-by-rail boom in 2014.
Graph of American crude-by-rail volumesU.S Energy Information Administration
And Canada has plenty of capacity to load oil on more trains, which means if a producer is willing to pay the premium to move oil by rail, it can find a customer to do it. The infrastructure is in place to load approximately 1.2 million barrels per day.
Canadian crude-by-rail loading facilities National Energy Board
With the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline project, which would have moved western Canada's tar sands east to Québec and New Brunswick, the industry now is pursuing two remaining major pipeline projects: Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain and the Keystone XL. The Financial Post reported that the International Energy Agency predicts the earliest start date for either of those projects as 2021. Both pipelines are facing fierce opposition.
Additionally, the surge in U.S. crude oil exports has been affecting the value of Canadian oil, and some are predicting the flood of U.S. crude abroad could deliver a serious blow to the tar sands industry in the long-term.
Over the next several years, however, the Canadian tar sands industry appears poised to rely heavily on rail to export its product while awaiting construction of new pipelines, much like the situation that led to the Bakken oil-by-rail boom in the U.S.
Risks of Canadian Oil by Rail Are Unknown
When hydraulic fracturing (fracking) turned North Dakota into a major oil producer, the state had little pipeline capacity. But it did have railroad tracks, many built over a century earlier, crisscrossing its plains.
As a result, the oil industry started filling up trains with highly volatile oil—under virtually no regulatory oversight—and in the process invented what rail workers would come to call "bomb trains." After the trains hauling Bakken oil in unsafe tank cars began exploding, it became apparent that the Bakken oil was the culprit.
As the Canadian oil industry begins to ramp up its rail exports, has it learned anything from the Bakken "bomb train" experiment (which in 2013 claimed 47 lives in Lac-Mégantic, Québec)?
Unfortunately, the industry appears to have learned very little. While it no longer uses the most dangerous DOT-111 tank cars to ship oil, most of the major oil train derailments and fires actually have involved the newer CPC-1232 tank cars, which make up the majority of the oil tank car fleet.
In addition, the rail industry has refused to use modern braking systems to improve safety and was able to get U.S. regulators to repeal a rule requiring modern brakes on oil trains. The industry is also fighting proposed regulations requiring two-person crews for oil trains.
Furthermore, it remains unclear what exactly will be inside those tank cars.
Will the industry choose to move some form of diluted bitumen or synthetic crude or raw bitumen? That information isn't available but makes a big difference when evaluating the risks posed by these trains.
Raw bitumen requires special tank cars that can be heated (to allow the thick, viscous bitumen to be pumped in and out) as well as the infrastructure to heat the cars. To date, there is little evidence the industry is moving much raw bitumen by rail. That leaves the option of pumping the cars full of diluted bitumen or synthetic crude oil (a processed intermediate product derived primarily from tar sands which is apparently chemically identical to conventional crude oil).
There have been two significant derailments of Canadian crude by rail—whether the oil was synthetic crude derived from tar sands is unconfirmed, but likely. Coincidentally, the derailments occurred just three weeks and several miles apart near the town of Gogama, Ontario. Both trains exploded and burned for days. The public was not allowed near the crash sites. One of the trains had several tank cars end up in the Makami River, which was contaminated by a large oil spill.
The Transportation Board of Canada reported that the material in the tank cars was "Horizon Sweet Light Oil." The agency described it as "synthetic crude oil distillate; sweet light oil" and was classified as Packing Group 1—which is the most dangerous classification. To put that in perspective, Packing Group 1 is a higher risk classification than the oil involved in the deadly Lac-Mégantic disaster.
Oil samples taken from the 2015 Gogama train crashTransportation Safety Board of Canada
Additionally, the Gogama crashes were caused by track failures. The American rail industry has successfully fought for years against any regulations on rail wear, and current rail regulations are stalled in the Trump administration.
More Oil Trains, Still No Spill Response Plans
A 1996 U.S. legal loophole exempts oil and rail companies from needing spill response plans for oil trains. This gap in oil spill regulations came to light during the U.S. boom in oil train traffic more than four years ago and has not been resolved yet.
However, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed a rule to change that. According to a Department of Transportation report, the regulation is in the "Final Rule" stage, but a PHMSA spokesperson was unable to provide further detail on the timing or status of the rule actually taking effect. There is no guarantee the proposed rule, which would require oil spill response plans for trains carrying at least 20 continuous cars of liquid petroleum oil or 35 cars throughout the train, won't simply languish under the Trump administration.
Another troubling aspect of this latest surge in oil-by-rail traffic is the fact that the oil industry, scientists, and U.S. and Canadian governments are still getting a grasp on how different types of tar sands oil behave when spilled in fresh and saltwater environments. One large tar sands oil spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010 and subsequent studies hint that there's more to the picture than the industry's spin that tar sands oil spills are no different than other crude oils.
Local Governments Taking Action
With the Trump administration actively rolling back safety regulations for oil trains, some U.S. states and communities are taking the initiative to protect themselves from the risks of tar sands oil and oil trains.
Washington state has been a battleground in the fight against new oil-by-rail infrastructure. The recent decision to reject the proposed Vancouver Energy oil-by-rail project at the Port of Vancouver was a major victory for that movement and the latest in a string of such efforts on the West Coast.
Washington is also taking things a step further and is now requiring rail companies to have oil spill response plans. The state recently approved such plans for oil-by-rail leader BNSF.
"This plan is a significant step forward for the protection of Washington's communities and environment," said Dale Jensen, the spills prevention program manager for the state of Washington. "Oil by rail has expanded significantly in recent years, and it's imperative railroad companies are prepared to work with the state to respond to a spill in a rapid, aggressive, and well-coordinated manner."
In New Jersey, earlier efforts to improve oil-by-rail safety were vetoed by then-Governor Chris Christie, but they have been restarted now that Christie is no longer governor. The proposed plans "would require railroads to develop oil spill response plans in case of a derailment."
More recently, the city of Baltimore voted to ban the construction of new facilities that could be used to export crude oil from its port, an effort specifically targeting proposed oil-by-rail projects. This is a similar approach to South Portland, Maine's ban on loading crude oil onto ships and to Albany, New York's efforts to stop tar sands by rail. These bans take on new significance now that the first ocean-going tanker was recently filled with Canadian tar sands oil, which arrived by rail in Portland, Oregon and is destined for China.
The first wave of oil trains in North America resulted in several major oil spills and the deaths of 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Québec. However, there were several other very close calls with oil train crashes in recent years, resulting in multiple declarations of how lucky communities were that there weren't more deaths due to these oil train derailments.
With no meaningful changes to how they are regulated, this second wave of oil trains will need that lucky streak to continue holding.
New Technology Could Turn Tar Sands Oil Into 'Pucks' for Less Hazardous Transport https://t.co/HzZa2Wuvzx @ScienceNewsOrg @TheScienceGuy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519080608.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By Steve Horn
The Iowa Senate has advanced a bill which critics say could lead to the criminalization of pipeline protests, which are being cast as "terrorist activities." Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners and other companies have lobbied for the bill, Senate Study Bill 3062, which opens up the possibility of prison time and a hefty fine for those who commit "sabotage" of critical infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines.
This bill, carrying a criminal punishment of up to 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines, resembles the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, a "model" bill recently passed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That ALEC bill, intended as a template for state and federal legislation, was based on Oklahoma's HB 1123, which calls for citizens to receive a felony sentencing, $100,000 fine, and/or 10 years in prison if their actions "willfully damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, or tamper with equipment in a critical infrastructure facility."
According to disclosure records, corporations lobbying for the Iowa bill include not only Energy Transfer Partners, but also Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, Valero Energy, Magellan Midstream and others. The Iowa State Police Association has also come out in support of the bill, while the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is against it. The bill has passed out of subcommittee and next goes in front of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill's introduction comes as President Donald Trump called for Congress to pass a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill in his State of the Union Address, which according to a leaked outline of his proposal published by The Washington Post, includes pipelines and would expedite the federal regulatory permitting process for them, largely by simply removing environmental requirements.
State Sen. Jack Shipley (R), one of the Judiciary Subcommittee "yes" votes, told the Des Moines Register that the bill was necessary "as evidenced by terrorist activities on pipelines, many many pipelines."
Sen. Charles Schneider, who also voted to advance the bill out of subcommittee, is one of two Iowa ALEC state chairs. The other "yes" vote came from Sen. Rich Taylor, a Democrat.
ALEC is a corporate-funded group which brings together primarily Republican Party state legislators and lobbyists at annual meetings to vote on proposed "model" legislation, generally drafted by corporate lobbyists and attorneys. The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act passed through ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force at its States & Nation Policy Summit in December held in Nashville, Tennessee.
Energy Transfer Partners' Iowa lobbyist, Jeff Boeyink, formerly served as chief of staff for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who now serves as U.S. Ambassador to China. Branstad was one of ALEC's key founding members in the 1970s. Energy Transfer in the past has funded ALEC meetings, though it is not clear if they are a current donor, as ALEC does not list funders on its website, nor does it make public who sponsors its meetings.
Boeyink told the Des Moines Register that he believes Energy Transfer Partners is the "poster child" showing the bill's necessity, alluding to the months-long protests which erupted against the Dakota Access pipeline in both North Dakota and Iowa. But one of the leading opponents of the bill, Bold Iowa, has come out against the legislation and sees it as overreach.
"This latest attempt by Big Oil to silence dissent is no surprise," Ed Fallon, director of Bold Iowa, said in a press release about the bill. "This is legislative extremism at its worst. The bill's backers want you to believe this is about cracking down on arson and vandalism. But the hundreds of pipeline protesters who were peaceful, nonviolent and didn't engage in property destruction could be accused of interrupting service under this bill and subject to insane consequences."
The director of ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force, Grant Kidwell, told DeSmog that he expects the model bill could be introduced in other states in the weeks ahead. He also pointed out that it is not only an ALEC model bill, but also one passed at the corporate-funded Council on State Governments.
Before coming to ALEC, Kidwell worked as a senior policy analyst for Americans for Prosperity, the lobbying, advocacy and electioneering group funded and founded by money from the Koch Family Foundations and Koch Industries.
"States are recognizing the importance of critical infrastructure and the threats to it," Kidwell told DeSmog. "Oklahoma enacted legislation in 2017 protecting critical infrastructure before ALEC began its consideration of model policy on the issue. Iowa is currently considering legislation to protect critical infrastructure and likely many more states will as well."
Members of the Iowa-based lobbying teams for the bill, representing Koch Industries and Energy Transfer Partners, did not respond to a request for comment.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.