Aug. 09, 2018 07:36AM EST
An oil field and fracking site in California's San Joaquin Valley. Education Images / Getty Images
By Meghana Kuppa
The exasperation was apparent in Jesse Marquez's voice recently as he testified at a public hearing in Washington DC, about a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to roll back a safety rule that would make the chemical industry more accountable for public health.
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.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a controversial rebuild of Line 3 of the Enbridge Energy oil pipeline Thursday, as environmental activists and Native American groups vowed to keep fighting, The Associated Press reported.
Opponents are concerned about the need for new fossil fuel infrastructure and the danger of an oil spill near vulnerable ecosystems in Minnesota, including areas where Native Americans harvest wild rice, which is sacred to the Ojibwe.
"You have just declared war on the Ojibwe!" Tania Aubid of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe stood and said when the PUC's decision became apparent.
"What they have done to us today is egregious," Honor the Earth executive director Winona LaDuke told Reuters. "They have gotten their Standing Rock. We will do everything that is needed to stop this pipeline."
Enbridge Energy argued they needed to replace the existing Line 3, which was built in the 1960s and is subject to corrosion and cracking. They currently operate it at half-capacity due to safety reasons. The company said they would continue running the existing unsafe pipeline if a replacement was not approved, The Associated Press reported.
Opponents, including the Minnesota Department of Commerce, said the Midwest didn't need the additional oil from a pipeline replacement since demand will likely fall with the rise of electric vehicles and renewable energy.
The commissioners seemed to have a hard time making the decision―chairwoman Nancy Langue wiped away tears as she explained her reasoning―and emphasized concerns about the safety of the existing, older pipeline
"It's irrefutable that that pipeline is an accident waiting to happen," Commissioner Dan Lipschultz said before the vote. "It feels like a gun to our head … All I can say is the gun is real and it's loaded."
All five PUC members voted to approve the rebuild of the current pipeline, which stretches from Alberta, through North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge's terminal in Wisconsin. Rebuilds have already finished in Wisconsin and begun in North Dakota and Alberta.
The PUC also voted three to two to approve a modified version of Enbridge's approved route, which will avoid two Native American reservations crossed by the existing pipeline but will cross land belonging to the Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa, though the PUC said the new route would depend on the Fond du Lac Band's agreement.
Tribal groups said Enbridge's plan was the worst possible route and preferred a longer one that went further south, according to Reuters.Opponents will have 20 days from when the approval order is written to ask the PUC to reconsider its decision, something White Earth Nation lawyer Joe Plummer told Reuters is very likely. If the decision stands, opponents can then appeal to the Minnesota appeals court.
In a blow to the climate liability movement, Federal Judge William Alsup on Monday threw out a trendsetting lawsuit brought by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco against the five biggest fossil-fuel producing companies, The New York Times reported.
The two Bay Area cities were the first major U.S. cities to sue big oil over the costs of adapting to climate change, but other cities and counties around the country, including New York, Boulder and Seattle's King County, have followed their lead for a current total of 11 such lawsuits on the books.
Environmental groups and volunteers are working to save about 1,000 oil-covered birds after a freighter spilled heavy fuel oil into a Rotterdam harbor on Saturday, the Netherlands' Sea Creatures Rescue Team estimated to Reuters.
Odfjell, the owner of the freighter Bow Jubail, said the vessel crashed into a jetty while mooring and accidentally ruptured its hull, releasing 217 tons of heavy fuel oil into the water.