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The Great Australian Bight is home to one of only two southern right whale calving grounds in the world. Greenpeace / Jaimen Hudson

An Oil Spill in the Great Australian Bight Could Be Twice as Bad as Deepwater Horizon

Equinor, Norway's state oil company formerly known as Statoil, has faced criticism from environmentalists over its plans to drill the Great Australian Bight off the country's southern coast. A potential spill in the area would threaten the ecosystem and endanger the largest breeding populations of endangered southern right whales in the world.

Such fears are now confirmed if a blowout should actually occur, according to a leaked draft Oil Pollution Emergency Plan authored by Equinor and obtained by Greenpeace's Australia Pacific branch.

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Demonstrators march to the Federal Building in protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order fast-tracking the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, in Los Angeles on Feb. 5, 2017. MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

Judge Halts Keystone XL, Rules Trump ‘Cannot Simply Disregard’ Climate Science

Of the many Obama-era environmental decisions that President Donald Trump reversed once he took office, one of the most painful was his move to re-approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta's tar sands through Montana to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines leading to the Gulf Coast.

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Contractors work on a replacement for Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline in Wisconsin. Derek Montgomery / Minnesota Public Radio News

Minnesota Approves Controversial Enbridge Pipeline Rebuild

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.


Oceans
An oil-stained beach in Florida following the Deepwater Horizon spill. Geoff Livingston / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Disastrous BP Oil Spill 'Flattened' Microbe Biodiversity in Gulf

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order striking a conservation-minded oceans policy that former President Barack Obama signed in the wake of the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

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Energy

Major Oil Spill Contaminates 1,000 Birds in Rotterdam Harbor

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.

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Derailed Train Spills 230,000 Gallons of Crude Into Flooded Iowa River

A train derailment spilled 230,000 gallons of crude oil into an already-flooded Iowa river Friday, endangering downstream drinking water, the Des Moines Register reported Sunday.

Thirty-two cars of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train derailed, 14 of which leaked crude oil into the Rock River in Doon, Iowa. The cause of the derailment is unknown, but officials including Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds attributed it to heavy rain Wednesday and Thursday which led to flooding.

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Energy
The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Darfield Pumping Station. Google

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Leak Two Days Before Trudeau Buyout Was 48 Times Larger Than First Reported

By Jake Johnson

Just two days before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government would purchase Kinder Morgan's faltering and widely opposed Trans Mountain pipeline, British Columbia's Ministry of Environment said 100 liters of crude oil had leaked at a Kinder Morgan pipeline pump station north of Kamloops—but the company initially refused to confirm the severity of the spill.

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Protesters at Trans Mountain pipeline protest in Burnaby. Break Free / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Canada to Buy Controversial Tar Sands Pipeline

The Canadian government plans to spend $4.5 billion Canadian dollars ($3.5 billion) to buy Kinder Morgan's existing Trans Mountain pipeline and its controversial expansion project that will triple the amount of tar sands transported from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.

The pipeline has been at the center of widespread protests by environmentalists and some Indigenous groups. The announcement was met with condemnation from 350.org organizers, who slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government for "turning Canada into a fossil fuel company."

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Energy
Lake Oahe, the source of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's drinking water. DVS / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Stopping a Dakota Access Pipeline Leak in Under 10 Minutes? A Fairy Tale, Say the Standing Rock Sioux

By Susan Cosier

Nine minutes. That's the longest it would take to detect a leak and shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) should the crude oil within begin escaping into the North Dakota prairie or the Missouri River. At least that's what Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the pipeline's owner, says. It's a claim that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe calls completely unrealistic given the company's "inadequate" emergency response plan.

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