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Canada's Trans Mountain pipeline spilled as many as 190,000 liters (approximately 50,193 gallons) of crude oil in Abbotsford, British Columbia (BC) Saturday, reinforcing concerns about the safety of the pipeline's planned expansion.
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A 21,000 tonne (approximately 23,000 U.S. ton) oil spill that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare an emergency last week has now reached a pristine Arctic lake, and there are concerns it could contaminate the Arctic Ocean.
Environmentalists and local officials have raised alarms about the disaster, which they say is the worst of its kind in the Russian Arctic, according to BBC News. So far, the oil has spread 12 miles from the initial spill site, a fuel tank that collapsed May 29.
"The fuel has got into Pyasino as well. This is a beautiful lake about 70 kilometres (45 miles) long. Naturally, it has both fish and a good biosphere," Krasnoyarsk region governor Alexander Uss told Interfax news agency Tuesday, as AFP reported.
A catastrophe is taking place right before our eyes. The diesel spill in Norilsk has become the first accident of such a scale in the Arctic. 20 thousand tonnes of diesel fuel have been spilled in local rivers. pic.twitter.com/PXEXkTuACE— Greenpeace Russia (@greenpeaceru) June 4, 2020
Lake Pyasino flows into the Pyasina river, which in turn flows into the Arctic Ocean's Kara Sea, BBC News explained.
Greenpeace Russia director Vladimir Chuprov told AFP it would be a "disaster" if 10,000 tonnes (approximately 11,000 U.S. tons) of fuel or more had reached the lake. He said he feared it would reach the Kara Sea as well, which would have "harmful consequences."
Uss, however, was committed to preventing that from happening.
"Now it's important to prevent it from getting into the Pyasina river, which flows north. That should be possible," he said, as BBC News reported.
The news that the spill had reached the lake came a week after a spokeswoman for the team in charge of cleanup efforts told AFP the spill had been contained.
But regional officials told a different story.
"We can see a large concentration of diluted oil products beyond the booms," Krasnoyarsk region deputy environment minister Yulia Gumenyuk said, according to BBC News.
Norilsk Nickel, the company that ultimately owns the power plant where the tank collapsed, denied that any oil had reached the lake.
"Our samples at the Pyasino Lake show 0.0 percent contamination results," Sergei Dyachenko, the company's first vice-president and chief operating officer, said in a Tuesday video conference reported by AFP.
He also said it was unlikely the fuel would reach the ocean.
"The distance from Pyasino Lake to the Kara Sea is more than 5,000 kilometres (approximately 3,107 miles)," he said.
The spill has also contaminated rivers and soil. So far, cleanup efforts have removed 812,000 cubic feet of contaminated dirt, according to BBC News.
"[The spill] will have a negative effect on the water resources, on the animals that drink that water, on the plants growing on the banks," Vasily Yablokov of Greenpeace Russia said, according to BBC News.
The polluted Ambarnaya and Daldykan rivers may take ten years to clean, The Guardian reported.
Norilsk Nickel has said the collapse that caused the spill was probably due to melting permafrost, but environmental groups have accused the company of using the climate crisis to downplay its own culpability.
"It's an attempt to write off Nornickel's failure in risk management and ecological safety on the fashionable topic of climate change," Alexey Knizhnikov of the World Wildlife Fund told The Guardian. "The main factor is mismanagement."
Greenpeace said it had reported on the threat posed by thawing permafrost to oil and gas infrastructure in the fast-warning Russian Arctic as far back as 2009. But Dyachenko said in a conference call Tuesday that the company had not been monitoring the permafrost before the accident.
"It's not possible that the company did not know about [thawing permafrost], but it is possible that the company used a dangerous facility irresponsibly," Greenpeace Russia's Yablokov told The Guardian.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into a river in the Arctic Circle.
By Andrea Germanos
Nearly 10 years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe began in the Gulf of Mexico, a leading ocean conservation group warned Tuesday that the threat of another similar disaster looms large and that the fossil fuel industry and U.S. government have learned practically nothing from the world's worst ever such disaster.
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By Donald Boesch
Ten years ago, on April 20, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 crew members and starting the largest ocean oil spill in history. Over the next three months, between 4 million and 5 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.
Safety improvements are threatened<p>The presidential commission recommended numerous reforms to reduce the risks and environmental damages from offshore oil and gas development. The industry developed <a href="https://www.noia.org/offshore-energy/safety/response-containment-systems/" target="_blank">systems to contain blowouts</a> in deep water and has deployed them worldwide. Improvements in operational safety were made within companies and <a href="https://www.centerforoffshoresafety.org/" target="_blank">across the industry</a>.</p><p>The Department of the Interior acted quickly to reorganize its units. It created a <a href="https://www.bsee.gov/who-we-are/about-us" target="_blank">Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement</a> to avoid conflicts of interests with its leasing, development and revenue collection responsibilities. After four years in development, the bureau issued <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/04/29/2016-08921/oil-and-gas-and-sulfur-operations-in-the-outer-continental-shelf-blowout-preventer-systems-and-well" target="_blank">new well control rules</a> in 2016 governing drilling safety.</p><p>But despite progress on a number of fronts, Congress has not enacted legislation to improve safety or even raise energy companies' ridiculously low liability limits for oil spills – currently just <a href="https://www.boem.gov/newsroom/press-releases/boem-adjusts-limit-liability-oil-spills-offshore-facilities" target="_blank">US$134 million</a> for offshore facilities like the Deepwater Horizon. The Trump administration has <a href="https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/bsee-finalizes-improved-blowout-preventer-and-well-control-regulations" target="_blank">reversed or relaxed safety reforms</a>. It has loosened the safe pressure margins allowed in a well, dispensed with independent inspections of blowout protectors and removed requirements for continuous onshore monitoring of offshore drilling.</p>
Where contamination lingers<p>Before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the deep Gulf of Mexico ecosystem was egregiously understudied in all respects, while a <a href="https://www.boem.gov/sites/default/files/oil-and-gas-energy-program/Leasing/Five-Year-Program/2019-2024/DPP/NP-Economic-Benefits.pdf" target="_blank">multi-billion-dollar industry</a> intruded into it. Now scientists know much more about what happens when large quantities of oil and gas are released in a seafloor blowout.</p><p>Scientists learned much about the effects of the spill through monitoring the blowout, assessing damages to natural resources and investigating the fate and effects of escaping oil. More has been spent on these studies and more results published than for any previous oil spill.</p><p>A substantial portion of oil released from the mile-deep well was entrained in a plume of droplets spreading out 3,000 feet below the Gulf's surface. Footprints of contamination and effects extended <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaw8863" target="_blank">far beyond the area where oil slicks were observed</a>.</p>
NASA | Satellites View Growing Gulf Oil Spill<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e0ae67b051718ba3863e543b577e9716"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mCWW5xt3Hc8?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Nearly all of the oil released has since degraded. Populations of most affected organisms have recovered. But contamination lingers in sediments in the deep Gulf, and in some marshes and beaches where oil came ashore. Populations of <a href="https://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/Chapter-4_Injury_to_Natural_Resources_508.pdf" target="_blank">long-lived animals the oil killed </a> might not recover for decades. These include sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, seabirds and <a href="https://theconversation.com/deepwater-corals-thrive-at-the-bottom-of-the-ocean-but-cant-escape-human-impacts-104211" target="_blank">deepwater corals</a>.</p><p>And yet, as scientists synthesize results from this <a href="https://gulfresearchinitiative.org/" target="_blank">10-year research initiative</a>, very little practical advice is emerging about what can be done to respond more effectively to future blowouts from ever-deeper drilling in the Gulf.</p><p>Surely, we can more rapidly contain blowouts. The effectiveness of injecting chemical dispersants into the plume gushing from the well <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-12963-7_29" target="_blank">remains in debate</a>. How much oil do dispersants keep from reaching the surface, where it threatens those working to stanch the blowout, as well as birds, sea turtles and coastal ecosystems? But the research has not revealed more effective approaches in controlling released oil.</p>
Safety first is the big lesson<p>As I see it, the essential lesson from Deepwater Horizon is that industry and government should be putting their greatest energies into preventing operational accidents, blowouts and releases. Yet the Trump administration emphasizes <a href="https://theconversation.com/trumps-offshore-oil-drilling-plans-ignore-the-lessons-of-bp-deepwater-horizon-89570" target="_blank">increasing production and reducing regulations</a>. This undermines safety improvements made over the past 10 years.</p><p>Furthermore, the price of crude oil – already low because of high fracked oil production in the U.S. – has <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-oil-shock-of-2020-appears-to-be-here-and-the-pain-could-be-wide-and-deep-133293" target="_blank">declined drastically</a> since the beginning of 2020. Saudi and Russian oil had already glutted the market when the coronavirus pandemic reduced oil consumption.</p>
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A case that has bounced around the lower courts for 13 years was finally settled yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision, finding oil giant Citgo liable for a clean up of a 2004 oil spill in the Delaware River, according to Reuters.
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At least 15 people died in a gas explosion in Lagos, Nigeria Sunday morning.
The Canadian company Enbridge is moving forward with plans to build a $500 million oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, which runs between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. The oil transportation company said it would go ahead with plans despite an ongoing lawsuit with Michigan, according to Kallanish Energy.
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By Julia Conley
Ten years after BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster sent hundreds of millions of gallons of oil across the Gulf of Mexico, researchers say the reach of the damage was far more significant than previously thought.