Utah Oil Spill Cleanup Continues After BLM's False Claims of Containment
As rain poured on Utah land this past weekend pushing oil about five miles upstream into a wash adjacent to the Green River, it appeared that a Bureau of Land Management assessment of a leak was completely wrong.
A BLM report released a week ago stated that a breached oil well had been contained after the May 21 leak. Now, the federal agency says “intense thundershower activity overcame prevention measures" and, as a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues cleanup efforts that could take another week, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“This pollution of the Green River could and should have been prevented," said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council. "The fact that the BLM claimed it was contained before it went on to contaminate the Green River with carcinogens is disturbing.”
Initial BLM estimates indicated that the damaged well gushed 80 to 100 barrels of oil per hour for more than 30 hours. Groups like the Utah Rivers Council, the Sierra Club, Living Rivers and the Colorado Riverkeeper believe that amount equals 100,000 gallons of crude oil into a wash adjacent to the river. It is unknown how much of the oil entered the river, which is the largest tributary to the Colorado River, the main source of drinking water for about 35 million people. It is also the habitat of four endangered fish species.
Officials told Utah's KSL that the oil's contact with the river was "minimal."
The spill is the third to occur in the state in just three months. Utah is now ranked 11th in the country in terms of crude oil production. The state isn't trying to slow its oil boom down, either. The annual Utah Governor’s Energy Development Summit begins June 3 and is typically an effective recruiting tool for new development. Additionally, thousands of proposed new wells are awaiting approval.
"It’s unlikely that [Gov. Gary R. Herbert] and his friends from the fossil fuels industries will be talking about another oil spill in Utah," Tim Wagner of the Sierra Club said. "Rather, we can be sure that they will be discussing additional ways that they can tap into more of Utah’s black gold, including plotting to take away our public lands.”
Environmentalists are worried about what the miscalculation means for the future.
“With the energy policies of our state leaders, lower basin residents can see the future, which means more pollution in their taps," said John Weisheit, conservation director of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper.
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They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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