Watch Out New England, Tar Sands Pipeline Headed Your Way
We’ve written before about Big Oil’s new playbook on tar sands: using stealth tactics to make it harder for the public to figure out what dangerous projects they have in mind and trying to pull one over on the public. Bearing locally-based labels like “Portland Pipe Line Corporation” and “Montreal Pipe Line Limited,” the proposed Trailbreaker tar sands pipeline is actually owned by ExxonMobil, via its Canadian Subsidiary Imperial Oil, with tar sands giant Suncor Energy having a minority stake in the company.
Imperial and Suncor are among the largest developers of Canadian tar sands oil. This convoluted corporate maze of oil behemoths is in bed with Enbridge, the company behind the Kalamazoo River oil spill, the most costly onshore spill in U.S. history. Now, it apparently wants to pump tar sands oil from Alberta through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to the port of Portland for overseas markets. Tar sands oil is a heavy, corrosive, diluted bitumen and is known as one of the dirtiest, most-polluting, hardest-to-clean-up fuels on the planet. The tar sands business is booming in Canada and the corporate hawks are positioning to pounce on the profits they see in this dirty product by using New England communities as conduits to export markets.
It’s no wonder ExxonMobil doesn’t want to come clean. The company’s not clean. It was ExxonMobil that caused the infamous 1989 Valdez spill, a disaster that spewed 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s pristine waters. In July 2011, the company’s Silvertip Pipeline dumped 42,000 gallons of oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River.
And the plot thickens. Exxon’s apparent partner in the Trailbreaker tar sands plot is Enbridge, the company that owns the line from Ontario to Montreal that could connect to the line to Portland. In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline rupture poured a million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River, an incident which an independent review found was due to extreme negligence.
The New England Trailbreaker project would reverse the flow of the current Portland-Montreal Pipe Line (PMPL) going from Portland, Maine to Quebec. Under the Trailbreaker scheme, tar sands would flow across Canada and through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine through this pipeline. And this oil flowing to Portland would not help the people of those states even if they wanted it because the most likely would be exported or sent to refineries by ship. The people of New England would be left with all the harm—ruptures and pumping station breakdowns that could threaten thousands of clear lakes and rivers and unspoiled forests.
The people of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have a long history of valuing their forests, rivers and lakes. They deserve straight talk and full disclosure, not backroom deals shrouded in a complicated a corporate structure that hides the true identity and motives of the real players who see these states as just a “pass-through” to the coast and a pass-through to easy profits.
“This pipeline presents a double whammy. ExxonMobil’s apparent partner in this tar sands pipeline scheme is Enbridge, which has disastrous safety record and is responsible for the devastating Kalamazoo River tar sands spill in 2010,” said Jim Murphy, Vermont-based senior counsel with National Wildlife Federation. “Enbridge spilled a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River, the most expensive domestic pipeline spill in history that will mar the river for years, maybe decades. Independent review found that extreme negligence led to the spill. Vermont doesn’t need this type of disaster.”
These oil giants have a dirty track record. Let’s not let them add to that record.
New Analysis Released Today
A new analysis released today by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other environmental groups shows that ExxonMobil is the majority owner of the pipeline that cuts across New England—a pipeline that is the subject of an emerging proposal to transport tar sands. ExxonMobil’s Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Oil Limited, owns 76 percent of the pipeline, while Canadian oil giant Suncor Energy owns the remaining 24 percent. These companies are among the biggest developers of Canadian tar sands.
The report is being released in connection with an event in Portland, Maine, highlighting safety concerns that tar sands bring to New England. Tar sands is a carbon intensive, especially dirty source of oil that is mined in the sensitive and ecologically important boreal forest of Alberta. Its development has resulted in serious pollution in Alberta and threatens to sully an area the size of Florida.
In addition, the groups today released information obtained through a Freedom of Access Act request, submitted by NWF, showing that Maine Governor Paul LePage met with the Portland Pipe Line Corporation in October 2011 to talk about tar sands oil, though the company continued to publicly deny that the project was moving forward throughout 2012.
“With a corporate identity like the ‘Portland Pipe Line Corporation,’ it’s easy to lose sight of who is really driving this tar sands pipeline proposal,” said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “But the company’s corporate family tree reveals that the vast majority of the pipeline is ultimately owned by the world’s largest company—ExxonMobil, and, unfortunately, Exxon does not have Maine’s interests in mind. They will act to maximize their tar sands profits with little regard to the risk poised to Maine’s people, environment or natural resource economy.”
The research released today finds that the pipeline between Portland, Maine and Montreal has two direct corporate owners: Montreal Pipe Line Limited (MPLL), which owns the stretch in Canada, from the U.S. border to Montreal and the Portland Pipe Line Corporation, which owns the U.S. section and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MPLL. In turn a direct subsidiary of ExxonMobil, Imperial Oil Limited, holds a majority interest (76 percent) in the pipeline. A smaller portion (24 percent) is owned by the Canadian giant Suncor Energy.
In addition, half of the ten-members of the Portland Pipe Line Corporation’s Board of Directors, work for oil companies in Alberta, home of the tar sands, while others are from Ontario or Texas. Only one board member is from Maine and he serves as president of the Portland Pipeline Corp.
“This information is a double whammy—not only is ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the world, behind the plan to transport dangerous tar sands oil through Maine, but its local representatives have misled the public about the status of the project,” said Environment Maine director Emily Figdor.
For months ExxonMobil’s local subsidiary, the Portland Pipeline Corporation, has sought to deflect rising concerns in Maine about tar sands transport by denying that there is an “active” proposal to reverse the use the existing pipeline to transport tar sands. However, documents released today reveal that the company met with Governor LePage and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection last year specifically to discuss Canadian tar sands. That meeting happened in October 2011, several months after Enbridge submitted an application in Canada to reverse the Canadian portion of the project in order to carry dangerous tar sands oil eastward.
On the Canadian side of the border, advocates of the first phase of the project have repeatedly claimed that they want to bring tar sands east for Canadian use and denied that they are resurrecting the full tar sands reversal plan formerly known as “Trailbreaker.” But this just doesn’t fit the facts—including the fact that the Canadian consulate itself joined the Maine leadership meetings to talk about tar sands.
ExxonMobil, the company responsible for the disastrous Valdez oil spill that rocked the world in 1989, was also responsible for the July 2011 Silvertip Pipeline spill that dumped 42,000 gallons of oil into the pristine Yellowstone River in Montana. While that oil spilled happened to be conventional crude oil, the pipeline is also used to move corrosive tar sands “diluted bitumen,” which has proven nearly impossible to clean after it spills.
“Today’s revelation is doubly troubling because Exxon’s apparent partner in this tar sands pipeline scheme is Enbridge, the company that owns the line from Ontario to Montreal where it connects to Exxon’s line to Portland,” said Jim Murphy, an attorney with NWF. “Two years ago Enbridge spilled a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River, with devastating impacts to the ecology, public health, recreation and property values. Independent review found that extreme negligence led to the spill. These aren’t the kind of companies we can trust with Maine’s natural resources.”
At the news conference, Environment Maine director Emily Figdor read a statement from Terri Young, a Bangor resident who worked on the Exxon Valdez civil case. Young explained, “It makes me just shudder to know that ExxonMobil is the owner of the pipeline in Maine and is now trying to bring dangerous tar sands oil in Maine. Their reckless disregard for safety and the environment caused untold damage in Alaska.”
“This pattern of misleading statements and trying to hide what is really going on is troubling,” said Glen Brand, executive director of Sierra Club Maine. “Clearly these pipeline companies are worried that if Maine people and others really see the full picture of what is going on to bring tar sands through the region, they will face even greater public opposition. Exxon and Enbridge have dirty track records with oil and tar sands, so it is understandable why they prefer their dealings to be behind closed doors.”
“Bringing dangerous, toxic tar sands oil through Maine is not in the interest of Maine’s people,” said Voorhees. “Not the people who drink water from Sebago Lake, not the people who fish and swim and paddle on the pristine rivers of Western Maine, not the households and businesses who rely on tourists and summer campers who visit Maine each year, nor the local businesses across the state who rely on a clean environment to produce and export, clean, healthy products, from clams or organic foods. Tar sands and the Maine brand don’t mix.”
“Exxon’s pipeline would move the same blend of toxic tar sands crude that Enbridge spilled into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River,” said Anthony Swift, a pipeline and tar sands expert with NRDC. “We’ve learned from that disaster how damaging and difficult to clean tar sands crude is. While it may be too late to save the Kalamazoo River, it’s not too late to protect New England’s rivers and waterways from tar sands spills.”
“As a landowner and a businessman who depends on the clean waters along the Crooked River, I’ve very concerned about the possibility of tar sands running through this pipeline,” said Lee Margolin, owner of Pennesseewassee Brewing Company in Harrison, ME. “Ale has only four ingredients and one of them is clean water, so it is exceedingly important to quality of my product. I also happen to have a doctorate in biology and understand some of the chemicals involved in tar sands, and I’m a member of a local fishing club—no matter which hat I wear, this proposal makes me very worried.”
“These are companies that don’t have Maine’s interests in mind—to them Maine is just a pass-through on the way to global oil profits,” said Figdor.
Tar sand is a thick, sandy, oily substance being mined and drilled out of the rocks and soil of Alberta. Because of its physical properties, it must be diluted and then transported at very high temperatures and pressures. Even in its diluted form (“diluted bitumen”) tar sands is far more abrasive and corrosive than conventional oil, with a record of greater spills per mile of pipeline. The increased spill risk is compounded by the fact that if spilled, tar sands is more toxic and almost impossible to clean up—as evidenced by the on-going clean-up on the Kalmazoo. In addition, tar sands fuels create 20 percent more climate changing pollution than traditional oil. This is why tar sands is known as “the dirtiest oil on the planet.”
Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
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By Tim Radford
German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.
Nearing the Brink<p>Since <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/abundant-fish-need-cool-seas-and-protection/" target="_blank">fish in the temperate zones already experience a wide variation</a> in seasonal water temperatures, it hasn't been obvious why species such as <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/sardines-swim-into-northern-waters-to-keep-cool/" target="_blank">cod have shifted nearer the Arctic, and sardines have migrated to the North Sea</a>.</p><p>But <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/ocean-warming-spurs-marine-life-to-rapid-migration/" target="_blank">marine creatures are on the move</a>, and although there are other factors at work, including overfishing and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fish-cant-smell-well-in-more-acidic-seas/" target="_blank">the increasingly alarming changes in ocean chemistry</a>, thanks to ever-higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, temperature change is part of the problem.</p><p>The latest answer, Dr Dahlke and his colleagues report in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaz3658" target="_blank">Science</a>, is that many fish may already be living near the limits of their thermal tolerance.</p><p>The temperature safety margins during the moments of spawning and embryo might be very precise, and over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, marine and freshwater species have worked out just what is best for the next generation. Rapid global warming upsets this equilibrium.</p>
By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach
The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.
When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.
We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.
Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.
What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.
Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.
To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.
Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.
The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.
Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.
Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?
The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.
Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome
While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.
It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.
Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.
Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.
Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.
Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.
Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal 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 their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Jake Johnson
Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.
"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."
The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."
In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."
"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."
Today the 6 Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces are unveiling final language. The Climate Task Force accomplished a gr… https://t.co/gz3broq2qe— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1594240617.0
The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.
Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."
"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."
Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."
"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.
On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.
Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.
"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."
We rein in #pharma's greed by: 1) Allowing Medicare to FINALLY negotiate Rx drugs FOR ALL AMERICANS 2) Using Rx d… https://t.co/6k9iUCLMp7— Abdul El-Sayed (@Abdul El-Sayed)1594238411.0
Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."
Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."
"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."
"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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