Thursday, May 19, 2016

Shell Oil Spill Cleanup Operation Ends As Voices Against New Gulf Drilling Grow Louder



Five days after Royal Dutch Shell reported an estimated 88,000 gallon crude oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico from its operations in the Glider field, the oil company and the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to halt skimming operations used in the cleanup because they were no longer finding recoverable oil. 
Both entities stated that no environmental damage has been reported, but independent monitors from Greenpeace, Vanishing Earth and Wings Of Care question whether the size and potential impact of the spill are being downplayed. 
News of Shell’s oil spill 90 miles south of Louisiana’s Timbalier Island came the day before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hosted a final week of public meetings on the Gulf Coast to give the public a chance to comment on itsFive Year Plan 2017-2022 oil leasing program. Its plan calls for lease sales of 47 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. 
Shell contracted Clean Gulf Associates and Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) for the cleanup operation. MSRC, one of the companies BP used to clean up its 2010 spill, dumped the dispersant Corexit in the Gulf.
This time, “dispersant wasn’t used,” the Coast Guard told DeSmog. The Coast Guard and Shell agreed that using on-water recovery vessels and skimming would be the best oil recovery option. 
Environmental scientist Wilma Subra, though pleased dispersant wasn't used, told DeSmog, “Skimming is not a very good oil recovery option.” 
Subra believes that if skimming is the best cleanup method the Coast Guard and oil companies can come up with, it shows they are no better prepared for an oil spill than they were when the BP oil disaster occurred. 

Shell oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. ©2016 Jonathan Henderson
Environmental watchdog group SkyTruth concurred with Subra. They described the oil spill cleanup response as a bad joke. Last Saturday, Greenpeace photographed the site, taking with them Jonathan Henderson, founder of Vanishing Earth, who also documented the spill.
I counted three vessels skimming oil,” Henderson told DeSmog. “It’s ridiculous that our federal government has basically sat back and allowed this industry to invest the vast majority of its money on exploration and extraction and not nearly the level of investment in response technology that is so critical whenever something like this goes wrong.”
On Wings of Care, another environmental watchdog group, flew Dr. Ian MacDonald of Florida State University over the spill site on Sunday. SkyTruth’s blog revealed that
Dr. MacDonald observed that the response vessels seemed to be missing the thickest parts of the slick and were generally making very little headway, despite operating under fairly calm conditions (average wind speed of 7 knots recorded at Brutus TLP over this time period), nearly ideal for oil cleanup operations.”
Oil spill response vessels grossly underperform,” SkyTruth stated. Five spill response vessels were dispatched including four skimming vessels, according to Shell and the Coast Guard.  
Not only was the cleanup effort not state of the art, the fact it took a pilot to spot the oil slick indicates Shell’s “pipeline leak detection is unreliable,” SkyTruth’s blog stated. 
“That’s right: a modern pipeline at a high-tech deepwater development project leaked thousands of gallons of oil, and that leak was accidentally discovered. Not because high-tech telemetry on the pipeline signaled an alarm due to a drop in pressure; not because flow metering detected a difference between what was going in one end of the pipe vs. what was coming out the other.“ 
Both Shell and the Coast Guard stated that there has been no reported impact on wildlife. But Subra said it is impossible for an oil spill of this size not to have environmental consequences. 
Of course organisms at the spill site were impacted,” Subra said. “Some fish at the site must have died and other fish and mammals will get sick from the oil.”  
A Shell press release identified an underwater flow line near its Brutus platform as the source of the leak and stated the damaged section “has been isolated.” 
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is leading an investigation to determine the cause of the release. The agency has approved Shell’s plan to resume production at the Brutus platform though part of Shell’s Gilder operations remain “shut-in.”
Whatever the cause of the leak, Shell acknowledged that no spill is acceptable, a point environmentalists and activists have reiterated, while objecting to BOEM’s latest 5-year plans to lease an additional 47 million acres in the Gulf for drilling.
Cherri Foytlin of Bold Louisiana created a petition insisting any new oil development follow through on President Obama’s promise to “change the way we manage our oil and coal resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”
Bold Louisiana calls for an end to all new leasing in the Gulf. 

Cherri Foytlin with one of her sons at a protest against BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico lease sale in the Superdome in New Orleans ©2016 Julie Dermansky

Jonathan Henderson at a rally before a protest against BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico lease sale in the Superdome in New Orleans. ©2016 Julie Dermansky
While we did not successfully stop the auction,” Henderson said, “never before in history has the industry been confronted like this in this region and the momentum from that historical day will continue forward.” 
A Gulf Coast delegation that converged on the Superdome also took part in “Break Free” protests, demonstrations that took place on six continents calling for bold action to break free from fossil fuels.
At the Washington DC  “Break Free” protest on May 15, activists called out Shell’s latest oil spill as an example of why offshore drilling must be stopped. 
BOEM held public meetings across the Gulf Coast this week that Foytlin encouraged people to participate in.
“We are not willing to let the Gulf of Mexico be a sacrifice zone any longer. Further, we are calling for a just transition for all of our communities to a clean, green economy, one that is both respectful to the life-giving systems of our planet and truly benefits the people of our region.” Foytlin told DeSmog.
She doesn’t think coastal communities are sustainable if nothing is done to protect them, and expanding drilling in the Gulf is a move in the wrong direction. 
Though Shell and the Coast Guard are quick to point out none of the oil from the Shell spill has been found on Louisiana’s beaches, Subra said she would be surprised if none of it washes up on the Louisiana coast.
It is impossible to dismiss environmental impacts from even a small spill,” Subra said, “and an 88,000 gallon spill is significant.”
Main image credit: Jonathan Henderson with other activists protesting against BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico lease sale in the Superdome in New Orleans ©2016 Julie Dermansky 

Monday, May 16, 2016

March Against Monsanto Spring Hill, Florida and Beyond


MARCH AGAINST MONSANTO TAMPA
OCTOBER 2013
PHOTO BY ANITA STEWART
Monsanto = Dioxin, Glyphosate, Roundup and Agent Orange and are legally poisoning our food and the environment. It must stop.

By Anita Stewart
May 15, 2016

Latest news reports on Monsanto’s Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weed-killer, Roundup indicate that it is present in California wines, Quaker Oats and even in the urine of elected officials in Europe.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, Roundup is made by Monsanto. Same Monsanto that produced Agent Orange (an earlier chemical was Dioxin) which is responsible for the ongoing, horrific birth defects in Viet Nam where it was widely used as a defoliant and sprayed from planes into the bush and over remote villages. These chemicals also affect the US children of those active duty military and veterans that were exposed. What is chilling is the fact that these chemicals have also been either stored or used here in the United States.

Agent Orange is connected to the 25% of Veterans testing positive for Diabetes 2 per the VA’s own website–the general population is at 8-10%. (As soon as you are diagnosed through the VA with Diabetes 2, the second question is “to your knowledge, were you ever exposed to Agent Orange?” So the VA is well aware of this connection).

The VA will not pay out any monies/disability to Agent Orange victims unless the veteran was stationed in Viet Nam. Per the veterans themselves and some of their most recent reports, Agent Orange was not used, stored or transported exclusively in Viet Nam.

The Risks are Supposed to be Secret on this Globe Full of Victims

50% of our general population will get cancer during their lifetime or have it already. And this directly affects all of us as many of us have loved ones with cancer or know someone that has died from it. Those of us who got our diagnosis already are working hard at staying alive. We will live the rest of our lives constantly detoxing. Some of us who are veterans have both cancer and diabetes and both conditions are connected to the use of Agent Orange and other Monsanto chemicals per the VA's own website. We have probably been poisoned.

The important thing to note about these reports is that the IARC, a World Health Organization working group of doctors published their findings last year showing that Roundup’s Glyphosate “probably causes cancer.” Their report was posted on the LANCET website last year. Immediately after the report was published, Monsanto demanded a retraction of the IARC’s findings but they never got it.

From March Against Monsanto: "In a recent article by EcoWatch, it was revealed that the EPA had finally released its long-awaited report on the WHO declaration, only to mysteriously pull it from circulation (check out the full article here)."

These are ways that corporate media, news outlets and government agencies censor, omit or create a critical buzz regarding information and attempt to keep it from those who need it most; like journalists, victims and medical workers. And of course to cover up the crimes by the corporations and any possibility of them being held accountable.

The other alarming trends and side effects of the regular use of these toxins includes the killing off of our pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, birds, etc. Some of these populations are now collapsing. We are already losing approximately 200 species a day due to extinction. Without the pollinators, we will not be able to sustain our current food supplies.

Will we be next? Some scientists say we are at extinction levels now. Many questions need to be raised about the continued use of these toxins. Roundup is the one most widely used in the US and at the same time, is being banned in many other countries.

This planet is Gaia because of her evolutionary adaptive capacity. The only question to ask is will human beings be around in that adaptive context,” Dr. Vandana Shiva, Eckerd College, March 9, 2015.

Our Demands and Why We March

Labeling GMOs or genetically modified organisms in our food products and produce is the other reason why we march. I believe at the very LEAST companies should be accurately labeling them, but I would prefer the permanent banning of all GMO products. March Against Monsanto calls for two events a year: in May and October. The events are to increase awareness about the need for labeling food that contains GMO’s. This would give the consumers all of the information they need to know so they can make educated choices for themselves and their families.

March Against Monsanto will be present at a hearing at the Hague in October 2016 to correspond with World Food Day. You can help crowdfund and organize that event. (CLICK HERE)

All of this is why we march EVERYWHERE ON THE GLOBE May 21st, 2016. Join us! We are really marching for the right to not be poisoned anymore.
WEBSITE:
http://www.march-against-monsanto.com/home/ (Look for your local city’s march)
Facebook Event Page for Tampa:
Facebook Event Page for Spring Hill/Brooksville:
https://www.facebook.com/events/512430905613773/

I want to take it a step further.
I call for a permanent ban on Roundup and other similar agro-chemicals.
And a boycott of anyone that is using them. We are literally marching for our lives.
Who is with me?

MARCH AGAINST MONSANTO TAMPA
MAY 2014
PHOTO BY ANITA STEWART

Monsanto Continues to Strong Arm Truth:

***This article originally published by the Hernando Phoenix in Brooksville/Spring Hill, Florida.
***http://www.hernandophoenix.com/march-monsanto-spring-hill-beyond/


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Resumes Operations Under Supervision After South Dakota Dilbit Spill





TransCanada received permission from federal regulators to re-start the Keystone Pipeline a week after a 16,800-gallon spill in South Dakota. The pipeline started back up on Sunday morning at a reduced operating pressure.

The incident has given ammunition to a group appealing the decision by the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (PUC) to re-certify TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, despite President Obama’s denial of a permit needed to cross international borders. 

The PUC reasoned that the next president could decide to issue the permit — a reminder that TransCanada has not given up on building the northern route of the Keystone XL. However, this most recent spill renews questions about the company’s ability to build safe pipelines.

When Evan Vokes, a former TransCanada materials engineer-turned-whistleblower, heard about a small spill along the Keystone Pipeline, he guessed that the leak would be found at a transition weld near where the pipeline crossed under a road. Transition welds connect thinner-walled pipe to thicker-walled pipe.
Places where the pipeline goes under road crossings require thicker pipe than the rest of the line, so wherever the Keystone goes under a road you will find transition welds, Vokes explained. 
It turns out that Vokes’s prediction was right. In a corrective action order notice issued to TransCanada on Saturday, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the agency that regulates interstate pipelines, indicated the probable cause of the leak was from a girth weld anomaly at a transition site. 
Vokes warned his former employer and PHMSA about the transition welds, which he described as “inherently risky.” Welding different thicknesses of pipe together is harder to do than welding the same thickness, and it is more difficult to get accurate X-rays of welds.

“Even a seasoned welding inspector could miss imperfect welds when reviewing X-rays used to check the welds during the pipeline’s construction,“ Vokes told DeSmog. “And any less than perfect weld is more prone to crack when the pipeline moves, which happens when weather conditions change.”

Vokes felt so strongly about the risk of leaky transition welds that he sent an email to TransCanada’s CEO Russ Girling, warning that the transition welds used on the Keystone Pipeline were a bad idea.

He pointed out to Girling that TransCanada was ignoring an advisory PHMSA issued in 2003 that warned against the use of such welds because they are prone to crack under stress.

He also emailed Kenneth Lee, a top PHMSA engineer who ran a workshop on “Pipeline Construction Challenges” in 2010, to inform Lee of his concerns. 


Diagram of an improper weld transition part of a PHMSA presentation.

Lee responded by email: “We are in full support of efforts and technologies to improve pipeline safety, including many of those you have mentioned. The increased incidents of girth weld cracks are of great concern to us and we treat this very seriously.” 

But Vokes believes his warning to Lee was ignored because no corrective actions were taken against TransCanada during the pipeline installation to stop the transition welds.

”Bad welds can result in a catastrophe, “Vokes explained to DeSmog. “A tiny crack in a weld can leak for years before it is found, because leak detection systems are only capable of detecting leaks when a pipeline’s volume drops by two percent in the course of a day.”

TransCanada’s detection system didn’t pick up the leak near Freemont, South Dakota, allowing the pipeline to spill at least 168,000 gallons of dilbit (refined Canadian tar sands oil) before a landowner noticed the spill.

It is impossible to say how long the pipeline was leaking, or how long it could have gone on leaking, had the spill taken place in a more remote area. 

“There could be hundreds of cracks in welds along the Keystone Pipeline and TransCanada’s leak detection system wouldn’t locate them,” Vokes said. “The Enbridge Pipeline spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, leaked twice as much dilbit before anyone noticed.”

The mounting failures of various TransCanada pipelines does not surprise Vokes because “the company often did not follow the code of construction.” 

But he is surprised and dismayed that, when pipeline safety is at stake, regulators in Canada and the United States allow companies to continue to break the rules with few to no consequences. 
Two other TransCanada projects that failed not long after they started operating are the Bison Pipeline in Wyoming, and the North Central Corridor Loop in Alberta, Canada, validating Vokes’s claims.

Vokes was fired by TransCanada before most of the changes he advocated took place. PHMSA did issue a corrective warning to the company related to the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, but it was for issues that did not include the transition welds. 

Vokes believes that pipelines would be safe if the rules of construction were followed. But he is aware that the rules were broken repeatedly here.

While reviewing photos that Cindy Myers, a member of the Dakota Rural Action group, took near the spill site, Vokes noticed a person on the pipeline right-of-way carrying a firearm. “Firearms are not permitted on a pipeline’s right-of-way,“ Vokes said. “This shows that the company and the regulators are not taking pipeline safety seriously. To ignore safety rules even when the public is present shows a total disregard of public safety.” 



Man with reflective safety vest carrying a gun at the site of the Keystone spill in South Dakota 4/4/2016. Photo courtesy of Cindy Myers



Gary Dorr, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, told DeSmog that TransCanada also ignores laws that say Indigenous peoples must be consulted before pipelines cross a tribe’s land. He is one of the legal challengers that includes members of the Dakota Rural Action, the South Dakota Keystone Consolidated Interveners, and several individual landowners who are challenging the South Dakota PUC’s decision to re-certify TransCanada’s permit. “The Keystone XL, if built, will cross tribal land without permission given to TransCanada by the tribes,” Dorr said.

The challengers filed an appeal against the PUC’s decision that is pending. ABC-TV affiliate KSFY in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reported that the “circuit court judge in Pierre is expected to issue an order on consolidating the lawsuits against the PUC into one appeal next week.”

Dorr hopes this spill will make a difference in the court’s decision. “We were promised TransCanada’s pipeline won’t spill,” he told DeSmog, “and that is a promise that the company cannot keep.”

The PHMSA corrective order calls for more oversight on the Keystone Pipeline.
But Vokes told DeSmog, “The only way to find out if there are other slow leaks would be to dig up the pipeline everywhere a transition weld was made. There easily could be hundreds of undetected leaks in that pipeline.”



Photo credit: Keystone Pipeline spill site in South Dakota, courtesy of Bold Nebraska.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Environmentalists Join Forces in New Orleans To Foster A Growing Alliance to Combat Climate Change and Fossil Fuels




“Creative alliances are formed when you are invited to come together,” Janet MacGillivray, Esq., with Indigena, told DeSmog. “That’s what we did with the four days of gatherings at the New Orleans Healing Center.”

Keeper of the Mountains Foundation president Paul Corbit Brown, and Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, were among the invited speakers who stressed the need for groups to come together.

They joined Louisiana environmental groups and activists who participated in panel discussions in the days before a protest by hundreds of Gulf Coast residents and environmentalists from across the country against the federal lease sale of 44.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil and gas industry. 
Video: Paul Corbit Brown speaks in New Orleans



Holding up a bottle of polluted water from Fayetteville, West Virginia, at a panel discussion on climate change injustice, Brown told the audience that water from the river where he took the sample made it to New Orleans before he did.

“Polluted water in West Virginia doesn’t stay in West Virginia,” he said. ”It makes it way to other places, including here.”

The Keeper of the Mountains Foundation’s mission is to move Appalachian communities away from an extraction economy to an economy that values people, land, and mountain heritage. The foundation conducts outreach programs to teach groups from around the world about mountaintop removal and other negative impacts of the coal industry. The foundation is involved with fighting for human rights while working toward helping the region transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The foundation also acts as an environmental watchdog. Brown was the first photographer to document the site where a train carrying North Dakota crude derailed into a West Virginia creek and burst into flames in 2015. After a state trooper blocked his way, threatening him with arrest if he tried to get to the accident site, he chartered a plane and shot aerials of the wreckage that were published by the Huffington Post.

His photos contradicted Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s description of how much oil contaminated the creek, according to Brown.

Brown’s work as a human rights photographer before he became an environmental activist taught him that you can’t separate human rights from environmental injustice.

“There is a growing movement of people trying to connect the dots,” Brown told DeSmog. “It is not that mountaintop removal is worse than uranium mining – or worse than what happened with oil and gas in Louisiana, or worse than frackng or any other environmental catastrophe created by the oil and gas industry. People are waking up to the understanding that this fight is all of these fights.”

On a panel of women in the environmental movement, Jane Kleeb announced that Bold Nebraska is expanding with the formation of the Bold Alliance, which will have branches in Iowa, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. The alliance will continue Bold Nebraska’s work that includes stopping fossil fuel developments by developing clean energy projects.

Bold Nebraska is a progressive political advocacy group that was a leading voice in the fight to stop the northern route of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The organization joined forces with indigenous tribes in the fight to stop the tar sands pipeline.

Video: Jane Kleeb speaks in New Orleans



When word reached Kleeb that President Obama rejected the permit TransCanada needed to build the northern route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, she had a celebratory whiskey and then spent a little time with her family. But hanging up her hat was never an option for her.

“The fight to save the planet is bigger than stopping one pipeline,” Kleeb told DeSmog.

Kleeb announced that Cherri Foytlin will run Bold Louisiana. Foytlin, a Louisiana native, became an activist after the BP oil spill, and has been at the forefront of the fight against pollution and social justice ever since.

“We plan to continue to tackle fossil fuel projects while lifting up clean energy and developing a base of populist independent voters,” Kleeb said.

Hundreds crashed the government’s lease sale on March 23 held at the Superdome in New Orleans. Though the protesters weren’t able to stop the auction, their action sent a message to the federal government that further development of the fossil fuel industry is not a popular move with those concerned about climate change.

Video: Jane Kleeb and Mekasi Camp-Horinek protest against new oil and gas lease sales In the Gulf of Mexico.




“Here in New Orleans, apathy just isn’t an option,” MacGillivray told DeSmog. Despite the trauma from superstorms and the destruction of the environment, she believes the spirit of the people in New Orleans can’t be extinguished.

Paul Corbit Brown outside of the Superdome where protesters gathered after the lease sale for a rally. ©2016 Julie Dermansky

Brown was moved by the protest. It was a reminder that he is not alone in recognizing the need to unite people fighting for social and environmental justice, which happened at the protest.

“What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. It is that simple,” Brown told DeSmog. “If we continue to contaminate the earth and take from her as if there is no tomorrow, we will not have an Earth we can live on tomorrow – it is that simple.”

Video: Chief Arvol speaks in New Orleans



Lead Photo: Paula Horne-Mullen, Janet MacGillivray, Esq., Chief Arvil Looking Horse, Jane Kleeb and Jason Kowalski and others gathered in New Orleans. ©2016 Julie Dermansky