Tuesday,   January 28, 2014

Take Action!

Cleaning up the once heavily polluted Hudson River is a Herculean task that’s been going on for decades and is costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, hard-won gains are being jeopardized by the fossil fuel industry, which sees the river as a handy conduit for tar sands, explosive oil, and toxic fracking wastewater.


New Yorkers who have felt safely removed from the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline may be in for a shock. It appears that there are plans to ship Canadian tar sands oil across the state and down the Hudson River to refineries along the East Coast.

Tar sands oil is a viscous, sticky goo. At room temperature it doesn’t flow freely, so Global Companies LLC intends to build a plant in Albany that will heat it up so it can be easily loaded on barges. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has already declared that this heating plant won’t have adverse environmental impacts, but fortunately the DEC doesn’t have the last word. The City of Albany Planning Board has not yet signed off on the plant, and if it determines that it could have a negative impact, it could force the DEC to conduct the full-scale environmental review that it should have undertaken in the first place.


Last year, tankers carrying hundreds of thousands gallons of fracked oil began moving down the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers after the DEC permitted terminals in Albany to trans-ship billions of gallons of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.

Not all this Bakken crude is going downriver on barges; some of it is being shipped south by rail. This is a serious concern, because the federal government warns that Bakken oil is much more flammable than other crude oils. It’s already been responsible for a deadly series of train explosions. The train that exploded in Quebec last July killing 47 people was loaded with Bakken crude, as was the train that exploded in Alabama in November. A few weeks ago, another Bakken oil train exploded in North Dakota and forced the evacuation of 2,400 people.

America’s aging fleet of tanker cars is another part of the problem. The rolling stock we have today is simply incapable of safely transporting oil—more oil was spilled from trains in 2013 than in the previous 37 years combined. Last week the National Transportation and Safety Board warned that oil trains can cause a “major loss of life” and recommended routing them away from major cities.


The U.S. Coast Guard, which has jurisdiction over transportation on navigable waters, is preparing to change its rules so that toxic, radioactive drilling wastewater can be sent downriver by unmanned barges. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Center for Biological Diversity charge that the pending Coast Guard action is illegal because it has failed to conduct an environmental review.

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If New York’s rivers become contaminated because of an accident or negligence, will those responsible be held accountable? And will victims be justly compensated? You decide.

After the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaskan waters in 1989, Exxon was ordered to pay $5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon contested the amount, and ended up paying just $500 million in 2009—that’s ten cents on the dollar, twenty years after the spill occurred.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred in April 2010, but the litigation still drags on. In 2012, British Petroleum unsuccessfully tried to get a federal judge to declare that BP was not guilty of “gross negligence.” That would have made BP liable for just $75 million in economic damages; U.S. taxpayers would have had to cover the next $1 billion in claims.

Earlier this month, BP was back in court. This time the company wanted to get out of paying victims under the terms of a settlement it agreed to in 2012. Once again, it lost.

Days after a chemical spill contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginia residents, the company at the center of the disaster, Freedom Inc., shielded itself from dozens of lawsuits by declaring bankruptcy.

The railroad involved in the deadly accident in Quebec could not afford to pay damage claims. Last week it sold its assets and is now bankrupt.

(Click Photo to Enlarge)
Train carrying Bakken crude oil explodes near
Casselton, ND December 30, 2013

copyright Dave Arntson/ZUMAPRESS.com



A review by Associated Press reporter Kevin Begos found that state agencies determined that oil and gas extraction had contaminated drinking water in in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Texas. That’s every state included in the survey.


West Virginia legislators were surprised to find that a state-sponsored study of the Marcellus Shale never actually examined samples of the shale because drilling companies failed to provide researchers with access to drill cuttings.


In Texas, a company that injected 100 million gallons of drilling wastewater into an injection well within 400 feet of a rice farm is being sued for trespass. The owners of the farm claim that pollutants from the well have already invaded the saltwater aquifer beneath the farm and may soon move into the groundwater. According to an NPR report, the company that owns the injection well defended itself by claiming it shouldn’t be held liable because it told state officials that the aquifer would probably become polluted.

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