Tag Archives: Big Oil

Planet’s Vital Signs Are Reaching Dangerous ‘Tipping Points’ Amid Climate Crisis, Scientists Warn

“We need to stop treating the climate emergency as a stand-alone issue—global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-28-2021

Human activity may be pushing the climate beyond dangerous ‘tipping points,’ say 14,000 scientists. As the extreme drought emergency continues in California, historically low water levels are visible at Lake Oroville on July 22, 2021 in Oroville, California. Photo: NOAA

More than a year after the Covid-19 pandemic shut down economies around the world and sharply reduced worldwide travel—sparking speculation among some that emissions would plummet as a result—a coalition of scientists said in a paper published Wednesday that the planet is nonetheless reaching multiple “tipping points,” with levels of sea ice melt, deforestation, and other markers revealing that urgent action is needed to mitigate the climate emergency.

“The extreme climate events and patterns that we’ve witnessed over the last several years — not to mention the last several weeks — highlight the heightened urgency with which we must address the climate crisis,” said Philip Duffy, co-author of the study and executive director of the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts. Continue reading

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‘Huge Legal Win’: Court Stops Police From Blockading Line 3 Protester Camp

One attorney described the blockade as “an outrageous abuse of law enforcement authority serving the interests of the Enbridge corporation against its environmental opponents.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-23-2021

On July 23, 2021, a Minnesota court ordered Hubbard County police officers to stop obstructing a driveway that leads to a Line 3 pipeline protest camp. (Photo: Giniw Collective)

In a development progressives called a “huge legal win in the fight against Line 3,” a Minnesota court on Friday ordered police in Hubbard County to stop impeding access to the Giniw Collective’s camp, where anti-pipeline activists have been organizing opposition to Enbridge’s multibillion-dollar tar sands project.

The ruling comes less than a week after Tara Houska, an Indigenous rights attorney and founder of the Giniw Collective, and Winona LaDuke, an environmental justice advocate and co-founder of Honor the Earth, filed for a temporary restraining order against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner in northern Minnesota. Continue reading

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Leaving Parts of Trump’s Pro-Polluter Legacy Intact, Biden Gets C- on Environmental Report Card

Biden’s “limited achievements must be put in context of what both science and justice require to avoid the worst impacts of the climate and extinction crises,” said the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-20-2021

Photo: Eric Haynes/CC

Expressing alarm over President Joe Biden’s support for a number of pipeline projects and his failure to reverse the vast majority of environmental regulatory rollbacks introduced by his predecessor, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund on Tuesday gave the president a grade of C-minus and said he “needs improvement” on its Environmental Report Card.

Six months into his presidency, Biden has fully met five out of 25 “concrete and achievable environmental promises” he made on the campaign trail, and has only reversed three of former President Donald Trump’s rollbacks.

CBD Action Fund noted in the report card (pdf) that the president signed an “unprecedented” 17 executive orders on his first day in office in January, including three that fulfilled “Day One” promises he had made: “formally beginning the reentry process to the Paris climate agreement, permanently rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline, and directing all federal agencies to elevate addressing environmental justice to protect frontline communities.”

The group emphasized, however, that during Biden’s first six months in office the U.S. has experienced an unprecedented drought” and “record-shattering heatwaves” which climate scientists have long warned about.

“Thus, even as his administration is evaluated at the six-month mark, its limited achievements must be put in context of what both science and justice require to avoid the worst impacts of the climate and extinction crises,” the report card reads.

“President Biden got off to a strong start right when he took office, but his environmental agenda appears to be stalling out,” said Brett Hartl, chief political strategist at the CBD Action Fund. “He has to light a fire under his Cabinet and the federal agencies to complete his campaign promises without foot-dragging, because the climate and extinction crises are getting more urgent every day.”

Overall, the group credited Biden with fulfilling five campaign promises so far, including holding a global climate summit in his first 100 days in office and reinstating federal flood-protection standards that assess climate change risks.

The administration has taken steps to fulfill 13 other campaign pledges, including:
  • Ending financing for overseas coal projects;
  • Installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations; and
  • Requiring that disadvantaged communities receive 40% of benefits from climate spending.

“For other campaign promises, the Biden administration has yet to initiate efforts to achieve them,” the report card says. “For example, Biden spoke numerous times during the campaign about addressing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. He proposed a $20 billion conservation fund to address deforestation. However, this initiative was not part of his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, and it is unclear what other steps the administration will take to address deforestation.”

CBD Action Fund identified just three Trump-era environmental rollbacks that Biden has reversed, including the so-called “secret science” rule restricting data the EPA can use to enact regulations; eliminating the use of the “social cost of carbon” in environmental reviews; and curtailing categories of industrial polluters subjected to greenhouse gas regulations.

Biden was also credited with taking steps to restore protections to the Tongass National Forest and the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, and with announcing recently that officials will “begin the process of undoing additional Trump-era rollbacks,” the report reads.

“The timeline and scope of these efforts is unclear,” said the CBD Action Fund. “For example, the Department of the Interior announced in June that it would ‘revisit’ the Trump-era rollback of the regulations guiding consultations under the Endangered Species Act.”

“But the department signaled that it would only reverse one of over 20 changes made by the previous administration to the regulations—specifically restoring the earlier definition of ‘indirect effects’—and stated that this effort would not even begin until December 2021 at the earliest,” the group continued.

In addition to more than two dozen Trump-era rollbacks the administration has taken no action to reverse, the group expressed indignation at Biden’s decision to support some of Trump’s attacks on the environment.

The president has declined to block the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota or shut down operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as approving nearly 2,500 new drilling permits on public lands and waters—”roughly the same amount that the Trump administration approved during its first entire year in office,” the report card reads.

“Biden’s bold vision during the campaign won’t be met if his administration leaves large chunks of Trump’s pro-polluter legacy intact,” said Hartl.

Biden has also supported Trump’s weakened protections from pesticides for endangered species, an increased limit for Atrazine pollution in waterways, and the expanded use of antibiotics on citrus crops.

“If President Biden does not act boldly, right now, the impacts of climate change will be severe enough to make large swaths of our planet nearly uninhabitable,” CBD Action Fund said.

After a promising start, the group added, “complacency and inertia could stymy further progress on his climate and environmental goals. Without a continued and sustained effort in the next 12 to 18 months, any potential environmental legacy could easily be erased.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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Water Protectors Against Line 3 Sue Over Police Blockade of Indigenous Camp

“The Hubbard County Sheriff has attempted to illegally construct a de facto open-air prison to trap Indigenous environmental protectors and allies on their own property.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-16-2021

Since June 28, 2021, police in Minnesota have blockaded a driveway to an Indigenous camp of water protectors protesting the Line 3 pipeline. (Photo: Giniw Collective)

Water protectors fighting against Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota filed suit Friday to stop a police blockade of a camp they use for Indigenous-led organizing, decolonization, and treaty rights trainings as well as religious activities.

The plaintiffs, including Indigenous leaders Tara Houska and Winona LaDuke, are taking legal action in response to the Hubbard County Sheriff Office’s ongoing blockade of the private property, which police unexpectedly began late last month. The complaint names the county, Sheriff Corwin “Cory” Aukes, and Mark Lohmeier, the local land commissioner, as defendants. Continue reading

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‘Subsidizing the Climate and Ecological Crisis’: Biden Approving Fossil Fuel Permits Faster Than Trump or Obama

AP’s findings run counter to the president’s campaign vow to end oil and gas extraction on public lands.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-13-2021

Photo: Sunrise Movement/Facebook

Flying in the face of the White House’s reference to the climate crisis as an “existential threat” and President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge, his administration has so far approved fossil fuel drilling permits on public and tribal lands at a faster rate than his two immediate predecessors, a new Associated Press analysis has found.

“We’re not only subsidizing the climate and ecological crisis,” climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in response to the new reporting, “we’re speeding it up.” Continue reading

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‘This Is a Scandal’: Documents Reveal Obama’s EPA Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking in 2011

“We still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations. Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without consequence?”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2021

A fracking rig behind a housing development Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/CC

Between 2012 and 2020, fossil fuel corporations injected potentially carcinogenic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or chemicals that can degrade into PFAS, into the ground while fracking for oil and gas, after former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency approved their use despite agency scientists’ concerns about toxicity.

The EPA’s approval in 2011 of three new compounds for use in oil and gas drilling or fracking that can eventually break down into PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” was not publicized until Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) obtained internal records from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times reported Monday after reviewing the files.

According to PSR’s new reportFracking with “Forever Chemicals, oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have since 2012 pumped toxic chemicals that can form PFAS into more than 1,200 wells in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming.

While the Times noted that the newly released documents constitute some of the earliest evidence of the possible presence of PFAS in fracking fluids, PSR’s report warns that “the lack of full disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas operations raises the potential that PFAS could have been used even more extensively than records indicate, both geographically and in other stages of the oil and gas extraction process, such as drilling, that precede the underground injections known as fracking.”

“It’s very disturbing to see the extent to which critical information about these chemicals is shielded from public view,” Barbara Gottlieb, PSR’s Environment & Health Program director, said Monday in a press release. “The lack of transparency about fracking chemicals puts human health at risk.”

As the Times reported:

In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, EPA scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The EPA scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.

“The EPA identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” Dusty Horwitt, a researcher at PSR, told the newspaper.

In a statement released Monday, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, called the PSR report “alarming,” and said it “confirms what hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade: fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it, and it should be banned entirely.”

As PSR notes, PFAS—highly potent toxins that accumulate in the body and persist in the environment—pose a threat to human and environmental well-being. Negative health effects linked to PFAS include low infant birth weights, disruptions of the immune and reproductive systems, and cancer.

“The potential that these chemicals are being used in oil and gas operations should prompt regulators to take swift action to investigate the extent of this use, pathways of exposure, and whether people are being harmed,” said Linda Birnbaum, board-certified Ph.D. toxicologist and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Hauter added that “this says nothing of the dreadful impact fossil fuel extraction and burning is having on our runaway climate crisis. Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly.”

According to the Times:

In a 2016 report, the EPA identified more than 1,600 chemicals used in drilling and fracking, or found in fracking wastewater, including close to 200 that were deemed carcinogens or toxic to human health. The same EPA report warned that fracking fluid could escape from drill sites into the groundwater and that leaks could spring from underground wells that store millions of gallons of wastewater.

Communities near drilling sites have long complained of contaminated water and health problems that they say are related. The lack of disclosure on what sort of chemicals are present has hindered diagnoses or treatment. Various peer-reviewed studies have found evidence of illnesses and other health effects among people living near oil and gas sites, a disproportionate burden of which fall on people of color and other underserved or marginalized communities.

“The Obama-Biden administration approved the use of toxic PFAS chemicals for fracking a decade ago,” said Hauter, “and all these years later, President Joe Biden’s practices haven’t seemed to change a bit.”

“The Biden administration has claimed to be concerned about PFAS contamination throughout the country,” Hauter said. “Biden himself pledged during the campaign to halt new fracking on federal lands. Meanwhile, this administration is approving new fracking permits at a pace similar to Trump, with no letup in sight.”

Earlier this month, whistleblowers at the EPA accused the Biden administration of continuing the “war on science,” with managers at the agency allegedly modifying reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

As Common Dreams reported, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a formal complaint on behalf of four scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, demanding an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are safer.

Calling Monday’s revelations about the Obama administration’s decision to greenlight the use of PFAS in fracking “a scandal that should lead every nightly news program,” Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that “we still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations.”

“Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without conscience?” he asked.

Hauter called on Biden “to immediately make good on his promise to halt new fracking on federal lands,” adding that “his administration must take urgent action to contain the use of PFAS chemicals and their deadly spread into our water and our communities.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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‘This Is What Bipartisanship Looks Like’: Vicious Fire Tornado Caught on Film in California

“Climate policy isn’t about imagining a spectrum from left to right and finding the sweet spot in the middle. It’s a zero-sum battle with physics.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-8-2021

The National Weather Service shared video footage captured by the U.S. Forest Service showing a firenado that formed over the Tennant Fire in California’s Siskiyou County on June 29, 2021. Photo: U.S. Forest Service

Responding to dramatic footage that went viral Thursday of a so-called “fire tornado” unleashed recently in North California, a longtime aid of Sen. Bernie Sanders said the event—viewed through a political prism—could be seen symbolically as the destructive result of corporate-friendly policies in Washington, D.C. masquerading as bipartisanship while the world burns amid an intensifying climate emergency.

“This is what bipartisanship looks like,” tweeted Warren Gunnels, currently the staff director for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, which is chaired by Sanders. Continue reading

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‘Triumph for Environmental Justice’: Oil Companies Scrap Pipeline Plans Amid Grassroots Pressure

“We’ve shown them that we aren’t the path of least resistance,” said a local organizer. “We are the path of resilience.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-4-2021

Activists attend a rally opposing the Byhalia Connection pipeline. (Photo: @Hunter_Demster/Twitter)

Community activists in Memphis, Tennessee and northwest Mississippi celebrated a grassroots victory on Saturday after two oil companies canceled plans to build a pipeline that would have run through wetlands and several low-income, majority-Black neighborhoods.

Valero and Plains All American Pipeline had long planned to construct the Byhalia Connection pipeline, which would have been 49 miles long and linked two pipelines that transport crude oil to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading

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As Protesters Face Felonies, Minneapolis City Council Joins Opposition to Line 3

“The world needs to pay attention to what’s happening here in Minnesota right now.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-2-2021

M Hubbard County police blocking the entrance to Giniw Collective property. Photo: Giniw Collective/Twitter

While Indigenous-led actions against Line 3 continued in Minnesota on Friday even as some peaceful protesters now face felony charges, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing Enbridge’s tar sands oil pipeline.

The council’s 13-0 vote in support of the resolution (pdf) comes as Indigenous and climate justice groups opposed to Line 3—the Canadian company’s project to replace an old oil pipeline with a bigger one—challenge it on the ground and in court. Continue reading

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‘Bombshell’ Secret Footage of ExxonMobil Lobbyists Sparks Calls for Action by Congress

“We demand Congress immediately investigate Exxon and fossil fuel companies’ climate crimes, and make polluters pay for their destruction,” said a 350.org campaigner.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-30-2021

Keith McCoy, a senior director in ExxonMobil’s Washington, D.C. government affairs team, was secretly recorded by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.’s investigative journalism arm. (Photo: Screenshot/Unearthed via Channel 4 News)

While ExxonMobil’s decades of sowing public doubt about climate science and the impact of fossil fuels have provoked various lawsuits, secretly recorded videos released Wednesday expose how the company continues to fight against U.S. efforts to tackle climate emergency.

Published by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.’s investigative journalism arm, and the British Channel 4 News, the footage of ExxonMobil lobbyists sparked new calls for congressional action to hold the oil and gas giant accountable. Continue reading

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