Tag Archives: oil spills

Blow to ‘Powerful Corporate Interests’ as Federal Court Throws Out Pipeline Company Lawsuit Against DAPL Water Protectors

Greenpeace lawyer confident that decision will deter other companies “from abusing the legal system in their quest to bully those who speak truth to power.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-15-2019

Krystal Two Bulls and other defendants celebrated on Thursday after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit targeting water protectors who organized against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). (Photo: EarthRights International/Twitter)

In a “landmark” ruling on Thursday, a federal court in North Dakota tossed out a “baseless” case against Greenpeace and other environmental and Indigenous activists who organized protests against the deeply controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which drew thousands of people to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016.

District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed (pdf) all claims against all defendants in a lawsuit brought by fossil fuel giant Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which sought to hold the water protectors liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for millions of dollars in alleged damages

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‘Anyone Surprised?’ Kinder Morgan Pipeline Leak Two Days Before Trudeau Buyout Was 48 Times Larger Than First Reported

“With accuracy like that, we should all be very, very worried.’

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-10-2017

Thousands march in opposition to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion. (Photo: MeanwhileinCana/Twitter)

Just two days before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government would purchase Kinder Morgan’s faltering and widely opposed Trans Mountain pipeline, British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment said 100 liters of crude oil had leaked at a Kinder Morgan pipeline pump station north of Kamloops—but the company initially refused to confirm the severity of the spill.

On Saturday, with its bailout from the Canadian taxpayer confirmed by Trudeau, Kinder Morgan declared after an investigation that, actually, 4,800 liters of crude oil had leaked during the May 27 spill—48 times more crude than first reported. Continue reading


Company Apologizes for Oil Train Disaster It Acknowledges Was Inevitable

“We’re playing Russian roulette. I think the industry is perfectly willing to put a gun to our heads and risk our lives for the sake of making money. It is abundantly clear this enterprise is unsafe, unsustainable and they don’t know how to manage it.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-5-2016

Mosier, 6-3-2016. Photo: Paloma Ayala

Mosier, 6-3-2016. Photo: Paloma Ayala via Columbia Riverkeepers

As crews continue efforts to contain an oil sheen on the Columbia River and assess the environmental impact of a derailment and resulting fire on Friday, a spokesperson for the oil-by-train company behind the disaster issued an apology to the community of Mosier, Oregon on Saturday.

“I want to apologize to the community,” Union Pacific spokesperson Raquel Espinoza said at a news conference. “This is the type of accident we work to prevent every day.” Continue reading


The Gulf Oil Spill You Never Heard About May Be the Largest Ever

The AP charges that Taylor Energy Company ‘has downplayed the leak’s extent and environmental impact’

Taylor Wells slick as seen by satellite imagery from September 26, 2011

Taylor Wells slick as seen by satellite imagery from September 26, 2011

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams, published April 17, 2015

While Gulf Coast residents and environmental groups focus on the upcoming five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a damning Associated Press investigation has exposed the lingering impacts of a separate 2004 leak in the Gulf of Mexico—one that few people know about, and one that is far worse than the industry wants to admit.

Taylor Energy Company, which formerly operated the oil platform that collapsed during Hurricane Ivan, “has downplayed the leak’s extent and environmental impact, likening it to scores of minor spills and natural seeps the Gulf routinely absorbs,” according to AP journalists Michael Kunzelman and Jeff Donn. Continue reading


Rolling Bombs and Leaky Pipelines

On Saturday night, a Canadian National Railway (CN) train with 100 tank cars of crude oil derailed about 80 kilometers south of Timmins, Ontario. The derailment was on the CN mainline, in an area inaccessible by road. 29 cars jumped the track, and seven were still burning the following afternoon. An unknown amount of oil was spilled.

Yesterday, twenty five cars of a 109 car CSX train derailed in Adena Village in Fayette County, West Virginia. At least one car ended up in the Kanawha River, while another slammed into a house. At least fourteen cars caught fire, and some exploded. Kelley Gillenwater, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said that the DEP was told the train was carrying “crude oil and possibly other materials.”

West Virginia, February 16, 2015. Photo via Twitter

West Virginia, February 16, 2015. Photo via Twitter

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Enbridge’s Sandpiper Blues

Image via Facebook

Image via Facebook

On Tuesday, Enbridge Energy announced that the Sandpiper pipeline project will be delayed for at least a year due to permitting problems in Minnesota. The start of construction was to be in 2015, with the pipeline becoming operational in early 2016.

Minnesota regulators have requested a more extensive study of the environmental impacts of six possible routes for the pipeline that have been offered by opponents of Enbridge’s proposed route, which crosses many rivers, streams and wetlands. Enbridge for their part says the alternate routes are longer and more expensive. Furthermore, most don’t terminate in Superior, Wisconsin; the proposed ending spot of the pipeline and a major hub for pipeline distribution.

Needless to say, some were unhappy with the announcement. Calling the pipeline “a very important project” for his state’s oil production, Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, said;  “The pipeline will provide growing volumes of crude oil a safe and reliable method of transportation to markets around the United States.”

In some ways, Kringstad almost has a point. The alternative method of transporting the oil is by rail, and we’ve seen how that’s been working for them. We’ve discussed exploding Bakken oil trains on a couple occasions; they in no way represent a safe way of transporting the extremely volatile crude coming out of the Bakken field. But – and this is a huge but – all pipelines leak. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when and how much.

Is either alternative worth the possible consequences? We say no. We’d like to see the time, ingenuity and effort the energy companies put into extracting fossil fuel resources being spent on renewable energy sources instead. To see those companies invest in such things as high speed rail instead of blocking such things because they want to sell more gas to individual people. To have them put the general welfare of the people and the planet above profit. To be responsible stewards instead of reprehensible ones.


Halliburton And How To Avoid Liability

On April 20, 2010, the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history began. At 9:56 PM, a fire began on an oil rig called the Deepwater Horizon. Within five minutes, the rig exploded, and burned for over a day before sinking into the Gulf of Mexico.

The day the rig sank (April 22), the Coast Guard reported that oil was leaking from the rig at a rate of about 8,000 barrels (340,000 gallons) per day- a very optimistic estimate. The leak flowed for 87 days, and the official US Government estimate of the total spilled was 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons) – or seven times the Coast Guard’s estimate per day.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill from space - May 24, 2010. Photo by NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response AND demis.nl AND FT2 (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Deepwater Horizon oil spill from space – May 24, 2010. Photo by NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response AND demis.nl AND FT2 (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, it was announced that Halliburton, the company who poured the cement for the well, had reached a $1.1 billion settlement with thousands of businesses, individuals and local governments that suffered losses from the explosion and subsequent spill. 

The settlement includes punitive claims of property damage and damage to the commercial fishing industry, as well as claims assigned against Halliburton by BP in BP’s 2012 class action settlement.  It also includes legal fees. The settlement still has to be approved by the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In announcing the settlement, Halliburton’s attorneys stated that the agreement resolves “a substantial majority” of its liability in the disaster.

Stephen Herman and James Roy, the leaders of the steering committee for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that “Halliburton stepped up to the plate and agreed to provide a fair measure of compensation to people and businesses harmed in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.”

The settlement has been expected ever since Halliburton pleaded guilty last July to destroying evidence after the spill. The penalties for that ruling were minor- a $200,000 fine (the maximum allowable, believe it or not) and three years probation (how do you put a company on probation anyways?). However, it also gave credence to the fact that Halliburton was liable. With that in mind, Halliburton said in a statement on Tuesday that, “An agreement denies liability; it is not an admission of liability.”

BP’s response to the settlement is just about what you’d expect. In an e-mailed statement, BP senior vice president Geoff Morrell said: “This settlement marks the very first time — despite three years of official investigations and litigation implicating the company — that Halliburton has acknowledged that it played a role in the accident. The evidentiary record demonstrates that Halliburton recommended and pumped an unstable cement slurry; intentionally destroyed and failed to produce uniquely relevant evidence showing the slurry to be unstable; and failed to properly monitor the well and detect the influx of hydrocarbons.”

By resolving most of both punitive and compensatory liability in most lawsuits from private plaintiffs and local governments, the settlement will let Halliburton avoid billions in punitive and compensatory damages if they’re found to have committed fraud and gross negligence in a ruling due shortly dealing with how much blame each company carries for the disaster.

We’ll be writing more about Halliburton in the next couple weeks; their story over the last twenty years is rife with being exempted from laws, dodging responsibility and the like. We’ll look at how a former Secretary of Defense with zero experience in the oil business became the CEO of Halliburton, and how this led to numerous government contracts and exemptions from laws they found onerous. Then, we’ll look at what happened with Halliburton when this CEO resigned and became Vice President of the United States instead. It sounds like fiction, doesn’t it? We wish it were…