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EXTRACTED: Daily News Clips 5/17/23

Mark Hefflinger, Bold Alliance (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register

By Mark Hefflinger

May 17, 2023



  • Associated Press: Consultants: Design issues, operations lapses led to big Kansas oil spill

  • WVTF: Supreme Court revives landowners’ case against Mountain Valley Pipeline

  • Bloomberg: Federal Pipeline Shutoff-Valve Rule Wiped Out by D.C. Circuit

  • Mitchell Republic: ‘Line in the sand’ at anti-CO2 pipeline rally in South Dakota’s McPherson County

  • With no anti-pipeline bill, what’s next?

  • Pipeline Fighters Hub: North Dakota Public Service Commission Hearing on Summit CO2 Pipeline (5/9/23) [VIDEO]

  • Canadian Press: Canada ‘extremely concerned’ about fate of Line 5 pipeline in Wisconsin, embassy says

  • Law360: FERC Says It Properly Approved NYC Gas Project


  • Washington Post: Negotiators see progress on debt ceiling, as Biden’s liberal allies worry

  • The Hill: Effort to tie permitting reform to debt ceiling deal may slam into Senate hurdle

  • E&E News: How SCOTUS gutting Chevron could haunt Republicans

  • Axios: Strange carbon capture politics

  • Press release: Environmental Groups Request Rehearing of Dept. of Energy’s Approval of Alaska LNG Project


  • Capital and Main: California Bill Would Hit Oil Companies With $1 Million Penalty for Health Impacts

  • Long Beach Post: Environmental group sues to block drilling of 15 oil wells off Long Beach coast

  • Press release: Lawsuit Launched to Protect Nevada’s Railroad Valley Toad

  • Los Angeles Business Journal: CRC Goes Big on Carbon

  • KMXT: New report details wide-ranging safety concerns at Valdez Marine Terminal, prompting calls for reform

  • Denver Post: Stormwater flood at Suncor’s Commerce City refinery leaked benzene into nearby irrigation ditch


  • Bloomberg: Chevron’s Carbon Capture Flagship Is Stuck at One-Third Capacity

  • Common Dreams: Former UN Climate Chief Rips Oil-Friendly COP28 President’s ‘Very Dangerous’ Carbon Capture Push

  • New York Times: The ‘Skeletons’ in Big Oil’s Closet


  • As You Sow: New Tool Shows Retirement Plans Financing Fossil Fuel Expansion Through Bond Holdings, Putting Savers at Risk


  • Spencer Daily Reporter: Letter to the Editor: Summit-threatened landowner

  • The Conversation: As Alberta’s oilsands continue leaking toxic wastewater, aquatic wildlife face new risks

  • Truthout: Biden’s Carbon Capture Regulation Is Just What the Fossil Fuel Industry Wants


Associated Press: Consultants: Design issues, operations lapses led to big Kansas oil spill

“Pipeline design issues, lapses by its operators and problems caused during its construction led to a massive oil spill on the Keystone pipeline system in northeastern Kansas, according to a report for U.S. government regulators,” the Associated Press reports. “An engineering consulting firm said in the report that the bend in the Keystone system where the December 2022 spill occurred had been “overstressed” since its installation in December 2010 — likely because construction activity itself altered the land around the pipe… “The report raised questions about Canada-based TC Energy’s oversight of the manufacturing of its pipeline, saying the report’s authors could find no record of a pre-installation inspection of the welds on the pipeline bend in Washington County, Kansas. The report concluded that TC Energy underestimated the risks associated with the bend going from its round shape when installed to a more-restricted oval shape within two years and didn’t replace the bend after excavating it in 2013… “When you have a pipeline that is spilling and having as many problems as Keystone One, it is clearly a red flag that there are bigger issues going on,” Jane Kleeb, who founded the Bold Nebraska environmental and landowner rights group that helped fight off TC Energy’s plan to build a second pipeline, the Keystone XL, told AP. The U.S. Department of Transportation has documented 22 leaks along the Keystone pipeline since it was built in 2010. The one in Washington County was by far the largest. “At what point, does the federal government … step in and say this has reached a point where we need to shut the full line down to do a full review of the pipeline?” “…Bill Caram, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust watchdog group, told AP that with the history of problems along the Keystone pipeline, the public has plenty of reasons to doubt its safety. “I would certainly like to see PHMSA come up with a plan to work with TC Energy to develop a plan so that the public can be ensured that TC Energy will be able to operate this pipeline safely going forward. I don’t think the public has that kind of trust in this pipeline right now,” Caram told AP. Richard Kuprewicz, who has five decades of experience in the pipeline industry and consults with governments about them, told AP problems like this flawed weld need to be found during construction but TC Energy clearly missed it amid the pressure to get the multibillion-dollar project built quickly. “It looks like the quality control got out of hand at least in this segment. I can’t say for the whole line,” Kuprewicz, who is president of Washington-based Accufacts Inc., told AP.  The consultants’ report said the pipeline rupture and oil spill occurred only days after TC Energy began testing for increasing the pressure in the Keystone system, though the Kansas section was operating about 16% below the top pressure allowed by U.S. government regulators… “The report added that 108 other pipe fittings manufactured for the Keystone system in 2010 could have “imperfections” similar to those in the Washington County bend. All of them were replacements for other fittings found to be deficient.” “…The lack of an inspection report means that, at a minimum, record-keeping procedures were not followed and, at worst, the report said, “The weld inspections were never performed.”

WVTF: Supreme Court revives landowners’ case against Mountain Valley Pipeline
Roxy Todd, 5/16/23

“The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on a case involving six Virginia landowners and developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This case challenges whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the right to give eminent domain authority to a for-profit entity,” WVTF reports. “That’s our home,” Cletus Bohon, one of the landowners who filed the case, told WVTF. “It just shouldn’t be legal for them to come in and take our property like that, if we’re not willing to settle with them.” A portion of Bohon and his wife’s property in Montgomery County was given to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, against their will. Their lawyer, Mia Yugo, argues there’s a constitutional issue with the federal government granting FERC the authority to use eminent domain to take someone’s property, and give it to a to for-profit project like the MVP. “And with that certificate, MVP gets to go and take Cletus and Beverly’s land against their will,” Yugo told WVTF. The case will now go back to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in Washington, D.C. It could eventually go to trial before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Both of these courts had earlier dismissed the case, but the Supreme Court’s ruling vacates the lower courts’ rulings.”

Bloomberg: Federal Pipeline Shutoff-Valve Rule Wiped Out by D.C. Circuit
Shayna Greene, 5/16/23

“The D.C. Circuit vacated a Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration rule Tuesday regarding shut-off valves in pipelines, after two oil and gas associations petitioned to have the rule reviewed,” Bloomberg reports. “GPA Midstream and the American Petroleum Institute argued that the PHMSA rule shouldn’t apply to “gathering” pipelines, which are used to collect raw gas or crude oil from a well. They also alleged that PHMSA, part of the Department of Transportation, failed to disclose the economic basis for regulating gathering pipelines when it proposed the safety standard—which requires automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves in many new or replaced pipelines with …

Mitchell Republic: ‘Line in the sand’ at anti-CO2 pipeline rally in South Dakota’s McPherson County
Jason Harward, 5/16/23

“The McPherson County Courthouse, newly into spring, sat against a backdrop of near-cloudless sky as dozens of landowners, lawmakers and local officials packed onto picnic benches in the green grass below,” the Mitchell Republic reports. “Energized by recent eminent domain lawsuits against residents in McPherson and surrounding counties by Summit Carbon Solutions as well as an increasing frequency of surveys on private land in the proposed footprint, some 200 attendees had flocked together in the late morning on May 15 for a rally against proposed carbon pipelines in the state. “I think the people of McPherson County don’t think they are being heard,” Rep. Karla Lems, of Canton, one of the speakers at the event, told Forum News Service in a May 16 interview. “That’s why we did this. So that we could go out and say, ‘Yes, we are hearing you, we are concerned and we want to elevate this so that other people know about it.’” Beyond the raising of awareness, the nearly two-hour event charted the beginning of a way forward for landowners and lawmakers who came up short on pipeline-related bills in the winter legislative session: one combining pressure on local and state officials with increasing county regulations, as well as building a network of opponents to multiple private megaprojects in the state that may require the power of eminent domain… “Though Summit Carbon has signaled success in negotiating voluntary easements with landowners — the company-provided figure estimates around 70% of the proposed route in South Dakota is so far on board with the “safe and critical” project — McPherson County especially, and surrounding counties like Edmunds, Spink and Brown, have become hotbeds of anti-pipeline sentiment. Thirty-three of the more than 80 eminent domain lawsuits filed by Summit Carbon along the pipeline route were filed in McPherson County, a county of fewer than 2,500 people. Opponents generally broach topics like uncertain safety regulations, future land uses and the right of refusal inherent to private property rights as reasons for their resistance. The litany of speakers formed a message of unity: not just for landowners in the eastern part of South Dakota dealing with the Summit Carbon and Navigator CO2 pipelines but for other pockets in the state worried about potential eminent domain proceedings… “As far as Gov. Noem’s personal powers go, Rep. Jon Hansen, of Dell Rapids, another speaker at the rally, specifically called on Noem to move forward with a special session to reconsider pipeline-related bills, like House Bill 1133, that failed to land on her desk during the annual legislative session this past winter… “Beyond landowner-specific challenges in state courts to surveying laws or defenses against eminent domain lawsuits, Dennert told the Republic that the most immediate mechanism for landowners looking to beef up pipeline protections likely sits at the county level.” With no anti-pipeline bill, what’s next?
Elijah Helton, 5/16/23

“Iowa’s legislative session closed without a bill passed that would do anything about carbon dioxide pipelines, but activists say they are staying locked on the issue,” reports. “The CO2 lines have blown into a major issue for farmers, environmentalists and others across the Midwest as companies plan their multistate routes. Skyrocketed awareness is a win in itself, according to Jess Mazour of the Sierra Club. “People’s understanding of it has changed,” Mazour told “People care enough not to just believe every word that comes out of these pipeline companies’ mouths.” Des Moines saw weekly anti-pipeline protests from January until the Iowa Legislature gaveled out May 4. Those demonstrations were led by the Sierra Club and allied groups such as Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement… “Opposition is diverse in Iowa and elsewhere, including individual landowners concerned about safety and property rights and environmental groups who doubt the scientific benefits of the pipelines. The state’s capital will not have to wait long to see another wave of piping up as May 31-June 1 are already circled as the next big days on the CO2 calendar. The two-day hearing is for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The federal agency is working on updating its standards and rules for carbon capture and storage systems, such as the ones proposed in Iowa by Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures. PHMSA chose Des Moines as the site of its meeting with national implications, fortuitous for Mazour, who has already started getting Iowans lined up to make their voices heard. “Landowners are going to show up for public comments en masse for this,” she told… “Mazour and Auen-Ryan pointed to the progress their movement has already made — from borderline obscurity in the 2022 session to headline-catching clash of this year — as reason to be hopeful on future legislative action.”

Pipeline Fighters Hub: North Dakota Public Service Commission Hearing on Summit CO2 Pipeline (5/9/23) [VIDEO]

“The North Dakota Public Service Commission hosted the fourth of five public hearings on a CO2 pipeline permit application from Summit Carbon on May 9 in Linton, N.D.,” the Pipeline Fighters Hub reports. “Testimony was heard from witnesses including Gerald Briggs, Warren County, Mississippi Fire Coordinator and a first responder at the 2020 CO2 pipeline rupture in Satartia, MS; Summit COO Jimmy Powell and pipeline engineering consultant John Godfrey; North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Gehring; pipeline engineer Curtis Jundt; a representative from the LiUNA building trades union; and several impacted landowners facing eminent domain seizure of their land against their will for the proposed pipeline project. Landowners are represented by attorneys for the North Dakota Easement Team, part of the Easement Action Teams LLC. Below are video clips of testimony from the hearing, captured by Bold Alliance.” 

Canadian Press: Canada ‘extremely concerned’ about fate of Line 5 pipeline in Wisconsin, embassy says

“Canada’s embassy in Washington says it is “extremely concerned” about the fate of the Line 5 cross-border pipeline,” the Canadian Press reports. “A court hearing Thursday in Wisconsin could determine whether the pipeline, owned and operated by Enbridge Inc., is allowed to continue operating. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa says spring flooding has heightened the risk of a rupture and it wants a federal judge to shut the line down. A strongly worded statement from the embassy says doing so would endanger more than 33,000 U.S. jobs and US$20 billion in economic activity. Canada argues that Line 5 is a vital energy conduit across the U.S. Midwest and an economic lifeline for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.”

Law360: FERC Says It Properly Approved NYC Gas Project
Madeline Lyskawa, 5/16/23

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission defended its approval of a Kinder Morgan Inc. unit’s project to boost natural gas supplies to New York City’s main utility, telling the D.C. Circuit that it sufficiently reviewed the project’s environmental impacts and correctly weighed the project’s necessity,” Law360 reports. 


Washington Post: Negotiators see progress on debt ceiling, as Biden’s liberal allies worry
Jeff Stein, Rachel Siegel, Marianna Sotomayor and Liz Goodwin, 5/16/23

“President Biden and top congressional leaders expressed optimism about urgent negotiations over the debt ceiling after a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, as the administration’s liberal allies worried that talks with House Republicans over the budget risk rewarding the GOP’s hard-line stance,” the Washington Post reports. “…White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and presidential counselor Steve Ricchetti have been appointed to lead the negotiations for the president, while Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) and McCarthy’s staff will lead the negotiations for McCarthy. Congressional Democratic leaders said they approved that arrangement… “Emerging from the White House meeting Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy said: “It is possible to get a deal by the end of the week. It’s not that difficult to get to an agreement.” “…The issue here is principle: If you accept the idea that you can, in essence, be held to blackmail with the debt ceiling, it will be done again and again. Not to be crass, but it’s essentially negotiating with terrorists who have taken hostages,” Dean Baker, a liberal economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, a left-leaning think tank, told the Post. “More and more people in progressive circles are becoming concerned with it.” “…The emerging deal could extend the debt ceiling by two years — crucially, past the 2024 presidential election — in a victory for the Biden administration, while also potentially setting the government’s total spending through then. In exchange for avoiding the economic instability of a default, the White House would agree at least in part to GOP demands to set new limits on spending while rescinding unused pandemic funding and, potentially, approving a permitting deal to encourage energy production… “The emerging deal may also involve a two-step plan floated by House Republicans for speeding up the nation’s permitting process for energy projects, a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive deliberations told the Post.”

The Hill: Effort to tie permitting reform to debt ceiling deal may slam into Senate hurdle

“Efforts to get a speedy deal on permitting reform and incorporate it into a debt ceiling compromise could collide with policy disagreements in the Senate,” The Hill reports. “A key ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last week said permitting reform was among four policy areas that are low-hanging fruit for a bipartisan agreement that would lift the debt limit and stave off dire financial consequences… “Meanwhile, White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu told reporters last week that while the debt limit and permitting issues weren’t necessarily connected, he described such reform as “in play” and helping rather than hurting. But there’s still significant work to be done to find 60 votes to support permitting reform in the Senate… “Senators expressed skepticism they will be able to reach a permitting deal by June 1, the day the Treasury Department said lawmakers and the White House need to reach debt ceiling a deal before the U.S. defaults.  “We’re working towards it in committee, we’re going to have more meetings this week,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told The Hill, of permitting reform. “It’s possible, but as time gets closer, I don’t know.” “…Cramer also told The Hill more time would allow lawmakers to get a more “comprehensive” agreement. “I just think that if it’s June 1, it’ll be very, very modest. If we have until Aug. 1 and people got serious, maybe it could be more comprehensive,” he told The Hill… “Another tension point on permitting is the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a West Virginia pipeline that has been championed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) but alienated fellow Democrats, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Some Republicans also expressed last year that it wouldn’t be fair for such a package to contain benefits specifically for Manchin’s home state.”

E&E News: How SCOTUS gutting Chevron could haunt Republicans
Pamela King, 5/16/23

“The Supreme Court’s revisit of a key legal defense for federal environmental rules may not just spell trouble for Biden’s climate ambitions — a Republican president with different objectives could face similar obstacles,” E&E News reports. “A future president keen to walk back climate regulations could find their hands tied by the absence of the Chevron doctrine, a 40-year-old legal precedent that says courts should defer to agencies’ reasonable interpretation of ambiguous statutes. The Supreme Court has signaled that it could do away with — or at least narrow — its long-standing approach to agency deference as soon as next year. “It’s like a judicial power grab,” Mona Dajani, a partner at the law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP, told E&E. Should the Supreme Court overrule Chevron, the outcome of litigation over federal rules would “be based on whatever the judge hearing the case decides. And then it becomes very difficult to even deregulate.” “…Although Chevron has recently fallen out of favor with conservatives, even Republican administrations can benefit from a judicial system that is inclined to say that federal agencies, not courts, are best-equipped to interpret their congressionally delegated authority to offer a new environmental regulation — or wipe one from the books, Pat Parenteau, professor emeritus at the Vermont Law and Graduate School, told E&E… “But today, at least three of the Supreme Court’s conservative justices — Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — have signaled that they want to kick Chevron to the curb. And it has been years since the court has used the doctrine to uphold a federal rule. Triggers for the conservative justices’ change in attitude toward Chevron may include a shift away from the view of federal agencies as havens from political influence or the occurrence of dramatic regulatory swings between the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations, court watchers tell E&E.

Axios: Strange carbon capture politics
Nick Sobczyk, 5/16/23

“EPA’s new power plant emissions proposal is highlighting some awkward politics around carbon capture and storage,” Axios reports. “The EPA rules would rely over the long term on CCS, but it’s prompted technological skepticism at both ends of the political spectrum. Republicans who have supported the technology for years sound a bit like longtime critics in progressive circles. “The technology is unsubstantiated. I mean, it’s getting there,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told Axios. “We don’t know what the cost is, and how many people would really do it or be able to bear the cost is still a big question.” On the opposite side, Rep. Jared Huffman sounded a similar note: “Here’s their chance to show [CCS] can work. I’m skeptical.” The politics are “a little bit clumsy,” Sen. Kevin Cramer acknowledged to Axios. The EPA is “teasing us with our own ambitions,” Cramer told Axios. “I think it’s just a matter of, it’s too ambitious too fast.” “…I went up to Saskatchewan with [Lindsay Graham] five years ago or more to watch an ongoing, functioning, operating carbon capture capability at their power plant,” Whitehouse told Axios. “So yes, it can be done.”

Press release: Environmental Groups Request Rehearing of Dept. of Energy’s Approval of Alaska LNG Project

“Today, Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed for rehearing of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decision to grant approval for the exports from the proposed Alaska LNG project, a $38.7 billion fossil-fuel infrastructure plan to export liquified methane gas (LNG). Sierra Club and Earthjustice are also representing Cook Inletkeeper and Center for Biological Diversity in the DOE rehearing request. Earthjustice is also currently representing environmental groups in challenging another key approval for the Alaska LNG project by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Alaska LNG would be capable of exporting 20 million metric tons of gas per year – a quantity that could result in over 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution emissions annually. While the export terminal project now has most of the approvals needed for it to move forward, local and environmental groups continue to pursue all legal pathways to keep Alaska LNG from moving forward. The request for rehearing is the next legal step in fighting DOE’s decision. “We are committed to fighting Alaska LNG and other fossil fuel development projects that threaten Arctic wildlife and exacerbate the climate crisis by locking in decades of increased gas extraction and exports at a time when the science is clear that we must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels,” said Andrea Feniger, Sierra Club Alaska Chapter Director. “Claiming that a project like this could possibly be in the public interest isn’t just out of step with the Biden administration’s stated commitment to climate action – it’s out of step with reality. This rehearing request is the next step in our fight to ensure that this ill-advised project is never built.”


Capital and Main: California Bill Would Hit Oil Companies With $1 Million Penalty for Health Impacts
Aaron Cantú, 5/15/23

“Monic Uriarte was thrilled to get approved for an affordable apartment in Los Angeles’ University Park, close to USC. But soon after she and her family moved there in 2004, they started experiencing headaches and other illnesses,” Capital and Main reports. “…Uriarte eventually learned they’d moved into an apartment just 30 feet from an area with  dozens of oil wells and a gas processing facility, hidden behind layers of brick and iron and trees. “Our bodies were the oil company’s filters,” Uriarte told Capital and Main. That realization kick-started Uriarte’s career as an environmental activist. Now she’s advocating for a statewide measure, backed by climate and environmental groups, that would impose what is likely the strongest law in the nation to hold oil and gas companies accountable when their operations make people sick. The bill, SB 556, comes on the heels of an industry-funded referendum campaign that halted a law to create buffer zones, or “setbacks,” between oil and gas wells and homes, schools, parks and health clinics… “SB 556 says children or seniors diagnosed with lung ailments, those who endure dangerous pregnancies and residents diagnosed with cancer who live within 3,200 feet of an active well can sue companies and their board members. The payout runs between $250,000 and $1 million, with potential for doubling or tripling penalties as a “deterrent.” About 2.76 million people in California live within that zone, according to FracTracker. State prosecuting authorities would also have the ability to sue companies to recoup costs for public health programs. California’s own scientific advisory panel affirmed “with a high level of certainty” that close proximity to wells is associated with perinatal and respiratory harms. Companies would be presumed guilty from the onset, and bear the burden of proving that their operations didn’t make a claimant sick. A legislative analysis says that while this approach is “extraordinary,” it isn’t totally without precedent. Regulations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina hold oil drillers presumptively responsible for groundwater contamination near wells. Beth Kent, a fellow in environmental law and policy at UCLA who hasn’t been involved with the bill, pointed to conclusions from the state’s own advisory panel in 2021 as evidence that the legislation’s central mechanism could hold up in court.”

Long Beach Post: Environmental group sues to block drilling of 15 oil wells off Long Beach coast
Alicia Robinson, 5/15/23

“An environmental group that was already suing the state for allegedly “rubberstamping” oil-drilling permits is now challenging the recent approval of 15 wells in Long Beach,” the Long Beach Post reports. “The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit May 11 that seeks to rescind approval of the Long Beach wells, which are in the harbor on the oil island Grissom, and of six wells in San Luis Obispo County northeast of Pismo Beach. The center’s suit against California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, alleges the agency didn’t offer any chance for public comment before granting the well permits, and that it based its approvals on outdated environmental reviews that don’t adequately address the known harms of oil operations, including air and water pollution and emission of greenhouse gasses. In addition to those concerns, the suit notes that the Long Beach wells could run afoul of a new state law that would prohibit new oil operations within 3,200 feet of sensitive sites such as schools and parks. (The law is on hold until voters decide on a referendum in 2024.) CalGEM issued the permits in December and drilling hasn’t yet started, Liz Jones, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Post. “The goal is definitely to invalidate or have the court tell the agency it needs to rescind these permits so they don’t move forward,” she told the Post.”.

Press release: Lawsuit Launched to Protect Nevada’s Railroad Valley Toad

“The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the critically imperiled Railroad Valley toad under the Endangered Species Act. This rare toad is found at just one spring-fed wetland complex in Railroad Valley, Nevada. It has an estimated distribution of only 445 acres and is isolated from other toads by miles of arid desert. Oil and gas extraction and a proposed lithium project threaten the springs the toads depend on. “Railroad Valley toads have survived for millennia in a harsh environment, but unless there’s adequate spring flow they won’t make it,” said Krista Kemppinen, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Center. “Without federal protections their future is bleak. These small amphibians don’t have time for further delays.” The Center petitioned the Service in 2022 to protect the toads under the Endangered Species Act. The Service had until April 2023 to determine whether protection was warranted. Today’s notice of intent stems from the agency’s failure to make that decision by the legally required deadline.”

Los Angeles Business Journal: CRC Goes Big on Carbon
HOWARD FINE, 5/15/23

“Oil companies have extracted carbon-based liquids and gases from the earth for well more than a century. But now, some oil companies are spending billions to inject carbon back into the earth,” the Los Angeles Business Journal reports. “In the past year, Long Beach-based oil and natural gas company California Resources Corp. has begun this push in a big way, first launching a carbon storage unit with financial help from Toronto, Canada-based Brookfield Renewable and now entering into the first tranche of what will likely be scores of deals over the next few years to inject and store carbon dioxide at or near its existing oil field operations. Oil companies such as CRC may not make money by sequestering carbon. But regulators and lawmakers have been considering and even imposing oil and natural gas drilling bans, and oil companies are eager to prove they can reach carbon neutrality targets without having to shut down their operations. California Resources this month announced two carbon storage agreements that would inject 140,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into underground storage vaults – one at a new plant in Oroville and the other at a new plant next to its oil and natural gas production facilities in the Elk Hills Oil Field in Kern County… “In all, the company said last year it intends to spend $2.5 billion over the next five years on setting up carbon dioxide storage projects. All this with no revenue from any of these projects expected to flow in before 2025… “Another advantage for California Resources to move as quickly as possible on carbon injection and storage deals is staying ahead of what is likely to be more intense state regulation of these projects. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 905, which will set state regulations on carbon capture and storage projects, including strict permitting procedures and ongoing monitoring requirements that would likely make these projects even more expensive to set up. The bill sets a deadline of Jan. 1, 2025, for the regulations to be adopted; the regulations would likely be phased in over the months and years after that date. There’s a good chance that carbon injection and storage projects that are up and running before that time could be grandfathered in.”

KMXT: New report details wide-ranging safety concerns at Valdez Marine Terminal, prompting calls for reform
Kirsten Dobroth, 5/16/23

“The terminal of the Trans Alaska Pipeline system is at “risk of a serious accident or incident in the near future,” KMXT reports. “That’s a main takeaway of a sweeping 180-page report that was published in April, detailing wide-ranging safety concerns at the Valdez Marine Terminal, where North Slope crude is loaded onto ocean tankers. The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company says it’s taking the report seriously, but coastal communities say time is of the essence. Early last year, an Alyeska employee working at the Valdez Marine Terminal – which is the southern end of the Trans Alaska Pipeline – reported smelling fumes. Heavy snow had damaged oil storage tanks at the facility – venting petroleum vapors into the atmosphere. “It was noticed by an employee at Alyeska that was walking around, happened to smell toxic fumes coming out of the tanks,” Wayne Donaldson, the city of Kodiak’s representative on the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, or PWSRCAC, told KMXT. The advisory council is one of two federally mandated oil spill prevention groups formed in response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, which saturated more than a thousand miles of Alaska’s coastline – including Kodiak Island’s shores – in oil… “In response to the report, the advisory council sent letters to lawmakers – including the Governor and Alaska’s congressional delegation – citing the need for federal audits of the terminal by the Government Accountability Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”

Denver Post: Stormwater flood at Suncor’s Commerce City refinery leaked benzene into nearby irrigation ditch

“A stormwater flood at Suncor Energy’s refinery in Commerce City last week leaked benzene into the Burlington Ditch where it flows through the Denver’s wastewater treatment plant property, but state health officials say pollution levels did not threaten human health or drinking water,” the Denver Post reports. “Low levels of benzene were found in water samples taken by Suncor, according to a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment news release. Suncor’s samples reported benzene levels at 0.18 micrograms per liter, and the permitted level for benzene is 5 micrograms per liter. The Water Quality Control Division sent a stormwater permit inspector to test the water and confirm Suncor’s self-reported findings. “The current flooding at the facility seems not to have caused a public health risk, but we will continue to monitor the situation and update everyone accordingly,” Trisha Oeth, CDPHE’s director of environmental health and protection, said in the news release. Suncor contained the remaining stormwater on its property and will test it before releasing it into the water system. The stormwater flood contaminated the Burlington Ditch where it flows through Metro Water Recovery, where wastewater is treated for 61 local governments, including Denver and parts of Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Douglas and Weld counties… “Benzene is a chemical naturally found in crude oil and gasoline that can cause blood diseases, cancer and menstrual irregularities through long-term exposure.”


Bloomberg: Chevron’s Carbon Capture Flagship Is Stuck at One-Third Capacity
James Fernyhough, 5/17/23

“Chevron Corp.’s flagship carbon capture and storage project in Australia faces years of work to hit full capacity, underscoring the challenge of a technology seen as necessary to help the world hit climate goals,” Bloomberg reports. “The Gorgon CCS project, one of the largest of its kind in the world, needs investment to boost performance and will be stuck at around one-third of its intended capacity until that’s completed, according to David Fallon, Chevron Australia’s general manager energy transition. “We will not hide from the fact that it’s not perfect,” Fallon told Bloomberg. “But it’s still safely storing a significant amount of CO2 every year.” Gorgon is designed to capture 4 million tons of CO2 a year from a Chevron-led liquefied natural gas plant on Barrow Island and store it in a subsea reservoir. Since its commissioning in 2019, the project has been plagued with difficulties and is currently operating at a storage rate of about 1.6 million tons of CO2 a year… “Critics of carbon capture have cited Gorgon as evidence that the technology is too expensive and technically challenging to be relied on as a climate change mitigation tool.” 

Common Dreams: Former UN Climate Chief Rips Oil-Friendly COP28 President’s ‘Very Dangerous’ Carbon Capture Push

“With six months to go until the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP28, is set to take place in Dubai, comments by the designated president of the summit about his approach to mitigating the climate crisis are already setting off alarm bells with critics including former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres,” Common Dreams reports. “…In comments Figueres described as “very worrisome,” al-Jaber said at the Petersburg Climate Dialogue in Berlin that policymakers should focus on drawing down “fossil fuel emissions”—but not the extraction of fossil fuels themselves. “We must be laser focused on phasing out fossil fuel emissions, while phasing up viable, affordable zero carbon alternatives,” said al-Jaber, adding that “smart government regulation to… make carbon capture commercially viable” is needed. Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said al-Jaber was suggesting COP28 will support carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology—an unproven method of removing carbon emissions from smokestacks at power plants, which has failed in at least two high-profile projects in the United States and which climate campaigners say only serves as a distraction from genuine solutions to the climate emergency–eliminating the extraction of fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy. “He is trying to say: ‘Look, those of us who are producers of fossil fuels will be responsible for our emissions through enhanced carbon capture and storage. And we, or the COP presidency, will also support the zero carbon alternatives,'” said Figueres… “Al-Jaber’s endorsement of a position embraced by fossil fuel companies like the one he heads is “very dangerous,” said Figueres. “I just don’t see most countries, and certainly not the vulnerable countries, being willing to support the COP president on this because it is a direct threat to their survival.” “…We do not have CCS commercially available and viable over the next five to seven years,” Figueres said. “It’s just not going to happen.” “…Journalist Khaled Diab said after al-Jaber’s comments this month that “this is what happens when a petrostate and an oil executive lead global climate talks.” “When you are the president of the COP,” said Figueres, “you cannot put forward the position of the country that you’re coming from.”

New York Times: The ‘Skeletons’ in Big Oil’s Closet
Manuela Andreoni, 5/16/23

“The legal headaches for Big Oil are spreading. The latest company to land in court is Eni, the Italian giant. Today, I want to talk about lawsuits against oil companies and how the sheer volume and complexity of cases around the world may lead to change,” the New York Times reports. “Last week, Greenpeace and other groups, along with 12 private citizens of Italy, sued Eni in Rome, saying the company was well aware of the climate damage caused by its product but chose to ignore the harm and keep pumping oil anyway. If that legal tactic sounds familiar, that’s because it is. And, it appears to be effective. The central legal tactic in the Eni suit started making the rounds after 2015, when journalists uncovered documents showing that company researchers at Exxon, starting in the 1970s, had made remarkably accurate projections of just how much the burning of fossil fuels would warm the planet. For years after those projections, however, Exxon continued to publicly cast doubt on climate science and cautioned against moving away from burning fossil fuels. Since then, we’ve learned that other companies, including Shell, also knew about the dangers of fossil fuels and climate change. So did automakers and the coal industry, journalists and researchers have found. The result has been dozens of lawsuits by organizations and governments accusing Exxon, Shell and other companies of public deception. The plaintiffs are demanding billions of dollars in climate damages. The Shell case, in the Netherlands, showed the kind of impact that these lawsuits can have. In 2021, a court found that Shell was liable for causing climate change and ordered the company to cut its emissions. The case used the company’s early knowledge of climate science as one of its central arguments. The company has denied wrongdoing and has appealed the decision. The suit against Eni is widely regarded as the first of its kind in Italy. The company said it would “prove in court the groundlessness of the lawsuit” as well as “the correctness of its actions and its transformation and decarbonization strategy.”


As You Sow: New Tool Shows Retirement Plans Financing Fossil Fuel Expansion Through Bond Holdings, Putting Savers at Risk

“Today, As You Sow’s Invest Your Values program released a new tool for analyzing retirement plan exposure to fossil fuel bond holdings, with an accompanying analysis. The tool covers 43 U.S. retirement plans, and found an average fossil fuel bond exposure of 0.5%; with $9.3 trillion invested in U.S. 401(k)s and similar retirement plans, that would amount to an estimated $46.5 billion invested in fossil fuel bonds. Information on bond holdings in retirement accounts is important because coal, oil, and gas companies are increasingly turning to the bond market to access inexpensive debt for new production, extraction, and pipeline projects. Bringing on new fossil fuel projects can negatively impact retirement funds. Since the Paris Agreement, coal companies with the largest expansion plans have raised 2.5 times more capital through bond issuance than through bank loans. Oil and gas companies have secured $2 trillion in bond issuances. Employer-offered 401(k)s and similar retirement plans hold nearly $10 trillion; where those assets are invested can be critical to shaping the future. When retirement plans offer fund options containing high-carbon fossil fuel bonds, employees are exposed to greater climate risk. As the climate becomes destabilized by climate-related emissions, investors, including employees, are at greater risk of financial losses from extreme weather, stranded assets, systemic risk, and spillover effects… “Because pension funds and asset managers make up a majority of bondholders, many retirement savers end up unknowingly financing new fossil fuel projects. “Investors have tremendous power to support the transition towards a low carbon economy,” said As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar. “By reducing their exposure to fossil fuel bonds, investors can reduce their climate-related financial risk while sending a powerful message that they will no longer use their money to invest in climate destruction.” Through As You Sow’s tool, employees can gauge their exposure to fossil fuel bonds by simply looking up their employer-offered 401(k) plan, or by selecting from a list of target date fund series.”


Spencer Daily Reporter: Letter to the Editor: Summit-threatened landowner
Kathy Carter, Rockford, 5/15/23

“Re the CO2 pipelines: 1) These projects are completely unnecessary,” Kathy Carter writes for the Spencer Daily Reporter. “Daily, there’s new technology being developed on alternate uses/ ways to mitigate the CO2. The pipelines will rapidly become obsolete. 2) An ISU professor did a study and determined that the amount of CO2 captured at ethanol plants (if capture was at 100%) would equal less than 3/10ths of 1% of the total U.S. transportation emissions…”

The Conversation: As Alberta’s oilsands continue leaking toxic wastewater, aquatic wildlife face new risks
Diane Orihel, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology & School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario, Chloe Robinson, Junior Research Associate, Experimental Ecology and Ecotoxicology Research Team, Queen’s University, Ontario and Chris K. Elvidge, Postdoctoral Researcher in Freshwater Ecology, Carleton University, 5/16/23

“The science clearly suggests that fish are negatively impacted by wastewater contaminants and even short-term contact can have lasting effects on animals in the affected area,” Diane Orihel, Chloe Robinson and Chris K. Elvidge write for The Conversation. “Three months ago, 5.3 million litres of industrial wastewater was reported to have overflowed from an Imperial Oil storage pond into a muskeg and forested area. This industrial wastewater could have filled more than two Olympic-sized swimming pools, and is now one of the largest known spills of its kind in Alberta’s history. Then came news of a separate incident where an unknown amount of industrial wastewater has been leaking from an Imperial Oil tailings pond for the last 12 months… “These waters flow into the Athabasca River, which is part of an important waterway that supports communities in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. In addition to its significance to the Indigenous communities here, this waterway also provides crucial habitats for endangered wildlife species. While Imperial Oil and Alberta’s energy regulator have reported no impacts on wildlife or waterways yet, the federal government believes the leaking waste is harmful to aquatic life, and has ordered Imperial Oil to take immediate action in preventing any further seepage of toxic water… “Indigenous Nations located downstream of recent oil spills in Alberta — including the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation — voiced their concern over this pollution and its impact on the plants and animals they harvest for food. While these communities rely on the lands and waters near the spill, they were only notified of the contamination when the provincial regulator issued an environmental protection order in February. The lack of transparency and delayed responses surrounding these current spills raises questions about how many undocumented incidents could be taking place every year… “Change is needed to ensure that economic activities do not jeopardize the environment further.”

Truthout: Biden’s Carbon Capture Regulation Is Just What the Fossil Fuel Industry Wants
Basav Sen, 5/16/23

“On May 11, President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, primarily by requiring plants to capture emissions from their smokestacks,” Basav Sen writes for Truthout. “Limiting greenhouse emissions from power generation is a good thing. Unfortunately, relying on “capturing emissions” to do it is a singularly bad idea. Biden’s plan is a reference to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, which would theoretically allow power plants to “capture” carbon emissions before they’re released and “sequester” them away underground. But the technology has major problems that the proposed regulations ignore. Even proponents of the technology agree that it’s inordinately expensive. Much cheaper alternatives exist to generate electricity without greenhouse gas emissions. Wind and solar power cost about the same or less than natural gas power, and without the added capital and operating costs of adding a carbon-scrubbing unit. For all its cost, carbon capture isn’t even proven to work — it hasn’t been implemented at scale in the electric power generation sector anywhere in the world. The only sizable power plant in the world that uses CCS technology, the Boundary Dam power plant in Saskatchewan, Canada, is an expensive failure. But even while covering the modest use of this technology to date, mainstream media reports have shown a tendency to inflate its dismal record. The New York Times, for example, reported in April that CCS technology is used by “fewer than 10” power plants in the U.S. today, attributing the information to three anonymous sources who were “briefed on the rule.” Similarly, The Washington Post claimed there are four active power plants in the U.S. with CCS technology. They obtained that count from the Clean Air Task Force, a group that boosts CCS technology and whose board of directors includes members from businesses that serve fossil fuel companies. Both numbers are wrong. The correct number of U.S. power plants currently using CCS is zero… “Efforts to make CCS appear more widespread and viable than it actually is echo the talking points of fossil fuel companies that see CCS technology as a lifeline — a way to prolong their business in an age of increasing concern about greenhouse gas emissions. They also serve the Biden administration, which is pushing hard to promote CCS as its approvals of fossil fuel projects continue to accelerate the climate crisis. The truth is, carbon capture would be problematic even if it worked. By enabling the continued production and use of fossil fuels, it perpetuates environmental harms beyond greenhouse gas emissions — including particulate air and water pollution, with severe health consequences that disproportionately harm Indigenous, Black, Brown and poor white communities. But so far there’s no large-scale evidence that CCS even works to reduce carbon emissions. Wind, solar, and other clean renewable sources are a much better bet — and the public deserves to hear it.”

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