Subscribe in your inbox daily M-F via Substack:
- In These Times: Tribal Court Case Against Line 3 Pipeline Is First to Invoke “Rights of Nature”
- Park Rapids Enterprise: Citizens grill Park Rapids City Council about selling water to pipeline project
- Virginia Mercury: Fight brewing over alleged aquifer damage by Mountain Valley Pipeline
- WFAE: ‘Slowly Bubbling Out’: 1 Year After Huntersville Colonial Pipeline Gasoline Spill, Cleanup Continues
- Law360: FERC Faces Protests Over Enbridge Pipeline Rate Hike
- Minot Daily News: Cramer’s amendment would prohibit fracking ban
- InsideClimate News: The Senate’s Two-Track Approach Reveals Little Bipartisanship, and a Fragile Democratic Consensus on Climate
- E&E News: CCS ‘hubs’: Climate fix or boon for fossil fuels?
- Wall Street Journal: Frackers, Shippers Eye Natural-Gas Leaks as Climate Change Concerns Mount
RESEARCH & SCIENCE
- Public Citizen: Troubled Oil and Gas Companies Pay Execs $200M, Leave Taxpayers on the Hook for Cleanup Costs
- New York Times: For Many, Hydrogen Is the Fuel of the Future. New Research Raises Doubts
- Reuters: New York’s pension fund to review oil holdings, axes more coal investments
- E&E News: Banks rush for ‘green deposits.’ Will it help the climate?
- Inforum: Letter: Ramifications of Line 3 replacement project already apparent
In These Times: Tribal Court Case Against Line 3 Pipeline Is First to Invoke “Rights of Nature”
ALEX BROWN, 8/12/21
“In what is believed to be the first tribal court case brought under the “rights of nature” legal doctrine, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota has filed an action in its court system on behalf of manoomin (wild rice) to stop billions of gallons of water from being diverted for an oil pipeline,” In These Times reports. “In 2018, the tribe enshrined in its law the right of manoomin to “exist, flourish, regenerate and evolve” — part of a growing movement led by Indigenous people to give legal rights to nature and to change its status as property. The tribe argues that the diversion of 5 billion gallons of groundwater for the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline would violate manoomin’s rights. “This is a daring move,” tribal attorney Frank Bibeau told ITT. “We’re doing something that hasn’t been done.” Critics have argued that recognizing rights of nature would make businesses and governments vulnerable to lawsuits over almost any action with an impact on the environment. Meanwhile, the tribal leaders say the oil company’s permit also violates their treaty rights, which promise tribal members can gather wild rice. In recent years, tribes have increasingly used their treaty-guaranteed rights to hunt, fish and gather as a legal tool to protect the ecosystems on which those customs rely. “Wild rice is the center of our culture,” Bibeau said. “Wild rice is what brought us to the Great Lakes. We cannot allow the state of Minnesota to continue to undercut and sell us out.” According to Bibeau, the state is seeking to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, but he believes treaty rights give tribal members the ability to press the case.”
Park Rapids Enterprise: Citizens grill Park Rapids City Council about selling water to pipeline project
Robin D. Fish, 8/12/21
“The Park Rapids City Council took some heat about water issues during the citizen comment period of its meeting Tuesday,” the Park Rapids Enterprise reports. “Everybody I talk to about this, or bring this to their light, cannot believe this is happening,” said Kent Brock, a homeowner on Eastern Avenue. “What I’m talking about is the pipeline. I’m talking about Enbridge sucking water out of your hydrants.” He noted that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stopped the project’s water usage permits due to the ongoing drought. Meanwhile, he said, he has seen three hydrants in the city with hoses and meters to supply Line 3 trucks. Brock demanded answers to a number of questions: “Who’s monitoring it? How much are you gonna let them take? How about the aquifers, the deep and shallow aquifers? … Do you know where the water’s going, what it’s used for?” “…We monitor the aquifer every day,” Public Works Superintendent Scott Burlingame confirmed. “That particular aquifer that the city of Park Rapids is a part of is very well fed. I’ve seen years worse than this, as far as drought, and we haven’t had an issue.”
Virginia Mercury: Fight brewing over alleged aquifer damage by Mountain Valley Pipeline
BY: SARAH VOGELSONG, 8/12/21
“Already tense relations between Mountain Valley Pipeline and opponents of the project were further inflamed Wednesday after the owners of a property on which the pipeline was drilling alleged the company had penetrated the shallow local aquifer,” the Virginia Mercury reports. “An attorney for J. Coles Terry, the owner of a property on Bent Mountain in Roanoke County where the pipeline developer has been drilling holes for dynamite, sought a temporary injunction against the company from a federal court on Aug. 11 as part of an ongoing eminent domain case, citing alleged damage to the aquifer… “I am requesting that FERC require MVP to immediately stop work on my property until a qualified hydrogeologist inspects what has happened,” Terry wrote. “I am very concerned that if drilling continues, it could cause damage to my well which is my family’s sole source of drinking water.” Mountain Valley Pipeline, however, called reports that the aquifer had been penetrated by drilling “inaccurate and blatantly false information based on unsubstantiated claims” and said opponents’ “willingness to mislead the public and mischaracterize construction activities to advance their agenda is wrong and unnecessarily consumes public agency resources.” “The construction activities occurring on Bent Mountain include drilling holes to a depth of less than 15 feet below the surface,” MVP spokesperson Natalie Cox told the Mercury. “Given the local terrain, the fact that water may be present in the holes is normal and there is no evidence that an aquifer has been penetrated.”
WFAE: ‘Slowly Bubbling Out’: 1 Year After Huntersville Colonial Pipeline Gasoline Spill, Cleanup Continues
David Boraks, 8/13/21
“Saturday marks one year since the discovery of a massive gasoline spill on the Colonial Pipeline in Huntersville, north of Charlotte,” WFAE reports. “Officials say they’re still researching the extent of the spill and they aren’t sure how long it will take to clean up. As one of the largest gasoline spills on land in the United States, it continues to raise concerns from neighbors and officials from Huntersville to Raleigh to Washington, D.C… “The 1.2 million gallon(s) — the current estimate of the release, which is no longer accurate — is a significant release and the largest in North Carolina history,” Michael Scott, who oversees the state Department of Environmental Quality’s waste management division, told WFAE. “And it has the potential and is already in the realm of being one of the largest on-land fuel releases in the country.” Colonial initially estimated the spill at about 60,000 gallons, but that proved to be way off. In January, it raised that to about 1.2 million gallons. As of this week, Colonial has recovered 1.225 million gallons of gasoline. And there’s still more in the ground. Colonial has not offered any new estimates or a timeline for the cleanup. Workers are still recovering about 1,000 gallons a day, down from a high of 5,000 gallons… “A section of the pipeline was shut down for five days. As with other spills, Colonial dispatched an army of employees and contractors to the site — as many as 250 at a time. They’ve spent more than 180,000 work hours so far. About 8,700 tons of soil were removed and taken to the Speedway Landfill in Concord. Contaminated water is still being collected from wells, stored in tanks, then shipped to a recovery facility in Asheboro. Meanwhile, powerful vacuums suck up gas vapors from the soil. Then they’re piped to what’s called a “flame oxidizer,” where they’re burned off.”
Law360: FERC Faces Protests Over Enbridge Pipeline Rate Hike
“Several trade groups, energy companies and public service commissions have filed nearly two dozen protests with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over Enbridge Inc.’s proposed rate increase for its Texas Easter Transmission LP pipeline, arguing the proposed increase is excessive and based on a projected tax rate change,” Law360 reports.
Minot Daily News: Cramer’s amendment would prohibit fracking ban
“Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee member, has introduced an amendment to prohibit the Biden administration from releasing rules or guidance banning hydraulic fracturing,” the Minot Daily News reports. “The Senate will vote on it for Senate Democrats’ fiscal year 2022 budget resolution. “Democrats enacting a ban on fracking would weaken national security, increase global emissions, and take more money out of the pocketbooks of hardworking Americans,” said Cramer. “If they reject our amendment to their reckless tax-and-spend proposal, Senate Democrats would be admitting that imposing their radical agenda on the American people is more important than lowering costs for their constituents, protecting our national security, or even decreasing the world’s carbon footprint. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.”
InsideClimate News: The Senate’s Two-Track Approach Reveals Little Bipartisanship, and a Fragile Democratic Consensus on Climate
By Marianne Lavelle, 8/12/21
“The U.S. Senate showed this week just how narrow the ground is for bipartisanship on climate change in the nation’s current political landscape,” InsideClimate News reports. “In passing a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package and launching the process of building a $3.5 trillion spending package, Senate Democrats were able to unite and garner 20 Republican votes for fending off or cleaning up disasters generated by global warming. But they could not do the same for attacking the root cause of climate change with measures that would aggressively reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.Democrats are still determined to take on the larger project of transforming U.S. energy, but they will have to take on the monumental task of driving down greenhouse gas emissions without any Republican support and a fragile consensus on how to do it within their own party.”
E&E News: CCS ‘hubs’: Climate fix or boon for fossil fuels?
By Lesley Clark, Carlos Anchondo, 8/12/21
“The Biden administration and members of Congress are pushing regional carbon capture “hubs” as a way to slash emissions, despite persistent concerns from environmental justice advocates about the technology,” E&E News reports. “The massive infrastructure package passed by the Senate this week,, for instance, has provisions that could help create hubs, which would link multiple carbon capture and storage projects in a region. The bill includes the “Storing CO2 And Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act,” which would support the build-out of more CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, including pipelines… “A CCS hub involves shared infrastructure — and a shared pipeline network — that multiple carbon capture projects in the same region feed into. Instead of having each facility that traps CO2 determine its own storage solution and build a pipeline to it, the idea is to first build a shared network of pipelines that would facilitate carbon-capturing projects to spring up around it… “But critics of carbon capture note that multiple projects tied to power plants and large emitters have been canceled in the past decade, raising the question of whether enough CCS projects could affordably come online to support a hub. Others say the technology would extend the life of fossil fuels rather than helping cut emissions in the long term. “A focus on carbon capture also distracts from the work needed to advance a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels,” Stephanie Thomas, a researcher and community organizer with Public Citizen in Texas, told E&E… “Thomas of Public Citizen said carbon capture can be an important technology for limited use where electrification is not an option. But “using it as a mechanism to prolong the life of fossil fuels is not a good use of our energy and resources, whether it’s to create a hydrogen hub, build out [liquefied natural gas] infrastructure or attach to a coal plant,” she added.
Wall Street Journal: Frackers, Shippers Eye Natural-Gas Leaks as Climate Change Concerns Mount
By Collin Eaton, 8/12/21
“Drones darted in patterns above natural-gas wells in the hills of southwest Pennsylvania, as workers atop water tanks pointed specialized cameras, and a helicopter outfitted with a laser-light detection system swooped in low. All searched for an invisible enemy: methane,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The American gas industry faces growing pressure from investors and customers to prove that its fuel has a lower-carbon provenance to sell it around the world. That has led the top U.S. gas producer, EQT Corp. , and the top exporter, Cheniere Energy Inc., to team up and track the emissions from wells that feed major shipping terminals. The companies are trying to collect reliable data on releases of methane—a potent greenhouse gas increasingly attracting scrutiny for its contributions to climate change—and demonstrate they can reduce these emissions over time. “What we’re trying to really do is build the trust up to the end user that our measurements are correct,” David Khani, EQT’s chief financial officer, told the Journal. “Let’s put our money where our mouth is.” Natural gas has boomed world-wide over the past few decades as countries moved to supplant dirtier fossil fuels such as coal and oil. It has long been touted as a bridge to a lower-carbon future. But while gas burns cleaner than coal, gas operations leak methane, which has a more potent effect on atmospheric warming than carbon dioxide, though it makes up a smaller percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions.”
RESEARCH & SCIENCE
Public Citizen: Troubled Oil and Gas Companies Pay Execs $200M, Leave Taxpayers on the Hook for Cleanup Costs
“Dozens of fossil fuel executives received lavish payouts before leaving their companies during the surge in oil and gas company bankruptcies in recent years, according to a new report by Public Citizen and Documented. “According to the report, “Fueling Failure,” the U.S. oil and gas corporations that filed the 25 largest bankruptcy cases between 2018 to 2020 paid a combined total of nearly $200 million in cash bonuses, retention payments and severance to 76 executives. At the same time, thousands of workers were laid off and investors’ shares became worthless. The report finds that while most companies were able to exit the bankruptcy reorganization process with debt levels reduced and new managers in charge, the companies’ fragility highlights the danger that taxpayers could foot the bill for potential environmental cleanup. “For oil industry executives, failure is very much an option. Whether these fossil fuel executives lead their corporations to financial success or catastrophic flops, they still receive exorbitant payouts, while workers lose jobs, investors lose money and taxpayers may wind up footing the bill for environmental cleanup,” said Alan Zibel, a Public Citizen researcher and the report’s co-author. “These polluting companies are able to profit due to subsidies and regulatory favors, while putting the planet at risk, exploiting public lands and leaving a mess for others to clean up.” The U.S. oil and gas companies that filed the 25 largest bankruptcy cases from 2018 to 2020 paid a combined $199.4 million in cash bonuses, retention payments and severance to 76 executives, for an average of about $2.6 million per executive, the report found. That compares with salaries of around $50,000 to $60,000 for oil rig workers.”
New York Times: For Many, Hydrogen Is the Fuel of the Future. New Research Raises Doubts
“It is seen by many as the clean energy of the future. Billions of dollars from the bipartisan infrastructure bill have been teed up to fund it. But a new peer-reviewed study on the climate effects of hydrogen, the most abundant substance in the universe, casts doubt on its role in tackling the greenhouse gas emissions that are the driver of catastrophic global warming,” the New York Times reports. “The main stumbling block: Most hydrogen used today is extracted from natural gas in a process that requires a lot of energy and emits vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Producing natural gas also releases methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas. And while the natural gas industry has proposed capturing that carbon dioxide — creating what it promotes as emissions-free, “blue” hydrogen — even that fuel still emits more across its entire supply chain than simply burning natural gas, according to the paper, published Thursday in the Energy Science & Engineering journal by researchers from Cornell and Stanford Universities. “To call it a zero-emissions fuel is totally wrong,” Robert W. Howarth, a biogeochemist and ecosystem scientist at Cornell and the study’s lead author, told the Times. “What we found is that it’s not even a low-emissions fuel, either.”
Reuters: New York’s pension fund to review oil holdings, axes more coal investments
By Liz Hampton, 8/12/21
“The third-largest U.S. public pension fund on Thursday said it is launching reviews over climate concerns on $640 million invested in 42 shale oil and gas firms, including ConocoPhillips (COP.N), Hess (HES.N) and Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD.N),” Reuters reports. “The move by the New York state pension fund comes days after the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported global warming was nearly out of control, and calling its findings “a death knell for coal and fossil fuels.” Major investors, including BlackRock have re-evaluated holdings in fossil fuel producers and prodded energy executives to reduce emissions and prepare for a lower carbon world. After completing its shale review, the New York fund plans to turn next to oil and gas pipeline and processing investments, it said… “This announcement is very significant given the size of the pension fund. It has significant influence related to all issues related to investments,” Richard Brooks of environmental activist group Stand.earth told Reuters.
E&E News: Banks rush for ‘green deposits.’ Will it help the climate?
Avery Ellfeldt, 8/11/21
“Leave your bank. Change the world. That’s the promise the Los Angeles-based financial firm Aspiration has used to entice millions of customers over the past six years,” E&E News reports. “The company’s pitch to climate-savvy consumers? They can slash their carbon footprint by taking their dollars out of banking giants — which are deeply invested in fossil energy — and opt for its services instead. Launched in 2015, Aspiration offers savings accounts, debit cards, investment options and more. Some of those services, the company promises, come with perks for the planet. For instance, every time a customer swipes their debit card, Aspiration says, it plants one tree. The approach has found an audience: Aspiration boasts more than 5 million clients, a number that’s more than doubled over the last year and a half… “Seven bankers, experts and advocates interviewed for this story had a range of answers to that question. Most noted that the sustainable and fossil fuel-free banking space is largely composed of firms that are orders of magnitude smaller than traditional banks, some of which wield trillions of dollars in assets. And those major lenders, sources say, aren’t necessarily going to be pressured to cut ties with oil and gas firms just because customers are dropping them in exchange for a greener option.”
Inforum: Letter: Ramifications of Line 3 replacement project already apparent
Deanna Johnson, 8/12/21
“I had not been to Itasca State Park for a couple of months and what I saw was sad to see! There is little water trickling over the rocks,” Deanna Johnson writes in Inforum. “Will this jewel of Minnesota that 500,000 tourists from all over the U.S. and worldwide come to see become a dry streambed? “…In the Appeals Court decision allowing the PUC Certificate of Need decision for Enbridge Line 3 to stand, dissenting Appellate Judge Reyes in his opinion summary states, “Enbridge needs Minnesota for its new pipeline. But Enbridge has not shown that Minnesota needs the pipeline.” So now we see ramifications for Line 3 and bills are coming due for Minnesota. We are experiencing severe drought and heat. And, oops! Enbridge miscalculated how much water withdrawal they would have to do in construction by 10 times from 500 million gallons to almost 5 billion gallons and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources granted this increase and adjusted the permit. This would average close to 15 million gallons of water per mile. Consider this, the Park Rapids Enterprise reports the city of Park Rapids averages using approximately 22 million gallons in June. How does this water withdrawal affect the health of our wetlands and streams, farmers and city and citizen wells? Can we expect water will be restored properly and without being degraded or contaminated? There have been 9 drilling mud releases into our environment. MPCA in their MN 401 permit documents for Line 3 stated, “degradation of high water quality is unavoidable.” What bills will continue to come due in the future?”