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Transportation Nation

Keystone XL Pipeline Officials Say Safety Is The Priority

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

(Billings, MT-YPR) The developers of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline say they already had included safety measures meant to prevent the type of pipeline break that spilled an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River last month.

TransCanada officials are in Montana this week. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would stretch from Alberta’s oil tar sand fields to refineries in the United States.

The approximately 1,660-mile long pipeline has been assailed by environmentalists as too risky. Opponents stepped up their criticism following the break in Exxon Mobil’s Silvertip Pipeline near Laurel, MT on July 1, 2011.

TransCanada President of Energy and Pipelines Alex Pourbaix says the Keystone XL project was designed to be the safest pipeline in North America.

“Everyone would acknowledge that Exxon’s incident with the Silvertip Pipeline was very unfortunate,” he says. “At the same time we find it concerning that many people have tried to compare the silvertip incident with the Keystone XL pipeline. And we really do believe that is completely inappropriate.”

Pourbaix says TransCanada will bury its pipeline a minimum 25 feet beneath major river crossings, exceeding current federal regulations. The proposed pipeline would cross three Montana rivers: Milk, Missouri, and Yellowstone.

Pourbaix says TransCanada made no changes to its projects proposal as a result of the Yellowstone River oil spill. Clean-up crews are still in Montana. Exxon Mobil officials are awaiting regulatory approval to rebuild its line.

The oil spill was the latest in a series of spills across the U-S. It brought Congressional scrutiny of the spider web of pipelines across the country, particularly those that cross rivers and streams.

Keystone Pipeline Project Vice President Robert Jones welcomes the increased attention. He’s not worried the spotlight will harm the Keystone XL project.

“And we try to do best practices,” Jones says.

TransCanada officials say their project exceeds current regulations, including:  the use heavy wall pipe with an abrasion resistant coating; check valves will be installed at river banks; lower pressure at river crossings; regular monitoring and maintenance, and aerial patrols every two weeks.

The U.S. State Department is charged with overseeing the permit because the pipeline crosses an international border.

A final Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released this month.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Chuck Leavell Performs Live

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rock and roll legend Chuck Leavell, longtime keyboardist and musical director for the Rolling Stones, performs live and discusses the band, currently in negotiations for a world tour next year—2012 is the band’s 50th anniversary. He’s currently working on an album in tribute to the pioneering blues piano players that have inspired him--it's titled "Back to the Woods," and it's scheduled to be released in the fall. He’s the founder of the for-profit environmental website Mother Nature Network (www.mnn.com), and he’s also written a book, Growing a Better America: Smart, Strong, and Sustainable, about his environmental activism.

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Transportation Nation

HopStop Offers Carbon Emissions Calculator with Transit Directions

Thursday, August 11, 2011

When consumers can see how much power they're using minute by minute with in-home "smart meters," they typically cut back on energy consumption -- at least a little. The Dutch are experimenting with in-car meters that tax miles driven on the theory that it will cut down on driving. Would that kind of information affect day-t0-day transportation decisions for transit riders too? Transit riders now have a new source of data on environmental impact: trip planning website HopStop now includes carbon emissions calculations in their travel directions.

HopStop CEO Joe Meyer said the company received thousands of user requests for a feature that quantified the environmental benefits of public transit. Now, right next to the estimated trip time, you'll see your CO2 savings compared to driving. "At the end of the day, we’re a source of information," Meyer said. "This is giving people additional context around the information they are already coming to us for."

HopStop is using a proprietary algorithm based on data from the EPA and the World Resources Institute to estimate the savings for each trip compared to driving solo. While there's no shortage of  carbon calculators out there -- including several specifically about transportation and even public transit including one by New York's MTA -- HopStop is injecting this environmental information right in the moment when people are choosing how to travel.

But some are unsure that this will make a big impact. "I doubt if this one will have a substantial effect [on changing travel behavior]," says Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health Wealth and Happiness, which is about how people can be guided into better decisions without restricting choice. "There are lots of factors that go into the choice of a mode of transport -- time, expense, convenience, etc. -- and carbon emissions is just one, even for those who are sensitive to such things. So, [this new feature is] a good thing, but unlikely to shift much behavior, especially in the short run."

HopStop's Meyer says he isn't doing this to shift how people travel, he's providing what his customers want -- more information. “We’re just telling you it’s a more environmentally friendly way to travel… compared to driving, and here’s the saving."

According to New York's MTA, emissions from a single passenger car trip can be five times more than the alternative transit trip, and as much as 8.25 times more if you factor in dynamic effects. MTA research analyst Dana Coyle explains: "There are three components of the carbon savings of transit use as we see it. The first is mode shift... shifting from a vehicle to a different mode [like] transit or walking or biking. The second is congestion relief. By removing cars from the road, the vehicles that are left can drive more efficiently... so you are getting better gas mileage. The third part is a land use factor, this one is a little bit tricky." She explained that if transit allows for denser neighborhoods, then you can avoid carbon emissions by, say, walking to the grocery story on your way home instead of taking a separate car trip.

That's system wide. For each individual decision, the new HopStop feature is more like the Dutch in-car meter, or an in-home smart energy meter. When home electricity usage is presented in real time, it reduced energy consumption by 7 percent on average, according to a review of experimental studies of "smart meters." This kind of awareness matters on the margins: to shut off the A/C when a fan might do, or to remember to turn the lights out, or stop blow drying your hair. It was also tied to paying more for extra electricity used, which isn't the case with transit.

However, HopStop users clamoring for the carbon calculator may use the information in another way: to brag. This information may become the kind of data that lets people advocate for their already firm choices with more conviction. Look out, transit-accessible cocktail parties: straphangers can now boast about another way they're better. And, because the new feature will also compare the carbon emissions of biking/walking (which have zero carbon emissions in this calculator) with transit, it could make the eco-conscious bus rider hoof it a little more frequently.

Even if carbon isn't the top determinant between driving or riding, it can't be a factor at all unless it's measured.

HopStop is making this available on the website immediately, and on all mobile apps within the next two months.

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Transportation Nation

White House: Fuel Economy Standards for Trucks Will Save $50 Billion, Reduce Oil Consumption by 530 Million Barrels

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

(photo by Brian Rosen via Flickr)

Trucks of every stripe -- semis, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles, even fire trucks -- will have to meet pollution standards and trim fuel consumption for the first time, under standards announced today that will begin to be phased in by 2014.  You can read the White House's announcement below.

White House Announces First Ever Oil Savings Standards for Heavy Duty Trucks, Buses

Saving $50 billion in fuel costs and over 500 million barrels of oil

WASHINGTON – Today, President Obama will meet with industry officials to discuss the first of their kind fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas pollution standards for work trucks, buses, and other heavy duty vehicles and to thank them for their leadership in finalizing a successful national program for these vehicles.  This meeting marks the Administration’s announcement of the standards, which will save American businesses who operate and own these commercial vehicles approximately $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program.  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the standards in close coordination with the companies that met with the President today as well as other stakeholders, following requests from companies to develop this program.  The cost savings for American businesses are on top of the $1.7 trillion that American families will save at the pump from the historic fuel-efficiency standards announced by the Obama Administrations for cars and light duty trucks, including the model year 2017-2025 agreement announced by the President last month.

“While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened,” said President Obama.  “We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium and heavy-duty trucks.  They were from the people who build, buy, and drive these trucks.  And today, I’m proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium-and heavy-duty trucks.”

“Thanks to the Obama Administration, for the first time in our history we have a common goal for increasing the fuel efficiency of the trucks that deliver our products, the vehicles we use at work, and the buses our children ride to school,” said Secretary LaHood.   “These new standards will reduce fuel costs for businesses, encourage innovation in the manufacturing sector, and promote energy independence for America.”

“This Administration is committed to protecting the air we breathe and cutting carbon pollution – and programs like these ensure that we can serve those priorities while also reducing our dependence on imported oil and saving money for drivers,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “More efficient trucks on our highways and less pollution from the buses in our neighborhoods will allow us to breathe cleaner air and use less oil, providing a wide range of benefits to our health, our environment and our economy.”

Under the comprehensive new national program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons. Like the Administration’s historic car standards, this program – which relies heavily on off-the-shelf technologies – was developed in coordination with truck and engine manufacturers, fleet owners, the State of California, environmental groups and other stakeholders.

The joint DOT/EPA program will include a range of targets which are specific to the diverse vehicle types and purposes.  Vehicles are divided into three major categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles (like transit buses and refuse trucks).  Within each of those categories, even more specific targets are laid out based on the design and purpose of the vehicle. This flexible structure allows serious but achievable fuel efficiency improvement goals charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type.

The standards are expected to yield an estimated $50 billion in net benefits over the life of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles, and to result in significant long-terms savings for vehicle owners and operators.  A semi-truck operator could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and realize net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs over the truck’s useful life.  These cost saving standards will also reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants like particulate matter, which can lead to asthma, heart attacks and premature death.

By the 2018 model year, the program is expected to achieve significant savings relative to current levels, across vehicle types.  Certain combination tractors – commonly known as big-rigs or semi-trucks – will be required to achieve up to approximately 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018, saving up to 4 gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, separate standards are required for gasoline-powered and diesel trucks. These vehicles will be required to achieve up to approximately 15 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018. Under the finalized standards a typical gasoline or diesel powered heavy-duty pickup truck or van could save one gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

Vocational vehicles – including delivery trucks, buses, and garbage trucks – will be required to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions  by approximately 10 percent by model year 2018.  These trucks could save an average of one gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

Beyond the direct benefits to businesses that own and operate these vehicles, the program will also benefit consumers and businesses by reducing costs for transporting goods, and spur growth in the clean energy sector by fostering innovative technologies and providing regulatory certainty for manufacturers.

White House Announces First Ever Oil Savings Standards for Heavy Duty Trucks, Buses

More information is available on EPA’s web site at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/regulations.htm and on NHTSA’s web site at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/fuel-economy.

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Transportation Nation

Fuel Efficiency Standards To Double by 2025

Friday, July 29, 2011

President Obama, Ray LaHood, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (photo courtesy of DOT)

Speaking today in Washington -- half an hour after he urged politicians to reach a compromise on the debt ceiling -- President Barack Obama unveiled an agreement that would double fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The president said these new standards "represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

The current fuel economy standards for cars with a 2010 model year are 27.5 m.p.g.

These new corporate average fuel economy standards -- or CAFE standards -- were developed by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. The 54.5 m.p.g. mark applies to the average of the entire fleet of cars and light trucks model years 2017- 2025. Some models could fail to meet 54.5 m.p.g, but then others would have to surpass it to compensate.

Under the plan, the standards for passenger cars will increase by an average of five percent each year, while pick-ups and other light-duty trucks would increase an average of 3.5 percent annually for the first five years. After 2021, both would face a 5 percent annual increase, when cars and light trucks will be required to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

"Think about what this means," the president said. "It means that filling up your car every two weeks instead of filling it up every week. It will save a typical family more than $8,000 in fuel costs over time."

The President was joined by representatives from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Volvo, Mitsubishi and Jaguar -- which together account for over 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States -- as well as the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the State of California. Mazda, which was reported to be a last-minute holdout, was also on hand.

Who wasn't present? Mercedes parent company Daimler AG, as well as Volkswagen -- two companies which have invested heavily in diesel engines. (The program incentivizes the development of new technology, and administration officials said diesel is already in broad use.)

The president took the opportunity to needle lawmakers about the debt ceiling impasse. "This agreement ought to serve as a valuable lesson for leaders in Washington," he said. "This agreement was arrived at without legislation. You are all demonstrating what can happen when people put aside differences -- these folks are competitors, you've got labor and business, but they decided, we’re going to work together to achieve something important and lasting for the country."

You can read the president's full remarks here and the DOT press release here.

The new standards, however, aren't loophole-free. The administration promised a midterm review of the new standards, which some environmentalists worry will be used by automakers as wiggle room.

Automakers must pay a penalty for failing to meet CAFE standards. According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration's website: "The penalty for failing to meet CAFE standards recently increased from $5.00 to $5.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon for each tenth under the target value times the total volume of those vehicles manufactured for a given model year. Since 1983, manufacturers have paid more than $500 million in civil penalties. Most European manufacturers regularly pay CAFE civil penalties ranging from less than $1 million to more than $20 million annually. Asian and domestic manufacturers have never paid a civil penalty." Details about CAFE fines can be found here (pdf).

A White House graphic of the new fuel economy standards (image courtesy of the White House)

The White House also released a report (PDF) about the new fuel economy standards.

The president has some other changes he'd like to see car manufacturers adopt. "It’s only a matter of time until Malia gets her learner’s permit," he said. "So I’m hoping to see one of those models that gets a top speed of 15 miles an hour (and) the ejector seat anytime boys are in the car."

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Transportation Nation

Houston Organization Challenges Citizens to Not Use Car During August

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

(Houston, TX)  Getting to work in Houston without a car? Or at least a car that has more than one passenger? The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) is asking Houstonians to do just that throughout the month of August with their project My Solution Is. They’re also looking for input from the public on new alternatives to one-adult-per-car commuting.

CEO of METRO, George Greanias says commuters can choose from a number of their transit options: “We provide park and ride service at twenty-nine lots around the city, we do about a hundred miles of HOV lanes that people are using and that our park and ride facilities are using.”

But that may be a challenge. A recent survey by The Brookings  Institution ranked the city 72 out of 100 metropolitan cities for access by any form of transit other than automobile.

Greanias acknowledges there’s still a lot of work to do, “We’re not satisfied though with what’s in place. We’re looking to build more. We’re looking at extending certain bus routes and we’re building these light rail lines all of which are designed to give people again an option besides their automobile.”

Transport Director with the H-GAC Alan Clark calculates that Houston commuters who rely on their cars spend about $1300 dollars annually getting to and from work. Clark feels that it’s really the time spent in traffic where commuters lose out. “There’s all kinds of impacts even if it’s just the fact that you’re losing the equivalent of a full week in lost time stuck in traffic (per year).  That’s a week you could have either been working or with your family or just doing whatever you like to do,” says Clark.
A number of local businesses will talk to their employees about trying an alternate method of transit at least one day in the month of August. Seventeen management districts within Harris County and Fort Bend County are also playing a big part.

For the full story, listen to the radio version at KUHF.

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Transportation Nation

Wide Net of Subpoenas Withdrawn in Brooklyn Bike Lane Lawsuit

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The plaintiffs in the case seeking to remove a 1.1-mile two-way protected bike lane along Brooklyn's Prospect Park have withdrawn a set of subpoenas to community activists and civic leaders ssued as part of the lawsuit. Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, Transportation Alternatives Chief Paul Steely White, and others were subpoenaed late last week. The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Jim Walden, of the powerful law firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher had also subpoenaed a number of city officials earlier this summer.

But city lawyers went to court today to seek a temporary restraining order on the wider lists of subpoenas.  Instead, the plaintiffs withdrew these subpoenas. "Petitioners Attorney, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher agrees to withdraw, without prejudice, its subpoenas served on or after July 20, 2011 and returnable August 03, 2011." A copy of the "so-ordered" stipulation is below. The parties are expected to be back in court next week.PPW Judge Subpoena

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Tomatoland

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of bringing perfectly round, red tomatoes to supermarkets all year long. Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, based on his James Beard Award-winning article, "The Price of Tomatoes," traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to Immokalee, Florida, and investigates the herbicides and pesticides used on crops, why tomatoes have become less nutrient-rich, and how the drive for low cost fruit has fostered a modern-day slave trade in the United States.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Growing a Farmer

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Former city-dweller Kurt Timmermeister describes the life and livelihood of a modern-day farmer. In Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land he tells about his initial stumbles in his quest to establish a profitable farm near Seattle, and he shares the specifics of making cheese, raising cows, and slaughtering pigs, and it will entirely change the way we think about our relationship to the food we consume.

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The Empire

Bloomberg's philanthropy group gives $50 million to Sierra Club anti-coal campaign

Thursday, July 21, 2011

(Courtesy of the Sierra Club)

The Sierra Club announced this morning that Mayor Bloomberg's charitable arm is donating $50 million to the environmental groups "Beyond Coal" campaign to shut down a third of America's coal fleet by 2020.

 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Space Shuttle Program Officially Ends, Chicago To Filter Air Inside Rail Cars, and Bostonians Want Bike Share In More Neighborhoods

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Space shuttle Atlantis lands for the final time (photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Any agreement in Washington to raise the debt ceiling probably include a plan to cut the ethanol subsidy off. (NPR)

Now that Atlantis has landed, the nation's 30 year space shuttle program is officially over. (The Takeaway)

The TSA is revamping one type of airport body scanner so that it no longer displays an image of travelers’ naked bodies. (Wired)

San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency will announce its new chief today. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Chicago's Metra announced it will filter the air in its commuter rail cars, after a newspaper investigation found high levels of diesel soot pollution inside the cars. (Chicago Tribune)

Now that locations are known for some Boston bike share stations, some residents want to know why their neighborhoods were passed over. (Boston Globe)

California's DMV regularly sends disabled parking placards to dead people. (Los Angeles Times)

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Transportation Nation

Senators Grill Regulators, ExxonMobil About Montana Oil Spill

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Yellowstone River (photo by Sean Munson via Flickr)

(Billings, MT – Yellowstone Public Radio) At a Senate hearing this morning, Montana Senator Max Baucus grilled federal regulators and oil company executives about what went wrong before this month's spill on the Yellowstone River.

An ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured July 1, 2011 and spilled about 1,000 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Montana. The Silvertip pipeline provides crude to the company’s refinery in Billings.

Baucus who chairs the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works, said to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) administrator Cynthia Quarterman that the city of Laurel repeatedly raised concerns about the integrity of the pipeline but were assured by the regulatory agency and ExxonMobil everything was fine.

“Everything wasn’t okay,” said Baucus. “The pipeline ruptured. Lots of oil spilled. So what went wrong?  What went wrong with the company? What went wrong with PHMSA because you agreed everything ‘yeah’ everything was okay.”

Quarterman said an investigation is underway. She added the agency does not operate the pipeline on a daily basis and came in to assist the state on their concerns about the pipeline.

Baucus interrupted and asked Quarterman: what is the agency’s role?

Quarterman said to oversee the company’s decisions. She added the inspector didn’t think he had the authority to order that the pipeline be shutdown.

“To be honest, ma’am,” said Baucus, “it sounds like you are not really on top of this. I mean that’s my impression I’m getting so far. And I urge you to get more on top of it.”

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)  asked ExxonMobil Pipeline Company president Gary Pruessing about a list of concerns he regarding the Silvertip pipeline.  “I’m sure you are aware of these,” Lautenberg said holding up the list. “Would you say they’re minor?”

“Senator, anytime that an item is identified by the regulatory agency we need to respond to it quickly,” said Pruessing. He said those items were addressed.

Lautenberg said the fact that concerns were raised by the regulatory agency did not sound efficient to him. “There seemed to be a series of things that needed attention and why they had to be called to the attention of a company like ExxonMobil to avoid problems,” he said. “It looks like these things were leading up to a problem and ultimately resulted in this terrible accident.”

“Well we certainly take our responsibilities very seriously,” said Pruessing.  Lautenberg interrupted: “Well, it doesn’t suggest it. The list of these.”

The New Jersey Democrat requested his list be entered into the subcommittee’s record, and Baucus agreed. He said the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee would accept written testimony on the Yellowstone River Oil Spill for two weeks.

For more about the hearing, and to view an archived video of it, go here.

 

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Transportation Nation

Montana ExxonMobil Refinery Operates at Reduced Capacity Following Spill

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oil on the surface of a wetland adjacent to the Yellowstone River (photo by NWFBlog via Flickr)

(Billings, MT – Yellowstone Public Radio) – ExxonMobil officials say its Billings, Montana-based refinery is operating at a reduced capacity following its pipeline break earlier this month. But officials say no employees will be laid off.

The company’s Silvertip Pipeline broke July 1, 2011 and spilled an estimated 1,000 barrels of crude oil into the wild and scenic Yellowstone River.

Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Karen Matusic of Dallas says that pipeline is the Billings refinery main supplier of US and Canadian crude.

“What we’re doing right now is we’re continuing to work very diligently to identify all available crude supply to allow us to continue operating the refinery,” she says. “What we’re doing now is we’re getting alternative supplies from another pipeline, from truck, and we’re also considering rail deliveries into the refinery.”

Matusic says if any units are idled because of reduced supply, those employees will instead work on maintenance, repair and clean-up.

“Fortunately, we’re able to keep everybody at work,” she says.

US Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) says anytime there is an environmental disaster, like a pipeline bursting, “we always think about the environmental impacts. When in fact there are other impacts too. And we felt that the jobs side of this was very important too. These are good jobs and it’s important that we keep those folks working.”

Tester received a letter from ExxonMobil President Sherman Glass, Jr. assuring that there are no plans to layoff any workers at the Billings refinery in the foreseeable future.

The farmer from Big Sandy, MT, says another concern from the oil pipeline break or reduced operations at the Billings refinery is any potential impact on gasoline prices.

“I had the question whether it will drive gas prices up,” Tester says. “I don’t believe it should. I hope it does not.”

Matusic says while she can’t directly comment on gasoline prices, “the good thing is we expect to meet all of our gasoline contract commitments for the foreseeable future despite the impacts to the refinery operations as a result of the pipeline breach.”

She says the company will also be getting gasoline supplies from other areas.

“We’re doing all we can to mitigate the impact on the local consumers, on the local economy, and the local workforce,” Matusic says. “Which is why this pipeline (Silvertip) is so critical to ensuring crude supply to our refinery. So expediting the restoration and restart of this pipeline is a key solution for the longer term.”

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in the US Department of Transportation is the regulatory agency that oversees pipelines, like Silvertip.

Teams continue work to assess and clean-up damage from the pipeline break earlier this month near Laurel, MT. Over the weekend, state and federal officials oversaw ExxonMobil Pipeline Company’s removal of all of the residual oil and oily water mixture from the two segments of broken pipe on either side of the break location from the Yellowstone River. Officials say that eliminated the threat of secondary releases of crude from the ruptured pipeline.

With dropping river levels, teams have been able to launch boat. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has reported 19 animals have been seen, but not yet been captured. This includes a bald eagle. Karen Nelson of the USFWS says officials are working to capture the eagle so oil can be removed. She says they believe it will not survive the winter unless that oil is washed off.

The Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure has scheduled a hearing on the Yellowstone River oil spill. Montana Senator Max Baucus chairs that committee.

 

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Please Explain: Wildfires

Friday, July 15, 2011

This summer wildfires have raged in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as throughout the country, and so far over 5,800,000 acres have burned this year alone. Ken Frederick and Tom Romanello, Bureau of Land Management fire specialists at the National Interagency Fire Center, explain how wild fires start and spread, how they behave, and how they’re contained and extinguished. We’ll also find out why there seem to be so many this year, and what happens to an area after a fire.

Call us at 646-829-3985 to ask a question about fires, or leave a comment!

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak To Resume Daily Service On Flood-Plagued Line

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Montana as seen from the dining car of an Empire Builder Amtrak train in 2010 (Photo by tracktwentynine via Flickr)

(Billings, MT – Yellowstone Public Radio) – Amtrak will restore daily service along its northern Empire Builder route between Chicago and Seattle/Portland on Sunday. Recent flooding in North Dakota had closed portions of that route.

Amtrak officials say resumption of service is the result of repairs by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Amtrak uses the BNSF tracks.

"We appreciate the patience of our customers and the work being done by Amtrak and BNSF employees to restore service," said Daryl Pesce, the Chicago-based Amtrak General Superintendent.  "Amtrak and the predecessors of BNSF have together operated the Empire Builder since 1929 and no one can recall as much flooding and disruption on the route in these 82 years."

Flooding damaged Amtrak’s station and boarding platform in Minot, North Dakota. The facilities remain closed until repairs are completed. Amtrak officials say service in Minot cannot resume until those repairs are made in the next month.

Beginning Sunday, the Empire Builder will return service to previously missed stops in Eastern Montana, North Dakota, and Western Minnesota.

 

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Transportation Nation

SFpark Makes its First Move

Thursday, July 14, 2011

(San Francisco – KALW) San Francisco’s ambitious parking program will meet its first test later this month, when the city adjusts rates at meters in eight busy neighborhoods to try and better match supply and demand. The program, called SFpark, uses data from sensors embedded in the pavement to track parking demand in real time at meters around the city, and prices each block accordingly: meters in more congested areas are more expensive, while those on emptier streets are cheaper. City staff will make the first price adjustment later this month, based on data collected since the program’s official launch this past spring. The verdict? Prices at about one third of meters will go up by 25 cents to a high of $3.75/hr; another third will drop by 25-50 cents, to as low as $1.75/hr. The final third will remain the same, as will rates at city-owned garages.

SFpark manager Jay Primus said that while the preliminary data is fascinating, the really useful information will come out later this summer, when the city makes its second price adjustment.

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Transportation Nation

Congress Wants Answers in Montana ExxonMobil Pipeline Spill

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Yellowstone River (photo: Splinter Group/Flickr)

(Billings, MT - Yellowstone Public Radio) --An oil pipeline break earlier this month  that sent 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River has soiled river banks and vegetation, and may have impacted the areas fisheries and wildlife.   Continued high, fast-flowing water is hampering assessment efforts -- but a Congressional committee wants answers.

The director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter this week to ExxonMobil's CEO demanding an explanation from the Houston-based company about how much oil spilled into the river. Some estimates put the amount of oil at 42,000 gallons.

At the time of the break water in the Yellowstone River near Billings was running high and fast at or near flood stage. As of yesterday, U-S Environmental Protection Agency officials overseeing the cleanup said between 1-5% of the spilled oil has been recovered.

The Silvertip Pipeliine is a 12-inch diameter pipeline that transports crude from Elk Basin, Wyoming to the ExxonMobile refinery in Billings, Montana. The pipe broke late Friday night near Laurel, Montana, a community about 15 miles west of Billings in south-central Montana.

At this time the cause of the spill has not been determined.

The U-S Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the primary federal agency that oversees the safety of energy pipelines.

On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials is scheduled to hold a hearing on Silvertip Pipeline break. Witnesses called:  PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman, ExxonMobil President Gary Pruessing, and National Wildlife scientist Douglas Inkley.

In the meantime, cleanup continues.  Falling river levels finally allowed cleanup teams on Monday to launch boats in flooded areas where the river has jumped its banks. Oil has been sighted as far downstream as 90 miles downstream, although the fast moving river and the vast distances is making it difficult for officials to verify landowner sightings.

The response time lag and ExxonMobil's response to landowner concerns prompted the State of Montana to pull staff out of the unified command team directing the cleanup. (http://www.epa.gov/yellowstoneriverspill/) Instead, Governor Brian Schweitzer opened the state's own office. (http://yellowstoneriveroilspill.mt.gov/).

A public meeting is scheduled at 6:30 pm in Laurel, Montana to give area residents an update on the cleanup. Claims officials are also expected to be on site.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Underreported: Deep Sea Mining

Thursday, July 07, 2011

This week, a team of Japanese scientists announced that vast deposits of rare earth minerals—considered essential for the production of certain electronics—have been found under the Pacific Ocean. Cindy Lee Van Dover, Director of Duke University Marine Laboratory and Peter B. Kelemen, an Earth & Environmental Studies Professor at Columbia University, tell us about the deposits and how deep sea mining works.

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The Takeaway

Oil Pipeline Rupture Angers Montana Residents

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Montanans living along the Yellowstone River say they are worried and angry, following the rupture of an ExxonMobile pipeline which sent up to 1,000 barrels of oil gushing into the river. The pipeline had been shut down once before, in May, after residents of the town of Laurel raised concerns over rising river levels. 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Los Angeles To Cut Dozens of Bus Routes, Why NYC Women Don't Bike More, and Oil Spill in Montana

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A bike lane being installed on Manhattan's Upper West Side in 2010 (photo by Kate Hinds)

Federal spending on bike and pedestrian infrastructure was $4 a person in 2010 -- and Economix says we should be investing more. (New York Times)

Los Angeles's bus system gets millions of low-income workers to their jobs -- so why is the city cutting bus lines? (New York Times)

Why don't more women bike in NYC? Safety, safety, safety. (New York Times)

A Haaretz editorial characterizes the state of public transportation in Tel Aviv "shameful" and calls for reform.

A ruptured oil pipeline in Montana has spilled 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River. (The Takeaway)

After five years and $12 million, Newark's proposed Triangle Park remains a parking lot -- not the pedestrian-friendly park space it was meant to be. (Star-Ledger)

Chicago's Metra might have double-charged customers who purchased tickets with credit cards last week. (Chicago Tribune)

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