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The Brian Lehrer Show

Keystone Pipeline Controversy

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Jim Robbins, veteran environmental reporter and writer for the New York Times, discusses the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as the environmental and political concerns with oil sands.

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The Takeaway

Exxon Makes Oil Deal With Russia

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Alaskan waters remain off-limits to drilling, much to many oil companies' dismay. But Exxon has decided to hop over the Bering Strait, and make a deal with Russia to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean in their territory. This deal may show how lucrative climate change has become to the oil business, since more oil is becoming available as Arctic ice recedes.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Libyan Uprising and Oil

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steven LeVine, author of The Oil and the Glory blog and contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine, discusses Libyan oil. What does the future of Libya mean for the global oil markets? How will the oil-rich country recover economically?

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The Takeaway

Can Rebels Boost Oil Production?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Before the uprisings began in Libya in February, the nation produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, and was responsible for two percent of the world's oil supplies. Six months ago, shipments stopped at the rebellion grew there. The loss of Libyan oil drove up the price of Brent crude, which is sold to refineries on the United States' east coast.

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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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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Atlanta Transpo Future in Doubt, Rain Falls Inside NYC Subway Station, and Oil Prices Down

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Holland Tunnel (photo by Howard Walfish via Flickr)

TN's Andrea Bernstein talks Port Authority fare and toll hikes on today's Brian Lehrer Show. (You can read Andrea's article, "Anatomy of a Toll Hike Proposal," here.)

A New York Times editorial calls Cuomo and Christie's 'surprise' at the Port Authority's proposal "gubernatorial theatrics."

Just days away from a state-mandated deadline to finish a list of transportation projects for voters next year, Atlanta officials have put off key decisions on road projects while counties lobbied to keep their favorite projects alive. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Oil prices are down almost 20 percent this month -- which means gas prices will be going down as well. (Marketplace)

A computer glitch shut down BART trains for two hours Monday night -- but no one understands why it happened, and it could point to deeper, system-wide flaws. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Good magazine wants to know your best bike story -- and the winner can direct some money to their favorite biking charity.

The aftermath of a derailment is still rippling through the NJ Transit system. Bottom line: delays, delays, delays. (AP via NJ.comLIRR has normal service right now.

And what hath Tuesday's rain wrought upon the NYC subway system? Video below.

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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

TN MOVING STORIES: First Fuel Efficiency Standards for Trucks, Lobbyists Spent $50 Million On FAA Bill, and Stock Market Drop Could Impact UAW Talks

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The first-ever fuel efficiency standards for trucks will be announced today (Marketplace).  You can read about the new CAFE standards for cars here.

Stock market declines could make it harder for the UAW -- currently in contract talks with GM, Ford and Chrysler -- to win concessions from automakers. (Detroit Free Press)

More than $50 million has been spent so far this year on lobbying for a long-term funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, a new report says (The Hill). FAA shutdown fact: last month's budget impasse was caused in part by a disagreement over $16 million in rural air subsidies.

As thousands of federal employees move to a new Defense Department complex in Alexandria (VA), a task force will manage traffic, notify commuters of coming construction projects and coordinate transit options. (Washington Post)

A new anti-distracted driving app disables texting when it determines a user is in a moving vehicle. (NY Times)

Slate profiles NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan -- and she writes about her vision for New York's future. "If you're in a car, we're deploying the latest traffic-management technology to keep you moving. If you're walking, you can take advantage of a comprehensive information system geared specifically to navigating New York on foot. If you're making a trip that is just too far to walk but not worth a cab or subway ride, you will soon be able to hop on one of our smart public bikes."

The bicycle is a tool of liberation for women in Zimbabwe. "I was no longer a hostage to religion, tradition or men. I was free. On my bicycle I felt like I was in a room of my own." (The Guardian)

Maryland has its first solar tracking electric vehicle charging station. (WAMU)

When it comes to making the subway system wheelchair accessible, NYC has a long way to go. (DNA Info)

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Transportation Nation

ConocoPhillips Megaload Poised For Last Leg To Montana Refinery

Thursday, August 04, 2011

 

(Billings, MT - YPR) The last load of refinery equipment bound for the ConocoPhillips facility in Billings, MT is poised to leave for the final leg of what has been a months long, 5,200 mile journey.

The two halves of a coke drum are sitting in a large pullout atop the sandstone cliffs above the city of Billings. The loads are guarded by security and Billings City police. The transport contractor is Emmert International.

Shortly before midnight tonight, two Billings police officers will help escort the megaloads through downtown Billings to the refinery where they will join two other loads that were delivered last April. Megaloads are oversized vehicles that travel under strict restrictions: they can only move on highways at night, they must pull off the road frequently to let other cars pass.

The coke drums were manufactured in Japan. They were shipped to a port in Lewistown, Idaho. Then trucked 700 miles to its final destination in Billings, MT. The ConocoPhilips megaloads are 26 feet high, 29 feet wide, and weigh 350 tons. NPR reported that these megaloads are the biggest vehicles ever to travel on Idaho's roads.

ConocoPhillips is the third-largest U-S oil company. Officials at the oil giant say the equipment is for a $50 million coker upgrade at the Billings refinery. A coker applies heat and pressure as part of the process to convert some of the components of crude oil into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

The company had scheduled the upgrade for July 2010, but environmentalists sued to stop the  transport of the megaloads along a scenic highway through Idaho. That route was along the Clearwater and Lochsa river corridor near the Idaho-Montana border. In 1968, Congress designated the corridor as part of the U-S National Wild and Scenic River System. Instead the megaloads had to take more major highways, pulling over to let traffic pass every 15 minutes.

The loads were also delayed earlier this year by winter weather and later by flooding which damaged roads along the designated route in central Montana.

A ConocoPhillips spokesman says the coke drums will sit at the refinery until they are installed, probably next year.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: FAA Shutdown Could Cost U.S. $1 Billion, Canadian Crude Big Business in the Midwest, And NY's High Line Spurs Imitators

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

TN's Todd Zwillich was on PBS's NewsHour to talk about the politics of the FAA shutdown, why it might continue through September, and how the agency stands to lose $1 billion in uncollected taxes.

More on the FAA from the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Takeaway talks about what the FAA shutdown means for travelers. The Hill writes about Ray LaHood's efforts to end the shutdown.

Most intercity buses departing from DC will soon do so from Union Station. (WAMU)

Cities around the country want to emulate the success of New York's High Line and turn abandoned railway tracks into parks. (New York Times)

48 San Francisco bus drivers are still without commercial driver’s licenses — but Muni says it is just weeks away from a plan to fire them. (San Francisco Examiner)

Oil from the Canadian oil sands has become big business in the Midwest. (Marketplace)

Moscow tries to tackle its traffic problem with parking meters -- something the city previously lacked. (Moscow Times)

A #6 train derailed near Manhattan's 125th street. (DNA Info)

The mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, has a unique method of removing obstacles from bike lanes:

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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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The Takeaway

The Science Fiction Future of Fuel Efficient Cars

Friday, July 29, 2011

Later today, President Obama plans to announce a major agreement between the White House and the nation’s top automakers. By 2025, cars sold domestically will have to drive 54.5 miles to the gallon. The president hopes this move will dramatically decrease the country’s need for foreign oil,  but this agreement  may also dramatically change the face of the American highway as we know it.

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Transportation Nation

ConocoPhillips Megaloads Set To Resume

Friday, July 22, 2011

A ConocoPhillips spokesman says its idled megaload shipments will resume travel through Montana Monday, shortly after midnight.  The move comes even as judge recently blocked a much larger shipment by ExxonMobil.

The two ConocoPhillips loads are each 26 feet high, 29 feet wide, and weigh 350 tons.

By contrast, ExxonMobil/Imperial oil would have sent some 200 loads to the Tar Sand fields in Canada.. The ConocoPhillips megaload is headed for the Billings refinery, with a total of 4 vehicles; 2 loads.

Those loads have been idled since the end of May in the Deep Creek Canyon area southeast of Helena, MT.

Company spokesman Rich Johnson in Houston says spring flooding along the route through central Montana kept the loads parked until Montana Department of Transportation officials could re-inspect the roads and bridges.

Inspectors had to wait for high water levels in a number of rivers and streams to go down before they could complete that work.

“So they were recently able to complete that task and cleared us to proceed,” says Johnson.

He adds its transport contractor Emmert International also was out inspecting pullouts to make sure they were still suitable for the heavy loads.

The only change to the route is north of Lewistown in central Montana. Heavy rain has washed out a portion of a road so the loads are being detoured around the area.

The destination for the coke drums is the ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, MT. The travel plan approved by the state of Montana only allows the megaloads to be transported between midnight and 6 am.

These are the third and fourth loads bound for the refinery. In April the first two first loads arrived.

Johnson says once transportation of the loads resumes, the equipment should arrive the first week of August.

 

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Transportation Nation

Montana Judge Blocks Oil Equipment Megaloads

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A megaload moves through Montana (photo by Jackie Yamanaka/YPR)

ExxonMobil, already under fire for a pipeline break that has spilled oil into Montana's Yellowstone River, was dealt another blow this week: a Montana judge has blocked the transport of that company's giant oilfield equipment through Western Montana.

According to The Missoulian, a district judge sided with Missoula County and environmental groups and agreed that the Montana Department of Transportation and Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil "failed to adequately consider impacts of the project and failed to adequately consider reasonable alternatives."

Imperial, a Canadian oil company controlled by ExxonMobil, wanted to transport 200 megaloads of processing equipment from Idaho to the Kearl Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada, via U.S. Highway 12, Highway 200 and other two-lane roads in Montana.

Montana residents are divided about the huge equipment transports, called megaloads. Earlier this year Montana lawmakers considered requiring special permitting for megaloads, but the bill didn't go anywhere. Missoula had protested megaloads because of fears about the impact the enormously heavy equipment might have on its roads and bridges. But the Montana DOT is supportive of megaloads and says they're nothing new to the state.

The state DOT says it will appeal the judge's decision.

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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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Transportation Nation

Montana Governor Says Pipelines Will Continue To Be Built in Montana

Thursday, July 14, 2011

(Billings, MT – Yellowstone Public Radio) - Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer says pipelines will continue to be part of the state’s landscape -- despite a recent spill--and he hopes regulators will give a green light constructing another one.

On July 1, 2011, an ExxonMobil pipeline spilled an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil into the Wild and Scenic Yellowstone River.

TransCanada wants to build a pipeline -- the Keystone XL -- that will carry crude from oil fields in Alberta Canada, through Montana and on to Cushing, Oklahoma.

Schweitzer, a Democrat, says federal regulators will decide whether the Keystone XL pipeline becomes a reality. He added that it would be an opportunity lost, however, if the pipeline isn’t built.

“The Keystone represents  about 5% of the oil we use in this country. There’s a lot of oil in Alberta,” Schweitzer said. “I would rather buy it from our neighbors to the north than I would from petro-dictators in Africa or the Middle East.”

Schweitzer spoke in Billings Wednesday to a group of landowners who have property along the Yellowstone River affected by the oil spill.

Citing the Yellowstone River oil spill, environmentalists have stepped up opposition to the Keystone XL project

An estimated 79 protesters, some affiliated with the group Rising Tide North America, some with Earth First!, demonstrated on Tuesday at the State Capitol in Helena. They demanded a meeting with Schweitzer. Eventually, the governor agreed to meet with the group in the reception room.

The meeting broke up after someone started playing a piano in the room and about a dozen protesters jumped on the large tables and began dancing and stomping their feet. Schweitzer left, and five protesters were later arrested. They pleaded not guilty in Helena Municipal Court. The protesters were released without bail Tuesday on the conditions that they remain law abiding and stay away from the Capitol.

During a public meeting in Billings the next day, Schweitzer was asked about the incident. “Well, some of the folks who don’t like the Keystone are snappy dressers -- and good dancers, I found out,” he quipped.

He said there will be pipelines built in Montana in the future because the state has oil and cars use it. There is a current oil boom in eastern Montana and northern North Dakota.

“Look, any new pipeline that’s going to be built in Montana is going to be built to the most modern up-to-date standards,” he said. He said the alternative is to transport crude and gasoline by semi trucks or trains, but those are not fail-safe either. “Through time we’ve found that these pipelines are probably safer than some of the other ways of moving oil and gasoline around."

Schweitzer says while no one wants breaks to occur, as long as we continue to use gasoline, citizens in some way accept that accidents can and do happen.

“And so we’re going to hold this company (ExxonMobil) and other companies that have spilled oil, they understand that it’s their liability. They understand that it's their mistake and they’re responsible for this effort. But until we don’t use oil anymore we all have some responsibility here,” Schweitzer says.

ExxonMobil officials said continuing high and fast water in the Yellowstone River is hampering efforts to determine why the Silvertip Pipeline broke. The pipeline carries oil from fields in Wyoming to an ExxonMobil refinery in Billings, Montana.

During a Congressional hearing today on the pipeline break, company officials said if regulators approve, the tentative plan is to replace the Silvertip pipeline with new technology.

Pipelines are regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Adminsitration (PMHSA) in the US Department of Transportation.

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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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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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The Brian Lehrer Show

Tapping the Strategic Reserves

Friday, June 24, 2011

To tap or not to tap? NPR's Planet Money correspondent Jacob Goldstein discusses President Obama's decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and what goes into the decision-making process.

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