John Richardson, Writer at Large for Esquire magazine, talks about the proposed oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, which is a flashpoint about ideas of capitalism. His article “Keystone,” in the September issue of Esquire, looks at the complex technical, economic, and environmental issues the pipeline raises.
A Spectra Energy pipeline project is one of several natural gas pipeline proposed — spurred by the discovery of large fossil fuel deposits in Pennsylvania and New York. The plan to have it connect through Liberty State Park on its way to New York City has generated much controversy.
(Helena, MT – Yellowstone Public Radio) – The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) told Montana officials the agency expects to release a report soon on last summer’s crude oil pipeline spill into the Yellowstone River.
The update was delivered to the February meeting of the Montana Oil Pipeline Safety Review Council.
PHMSA is wrapping up its Corrective Action Order against ExxonMobil, owner of the Silvertip Pipeline. The CAO essentially tells the company to make the pipeline safe and get rid of systemic problems.
On July 1, 2011, that pipeline broke and spilled 1,500 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River near Laurel in South Central Montana.
Chris Hoidal is regional director for PHMSA in Colorado. He told the Montana Oil Pipeline Safety Review Council that PHMSA is waiting for the test results of the broken piece of pipeline removed from the Yellowstone River.
“It’s our intention to close the order as soon as the metallurgical testing is done and we complete the accident investigation,” he says.
The forensics on the broken section of pipe could shed light on what specifically caused the break. Investigators suspect scouring caused by the flooding Yellowstone River contributed to the pipeline break.
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer created the Montana Oil Pipeline Safety Review Council following the oil spill to investigate pipelines that cross waterways and make recommendations on how to prevent future spills.
The panel is chaired by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director (DEQ) Richard Opper. He says the council plans to release its draft report by the end of April or early May.
Some members of the public would like absolutes that there will be no future oil pipeline spills in Montana in the future. “I would have say I am one of those people who would like an absolute,” Opper says. “There are no absolutes. As long as we’re going to use oil in this country there are going to be spills occasionally. There are going to be accidents. There are also going to be things that we can do minimize the risk to make sure that the product that does flow - underneath our landscape and across our rivers – we can take steps to make sure that they’re safe.”
ExxonMobil recently made upgrades to shore up its Silvertip line. The company also spent an estimated $115 million to clean up parts of the Yellowstone River, the shoreline, and adjacent lands contaminated with crude following the pipeline break.
The Montana DEQ, meanwhile, is taking public comment until Feb. 21, 2012 on a proposed legal settlement with ExxonMobil Pipeline Company over the oil spill. The Administrative Order of Consent covers monitoring, remediation, as well as penalties and the cost of the cleanup.
Kate Andersen Brower, reporter for Bloomberg News, takes a look at the size and scope of President Barack Obama’s reelection apparatus and his administration’s recent decision to block the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Top stories on TN:
Your TN Transportation and Infrastructure Holiday Gift Guide: New York Edition (link)
Deal Reached on Controversial NYC Taxi Plan (link)
Newt Gingrich: Rail Visionary, Lover of Oil (link)
Rating Agency Says Loss of Tax Revenue Could Hurt NY MTA (link)
Cashless Tolling In NYC – Not Yet, But Moving Toward It (link)
The Federal Aviation Administration will release new rules for addressing pilot fatigue today. (The Hill)
House Republicans are calling for a GAO audit into California's high-speed rail program. (McClatchy via Miami Herald)
Congress moves toward a tougher stance on pipeline safety, but is it enough? (ProPublica)
Now that Troy has rejected federal funds for a regional transit center, other Michigan cities are scrambling to claim it. (Detroit Free Press)
Battered by criticism and low sales, Honda will redesign its Civic -- just eight months after releasing the last version. (Changing Gears)
Reimagining highway routes as a transit map. (Cambooth.net)
The nostalgia train brought out New Yorkers' inner flappers/Southern gentlemen/vaudeville hosts. (Wall Street Journal)
Cap'nTransit asks: will Cornell's Applied Sciences campus on New York's Roosevelt Island be car-free?
TSA agents in Los Angeles are trying to get on passengers' good sides by singing holiday carols. (Marketplace; video below)
Top stories on TN:
The US DOT handed out nearly $1 billion in transit grants. (Link)
Rep. Mica on FAA shutdown: been there, done that, don't want to do it again. (Link)
Orbitz was fined for deceptive ad practices. (Link)
Last week's BlackBerry outage might be linked to a drop in traffic crashes. (Streetsblog)
The Senate approved a pipeline safety bill after a hold was dropped. (Los Angeles Times)
Could the Tappan Zee Bridge be High Lined? Probably not, but fun to imagine. (NY Times)
Electric cars are so popular with business travelers that Hertz is adding more to its fleet. (Marketplace)
How will Seattle replace its aging bridges? Not through a proposed $60 hike in car fees. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Real-time info is now available for every London bus stop. (Transit Wire)
A proposal to provide free transit service for San Francisco’s youth has some serious roadblocks -- namely a $13.2 million price tag and Clipper card incompatibility. (San Francisco Examiner)
NYC tries to coordinate street construction work via website. (NY Observer)
One plug to rule them all: automakers sign on to a single charging protocol. (Autopia)
The world’s largest energy project is underway in Alberta, Canada. Petroleum is being excavated from vast deposits of tar sands and a proposed pipeline would carry it to refineries in the United States. Journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, author of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, examines the ecological and economic impacts of the plan to develop the oil sands.
(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.
When residents of San Bruno, Calif. heard a piercing squeal followed by an earth-shaking crash on Thursday evening, many thought an airplane had crashed in the neighborhood. In fact, even after they were told the deadly fireball that ensued was from an exploded natural gas pipeline, it was hard to believe: Few of them had ever been told the pipeline existed.