10 Years After Deepwater Horizon, Oil Spills and Accidents Are on the Rise

10 Years After Deepwater Horizon, Oil Spills and Accidents Are on the Rise

SOURCE: American Progress DATE: March 3, 2020 SNIP: On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon killed 11 men and injured 17 other crew members. Over the next 87 days, an estimated 210 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, poisoning fish and wildlife, forcing the closure of beaches and fisheries, and causing billions of dollars in damage to coastal communities along the Gulf. After this catastrophic spill, the Obama administration enacted a series of reforms to improve oil rig safety—reforms that the Trump administration has since rolled back. A Center for American Progress review of government data finds that oil spills, injuries, and accidents from offshore drilling are now on the rise, threatening to erase the progress made in the 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In late 2017 and 2018, at the direction of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of the Interior began to loosen its oversight of drilling and to weaken safety standards that the Obama administration implemented in response to Deepwater Horizon. During its first months, the Trump administration placed the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)—an agency created after Deepwater Horizon to regulate offshore drilling—under the leadership of Scott Angelle, a former Louisiana secretary of natural resources who served for years on the board of an oil and gas pipeline company. During the Obama administration, Angelle helped lead the oil and gas industry’s fight against reforms to offshore drilling safety. Following Angelle’s arrival in 2017, the number of inspections and enforcement actions undertaken by BSEE declined....
Alarm Bells Ring in a Whale Habitat Famed for its Silence

Alarm Bells Ring in a Whale Habitat Famed for its Silence

SOURCE: Hakai Magazine DATE: February 3, 2020 SNIP: The fjords that etch out British Columbia’s central coast are deep, cold, and mostly very quiet—the perfect habitat for whales. The territory of the Gitga’at First Nation, situated around Douglas Channel, is home to the country’s highest concentration of humpback and fin whales, two distinct populations of killer whales, as well as Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, and more. “Humpback and fin whales think they have found heaven,” says Janie Wray, CEO of the nonprofit North Coast Cetacean Society (NCCS). “It’s one of the quietest places around.” But this oasis of calm is under threat. In 2018, work began on a CAN $40-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Kitimat, at the head of the Douglas Channel. Once operational, the plant will export 18 million tonnes of LNG every year. It’s one of more than a dozen LNG export projects under development in the region as Canada bids to establish itself as a major supplier to Asia. Sixteen Indigenous nations signed off on the Kitimat facility and its pipeline, though not without controversy. Because natural gas evaporates when spilled, it is seen as a less contentious product than oil to transport through their territories. Currently, a large ship passes through Douglas Channel once every two or three days. But a fleet of carriers will be needed to transport the fuel from the facility to markets in Asia. Eric Keen, codirector of science at NCCS,* estimates that the Kitimat facility will add 1,500 transits every year—an average of four extra trips per day. Traffic from small recreational vessels such as fishing boats...
Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants, Despite the Climate Risks

Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants, Despite the Climate Risks

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: February 3, 2020 SNIP: Just beyond the windows of Satsuki Kanno’s apartment overlooking Tokyo Bay, a behemoth from a bygone era will soon rise: a coal-burning power plant, part of a buildup of coal power that is unheard-of for an advanced economy. It is one unintended consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost a decade ago, which forced Japan to all but close its nuclear power program. Japan now plans to build as many as 22 new coal-burning power plants — one of the dirtiest sources of electricity — at 17 different sites in the next five years, just at a time when the world needs to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming. “Why coal, why now?” said Ms. Kanno, a homemaker in Yokosuka, the site for two of the coal-burning units that will be built just several hundred feet from her home. “It’s the worst possible thing they could build.” Together the 22 power plants would emit almost as much carbon dioxide annually as all the passenger cars sold each year in the United States. The construction stands in contrast with Japan’s effort to portray this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as one of the greenest ever. Under the Paris accord, Japan committed to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2030 compared to 2013 levels, a target that has been criticized for being “highly insufficient” by climate...
Oil and gas emissions are reversing progress from coal’s decline

Oil and gas emissions are reversing progress from coal’s decline

SOURCE: Grist DATE: January 8, 2020 SNIP: Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station, a gargantuan coal plant responsible for more than 16 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, shut down in November. Its closing capped a decade in which coal generation in the United States was cut in half — a development recently credited with reducing nationwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent last year. But thanks in large part to the booming oil and gas industry, that slight decline in emissions is likely just a blip on the radar. Emissions from a single proposed petrochemical complex in Louisiana’s St. James Parish, for example, would replace the lion’s share of the greenhouse gas pollution prevented through closing the Navajo Generating Station. Once built, the $9.4 billion Formosa plastics plant is expected to release more than 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. The St. James facility is just one of dozens of new polluting plants expected to contribute to ballooning emissions from the U.S. oil and gas industry in the coming years. According to a new report published Wednesday by the Environmental Integrity Project, or EIP, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., the industry is slated to pump an additional 227 million tons of planet-warming gases into the atmosphere in 2025 — a 30 percent increase over 2018 emissions — bringing its total emissions close to one billion tons per year. That’s equivalent to the full-time greenhouse gas pollution of well over 200 major coal-fired power plants. About 60 percent of that rise is from expanding fossil fuel drilling, new liquified natural gas plants, and other additional oil and...
Russia announces plan to ‘use the advantages’ of climate change

Russia announces plan to ‘use the advantages’ of climate change

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 5, 2020 SNIP: Russia has published a plan to adapt its economy and population to climate change, aiming to mitigate damage but also “use the advantages” of warmer temperatures. The document, published on the government’s website on Saturday, outlines a plan of action and acknowledges changes to the climate are having a “prominent and increasing effect” on socioeconomic development, people’s lives, health and industry. Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the planet as a whole, on average, and the two-year “first stage” plan is an indication the government officially recognises this as a problem, even though Vladimir Putin denies human activity is the cause. It lists preventive measures such as dam building or switching to more drought-resistant crops, as well as crisis preparations including emergency vaccinations or evacuations in case of a disaster. Possible “positive” effects are decreased energy use in cold regions, expanding agricultural areas and navigational opportunities in the Arctic Ocean. Russia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with vast Arctic regions and infrastructure built over permafrost. Recent floods and wildfires have been among the planet’s worst climate-related disasters. Moscow formally adopted the Paris climate accord in September last year and criticised the US withdrawal from the pact. Putin, however, has repeatedly denied the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily caused by emissions deriving from human activity, blaming it last month on some “processes in the...