Category Archives: Energy

Charts of the day: Support for DAPL steadily falls


Two charts from a new report from the Pew Research Center reveal that public support for the Dakota Access Pipeline has fallen steadily and where the divisions lie.

First, a look at how support has fallen over time:

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And, second, a closer look at where the dividing lines are drawn, with supporters drawn heavily from the ranks of old, white, Republican men:

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More form the report:

Americans are divided over whether to build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines – issues that returned to the forefront after President Donald Trump signed executive orders to move forward on their construction.

The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines have become touchstones in the debate over energy and the environment. While parts of the larger Keystone pipeline have already been completed, the Dakota Access pipeline is in earlier stages of development.

About four-in-ten (42%) favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, while 48% are opposed, according to a national Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 7-12, 2017, among 1,503 U.S. adults. The pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada’s oil sands region through the Midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast, had been blocked by the Obama administration over environmental concerns.

Support for Keystone XL has fallen since 2014, largely because of a sharp decline among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. The share of the overall public favoring the pipeline has fallen 17 percentage points since 2014 (from 59% to 42%). Just 17% of Democrats favor building the pipeline, less than half the share that did so three years ago (44%).

Emails confirm new EPA chief a tool of the Kochs


Why are we not surprised?

From the New York Times:

During his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday.

The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health.

“Thank you to your respective bosses and all they are doing to push back against President Obama’s EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states,” said one email sent to Mr. Pruitt and an Oklahoma congressman in August 2013 by Matt Ball, an executive at Americans for Prosperity. That nonprofit group is funded in part by the Kochs, the Kansas business executives who spent much of the last decade combating federal regulations, particularly in the energy sector. “You both work for true champions of freedom and liberty!” the note said.

Mr. Pruitt has been among the most contentious of President Trump’s cabinet nominees. Environmental groups, Democrats in Congress and even current E.P.A. employees have protested his ties to energy companies, his efforts to block and weaken major environmental rules, and his skepticism of the central mission of the federal agency he now leads.

A tools of the plutocracy

The documents, though redacted, make clear that Pruitt serves not the interests of the citizens he has sworn to serve but the billionaire patrons who have greased the skids for his political career.

More from the Center for Media and Democracy, the organization which battled for and won release of the documents, which are posted at the link:

As a result of an Open Records Act request and lawsuit filed by the Center for Media and Democracy, on Tuesday night the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office released a batch of more than 7,500 pages of emails and other records it withheld prior to Scott Pruitt’s nomination as EPA Administrator last Friday.

The AG’s office has withheld an undetermined number of additional documents as exempted or privileged and submitted them to the Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons for review. A number of other documents were redacted, and CMD will be asking for the court to review those as well. On February 27, the AG’s office has been ordered to deliver records related to five outstanding requests by CMD.

“Despite repeated attempts by Pruitt and the Oklahoma AG’s office to stonewall CMD and the public, we’ve won a major breakthrough in obtaining access to public records that shine a light on Pruitt’s emails with polluters and their proxies,” said Nick Surgey, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy. “The newly released emails reveal a close and friendly relationship between Scott Pruitt’s office and the fossil fuel industry, with frequent meetings, calls, dinners and other events. And our work doesn’t stop here – we will keep fighting until all of the public records involving Pruitt’s dealings with energy corporations are released – both those for which his office is now asserting some sort of privilege against public disclosure and the documents relevant to our eight other Open Records Act requests.”

“There is no valid legal justification for the emails we received last night not being released prior to Pruitt’s confirmation vote other than to evade public scrutiny,” said Arn Pearson, general counsel for CMD. “There are hundreds of emails between the AG’s office, Devon Energy, and other polluters that Senators should have been permitted to review prior to their vote to assess Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry.”

Among the documents released late yesterday, CMD has found:

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The sacred landscape: DAPL, tradition, & profit


For somebody like Donald Trump, who sees a stretch pristine coastline as merely the opportunity of a golf course and a landmarked historic building as an inconvenienced to be bulldozed to make way for a new hotel,  nothing must get in the way of turning a quick buck.

So it was only natural that he’d reverse the freeze on the Dakota Access Pipeline in order to keep the profits flowing for his campaign contributors.

But for many Native Americans, the landscape through which the pipline passes is a sacred text, a living presence integral to the stories of their origins and being.

Rosalyn R. LaPier, a Native American scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Environmental Studies and Native American Religion at Harvard University, explains in an essay for The Conversation, an open access academic journal written for the lay reader:

For several months Native American protesters and others have been opposing the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The plans for construction pass through sacred land for the Native American tribe, Standing Rock Sioux.

But, within days of taking office, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum supporting the construction of the pipeline. Recently a U.S. federal judge denied a request by tribes to halt construction on the final link of the project.

On Wednesday, however, the protesters appeared to have received support from none other than Pope Francis, a long-time defender of indigenous people’s rights. The pope said indigenous cultures have a right to defend “their ancestral relationship to the Earth.” He added,

“Do not allow those that destroy the Earth, which destroy the environment and the ecological balance, and which end up destroying the wisdom of peoples.”

As a Native American scholar of environmental history and religious studies, I am often asked what Native American leaders mean when they say that certain landscapes are “sacred places” or “sacred sites.”

What makes a mountain, hill or prairie a “sacred” place?

Meaning of sacred spaces

I learned from my grandparents about the sacred areas within Blackfeet tribal territory in Montana and Alberta, which is not far from Lakota tribal territory in the Dakotas.

My grandparents said that sacred areas are places set aside from human presence. They identified two overarching types of sacred place: those set aside for the divine, such as a dwelling place, and those set aside for human remembrance, such as a burial or battle site.

In my forthcoming book “Invisible Reality,” I contemplate those stories that my grandparents shared about Blackfeet religious concepts and the interconnectedness of the supernatural and natural realms.

My grandparents’ stories revealed that the Blackfeet believe in a universe where supernatural beings exist within the same time and space as humans and our natural world. The deities could simultaneously exist in both as visible and invisible reality. That is, they could live unseen, but known, within a physical place visible to humans.

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Kansas/Oklahoma fracking quakes erupt anew


The latest from the U.S. Geological Survey, showing the earthquakes in the Kansas/Oklahoma border region over the past seven days, quakes now conclusively linked to fluids from fracking oil and gas wells as well as underground wastewater disposal from conventional oil and gas conventional   [click on the image to enlarge]:

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Germans impose fracking rules, ban chemical use


Chemical fracking, the use of chemically infused high pressure water to blast apart layers of underground shale to free trapped oil and gas, is the rule in the U.S., despite mounting evidence that some of those chemicals are toxic and are invading local water supplies.

But not in Germany, thanks to new legislation that bans chemical fracking and sets new limits of fracking using water alone.

Still, that won’t solve that earthquake problem.

From Deutsche Welle:

A new legislative package on the use of fracking in Germany went into effect on Saturday, following much heated debate.

The legislation largely bans a particularly controversial form of fracking and imposes stricter rules on fracking overall. The German parliament and the 16 German states had approved the laws in June and July of 2016 after years of push-and-pull over environmental concerns and economic interests.

For environmentalists, the new laws don’t go far enough: They want a complete ban on all types of fracking. “If we want to meet the climate goals set in Paris, we need a clear ban on every type of oil and gas fracking,” said Kai Niebert, the chairman of Deutscher Naturschutzring, an umbrella organization for German environmentalist groups.

Fracking – short for hydraulic fracturing – is a method used  for extracting fossil fuels. A mix of water, sand and chemicals is pushed into the ground at high pressure to press out gas or oil. It allows the extraction of previously out-of-reach resources, but also poses environmental risks.

The new German laws distinguish between “conventional fracking” and “unconventional fracking.”

Unconventional fracking is used when gas or oil is found not just embedded in rock strata, but bound to the stone. In these cases, the fossil fuel often no longer has gaseous or liquid form. Extremely high pressure and high amounts of fracking liquid – often containing highly toxic chemicals – are needed to extract the fuel.

That practice is now banned in Germany until at least 2021, with the exception of up to four test drillings for scientific purposes. The German parliament is set to reassess the ban in four years’ time.

Dakota Access Pipeline work has just resumed


From the Guardian:

Dakota Access pipeline workers have begun the final phase of drilling across the Missouri river despite massive international protests and a legal challenge from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The restarting of the drilling operation, which a pipeline spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday morning, began soon after after the US government gave the oil corporation the green light to proceed on Wednesday. The controversial pipeline could be transporting crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois within three months.

At the Standing Rock camps in Cannon Ball – where activists have been stationed since last spring to fight the project – indigenous and environmental organizers vowed to stay put and continue opposing the pipeline.

“We’re adamant about standing up against the pipeline regardless of the push to get us out,” said Irina Lukban, a 22-year-old activist. Late Wednesday night, she and other demonstrators, who call themselves water protectors, gathered around a table of maps at Sacred Stone, the first camp set up in opposition to the pipeline, and discussed strategy.

“We have to unify in the face of this adversity,” said Lukban, who is from California and is a member of an indigenous tribe in the Philippines.

Tribe files a new lawsuit

Meanwhile a legal challenge is already underway, reports the Associated Press:

The Cheyenne River Sioux on Thursday asked a federal judge to stop the work while a lawsuit filed earlier by the tribes proceeds. Attorney Nicole Ducheneaux said in court documents that the pipeline “will desecrate the waters” that the Cheyenne River Sioux rely on.

Energy Transfer Partners, which maintains the pipeline is safe, did not immediately respond in court to the filing. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg did not immediately rule.

The tribes’ lawsuit, filed last summer, has been on hold while the dispute over the final pipeline segment played out. The Cheyenne River Sioux on Thursday told the judge that they also want to make a claim on freedom-of-religion grounds.

“The sanctity of these waters is a central tenet of their religion, and the placement of the pipeline itself, apart from any rupture and oil spill, is a desecration of these waters,” Ducheneaux wrote.

Standing Rock Sioux attorney Jan Hasselman has said that tribe will also try to block the construction in court, with likely arguments that further study is necessary to preserve tribal treaty rights.

Army approves: DAPL construction imminent


With the final approval in place construction is imminent along the contested segment of the Dakota Access Pipeline, reversing Barack Obama’s last and futile environmental gesture.

From the Associated Press:

With the green light from the federal government, the company building the Dakota Access oil pipeline said Wednesday it plans to resume work immediately to finish the long-stalled project. Opponents of the $3.8 billion project meanwhile protested around the country in an action some dubbed their “last stand.”

The Army on Wednesday granted the developer of the four-state oil pipeline formal permission to lay pipe under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, clearing the way for completion of the disputed project.

“We plan to begin immediately,” Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for developer Energy Transfer Partners, said in an email to The Associated Press Wednesday night.

Work had been stalled for months due to opposition by the Standing Rock Sioux, but President Donald Trump last month instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to advance pipeline construction.

The tribe fears a pipeline leak could contaminate its drinking water. ETP says the pipeline is safe.