Archive for North Dakota

Grain crops could rot because of Big Oil "pushing" them off trains

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sad cheerios grain crops

North Dakota farmers have a big Big Oil problem. And by big Big Oil problem, I mean oil being transported by rail taking precedence over all those wheat, corn, and soybean passengers. Grain crops could now have a long wait at the train station. Cheerios boxes may become collector's items. Oh, but I kid, but General Mills will not be happy.

Yes, it seems we've got a rail-car traffic jam that's going to take a big bite out of many a agro-pocketbook. And we have the oil industry to thank for, erm, derailing (bygones) grain farmers.

The New York Times:

FARGO, N.D. — The furious pace of energy exploration in North Dakota is creating a crisis for farmers whose grain shipments have been held up by a vast new movement of oil by rail, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses and slower production for breakfast cereal giants like General Mills.

The backlog is only going to get worse, farmers said, as they prepared this week for what is expected to be a record crop of wheat and soybeans.

“If we can’t get this stuff out soon, a lot of it is simply going to go on the ground and rot,” said Bill Hejl, who grows soybeans, wheat and sugar beets in the town of Casselton, about 20 miles west of here.

Oil and gas have replaced agriculture as the biggest contributors to North Dakota's gro$$ domestic product. One grower said he's not even sure he can survive if this goes on much longer, because huge companies like General Mills that make bread and cereal are canceling orders.They just can't wait for grain shipments.

For farmers, the delays often mean canceled orders from food giants that cannot wait weeks or months for the grain they need to make cereal, bread and an array of other products. [...] Farmers and agriculture groups say rail operators are clearly favoring the more lucrative transport of oil.

One farmer put it this way: “Oil seems to be pushing us off the trains.”

money talks

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Radioactive waste a toxic byproduct of fracking, drilling in N. Dakota

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headdesk radioactive waste fracking

Back in May I wrote, Hey Big Oil "pro-lifers": Fossil fuels may be killing babies! Today's Los Angeles Times has an extensive report about how, in North Dakota, fracking may very well be producing radioactive waste. Again, "pro-lifers," the question is: What do you value more, life or profits?

Did I mention that oil drilling and fracking are producing radioactive waste?

So you know how Republicans despise oversight? Because, freedom! Don'tcha wonder if they ever consider their fellow Americans' freedom to keep breathing? Especially those self-proclaimed right-to-lifers. It's hard to fathom that they are actually this okay with exposure to deadly toxins as long as their corporate gods make a buck.

Did I mention that oil drilling and fracking are producing radioactive waste?

Am I repeating myself? I tend to do that when I'm livid. And appalled. And sickened. But I'm not sickened in a way that will potentially kill me. No, that's reserved for the victims of Fracking, Inc. in North Dakota, the second-largest oil-producing state, right after Texas.

Did I mention that North Dakota doesn't have an environmental protection agency?

Did I mention that New Mexico GOP Gov. Susana Martinez weakened her state's rules on hazardous waste last year?

Did I mention that the EPA is not providing adequate oversight? That would be the Environmental PROTECTION Agency.

Did I mention that my head is throbbing from banging it on my desk?

Via the L.A. Times must-read story:

Nearly 1,000 radioactive filters were found last year at the landfill, part of a growing tide of often toxic waste produced by the state's oil and gas rush. Oil field waste includes drill cuttings — rock and earth that come up a well bore — along with drilling fluids and wastewater laced with chemicals used in fracking.

To many local and tribal officials, environmentalists and some industry managers in North Dakota, the dumping of the socks [filters clotted with radioactive dirt] and the proliferation of other waste shows the government falling short in safeguarding the environment against oil field pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency decided during the Reagan era to classify oil field waste as not hazardous, exempting it from tight controls and leaving it to be managed by widely varied state laws. Nationally, no one tracks how many millions of tons of waste the fossil fuel boom generates, or where it ends up.

There's that "leaving it to the states" beast raising its ugly head again. Republican-run states have done so well with the Affordable Care Act and voting rights. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for one thing, North Dakota situating "slop pits" of poison over "known aquifers" could be a teeny tiny problem.

Some of the people quoted in the article requested anonymity because they were afraid of repercussions-- like, you know, getting fired-- for trying to point out things like waste management failures, fear of carcinogens in groundwater, exemptions for radioactive elements being classified as hazardous waste, and for putting frackin' lives in danger. Things like that.

And then there's-- ta-daa!-- Congress:

The EPA says it cannot reclassify oil field waste as hazardous without legislative action, which, with the current Congress, is unlikely.

bangheadSee: "Not a skit! Our actual Congress! Gaaa!"

Not a skit, our actual Congress, gaa! Maddow

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Overnight: Life in a North Dakota Oil- and Gas Boomtown (BBC)

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This 'mini-documentary' (it's only 8:45) gives you an excellent overview of what life is like in the North Dakota oilfields in a short time. Be glad you don't live there.

"Men here are 100% worse...they're animals."

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Video Mid Day Distraction- Amazing spinning ice circle spotted in Sheyenne River, North Dakota

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Pretty neat. More about it here.

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"A high incidence of blood cancers among men" near Canada's main oil sands site

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tar sands maple leaf oil

The other day this happened: Here we go again: No. Dakota kept oil pipeline spill quiet for days; oil firm doesn't know when it started. And who could forget Canada's booming oil sands industry offers "choice between whether we starve to death or are poisoned to death"?

Here is Rachel Maddow's summary of the latest oil pollution events in North Dakota, including updates since my post was written:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

So there you go. Two very recent, very disgusting examples of the destruction and utter disregard for private property, the environment, and the health and welfare of anyone anywhere near Big Oil's rape of Mother Earth.

Oh wait. Here's a third. Via the Los Angeles Times:

A new study has detected air pollutants, including carcinogens, in areas downwind of Canada's main fossil fuel hub in Alberta at levels rivaling those of major metropolises such as Beijing and Mexico City.

The study by researchers from UC Irvine and the University of Michigan also found a high incidence of blood cancers such as leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma among men in the area, compared with the rest of Alberta and Canada.

Of course, the Alberta government "sees no evidence" of such a thing. All those carcinogens associated with "a three-county area where oil, chemicals and oil sands crude are processed" are just a silly coincidence.

Or the study was flawed.

Or somebody working for the government/oil company forgot to pay the people doing the study enough to deter them from presenting actual, you know, facts:

VOCs, organic chemical mixtures created by certain industrial processes and consumption of fossil fuels... contribute to climate change and formation of smog. They also contain cancer-causing substances such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene. Tests showed that airborne concentrations of 1,3-butadiene were 322 times greater downwind of the industrial area than upwind. Similarly, downwind concentrations of benzene were 51 times greater.

Tar sands “isn’t oil. This is a pipe-eating, planet-cooking, water-fouling goo. You can’t clean up tar.”

But the study is wrong. Got it. Tell it to those men who are dying of cancer.

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Here we go again: No. Dakota kept oil pipeline spill quiet for days; oil firm doesn't know when it started.

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that's oil folks smaller

I recently posted Canada's booming oil sands industry offering a "choice between whether we starve to death or are poisoned to death". That was one of our many, many stories about how the oil industry is slowly destroying our environment (scroll) and life on this planet. We can't take much more pollution before the damage becomes irreversible. Oh wait.

Today I opened my Los Angeles Times and, once again, another pipeline leak story reared its slimy head. This time it was in North Dakota, and once again, it was a disgustingly frustrating tale of destruction and irresponsibility:

At least 20,600 barrels of oil leaked onto the [North Dakota farmer Steven] Jensens' land from a pipeline owned by Tesoro Logistics, one of the largest land-based spills in recent history. Neither the pipeline company nor the state informed the public of the spill for 11 days.

To put things into perspective, the Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan, where cleanup has gone on since 2010 (!), also gushed more than 20,000 barrels of oil.

Did I mention that a Shell pipeline broke in Texas, spilling 30,000 gallons of crude? And hey, how about that Arkansas pipeline rupture, folks?

But back to North Dakota:

No one knows how long the pipeline was leaking before Jensen discovered it, nor why sensors on the pipe failed to detect the leak. Neither the state nor the company could say what the pipeline's capacity was. Experts on pipeline spills question the accuracy of Tesoro's leak estimate, disputing its methodology.

Details, schmetails.

frustrated30

By the way, Jensen is worried that the goo could seep into the groundwater. He smelled the oil in his wheat field before he saw it, which makes to wonder how long the pipe had been leaking. Why wasn't he alerted again?

The questions have stirred concerns about North Dakota's handling of a major spill, especially because thousands of miles of pipe are being installed as part of the state's oil boom.

And then there's that little thing called accuracy:

The company initially reported that 750 barrels had spilled, but a week later revised it to 20,600.

Let's see, gimme a second here, gotta do the math; subtracting 750 from 20,600, carrying the one, calculating.. calculating... got it! Hey, that's only a difference of 19,850 barrels. Pffft! Chickenfeed. Why, whoever would be so critical as to fault Tesoro for a measly little 20,000 barrel error?

Steve Wereley, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University and an expert on spill flows, who helped establish an accurate flow rate for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil volcano in the Gulf, put it this way:

"If we're talking about tens of thousands of barrels, shouldn't you notice 20,000 barrels missing at the end?"

Answer: yes.

And there's this:

The company has cleaned up about 3,000 barrels of oil. The remediation is expected to continue until late 2014 and to cost about $4 million, the state and Tesoro said.

Again, the Kalamazoo mess is still being mopped up, and it's been three years and counting.

Meanwhile, Jensen is still fretting about what's in his water supply. Silly Steven. What's he so worried about?

what me worry

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Give Credit Where Credit Is Due -- Manchin/Heitkamp

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joe_manchin_heidi_heitkamp

I believe there's a good chance we avoid firing a single missile into Syria and we can accomplish much more than the intended cruise missile could. We will be potentially saving millions of lives, not taking them. And this supposedly all came about by an off the cuff remark attributed to the dullest man on the planet, Secretary of State, John Kerry.

But was it really an off-guard moment, a spontaneous thought that just occurred to the SOS? That would sure make for a good TV series plot -- but it's not at all the case. Oh, Kerry was genuinely asked the question that resulted in that "throw away" response, but the reply was hardly his.

This idea of Syria giving up it's chemical weapons was introduced five days before -- by the two real engineers of this plan. These two should be heralded as the architects of this possible solution which is getting embraced in every corner of the world (I say corner because the the vast numbers of Republicans in the Flat Earth Society).

Back on September 5th, five full days before Kerry's remarks, POLITICO reported on a widely circulated, proposed senate bill:

The United States would give Syria 45 days to sign an international chemical weapons ban or face the wrath of American military might, under a draft resolution being circulated by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

Now I'm not saying Obama nor Kerry aren't ultimately going to make this happen, along with Putin and Assad and the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon. I'm hoping they pull it off. But let's give credit where credit is due.

Two visionary U.S. senators, Manchin and Heitkamp are their names. They should, if this all falls into place, be given great praise for preventing more bloodshed and a world-wide blame on our country should something go wrong and we end up with another Iran or Afghanistan. At this writing, things seem to be headed in the peaceful direction. There are plenty of obstacles ahead, but West Virginia and North Dakota may have provided us with the two people who saw a potential war and found a peaceful solution.

In a face-saving statement, which is perhaps born in fact, Obama has said that it was his threat of the use of fire power and retaliation that has brought about the potential for this hopeful resolve. Maybe he's right. There's enough praise to go around. But sometimes the real brains behind the victories are lost in the rush to congratulate the titular leaders. At no point did I hear Kerry or Obama publicly mention a plan like that of these two senators. Perhaps in the strategy rooms it was discussed, but not with the people of the US, or in the Congressional briefings.

It was only Manchin and Heitkamp who put their thoughts and this option out there publicly.

For that we owe them a great debt of gratitude. They not only saved us money, lives and a potential war. They also saved Obama the embarrassment of not getting Congressional approval to take these warlike actions he's proposed -- then forcing him to act alone, or face the humiliation of dropping the plan all together.

Let's keep our fingers crossed. There's a long way to go. But two new heroes have joined the ranks of people we should look at for the future when crisis or the need for leadership comes a calling.

UPDATE: (though real credit goes to the above)

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