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[ Tar Sands ] On the Great Lakes

December 2nd, 2010 No comments

via [ Sierra Club ] Toxic Tar Sands: Indiana

Carolyn Marsh, Whiting Indiana

Carolyn Marsh’s house in Whiting, Indiana, just southeast of Chicago, sits within walking distance of both Lake Michigan and the BP Whiting Refinery. One is beautiful and the other, Marsh says, looks like “a death trap zone.” Now BP is pushing to expand the capacity of its refinery to process tar sands crude.

The synthetic heavy crude produced from tar sands is laden with more toxins than conventional oil. If the expansion goes through, people like Marsh, who live in the shadow of these refineries, will face increased exposure to heavy metals, sulfur, and carcinogens like benzene.

After learning of BP’s plans to pump tar sands pollution into the air and her community, Marsh was galvanized to action. She joined a legal challenge to the oil giant’s air permit.

Marsh believes BP’s permit application dramatically underestimates the potential air pollution from their tar sands expansion. The company understated the amount of toxic gases vented from flares, claiming they would only be released occasionally. But flaring will only increase as the refinery handles more of the world’s dirtiest oil.

Flaring is only one part of the refinery’s massive polluting process, and air pollution is not the only threat that Marsh fears from the tar sands expansion.

“We don’t want Lake Michigan to become another oil industry sacrifice zone. Quality of life here in Indiana should not suffer for foreign oil profits.”

The refinery is already one of the largest sources of mercury pollution in Lake Michigan. Mercury is a

Tar sands crude spells disaster for clean water in every step of its life cycle. If tar sands operations continue to expand in America, Lake Michigan will be exposed to the same types of contamination spreading through the once pristine water sources along the Athabasca River in Alberta, where tar sands are mined.

A recent study published by leading Canadian scientists found elevated concentrations of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead and mercury around and downstream from tar sands mining operations, suggesting a strong correlation between tar sands mining and toxic discharges to water resources.These poisonous impurities are released in refining as well, and discharges from BP’s tar sands expansion will bring the pollution of the Athabasca directly to Lake Michigan.

Marsh believes the citizen struggle to stop the tar sands expansion is her community’s best line of defense, and she has committed to the fight. She has little faith in state regulators, whom she believes are too complicit with toxic conditions created by BP’s refinery. Marsh knows what’s at stake.

Lake Michigan, which provides drinking water for 10 million people, will be exposed to new levels of contamination from particulate emissions and huge increases in ammonia and other discharges into the water from the refinery’s tar sands expansion.potent neurotoxin that causes severe fetal damage, impaired motor function, and kidney and respiratory damage in humans. “We don’t want Lake Michigan to become another oil industry sacrifice zone. Quality of life here in Indiana should not suffer for foreign oil profits,” she says.

{More Indigenous Territory has been Claimed by Maps than by Guns}

December 2nd, 2010 6 comments

via [ OurWorld 2.0 ] “Mapping critical politics: a land use expert talks tar sands” By Max Ritts

The late geographer Bernard Nietschmann once observed that “more indigenous territory has been claimed by maps than by guns”. Whether or not you agree that more can be taken back with maps, it is hard to overestimate the role of representations in the shaping of collective understandings and modes of possible intervention in political struggle.

Land use maps can have a number of applications. In many countries, they are prepared by government agencies, for a variety of reasons, or by individual groups and organizations. Often, land use maps are made publicly available for the benefit of those interested in land use trends. These maps can also become important in zoning and property disputes. Read more…

{ TAR SANDS } The Other End of the Pipeline

June 25th, 2010 No comments

The Other end of BP’s pipeline – From the Alberta TAR SANDS to BP’s Whiting Refinery.

via [ Democracy Now ] Indigenous Groups Lead Struggle Against Canada’s Tar Sands

{ BP } Live / Work Conditions

May 20th, 2010 2 comments

25-years-ago BP abandoned its professional training facilities in Robertsdale, donating the facilities to Calumet College, and moved to a 200-acre LEED certified campus in Naperville. They did so because they could no longer attract professionals to this location due to Quality of Life issues. Quality of Life issues they had a major hand in creating.

Today BP’s professional staff enjoy the healthy work environment of a green campus with ample buffering between office buildings and roadways, while residents adjacent to the BP’s refinery are not so fortunate. Today BP is constructing a whole new facility at their East Chicago / Whiting Refinery to refine the “No Good, Very Bad, Dirty” heavy sour crude from the Alberta Tars Sands and to do so they are constructing 6 cokers directly across the street from the Marktown Historic District where more than 120 children under the age of 18 live, play and sleep.

BP likes to refer to the project as a modernization or retooling project. This is an important distinction to them because to call it what is, a “new facility” or “new construction,” would trigger all sorts of regulatory reviews and permitting, including a new-source review requiring an environmental and health risk assessment. I am not certain if there has ever been a risk assessment done on the impacts the BP refinery has the neighboring communities. I don’t know if that is because they have been grandfathered in or what. I just know that new construction ought to trigger a new source review and that is not happening.

For labor purposes BP calls the project a “maintenance project.” Thus they bypass all sorts of labor rules in terms of pay, scheduling, and work conditions as would be the case for new construction. Let’s make this simple, if I tore down my house to construct a brand new home, I could not go to City Hall seeking a maintenance permit for the new construction. I would be required to seek the proper permits and follow requirements for new construction. This is just one way in which BP has been cutting corners here to save themselves costs. I can’t say what other cost cutting measures BP is making, but I do know they did not do this without the aid of regional leadership. I wonder what our regional leadership is thinking now as we learn more about the costs of BP practices to the gulf region.

This is a good environmental justice example of how benefits-without-risks are created and separated from risks-without-benefits in a free-market economy. Free-market corporations and present day land use policies have a very intentional consequent of accumulating wealth and benefits in one location while clustering risks and blight in another. All too often the geography of separation is as clear as the “Northshore” and “Southshore” designations.

It makes me wonder if anyone working in office complexes similar to the BP complex in Naperville feel any sense of culpability for the lives negatively impacted on the other side of their company’s production line. What about Kraft Foods? what about Grainger? what about Cargill? and U.S. Steel? and ArcelorMittal? Boeing? GATX? or Ryerson?

[ Wikipedia list of Corp HQ in the Chicago Met area ]

Compounding problems, BP extracted an additional $165 million in tax abatements from the mostly poor people of Marktown and East Chicago. They did this behind closed doors, and without a single public hearing, all while lecturing the region on “Good Government.” Despite efforts, residents, who pay the highest property taxes in the state at 7.4%, still do not know that they gave up $165 million to BP. BP accomplished this feat by spreading the wealth to voting districts outside the plume of negative externalities while taking advantage of their partnerships with corrupt local political enterprises under the plume. BP is well known for this form of philanthropic activity and I could go on about “to whom” and “how much” was given, but that will have to be for another post. Let these two examples suffice for now.

Three years ago a $25-million donation from BP capped Phase 1 of a three-part expansion and renovation campaign. Since 2002, BP had agreed to more than $125 million in state and regional legal settlements over pollution problems.

Art museums are often the beneficiaries of largess from corporations wishing to polish their sometimes less-than-gleaming image. (Cigarette, anyone?) Oops.

via [ LA Times ] BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand

In 2009 BP gave to Napperville for $1 an extremely expensive Hydrogen fueling station with multipliers of positive effects.

The Air I Breath: The Significance of EPA’s Challenge to BP’s Air Permit

November 2nd, 2009 No comments

As you can see I have been a skeptic of the EPA”s recent challenge to BP’s air permit.

<fb comment> a small victory. The EPA has order Indiana to rewrite the permit, essentially discrediting Indiana’s ability to manage their environmental resources. All I see this doing is fortifying a poorly written permit against future disputes. In the end BP is the beneficiary of the action</fb comment>

Noah Hall, author of the Great Lakes Law blog is beginning to clear me of my skepticism.

via [ Great Lakes Law ]

Tar sands oil gives coal some competition for the title of dirtiest fuel.  From mining to refining to burning, tar sands oil is an environmental disaster.  The Great Lakes is becoming a center for refining imported tar sands oil, which comes from western Canada.  As a result, refinery pollution is threatening our water and our communities.  BP’s Whiting Refinery on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana has become a focal point in the legal fight to stop tar sands pollution in the region.  Environmental groups scored a victory earlier this month when the EPA objected to an Indiana permit for air pollution from the refinery.  Meleah Geertsma, an attorney and public health expert with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, was involved in the fight against the air pollution from the tar sands refinery, and wrote this guest post on the victory and what it means in the fight against tar sands pollution in the Great Lakes.

On October 16, in a move that could significantly improve air quality for the Great Lakes region, the U.S. EPA sent a clear message to the oil industry that the federal agency is serious about air pollution from refining – especially the processing of dirty Canadian tar sands crude. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on that day issued an order objecting to a permit granted by Indiana to BP’s Whiting Refinery, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. At the heart of Administrator Jackson’s order is a concern that numerous potential sources of air pollution are going uncounted and uncontrolled. And that the industry is ignoring or downplaying the air pollution impacts of processing the much heavier, dirtier Canadian tar sands crude, a crude that contains high levels of sulfur and toxic metals.

The BP operating permit was issued to enable a significant increase in the processing of heavy tar sands crude at BP’s Whiting, Indiana facility. However, the permit allowed BP to expand without installing so-called “best available control technology,” on the premise that increases in air pollution from the expansion would be balanced by decreases in pollution from the existing refinery. Such a trade-off of increases and decreases is referred to in air permitting as “netting.”

In response, several environmental groups and individual citizens filed a petition with U.S. EPA, asking the agency to object due to BP’s and the agency’s failure to count numerous potential sources of increased air pollution. Among these sources are increased operations of certain equipment needed to process larger amounts of Canadian crude, as well as greater levels of sulfur and toxics in the crude itself.

Great Lakes Law: Environmental groups and EPA step up the fight against tar sands oil refinery pollution in the Great Lakes.

Albert Tar Sands

September 11th, 2009 No comments

Another video about the Tar Sands.

Canada’s Dirty Oil: breaking our addiction from Dirty Oil Sands on Vimeo.

Categories: BP / TAR SANDS, Misc, Tar Sands

Alberta Tar Sands

September 9th, 2009 No comments

via [ h2oil ] :: previous post [ Alberta Tar Sands ]

Energy: Throwing Clean Energy After Dirty

August 5th, 2009 No comments

In business there is a saying “throwing good money after bad.”  The idea is that it is better to cut your losses and go with something else than to continue a losing strategy that drains your resources. for the energy sector it follows that it would be better to cut losses with oil and go with some other alternative, but like our banking sector, the U.S. government seems to have the same boneheaded belief that our commitment to oil is too large to give up on. But unlike the banking system, oil is a limited resource. At some point in the near future America has to move forward with an alternative resource. The question today is at what cost to the environment are we going to continue our relationship with oil?

I found this article this morning about throwing good energy after bad, or clean after dirty. I suppose adding Palin’s name to the title is suppose to appeal to some obvious instinct.

via [ www.solveclimate.com ]

Palin’s Pipeline: Clean Energy for the Lower 48 or Power for the Tar Sands?

by Abby Schultz – Jun 29th, 2009

Environmentalists fear at least half of the relatively clean-burning Alaskan North Slope gas will end up fueling tar sands operations in Alberta, where the pipeline will end, instead of coming to the lower 48 states to replace carbon-intensive coal in power plants. The tar sands operations already consume about 20 percent of Canada’s natural gas, and they are expected to need as much as twice that by 2035.

Alberta Tar Sands

June 6th, 2009 4 comments

In the span of Human history, the Alberta Tar Sands project is the largest industrial project initiated by Humans, larger than China’s 3 Gorges Dam. This project is the driving force behind the BP expansion here in East Chicago, and the air I will be expected to breath.

Andrew Nikiforuk’s video is about the best overview of the project I have found.

Some from the energy sector argue that if Americans continue to consume energy at present rate of increase then this is not a project of choice but of necessity. Unfortunately that discussion has not been held in public. What this project does tells us is that the present condition of our energy sector is struggling severely to keep up with the energy demands of the American life style in an environment of diminishing efficient resources. Seven years ago the American energy sector shifted its reliance from the Sweet Crude of Saudi Arabia to the Sour Dirty Crude of the Tar Sands. Since then we have attempted to rely on far inferior energy resources to support our high energy consumptive life style.

With the Tar Sands the energy return on energy investment (EROEI) falls

from

  • 1-barrel investment to produce 100-barrels of product (for sweet crude)

to

  • 1-barrel investment to produce 5-barrels of product (for dirty sour crude from the Tar Sands)

The fact that we are shifting our dependence on a resource with such diminished efficiencies reveals some of the true costs of the last sixty years. Other costs include:

  • Deforestation: The tar sands ranks second to the Amazon Rainforest Basin in its rate of deforestation on the planet, and wiping out the ancient Boreal Forest in Canada.
  • Increased CO2 Emissions: The tar sands mining procedure releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production.

What I can gather from my minor position is that our obvious neglect of exponential growth and demand has reframed the discussion and limited the realm of possible solutions for our energy needs. A generation of ineffective confrontation with clear evidence puts us at this disadvantage. I realize I need to come to grips with the fact that we live in an era where positive action is a lagging indicator.

Most Americans have no knowledge of this colossal project. They have no knowledge of the reasons why it has been initiated nor the socio-economic and environmental impacts it may have. They just know that the cost of gas has gone up. The issues surrounding the project are only just beginning to enter the public discourse – long after our public and commercial leaders have committed us to this solution.

Recently, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu addressed the issue publicly (not behind closed doors as in Cheney’s Energy Task Force).

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Reuters Global Energy Summit that the balance between the environmental impact from the huge energy resource in northern Alberta and its importance to U.S. energy supply is a complicated one that will require solutions from the industry.

Environmental groups have mounted major campaigns to get the message out to Americans that the expansion of Canada’s oil sands industry threatens to intensify global warming, deforestation and damage to water resources.

“It’s a complicated issue, because certainly Canada is a close and trusted neighbor and the oil from Canada has all sorts of good things. But there is this environmental concern, so I think we’re going to have to work our way through that,” he said. “But I’m a big believer in technology.”

Canada is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the United States and its oil sands represent the biggest deposits of crude outside the Middle East.

The Canadian and Alberta governments as well as the oil industry are going to great lengths to ensure that U.S. energy and environmental policies do not put oil sands-derived crude at a disadvantage in its most important market.

The resource is mined in open pits as well as produced in wells with the aide of steam pumped into the ground. Then it must be processed by upgrading plants into light oil that can be fed into refineries.

There is concern about the large amount of energy required to produce oil sands, Chu said. He said Canadian producers point out they are making strides in extracting the crude “more cleanly.”

Cutting the energy used to extract a barrel of oil sands crude would be “economically good and it will be environmentally much better,” he said.

– via [ Business Insider ]

Journalist Criticizes Bitumen Mining

April 30th, 2009 No comments

The BP project in East Chicago has many ramifications not only for the health of local residents who live under the plumb of BP, but also upstream political cultures who trade on the investment of BP. The political elite are very much aware of the increase risk factors and the data that reveals local residents losing additional personal wealth due to this project. In a era that has become ever more sensitive to increased risk factors due to environmental pollution, the thought of increasing toxic releases will suppress even further the future assessed values of properties in this very poor community, leaving East Chicagoans in even weaker position to compete in the future economy.

In addition to the loss of health and personal wealth the residents of East Chicago, who pay the highest property taxes in the state, are expected to provide $165,000,000 in charity to BP for a tax abatement. The construction phase of the project has already begun, but for some reason East Chicago and whiting businesses and restaurants are not seeing new business from construction workers. It appears BP is staging workers in Lancing Illinois and frequenting their businesses and restaurants.

I am discussed in local environmentalist who speak on behalf of such projects because of job creation. What do they know about economic development. 40% of East Chicago’s Adult population are considered functionally illiterate, with less than 2%  obtaining a collage degree required for one of the ~70 jobs at BP. I think my circle of friends skew this.

Nikiforuk called it comparable to “mountaintop” coal mining in the Appalachian region. Moreover, the industry has made ripples in America’s energy policy, he said. Canada’s tar sands have been touted as a sustainable alternative to oil fields in Saudi Arabia. Canada has become the No. 1 oil source for the U.S., a trend that likely will continue, he said.

“You’re trading bloody oil for dirty oil,” he said. “Which is like shifting your mortgage from Countrywide to Bear Stearns and hoping it’ll solve your problems.”

The expansion of refinery capacity at BP brings with it questions about future air quality and emissions, Nikiforuk said. So far, BP has not adopted the stringent standards in place at refineries in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

nwi.com: Journalist criticizes bitumen mining.