Tag Archive: Safety

May 23 2014

Rail Transport of Oil Safe. So Says the Oil Industry

With the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline continuing, another important issue has arisen, transportation of crude oil by rail. Recent derailments and explosions have also brought into question safety considerations and the transport of Bakken crude, which is more dangerous to ship than other crude oil due to its flammability. This is not a new problem, in fact, it has been going on for decades and has been focused on the railroad tank car used, the DOT-111-A, as this McClathcy article reported in January:

Federal regulators might be weeks away from issuing new safety guidelines for tank cars carrying flammable liquids, after a series of frightening rail accidents over the past six months.

But the type of general-service tank car involved in recent incidents with crude oil trains in Quebec, Alabama and North Dakota – the DOT-111-A – has a poor safety record with hazardous cargoes that goes back decades, raising questions about why it took so long for the railroad industry and its federal regulators to address a problem they knew how to fix.

Other, more specialized types of tank cars received safety upgrades in the 1980s, and the industry’s own research shows they were effective at reducing the severity of accidents.

Tank car manufacturers have built new DOT-111A cars to a higher standard since 2011, but the improvements haven’t caught up to tens of thousands of older cars.

To be sure, improper railroad operations or defective track cause many accidents involving tank cars. But the National Transportation Safety Board, which makes recommendations but has no regulatory authority, has cited the DOT-111A’s deficiencies many times over the years for making accidents worse than they could have been.

In a segment on her show just last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow illustrated the safety shortcomings of those rail tank cars used to transport this volatile crude oil, pointing to accidents, explosions, and toothless warnings going back over decades.

In April, the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) has called on regulators to tighten standards and in early May, the Transportation Department issued a safety advisory pleading with companies that transport crude oil by train to discontinue old railcars

The advisory is non-binding, meaning it does not require companies to follow it, as an emergency order would. Yet it does apply to approximately 20,000 old tanker cars that companies rely on to carry Bakken crude from oil fields in North Dakota throughout the continent. The Transportation Department (DOT) recommended that only the sturdiest cars available are put to use, and that cars that cannot be destroyed should be updated.

Wednesday’s advisory came on the same day that the Transportation Department issued an emergency order forcing companies to provide communities alongside the rail routes with more information about the problems that are created when a spill or explosion takes place.  [..]

The DOT itself admitted crude shipments present “an imminent hazard” in an emergency order forcing companies to be more transparent with the areas they go through. Trains carrying oil generally include at least 100 cars. The emergency order requires all carloads with more than one million gallons of Bakken crude, equivalent to approximately 35 cars, to give local lawmakers notice that a train will be making its way through. [..]

Companies shipping oil by rail have never been forced to notify communities regarding hazardous material on board until this week.

An estimated 715,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil are shipped by rail every day.

It appears the oil industry is not going to lie down and take it.

American Petroleum Institute said it’s important to “separate fact from fiction” when it comes to shipping crude oil from North Dakota by rail.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council published a study Tuesday that shows crude oil taken from the Bakken reserve area in the state is similar to other grades of oil from North America. It does not, as the U.S. Department of Transportation suggests, pose a greater risk when transported by rail, the council said.

Rachel Maddow exposed the bias of that report

It is past time that the Department of Transportation stopped issuing toothless warnings and cracked down with inspections and heavy fines.

Apr 23 2013

Bending to Paranoia and Fear

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

   Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Ben would not be pleased with the government he helped create. Since before 9/11/2001, our rights had been slowly eroding, since then the notion of the rule of law and the Constitution seems quaint. “American’s don’t believe in shredding the Constitution to fight terror,” that was the headline of an article written by Greg Sargeant in the Washington Post‘s Plum Line. he points out a poll done by the Post that asked respondents:

Q: Which worries you more: that the government will not go far enough to investigate terrorism because of concerns about constitutional rights, or that it will go too far in compromising constitutional rights in order to investigate terrorism?

48% were more concerned the government would go too far; while 41% said it would not go far enough. While not a majority, it is still encouraging that there is a plurality that would like to see our Constitutional rights protected. Yet there are still those who would throw those rights away for false feeling of security. Fueled by the rhetoric of a terrorist in every Muslim community, some of our elected representatives and voices in the mainstream media have called for stripping the Constitutional rights of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now charged with the bombings and deaths that resulted.

But the government and the media seem to be hung up on calling this incident, terrorism and labeling Tsarnaev a terrorist even before there was a motive or a connection to any terrorist organization. Writing at The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald wonders why Boston is ‘terrorism’ but not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine:

Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word “terrorism” was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that “terrorism” either.

In the Boston case, however, exactly the opposite dynamic prevails. Particularly since the identity of the suspects was revealed, the word “terrorism” is being used by virtually everyone to describe what happened. After initially (and commendably) refraining from using the word, President Obama has since said that “we will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had” and then said that “on Monday an act of terror wounded dozens and killed three people at the Boston Marathon”. But as (Ali) Abunimah notes, there is zero evidence that either of the two suspects had any connection to or involvement with any designated terrorist organization.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg added his opinion that in light of the Boston bombing, the Constitution needs to be “reinterpreted”:

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. “But we live in a complex word where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.” [..]

“Look, we live in a very dangerous world. We know there are people who want to take away our freedoms. New Yorkers probably know that as much if not more than anybody else after the terrible tragedy of 9/11,” he said.

“We have to understand that in the world going forward, we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff. That’s good in some sense, but it’s different from what we are used to,” he said.

A noun, a verb and 9/11? Mr. Bloomberg wants us to fear those who would “take away our freedoms.” We should fear the Michael Bloombergs and Rudolph Guilianis of the world.

At a bedside hearing, Tsarnaev was advised of his rights and was appointed a lawyer. He freely answered questions in writing, denying that there was a connection with any terrorist organization and the idea was his brother’s. He also told the court that they were motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs. But does that justify calling this terrorist act and labeling the brothers terrorists? Even so, is there ever a justification for denying a person their Constitutional rights?

Glenn joined Amy Goodman on Monday’s Democracy Now to discuss the issues that surround this case.



Transcript can be read here.

Apr 20 2011

Deepwater Horizon: One Year Later

One year ago, there was this

Today there is still this:

A year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the surrounding environment and those who depend on it are still facing an uncertain future. Nearby islands have seen visible land loss, and tar balls still roll onto coastal beaches occasionally. Federal plans on recovery projects are far from finalized, and President Obama said yesterday that while “significant progress has been made,” the “job isn’t done.”

Mar 26 2011

Blow Out Over the Blowout Preventer

Somehow, I have a feeling that BP will use this as a defense to stop any liability suits. Meanwhile the Obama regime, ever bowing to their corporate masters, continues to issue permits for deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico with absolutely no safe guards.

Tests on BP Well Blowout Preventer Confirm Redesign a Necessity

By Bob Cavnar at The Daily Hurricane

Yesterday, the Department of Interior released Det Norske Veritas’ (DNV) report on the forensic testing that it conducted on the blowout preventer (BOP) that failed to shut in BP’s blown out Macondo well almost a year ago.  I’m still going through the 500-plus page report to find answers to my many questions about the failed BOP, but I do agree with the over riding recommendation to the industry from DNV:

   “The finding of these studies should be considered and addressed in the design of future Blowout Preventers and the need for modifying current Blowout Preventers.”

DNV was addressing a recommendation to the industry that it study the causes and results of “elastic buckling” of the drill pipe within the Macondo BOP that pushed it to the side of the wellbore, preventing the blind shear ram, or the ram that is supposed to cut the pipe and seal the well, from doing so.  During the time of the blowout, the forces within the well were so strong that it lifted the drill pipe, causing it to buckle and push over to the side of the BOP bore, positioning it outside of the shearing faces of the rams.

BP Can Do More Tests on Deepwater Horizon Blowout Preventer, Court Rules

By Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Allen Johnson Jr. at Bloomberg News

BP Plc (BP/) can conduct additional tests on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig’s blowout prevention equipment now that government examiners have finished their own forensic testing, a judge ruled.

“The additional BOP testing shall be performed in a manner that preserves the evidence to the maximum extent possible,” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said in his order, referring to the blowout prevention equipment. He ruled that other companies involved in the disaster could also now run additional tests, so long as everyone is allowed to monitor the procedures and share in the results.

The 300-ton stack of valves failed to seal off BP’s runaway well last April, triggering a fatal rig explosion and the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BP asked Barbier for permission to partially dismantle and conduct laser scans on the blowout preventer, which was recovered from the sea floor off the Louisiana coast last year.

BP is clearly looking for any liability they can pin on the BOP,” said Houston lawyer Brent Coon, one of the lawyers marshalling evidence for the consolidated oil-spill damages lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the failed drilling operation, referring to the blowout preventer.

(emphasis mine)

Deep Water Permits Issued With No Lessons Learned

In an exclusive investigation Rachel Maddow shows how the Department of the Interior is issuing deep water drilling permits despite a report finding the blow-out preventer design is flawed and despite drilling companies submitting emergency response plans that pre-date the Deep Water Horizon spill and therefore reflect none of the lessons of that disaster