fossil fuel industry

Trump moves forward with seismic testing for offshore oil exploration

Because apparently "harassing" endangered whales is no big deal:

The Trump administration on Friday authorized use of seismic air guns to find oil and gas formations deep underneath the Atlantic Ocean floor, reversing Obama administration policies and drawing outrage from critics who say the practice can disturb or injure whales, sea turtles and other marine life. The surveys are part of President Donald Trump's bid to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic.

Administration officials said that under terms of the law that protects marine life, the permits would allow "harassment" of whales and sea turtles but would not allow companies to kill them.

As horrific as that sounds, it's actually an understatement. The ruling actually allows for "incidental" injury to sea life, as long as it's not "intentional." Think about that. By injecting "intent" into the formula, they could kill as many whales, dolphins, and turtles as it is necessary to get the readings they need, as long as they say, "Oops!" when they do it. And this "protection" is laughable:

Coal Ash Wednesday: The world's dirtiest business continues

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Running headlong into a global catastrophe:

Cheap, plentiful and the most polluting of fossil fuels, coal remains the single largest source of energy to generate electricity worldwide. This, even as renewables like solar and wind power are rapidly becoming more affordable. Soon, coal could make no financial sense for its backers. So, why is coal so hard to quit?

Because coal is a powerful incumbent. It’s there by the millions of tons under the ground. Powerful companies, backed by powerful governments, often in the form of subsidies, are in a rush to grow their markets before it is too late. Banks still profit from it. Big national electricity grids were designed for it. Coal plants can be a surefire way for politicians to deliver cheap electricity — and retain their own power. In some countries, it has been a glistening source of graft.

I really do hate to throw this on you right after that stunning climate report, but there's no help for it. If we don't understand the scope of the problem, we'll never be able to solve it. Our advocacy here in the United States has been, if not wildly successful, at least a sign of steady progress. Older and dirtier coal plants have been shuttered, and relatively few new ones are coming online. But unfortunately, that is not the case in many other parts of the world:

Strained Trump logic: Bad mileage = people driving less = safer roads

The revolution in the evolution of fuel-efficient cars comes to a screeching halt:

The Trump administration says people would drive more and be exposed to increased risk if their cars get better gas mileage, an argument intended to justify freezing Obama-era toughening of fuel standards.

New vehicles would be cheaper — and heavier — if they don’t have to meet more stringent fuel requirements and more people would buy them, the draft says, and that would put more drivers in safer, newer vehicles that pollute less. At the same time, the draft says that people will drive less if their vehicles get fewer miles per gallon, lowering the risk of crashes.

Of course this is the propaganda tail wagging the anti-Obama dog. Or the other way around. Whatever the case, getting rid of the fuel efficiency standards was the main goal, and reasons for doing such seems to be more of an afterthought than a driving force. And it's a poorly-researched afterthought at that:

Compromising higher education: NC State's industry affiliate problem

When the destruction of natural habitats is no big deal:

Fritts spent four years counting mammals, reptiles and amphibians on clearcut loblolly plantation sites in Georgia and North Carolina. She did in-depth research on how biomass harvesting affected populations of shrews, rodents, southern toads and eastern narrow-mouthed toads.

“We didn’t find significant differences in impact on wildlife based on biomass harvesting treatments, no matter how much biomass was removed following a clearcut or whether it was clustered or dispersed,” Fritts says. “The diversity, evenness and abundance of mammal, reptile and amphibian species generally were similar among all of the treatments.”

I have little doubt Dr. (she is now) Fritts' research was sound, she is dedicated to little critters. But this is important: The study didn't compare animal populations in uncut forests to those that had been clear-cut, it was varying degrees of residue left on the ground. Which is important to the industry, who want every little morsel of those harvested trees. The studies *we* need to see are the ones I mentioned above; mortality rates from the harvesting itself. But don't hold your breath waiting for NC State to produce damning evidence of such, because they're too busy helping industry deforest our state:

Endangered species watch: BOEM's reckless disregard for migratory mammals

Creative mapmaking of a different kind:

Jasny said new information shows that marine mammals would be affected by seismic blasting as much as three times more frequently than BOEM had anticipated. BOEM’s final environmental impact statement released in 2014 estimates that the planned seismic surveying activities in the Atlantic will result in as many as 138,000 injuries to marine mammals and in 13.5 million disturbances of marine mammals, including disruptions in vital behaviors such as feeding, mating and communicating.

The main flaw is that the bureau had relied on studies done in the 1980s that became the standard for determining impacts through the late 1990s. Jasny said that’s “practically the stone age” as far as ocean research is concerned. “There has been a flood of important science that extends far beyond the limited perspective of what was available in the early 1980s when those studies were done,” Jasny said. “As the authors of one study put it, the study that BOEM relies upon is outdated and inaccurate.”

Read the whole article, and when you've finished that, compare the information compiled by numerous scientists with what BOEM reported to Congress just a few months ago:

Invitation-only offshore drilling meeting cluttered with industry lobbyists

Membership has its pricks:

Among the groups that had representatives in attendance were the Consumer Energy Alliance, the Center for Offshore Safety and the Institute for Energy Research. These groups include members of the petroleum and related industries.

Reporters were allowed to attend Gov. Pat McCrory's closing remarks, after most of the other participants had left.

His staff told reporters and representatives of environmental groups that they couldn't come in because of concerns that their attendance might arouse allegations of conflict of interest in the permit process. And attendance by special-interest groups funded by the petroleum industry would not?

It's no big surprise McCrory's bungling staff would interpret "conflict of interest" in such an ass-backwards manner. The only conflict of interest that would have arisen by having reporters and environmentalists in attendance would be a conflict between the public's best interests and the greed of the industry and its Republican puppets.

Private sector water testing lab falsifies coal mine samples

So much for the fossil fuel industry's self-reporting credibility:

The Charleston Gazette reports that an employee of a state-certified company pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act after he faked compliant water quality samples for coal companies between 2008 and 2013.

John W. Shelton, who worked as a technician and then a field supervisor for Appalachian Labs Inc., a Beckley, W.Va., firm, admitted to diluting water samples taken from mine pollution discharge points with clean water, among other unlawful measures taken, to ensure pollution levels were in compliance with permitted limits. Prosecutors say Appalachian Labs conducts water sampling at more than 100 mine sites in West Virginia, but for now it’s unclear what mine sites or coal companies could be implicated in the case.

Which might shed some light on why Duke Energy's water samples almost always show lower levels of toxins than DWQ and third-party samples. And you're right, I'm repeating myself. Because I have absolutely no faith in relying on industry to report the truth of their own pollution, and any elected official who does have faith in that is either an idiot or a partner in crime.

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