Thursday, January 03, 2013

Under-reported Texas environmental developments

-- Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons was fined some pocket change (to him) for making illegal campaign contributions to Texas legislators on behalf of his nuclear waste management PAC.

The committee — WCS-Texas Solutions PAC – made $64,500 in unauthorized political donations to Texas lawmakers in late 2011. The problem was that the PAC didn’t qualify as a legal PAC. The law requires that PACs have at least 10 contributors. The WCS PAC had only one — Simmons, who deposited $100,000 and then dispensed money to favored political candidates. Waste Control Specialists operates a nuclear-waste dump in West Texas. Had Simmons, who heads the company, made the donations directly in his own name, it would have been okay. But the 10-contributor law is aimed at making sure big donors don’t try to disguise their giving by doing so through a political committee.

For someone who gives as much money as Simmons does -- at $16.5 million, he was the third-largest contributor to the Mitt Romney campaign, behind Sheldon Adelson and Bob Perry -- this is positively ignorant. As Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice noted...

“Let’s all pray Simmons takes more care in handling atomic waste than he does in handling his campaign contributions.”

-- The Exxon Mobil employees locally who oversee the pipeline in Montana, the one that leaked oil into the Yellowstone River last summer, apparently fell asleep on the job.

Delays in Exxon Mobil Corp.’s response to a major pipeline break beneath Montana’s Yellowstone River made the spill far worse than it otherwise would have been, federal regulators said.

Department of Transportation investigators examining the spill said pipeline controllers in Houston could have reduced the volume of the 1,500-barrel spill by about two-thirds if they isolated the rupture as soon as problems emerged.

Instead, crude drained from the severed, 12-inch pipeline for another 46 minutes before a remote control valve near the river was finally closed.

The July 1, 2011, spill fouled 70 miles of the riverbank along the scenic Yellowstone.

Does everybody understand now why there is so much opposition to the Keystone XL? I suppose the best response from conservative radicals would have to be: "Pipelines don't kill people".

-- After Shell's Arctic drill ship broke loose from its tugboat and beached itself on an Alaskan coastline, the Internet meme-ists sprung the trap. Again.

A hoax website mounted by environmental activists to highlight the dangers of Arctic drilling and mock Shell’s search for oil in the region is getting fresh attention in the wake of the grounding of one of the oil company’s Kulluk rig near Alaska.

The website — designed to look exactly just like Shell Oil Co.’s real website — is welcoming a surge of traffic as people take to the Internet to search for more information about the Kulluk. Only most of them don’t know it’s a spoof.

Yes, it was so good it fooled other environmental activists...and an NPR affiliate.

For instance, one environmentalist emailed a quote attributed to Shell but pulled from the site to reporters Tuesday night before issuing a mea culpa few minutes later.

On Wednesday morning, a radio host on the NPR station KUOW in Seattle quoted directly from the site and attributed these comments to Shell:

“No oil company has ever operated in an environment as extreme as the Arctic, let alone with heritage equipment—yet that’s exactly the sort of challenge that makes the Arctic so appealing to many of us at Shell. On the slight chance that something does go wrong, Shell’s spill cleanup plan is second to none. No one has yet fully determined how to clean up an oil spill in pack ice or broken ice—but that too is exactly the sort of challenge we love.”

Classic. Here's a picture, courtesy EcoWatch, of the Greenpeace billboards connected to the effort opposing Arctic drilling that appeared in Houston last summer.

Flickr has a few more.

Update: It turns out that Shell was trying to move the drilling rig before the end of the year -- in the dead of the Alaskan winter -- in order to avoid paying Alaskan taxes on it. They remain liable for the taxes (because it grounded on New Year's Eve), and now also for a multi-million dollar rescue operation. And if it starts leaking oil...

1 comment:

Zacherydtaylor said...

Neither Simmons or Exxon Mobil or anyone else can get away with this indefinitely; the only question is how much damage they will be allowed to do before people remove their heads from the sand and do something.