Oil Impacts Could Be Catastrophic

“The Oil Industry’s Sacrifice Zone”


 Source: Water4fish

HOQUIAM, WA (6/11/15)–  Presenters at a Wednesday night public forum here, which focused on the probable economic and environmental impacts of increased storage and transport of oil in Grays Harbor County, concurred that the results could catastrophic, said Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp, who added, “the impacts on tribal culture would be beyond measure.”

“Coastal Washington, The Oil Industry’s Sacrifice Zone,” was held at the Little Theater at Hoquiam High School, organized by a coalition of local organizations rallying against the three proposed oil storage facilities at the Port of Grays Harbor and others along the Washington coast. The facilities, proposed by Westway Terminals, Imperium Renewables and U.S. Development, are currently undergoing environmental impact statements under supervision by the state Department of Ecology. Presenters included Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler, Washington Dungeness Crab Fisherman Association Vice President Larry Thevik and President Sharp. Numerous other local officials attended to demonstrate their opposition to planned oil expansion and the forum was moderated by Eric de Place, of Seattle-based think tank Sightline Institute.

President Sharp pointed out that tribal members have fished and gathered in the Grays Harbor region for hundreds of years and that increased oil traffic will make that more difficult.

 “An oil spill would devastate the fish, shellfish and plants that sustain the QIN identity and culture, and would decimate the Grays Harbor economy,” she said.

To achieve a direct and accurate analysis of the potential impacts to Quinault rights and interests, the tribe hired an economist firm, Resource Dimension (RD) of Gig Harbor to do a comprehensive economic analysis of potential impacts the three proposed terminal projects would have on tribal treaty rights and economic interests. RD researched economic data, interviewed several tribal fishers and gatherers, and considered various oil spill scenarios to evaluate economic impacts to QIN from these facilities.

 “One thing was clear from the beginning. It is impossible to assign an economic value to the cultural and spiritual aspects of our treaty-protected rights,” said President Sharp. “We will always fight to protect those rights, because they define us as a people. It’s who we are. But measureable economics are also important. In this case, the  quantified economics clearly point out the folly of further expanding oil transportation and storage in Grays Harbor County,” she said.

The RD study found that in 2013  668.5 direct jobs were generated by Treaty fishery-based activities and select fishery-related QIN-owned businesses. Purchases made by these entities supported an additional 132.2 induced jobs in the region. The study also found that 107 indirect jobs supported $32.1 million of local purchases made by businesses supplying services to these firms. Direct wages and salaries amounting to $27.6 million were received by the 668.5 directly employed. Re-spending of this income created an additional $5.0 million of income and consumption expenditures in Washington, principally in Grays Harbor County. Those holding induced jobs received $4.3 million in indirect income. Businesses providing services to these firms received $84.7 million of revenues.

Also, in 2013, other QIN businesses contributed 907 jobs, $36.8 million in direct/indirect income, $84.6 million in business revenue, representing $32 million in local spending.

 “These figures, which will continue to increase as we invest more in sustainable businesses, training and cooperative efforts with our neighboring communities, clearly demonstrate the profound importance of tourism and a healthy environment in the Grays Harbor area,” said President Sharp.

RD modeled three oil spill scenarios: one on the lower Chehalis River, one in Grays Harbor and one just outside the entrance to Grays Harbor to demonstrate potential economic losses from an oil spill. Among numerous other findings, it was determined that due to minimal containment due to limited spill response capability and tidal and climactic conditions, a spill in Grays Harbor would spread throughout the entire harbor and seaward in a matter of hours. Oil would not be able to be stopped before reaching sensitive areas in the harbor, and the oil would persist. It would kill salmon and other life forms, from the time it spills, for years to come. Shellfish would be particularly vulnerable and acute mortality would be expected. The crab and clam populations in and around Grays Harbor would be devastated, as would the economies based on them. At the minimum, modeled spill scenarios indicate that over the three years of the worst economic impact from a spill, between 105 and 151 tribal fishing jobs would be reduced. Tribal fishing incomes would be slashed from between $12.8 million and $17.1 million, and overall fishing incomes could reduce from between $24 million to $40 million.

Impacts to QIN businesses, such as the hotels, casino and QMARTS over a three-year period following a major spill could result in a loss of 118 to 229 jobs, along with personal income losses of $14.7 million to $28 million, QIN business losses of $29million to $70 million, and local purchasing losses of $10.3 million to $23.4 million.

 “It’s important to remember that these are non-Indian as well as Indian jobs, and that ultimately the oil industry proposals result in just a handful of jobs. How much clearer can this decision be? The risk the oil industry is asking us to take is not worth it,” said President Sharp.

 De Place first talked about the large number of proposed and active oil storage sites that have popped up in the Pacific Northwest since 2012, saying the amount of carbon in those projects is roughly equivalent to five and half Keystone XL Pipelines. He estimated the three terminals would result in 300 to 400 additional loaded oil vessels per year taking loaded crude oil out of the Harbor, with about 800 to 900 extra oil trains annually, or two and a half to three dangerous oil trains coming through Grays Harbor daily. He said the federally estimated cost to recover from a worst-case scenario derailment is about $5 billion, or at least ten times the amount of insurance most railways carry.

 “If there were an accident, the local community would be left to pick up the tab,” he said.

Thevik, a commercial fisherman for 45 years, said the oil proposals could have severely damaging effects on the Grays Harbor economy. He cited a recent report that said more than 2,000 jobs and more than $200 million in revenue come from commercial fishing activity in Westport, adding that a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration study stated 67,000 jobs in Washington State were based on seafood-related activity. In Grays Harbor County 31 percent of the local workforce depends on marine resources. Yet the oil that would move through proposed Grays Harbor and Vancouver sites would equal half of the oil moved by rail throughout the entire country in 2014. He noted that the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 spilled 11 million gallons of oil, affecting 1,300 miles of Alaskan coastline. On Grays Harbor, proposed oil transport would see tankers carrying upwards of 15 million gallons each.

 “Our members have witnessed first-hand the difficult task of recovery of oil on water and on shorelines. Many have also witnessed the promise to pay for damages and the reality of payment,” he said, adding that Exxon was appealing judgments for payment 19 years after the Alaska spill. A quarter of a century later, the company still owed $92 million and much of the oil is still there, the cleanup job apparently long since abandoned.

Dingler talked about the “Nestucca” oil spill that occurred in 1988 on the Washington coast. She, too, talked of the severe economic effects a spill would have on the region’s economically.    

 “Ocean Shores is known for our beach,” she said, adding “oil spills can easily change that.”

Washougal leaders join together in opposing oil terminal

City council, school board adopt resolutions citing grave concerns

By Justin Runquist, Columbian

 Washougal’s elected officials and school district leaders are presenting a united front against the increase of crude oil train traffic through the small city.

This week, both the city council and the school board adopted resolutions expressing grave concerns about the potential for spills, explosions and other major threats to safety through the Columbia River Gorge. The statements come the month before the state Department of Ecology is set to finish a study on whether crude oil can be safely transferred by rail throughout Washington.

The oil-by-rail facility proposed for the Port of Vancouver would be the largest oil terminal in the country, handling a daily average of 360,000 barrels of crude oil, the equivalent of four trains. Few sites throughout the state act as stopping points for oil trains, and Vancouver Energy, a partnership between Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies, is behind the plan. The site would serve as a transloading terminal to move crude oil from the railway to the ships in the Columbia River.

The proposal remains under review from the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. After Vancouver, Washougal becomes the second city in Clark County to take an official stance against the terminal. Washougal also became the first local school district to do the same.

Washougal has already experienced an influx of oil train traffic as oil-by-rail shipping has significantly picked up in recent years.

Ultimately, the Washougal City Council’s resolution gives the go-ahead for the city’s attorney to intervene in the state’s site evaluation process for the proposed terminal. It also states a number of concerns about traffic impact mitigation, and the need for an incident response plan and greater training and equipment for oil train emergencies.

The council’s resolution passed with unanimous support at a sparsely attended meeting. Mayor Sean Guard and councilors Joyce Lindsay and Connie Jo Freeman were absent. Jennifer McDaniel excused herself out of concern for a potential conflict of interest, considering that her husband has ties to the railroad.

Meanwhile, the Washougal School District urged Gov. Jay Inslee to stop oil-by-rail traffic throughout the state until the Department of Ecology has finished its safety study. The district also asked Congress and the Legislature to establish regulations that would provide more transparency for the contents of oil trains and the frequency and duration of their trips through the area.

Pipeline proponents consider explosives in ocean to scare whales from potential oil slicks

By Stanley Tromp, the Globe and Mail


The proponents of two controversial pipelines to British Columbia’s coast say they would consider deploying underwater firecrackers, helicopters and clanging pipes, among other methods, to ensure whales don’t swim toward any disastrous oil spill that might result from increased tanker traffic carrying bitumen to Asia.

It’s called hazing and documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show the methods have been studied carefully by U.S. scientists before and since the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill killed 22 orcas in 1989. Last month, the Washington State Department of Ecology asked Trans Mountain to describe any plans it might have to help whales in a spill. In the preamble to its request filed with the National Energy Board, the department notes the proposed expanded pipeline would contribute to “potential cumulative effects on sensory disturbance,” something that “was determined to be significant for southern resident killer whales.”

“NOAA [National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration] identified oil spills as an acute extinction threat to the southern resident killer whales,” the U.S. department says in its request for information from the pipeline project.

“Please describe any Trans Mountain plans to minimize the direct acute threat to marine mammals in general and southern resident killer whales in particular by applying techniques such as the use of ‘hazing’ to drive the animals out of areas heavily affected by surface oil slicks,” says the request for information.

On June 18, Trans Mountain replied that some hazing methods “have historically worked well with killer whales,” and it might consider endorsing them in consultation with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the lead Canadian response agency.

“The need for and use of marine mammal deterrence activities would be considered prior to or during emergency response operations,” Trans Mountain writes.

It then lists the techniques that might be available, including fire hoses directing streams of water at whales, boat traffic to generate noise, helicopters to make noise and stir up water and other acoustic deterrents.

The response notes that NOAA has approved use of metal pipes called Oikomi pipes for noise and a kind of low-frequency bomb in the event of an oil spill, but Trans Mountain cautions: “No single deterrence technique will work in all situations.”

Northern Gateway’s submission to the National Energy Board last year discussed hazing for three pages, adding “oil response plans (including a marine mammal hazing plan) will be developed with DFO and certified responders before operations.”

Fisheries and Oceans did not reply to The Globe’s questions about hazing.

If both pipelines are approved, tanker traffic plying the B.C. coast would increase by more than 600 ships a year, raising concerns from aboriginals, environmentalists and U.S. officials about the increased potential for a spill on the Pacific coast.

U.S. authorities have closely examined hazing for years. One 1994 study found Oikomi pipes – 2.4-metre-long reverberant metal pipes hung from a vessel and hit to produce a ringing sound – could be deployed from boats spaced 180 metres apart to create an acoustic fence to move whales away.

Underwater firecrackers, also called seal bombs, have also been studied. They are small explosives inside a cardboard tube. When weighted, set with an eight-second fuse, and tossed into the sea, they sink and explode with an acoustic signal. A report of 1986 said they have been used successfully in hazing non-whale marine species.

But despite all the studies, Don Noviello, an oil spill response specialist at Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and author of reports on hazing, said it’s not clear whether the techniques will work.

“I am unaware that any whale hazing techniques have been, or will be, scientifically tested on actual whales,” Mr. Noviello said.

Added Vancouver Aquarium whale specialist Lance Barrett-Lennard: “I do think that hazing might be appropriate in some circumstances.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Amazon oil spill has killed tons of fish, sickened native people

by Barbara Fraser on July 23, 2014, IC Magazine


CUNINICO, Peru – On the last day of June, Roger Mangía Vega watched an oil slick and a mass of dead fish float past this tiny Kukama Indian community and into the Marañón River, a major tributary of the Amazon.

Community leaders called the emergency number for Petroperu, the state-run operator of the 845-kilometer pipeline that pumps crude oil from the Amazon over the Andes Mountains to a port on Peru’s northern coast.


Local men were covered with oil after being hired to find the leak in the submerged pipeline. (Photo: Municipality of Urarinas)

Local men were covered with oil after being hired to find the leak in the submerged pipeline. (Photo: Municipality of Urarinas)

By late afternoon, Mangía and a handful of his neighbors – contracted by the company and wearing only ordinary clothing – were up to their necks in oily water, searching for a leak in the pipe. Villagers, who depend on fish for subsistence and income, estimated that they had seen between two and seven tons of dead fish floating in lagoons and littering the landscape.

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve seen in my life – the amount of oil, the huge number of dead fish and my Kukama brothers working without the necessary protection,” said Ander Ordóñez Mozombite, an environmental monitor for an indigenous community group called Acodecospat who visited the site a few days later.


Scaffolding holds a broken section of the oil pipeline. (Photo: Barbara Fraser)

Scaffolding holds a broken section of the oil pipeline. (Photo: Barbara Fraser)

This rupture of Peru’s 39-year-old northern crude oil pipeline has terrified Kukama villagers along the Marañón River. People’s complaints of nausea and skin rashes are aggravated by nervousness about eating the fish, concerns about their lost income and fears that oil will spread throughout the tropical forest and lakes when seasonal flooding begins in November. Cuninico, a village of wooden, stilt-raised, palm-thatched houses, is home to about 130 families but several hundred families in other communities also fish nearby.

Three weeks after they discovered the spill, the villagers still have more questions than answers about the impacts.

“It sounds like an environmental debacle for the people and the ecosystem,” said David Abramson, deputy director of the National Center of Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York.

“There is a need for public health and environmental monitoring at a minimum of four levels – water, fish, vegetation and the population,” he said.


Kukama community leaders walk along the pipeline through a marshy area. (Photo: Barbara Fraser)

Kukama community leaders walk along the pipeline through a marshy area. (Photo: Barbara Fraser)

Company officials at Petroperu did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Government officials have not officially announced how much crude oil spilled. However, in a radio interview, Energy and Mines Minister Eleodoro Mayorga mentioned 2,000 barrels, which is 84,000 gallons.

Indigenous leaders noted that the pipeline, which began operating again July 12 after the repairs, has a history of leaks.

Leaders of at least four neighboring communities said masses of dead fish appeared in lagoons and streams in the week before the oil spill was reported, indicating that it could have been leaking for days before it was spotted.

Even fish that escaped the worst of the spill could be poisoned, experts said. Fishermen who traveled an hour or two up the Urituyacu River, a tributary of the Marañón, in search of a catch unaffected by the spill returned with fish that they said tasted of oil.

Some Amazonian fish migrate long distances, and ongoing monitoring will be important for determining how fisheries recover, said Diana Papoulias, a fish biologist with E-Tech International, a New Mexico-based engineering firm that advises indigenous Peruvian communities on oil-related issues.

Key concerns include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are classified as probable human carcinogens and can cause skin, liver and immune system problems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to PAHs in the womb has been linked to effects on children’s brain development, including learning and behavioral changes.

“The rule of thumb is that during the spill it’s a horrible mess, and two or three years later it’s hard to find evidence.” –Edward Overton, Louisiana State University For pregnant women, the fish become a “double-edged sword,” Abramson said. “They need that protein source to enhance the neurological development of the fetus, but at the same time, you don’t want them ingesting things that have unknown impacts.”

Mothers said children and adults in their families are suffering from stomachaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, and small children have skin rashes after bathing in the rivers.

In this part of the Marañón valley, the nearest health center is more than an hour away by boat and does not have a doctor.

The government’s Environmental Evaluation and Oversight Agency (Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental, OEFA) has taken no samples of fish tissue for testing, according to Delia Morales, the agency’s assistant director of inspection.

Much of the oil settled in pools along the pipeline during the flood season, creating a viscous soup where dying fish flopped weakly. Government officials said damage was limited to a 700-meter stretch along the pipeline. The ground and tree trunks in the forest on both sides of the pipeline were also stained with oil, in a swath local residents estimated at up to 300 meters wide. When that area begins to flood again in November, villagers fear that contamination could spread.


Kukama women wash clothes in the river that also provides water for drinking, cooking and bathing. (Photo: Radio Ucamara)

Kukama women wash clothes in the river that also provides water for drinking, cooking and bathing. (Photo: Radio Ucamara)

Petroperu hired men from the village of Cuninico to find the leak and raise the pipeline out of the canal to repair it. Several of the men said they were up to their necks in oily water, working in T-shirts and pants or stripped to their underwear. They said they received protective gear only when a Peruvian TV crew arrived more than two weeks later. The July 20 newscast led to a shakeup in Petroperu’s leadership.

Meanwhile, the workers’ wives wash their clothes in the Marañón River, squatting on rafts moored along the bank. Besides being the only transportation route in the area, the river is the source of water for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing.

Within a week after the spill, the local fish market had dried up. Women who normally sold 10 to 20 kilos of fish a day said their usual buyers shunned them. Children in Cuninico told a reporter from Radio Ucamara, a local radio station, that fish had disappeared from the family table and they were eating mainly rice and cassava, a root.

Abramson said the villagers’ mental health can be undermined by poor diet, income loss and conflicts between community members.

The pipeline has been repaired and the oil is flowing to the port again, but the long-term impacts of the spill are uncertain.


Glob of oil drips from a stick dipped into a pool beside the submerged pipeline. (Photo: Barbara Fraser)

Glob of oil drips from a stick dipped into a pool beside the submerged pipeline. (Photo: Barbara Fraser)

Light and bacteria help break down oil naturally, said Edward Overton, a chemistry professor in Louisiana State University’s Department of Environmental Studies who has studied the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Volatile substances in the oil, which dissolve readily in water, could have caused the fish kills if the pipeline had been leaking for a time before the spill was reported, he said.

“The rule of thumb is that during the spill it’s a horrible mess, and two or three years later it’s hard to find evidence,” Overton said.

But that may not be the case in Amazonian wetlands, where clay soil and high water limit the oxygen available to oil-eating microbes, said Ricardo Segovia, a hydrogeologist with E-Tech International.

The government’s environmental agency is expected to issue its report on the spill by the end of this month and could levy fines, Morales said.

Villagers are waiting to see whether the government will sanction its own pipeline operation and pay damages.

“It sounds as though the state is in a precarious position,” Abramson said. “It [the government of Peru] has to monitor and assure the health and well-being of the population, but it may be one of the agents that is liable [for the spill]. They have to monitor themselves and decide what is fair and equitable.”

EarthFix Conversation: 25 Years Later, Scientists Remember The Exxon Valdez

Killer whales swimming in Prince William Sound alongside boats skimming oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Scientists report that orca populations there have not recovered and oil is still being found. | credit: (State of Alaska, Dan Lawn) | rollover image for more
Killer whales swimming in Prince William Sound alongside boats skimming oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Scientists report that orca populations there have not recovered and oil is still being found. | credit: (State of Alaska, Dan Lawn)



By Ahsley Ahearn, OPB

25 years ago today the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, Calif., ran aground in Prince William Sound.

11 million gallons of oil spilled out, polluting 1,300 miles of Alaska’s coastline.

At the time it was the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Gary Shigenaka and Alan Mearns responded to the Exxon Valdez, and they’ve been studying oil spills ever since. They’re scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle.

They told EarthFix’s Ashley Ahearn about their experience responding to the Exxon Valdez all those years ago.

Alan Mearns: Some places we’d go ashore and you’d see starfish that looked like they were sick, they were just kind of drifting around in the surf. And you could smell the oil too, in the places where there was plenty of it. It smelled like benzene, like you’re pumping gas at the gas station and you sniff that little bit of benzene as you pull the hose out of your car.

EarthFix: Gary, how were orcas impacted by the spill?

Gary Shigenaka: Two groups that frequent Prince William Sound crashed immediately after the spill. So since the time of the oil spill those populations have continued to be monitored and we can follow the trends and for the AB pod — the resident pod – there’s been a slow recovery. For the AT1 group, which is the transient pod, it’s been declining ever since the spill and the orca specialist for Prince William Sound, Dr. Craig Matkin, has predicted that that particular group is going to go extinct. It continues to decline with time. So it’s an unfortunate longterm legacy from the spill.

EarthFix: Some people thought the orcas would swim away, would avoid the oil spill itself, but that wasn’t actually the case, was it?

Shigenaka: What we all thought was that orcas are so smart. They will simply avoid the oiled waters. But we’ve got very good photographic evidence that shows that indeed they did not.

One photograph, an aerial photograph, shows orcas cutting through a slick and you can see where they’ve come to the surface right through the oil. There’s another shot of a pod of orcas right at the stern of the Exxon Valdez, right at the tanker.

EarthFix: What creatures were the most impacted or most harmed by the Exxon Valdez spill?

Mearns: Oh, birds. We’re talking about 200 to 300,000 I think, Gary.

Shigenaka: Yeah.

Mearns: Seabirds, mainly seabirds and some shorebirds. And of course that was the big thing you’d see in the news almost every day: pictures of an oiled bird, somebody picking it up, taking it to a wildlife rehabilitation station where they’d clean them and then hold them until they could be released.

Birds killed as a result of oil from the Exxon Valdez spill. Credit: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.


EarthFix: SO for people who weren’t alive, weren’t reading the paper when the Exxon Valdez spill happened, what were those animals going through? What happens to a bird when it interacts with an oil slick?

Mearns: Well, first of all, even though it’s in the spring and summer it’s still cold up there. If it’s not killed by being smothered by gobs and gobs of oil, if it’s a little bit of oil, it will succumb eventually to things like pneumonia-type diseases and things like that, so it suddenly causes birds that had good insulation not to have insulation and start suffering the effects of cold conditions.

Shigenaka: And the same holds true for another of the iconic wildlife species in Prince William Sound: the sea otters. They insulate themselves with that nice thick fur pelt and they are affected in the same way by oil disrupting their ability to insulate themselves during a spill.

EarthFix: 25 years later, how is Prince William Sound? What species have recovered, how does the place look?

Mearns: Well, 14 or 15 species or resource values have recovered. The recovery started a few years after the spill with things like bald eagles. A number of them were killed off but their population rebounded. The most recent recovery was just announced was of the sea otters that we were just talking about. So between 1991-92 when we started seeing reports of recovery of a few bird species and now we’ve had about 14 or 15 species recover but there’s still some others that haven’t yet.

EarthFix: Which ones are you most concerned about, Alan, or scientists are following most closely with concern?

Mearns: The orcas are really the ones we’re most concerned about now.

EarthFix: Is the oil gone?

Mearns: No. There are still traces of oil in the shorelines. When you go out at low tide and go into some of these back bay areas with gravel and sand overlying bedrock and dig down maybe a foot sometimes you’ll hit spots with oil that is still actually fairly fresh. We’ve encountered that at a few sites that we’ve monitored over the past 25 years.

Shigenaka: That’s been one of the 25-year surprises for us is that there are pockets of relatively fresh oil remaining both in Prince William Sound and along the coast of the Alaska Peninsula and that’s something that I don’t think any of us expected 25 years later.

EarthFix: What did this spill mean for your careers? You guys were both young bucks when this happened. And now, 25 years later, when you look back, what did it mean, the Exxon Valdez?

Shigenaka: I think overall, just the notion that we have a responsibility, both as responders and as scientists to try to communicate what we do and what we know in a way that’s understandable to the people who are affected.

EarthFix: There is more oil moving through this region now – more oil coming from the tar sands of Alberta and coming from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to refineries here in Washington state. If I talk to you guys 25 years from now, what do you hope we’re talking about?

Mearns: One thing that I worry about and I think Gary has some other things that he worries about is a lot of this new oil is going to be going through the Aleutian Islands, the great circle route, more and more tankers leaving here or in Canada and heading across. And in the Aleutian Islands, we thought Prince William Sound was remote, well the Aleutian Islands are even more remote. Getting equipment there, getting staff, we’ve had a few experiences with spills. I guess I’m concerned that there will be more spills in that region from this increased traffic out there.

EarthFix: Or elsewhere.

Mearns: Yeah.

Shigenaka: 25 years from now I’m hoping that we have a much better handle on how these novel new oils like the tar sands oil and the Bakken crude oil from North Dakota, how they behave in the environment and what their potential impacts are to exposed organisms because frankly right now we don’t really know how the stuff behaves, both types of oil, once it gets loose in the environment and we’re only beginning to understand what potential impacts there might be for the exposed communities.

Gary Shigenaka and Alan Mearns are scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle. They responded to the Exxon Valdez spill 25 years ago.

Navy Says Failed Pump Led To Oily Wastewater Spill In Puget Sound

By Ashley Ahearn, EarthFix

The Navy is blaming a failed pump for its spill of nearly 2,000 gallons of oily wastewater into Puget Sound.

Tom Danaher, spokesman for Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, said the Navy was using a pumping system on one of its piers to remove oily bilge water from a vessel late Monday.

An electrical ground prevented the pump from automatically shutting off when a 4,000 holding tank was filled –- and because the operation was not attended, it took about 20-30 minutes before naval staff realized that oil-contaminated waste-water was pouring into the sound, Danaher said in an interview Wednesday.

“So the pumps did not get the signal that the tank was full. The tank overflowed,” he said. “When the people on the pier saw the overflow, we stopped all pumping and started our cleanup.”

The cleanup expanded Wednesday to include the deployment of surveyors who are walking the beaches around Puget Sound’s Hood Canal where the spill occurred, Danaher said.

Mark Toy, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Health, said his agency is continuing to advise against shellfish harvesting in the area affected by the spill

“While at this time there’s not any evidence that shellfish have been affected, we’ve taken the precaution of advising against harvesting from the area,” he said.

Initially, the Navy had indicated the spill involved 150-200 gallons but since then, the unified spill command – including the Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Washington Department of Ecology – have agreed the spill involved nearly 2,000 gallons.

Containing the spill has involved the use of booms to absorb the oily sheen. Danaher said the cleanup has been “like chasing a ghost.”

“Because it’s oily waste, it’s about 95 percent water and that makes it very difficult to absorb and it moves very fast because it’s so light,” he said.

Initially, Navy personnel were skeptical about Washington Department of Ecology reports that the spill had traveled about 10 miles to the Hood Canal Bridge. But then they looked at the state agency’s aerial photographs of the sheen on the water surrounding the bridge.

Danaher described his own reaction to seeing the photos this way:

“Well, there’s good chance it’s probably related to this spill. I wouldn’t know what else to say. I wouldn’t say well, no, that wasn’t it. Some guy dumped his motor boat oil.”

Up To 2,000 Gallons Of Oily Water Spilled In Hood Canal

Ashley Ahearn, EarthFix

Officials are responding to a spill of oily bilge water in Washington’s Puget Sound. The spill occurred at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and has spread 10 miles north to Hood Canal.

State agencies estimate that up to 2,000 gallons spilled Monday when a ship was pumping out oily discharge at the naval facility. The pier-side transfer system failed and overflowed.

Initially the Navy estimated that 150 gallons spilled, but by Tuesday other agencies were disputing that amount.

The Washington Department of Ecology has conducted fly-overs and said that the sheen has spread as far as the Hood Canal Bridge, 10 miles north of the base.

The Navy did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.

There were no documented impacts to wildlife as of Tuesday afternoon, but the Department of Health advised against harvesting shellfish from the affected area.

More oil spilled from trains in 2013 than in previous 4 decades, federal data show


By Curtis Tate

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Jan 21, 2014 Bellingham Herald

WASHINGTON — More crude oil was spilled in U.S. rail incidents last year than was spilled in the nearly four decades since the federal government began collecting data on such spills, an analysis of the data shows.

Including major derailments in Alabama and North Dakota, more than 1.15 million gallons of crude oil was spilled from rail cars in 2013, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

By comparison, from 1975 to 2012, U.S. railroads spilled a combined 800,000 gallons of crude oil. The spike underscores new concerns about the safety of such shipments as rail has become the preferred mode for oil producers amid a North American energy boom.

The federal data does not include incidents in Canada where oil spilled from trains. Canadian authorities estimate that more than 1.5 million gallons of crude oil spilled in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, when a runaway train derailed and exploded, killing 47 people. The cargo originated in North Dakota.

A fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment Monday, Dec 30, 2013, in Casselton, N.D. The train carrying crude oil derailed near Casselton Monday afternoon.

Nearly 750,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a train on Nov. 8 near Aliceville, Ala. The train also originated in North Dakota and caught fire after it derailed in a swampy area. No one was injured or killed.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration doesn’t yet have spill data from a Dec. 30 derailment near Casselton, N.D. But the National Transportation Safety Board, which is the lead investigator in that incident, estimates that more than 400,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled there. Though no one was injured or killed, the intense fire forced most of Casselton’s 2,400 residents to evacuate in subzero temperatures.

The Association of American Railroads, an industry group, estimates that railroads shipped 400,000 carloads of crude oil last year. That’s more than 11.5 billion gallons, with one tank car holding roughly 28,800 gallons.

Last year’s total spills of 1.15 million gallons means that 99.99 percent of shipments arrived without incident, close to the safety record the industry and its regulators claim about hazardous materials shipments by rail.

Czdvw.La.91But until just a few years ago, railroads weren’t carrying crude oil in 80- to 100-car trains. In eight of the years between 1975 and 2009, railroads reported no spills of crude oil. In five of those years, they reported spills of one gallon or less.

In 2010, railroads reported spilling about 5,000 gallons of crude oil, according to federal data. They spilled fewer than 4,000 gallons each year in 2011 and 2012. But excluding the Alabama and North Dakota derailments, more than 11,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from trains last year.

Last week, the principal Washington regulators of crude oil shipments by rail met with railroad and oil industry representatives to discuss making changes to how crude is shipped by rail, from tank car design to operating speed to appropriate routing. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called the meeting productive and said the group would take a comprehensive approach to improving the safety of crude-oil trains.

Foxx said the changes would be announced within the next 30 days.


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Huge North Dakota oil spill went unreported by furloughed feds

By John Upton, Grist

A farmer discovered a huge oil spill — several times bigger than the recent Mayflower, Ark., spill – nearly two weeks ago in North Dakota. But because of federal government furloughs, we’re only just learning about it.

More than 20,000 barrels of fracked oil seeped from a ruptured pipeline over 7 acres of remote North Dakota wheat fields, oozing 10 feet into the clay soil and killing crops. Farmer Steven Jensen found the mess on his land on Sept. 29.

The National Response Center, which reports oil and chemical spills, posted an alert about the spill on its website this week. Reuters reports that the agency normally posts such reports within a day, but that its work has been stymied by the government shutdown.

But there’s really nothing to worry about, says Tesoro Logistics, the company responsible for the spill:

There have been no injuries or known impacts to water, wildlife or the surrounding environment as a result of this incident.

Jeez, it’s as if the pipeline spewed oxygen and candy.

Try telling that to Jensen, whose nose led him to a pool of oil while he was out harvesting on his 1,800-acre farm. “It was pretty ugly,” he told Reuters. The nearby crop had “disintegrated, you wouldn’t have known it was a wheat plant.” More from Reuters:

At an estimated 20,600 barrels, it ranks among the biggest U.S. spills in recent years. It is the biggest oil leak on U.S. land since March, when the rupture of an Exxon Mobil pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas spilled 5,000 to 7,000 barrels of heavy Canadian crude. …

This is the biggest oil spill in North Dakota since 1 million barrels of salt water brine, a by-product of oil production, leaked from a well site in 2006, according to the state Department of Health.

Emergency crews initially lit fire to the oil spill, burning an estimated 750 barrels in an effort to reach the leaking pipeline – despite homes being located a half mile away.

Tesoro says the burst pipeline has been shut down and it’s conducting an internal investigation to try to determine the cause of the accident. A state official’s description of a hole in the pipeline made it sound as though the spill was caused by corrosion. About 1,200 barrels of oil had been recovered by Thursday, meaning at least another 18,000 barrels are still out there in Jensen’s fields.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.

North Dakota farmer finds oil spill while harvesting wheat


In this Oct. 8, 2013 photo provided by the North Dakota Health Department, a vacuum trucks cleans up oil in near Tioga, N.D. The North Dakota Health Department says more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil have spewed out of a Tesoro Corp. oil pipeline in a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota. Officials say the 20,600-barrel spill, among the largest recorded in the state, was discovered on Sept. 29 by a farmer harvesting wheat about nine miles south of Tioga.NORTH DAKOTA HEALTH DEPARTMENT — AP Photo
In this Oct. 8, 2013 photo provided by the North Dakota Health Department, a vacuum trucks cleans up oil in near Tioga, N.D. The North Dakota Health Department says more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil have spewed out of a Tesoro Corp. oil pipeline in a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota. Officials say the 20,600-barrel spill, among the largest recorded in the state, was discovered on Sept. 29 by a farmer harvesting wheat about nine miles south of Tioga.

October 10, 2013

By JAMES MacPHERSON — Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — A North Dakota farmer who discovered an oil spill the size of seven football fields while out harvesting wheat says that when he found it, crude was bubbling up out of the ground.

Farmer Steve Jensen says he smelled the crude for days before the tires on his combines were coated in it. At the apparent break in the Tesoro Corp.’s underground pipeline, the oil was “spewing and bubbling 6 inches high,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.

What Jensen had found on Sept. 29 turned out it was one of the largest spills recorded in the state. At 20,600 barrels it was four times the size of a pipeline rupture in late March that forced the evacuation of more than 20 homes in Arkansas.

But it was 12 days after Jensen reported the spill before state officials told the public what had happened, raising questions about how North Dakota, which is in the midst of an oil boom, reports such incidents.

The spill happened in a remote area in the northwest corner of the state. The nearest home is a half-mile away, and Tesoro says no water sources were contaminated, no wildlife was hurt and no one was injured.

The release of oil has been stopped, state environment geologist Kris Roberts said Thursday. And the spill — spread out over 7.3 acres, or about the size of seven football fields, — has been contained.

Jacob Wiedmer, who was helping Jensen harvest his wheat crop, likened the Sept. 29 discovery to the theme song from “The Beverly Hillbillies” television show.

“It was just like Jed Clampett shooting at some food …” he said of the oil coming from the ground. “Except we weren’t hunting, we were harvesting.”

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who says he wasn’t even told about what happened until Wednesday night, said the state is now investigating its procedures for reporting spills.

“There are many questions to be answered on how it occurred and how it was detected and if there was anything that could have been done that could have made a difference,” Dalrymple said Thursday, when questioned at a news conference on a separate topic.

“Initially, it was felt that the spill was not overly large,” Dalrymple said. “When they realized it was a fairly sizable spill, they began to contact more people about it.”

Jensen said he had harvested most of his wheat before the spill, but the land is no longer usable for planting.

“We expect not to be able to farm that ground for several years,” he said.

Tesoro Logistics, a subsidiary of the San Antonio, Texas-based company that owns and operates parts of Tesoro’s oil infrastructure, said in a statement that the affected portion of the pipeline has been shut down.

“Protection and care of the environment are fundamental to our core values, and we deeply regret any impact to the landowner,” Tesoro CEO Greg Goff said in a statement. “We will continue to work tirelessly to fully remediate the release area.”

Wayde Schafer, a North Dakota spokesman for the Sierra Club, said the spill is an example of the lack of oversight in a state that has exploded with oil development in recent years.

“We need more inspectors and more transparency,” Schafer said. “Not only is the public not informed, but agencies don’t appear to be aware of what’s going on and that’s not good.”

Eric Haugstad, Tesoro’s director of contingency planning and emergency response, said the hole in the 20-year-old pipeline was a quarter-inch in diameter. Tesoro officials were investigating what caused the hole in the 6-inch-diameter steel pipeline that runs underground about 35 miles from Tioga to a rail facility outside of Columbus, near the Canadian border.

Roberts said state and federal regulators are monitoring the cleanup, and Tesoro estimated it would cost $4 million.

A natural layer of clay more than 40 feet thick underlies the spill site and has “held the oil up” so that it does not spread to underground water sources, Roberts said.

“It is completely contained and under control,” Roberts said Thursday. “They got very lucky.”

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