WBEZ | oil spill http://www.wbez.org/tags/oil-spill Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Battle over new oil train standards pits safety against cost http://www.wbez.org/news/battle-over-new-oil-train-standards-pits-safety-against-cost-112224 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/oil-train-ap_custom-0650f8c189b33da022b256e602227302594e89d9-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The federal government&#39;s new rules aimed at preventing explosive oil train derailments are sparking a backlash from all sides.</p><p>The railroads, oil producers and shippers say some of the new safety requirements are unproven and too costly, yet some safety advocates and environmental groups say the regulations aren&#39;t strict enough and still leave too many people at risk.</p><p>Since February, five trains carrying North Dakota Bakken crude oil have derailed and exploded into flames in the U.S. and Canada. No one was hurt in the incidents in Mount Carbon, W.Va., and Northern Ontario in February; in Galena, Ill., and Northern Ontario in March; and in Heimdal, N.D., in May.</p><p>But each of those fiery train wrecks occurred in lightly populated areas. Scores of oil trains also travel through dense cities, particularly Chicago, the nation&#39;s railroad hub.</p><p>According to state records and published reports, about 40 or more trains carrying Bakken crude roll through the city each week on just the BNSF Railway&#39;s tracks alone. Those trains pass right by apartment buildings, homes, businesses and schools.</p><p>&quot;Well just imagine the carnage,&quot; said Christina Martinez. She was standing alongside the BNSF tracks in Chicago&#39;s Pilsen neighborhood as a long train of black tank cars slowly rolled by, right across the street from St. Procopius, the Catholic elementary school her 6-year-old attends.</p><p>&quot;Just the other day they were playing soccer at my son&#39;s school on Saturday and I saw the train go by and it had the &#39;1267&#39;, the red marking,&quot; Martinez said, referring to the red, diamond-shaped placards on railroad tank cars that indicate their contents. The number 1267 signifies crude oil. &quot;And I was like, &#39;Oh my God.&#39; Can you imagine if it would derail and explode right here while these kids are playing soccer and all the people around there?&quot;</p><p>New federal rules require stronger tank cars, with thicker shells and higher front and back safety shields for shipping crude oil and other flammable liquids. Older, weaker models that more easily rupture will have to be retrofitted or replaced within three to five years. But Martinez and others wanted rules limiting the volatility of what&#39;s going into those tank cars, too.</p><p>Oil from North Dakota has a highly combustible mix of natural gases including butane, methane and propane. The state requires the conditioning of the gas and oil at the wellhead so the vapor pressure is below 13.7 pounds per square inch before it&#39;s shipped. But even at that level, oil from derailed tank cars has exploded into flames.</p><p>And many safety advocates had hoped federal regulators would require conditioning to lower the vapor pressure even more.</p><p>&quot;We don&#39;t want these bomb trains going through our neighborhood,&quot; said Lora Chamberlain of the group Chicagoland Oil by Rail. &quot;De-gasify the stuff. And so we&#39;re really, really upset at the feds, the Department of Transportation, for not addressing this in these new rules.&quot;</p><p>Others criticize the rules for giving shippers three to five years to either strengthen or replace the weakest tank cars.</p><p>&quot;The rules won&#39;t take effect for many years,&quot; said Paul Berland, who lives near busy railroad tracks in suburban Elgin. &quot;They&#39;re still playing Russian roulette with our communities.&quot;</p><p>A coalition of environmental groups &mdash; including Earthjustice, ForestEthics and the Sierra Club &mdash; sued, alleging that loopholes could allow some dangerous tank cars to remain on the tracks for up to a decade.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t think our federal regulators did the job that they needed to do here; I think they wimped out, as it were,&quot; said Tom Weisner, mayor of Aurora, Ill., a city of 200,000 about 40 miles west of Chicago that has seen a dramatic increase in oil trains rumbling through it.</p><p>Weisner is upset that the new rules provide exemptions to trains with fewer than 20 contiguous tank cars of a flammable liquid, such as oil, and for trains with fewer than 35 such tank cars in total.</p><p>&quot;They&#39;ve left a hole in the regulations that you could drive a freight train through,&quot; Weisner said.</p><p>At the same time, an oil industry group is challenging the new regulations in court, too, arguing that manufacturers won&#39;t be able to build and retrofit tank cars fast enough to meet the requirements.</p><p>The railroad industry is also taking action against the new crude-by-rail rules, filing an appeal of the new rules with the Department of Transportation.</p><p>In a statement, Association of American Railroads spokesman Ed Greenberg said: &quot;It is the AAR&#39;s position the rule, while a good start, does not sufficiently advance safety and fails to fully address ongoing concerns of the freight rail industry and the general public. The AAR is urging the DOT to close the gap in the rule that allows shippers to continue using tank cars not meeting new design specifications, to remove the ECP brake requirement, and to enhance thermal protection by requiring a thermal blanket as part of new tank car safety design standards.&quot;</p><p>AAR&#39;s President Ed Hamberger discussed the problems the railroads have with the new rules in an interview with NPR prior to filing the appeal. &quot;The one that we have real problems with is requiring something called ECP brakes &mdash; electronically controlled pneumatic brakes,&quot; he said, adding the new braking system that the federal government is mandating is unproven.</p><p>&quot;[DOT does] not claim that ECP brakes would prevent one accident,&quot; Hamberger said. &quot;Their entire safety case is based on the fact that ECP brakes are applied a little bit more quickly than the current system.&quot;</p><p>Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg disagreed. &quot;It&#39;s not unproven at all,&quot; she said, noting that the railroads say ECP brakes could cost nearly $10,000 per tank car.</p><p>&quot;I do understand that the railroad industry views it as costly,&quot; Feinberg adds. &quot;I don&#39;t think it&#39;s particularly costly, especially when you compare it to the cost of a really significant incident with a train carrying this product.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re talking about unit trains, 70 or more cars, that are transporting an incredibly volatile and flammable substance through towns like Chicago, Philadelphia,&quot; Feinberg continues. &quot;I want those trains to have a really good braking system. I don&#39;t want to get into an argument with the rail industry that it&#39;s too expensive. I want people along rail lines to be protected.&quot;</p><p>Feinberg said her agency is still studying whether to regulate the volatility of crude, but some in Congress don&#39;t think this safety matter can wait.</p><p>&quot;The new DOT rule is just like saying let the oil trains roll,&quot; U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a statement. &quot;It does nothing to address explosive volatility, very little to address the threat of rail car punctures, and is too slow on the removal of the most dangerous cars.&quot;</p><p>Cantwell is sponsoring legislation to force oil producers to reduce the crude&#39;s volatility to make it less explosive, before shipping it on the nation&#39;s rails.</p></p> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 14:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/battle-over-new-oil-train-standards-pits-safety-against-cost-112224 Emanuel wants answers on BP oil spill http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-wants-answers-bp-oil-spill-109925 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Whiting-spill.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Although BP&rsquo;s Whiting refinery is a short distance from the city of Chicago, it is firmly in the state of Indiana and answers to that state and its agencies. But that&rsquo;s not stopping Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from asking for a full report on this week&rsquo;s oil spill to be given to the city and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll expect a full accounting to the public and the city of Chicago of the damage that was done, how much, what the clean up efforts were, how comprehensive they have been and what actions the company will take to ensure this doesn&rsquo;t happen again,&rdquo; Emanuel said Wednesday while announcing a plan to invest $671 million to upgrade the city&rsquo;s water infrastructure.</p><p>A BP spokesman said this week it appears crude oil somehow seeped into the refinery&#39;s water filtration plant that&rsquo;s adjacent to the lake. Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Dan Goldblatt told WBEZ Wednesday that unconfirmed reports put the amount of spillage at about a dozen barrels of crude oil.</p><p>BP has raised its estimate of how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan. The company said Thursday a preliminary estimate shows between 15 and 39 barrels of oil have been recovered from the lake at its Whiting refinery.</p><p>A barrel of oil can produce about 42 gallons of gasoline, so potentially 1,638 gallons of oil spilled into Lake Michigan. Earlier estimates had pegged the amount at 10 to 12 barrels of oil.</p><p>The spill was detected around 4:30 p.m. Monday. By 9 p.m. a representative with the U.S. EPA said it appeared the leak had been stopped. Cleanup continued Wednesday along the shore of a small private beach between the refinery and its neighbor ArcelorMittal Steel Company.</p><p>&ldquo;BP continues to make progress in responding to an incident Monday at the Whiting Refinery. Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill,&rdquo; BP announced Wednesday from its US Press Office based in Houston. &ldquo;They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.&rdquo;</p><p>BP said monitoring continues with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.</p><p>&ldquo;BP and federal agencies are assessing the shoreline to determine what, if any, next steps are required in the response,&rdquo; a company statement said. &ldquo;BP continues to work to calculate the amount of oil discharged into the lake. This work involves estimating how much oil was released into the refinery&rsquo;s cooling water system, water treatment plant and ultimately into the lake.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the U.S. EPA, its Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team inspected the shoreline today for three hours to assess the presence of oil and to recommend cleanup techniques as required.</p><p>&ldquo;The team saw minimal oiling of the shoreline and recommended a small manual removal crew conduct maintenance along the shoreline,&rdquo; the U.S. EPA said in a news release. &ldquo;Weather and wind conditions improved overnight allowing teams to once again secure boom.&rdquo;</p><p>Sources involved in the cleanup say the crude oil that spilled into the lake was a combination of so-called sweet crude (from domestic sources) and crude from Canada&rsquo;s Tar Sands region, which is considered heavier and dirtier. The tar sands oil is a source of contention among environmentalists.</p><p>&ldquo;A spill like this one, whether big or small, will continue to garner national headlines. And that is the sort of behavior that will keep BP Whiting the refinery Chicagoans love to hate,&rdquo; Henry Henderson, Midwest program director of the Chicago office for the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote in a blog post.</p><p>So far, no Indiana or Northwest Indiana public official have made statements regarding the spill. BP represents a major source of jobs and property taxes for Northwest Indiana, and the company just recently completed a $4 billion modernization of the more than 100 year old Whiting refinery.<br /><br />But BP often has been on the receiving end of scathing comments by Illinois officials.</p><p>Lately, Mayor Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin have taken the company to task for transporting thousands of tons of pet coke, short for petroleum coke, to a site on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast side. Residents there have complained about the dust-like substance making them sick when it becomes airborne.<br /><br />Some city officials want the substance completely banned though so far Emanuel is only pushing an ordinance that would severely restrict the use and storage of pet coke. But with the new oil spill BP is under the microscope again.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to make sure that BP is a good corporate citizen next door in Indiana,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>And, at least for now, BP is responding.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been engaged with the mayor&rsquo;s office since the onset of this incident and are providing his office with regular updates, &ldquo; BP spokesman Scott Dean told WBEZ Wednesday night. &ldquo;We will also continue to keep the public and relevant authorities informed as we investigate this matter.&rdquo;</p><p><em>This post was updated on March 28, 2014.</em></p></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 08:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-wants-answers-bp-oil-spill-109925 BP contains oil spill in Lake Michigan, begins cleanup http://www.wbez.org/news/bp-contains-oil-spill-lake-michigan-begins-cleanup-109914 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/puente whiting.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>WHITING, Ind. &mdash; BP says it has contained and is now cleaning up crude oil that spilled into Lake Michigan&nbsp; from its Whiting, Indiana refinery near Chicago.</p><p>The spill was detected about 4:30 Monday afternoon.</p><p>Reminiscent of the tar balls collected off the Gulf Coast after a different BP spill a few years ago, this one was confined to a shallow cove between the massive refinery and a steel mill.</p><p>BP spokesman Scott Dean said it appears the crude oil somehow seeped into the refinery&#39;s water filtration plant adjacent to the lake.</p><p>&ldquo;We were able to quickly deploy our oil spill response contractor and we&rsquo;ve seen the leak stopped yesterday and we&rsquo;ve got a containment boom in place that&rsquo;s holding the amount of oil that was released from the discharge into this cove,&rdquo; Dean said.</p><p>Dean said there have been no injuries, and cleanup activities along the 2,700 feet of affected shore line are still going on.</p><p>&ldquo;The good news is the leak stopped and we&rsquo;ve got it contained,&rdquo; Dean said.</p><p>Dean said the cold temperature of the lake and air may have actually aided in containing the oil, turning the crude oil into like a gel-like substance.</p><p>But questions remain about how the crude oil got into the lake in the first place.</p><p>BP just completed a $4 billion modernization to the 100-year-old Whiting Refinery, the largest inland refinery in the United States.</p><p>Sources helping with the cleanup estimate about a dozen barrels of crude spilled into the lake, with some containing what&rsquo;s considered sweet crude oil and some containing oil from Canada&rsquo;s tar sands region.</p><p>After discovering the discharge, BP notified the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Representatives from the agencies were at the refinery Monday evening.</p><p>BP says it will continue to work in full cooperation with the agencies to ensure the protection of personnel, the environment and surrounding communities.</p><p>The U.S. EPA says is unaware of any other spills from the refinery.</p><p>Mike Beslow, the onsite coordinator for the EPA at the scene, said the oil spill should not affect the quality of Lake Michigan&rsquo;s drinking water.</p><p>He says it appears the oil was released from one of BP&rsquo;s separators into the lake.</p><p>Beslow says the separator is like a holding pond and normally does not have oil in it.<br />He adds that BP&rsquo;s own systems immediately detected oil that got into the water filtration plant and into the lake.</p><p>Beslow says it&rsquo;s too early to determine if any fines will be assessed against BP for the spill.</p></p> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bp-contains-oil-spill-lake-michigan-begins-cleanup-109914 Protests in Egypt, Korean comfort women and Canada's oil spills http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-07-25/protests-egypt-korean-comfort-women-and-canadas-oil-spills-108182 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP11101902832.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Egypt&#39;s political crisis continues. Korean &quot;comfort women&quot; hold symposium to seek justice and an end to gender-based violence. Canada&#39;s oil spills raise questions from scientists and the public. Global Activist Mary Dailey Brown improves wellness for women.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F102593025&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/protests-in-egypt-korean-comfort-women-and-canada.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/protests-in-egypt-korean-comfort-women-and-canada" target="_blank">View the story "Protests in Egypt, Korean comfort women and Canada's oil spills" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p></p> Thu, 25 Jul 2013 11:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-07-25/protests-egypt-korean-comfort-women-and-canadas-oil-spills-108182 Kalamazoo River: One year after the spill (VIDEO) http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-06/kalamazoo-river-one-year-after-spill-video-88811 <p><p><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/26073368?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ff0000" width="601" frameborder="0" height="338"></iframe></p><p>The cleanup continues in and around the town of Marshall, MI one year after more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude spilled from a pipeline. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-06/canadian-oil-boosting-midwest-economy-what-cost-88792">Read the full story about Canadian oil here. </a></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 07 Jul 2011 04:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-06/kalamazoo-river-one-year-after-spill-video-88811