Oil

Exxon knew about climate change threat since 1981: Exxon scientists tells all

  • Posted on: 8 July 2015
  • By: JesseColeman

Turns out ExxonMobil, one of the world’s worst climate polluters, has known about the dangers of climate change since 1981. Yet the oil giant continues to be a major funder of climate change denial today. The new evidence comes from reports and emails written by Lenny Bernstein, ExxonMobil’s top climate scientist, who worked for Exxon for 30 years. The documents, which speak directly about the dangers of global warming from CO2 emissions were released by The Union of Concerned Scientists, in a report called “The Climate Deception Dossier." Exxon has spent well over $30 million attacking climate change science since Bernstein’s first warning. As Suzanne Goldenberg wrote in the Guardian:

Exxon, unlike other companies and the public at large in the early 1980s, was already aware of climate change – and the prospect of regulations to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, according to Bernstein’s account. National Academy of Science describing a consensus on climate change from the 1970s.

While we have known that Exxon was responsible for opposing climate change solutions and funding climate denial, now we know they knew the truth 27 years ago. Much like big tobacco did with the link between cigarettes and cancer, Exxon leadership has denied the harm the company has done long after the scientific evidence was clear. Incredibly, Exxon continues to play down their roll in climate change denial. In an interview with the Guardian, Exxon Spokesperson Richard Keil:

“rejected the idea that Exxon had funded groups promoting climate denial. “I am here to talk to you about the present,” he said. “We have been factoring the likelihood of some kind of carbon tax into our business planning since 2007. We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change.”

Earlier this year, Greenpeace revealed that Exxon, along with other fossil fuel corporations like Southern Company, funded a notorious climate change denier named Willie Soon. In fact Exxon continued to fund Soon’s roundly debunked research well after the company promised Congress they would stop funding confusion on climate change in 2007. Exxon spent over $1 million on climate denial groups in 2014 alone.  

Known Associates: 
Industry: 
Company or Organization: 

Dubious LNG exports study was conducted in secret by contractor with ties to coal and oil industries

  • Posted on: 7 January 2013
  • By: JesseColeman

A study on the economic effects of exporting gas fracked in the US has opened the door for what Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) have called “a transfer of wealth from consumers to oil and gas companies.”

The study was conducted in secret by NERA, a consulting company that has a history of producing industry funded studies that obscured the health effects of tobacco and coal.

This particular study, which focuses on the economic impacts of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG), was commissioned by the US Department of Energy, and will heavily influence the DOE’s decisions on the permitting of 15 proposed LNG export facilities.

Because of the way that exports of natural gas are regulated, the oil industry must convince the US Department of Energy that exporting America’s fracked gas is in the best interest of the country, in order for the DOE to approve any LNG export projects.

Alarmingly, the DOE kept the identity of NERA a secret from the public, and refused to answer Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by Greenpeace, as well as requests from senators’ offices.  The DOE’s excuse? According the DOE FOIA officer I spoke with, they didn’t want outside groups to “influence” the study.

It was Reuters that eventually revealed the identity of NERA, weeks before the DOE publicly released the the details of the contract.  Reuter’s credited “industry sources” for the information.

So to recap, the DOE refused to tell the public the identity of group conducting an extremely important study on natural gas exports, citing a desire to protect the contractor from “influence,” a tacit admission that these studies are somehow corruptible. Then we find out that the notoriously unscrupulous gas industry knew the identity of the contractor before the DOE announced it publicly - the same gas industry willing to use psychological warfare techniques on rural Pennsylvanians - and it was the industry that leaked the contractor’s identity to the press.

Now the study has come out, and surprise, surprise, it says everything the gas industry wanted to hear.  The NERA study supports the unlimited export of natural gas, which opens the door for the gas industry to sell fracked gas in foreign markets. Not only will that lead to higher gas prices here in the US, making fracking more profitable and therefore assuring the drilling of many more wells, but it also means more natural gas infrastructure, more methane leaks, and another blow to our already fragile climate. All the while increasing the profits of oil and gas corporations, like ExxonMobil.

According to NERA’s study:

"Across all these scenarios, the U.S. was projected to gain net economic benefits from allowing LNG exports. Moreover, for every one of the market scenarios examined, net economic benefits increased as the level of LNG exports increased. In particular, scenarios with unlimited exports always had higher net economic benefits than corresponding cases with limited exports."

Considering the DOE considers NERA to be vulnerable to outside influence, and we know the gas industry knew of NERA’s study before the public did, the NERA study and its results must be questioned.

Industry: 

State Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest of Oil & Gas "Critical Infrastructure"

  • Posted on: 18 February 2019
  • By: Connor Gibson

Image and related article via The Real News Network.

Updated July 14, 2019. Greenpeace USA.

Lawmakers in several states are introducing bills that would increase criminal penalties for people who trespass "critical infrastructure" facilities, such as oil and gas pipelines, power plants, and petrochemical refineries.

According to many of these legislators, these bills are a reaction to widespread protests of oil and gas infrastructure. Some of the protests have captured the nation's attention, such as the indigenous-led protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota and in Iowa against the Dakota Access Pipeline, opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline from Nebraska to Texas, protests of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana, and opposition to several pipeline projects in Pennsylvania. Six states have enacted some form of these bills into law: North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas

This effort to add felony-level penalties to peaceful protestors does not appear to be in reaction from the constituents of the politicians sponsoring such legislation. In contrast, there is much evidence of coordinated pressure from the oil and gas industry, electric utilities, and chemical companies. According to The Intercept, 85 percent of the nation's "critical infrastructure" is privately owned.

Many of these bills are virtually identical. Several companies and lobbying organizations used groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) to put these policies into the hands of legislators. These model "critical infrastructure" anti-protest bills adopted by ALEC and by CSG would allow prosecutors to impose large fines and felonies, not only on individuals who are arrested, but organizations that are deemed to be supporting those individuals. 

Offenses such as vandalism and violence are already illegal in these states and grounds for prosecution. Nonviolent offenses, like trespassing, are also already illegal in these states. People arrested for protesting oil and gas infrastructure--before these "critical infrastructure" bills became law in several states--already faced severe legal threats. Many people were jailed, imprisoned, and fined for nonviolent activities that occurred during protests of petrochemical pipelines.

The following pages assemble a variety of information on these state bills, and the model bills, organized by state, and then in reverse chronological order. This research is an attempt to measure how polluting companies are using a combination of lobbying, state legislative consortiums, and campaign cash to afford extra legal enforcement against protests of oil, gas, and electric infrastructure. Greenpeace relied heavily on the US Protest Law Tracker, published by the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ICNL). 

OIL & GAS INFRASTRUCTURE ANTI-PROTEST BILLS, BY STATE: 

* = laws have passed 

These pages will continue to be updated with new information.

OIL & GAS INFRASTRUCTURE ANTI-PROTEST BILLS, PRESENT TO PAST:

2019: 

Mar. 25, 2019: North Dakota SB 2044 passed in House, prevously passed in Senate. (see North Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 19, 2019: Indiana SB 471 passed in House, previously passed in Senate. (see Indiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 19, 2019: Tennessee SB 0264 passed in Senate. (see Tennessee Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 19, 2019: Illinois HB 1633 amended in House Judiciary committee. (see Illinois Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 13, 2019: Missouri SB 293 approved by the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee. (see Missouri Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 11, 2019: South Dakota SB 189 sent to governor's desk, awaits signature (see South Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 7, 2019: Texas SB 1993 filed. (see Texas Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 7, 2019: South Dakota SB 189 passed Senate and House (see South Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 6, 2019: Texas HB 3557 filed. (see Texas Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 5, 2019: Mississippi SB 2754 died in House commiitee. (see Mississippi Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 4, 2019: South Dakota SB 189 introduced. (see South Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

 

Feb. 12, 2019: Ohio SB 33 introduced. (see Ohio Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 12, 2019: Idaho SB 1090 introduced. (see Idaho Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 11, 2019: Mississippi SB 2754 passed in Senate. (see Mississippi Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 7, 2019: Indiana SB 471 passed in Senate. (see Indiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 7, 2019: Illinois SB 1304 introduced. (see Illinois Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 4, 2019: Wyoming HB 10 died in committee. (see Wyoming Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Jan. 31, 2019: Illinois HB 1633 introduced. (see Illinois Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 23, 2019: Missouri SB 293 introduced. (see Missouri Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 19, 2019: Mississippi SB 2754 introduced. (see Mississippi Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 17, 2019: Pennsylvania Senators announced they will reintroduce SB 652. (see Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 14, 2019: Indiana SB 471 introduced. (see Indiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 3, 2019: North Dakota SB 2044 introduced. (see North Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

2018:

Dec. 6, 2018: Ohio SB 250 passed Senate, then died in House committee. (see Ohio Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Oct. 10, 2018: Pennsylvania SB 652 died in House committee. (see Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Aug. 8, 2018: Louisiana Act 692 (HB 727) officially went into effect. (see Louisiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jun. 13, 2018: Pennsylvania SB 652 referred to House committee. (see Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

May 30, 2018: Louisiana HB 727 signed by Governor as Act 692. (see Louisiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

May 30, 2018: Minnesota SF 3463 vetoed by governor. (see Minnesota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

May 23, 2018: Pennsylvania SB 652 passed in Senate. (see Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

May 9, 2018: Minnesota HB 3693 postponed and folded into SF 3463. (see Minnesota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Apr. 17, 2018: Iowa SB 2235 signed by governor, became law. (see Iowa Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Mar. 27, 2018: Iowa HF 2349 withdrawn, folded into SB 2235. (see Iowa Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 26, 2018: Louisiana HB 727 introduced. (see Louisiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 15, 2018: Minnesota SF 3463 introduced (see Minnesota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 15, 2018: Wyoming SF 74 vetoed by governor. (see Wyoming Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 12, 2018: Minnesota HB 3693 introduced. (see Minnesota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Feb. 19, 2018: Wyoming SF 74 introduced. (see Wyoming Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 16, 2018: Iowa HF 2349 introduced, replacing HSB 603 and SSB 3062. (see Iowa Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 12, 2018: Iowa SB 2235 introduced. (see Iowa Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Jan. 31, 2018: Iowa HSB 603 introduced. (see Iowa Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 24, 2018: Ohio SB 250 introduced. (see Ohio Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 23, 2018: Iowa SSB 3062 introduced. (see Iowa Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 20, 2018: ALEC board approves model bill. (see American Legislative Exchange Council ALEC Model Bill: Critical Infrastructure Protection Act)

2017:

Dec. 15, 2017: Council of State Governments model bill adopted. (see Council of State Governments CSG Model Bill: Trespassing, Interference, and Destruction of Critical Infrastructure)

Dec. 7, 2017: ALEC model bill considered internally at ALEC meeting. (see American Legislative Exchange Council ALEC Model Bill: Critical Infrastructure Protection Act)

 

May 15, 2017: Oklahoma HB 2128 signed by governor, became law. (see Oklahoma Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

May 3, 2017: Oklahoma HB 1123 signed by governor, became law. (see Oklahoma Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Apr. 25, 2017: Pennsylvania SB 652 introduced. (see Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Apr. 12, 2017: Colorado SB 17-035 died in House committee. (see Colorado Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Mar. 28, 2017: Georgia SB1 died in committee. (see Georgia Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Mar. 27, 2017: South Dakota SB 176 signed by governor, became law. (see South Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Feb. 28, 2017: Colorado SB 17-035 approved by Senate. (see Colorado Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 23, 2017: North Dakota HB 1293 signed into law by governor, became law. (see North Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 6, 2017: Oklahoma HB 2128 introduced. (see Oklahoma Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 6, 2017: Oklahoma HB 1123 introduced. (see Oklahoma Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 3, 2017: South Dakota SB 176 introduced. (see South Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

 

Jan. 12, 2017: North Dakota HB 1293 introduced. (see North Dakota Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 11, 2017: Colorado SB 17-035 introduced. (see Colorado Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Jan. 1, 2017: Georgia SB1 introduced. (see Georgia Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

2016:

Dec. 16, 2016: Washington SB 5009 pre-filed. (see Washington Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Dec. 8, 2016: Michigan HB 4643 referred to Senate, where the bill died. (see Michigan Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Dec. 7, 2016: Michigan HB 4643 approved by House. (see Michigan Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

2015:

August 1, 2015: Louisiana Act 366 becomes effective. (see Louisiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

July 1, 2015: Louisiana HB7 signed by Governor Bobby Jindal as Act 366. (see Louisiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

May 26, 2015: Michigan HB 4643 introduced. (see Michigan Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Feb. 6, 2015: Louisiana HB7 prefiled. (see Louisiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

2006:

Council of State Governments adpoted “Unauthorized Entry of a Critical Infrastructure” model bill. (see Council of State Governments CSG Model Bill: Trespassing, Interference, and Destruction of Critical Infrastructure)

2004:

June 10, 2004: Louisiana Act 157 signed into law by Governor Kathleen Blanco (see Louisiana Oil & Gas Infrastructure anti-protest bills)

Media Reports & References:

2019:

Jake Wartel, Anti-Protest Bills, from National to State Level, Gain Ground, Defending Rights & Dissent, July 12, 2019

Susie Cagle, 'Protesters as terrorists': growing number of states turn anti-pipeline activism into a crime, The Guardian, July 8, 2019

Delilah Friedler, South Dakota’s “Riot-Boosting” Law Aims to Curb the Next Standing Rock Before it Even Starts, Mother Jones, June 18, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, Mess with a Texas pipeline now and you could end up a felon, Grist, June 17, 2019

Luke Darby, Red States Are Criminalizing Speech to Wage War on Environmental Activists, GQ, June 7, 2019

Alan Neuhauser, Pipeline Protest Laws Spark First Amendment Concerns, US News & World Report, June 6, 2019

Rebecca Stoner, Why are Unions Joining Conservative Groups to Protect Pipelines?, Pacific Standard, May 31, 2019

Alleen Brown, Pipeline Opponents Strike Back Against Anti-Protest Laws, The Intercept, May 23, 2019

New Lawsuit Challenges Anti-Protest Trespass Law, Center for Constitutional Rights, May 22, 2019

Jacob Shea, States Crack Down on Environmental Activists, Sierra Club, May 20, 2019

Naveena Sadasivam, After Standing Rock, protesting pipelines can get you a decade in prison and $100K in fines, Grist, May 14, 2019

Maggie Ellinger-Locke, ALEC Wants to Make Protest Illegal in Illinois, TruthOut / Greenpeace USA, May 10, 2019

Sue Udry, Free Speech is the Critical Infrastructure to our Democracy, Protect Rights & Dissent, May 8, 2019

Maggie Ellinger-Locke, Anti-Protest Legislation is Threatening our Climate, May 3, 2019

Mike Lee, High-profile protests spur state bids to tamp down unrest, E&E Publishing EnergyWire, April 24, 2019

Sarah Lazare and Simon Davis-Cohen, Fossil Fuel Companies Are Enlisting Police to Crack Down on Protesters, In These Times, April 16, 2019

Nicholas Kusnetz, More States Crack Down on Pipeline Protesters, Including Supporters Who Aren’t Even on the Scene, InsideClimate News, March 28, 2019

Alleen Brown, The Green Scare: How a Movement that Never Killed Anyone Became the FBI's #1 Domestic Terrorism Threat, The Intercept, March 23, 2019

Traci Yoder, The Attack on Climate Justice Movements, National Lawyers Guild, March 14, 2019

Sarah Bowman, This Indiana bill is meant to protect pipelines. Critics say it infringes on free speech., Indianapolis Star, March 10, 2019

Steve Horn, Bills Criminalizing Pipeline Protest Arise in Statehouses Nationwide, The Real News Network, February 22, 2019

Will Parrish, North Dakota Seeks to Restrict Access to Public Records After Standing Rock Reporting Exposed Law Enforcement Abuses, The Intercept, February 11, 2019

Alleen Brown and Will Parrish, How Police, Private Security, and Energy Companies are Preparing for a New Pipeline Standoff, The Intercept, January 30, 2019

2018:

Derek Seidman and Gin Armstrong, How to Research the Corporate Forces Behind Pipeline Protest Criminalization, LittleSis, September 27, 2018

Sarah Lustbader and Vaidya Gullapalli, States Use Anti-Protest Laws to Protect Oil Pipelines and Criminalize Environmental Activism, The Appeal, August 22, 2018

Nicholas Kusnetz, How Energy Companies and Allies Are Turning the Law Against Protesters, InsideClimate News / Washington Post, August 22, 2018

Alleen Brown and Will Parrish, Recent Arrests Under New Anti-Protest Law Spotlight Risks that Off-Duty Cops Pose to Pipeline Opponents, The Intercept, August 22, 2018

Eliza Newlin Carney, Spate of anti-protest bills target social justice infrastructure, Sunlight Foundation, June 18, 2018

Sue Sturgis, Louisiana pipeline protection bill part of wider protest crackdown, Facing South / Institute for Southern Studies, May 11, 2018

Natasha Geiling, These states want to make planning a pipeline protest a crime, ThinkProgress, April 16, 2018

Alleen Brown and Will Parrish, Louisiana and Minnesota Introduce Anti-Protest Bills Amid Fights over Bayou Bridge and Enbridge Pipelines, The Intercept, March 31, 2018

Vera Eidelman and Maggie Ellinger-Locke, The Assault on Environmental Protest, American Civil Liberties Union / Greenpeace USA, March 16, 2018

Sue Udry, Toxic Brew: State Politicians, Gas & Oil Lobbyists, and ALEC Join Forces Against Environmental Protesters, Protect Rights & Dissent, February 21, 2018

Steve Horn, Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests, DeSmog, February 21, 2018

Alexander C. Kaufman, Environmentalists Say They’re Averting Climate Disaster. Conservatives Say It’s Terrorism., HuffPost, February 20, 2018

Zoë Carpenter and Tracie Williams, PHOTOS: Since Standing Rock, 56 Bills Have Been Introduced in 30 States to Restrict Protests, The Nation, February 16, 2018

Traci Yoder, Conservative-led Anti-Protest Legislation Already Doubled Since Last Year, National Lawyers Guild, February 15, 2018

Andrew Graham, Would bill to protect energy infrastructure stifle protests?, WyoFile, February 15, 2018

Alleen Brown, Ohio and Iowa are the Latest of Eight States to Consider Anti-Protest Bills Aimed at Pipeline Opponents, The Intercept, February 2, 2018

2017:

Steve Horn, As Trump Unfurls Infrastructure Plan, Iowa Bill Seeks to Criminalize Pipeline Protests, DeSmog, January 31, 2017

Steve Horn, ALEC, Corporate-Funded Bill Mill, Considers Model State Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protesters, DeSmog, December 11, 2017

Alleen Brown, Will Parrish and Alice Speri, Dakota Access-Style Policing Moves to Pennsylvannia's Mariner East 2 Pipeline, The Intercept, June 21, 2017

Sean Kitchen, ALEC Style Bills Aim to Criminalize Pipeline and Fracking Demonstrations Throughout Pennsylvania, Raging Chicken Press, May 10, 2017

Alleen Brown, Oklahoma Governor Signs Anti-Protest Law Imposing Huge Fines on "Conspirator" Organizations, The Intercept, May 6, 2017

Steve Horn, Newspaper Owned By Fracking Billionaire Leaks Memo Calling Pipeline Opponents Potential "Terrorists", DeSmog, April 23, 2017

Traci Yoder, New Anti-Protesting Legislation: A Deeper Look, National Lawyers Guild, March 2, 2017

    Contact: Connor Gibson - connor.gibson@greenpeace.org@climateconnor

    Industry: 

    PHOTOS: Famed Photographer Alex MacLean’s New Photos of Canada’s Oilsands are Shocking

    • Posted on: 2 July 2014
    • By: Connor Gibson

    Photos by Alex Maclean, posted with permission from DeSmog Canada.

    Crossposted from DeSmog Canada, written by Carol Linnitt: PHOTOS: Famed Photographer Alex MacLean’s New Photos of Canada’s Oilsands are Shocking

    Alex MacLean is one of America’s most famed and iconic aerial photographers. His perspective on human structures, from bodies sunbathing at the beach to complex, overlapping highway systems, always seems to hint at a larger symbolic meaning hidden in the mundane. By photographing from above, MacLean shows the sequences and patterns of human activity, including the scope of our impact on natural systems. His work reminds us of the law of proximity: the things closest to us are often the hardest to see.

    Recently MacLean traveled to the Alberta oilsands in western Canada. There, working with journalist Dan Grossman, MacLean used his unique eye to capture some new and astounding images of one of the world’s largest industrial projects. Their work, funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, will form part of a larger, forthcoming report for GlobalPost.

    DeSmog Canada caught up with MacLean to ask him about his experience photographing one of Canada’s most politicized resources and the source of the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.

    Forest removal for exploratory well pad. Shell Jackpine mining site, North of Fort McMurray, Canada.*

    Beds leading up to tailing pond.

    DeSmog Canada: What was it like photographing the oilsands? Was it different from photographing other large-scale human spaces like highways or beaches? 

    Alex MacLean: The oilsands covered a vast area of which I was only able to photograph part of. It was not only different from highways, beaches, etc., in that those are linear formations, but the scale of the oilsands area and the devastation to the landscape was overwhelming. I felt a relation between highways and the mines in that open pit mines and seismic exploration lines fragment the boreal forest just as highways do through urban areas. 

    Steam and smoke rise from the Syncrude Mildred Lake mining facility.

    Patches of boreal forest intertwined with snow-covered muskeg, near McLelland Lake, Alberta, Canada.

    Clearing, dewatering, and seismic grid over the once boreal forest. Syncrude mining site, Alberta, Canada.

    Syncrude Mildred Lake mining site. View south to upgrading facility with rising plumes of steam and smoke. Alberta, Canada.

    Suncor Oil Sands Project. Piles of uncovered petrolum coke, a byproduct of upgrading tar sands oil to synthetic crude. "Petcoke" is between 30-80 per cent more carbon intense than coal per unit of weight.

    DsC: What led to your interest in the Alberta oilsands?

    AM: I have been photographing around the issues of climate change since early on, and actually put out a book looking at land use patterns as they relate to energy and consumption in 2008 called “OVER: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point.” I was drawn to photographing the pipeline because I feel as though there is little public awareness that, if built, the Keystone XL will make avoiding catastrophic climate change much harder. The pipeline is an important link in a fossil-fuel production machine, stocked with bitumen deposits at one end and refineries at the other. The public is unaware that this oil production machine is poorly regulated, though it will cause serious environmental and health effects on local, regional and planetary scales. 

    Mining operations at the North Steepbank Extension. Suncor mine, Alberta, Canada.

    Checkerboard clearing of the overburden at Syncrude Aurora North mine site. Alberta, Canada.

    Seismic lines and well pad for exploratory drilling through the boreal forest at the Suncor Firebag Oil Sands Project. Alberta, Canada.

    Smoke, steam, and gas flares rise from the Suncor upgrading facility. Reclamation efforts seen to the right, on what was once a tailing pond. Suncor has reclaimed only 7 per cent of their total land disturbance.

    DsC: What is it like taking a bird's eye view of humanity? Do you sometimes have great insights looking at civilization from such a removed, abstracted position?

    AM: One of the interesting things about aerial photography is how so much of what you see about humanity is devoid of people. What I see is tracks and markings that are telling about our culture and values. When you see the destruction of landscapes, in this case of the boreal forest, with the obvious contamination of the environment via water and air pollution, you can’t help but feel that there is very short-sighted exploitation of natural resources that will have long-lasting environmental impacts. 

    Hot waste filling tailing pond. Suncor mining site, Alberta, Canada.

    Earthen wall to tailing pond. Suncor mining site, Alberta, Canada.

    Growing pyramids of sulfur, a byproduct of upgrading bitumen. Mildred Lake, Alberta, Canada.

    DsC: You've been photographing 'human' spaces for a long time. Have you noticed a change over the last few decades in your perspective as society has grown more aware of the ecological crisis and the scale of our impact?

    AM: You can’t help but notice the growth that has taken place in the last thirty years, and the build-out of what was once natural spaces. I would say in the last 15 years, at an escalating rate, you begin to see more sustainable sources of energy through wind and solar farms, and reconfiguring of urban spaces to make them more walkable. 

    Overview of tailing pond at Suncor mining site.

    Surface oil on tailing pond. Suncor mine near Fort McMurray.

    Open box cars carrying sulfur byproduct. Edmonton, Canada.

    * All captions provided by Alex MacLean.

    Image Credit: All photos copyright Alex MacLean. Used with permission.

    Industry: 
    Company or Organization: 

    Tar sands satire shut down after complaints from law firm tied to oil industry

    • Posted on: 21 August 2013
    • By: JesseColeman

    Remember to Breathe - IndieGogo Pitch Video

    Political satirists Andy Cobb and Mike Damanskis recently began a new video project to document the tar sands of Canada. But a law firm who represents Exxon and other tar sands interests has begun filing complaints, and had their video pulled off youtube.

    Comedians and activists, the duo has become known for biting commentary on the oil industry, like their response to Exxon’s tar sands pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, which was featured on the Rachel Maddow Show.

    Their new project sends the team up to Alberta, Canada, on a “vacation” to document tar sands mining operations and its effects on the ecosystems and public health. The project also wants to expose the hypocrisy of the claims of environmental stewardship made by oil corporations involved in tar sands mining, as well as the Albertan government, which touts Alberta’s ecotourism options while promoting tar sands mines.

    "The original inspiration for our project is that industry PR around the tar sands seems like a cross between a travel ad and oil company ad, inviting us to 'come to Alberta' and see for ourselves," Mike Damanskis told DeSmogBlog.

    The complaints against Andy and Mike were filed by the law firm Denton, on behalf of  “Travel Alberta,” the tourism bureau of Alberta, Canada. An investigation by DeSmogBlog’s Steve Horn found that Denton has serious and substantial ties to the tar sands oil industry, and represents ExxonMobil’s tar sands project, as well as several other oil corporations tied to tar sands development.

    To support Andy and Mike’s project, check out their pitch video and fundraising page.

     

    Industry: 

    INFOGRAPHIC: Koch Bros, Getting Richer While the World Burns

    • Posted on: 19 July 2013
    • By: Connor Gibson

    Charles Koch to Infographic: I don't trust you....you're too honest....

    Originally posted on Republic Report and featured on Grist, by David Halperin. Information from Greenpeace's ongoing research on Koch Industries Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine is cited in the infographic.

    Click to embiggen:

    You may repost this infographic PROVIDED that you do not alter it in any way. Download

    SOURCES:

    1. FORBES 

    2. SMITH (NOAA) & Katz (NCAR)

    3. POLITICAL ECONOMY RESEARCH INSTITUTE

    4. INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING WORKSHOP

    5. GREENPEACE

    6. CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY

    7. THE HILL, NEW YORK TIMES

    This post also appears on Huffington Post and Republic Report.

    David Halperin, an attorney, was the founding director of Campus Progress at the Center for American Progress and a White House speechwriter for President Clinton.

    Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

    Known Associates: 
    Industry: 
    Company or Organization: 

    US Gov't doesn't know exact Keystone XL pipeline route

    • Posted on: 8 July 2013
    • By: Connor Gibson

    The U.S. government doesn't know exactly where TransCanada wants to lay pipe for the northern section of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, according to the results of a 14-month Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. State DepartmentIn its final answer to a FOIA request by Thomas Bachand of the Keystone Mapping Project, the State Department admitted:

    Neither Cardno ENTRIX nor TransCanada ever submitted GIS information to the Department of State, nor was either corporation required to do so. The information that you request, if it exists, is therefore neither physically nor constructively under the control of the Department of State and we are therefore unable to comply with your FOIA request.

    Yes, you read that right. The U.S. State Department published its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)--supposedly an official account of the potential hazards of TransCanada's proposed pipeline on U.S. waterways, wildlife and other major considerations like global climate change--without knowing exactly where TransCanada wants to dig. Check out the full letter from State to Mr. Bachand at the Keystone Mapping Project.

    Ongoing Conflicts of Interest in State Department Environmental Assessments

    The State Department is already facing legitimate criticism for contracting companies with ties to TransCanada and other oil companies for its environmental impact estimates, which the Environmental Protection Agency has slammed for being "insufficient." State looked no further than oil industry contractors to run the draft SEIS--companies like Cardno ENTRIX, which calls TransCanada a "major client," and ERM Resources, a dues paying member of the American Petroleum Institute which is being investigated by the State Department's Inspector General for trying to hide its prior consulting for fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. In fact, TransCanada chose ERM Resources to do the Keystone XL SEIS review for the State Department, and one of ERM's people working on the review was formerly employed by TransCanada. 

    TransCanada has stacked the deck, wagering American waterways and private property against the promise to profit from continued extraction of dirty tar sands petroleum.

    Tar Sands Pipelines Spill

    The potential is too high for Keystone XL to leak just like TransCanada's existing Keystone I pipeline has repeatedly done, or rupture like ExxonMobil's Pegasus tar sands pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas earlier this year, or Enbridge's tar sands pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River. The southern leg of Keystone XL is already under construction, and the if the cracks, dents and other faults in the 'new' pipe are any indication, pollution from oil spills looks inevitable. Beyond being a disaster waiting to happen, KXL guarantees the continued disaster that is tar sands mining, a process that has already poisoned entire regions--and peoples' communities--in northern Alberta, Canada.

    With President Obama's recently unveiled Climate Action Plan, it would be a limp gesture to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. You'd think with the State Department having its environmental analysis run by oil industry consultants, they'd listen to the oil industry's own guarantees that Keystone XL would increase demand for tar sands mining. That's bad news for our climate -- something the State Department cannot ignore if they do a reasonable review of the "unprecedented" amount of public comments on its draft SEIS on KXL.

    What remains to be seen is if the State Department will be reasonable in the last leg of its review, or if it will continue letting TransCanada and Big Oil control the process to the bitter end.

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    Residents speak out about Exxon's Arkansas oil spill

    • Posted on: 26 June 2013
    • By: JesseColeman

    Mayflower

    Known Associates: 

    On March 29, ExxonMobil spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil in the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas. Exxon, the most profitable corporation in history, has yet to account for more than 126,000 gallons of the spilled oil.

    Now, months after the spill, dangerous contaminants are being detected in the air, water and soil, and residents are getting sick - while Exxon claims the air and water are safe. Listen to these stories of Mayflower residents affected by the oil industry:

    Exxon’s response has been typical of the oil industry. Like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Enbridge disaster in the Kalamazoo River, Exxon has stifled reporting and downplayed the damage and public health issues caused by their pipeline rupture. Immediately after the spill Exxon sought to shut down reporting and information gathering by cordoning off the area, convincing the FAA to declare a no fly zone over the spill site, even threatening journalists with arrest.

    Documents obtained by Greenpeace revealed Exxon also misrepresented the extent of the contamination in nearby Lake Conway. Exxon claimed the area was “oil-free”, though their own water tests showed dangerously elevated levels of cancer causing chemicals associated with tar sands crude oil.

    Exxon’s Mayflower spill is a reminder of who bears the risks of fossil fuel development like the Keystone XL pipeline. While Exxon may have to shell out a few million dollars of their more than 44 billion dollars in profit, the residents of Mayflower must now live in a contaminated environment and many families will never be able to go back to their homes.

    Like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Exxon’s pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada, which is both particularly corrosive to pipelines and environmentally devastating to mine and refine.

    Sign here if you want to the Keystone XL pipeline and other dangerous, unnecessary fossil fuel developments.

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    Frackalypse Now! Cartoon lampoons actual military psy-ops used by oil & gas companies

    • Posted on: 21 May 2013
    • By: Connor Gibson

    Frackalypse - by Mark Fiore for DeSmogBlog

    Check out the latest cartoon by Mark Fiore, a spoof on the real-life habit of oil and gas companies to employ military specialists trained in psycological operations to convince U.S. landowners to sell their land for hydraulic fracturing.

    More details on the revelation of oil and gas companies like Range Resources using psy-ops on "insurgents," a.k.a. U.S. landowners, can be seen on DeSmogBlog.

    Industry: 

    New Documents show Exxon knew of contamination from the Maryflower oil spill, still claimed lake was "oil-free"

    • Posted on: 21 May 2013
    • By: JesseColeman

    On March 29 ExxonMobil, the most profitable company in the world, spilled at least 210,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil from an underground pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas. The pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada, which flooded family residences in Mayflower in thick tarry crude. Exxon’s tar sands crude also ran into Lake Conway, which sits about an eighth of a mile from where Exxon’s pipeline ruptured.

    The cove of Lake Conway which Exxon claimed was "oil-free"

    A new batch of documents received by Greenpeace in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has revealed that Exxon downplayed the extent of the contamination caused by the ruptured pipeline. Records of emails between Arkansas’ DEQ and Exxon depict attempts by Exxon to pass off press releases with factually false information. In a draft press release dated April 8, Exxon claims "Tests on water samples show Lake Conway and the cove are oil-free." However, internal emails from April 6 show Exxon knew of significant contamination across Lake Conway and the cove resulting from the oil spill.

    When the chief of Arkansas Hazardous Waste division called Exxon out on this falsehood, Exxon amended the press release. However, they did not amend it to say that oil was in Lake Conway and contaminant levels in the lake were rising to dangerous levels, as they knew to be the case. Instead, they continue to claim that Lake Conway is "oil-free." For the record, Exxon maintains that the "cove," a section of Lake Conway that experienced heavy oiling from the spill, is not part of the actual lake. Exxon maintains this distinction in spite of Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel saying unequivocally "The cove is part of Lake Conway…The water is all part of one body of water." Furthermore, Exxon water tests confirmed that levels of Benzene and other contaminants rose throughout the lake, not just in the cove area.

    Though Exxon was eventually forced to redact their claim that the cove specifically was  "oil-free," the oil and gas giant has yet to publicly address the dangerous levels of Benzene and other contaminants their own tests have found in the body of Lake Conway. The Environmental Protection Agency and the American Petroleum Institute don’t agree on everything, but they do agree that the only safe level of Benzene, a cancer causing chemical found in oil, is zero. Benzene is added to tar sands oil to make it less viscous and flow more easily through pipelines.  Local people have reported fish kills, chemical smells, nausea and headaches. Independent water tests have found a host of contaminants present in the lake.

    Dead fish in Palarm creek, which Lake Conway drains into. Palarm creek is a tributary of the Arkansas River.

    According to Exxon’s data, 126,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil from the pipeline spill is still unaccounted for.

    Exxon's spill emanated from the Pegasus Pipeline, which like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, connects the Canadian Tar Sands with refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

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